Situated on the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau, Xining is the capital of Qinghai Province. For many travelers, Xining is just a jumping-off or landing point from the Qinghai–Tibet Railway. But there are some interesting sites to visit during your journey to Xining, like the Grand Mosque of Dongguan, The Qinghai Lake, the Tibetan Medical and Cultural Museum, and the famous Kumbum Taer Monastery.
Chinese Name: 西宁
Location: The capital of Qinghai in northwest China, Xining is located on a plateau at an altitude of more than 2000 m.
Opening hours: All-day
Recommended length of visit: 4 hours
Located in the southwestern suburb of Xining, Taer Monastery (also called Kumbum Monastery) is a very sacred Tibetan Buddhist temple. As the birthplace of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect, it was listed in “the Six Greatest Monastery of Tibetan Gelugpa”, and the others are Sera, Drepung, Tashilhunpo, Ganden monasteries in Tibet, and the Labrang monastery in Gansu Province.
Built-in 1577, this monastery is a wonderful architectural complex that contains hundreds of structures, including Buddha halls, scripture halls, Buddhist pagodas, and lamas residences. The magnificent temples and halls are a perfect combination of the Han and Tibetan styles.
During your visit to the monastery, do not forget to see the Three Artistic Wonders: Yak Butter Sculptures, Murals, and Embroideries. After three months of preparation, a Yak Butter Sculptures exhibition takes place every 15th January of the Chinese lunar calendar. At this time, you can find the fine sculptures of statues of Buddha, human figures, landscape, pavilions, animals, and plants in Yak Butter Scripture Hall.
Chinese Name: 塔尔寺
Location: 30 km from Xining
Opening hours: 08h00-17h00
Ticket: 80 RMB/person
Recommended visit duration: 4-5 hrs
The Grand Mosque of Dongguan
In terms of its size, the Grand Mosque of Dongguan is the largest in Xining and by far the most impressive and clever mix of Chinese and Islamic architecture. Ideally, it is advisable to visit it on Friday around 1 p.m. when the faithful gather there on the holy day of Islam.
Built-in the late 14th century, there are the usual components of the mosques of Central Asia with their domed roof, two minarets, and the large square facing the facade.
Nearby, in the Muslim quarter adjoining the mosque, a friendly lively market takes place every Friday where the scents of spices and mutton skewers are diffused.
Located on the mountain range north of Xining city, Beishan Hill is an enjoyable excursion. Several temples are scattered around the foot of the hill, but our visit was aimed at the 18th-century temple of the same name at the top of the mountain. Beishan Temple is a sanctuary dedicated to Tibetan Buddhism and Taoism. A pleasant 15-minute walk up the desolate hillside northwest of Xining will take you to Beishan Temple.
Beishan Temple was built in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), and its buildings, with a history of over 1150 years, have undergone several restorations in subsequent dynasties. It is made up of impressive cliff-side temples forming 1,700-year-old caves and holds the role of the first example of religious architecture in Qinghai Province. Several less interesting temples are also located at the foot of the hill. The footprint of the site extends over an area of approximately 28,000 m² on the North Mountain, also called the Tulou Mountain.
Hundreds of stairs will lead you first to an amazing corridor carved into the cliff, and then at the top, the temple exudes a pleasant and peaceful atmosphere with a breathtaking panorama of Xining and the Tibetan landscapes in the background. This temple is considered to be “a shining pearl” on the southern route of the Silk Road.
Chinese Name: 北山公园
Location: In Xining city
Opening hours: 8h30 – 18h00
Ticket: 10 RMB/person
Duration of visit: 2-3 hrs
Qinghai Lake, which is about twenty kilometers from Xining, is also recommended for its arid landscapes typical of the Tibetan plateaus where nomadic tribes still live in their tents near their herds. This is also where the Kumbum Ta’ersi monastery is located.
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