A Month in China (Part 9): Rebkong and the Klurol Festival


After leaving Xiahe probably a bit too early, our next stop on the journey was Rebkong (also known as Tongren). This brought us to our third province on the trip (Qinghai [ching-hī]) and the last stop before we would get to a major city for the first time since leaving Chengdu. The major draw of Rebkong was not necessarily the beautiful monastery, but festival just outside of town. The Klurol (Lurol) festival lasts for three days and seeks to appease the mountain gods and to ask them to protect their harvest and livestock. We only stuck around for one of the days, but that was more than enough time to catch some of the tradition.

Before heading out to the festival we wandered around near the monastery for a bit capturing some of the street life.

Fresh meat!

I think this is the definition of skills.

This woman gave us some free bread, and it was delicious.

We then hopped in a cab and rode out to the village where the festival was taking place. We arrived a bit early so we wandered around a bit before settling in for the festivities. The first round involved intricate dancing and praying before a number of large thankas.

Next the procession moved out of the little courtyard we were in. We moved up to the hillside where incense and tree branches were burned and prayer papers were generously distributed into the air. Then, everyone gathered around while the shaman said aloud some prayers and then proceeded to cut open his forehead as part of a sacrifice.

Finally the procession moved back to another larger courtyard where men and boys alike lined up to have their cheeks pierced by a long needle. After the piercing there were more sacrifices and more dancing before the needles were removed.

These are the times where I wish I spoke more of the language. We were able to gather a little information about the significance of the festival from papers and pamphlets but I am sure the tradition holds more importance than what can be conveyed in a short paragraph. Alas we were only able to experience the festival visually, enjoying the celebration and the people involved.

After the festival, we snagged a mini-bus (read van) back to town where we walked a bit more before settling in and getting ready for our bus ride the next day to Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province.

Until the next time,

Ian

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