Rongwo Monastery is one of the major centres of Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) Tbetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama's sect. This beautiful religious community has been through many difficult times, including fairly recently, but seemed vibrant when we visited in early October 2013. Although the monastery was founded in 1301, many of its temples were apparently destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and so much of the monastery was rebuilt in the 1980s and 1990s, but with careful adherence to traditional Tibetan religious architectural design and techniques as far as I can see. The monastery remains a living religious community - officially it is home to 500 monks although I would estimate around 300 were in residence when we visited - and a centre of worship, with Tibetan pilgrims of all ages coming and going, making offerings and walking the kora circuit around the monastery's perimeter. For tourists, there is an entrance fee of RMB 50 payable at the main gate, which seemed a reasonable amount given the historic and cultural importance of the site and its large size. Although we visited during the October holidays, peak tourist time in most of China, we saw very few other tourists (whether Chinese or foreign) during our stay and this was a great place to escape the Golden Week crowds.
Rongwo is not as large as nearby Labrang (over the provincial border 3-4 hours away in Gansu) but you will still need the best part of a day to really appreciate it. Staying one or two nights locally is well worthwhile as it allows you time to wander the monastery unhurried, taking in all the beautiful details of the paintings, statues and hangings, and soak up the atmosphere, as well as accompanying pilgrims around the kora, and visiting the renowned thangka-producing Wutunsi monasteries as well. If you would like to observe religious activities at the monastery you can ask the monks when they are taking place - we did so and were able to watch around 200 monks practicing religious and philosophical debating in a courtyard as the sun set. The monks are welcoming and some are happy to chat to visitors in Chinese, although few we met spoke English.
Given the difficulties many travellers experience in trying to get to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, it's well worth considering a trip to some of the great Gelugpa monasteries outside the TAR. For a truly unforgettable Tibetan experience I would recommend allowing yourself enough time to travel on to the Labrang Monastery at Xiahe, but if you are short on time a two or three day trip here from Xining is still well worthwhile. Buses from the bus station on Bayi Lu (八一路) in Xining are frequent and only cost RMB 20 each way.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.