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The Tagong Horse Festival Of Ancient Kham

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highlights
  • Tagong Horse Festival - Meet the nomads as they demonstrate their equestrian skills and celebrate their way of life
  • Dege Printing House - Explore this 'encyclopaedia of Tibetan culture' and learn about the Tibetan perspective on geography, medicine, arts and religion
  • Ancient Kham - Travel through dramatic high mountain passes, vast grassland plains and small villages
  • Chengdu
The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham tour starts and ends in Chengdu. The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham is a Wildlife tour that takes 18 days taking you through Chengdu, China and other destinations in China.

The south-eastern part of the Tibetan Plateau is a region of stunning high mountain scenery and fascinating people. Travelling in the region we'll discover immense monasteries and settlements devoted to Tibetan Buddhism and visit the Tagong grasslands for the annual Horse Festival, a demonstration of bizarre equestrian skills and a general all round celebration. Tagong Horse Festival - A colourful celebration of equestrian skills including high speed races and picking up items from the floor whilst on horseback Dege Printing House - Explore this 'encyclopaedia of Tibetan culture' and learn about the Tibetan perspective on geography, medicine, arts and religion Ancient Kham - Travel through dramatic high mountain passes, vast grassland plains and small villages
With a history that stretches back nearly 2500 years, Chengdu marks the spot where the southern Silk Road began. The city boasts a rich cultural pedigree that has produced some of China's most famous poets, including the 'Chinese Shakespeare', Du Fu, who lived here in the 8th century and is survived by almost 1500 hugely influential poems. Chengdu is also famed for its cuisine, with chili being one of the main ingredients, and is considered to be home to the tea drinking culture of China.
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
This morning we head to the outskirts of the city to meet Chengdu's most famous residents, the giant pandas. The pandas are said to be China's spoilt children and they spend their days relaxing in large enclosures while the staff bring them bamboo by the bucket load. The centre works hard to breed the pandas with the ultimate aim of releasing them back in to the wild.

We return to Chengdu to discover the Wenshu Temple. Built during the Tang Dynasty, the monastery is home to more than 500 paintings and calligraphy exhibits as well as over 300 Buddha statues. We'll depart Chengdu in the afternoon for an hour's drive to Dujiangyan.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Set amongst beautiful landscape, the 2300 year old Dujiangyan irrigation project is one of the greatest engineering feats of the Qin Dynasty. Constructed to provide water to the region and control flooding, the system is still in use today. Nearby, we also discover the Two Kings Temple and the Dragon Taming Temple, impressive and ornate examples of traditional Chinese architecture, each with its own mysterious and ancient legend.

Leaving Dujiangyan we head for Ma Er Kang, a drive of around six hours through beautiful countryside of rolling hills and grassland plains. We'll stop at a couple of villages and viewpoints along the way including Zhuokeji village which was built in the 18th century and has very well preserved stone and wooden houses. The town of Ma Er Kang follows the Dge-lugs-pa or Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism observed by the Panchen and Dalai Lamas, and is known for its clear air and surrounding snow capped peaks.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
We start today at nearby Songgang where 17th century watch towers which once signalled villagers of impending raids. We continue towards Rangtang, a journey of five to six hours through the Dukehe River Valley. There'll be several stops to enjoy the mountain scenery and explore some of the villages and temples along our route including Kalong, a beautiful mountain village, and Zengke Temple, a small ancient Tibetan Buddhist temple with 50m high towers and over 1100 stupas.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
An hour's drive takes us to Rangtang Monastery which is the centre of the Jonang school of Tibetan Buddhism. Originating over 900 years ago, the followers of Jonang believe that only the mind is real and everything we perceive is purely a product of consciousness. We'll meet the lamas and learn something of the fascinating Jonang tradition. The monastery itself consists of three temples which were all built in different eras, with the oldest being the Querji Temple which dates from the 14th century. There is a small village near the monastery and we'll wander through it's streets getting a first hand experience of the way of life of the Tibetan Buddhists that live there.

