Sa'gya County Overview
Basic Information of Sagya County
Affiliated to the Tibet autonomous region of Shigatse（日喀则）, Sagya County（萨迦县） is 150 kilometers away from Shigatse City, which covers an area of 7510 square kilometers with a total population of over 47304. The county is located between the Himalayas and the Gangdis Mountains（夏布曲河） higher in the north and lower in the middle. The highest peak in the county is 6092 meters above sea level. There are rivers like Chongqu River（冲曲河）, Xiabuqu River（夏布曲河）, and so on. There are also some famous monasteries of all kinds in the territory including Sakya Monastery（萨迦寺）, Baima Qulin（白玛曲林）, Chaopu（超浦）, Juba（举巴）, Kangjian（康坚）, Renqingang Monastery（仁钦岗寺）, etc.
Sagya County is a semi-arid monsoon climate zone with a vertical climate distribution. The annual rainfall is about 150 to 300 mm with the rainfall concentration season in June, July and August. Relatively frost-free period is about 70 to 100 days. Annual average temperature between 5-6 ℃. Winter mostly blows the southwest wind which is dry and cold with the sand; the summer wind is mostly from the southeast and southwest which is relatively warmer, belonging to the semi-arid zone.
Main Attractions in Sagya County
The Sakya Monastery（萨迦寺）
The Sakya Monastery（萨迦寺） is divided into the south and north, two monasteries. The north monastery is located on the northern bank of Chongqu River（冲曲河）, which was founded in the six years of the Northern Song Dynasty (1073 AD) with a really great scale. The main buildings are Wuzi Lakang（乌孜拉康）, Xiongya Lakang（雄雅拉康）, Gangga Lakang（刚嘎拉康） and so on. Due to natural factors and man-made damages, most of the buildings in the north monastery have been broken, but the architectural patterns and scale still can be seen from the ruins. While the South monastery built in 1268 AD covers an area of about 45000 square meters. The south monastery which belongs to one of the four Tibetan Buddhism sects is the ancestral Sakya monastery. It was listed as a national key cultural relic’s protection unit by the state council in 1962.
Kawu Dharmaraja Hot Spring（卡吾法王温泉）
Kawu Dharmaraja Hot Spring（卡吾法王温泉） is 18 kilometers away from the county seat. It is the place where the Dharmaraja of Sakya sect（萨迦法王）had his bath. Cawu Hot Spring covers an area of about 0.5 square kilometers, with the water temperature keeping constantly at about 83 ℃. There are five oldest springs, namely: the more DuoquDian（多曲殿）, Wuma Sisi（乌玛丝丝）, Lama Yimi（拉玛衣米）, Qiaqiong（恰琼）, and Qiran（启然）. Measured by the health department, Kawu Dharmaraja Hot Spring whose water density is larger than general springs contains 27 kinds of trace elements beneficial to human body. People can feel great buoyancy in the water. What’s more, the spring which has special curative effect is beneficial for treating stomach disease, arthritis, skin diseases, limb numbness, etc.
Kawu Dharmaraja Hot Spring has a high profile. Due to the geothermal effect, the natural environment near the hot spring is also peculiar. Besides Snow Mountains and grasslands, visitors can view the wild ducks in the river in winter and rare hot spring snakes occasionally appeared on the edge of the spring.
Chonglashan Peak-view Stage（冲拉山观峰台）
Chonglashan Peak-view Stage（冲拉山观峰台） is 15 kilometers away from Sagya county town. "Chong la" means "the place where wild yaks cry" in Tibetan. Here you can view the east slope of the world's highest peak, Mount Everest, and the unique landscape of Mount Everest - the Qomolangma cloud.
After Natang Monastery（那唐寺） was accomplished, there are many famous monks here speak unknown method. The monastery had been broken once and then in 1987 rebuilt three halls on the ruins of the old one, which saved within the seven pieces of sixteen arhats stone carvings, a pair of footprints that the eighth abbot Jutun Menlangcuocheng（巨屯·门朗措成） left in his thirtieth on the stone of the monastery, and 8800 pieces of cultural relics including Kangyur《丹珠尔》.
Built in 1447 with the presiding of Sambuzasi（桑布扎西）, Gangqin Monastery（刚钦寺） is 45 kilometers from Shigaze City and 3,800 meters above sea level. It belongs to Gelug sect（格鲁派） with eight palace halls and one main assembly hall, two Dratsang（扎仓）and five Micun Village（弥村）. There enshrine the Pagoda of Sambuzasi in the main assembly hall. 50 meters away from the temple, there is a mysterious Guanxiang Lake, which is said that Sambuzasi dug out the lake that can view the future with his walking stick.
