Youning Monastery


Well known throughout the Tibetan world, this 17th-century hillside monastery in the Huzhu Tuzu (互助土族, Hùzhù Tǔzú) Autonomous County is considered one of the greats of the Gelugpa order. The monastery lies at the edge of a forested valley, and many chapels perch wondrously on the sides of a cliff face. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore the entire picturesque area.

Famous for its academies of medicine and astrology, its scholars and its living Buddhas (tulku), Youning Monastery (Rgolung in Tibetan) was instrumental in solidifying Gelugpa dominance over the Amdo region. The monastery was founded by the Mongolian 4th Dalai Lama, and over time became a religious centre for the local Tu (themselves a distant Mongolian people). At its height, more than 7000 monks resided here; these days there are probably fewer than 200, all of whom are Tu. Expansion works continue in the main complex. Three kilometres up the road from the main complex is a small kora that takes you to a smaller temple and up the surrounding hills.

A daily bus (¥12, 90 minutes, 10.30am) departs from Bayi Road Bus Station. Otherwise, take a bus to Ping’an (¥8, 40 minutes) from Xining’s Public Bus Terminal. From there, you'll need to hire a taxi (one way/return ¥70/100, 30 minutes), Alternately, if you have a group, you could hire a private car or taxi (return ¥400) from Xining. The monastery is about 25km north of Ping'an.