On the way back to Rangtang we stop at Bangtuo Monastery. The name means 'monastery on the grassland' and it is built on hillside facing the Zequhe River in a beautiful natural setting. It is famous for its 300 year old stone carved Tibetan Scriptures which took over 60 lamas nine years to finish.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
We drive to Ganzi, which translates as 'a pure white and beautiful place', a drive of around seven hours through landscapes of long mountain ridges and deep river valleys. On the way we'll pay a visit to Shounig Monastery in Luhou. Shouning Monastry, a yllow hat sect Buddhist monastery, first built in 1650, moved the location for three time in the hstory, and the present one is finished in 1988, there are over 200 lamas in residence and young people from the surrounding areas visit to learn from them. We also spend some time at Qiuran Tibetan village, visiting one of the traditional wooden houses that make up the village and learning about the Tibetan culture and way of life.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Situated in a large valley of grass-covered hills with snow-capped mountains in the distance, the friendly town of Ganzi is rich in Tibetan culture. We walk through the town for around an hour, making our way to Ganzi Monastery which is reached by almost 200 steps. Built in 1642 by Mongols who took control of the area, the monastery was partially destroyed during the Chinese revolution and renovated during the 1980's assimilating both Chinese and Tibetan influences; it is now home to around 700 monks. We'll explore the temples, the kitchen, and the Buddhist college before stopping for a while at the local vegetable and food market in the town. We will also visit a small, fiendly nunnery near the village where we hope to meet some of the local Tibetan nuns.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Today's drive takes us through Zhuodala Tunnel and via spectacular scenery of mountains, lakes and expansive grasslands. We stop for at the Changduoke monastery in the remote town of Changtai. The monastery was sponsored and built by the local chieftain (Tusi) from the Dege area and belongs to the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, the history of which goes back to more than 600 years.

Our drive takes around eight hours including the stops, and just before arriving in to Baiyu we'll pass through a large grassland area which is carpeted with a wonderful variety of different coloured flowers, before following the river valley in to the town.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
After breakfast we set out to walk through the town of Baiyu and up to the monastery that overlooks it, reached by around 150 steps. We'll continue up to the Mandala Temple for great views across the monastery and the town, and spend some time at the Buddhist college where we can meet the lamas that teach the principles of the religion to devotees.

Our three hour drive this afternoon follows the course of the mighty Yangtze River, stopping at several traditional villages along the way, until we reach the town of Dege.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Dege means 'land of mercy' in Tibetan and is one of three ancient centres of Buddhism. We take a short walk through the small town and spend a couple of hours visiting the renowned printing house. Often described as an 'encyclopaedia of Tibetan culture', Dege Printing House contains more than a quarter of a million wooden printing blocks of text and images. They cover all aspects of culture including geography, medicine, arts and religion, and provide a unique insight in to the view of the world of the region's people. The collection also includes some of the rarest Tibetan texts in existence. The block printing process still practiced here has remained unchanged for the past 300 years and we'll be able to witness it in progress while we are there.

In the afternoon we visit the Gengqing Monastery which was built in 1448 and has a collection of seven smaller monasteries attached to it. They follow the Sakaya school of Buddhism, with a particular focus on scholarship and teaching the Lamdre, or 'path with its fruit', meditation. We'll also spend some time at the workshop of a local Tangka painter where we'll learn how these elaborate, and sometimes enormous, works of Buddhist art are created for decorative and ceremonial purposes.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Our eight hour journey today will take us through spectacular high mountain scenery. We'll stop at some of the small Tibetan villages that we pass through and take time to enjoy the beautiful 4000 metre high Xinluhai Lake. The last part of the journey takes us across vast grasslands where we will stop to meet the nomads with their huge herds of Yak before reaching Dzogchen Monastery, where we will be spending the night in the Monastery's guest house. Run by the monks and nuns, our fellow guests are likely to be monks or lamas visiting from other parts of China.

(Note that if the monastery decides to hold a festival then the rooms will be required for lamas and monks travelling from other parts of China and we will stay in nearby Zhuqing village instead. In both cases the facilities are simple with shared bathrooms)
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
This morning we take atour of the Dzogchen Monastery. Set in stunning scenery at an altitude of 4000m, it was one of the six great monasteries of the earliest sect of Buddhism known as Nyingma. We'll see the temples of the monastery, its Buddhist college, and meet the Lamas who come from both the Tibetan region and other parts of China. We'll be able to take part in a walking meditation with the locals, circumnavigating the monastery in the Buddhist style.

In the afternoon we take a drive of four hours to Ganzi. Just before we arrive, we visit the small Dajin Monastery, set in spectacular countryside just outside the town. Dajin means 'lucky and prosperous land' in Tibetan and the monastery was built 350 years ago as a copy of the Johkang Temple in Lhasa. Once there were around 3000 lamas in residence but today it is just a few hundred. From the top of the three story structure we'll get views of snow-capped mountains and the glorious scenery of the area.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
We have a leisurely eight hour drive to Tagong along mountain roads and passing through more incredible scenery. On the way we'll stop for a while at Lingque Monastery in Daofu. The monastery follows the Gelug tradition of Buddhism that is led by the Dalai Lama and is famous for its butter sculptures, a tradition that arose from the practice of nomads donating the first butter from each yak as an offering to the Buddha. Over time the sculptures became larger and more elaborate and now the biggest can be several storeys high.

