Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Search in posts
Search in pages
Filter by Categories
#iDiscoverChina
A taste of China
A taste of China
Adventures
Ancient Places
City Guides
Cultural Heritage
Food & Drink
Guides
Itineraries
Modern China
Natural Attractions
Street Food
Tradition
Trip Ideas
Video
What to eat

Cultural Heritage / Trip Ideas

Kumbum: heart of tibetan buddhism along the ancient Silk Road

By Teng Mu

October 28

The Kumbum Monastery in Xining, Qinghai Province is one of the most important sites of Tibetan Buddhism along the Silk Road.

The Kumbum Monastery in Xining, Qinghai Province is one of the most important sites of Tibetan Buddhism along the Silk Road.

Established in 1583, the Kumbum Monastery is also called the “Little Tower Temple” and has four monastic colleges around its temples. The complex includes almost 10000 rooms and 52 halls that combine Han and Tibetan styles. The monastery is famous for its annual Sun Buddha Festival, and its barbolas, ghee sculptures and wall paintings.

The Kumbum Monastery.
The Kumbum Monastery. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]

1. Sun Buddha Festival

 

The Sun Buddha. [Image Credit: china.com.cn]
The Sun Buddha. [Image Credit: china.com.cn]
  The annual Sun Buddha Festival is Kumbum monastery’s biggest draw. Monks display the Sun Buddha in the form of a rare type of scroll painting called a Thangka — in the open air to prevent mildew, rot and insect damage while giving monks and nuns a special opportunity to worship. The scroll is unfolded at sunrise.

The festival is celebrated every April and June. One of the four Thangkas enshrined in the monastery, namely the “Lion’s Roar Buddha”, “Sakyamuni”, “Tsongkhapa” or the “Diamond Hammer Buddha”, is displayed and attracts a large audience including lamas from different sects and tourists from abroad. After the ceremony lamas wear all kinds of masks, perform Tibetan dramas, and do the cham dance while chanting.

2. Barbola

A monk is making a barlola. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
A monk is making a barlola. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/He Dongping]
Barbola isa fabric handicraft from the area around Kumbum Monastery that depicts the daily activities of the Buddha, and is made by professional artist-monks. The patterns are filled with cotton to create depth. The monastery’s Eighteen Arhats artwork is perhaps the greatest barbola in the world.

3. Ghee Sculpture

 

Ghee sculptures. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Shi Tingyi]
Ghee sculptures. [Image Credit: photostock.china.com.cn/Shi Tingyi]
  The traditional Tibetan art of making figurines with ghee, a butter-like substance, was listed as one of China’s Intangible Cultural Heritages in 2006. The sculptures, which depict nature, pagodas and Buddha figures, mostly take their themes from scriptures and historical legends.

It is said there are two specialized institutes for making ghee sculptures, traditionally called “the upper institute” and “the lower institute”. The two compete with each other by producing excellent artworks. Each one has around 20 monks who enter the institute in their mid-teens and devote their lives to the art.

4. Wall Paintings

The paintings, displayed around the monastery walls are especially prominent in the main halls and corridors. Religiously-themed and drawn with a distinct Tibetan painting style, they contain a bright stone-mineral material conducive to long-term preservation.
A colorful wall painting. [Image Credit: china.com.cn]
The paintings, displayed around the monastery walls are especially prominent in the main halls and corridors. Religiously-themed and drawn with a distinct Tibetan painting style, they contain a bright stone-mineral material conducive to long-term preservation.

Best time to visit: July to August

Entry: 80 yuan/person

Transport: Take a train or airplane to Xining City, then take the bus to the Kumbum Monastery .

Opening hours: 08:00 a.m. – 05:00 p.m.

 

  • Share this
  • Send this

Follow Discover China

Recommended

Related Articles