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14:08 Sep 12 2009

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Sleepy Yushu boasts legends, beauty, Tibetan culture (2)
14:07, September 12, 2009  

Flat grassland

At an average altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, Yushu's natural scenery looks almost supernatural. Water lies as flat as a mirror on grassland spread with wild flowers which gives way abruptly to mountains. The sapphire sky seems so close you can touch it and white clouds nestle, just out of reach, on the mountain tops.

Yushu's 198,000 square kilometers is home to the source of China's three major rivers: Yellow River, Yangtze River and Lancang River which flows through Yunnan Province to Vietnam.

But with hundreds of kilometers of separation, you'd be hard pressed to visit them all. Instead, a convenient plaque commemorating the three has been set up near the Tiantong River (which turns into the Yangtze River) as it is the one most important for the local Tibetans.

The unique habitat here is home to a range of endangered animals. The Longbaotan Nature Reserve, 80 kilometers from Jiegu Town, preserves the breeding ground of the black necked crane, an endangered bird that only breeds on highlands. Stretching over 100 square kilometers, it achieved national park status in 1986. It also protects 32 other rare bird species as well as mammals such as the snow leopard and wolf.

  Princess in exile

The area's other claim to fame is Princess Wencheng, a Tang Dynasty princess that was sent thousands of kilometers away from her home in Chang'an (now Xi'an, capital city of Shaanxi Province) to marry a Tibetan king in modern day's Tibet Autonomous Region.

This early inter-cultural mixing has become the stuff of legend for both Han and Tibetans. It took the princess over a year to travel to the remote area, arriving in AD 640.

Yushu was one of the areas she passed through and she left many relics along the way. Wencheng took with her a large entourage full of skilled artisans and experts from the Han kingdom who contributed greatly to Tibetan culture.

In one steep and inaccessible river valley she left a great number of Buddhist carvings both on the mountains and in the river. The Leba Valley is 30 kilometers from Jiedu Town and the carvings in the river rocks are especially impressive.

With the water flowing clear and shallow, hundreds of rocks in the river all bear intricate carvings from Buddhist scriptures. Lifting your head from the river, more carvings greet you high up the mountainsides.

Nearer to Jiegu Town there is a temple devoted to the princess. Due to her contributions to Tibetan culture, she has come to be venerated almost as a Buddha, and generations of poets have composed works in her honor.

The spot where she rested for an extended period on her way to Tibet has been turned into a temple with a large stone statue of her plus eight ladies in waiting, all in Tang Dynasty attire. Prayer flags, a staple of religious expression in the area, liberally adorn the hillside letting the wind carry their prayers to all corners of the Earth.

Source: Shanghai Daily

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