Chengdu’s Tibetan Quarter – Gateway to Tibet

Chengdu’s Tibetan Quarter – Gateway to Tibet
By Craig Hill ,

Many consider Chengdu to be the gateway to Tibet, so it is only reasonable that visitors to Chengdu would want to visit the Tibetan Quarter. Chengdu’s Tibetan Quarter, or Little Lhasa, is located in the south-west of Chengdu, near the First Ring Road. It is in close proximity to two other Chengdu tourist attractions, Wuhou Temple and Jin Li Street.

What to expect:
As the name suggests, Chengdu’s Tibetan Quarter abounds in Tibetan culture. There are Tibetan restaurants, Tibetan art shops, Tibetan clothing shops and Tibetan souvenirs. This is not entirely unexpected, as the area is home to tens of thousands of Tibetans. In fact, the first thing that one notices when entering the Tibetan Quarter are the Tibetan people, dressed in traditional garments. Many of the Buddhist people can be seen counting recitations on the 108 beads of their prayer mala. The extremely lucky tourist may also encounter one of the high ranking Lamas called Tuklu, or Living Buddha. These Tuklu are reputedly able to predict their own reincarnations, but reincarnation by the Tuklu is apparently forbidden in China.

A Tuklu Lama poses for the camera. Photo by author.

Most tourists seem to head straight for the shops, where brightly coloured Tibetan art, clothing and artefacts attract them like fireflies. Buddhist statues, traditional paintings, ethnic clothing and religious and cultural trinkets are on sale at vastly over-inflated prices. Bargaining is a must in the Tibetan Quarter. The shopkeepers seem to know that tourists are attracted by the mystery of Tibet, and are quite happy to take the foreigners’ money if they are willing to part with it.

For the more adventurous, there are the Tibetan restaurants, and yak milk tea is a must try. Strong, salty, gamey and a little tangy, it is not to everybody’s taste, and many will not like it. However, in keeping with the spirit of adventure, the real traveller should give it a go.

There are two types of restaurants that seem to be most common. First is the closed room style, where small parties can dine privately, concealed behind a thick blanket made from traditional Tibetan cloth. The second style is the more familiar large communal dining room. For the most part, menus are written in Tibetan, Chinese and English.

A’re Tibetan Restaurant. Photo by author.

Highlights of the area:
One of the best known restaurants in the area is the A’re Tibetan Restaurant(see venue info here). Here, dishes such pan fried yak meat and potato with Tibetan bread are available. Yak seems to be a feature of Tibetan cuisine, along with barley and bread. Sha Balep is seasoned yak stuffed into bread. And there are Momos, a heartier version of the Chinese steamed dumpling.

Many travellers wishing to get into the spirit of things opt to stay at Holly’s Hostel, which has a reputation of being clean, friendly and safe. The hostel states that the rooms are air conditioned and have hot water, though there are anecdotes about windows not having glass. Possibly, this happens on occasion due to rowdy tourists. The staff appear to speak good English. Holly’s also offer tourist information about the area.

Holly’s Hostel 九龙鼎青年客栈View In Map

Add: 246 Wuhouci Dajie, Chengdu
Tel: 028 8554 8131

Two other Chengdu landmarks in the area appear to have been the reason for the growth of the Tibetan Quarter. These are the Kangding Hotel, and the South West University of Nationalities. The university offers courses delivered in Tibetan language, and many Tibetan students take advantage of this.

Getting there:
Getting to the Tibetan Quarter is relatively easy; it’s about 2.5 km south west of the city centre. From Tianfu Square, walk south along Renmin Nan Lu. Catch the Number 1 bus on the west side of Renmin Nan Lu. Get off after six stops, near Wuhou Temple. It is just a short walk from there.

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Keywords: Tibetan quarter highlights Chengdu Chengdu Tibetan quarter Tibetan quarter Chengdu guide


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