Tongren Shaman’s Festival Tour

Highlights:

  • People of the bustling cities may find peace, fresh air and idyllic surroundings on the Qinghai-Tibet highland. The fluffy white clouds, purely blue sky, vista of vast grassland on which flocks of sheep and herds of yaks are grazing, creates a sanctuary free from the turmoil of modern cities. On this mystical, unspoiled land, travelers will find Xining-capital of Qinghai Province
  • The Shaman’s Festival is a traditional folk festival which takes place in many of the small villages around Tongren county, and which is presided over by the village's local shaman. There are numerous ceremonies and activities including ritual dances, the beating of holy drums, the singing of folk songs, and the shaman going into trances. Take this tour to experience a different side of China

(B=breakfast, L=lunch, D=dinner)

Detailed itinerary:

Day 1 arrive in Xining

You will either fly or take the train into Xining, and upon arrival, you will be met by your English-speaking travel guide. Situated at the northeast of Qinghai province, Xining lies at the junction of the Lanzhou-Qinghai and the Qinghai-Tibet railway with good transportation. Bordering the harsh Tibet highland, Xining is 2,260 meters above sea level but climate there is much better than that of Tibet. Enjoying a good location surrounded by high mountains, the city has a relatively comfortable climate with neither bone-chilling winter nor sweltering summer and the annually temperature there is about 6 centigrade.

Xining was once an important stop on the century-old Silk Road. The boom of the Silk Road in the Han Dynasty is a major factor for the city's rise. But the city's historical role gradually declined as the trade route fell into disuse. Xining's importance in the old trade route means that it has a lot of historical sites.

After your arrival, you will be taken to your hotel, where the rest of the day can be spent at your own leisure. It is recommended you take it easy and pace yourself, on account of the large altitude change you will be experiencing.

Day 2 Xining (B, L, D)

Following breakfast, we will pay a visit to the house of a Thangka painter, where you will learn about one of the predominant art forms of this region. Tangka is a kind of scroll painting mounted on silk. It has distinctive ethnic features and a strong religious flavor. Its unique artistic style is highly prized by the Tibetan people.

The origin of tangka can be traced back to the early Tubo Kingdom. During the 7th century, King Songtsan Gambo united Tibet. To strengthen political, economic and cultural exchanges with Tibet's neighbors, he married Princess Chizun of Nepal and Princess Wencheng of the Tang Dynasty. Around this period he ordered the construction of Potala Palace and some other grand edifices. To decorate them, he drafted a large number of people to paint murals. This greatly promoted Tibet's art of painting. Following the spread of Buddhism, Buddhist art also flourished. Since tangkas are easy to make, not limited by the variety of buildings, and easy to hang and store, they were used as a means to spread Buddhism. From then on, tangkas and murals developed side by side, becoming two bright pearls in the history of Tibetan painting.

We will visit with the painter watching the processes and methods he/she uses while working. Afterward, we’ll head on over to the monasteries of the nearby village of Wutun. There are two monasteries in Wutun village; one is the upper Wutun Monastery, another is the lower Wutun Monastery. These Monasteries are famous throughout Tibet for its beautiful artwork of Buddhist Thangka. The Upper Wutun Monastery is magnificently decorated, and the surface of the entire assembly hall has been carved and painted with traditional Regong designs. The Lower Wutun Monastery is just about a 10 minutes' walk from the upper village. It boasts a much livelier monastery as the location is for ceremonies and festivities that draw crowds of local worshippers.

We will then return to Xining for the night.

Day 3 Shaman Festival-Xining-Tongren (B, L, D)

Today you will have the entire day to experience the sights and sounds of the Shaman Festival. The Tongren Shaman Festival is celebrated by the Tibetan and Tu ethnic minorities in the villages of Tongren County in western China's Qinghai Province, located about two hours' drive from Xining , the capital of the province. It is a grand and festive occasion for local people to show their devotion and gratitude to the Mountain God. The Tibet and Tu ethnic minorities in Tongren County worship the Mountain God as the immortal who protects them. The belief is believed to date back to the ancient worship of totems in the pre-civilization era of this part of China.

During the festival, the villagers dress up in their holiday best. Females are done up in ornate, dazzlingly embroidered holiday costumes, which are adorned with gems. They assemble at the Temple of the Mountain God, singing and dancing to entertain the Mountain God. Some of the festival activities you will see include: the beating of holy drums, the singing of folk songs, and shaman going into trances. Some people find this festival exciting and exotic and enjoy watching the ritual piercing of cheeks of all the young men in the village, the men dancing a drum dance with pierced backs, and the shaman in trance climbing the dragon pole then cutting his forehead with a knife.

Day 4 Tongren-Xining (B, L)

Today we’ll take a look at western China’s Muslim heritage with a visit to Dongguan Mosque. Dongguan Mosque is one of the largest mosques in northwest China. First built in 1379, the mosque has a long history of more than 600 years. Architecture of the mosque combines traditional Chinese style and the local features, with grand appearance and delicate, dazzlingly inside ornaments. The mosque has a prayer hall which can hold up to 3,000 people. Now this mosque serves as an educational center and institution of higher learning for Islamism, and also is the leading mosque in Qinghai.

Closer to Xining is the Longwu Monastery, which was founded in the 12th century and currently has around 450 monks.The monastery is the leading Yellow sect monastery in the Tongren region. It is one of the six biggest monasteries of Tibetan Buddhism in Qinghai Province. The local Tibetans are very proud of the Longwu Monastery, and religious activities are constantly held on lecturing, praying and examination.

We will then return to Xining for the evening.

Day 5 Xining-departure (B)

After breakfast, you will be taken to either the Xining airport or train station, where you will travel on to your next destination, ending your time with us.