Litang Chode Monastery

Litang town is the administrative centre of Litang County in the southwest of the Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province of China. The town is located at an altitude of 4,014 meters; its actual altitude is about 400 meters higher than Lhasa, which makes Litang one of the highest towns in the world. And just to the north of the town the famous Litang Chode Monastery is located.

I arrived in Litang town late in the evening after two days hitchhiking from Lijiang. The driver who gave me a ride to Litang said there’s a famous Buddhist monastery here, so I decided to stay overnight in the town and early the morning visit the temple. In search of a place to stay, I soon found a guest house where the owner offered me a 50% discount together with Tibetan flat bread and honey so that I’ll stay there. Sitting by the traditional Tibetan oven I finished the bread and the honey, talking to locals. Then a good sleep in a cold room under two or three woolen blankets. As I still had to hitchhike hundreds of kilometers towards Chengdu and Xi’an, I decided to wake up early in the morning, which I did. I took my backpack, left the guest house and followed some locals with their yaks.

Litang Chode monastery (Ganden Thubchen Choekhorling) was built by the 3rd Dalai-lama Sonam Gyatso in 1580 after the de-facto independant king of Litang switched allegiance from the Kagyupa to the Gelugpa school of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1956 the monastery came under siege and was bombed by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, following resistance to the attempt to impose communist rule and reforms in Kham.

After the warm and lovely weather of Dali Old Town it was very cold here. The only warm clothes I had was the color-striped cotton sweater I bought in a second-hand market a week ago in Dali. Maybe that was the reason why everyone was staring at me walking under falling snow in sneakers, pants and a sweater. In half an hour, chanting mantras and smiling, I reached the monastery.

According to the traditions of Tibetan Buddhism, believers circuit around the monastery or temple. I decided to follow this tradition and walked along the path together with locals. Naively thinking that it’s not gonna take long, I took my 30kg backpack with me.

The monastery consists of three main temples, one of which is now under reconstruction. Ganden Tubchen Choekhorling was a home to many famous and influential figures in Tibetan Buddhism, such as the 7th Dalai-lama Kelsang Gyatso and the 10th Dalai-lala Tsultrim Gyatso.

Soon I realized how wrong I was thinking that the walk around the monastery will not take long. At first everything was fine, but when the road went uphill, I could feel every singe kg of the backpack. Breathing heavily, but continuing to sing the mantras, I walked up the hill, while the backpack was pulling me down.

But when I reached the top, a scenery of a magic beauty was in front of me. The long and winding road going down the hill, the elderly with prayer wheels in their hands walking slowly, kids frolicking in the snow, and the white hills.


For few minutes I stood there observing the surroundings. Then I walked forward, and half an hour later reached the starting point. Some of the Tibetans who were following me, went for the second round. I took rest and then went to look for a cafe to have my breakfast.


The hot and spicy vegetarian noodle soup was delicious. Soon I was on the road again. There were dangerous mountain passes, sleepless nights and other adventures ahead. But that’s another story and one day I will write about them, too.

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2 thoughts on “Litang Chode Monastery

  1. That is one beautiful place that I’d never heard of before and will probably never have the chance to visit in this lifetime, so thank you so much for sharing this part of the world with us.

    Do tourists visit Litang town? And what is their mode of transport? I don’t see any vehicle on the road 😀

    • Well, the only way to get here is by cars/buses.. No trains nor airplanes.
      The town is located along the Ancient Tea Horse Route.. That’s one of the famous roads in China that goes all the way to Tibet’s capital Lhasa.. I guess tourists come here during Summer, as the roads are way more safe.. I hitchhiked from Lijiang towards Litang and from Litang to Chengdu and that road was the most dangerous road I’ve ever hitchhiked 🙂

      What’s good about this place is that it’s a part of the historical and cultural Tibet.. And you don’t need any special permits to enter the region. Unlike the Tibetan Autonomus region, where tourists can enter only having a special permit and being a part of a group..

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