Tour in Ngari (1) --Climbing up the top of the Roof of the World
Further west from Shigatse and beyond the Yarlung Tsangbo River near Gyangtse, the land contour is elevated gradually. Turning toward north at No.22 Road
Maintenance Station and driving past the Dagyatso Lake, the traveler will be on his road into the Ngari highland.
The Tibetan Plateau has often been described as the Roof of the World which rises majestically toward the west in the region of Ngari, known as the top of the Roof of the World. In a vast region of about 300,000 square kilometers are the towering northern Tibet highland,
majestic mountain ranges of Gangdise Kunlun and Himalayas, and a great number of treacherous canyons, picturesque valleys, rivers and lakes. Expansive stretches of highland pasture, precipitous mountains, placid lakes and swift rivers against a backdrop of azure skies and floating clouds are absolutely exhilarating.
Driving along the central tour route via Tsochen from Lhatse to the town of Shiquanhe, the regional center of Ngari, one will have wonderful views of the golden cone shaped peak of the Shanmubati Mountain, the vast Tsari Namtso Lake and its island of bird haven, the Dawatso Lake with lush green banks and the snow-capped peaks of the Balinggangri Mountain. The road to Shiquanhe begins at Lhasa and passes through Nakchu in the vast pasture area. Traveling in the highland region, one will see
changing sights of spectacular scenery and rich wild life including beavers, rabbits and foxes not far from roadside, wild ducks, black-necked cranes and a variety of birds by the lake-side and antelopes, wild donkeys on more distant hills. North of Gertse is the uninhabited zone of Lugu which is the domain of wild yaks and bears.
Ngari is easily accessible by road. The road from Yecheng of Xinjiang to Burang passes through Ngari. Lhatse-Burang road forms the southern route. The former has been known as the road with the highest elevation in the world and winds through the Kunlun Mountains at 5,406 meters above sea level. The Bangongtso Lake in northern Ngari has a surface elevation of 4,241 meters and a depth of 41.3 meters. This oblong lake extends 150 kilometers and is 50 meters at its narrowest. The lake water becomes salty in the western end. The lake is ringed by fertile pastures and has a few small islands that are haven for migratory birds including spotted wild geese, which often number in tens of thousands in the summer time. The monastery and cliff drawings found near Rutong and the uninhabited land in northern Tibet hold special appeal to explorers. The town of Shiquanhe (Sengge Grong) with an elevation of 4,300 meters is a newly risen center on the bank of the river Shiquanhe (Sengge Tsangbo). The Ngari Prefecture not only has spectacular scenery and an exotic local tradition but also occupies an important place in Tibetan history and the history of Buddhism. The secluded Guge ruins and the holy mountains and lakes in the region are sources of unending enchantment to tourists.
Tour in Ngari (2) --Ruins of Mystic Guge Kingdom
According to Tibetan historical annals, after the sudden death of Tsampo Lhangdama, the last king of the Tubo Kingdom, in the wake of his persecution of Buddhists, his two rival sons, Yundan and Osong, were locked in a bloody war for the throne which continued for two generations.
Osong's son was killed by the soldiers of his rival kin and his two orphaned sons fled Lhasa. Jede, the elder of the two, took refuge in Ngari where he married the local chieftain's daughter who borne him three sons.
The youngest had a son named Keri who became founder of the Guge Kingdom whose territory once included all the farm and pasture land in southern Ngari. A hill of about 300 meters high stands to the south of Xiangquan River (Langqen Kanbab) in Tsada County.
