Budding Villages on Pastures—Nomads under Mount Zheduo
By Zhong Li
When traveling across Tagong Pasture under the Mount Zheduo in western Sichuan province, many people would simply take a short break rather than lingering there for long. However, to their surprise, the beauty of the pasture is underestimated and much worthwhile than those popular scenic spots, not to mention the nearby temples of Tang Dynasty, the 150kg gold tower, the insurmountable saint peak and numerous Buddhist legends and tasty yoghurt.
Located in the Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Garze and north of Kangding County, Tagong Pasture lies on the routes toward Bamei and Xinduqiao with Sichuan-Tibetan Road running through. The scenery from the pasture to Bamei doesn’t change strikingly in spite of the grey stone forest in the latter. Tagong distinguishes itself from those pastures in northern Xinjiang province with its semilunar shape, presenting the beauty of nature in miniature. Embraced by mountains, a gold tower shines on the pasture. Several meters away stands the Tagong Temple with a rich history.
The mountains are religious and sacred for Tibetans. The four saintmountains around the temple are named after celestial immortals. In the distance, the peak of Mount Yala with a shape of a Chinese character，which means mountain looms ahead. Mount Yala as a sacred mountain enjoys great significance in the region. With an elevation of 5,820 meters, the peak is covered with snow all year around and is yet insurmountable. In 1999, an exploration team from Japan failed to ascend its top.
In Tibetan, Tagong means “Bodhisattva’s favorite place”. As one of the most reputed Tibetan Buddhist temples, it is dubbed as another Dazhao Temple. In Tang Dynasty when Princess Wencheng was heading toward Tibet, emperor Taizong granted her a statue of Sakyamuni as a reward. It is said when she came to Tagong Pasture, the statue couldn’t be moved even by thousands of people. Although the statue expressed the willing to stay here, it carried the mission of reaching Lhasa. Thus the princess instructed to build a similar statue here by gold sand. When the lower part of statue was completed, the upper part miraculously appeared itself. After the completion, princess went on the journey and finally deposited the original statue in Dazhao Temple of Lhasa. The emperor of Tubo Dynasty, Srongtsen Gampo, then ordered to build 108 temples facing the land of Han people, Tagong Temple being the last one among the 108 buildings.
In 2008, the secretary of Sichuan provincial Party Committee, Liu Qibao, came across Jiangba village near the pasture in his visit to Kangding County. The damp and shabby living conditions of nomads worried him and he determined to improve their life quality. By the end of 2008, an action plan for settling nomads on the pasture had been implemented, setting up 866 settlements, offering 57,301 sets of apartments and accommodating 260,680 people.
Generations of nomadic lifestyle has brought them hardship as well as flocks and herds. The official inauguration of the action plan in the February of 2009 injected fresh impetus to the pasture.
Houses were built. Tents and supporting facilities were also set up. New life unfolded.
Jiangba village as a trial settlement has witnessed profound changes. Broad concrete roads that are lit up by solar street lamps connect rows of Tibetan houses with res roofs and white walls. In the midst of the village sits the activity house of solar power. Health and care center also facilitates people’s life. “Settlement brings us better houses, food, facilities and above all, a better life,” a villager said.
Plans of building roads that connect the village with Kangding Airport, the scenic spot of Mugecuo, Tagong Pasture and Xinduqiao complement the completion of Jiangba village. The geographical advantage, rich tourist resources and convenient transportation will boost tourism and bring profits.
The head of the village said, “To set up a tourism association aims at increasing people’s income and promoting culture and tourism. The association will organize and manage tourist affairs and serve for people’s legitimate rights and interests, and make villagers more informed of tourist development.” The settlement as a highlight in tourism can be integrated with local ethnic features and tourist attractions with the assistance of governments at all levels, thus advancing development and improving wellbeing.
The village is born to improve people’s life and now has been the first provincial model village for nomads’ settlement. Showered with fresh and delightful changes, the village embraces hope and happiness.
Tips: 8.5h driving from Chengdu.