We will also take the opportunity to stop at some of the nomadic communities that we are likely to pass. Renowned for their hospitality, they welcome visitors and will offer us sweet treats and butter tea as we learn a little bit about their ancient, wandering lifestyle.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
In the local tongue the word Tagong means 'favourite place of one that has achieved enlightenment' and is famous for its massive grassland areas inhabited by tens of thousands of yaks and their herders. Visiting the Tagong Horse Festival offers one of the best opportunities to witness authentic Kham culture and mix with the nomads. Held every year on the 15th day of the fifth lunar month of the Tibetan calendar, the nomads gather to race horses, enjoy other nomadic sports, and traditional singing and dancing. Events include various horse races, horsemanship competitions such as picking up an item from the ground while travelling at speed, and performing gymnastics on horseback. The festival attracts local people from the surrounding villages, and takes place in a beautiful setting with a backdrop of towering mountains.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
We'll spend more time at the festival today and enjoy some of the other events such as tug of war and the sandbag carrying competition. We can also witness the lamas chanting and offering prayers for the wellbeing of all the local population.

Later, we take the opportunity to visit the Tagong Monastery, built during the Qing Dynasty to honour the journey of Princess Wencheng who stayed here on her way to Lhasa to marry the king of Tibet. The monastery houses sacred relics and statues and has a very impressive setting, with snow-capped mountains providing a stunning backdrop to its golden roofs.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
This morning there will be a performance of traditional Tibetan Guozhuang dancing. The dance reflects themes in daily life and is often performed at festivals. An equal number of men and women form a circle around a lead dancer, following their steps and singing folk songs. After the dance, we depart for Luding, a drive of around four hours. A small, lively town, it is famous for its narrow centuries old suspension bridge, and the site of what is considered by many to be one of the most important events of the Long March, the Battle of Luding Bridge. The battle saw the Red Army taking the narrow bridge against superior numbers after a forced march of 120km in less than 24 hours. On arrival we'll take a walk through the town and along the Daduhe River to the bridge and the site of the battle.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Today we return to Chengdu via Ya'an, a drive of around seven hours. Ya'an is known as a centre of the tea industry and was an important stop on the ancient Tea and Horse Trail, an ancient trading route from China to Tibet. We'll stop here for lunch and visit Ya'an museum to learn about the trail and the tea production of the area. Arriving in Chengdu in the late afternoon we'll have the opportunity to try some of the city's renowned cuisine on our last night in China.
Meals
  • Breakfast
Accommodation
  • Standard hotel
Our trip ends this morning after breakfast.
Meals
  • Breakfast
what’s included
Accommodation
  • 17 nights standard hotel
Meals
  • 17 Breakfast
Transport
  • Bus
Guide
  • Explore Tour Leader, Driver(s), Local Guide(s)
what’s excluded
  • International Flights
  • Any international flights to/from Chengdu are not included in this price. We always recommend that you arrive 1 day prior to your tour starting date.
  • Travel Insurance
  • Travel insurance is not included in this The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham tour. Travel insurance is mandatory to buy. We recommend purchasing it from World Nomads.
Tour details
Duration 18 days
Tour Type Group Tour - Max 17 participants
guiding method Live guide/instructor
Guide Language English
Starts/Ends Chengdu, China/ Chengdu, China
Get a PDF file with detailed trip information: Download Trip Notes for The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham
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Payment

A deposit of 336 USD is required to confirm this tour. The remaining balance will be charged 59 days before departure. For any departures within 15 August 2019 full payment is required.

Travel Insurance

The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham tour requires that you have adequate and valid travel insurance covering medical and personal accidents, including repatriation costs and emergency evacuation. We recommend using World Nomads' travel insurance.

Visa

For this The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham tour getting the required visa(s) is the responsibility for each individual traveller, as visa requirements vary depending on your nationality. We recommend to check with your local embassies representing the countries that you are travelling to, as part of this itinerary.

CancellationNo additional cancellation fees apply for this The Tagong Horse Festival of Ancient Kham tour. You can cancel the tour up to 60 days prior departure and avoid paying the full amount, but your deposit paid is non-refundable. No refund applies for cancellations within 59 days of departure.
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