Songpan 松潘 Festival: Photo of the Week

Location: Songpan / Sichuan Province / China

Photo of the Week

People watching in Songpan松潘

Hui and Tibetans watching the Songpan Festival

The walled town of Songpan, the gateway to the scenic heaven of Jiuzhaigou 九寨沟 and wild horse treks to Ice Mountain雪玉顶, is also a destination in itself.  It`s a pleasant town with plenty of old architecture, local life and some fantastic tea houses.

What are they Watching? See next weeks photos

When we passed through in 2004 we were lucky enough to stumble upon a huge festival where the local Muslim Hui and Tibetan Qiang minorities were celebrating their local culture and dressed in their finest clothes. Joining them were a host of Chinese Communist Party Bigwigs, including the then vice-president, Zeng Qinghong.

Muslim Hui enjoying the Songpan Festival

The residents of the entire town and surrounding villages turned out to see the festival. This small group of photos captures them enjoying the moment. Next week’s Photo of the Week will show what they were watching.

Having a rest in the Songpan Festival

For large people photos and Songpan Practicalities see below. Continue reading “Songpan 松潘 Festival: Photo of the Week”

Danba 丹巴 Festival Video slideshow: Holachina’s first video

Danba Festival Video slideshow

This is our first holachina slideshow video. The photos were taken during the preparations for the Danba 丹巴Festival August 2004. Danba is a small town in Western Sichuan about a 3 hour Bus ride from Kanding 康定. The town itself is small and scruffy but its setting, nestled in a deep valley at the confluence of two rushing rivers and surrounded by traditional Qiang (a Tibetan minority) villages, makes it quite idyllic.  The highlights include stunning villages, such as Jiaju 甲居藏寨 and Badi (not Baidi as I have written in the video) and the Qiang watchtowers peppered on the slopes of the steep valleys.

The year we visited Danba there were very few other foreigners and no domestic tourists. The following year, 2005, the Chinese National Geographic claimed that  Jiaju village 甲居藏寨 (7kms from Danba) was the most beautiful village in China. Since then its popularity among travelers, foreign and Chinese alike, has grown rapidly.

We hope you enjoy the slideshow. Some people may find the music a bit painful. It’s the same music that was being played on the VCD’s on all the buses we sat on during our trip around Western Sichuan in 2004 and it brings back great memories.

If you are interested in going to Danba, click on read more below. Here you’ll find the information we published on holachina.com in 2004. Expect there to be a much bigger selection of hotels and restaurants now. Continue reading “Danba 丹巴 Festival Video slideshow: Holachina’s first video”

Two days in Langzhong Ancient City 阆中古城 (from our diary 29-31 July 2006)

Two days in Langzhong 阆中古城 (from our diary)

Langzhong Ancient Town 阆中古城

 This small town, with a big history, is situated on the banks of the Jialing River, some 225 kilometres from Chengdu (Sichuan Province). It is all at once the burial place of the Three Kingdoms general, Zhang Fei, birthplace of the Han dynasty inventor of the Chinese Calendar, Luo Xiahong, and home to a wealth of traditional Sichuan architecture.

Langzhong Gucheng 阆中古城

In short, Langzhong has plenty of things to see and do to keep a visitor busy for two days.

Langzhong Gucheng 阆中古城

Day One

Your first priority on arrival is to find accommodation in one of the many traditional family mansions that are situated in Continue reading “Two days in Langzhong Ancient City 阆中古城 (from our diary 29-31 July 2006)”

Zigong自贡: Dinosaur & Salt City (updated from 2005)


As you approach Zigong, sculptures and posters of dinosaurs announce that you’re arriving in “Dinosaur City”, as the city is known by the Chinese.

Dinosaur Cake Shop In Zigong

Zigong is a pleasant modern city, built along the banks of the Fuxi River that has so far managed to maintain large areas of traditional and interesting architecture, despite its recent development and prosperity.

Besides Dinosaurs, Zigong has an abundance of sites, and is definitely worth spending a couple of days. The city owes its prosperity not so much to dinosaurs, as to salt and, in particular, the important role this product played during Imperial times.

Salt Factory Zigong

The salt mining techniques developed at Zigong were among the most sophisticated in the ancient world. They included Continue reading “Zigong自贡: Dinosaur & Salt City (updated from 2005)”

Luodai 洛带(Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses 客家会馆与茶馆)

Luodai Old Town

The ancient town of Luodai near the teeming Sichuan capital of Chengdu is a curious place: when one thinks of the Hakka people (Kejia in Chinese, or ‘guests’, also known as China’s gypsies) the first thing that comes to mind are the amazing round or square earth buildings, the Tulou, of Fujian and Jiangxi. Other Hakka claims to fame are the Taiping rebellion, or the Hokien cuisine, which is found in many South East Asian countries.

