Princess Wencheng Temple

Buddhist Temple in Yùshù

This small but busy temple, 15km south of Yùshù, is dedicated to the Tang dynasty Chinese Princess Wencheng, who was instrumental in converting her husband and Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo, to Buddhism in the 7th century. The temple marks the spot where the princess (and possibly the king) paused for a month en route from Xī’ān to Lhasa.

Said to be the oldest Buddhist temple in Qīnghǎi, the inner chapel has a rock carving (supposedly self-arising) of Vairocana (Nampa Namse in Tibetan), the Buddha of primordial wisdom, which allegedly dates from the 8th century. To the left is a statue of King Songtsen Gampo.

The temple, which suffered minor damage from the 2010 Yùshù earthquake, is small, and few linger in it for long. Look around the surrounding rock faces for old rock and scripture carvings. Do allow time to explore the nearby hills. Here a sprawling spider’s web of blue, red, yellow, white and pink prayer flags runs up the slopes, down the slopes and over the ravine, covering every inch of land.

A steep trail (a popular kora route for pilgrims) ascends from the end of the row of eight chörtens (Tibetan stupas)to the left of the temple. At the end of the trail head up the grassy side valley for some great hiking and stunning open views.

Private minibuses (¥200 return) depart from outside the long-distance bus terminal in Yùshù, or a taxi costs about ¥100 return.