Destination: Tibet > Amdo
The frontier land of Amdo (North-east Tibet) is a relatively low-lying region of spacious rolling pastures, where successive waves of ethnic migration have left their mark. Amdowa Tibetans, Mongols and Tu, Moslems (Hui, Salar, and Kazakh), and Han Chinese all have their own enclaves and spheres of influence. Amdo extends from the Kunlun Mountains in the west to the fabled Lake Kokonor, through the meandering upper reaches of the Yellow River and its tributaries, east to the upper reaches of the Min and Jialing rivers, and south, through Golok, to the upper reaches of the Gyarong (Sertal, Dzamtang, Ngawa, Chuchen and Rongtrak). The sixty counties of Amdo and Gyarong are currently divided between the provinces of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu.
There are airports at Ziling (Ch. Xining), and Dzitsa Degu (Ch. Jiuzhaigou), as well as at the gateway cities of Lanzhou and Chengdu. The railway runs from Lanzhou through Ziling to Kermu and on to Lhasa, while most areas are linked through the road network: H109 passing through the Tsong-chu valley and Kokonor region to Kermu and the Kunluns, H227 through Serkhok, Mongyon and Chilen to Dunhuang, H214 through Chabcha, Tsogortang and Mato, and H213 through Lanzhou, Labrang, Luchu, Dzoge, Mewa and Zungchu to Chengdu.
The rich grazing pastures of Amdo sustain a high nomadic population in the Banak and Golok areas, where the sacred Mt Amnye Machen is the focal point for pilgrimage. Further north are the cultural centres of Rebkong, home to a distinctly vibrant tradition of Tibetan painting and clay sculpture, the hermitages of Achung Namdzong, contained with the Khamra National Park, and the monastic cities of Labrang and Kumbum Jampaling, To the south of Golok and west of Mt Nyenpo Yurtse, Amdo's second sacred range, are the major Nyingmapa monasteries of Tartang, Dodrubchen, Nyenlung and Larung Gar, and the Jonangpa enclaves of Dzamtang and Ngawa. The pre-Buddhist Bon tradition is strongest in Ngawa, in Gyarong - particularly in Chuchen and Rongtrak counties, nearby the sacred Bon mountain of Gyelmo Murdo, and further south in the national parks of Dzita Degu and Sertso, which until recently claimed the only five star hotels on the Tibetan plateau.