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China: Wencheng temple

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Wencheng temple > China > Asia

[Visited: April 2007]

One of the main historical figures for Tibetans is actually Chinese: Princess Wencheng. When, in the 7th century, Tibet was extending its territory both east and west, one of the consequences was forming alliances through marriage. King Songtsen Gampo had a Nepali bride, Princess Bhrikuti, and a Chinese one: Princess Wencheng. The marriage with the latter ensured peace between China and Tibet for the rest of the reign of Songtsen Gampo. Many people believe that the Nepali and Chinese princesses brought Buddhism to Tibet; Songtsen Gampo eventually outlawed not being a Buddhist.

Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Wencheng temple marked by colourful prayer flags

Some 20 kilometres south of Jyekundo, in the Peltang valley, we turned left towards the Bida valley, and very soon, after clearing a bend in the road, it seemed we could not continue. The road appeared blocked by prayer flags which were spanning the gorge. When I looked up, I saw many more prayer flags; in fact, the hills defining this gorge were almost completely covered by them. According to one legend, Princess Wencheng stayed here for one month of even more on her way to Lhasa; according to another, she had a miscarriage here. We might not know which legend has historical relevance; but the site has become a sacred site.

Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Walking the kora behind Wencheng Temple

The temple itself is small, and dwarfed further by the rocky hill under which it is tucked away. After visiting the temple, I set off to walk the kora - often, the best way to get an impression of sacred sites in Tibet. Soon after starting off the path, I had to lift bundles of prayer flags to follow the path, to duck under them or step over them. The views down were defined by prayer flags above and below me. The kora was very quiet: I only met a small group of three pilgrims on their way around. On the far side of the kora, the views over the continuation of Bida valley were good, before descending to the valley again. When I left the temple, I saw the three pilgrims on theri way up again. Who knows how many koras they wanted to walk that way. In honour of Princess Wencheng.

Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Brightly coloured prayer flags above Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Statues with donations in Wencheng Temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): The ceiling of Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Tibetan pilgrims carrying a load near Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Prayer flags spanned between both sides of the valley near Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Prayer flags completely covering the kora path
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Emerging from a sea of prayer flags behind Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Hermitage above Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Wencheng Temple: new chörten on an old site
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): View from a kora: looking into Bida valley
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Houses of small village east of Wencheng temple
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Holy goat covered by prayer flags
Picture of Wencheng temple (China): Walking up to a chörten next to Wencheng temple

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