Yarchen Vddiyana Meditation Monastery, Garze (Ganzi), Kham, Sichuan
Located in an isolated valley 4000m above sea level in Pelyul (Baiyu) County, Garze (Ganzi), Sichuan, Yarchen Monastery ( "Yaqing Si" in Chinese) is a Nyingma Sect. Gar built in 1985. With more than 10,000 Sangha members now, it's the largest concentration of nuns and monks in the world. Most of the Sanghas are nuns.
Having such a huge Sangha population, the place is severely lacking in lodgings and retreat facilities. Food,water and clothes are in extremely short supply, electric power is only available from 7pm to 10pm every day... Though living in such a miserable conditions and having been frequented by illnesses, the Sanghas have shown remarkable powers of endurance and perseverance. They diligently practice the Buddha Dharma and seek liberation from Samsara.
A Fundraising Project was initiated by some philanthropists to reconstruct the nuns' quarters and improve the living facilities of the monatery.
The current Chief Abbot His Holiness Achuk Rinpoche, is an incarnation of the great terton Longsal Nyingpo (1625-1682) of Kathok Monastery who was an incarnation of Amitabha Buddha. He is the head of the Nyingma Sect in China and now the foremost person of great holiness and virtue in all Tibet. Born in 1927 in Eastern Tibet, Achuk Rinpoche has spent 43 years in retreat with his master, Tulku Arik Rinpoche. As a realized Buddhist master, Achuk Rinpoche is regarded as one of the world's greatest living exponents of the Great Perfection Teaching.
For regular travelers, Yarchen Monastery is definitely not a good place for sightseeing, unless you want to experience absolute isolation and buddhism atmosphere without being afraid of the adverse conditions.
Getting there and away
Step 1:Chengdu - Kangding - Ganzi(Garze), nearly 750km, arrive in 2 days.
The direct bus from Chengdu Chadianzi Station to Ganzi stops at Kangding for overnight and arrive Ganzi in the late afternoon of the 2nd day. The alternative is to take a Chengdu-Kangding bus at Chengdu Xinnanmen Passenger Center, which is more frequent and comfortable. When arriving Kangding, buy your Ticket for Ganzi according to your time schedule.
Step 2: Ganzi - Yarchen Monastery
Minivans running between Ganzi and Yarchen monsatery leave when full. Y35/head, 3.5~4hours to arrive. The Sichuan-Tibet Hwy is the main street in Ganzi, the Yarchen-bound vans are centered in a repair yard along the road, just make a right turn and walk for about 50m from Himalaya Hotel. If there are some lamas/nuns waiting beside the entrance, that's the place, you won't miss it.
Charter a minivan to Yarchen monstery from Ganzi town costs around Y200.
Due to the harsh conditions, most travelers just make a short stop at Yarchen Monastery for taking a photo from the hilltop. For those who want to or have to stay overnight, the only one restaurant (Xia Rong Fandian / 呷绒饭店 ) there provides very basic lodgings in a wooden hut. Besides a tri-bed room of Y20/head, the big dorm was set in the outside hall, which was frequented by Tibetan prayers or disciples, Y15/head.
The other choice is to stay in Xia Cun village which is around 20 minutes' ride away, just on the road to Baiyu. There are a few guesthouses and restaurants in town.
Sights & Activities
- Bodhi-leaf-shaped Nuns' Quater
The nuns' quarters are characterized by undersized huts or structures which were crudely built with stones, earths, branches, grasses and plastic sheets. Most of the structures are in a dilapidated state. Some of the huts are not more than 5 feet in height and other than the sleeping mats, there are practically nothing inside. Some of the nuns managed to dig hollows in the ground, covered them with plastic sheets and used them as retreat rooms. For those who do not even have these primitive shelters have no alternative but to find shelter in huts occupied by fellow cultivators. They are exposed to cold winter winds and snow (Minus 20-30oC at night) and have to resort to toilets in the open air beside the river.
- Visit Nuns' Sermon Hall, which is with fine decorations and paintings
- Participate in a sermon course, meet the lamas and nuns
- Trekking in the valley if you come in summer or autumn