Local Handcrafts and Products
Sagya is a place where traditional crafts are well preserved. You can find many traditional and local handicrafts such as Tibetan knives and Tibetan carpets as well as gold, silver, and copper wares. You can find these unique souvenirs in markets, shops, and even street stalls. Clothing, handicrafts, religious vessels, carpets, knives, and many other commodities are sold in the county. Besides, the price here is quite reasonable. The gold, silver and copper wares in Shigatse are very famous. Many monasteries located in and outside Tibet order religious vessels from Shigatse Gold, Silver and Copper Crafts Factory every year. Even the holy Tashilhunpo Monastery purchases religious vessels from the factory. What's more, the factory also makes rings, earrings, decorations, knives, chopsticks, pots, and bowls, etc.
A Tibetan knife（藏刀） is a necessity in Tibetan people's daily life. The knives made in Lhatse County are always admired by both Tibetans and visitors. The scabbards are made of silver or copper and, decorated with images of dragons, phoenixes, tigers, lions, flowers, and so on. The knives are elegant and beautiful. In addition, the blades are very sharp!
Tibetan Carpet（藏毯） is another feature of Sagya. The traditional Tsang Rug（曾萌权地毯） in Gyangtse County is of the highest repute. The colorful carpets and rugs are considered to be among the Three Famous Carpets in the world. Now, more and more visitors prefer to purchase these unique and traditional carpets as keepsakes.
Ophiocordyceps sinensis（冬虫夏草） (formerly known as Cordyceps sinensis) is an entomopathogenic fungus (a fungus that grows on insects) found in mountainous regions of Nepal and Tibet. It parasitizes larvae of ghost moths and produces a fruiting body which used to be valued as a herbal remedy.
Festivals and Activities in Sagya County
The Summer and Winter Vajra Dharma Assembly（（夏季，冬季金刚神舞法会）
Each year, Sakya Monastery（萨迦寺） will hold several religious ceremonies and activities, among which the summer and winter Vajra dharma assembly（金刚神舞法会） can be seen as the most unique and grandest. The winter dharma assembly（冬季神舞法会） will begin on November 19 in Tibetan calendar. During the dharma assembly, there are some divine dance performances. The dancers wearing different mask of the dharma gods（护法神） and various animals will show the content when the Tibetan Buddhism tantra（藏传佛教密宗） defeated the monsters vividly with the simple plot. Every year, thousands of people from far and near will come to the Buddhist monastery to pay religious homage to Sakya Monastery and pray that the divine dance can bring happiness and auspiciousness to the world when the two dharma assemblies are held.
Wangguo Festival is a Tibetan festival of the peasants to celebrate the good harvests, usually lasting from three days to five days. It is popular in Lhasa, Shigatse area as well as Shannan prefecture. In Tibetan, "Wang" means farmland and "Guo" means to circle around. So Wangguo literally means circling around on the farmland. Wangguo Festival is a most popular festival in the rural areas of Tibet, usually observed in the 7th or 8th month of Tibetan lunar calendar. After the Wanguo Festival, local peasants begin to harvest and then sow busily.
During Wangguo Festival, people always come to the farmland, holding colorful flags and ears of barley or ears of wheat. Peasants dressed in new clothes, pile the ears of barleys and ears of wheat up into a "harvest tower" and circling around the farmland, raising their banners, beating drums and gongs and singing songs. Then activities such as horse-racing, archery, Tibetan opera performances, singing and dancing are carried out, following with a luxurious picnic.
Travel Tips in Sagya County
- Due to its high elevation, the climate of Sagya County is relatively hard, with an annual average temperature between 5-6 ℃. The months from November to next March are usually accompanied by quite low temperature while May to October is considered as the best travel time to Sagya.
- As Sagya County is located at an average altitude over 4,400 meters, high altitude sickness easily occurs usually. The most effective way to avoid high altitude sickness is just to be optimistic. In addition, bring enough water or drinks, fruits and snacks with high caloric content, like chocolate for fluid loss and energy consumption usually accompany the acclimatization process. Above all, taking a good rest is the most important.
- If you are planning to visit Sakya Monastery, the Mt. Everest and Rongbuk Monastery, you have to apply for a travel permit for these scenic spots are listed as closed areas in Tibet.
Transportation in Sagya County
Coaches are available at the Shigatse Bus Station, 7:30 am-8:00 am, five-hour distance, approximate 27 yuan per person.
The coaches will head back from Sagya the next day at the gate of the Sagya Hostel.
Go back to China Nepal Friendship Highway firstly by hitchhiking or taking a tractor, then taking the passing coach or thumbing for a lift.