At Labrang, monks wearing bright red garbs stroll around the main thoroughfare and the narrow alleys, mutter guttural chants in unison, and engage in heated philosophical debates. Being one of the largest monasteries outside of Lhasa, it’s not short of pilgrims, which can be seen circumambulating stupas, turning decorated prayer wheels, and reciting holy passages—and also thumbing through their smartphones.
Yet, Labrang has something special to offer: meditation huts. The hill adjacent to the temple is dotted with tiny huts the monks use to meditate.
The view is reminiscent of Hobbit-like imagery. These huts are no bigger than four-feet-by-6.5-feet, with low ceilings, a door on the side, and one or two windows in front. These flat-roofed huts don traditional Tibetan patterns on the upper section of the external walls, while the lower portion is whitewashed using lime. The interior is Spartan to avoid unnecessary distractions.
While viewing the huts, it’s important to remember that tourists should not enter them. Monks use them for their retreats, so you must stick to observing the structures from the outside.
Know Before You Go
Labrang is the Tibetan name for the monastery. For directions, it’s more useful to use the Chinese equivalent, Xiahe, which is the official name of the village where Labrang is located.