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Located at the foot of West Mountain (Xishan), Longwu Monastery is the crest jewel of Tongren county. Resting on the middle reaches of the Longwu River, the Tibetan monastery pays homage to its Buddhist faith. If you're moved by spiritual surroundings, intriguing history, and exquisite beauty, you'll be delighted with a tour of this sanctuary.
The monastery was built in 1301, and then expanded under the approval of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), which held the local Buddhist monks in high regard. The monastery faces east, greeting the sun, and is home to approximately 500 monks. It consists of several halls containing colorful murals, breathtaking statues, and intriguing relics.
As you step inside the Grand Hall, you'll stand spellbound before dazzling statues of Sakyamuni. Sakyamuni Buddha was the humble and compassionate sage who achieved enlightenment, and is considered the founder of Buddhism. The founder of the monastery, Tsongkapa, is gloriously honored with a golden 11-meter-high (37-foot-high) statue. You'll be in awe as you pass by rows of prayer wheels and multicolored columns.
Tongren County is hot in the summer and warm and in the winter, with abundant rainfall year-round. The best time to visit is from May through September.
Spring: If you plan to travel between March through May, when the temperature is at 50-70°F, you should pack the following: long-sleeved shirts, woolen jackets, sports coats, and comfortable walking shoes.
Summer: For summer travel from June through August, when the temperature goes above 70°F, be sure to bring: rain gear and umbrella, skirts, short-sleeved shirts, T-shirts, caps, and sandals. To shield yourself from sun, bring sunglasses, a sun hat, and sun block.
Longwu Monastery is located on Dehelong South Road, 186 km from Xining, the capital of Qinghai. The road to Tongren is etched in beauty as it navigates soaring mountains, deep valleys, rushing rivers, and thick grasslands.
The monastery is accessible by bus from the main station in Xiahe, leaving daily at 7:30 am for the 3-hour journey. Buses depart from Xining every 30 minutes from the eastern bus station on Jianguo Lu, with a 4-hour ride.
Dozens of noodle stands dot every street. Local Tongren restaurants include:
This art village is a 10-minute ride from Tongren. Villagers earn their livelihood by painting thangka. It takes 10 years to master this art form. The base of a thangka painting is a picture panel of cotton or silk, upon which is embroidered or painted a Buddhist scene, deity, or mandala (a circular, colorful pattern). Also called a scroll-painting, this devotional artwork is used as a teaching and meditation tool.
Nine Dragon Cave Scenic Area features a karst cave, made of gypsum, limestone, and dolomite rocks, which slowly dissolve in the presence of water. As the water drips from the cave roof, it creates icicle-like formations called stalactites. Stalagmites grow up from the floor, formed by water dripping off the tips of stalactites above. Visible on the walls are images of peacocks, dragons, monkeys, camels, lions, and turtles. Music filters through the cave, as light plays off the formations.
Nine Dragon Cave Scenic Area is located on Guanyin Mountain, 17 km (11 mi) east of Tongren city. You can take a bus from Jintan Station in Tongren city, which goes directly to the site.