A complex of palaces, temples, fortifications, Buddhist pagodas and military tunnels right up the slope of the hill form the ruins of a lost kingdom. The construction began in the 10th century and was continuously expanded by 16 successive kings until the 16th century. These imposing buildings on the treacherous slope are connected by tunnels and protected by solid fortifications. The Kingdom of Guge played an important role in the rival of Tibetan Buddhism. The Guge kings were ardent advocates of the religion who sent envoys to India to invite Buddhist masters to Tibet and sponsored the translation of scriptures. The religious revival began in Ngari and extended to the entire Tibetan region. The kingdom also kept Tibet from repeated invasions by enemies from the west. A brutal battle in the 16th century brought the kingdom to an abrupt end. No writings can be found today about its fate there after and the ruins are the only evidence of the once majestic palaces and crushed glory.
As the visitor climbs up the hill slope, he can easily see the ruins of block houses, spacious palaces and glorious temples everywhere. The remains of painted sculptures and frescoes stand testimony to an art tradition that claimed splendor and diversity. The wealth of artifacts sealed stories of kings, ministers, clergymen and common people in the lost era of grandeur.
Tour in Ngari (3) -- The Holy Mountain and Sacred Lake
According to ancient Sanskrit documents, the Gangdise Range had become a holy mountain as early as 2,000 years before Christ. The Hindu myth has it that the "palace" for the god of gods was built on the peak of Kailash of the Gangdise Range. This important mountain in Asian history with elevation of 6,656 meters is located in the county of Bruagn in Ngari area. The Tibetan Buddhists believe that the mountain is in the shape of an olive with a grand legendary palace on the peak. Four streams flow down the mountain from four sources, each in the shape of a horse, lion, elephant and peacock which have given names to the four famous rivers in Ngari. The mountain top "palace" was home to 500arhats. It is believed that centuries ago a visiting Bangladesh monk had heard chimes of bells and drum beats from the "palace". Pilgrims today still claim that a few lucky ones may hear mysterious sounds from the mountain. Kailash crowns the Himalayan Mountains with its myriad of myths and legends and remains the focus of the religious emotions of those who feel its pull. For centuries, pilgrims have come from afar to pay homage, praying for redemption by walking around this holy mountain of purity and benevolence.
A full circle around the mountain takes from 24 hours to 36 hours. This tradition of worshipping was deep rooted in ancient pagan rituals and is still alive and strong today. One myth has it that Mila Xiba, a famous Tibetan monk, subdued a heretic in battle of faith and power on Mt. Kailash. The victory has been celebrated in every Year of the Horse when pilgrimage to the holy mountain is at its height. Lake Manasarova, one of the highest fresh water lakes of the world, is over 20 kilometers to the southeast of Mount Kailash with a total surface area of 400 square kilometers. This placid lake is a vast expanse of pristine water, absolutely beautiful under the vast and clear sky. The legend has it that Goddess Woma bathed in the lake. Because of its sheer beauty and charming myths and legends, the lake was mentioned as a celestial lake of the west in an ancient book written by Xuanzang, a Tang Dynasty monk known for his journey to India in search of Buddhist scriptures. The book was entitled "The Western Territories of the Great Tang Empire". The lake was already known to the Tibetans as Macuitso about nine centuries ago. It was believed that in the "palace of the dragon king" on the bottom of the lake were boundless treasures. The chosen ones after walking around the lake a full circle would be promised a life of plenty by a small fish, a pebble or a feather they might have picked up. After the triumphant rise of Buddhism in Tibet in the 11th century, the lake was given a Buddhist name "Manasarova", meaning "perpetually invincible". Thereafter, the lake has been regarded as a gift from Buddha with cleansing and
redeeming power that will bring spiritual and physical well-being. The lake has thus gained a primordial force which, together with the Holy Mountain Kailash, has attracted countless pilgrims to the area of Ngari. They would take the strenuous journey around the mountain and lake as a test of their faith and for an experience of the holy power. Many of them have
harbored the wish of bathing in the lake for many years. There are four holy bathing spots around the lake respectively named Lotus, Fragrance,
Purification and Faith. Bathing at each spot while trekking around the lake would redeem different sins. The mysterious powers of Lake Manasarova are believed to be just as great as those of the towering Mount Kailash.