Labrang Monastery in Gansu, together with Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Gandan Monastery, and Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Tibet and Ta'er Monastery in Qinghai Province, are the six monasteries of Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It has the best Tibetan Buddhism teaching system in China, and is praised as the ‘World’s Buddhist School’.
- Location: Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Gansu Province
- Open: 8:00 am to 6:00 pm each day
- Tour time: about 3 hours
5 Things to Do in Labrang Monastery
Built in 1709, Labrang Monastery used to be a political and religious center for Tibetans. There were more than 3,600 monks there during its most prosperous period.
Labrang Monastery is still home to lamas and a holy place for Tibetan people. There you can find many preserved Buddhist scriptures and a unique Tibetan atmosphere, and you can explore a lamas’ life.
- Contact us to tailor made a holy Tibetan monastery tour.
1. Walk the World’s Longest Prayer Wheel Circuit
The prayer wheel circuit in Labrang Monastery is the longest in the world, about 3 km (2 miles) in total. There are more than 2,000 prayer wheels, and it takes more than an hour to turn all the wheels.
The prayer wheels are classic Buddhist scriptures on sutra wheels, and each full turn of a wheel is equated to reading the scripture once. It is an alternative way to pray, especially for those who cannot read words.
Labrang Monastery is an important pilgrimage destination for local Tibetans. You will usually see pilgrims walking and turning the prayer wheels in a clockwise direction. They always keep an attitude of awe and humility in front of the prayer wheels.
2. Overlook Labrang from Gongtang Pagoda
Located in the southwest of Labrang Monastery, Gongtang Pagoda is the highest point of the monastery. It is famous for its Buddha statues from Nepal. Gongtang Pagoda is the best place to overlook the monastery and is popular with photography lovers.
3. Explore the Daily Life of Monks
As the biggest Tibetan Buddhist School in China, there are many registered monks and Buddhists living and studying in Labrang Monastery. Generally, monks must study there for 15 to 30 years and pass the 13 levels of debating scripture examination before they can complete their studies. They spend 15 hours per day learning Buddhist scriptures and most of them get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to start reading.
So, during a building complex visit, you will see lots of monks studying and debating in the monastery. Contact us and you will have a chance to visit their dining room and taste their special Tibetan food.
- Travelers are not allowed to stay or study in the monastery.
4. Walk around the Massive Building Complex
Labrang Monastery occupies an area of 866,000 square meters (almost 1 km2 or 0.33 sq mi), consisting of six scripture halls, more than 90 colleges, sutra halls, and temples, and about 1,000 dormitory rooms for the monks. Besides, there are various archways and pagodas covered with gold leaf, jade, ivory, and precious wood. The whole monastery is a majestic Tibetan-style building complex.
Travel with China Highlights to listen to the stories behind the architecture.
5. See the Large Collection of Cultural Relics
Labrang Monastery features exquisite art, decorations, and a large collection of about 60,000 books, including Buddhist scriptures, social science books and natural science books.
All kinds of books related to Tibetan history, literature, philosophy, linguistics, rhetoric, medicine, astronomy, calendars, arts and crafts, and metallurgy can be found there. Among these books are rare editions, unique copies, and out-of-print publications, which forms a vast treasury of knowledge.
There are also skillfully made and vivid statues of Buddha. The large ones can reach over 10 meters (33 feet) high and weigh tons while the small ones only measure 2 or 3 centimeters and weigh no more than 2 or 3 liang (around 100g or 3.5 oz). In addition, exquisitely-made thangka paintings and colorful wall hangings are displayed on the walls.
Travelers are not allowed to take pictures in most of the halls, but you can in the one showing the butter sculptures.
How to Get to Labrang Monastery
Labrang Monastery is in Xiahe County, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and is about 3½ hours’ driving from Lanzhou City. Travelers are recommended to fly or take a high-speed train to Lanzhou, then have a private transfer to Xiahe.
Xiahe is a great destination for hiking, with picturesque grasslands, verdant forest, beautiful lakes, and unique Tibetan customs. Besides Labrang Monastery, Ancient Bajiao City and Sankoh Grassland are also famous.
Recommended Labrang Monastery Tour
Labrang Monastery is the main cultural and architectural attraction in Xiahe County, attracting lots of tourists. It is an important stop in any Gannan trip and a popular side excursion on a Silk Road trip.
Here is a suggested itinerary. We are happy to customize a tour based on your interests.
- Day 1: Lanzhou arrival. Free time exploration.
- Day 2: Lanzhou to Xiahe (250 km, 3½ hours): Liujiaxia Reservoir Speedboat Ride and Bingling Temple
- Day 3: Xiahe To Langmusi (220 km, 4 hours): Labrang Monastery, Ganjia Prairie, and Bajiao City Ruins
- Day 4: Langmusi to Tangke (115 km, 2 hours): Langmusi Monastery (Setri Gompa), The First Bend of Yellow River at sunset
- Day 5: Tangke to Langmusi via Zhagana (97 km, 2½ hours): Huahu Lake in Ruo’ergai Grand Prairie, Zhagana Scenic Area
- Day 6: Langmusi to Lanzhou for departure (391 km, 5½ hours)
Buddhist Ceremonies in Labrang Monastery
Labrang Monastery is the most important Tibetan Buddhism monastery outside Tibet. It was the political and religious center of the Gannan area and is still an important place for Buddhist meetings and festivals.
There are seven large-scale Buddhist ceremonies or festivals in Labrang monastery every year, and most of them are concentrated in months 1, 2, and 7 of the lunar calendar (January–March and July–September).
The most important Buddhist ceremony is the Labrang Thangka Festival held on month 1 day 13 of the lunar calendar (in February or early March).
One that day, hundreds of monks carry large colorful embroidered thangkas from the Great Sutra Hall to the sloping Buddha platform diagonally opposite Labrang Monastery. At the same time, thousands of people follow and assemble in the front of the platform, watching the big thangka unfolding slowly down from the top of the Buddha platform. They pray steadily, kneel, and throw their hada (ceremonial silk scarfs) toward the Buddha statue to express their respect.
The whole ceremony will last for several hours. After that, the lamas carefully roll up the sunned Buddha image, carry it around the monastery three times, and then place it back in its original place. The ceremony is then finished. The scene is magnificent, and you will feel the power of faith during the whole ceremony.