Derge (Dege) Travel Guide, Kham Sichuan
Resting in a valley on the upper reaches of the Jinsha and Yalong Rivers and bordering Tibet, Dege (Derge) is the westernmost city in Sichuan before a ragged mountain trail heads to the vast Tibetan highland. It remains one of the least-explored regions of China.
Dege was named after the Dege clan, which means 'land of mercy' in Tibetan. Historically, Dege was one of three ancient centers of Tibetan Buddhism culture, together with Lhasa in Tibet and Xiahe in Gansu. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the influence of the Dege clan covered several counties at the juncture of present-day Sichuan, Tibet and Qinghai. Dege County today sits at the heart of this ancient domain.
Dege is of great historic significance as the birthplace of Khampa culture, the hometown of Gesar King and an important stop along the ancient Tea-Horse Caravans Road.
The town of Gengqing on the reaches of the Sequ River is 500 years old, and is now the county seat of Dege. The 30-kilometer river valley was the original preserve of the Dege clan. Gengqing became a holy site in Tibetan Buddhism because it had a printing house for turning out scriptures.
Getting there and away
A rickety bus runs between Garze and Dege daily for Y60, the 216km takes around 8hrs. Charter a van from Garze to Dege costs around Y300. More comfortable buses depart from Kangding to Dege every 2 days, stopping overnight at Luhuo, Y130~169, 24hrs.
For leaving, there is a daily bus from Dege eastwards to Kangding, stopping at Manigango(3.5hrs), Garze(8hrs) and Luhuo(10hrs).
Dege Binguan - Y10~15/dorm, Y180/std.dbl, a bit over priced
Wuzi Zhaodaisuo - just opposite the bus station, Y20/dm.
Dexi Hostel - Y8~15/dorm
Most restaurants in town offer spicy Sichuan food and hotpot.
- Derge Scripture Printing House/德格印经院
Located in Gengqing monastery on the east bank of Jinsha(Sequ) River, the place was founded in year 1729 in the Qing Dynasty. The construction took 21 years. The main structure is a four-storey building with more than 30 rooms. The first floor consists of several sutra halls where Buddha and the ancestors of the Dege clan are worshipped. The second and third floors have rooms for proofreading, engraving blocks, printing and binding, plus administrative offices. The fourth floor is used to air the printed pages.
The Dege Scripture Printing House has 217,000 engraved blocks in its archives, including classics from different sects of Tibetan Buddhism. It has 100,000 blocks for books on Tibetan culture, science and technology, history, biographies, medicine, mathematics, language, and various other works. It is estimated that materials stored at Dege make up 70% of Tibet's literary heritage. Because of its role in preserving Tibetan culture, Dege ranks together with the Sakya Monastery and the Potala Palace in Lhasa in historic and cultural significance.
- Dege Tibetan Hospital - a 3 stories building with a large collection of herbs and animal parts collected from far reaches of the Tibetan Plateau.
Dzongsar Monastery/ 仲萨寺
Dzongsar, located in a remote valley of southern Dege. It has a long history of progressive thinking in the Buddhist world. The monastery was founded 1200 years ago, first as a Bon monastery promulgating Tibet's traditional animist faith, later changed to the Nyingma sect, then Kagyu. 500 years ago the valley was wrested from the hands of King Gesar's generals and attached to the then-ascendent Dege Kingdom. In 1959 the most important temples were destroyed during a political movement against Liu Shaoqi, a rare instance of destruction of a Tibetan monastery prior to the Cultural Revolution.
Now the entirely rebuilt Dzongsar wears the red, gray, and white stripes of the Sakyapas, the construction of the monastery is a large complex of temples and monks' quarters perched on a steep cliff. But it is not really a Sakya sect monastery. 110 years ago three scholars-- Jangyong Khyentze Wangpo, Chuchi Niba, and Kongtrul Rinpoche--came here with idea of uniting the four pre-Gelug Buddhist sects. They produced 150 volumes of writings that today form the basis for instruction at the Dzongsar College of Buddhism, which is located below the monastery and is administratively separate from it.
The college is highly selective, and its students, who come from all over Tibet, study for six years after which they take stiff exams. After graduation they generally spend five more years at Dzongsar before fanning out to monasteries all over the plateau. Now it is very active with about 250monks for Buddhism and Education,having series of branches and sub-branches monasteries all over the world.
"Palpung Gompa" in Tibetan, located a hillside close to Babang village with altitude of 3900M, is the largest and most important Kagyupa (White) sect monatery in the region of more than 800 years old. It's known locally as the "Little Potala Palace". The main structure about 24M high, 3 stories, affiliated 3 Buddhism Institues and it's own printing house, and it's branch monastery about 108 temples scattered in India, Bhutan, Nepal etc. Palpung makes a great base for exploring the neighborhood with its Buddhism college.