- Registration time
- Last login
- Online time
- 112 Hour
- Reading permission
The monasteries in Tongren, called Repkong/Rebkong/Rebgong in Tibetan, are noted producers of Tibetan art. The beautiful thangkas — Buddhist paintings — produced here are among the most famous in the world. Visitors come to see, and often buy, the works produced by the town’s monks and lay artists. Aside from the monasteries, however, Tongren has little to offer. The downtown is a fairly generic example of a rapidly-developing Chinese town, and the restaurants and accommodations are unremarkable.|
Places to see
Wutun Si (吾屯寺): Upper and Lower Monasteries
The two monasteries of Wutun Si each have their own art school, and you can meet painters and buy thangkas at workshops within the monastery walls. (For more on buying thangkas, see below.) Our visit to the Upper Monastery coincided with that of a visiting lama, so it was crowded with monks and pilgrims. But a young monk took an interest in us and gave us a quick tour of some of the temples. At each gorgeous painting, we stopped to listen to him explain (in Chinese, which we could only partially understand) the story of the Buddha or Bodhisattva depicted there.
The Lower Monastery was mostly closed for renovation when we visited in August 2009, so we didn’t see much, aside from the eight chorten in front of the entrance. We did catch a glimpse of two painted wood panels that had survived from the Cultural Revolution — the monks had turned them around in their frames so that the paintings would not be destroyed by marauding Red Guards.
Entrance to the Lower Monastery costs 26 RMB; entrance to the Upper Monastery costs 10 RMB. To get to the monasteries, located about 6 km outside of town, you will need to catch a minibus (1.5 kuai per person) at the intersection of Zhongshan Lu and Dehelong Lu, near the bus station. The driver will drop you off at either the upper (shang, 上) or lower (xia, 下) monastery, and you can easily walk from one to the other.
Rongwo Gonchen Gompa (Longwu Si, 隆务寺)
After more than a week spent exploring the Tibetan areas of Gansu and Qinghai, and visiting more temples and monasteries than we could remember clearly, we all agreed that this was the most beautiful one we saw. The interior of the main temple is draped with extraordinary textiles, which hang in the dim light of yak-butter candles. Large, elaborately detailed thangkas cover the walls inside and out. Even better, the same lama we later ran into at Wutun Si was also at this monastery when we were, so it was crowded with worshipers.
Entrance to the Rongwo Gonchen Gompa costs 15 RMB. The monastery is located south of the bus station, in the Tibetan neighborhood.
If you’ve fallen in love with Tibetan art, Tongren is a good place to find a piece to bring home with you. The town’s many artists have pieces available of every size and price point. Large poster-sized thangkas cost thousands of RMB, but the price depends on the level of detail as well as the size. Which is why the painting I liked best, despite being half the size of the largest thangkas, was the most expensive we saw (4000 RMB). We did most of our shopping on the stretch of road between the Upper and Lower monasteries of Wutun Si, though we also peeked into shops in the monasteries themselves. You’ll definitely want to shop around — the quality and styles varied noticeably from shop to shop. We all ended up buying small thangkas, not much bigger than a sheet of computer paper, for 300 RMB. The painters rolled up the canvases and tucked them into protective plastic tubes so that no damage would ensue during the rest of our travels.