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Dege County

Under the administration of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Dege County is located in the northwest of Garze Prefecture. It borders Garze County on the east, Baiyu County on the south and Shiqu County on the north. The county owns a population of about 8.4 million people, 96% of which are Tibetan people. Sichuan-Tibet Highway runs through the whole county. Chola Mountain, with altitude of 5050 kilometers, is known as "the highest and most dangerous mountain in Sichuan and Tibet". It divides Dege County into two parts: the northeast part and the southwest part. The northeast part belongs to dome-shaped plateau geomorphology with higher terrain, large flat river valleys and fertile soil. The southwest part belongs to mountain canyon landscape with low terrain, deep river valleys and large terrain height difference. Dege County has the continental plateau monsoon climate, with dry air, low temperature, long winter and short summer. The rainfall concentrates from May to September every year.

 

Dege means "a good place" in Tibetan Buddhism. As one of the three major cradles of Tibetan culture, Dege County is the birthplace of the South Sect of Tibetan medicine, the core area of Kham culture, and the hometown of King Gesar, the hero in the world's longest epic Gesar Epic, which is also known as "the Oriental Iliad". As one of the three major Tibetan sutra-printing houses, Dege Sutra Printing House is the key cultural relics under national protection and the best preserved Tibetan sutra printing house in the world by far. It owns 70% of all cultural books in Tibet and more than 300,000 engraved plates. That's why it's entitled as "the World Encyclopedia of Tibetan Culture". Kham culture represented by the sutra-printing house and the hometown of King Gesar are the two cultural brands of Dege County. In addition, there are other scenic spots, such as the ancestral monasterys of five sects in Kham Tibetan Buddhist, Palpung Monastery which is called the "Little Potala Palace", and the natural ecological landscapes such as Xinluhai Lake, Kasongdu and Duopugou Valley. With deep and active Kham culture and Gesar culture, Dege County has made important contributions on the inheritance and development of Tibetan culture.

Dege Sutra Printing House is also called Dege Parkhang, which means the house for printing sutra. It reserves 70% of all cultural ancient books in Tibet. The construction of the sutra-printing house is unique with double thread layout and red walls. There are engraved plates storehouse, paper storehouse, scripture airing platform, paper cutting room, Buddha palace and sutra chanting hall in the house. With more than 270 years of history, Dege Sutra Printing House is famous for the well-stocked books with wide range. Although the founder of Dege Sutra Printing House Tenpa Tsering is a believer of Red Sect of Lamaism, he does not exclude the classical of other sects, which makes Dege Sutra Printing House different from several other printing houses.

Gonchen Monastery in Dege County is the main Sakya sect monastery in Kham. It was a monastery of Nyingma originally. The seventh generation chieftain of Dege expanded the monastery, changed it to Sakya monastery, and named it "Gonchen Monastery", which means a large monastery. Gonchen Monastery is the family monastery of the chieftain. The eldest son of the chieftain will take the position of abbot, and the second son will be the successor of chieftain. That's why there is no Living Buddha in this monastery. From Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China, a large number of religious scholars from home and abroad gathered in Gonchen Monastery, and promoted the developments in paintings, music, Tibetan opera, sculpture, wood carving, construction, printing, and Tibetan medicine. They have played important role in the development of Tibetan culture and the formation of the unique religious culture in Dege region. In Gonchen Monastery, divinity dance activity is held several times every year, which has a great influence on music, dance and rap in Dege. Affected by Tangdong Jiebu, the founder of Tibetan opera, Dege Tibetan opera was formed between the end of Ming Dynasty and the beginning of Qing Dynasty with Gonchen Monastery Opera as the representative. Up to now, the traditional Tibetan operas are presented in Gonchen Monastery every July in Tibetan calendar year.

Palpung Monastery is located about 108 kilometers to southeast of Dege County. It's the main Kagyu monastery of Tibetan Buddhist in Kham region. Palpung Monastery and Tsurpu Monastery are the two holy places of Kagyu sect. In Tibetan language, "Palpung" means "wealth accumulation and auspiciousness". It's said that the Kagyu eminent monk traveled here and saw three mountains like elephants, which was an auspicious omen with the meaning of wealth confluence. He selected this place to build the monastery and stayed there. Later on, believers from other places knew this place and came here; therefore, the monastery was named "Palpung". Palpung Monastery is the hometown of Kham ethnic painting. Being magnificent and mysterious, the monastery combines the architectural features of Tibetan Kham monasteries and folk buildings, and the architectural styles of Gelug sect and Geju sect. It is known as the best monastery in Kham region and is called the "Little Potala Palace". There are many Tibetan paintings and sculptures in Palpung Monastery, with ancient frescos on the walls of the splendid hall. Palpung Monastery owns the largest collection of classical scriptures, some of which are the only existing copy or the rare edition. Being famous for Karma Thangka making, Palpung Monastery owns a large number of precious Thangka collections and other precious cultural relics. It is because of the inconvenient transportation that the cultural treasures in Palpung Monastery are best reserved through the Holocausts in history.

Manigange means the "transfer-place" in Tibetan language. Manigange town is located 110 kilometers to the east of Dege County, at the edge of the prairie and near Chola Mountain. It is an important traffic center in the north line of Sichuan-Tibet Highway, and the commerce distribution center for local residents. As early as the ancient times, it was an important town on the ancient Tea Horse Road, which was the trade road for Yunnan, Qinghai and Sichuan. The pedestrians in the town are typical Kham people, who are called Chinese cowboy with red strings on head and long Tibetan knives. Chola Mountain is 10 kilometers away from Manigangge town. It means "the mountain that eagles can't fly over" in Tibetan language. The peak of Chola Mountain is 6,168 meters, with more than 20 mountains above 5,000 meters high around. Chola Mountain is in the Shaluli mountain system in the western plateau of Sichuan province, and the main mountains include Genyen Holy Mountain, Chola Mountain, Haizi Mountain, etc. Due to the complicated geography and landform, it has a changeable climate with rich animal and plant resources. It's also the transportation hub on the north line of Sichuan-Tibet Highway, and the most dangerous mountain in Garze Prefecture. Under the east slope of Chola Mountain is Xinluhai Lake, the paradise on earth. Xinluhai Lake is called Yulunglatso in Tibetan language, which means "the captivating holy lake". According to the legend, Zhumu, Gesar's wife in the famous Tibetan epic King Gesar, came to the lake and was attracted by the beautiful landscape and quiet environment there. She wandered around the lake and lingered on with no thought of leaving. Xinluhai Lake is not only known as the "Western Jade Pool" and "one of the two tears in the world", but also the largest white-lipped deer sanctuary, with lake, glaciers, forests, wildlife, mountains, grasslands and wetlands mixed up as the epitome of the beautiful scenery on the plateau.