Hakka Tulou Fujian 客家土楼福建省

What doesn’t normally spring to mind is an impressive collection of Hakka guildhalls in a far- off small town in Sichuan! But that is exactly what Luodai is all about and why I had always wanted to go there.

The Hakka, originally from Hubei Province, suffered discrimination and persecution, and were forced to disperse; Continue reading “Luodai 洛带(Hakka Guildhalls and Teahouses 客家会馆与茶馆)”

Faces of Kangding 康定

Khampa man in Kangding 2004

Faces of Kangding 康定 (2004)

In 2004, having just returned to Kangding from Danba, we were lucky enough to stumble upon a one-off festival aimed at celebrating Tibetan Kham culture and promoting tourism in Western-Sichuan. The streets of Kangding were jammed packed with proud-swaggering Khampas, dressed up to the hilt in their finest clothes. One could easily have imagined that the entire population of these once warrior nomads, had rolled into town off the grasslands. And like in the wild-west of old, many had come in on horseback.

Khampa Lady and baby

With so much going on, nobody paid much attention to me as I used up roll after roll of film. Kangding has changed and modernised radically since these photos were taken, so I hope you enjoy them. It was a magic moment.

Ganzi甘孜 to Kangding康定

(The end of our route:  Xining 西宁 to Chengdu 成都 2009)
Our Route 2009

Leg One: Ganzi to Kangding

On the move on the Sichuan Tibet Highway

Tired and groggy after a week of sleepless nights due to altitude sickness, I stumbled out of the hotel and we walked into the adjacent bus station. We were taking the bus straight to Kangding as, apparently, Ma’erkang was closed to foreigners. Anyway, I don’t think Margie would have put up much longer with my hallucinations and the incoherent gibberish that I was producing every night. At last, we were heading down and off the Tibetan plateau.

Ganzi Old Town

Five years before, we had done the whole ride from Ganzi to Chengdu in 17 interminable hours on a smoke- filled bus, while witnessing at least 5 fatal accidents and nearly being involved in one ourselves. So, we had decided never to do it again. We thought that by breaking up the journey, it would be smoother and less painful; little did we know what had happened to the road.

Our broken down bus 2004

Most roads in China have improved over the years, but the Chengdu-Tibet highway has actually got worse, for now at least. Admittedly, Continue reading “Ganzi甘孜 to Kangding康定”

Places to visit around Ganzi:Dagei Gompa大金寺, Began Gompa,Beri Gompa白利寺

Places to visit around Ganzi 甘孜

We visited 3 monasteries within a 30 kilometre radius of Ganzi: Dagei Gompa, Began Gompa, or Baigei Si, and Beri Gompa, or Baili Si (all names are approximate).

In order to do this, we hired a taxi for a half day for 250 Yuan. Our driver was a friendly chap who seemed to be of mixed Chinese- Tibetan origin and could speak both Mandarin (of sorts) and Tibetan. More importantly, he seemed to get on well with everybody.

Our first stop, Dagei Gompa, is about 30 kilometres back towards Manigango. The landscape along the way is glorious: lots of grazing animals, imposing mountains and small villages, their houses and walls covered in vertical beige and white stripes.

Dagei is quite large, almost a monastic village. Hidden away above Continue reading “Places to visit around Ganzi:Dagei Gompa大金寺, Began Gompa,Beri Gompa白利寺”

Ganzi /Garze /甘孜 Revisited

Ganzi /Garze/甘孜
(by Margie)

If asked about our favourite place in China, Ganzi would be one of the first to spring to mind.

We have passed through this small town in the heart of Tibetan Sichuan a few times since 2004, and last year was another opportunity. Ganzi has everything – except nightlife perhaps – a traveller could possibly want: wild and majestic mountains rise up just beyond its last houses, offering amazing hiking opportunities; scarcely explored, ancient monasteries dot the landscape in every direction; the large Ganzi Si looms high above the Tibetan quarter, offering great views of the surrounding countryside.

Down below, in the town centre, there are quiet, old streets of wonderful traditional architecture, bustling shopping streets, lined with colourful shops selling a whole array of exotic Buddhist paraphernalia, a hidden temple or two, as well as a cool Continue reading “Ganzi /Garze /甘孜 Revisited”

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa / 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa

石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

We pass quickly through Serxu Xian, the modern administrative town, 35 kilometres after the huge Serxu monastery. Our driver seems concerned that the local police may look for an excuse to fine him, just because he has Qinghai number plates.

It feels like a long drive now. Progress is brisk, as the road is paved and in reasonable condition, but in general, signs of life are few and far between; we pass a few Tibetan villages with the odd monastery.

In some places the landscape is a bit less harsh; we pass a large lake, surrounded by soft, green hills.

Soon after, there is a succession of passes and the landscape changes abruptly. Suddenly, Continue reading “Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa / 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院”