Ruins of Guge KingdomLocated in the Ngari Region, Tibet Autonomous Region, Ruins of Guge Kingdom are the Old Summer Palace of Tibet. While these ruins were once an imperial estate which fell into disrepair after the civil revolt and the invasion of the allied armies of eight foreign countries, the Guge kingdom also encountered civil strife and foreign attacks which fragmented the once prosperous state. However, the legendary kingdom hasn't been totally lost as much can be learned about it from its remains.
Established in about the 10th century, the Guge Kingdom was founded by one branch of descendants of a nearby crumbled Kingdom. It was ruled by about 16 kings with armies of tens of thousands of soldiers during the over 700 years in which it flourished. Then in the 1660s, conflicts resulting from power disputes within the imperial family emerged which engendered restlessness in society and induced civil uprisings. To win power in the disordered state, the brother of the king asked the ruler of the neighboring country Ladakh (the present Kashmir) to send his army to help. This army overthrew and conquered the kingdom. Only years later was power returned to Tibet. During its lifetime the Guge Kingdom played an important part in the economic and cultural development of Tibet. The kingdom advocated Buddhism, and many versions of this religion were created here and their teachings were spread from here into the heart of Tibet. The kingdom also served as a major center for Tibet's foreign trade.
The Ruins of Guge Kingdom now extend around the sides of a mountain more than 300 m. (984 ft.) high. Explorers have found over 400 rooms and 800 caves here, as well as some fortresses, secret paths, pagodas, arm storerooms, granaries and all kinds of burial places. Except for some temples, all the roofs of the rooms have collapsed, leaving only the walls. The ruins are surrounded by a city wall and a fortress marks each of the corners. Palaces, temples and local residences are distributed from the top to the bottom and only secret roads lead to the top, a layout designed to indicate the supremacy of the king and to ensure the safety of the palaces. Due to its great research value, the Ruins of Guge Kingdom have been listed under the first group of Cultural Relics of National Importance under the Protection of the State.
The Red Temple, Ruins of Guge KingdomPerhaps the most interesting aspects of the Ruins are the five temples and palaces - the White Temple, Red Temple, Samsara Temple, Imperial Palace, and Assembly Palace. Many inscriptions, statues and murals are displayed inside these. The most complete and valuable artifacts remaining are the murals, which are mainly pictures of Sakyamuni, the king, queen, prince and other royal servants. Beside, in the sanctuary pictures of the cultivation of male and female Esoteric Buddhas can be found. The margins are painted with dozens of nude Dakinis. The colors and lines of the murals can be compared with those of the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang City, Gansu Province. Most of the statues here are golden and silver Buddhist statues, among these the Silver Eyes of Guge is of the highest achievement.
Travel tips: The Ruins of Guge Kingdom lie 18 km. (11.18 mi.) from Zanda County. Access is by taxi or motorbike to the village nearby. There is a hotel and guesthouse where you can stay.
The Guge Kingdom
The Guge Kingdom was founded in about the 10th century by a descendant of King Glang Darma, who fled from Lhasa after the collapse of the Tupo Kingdom. The kingdom played an important role in the second renascence in Tibet and survived for about 700 years before disappearing mysteriously in the 17th century.
Large-scale of archeological work began in 1985. In the following years of the excavation, a lot of sculpture works and mural paintings were unearthed. Houses, cave dwellings, monasteries and stupas were found on the mountain where the ruins are situated.
Most of the sculptures are gold or silver Buddhist statues, among which the best one is a statue called Guge Silver Eye (Yinyan in Chinese). The murals are preserved in good condition, although they are hundreds of years old. The themes of the murals include every aspects of the social life of that time. A chapel on the summit of the mountain houses a mural depicting male and female Buddhas bringing the Tantric cultivation (civilization) together, while the lower part displays purgatory with naked, enchanting Dakins flanking each side. The artistic and aesthetic value of Guge murals is deemed comparable with that of Mogao Caves (located in Gansu Province, China).
Guge abounded with gold and silver. Sutras written with liquid gold or silver have been excavated in Tholing Monastery and in the villages of Zhabran, Piyang and Donggar. The sutra was written on a kind of dark blue paper, with the lines written alternately in liquid gold and liquid silver.
Guge Kingdom has attracted many explorers, tourists, photographers and artists from all over the world. Englishman Michael Young was the first person who investigated the ruins. In 1912, he traveled along Xiangquanhe River from India and reached the place. The real scientific investigation took place in 1985, when the Tibetan Cultural Committee organized a team to investigate the place. Their field work showed that there are a total of 1,416 surviving pieces of architecture, including 879 caves, 445 houses, 58 blockhouses, 28 pagodas, and four tunnels, which lead in all directions inside the architectural group.
The ruins of Guge Kingdom are located on a mountain in Zhabran Village, which is 18 km west of the county town of Zhada.
How to get there:
Guge Kingdom ruins are 18 km from the county town of Zhada. It is convenient to hire a vehicle to go there. Tourists who take buses should get off at Zhabran Village, which is south of the county town. They should walk for several kilometers before reaching the place.
It is possible to find hotels in the county town of Zhada. The restaurants mainly sell Sichuan food. Because the town is near to Shiquanhe River, fresh vegetables are available here, and they are not so expensive.
Wujing Guest House: The average price is RMB 25 yuan per person. The guesthouse may be out of power at night, but the hotel is clean.
Zhada Hotel: The lowest price is RMB 25 yuan per person.
The admission fee:
Tourists can buy tickets for the ruins at the Culture Bureau. The price is RMB 90 yuan per person, but it is RMB 200 yuan for a foreign tourist.