Kowtowing around Mount Kailash

Gang Rinpoche / Mount Kailash, I will Come Back Again

After the death of his father, Nima Zhadui, a villager in Pula village, decided to fulfill his father’s last wish and took his uncle on a pilgrimage to holy Lhasa and Mount Kailash. It is the year of the horse, which happens to be the birth year of God Mountain Gang Rinpoche, and many people in the small village hope to join the pilgrimage team of Nima Zhadui. In this team, there are pregnant woman who is about to give birth, a butcher with no family, and teenagers who have been disabled since childhood. Everyone has different stories and hopes. In order to go to Gang Rinpoche, this eleven-member team embarked on a pilgrimage of more than 2,000 miles, which lasted for one year … This is the description of the documentary “Gang Rinpoche” .

An unintentional viewing opened my yearning for the Gang Rinpoche. I have no religious beliefs, nor a pious, nor do I have any hope. I just want to feel the mystery of Mount Kailash and the people on the pilgrimage. A year and a half later, without any deliberate preparation, two of my teammates and I headed west, towards the city of sunlight, Lhasa. After a short stay in Lhasa, we temporarily formed a team to continue travelling towards Ngari, and finally saw the sacred mountain in our heart.

When I first saw Mount Kailash, I admitted that I was a little excited. What kind of excitement is beyond words, and I still can’t tell. Just involuntarily closed ten fingers and eyes, and worshiped.

Player Square at Mount Kailash
Player Square at Mount Kailash

1. Gang Rinpoche / Mount Kailash

Mount Kailash, which is 6656 meters above sea level, stands in the territory of Ngari, Tibet. The Indus, Ganges and Yarlung Zangbo Rivers originated here. Most of surrounding mountains are more than 6000 meters above sea level, and Mount Kailash stands out in the mountains. It is covered with snow and ice all year round, and it looks like a pyramid straight into the clouds. With its shocking sense of excellence, Gang Rinpoche is regarded as the greatest holy site by Hinduism, Jainism, Tibetan Buddhism and Bon religion.

For centuries, Gang Rinpoche has been a fascinating place in the eyes of pilgrims and explorers, but so far no one has been able to climb this sacred Mount Kailash, or that no one has dared to offend the center of the world – Mount Kailash.

This world-class religious monument attracts believers from all over the world to come to worship every year. Different sects have different practices and rituals, but they have condensed into the most primitive and simple form: kora around Mount Kailash. Knocking, getting up, continuing, bowing one step at a time, kowtowing. A circle around Gang Rinpoche can wash away all the sins of a lifetime, ten circles can avoid the suffering of hell in five hundred rebirths, and those who circle a hundred circles can ascend to heaven and become a Buddha.

The Outer Circle Map of Mount Kailash
The Outer Circle Map of Mount Kailash

2. Kailash Kora Tour Itinerary

The general sense of Kailash kora refers to the outer circle, the whole journey is 54km, and it is divided into 2 days tour. During the Kailash trekking, the lowest altitude is 4675 meters and the highest altitude is 5648 meters.

After 13 circles of Kailash trek, you can turn to the inner circle. If you are lucky enough to do outer circle of Kailash kora in year of the horse in the Tibetan calendar, it is equivalent to the usual 13 circles. For devout pilgrims, it is the most effective and accumulated merit.

2.1 Two Days Kailash Kora Itinerary:

Day 1: Darch – Zhire Temple / Dirapuk Monastery (20km, about 6-8 hours)
Darchen-6km-Two-legged Pagoda-2km-Qugu Temple-12km-Zhire Temple

Day 2: Zhire Temple – Zuchu Temple / Zultulpuk Monastery – Taqin (34km, about 10-12 hours)
Zhire Temple-4km-Celestial Burial Platform-4km-Dolma la Pass-12km-Zuchu Temple-14km-Darchen

2.2 The First Day of Kailash Kora

Before dawn, we has moved. At 6:40 a.m. on October 2nd, in the light of dawn, the first day of Kailash trekking tour started. After crossing the first mountain pass, the number of people circling around the mountain gradually increased. There were local Tibetans as well as trekkers from afar.
It is getting closer and closer to the sacred Mount Kailash, and you can see the two-legged Pagoda after a few hundred meters. It is also one of the iconic attractions on the way to Mt. Kaialsh. Its magic is that the foot of the pagoda can be passed through, and a gate-shaped passage is formed between the legs, which is considered to be the “gate of the Gangdise Mountain”. It is said that only innocent people can pass between its legs and receive the favor of God, and sinful people cannot pass through the pagoda.

In the middle of the pagoda hangs a dry yak head, and two copper bells, one large and one small. I followed behind the Tibetan master, referring to his operations, touched the yak head, knocked the copper bell, which was regarded as a blessing for myself, and I wish I could be a good person, and wish others to be good.

From the two-legged pagoda, we go forward 2 kilometers, and there is a temple built on the mountain. The temple is enshrined with Qugu Buddha statues, so it is called “Qugu Temple”.

Walking in the empty canyon, when the sacred mountain gets closer and closer to you, a sense of admiration arises spontaneously, and the whole person gradually becomes quiet, and there is a feeling of empty soul. On the Kailash pilgrimage tour, there is no youth, no hypocrisy, only a simple and pure heart of pilgrimage, and this smile is warm and innocent.

Turning over the last small pass on the first day of the itinerary, you can see a wooden bridge. This is also the best location to look up at Mount Kailash, and you can feel the charm of the Gang Rinpoche at close range. Together with the sound of the wind of hula-la, the dancing prayer flags, the spotless blue sky, Mount Kailash is like a mysterious pyramid, showing its sacredness and greatness to the world.

A few hundred meters to the wooden bridge, there are rows of red houses, which are hotels for people who trek around the mountain to stay overnight, and are also the end of the first day of the Kailash kora tour. We settled in Shishapangma Hotel (5,080 meters above sea level). Although the altitude is high, the accommodation environment is not too bad, and the price of food and housing are very close to human feelings.

On the way travelling to Tibet, my teammates once worried that I could not adapt to this high altitude environment physically. In fact, on the first day of Kailash kora tour, there was no discomfort all the way, I could eat and drink, and I could jump back and forth. It was relatively easy to walk 20 kilometers away. However, the second day’s itinerary should not be neglected. The 8km climbing section requires extra care.

Power limit, mobile phone no signal, high altitude, low temperature, strong wind… The only thing you can do is eat early and go to bed early, so that you can keep your spirits up and challenge the toughest climb on the next day.

Dolma la Pass
Dolma la Pass

2.3 The second day of Kailash kora

When we set off from Shishapangma Hotel, the sky was still dark, and the mountains were shadowy, and the reality was indistinguishable. Looking up at the foot of Mount Kailash, the stars are faintly visible, and the headlights of the people who circle around Mt. Kailash are connected in a curve, extending to the top.

The 8 kilometers from Shixiabangma Hotel to Sky Burial platform and then to Dolma la Pass is worthy of the legendary “Death Slope”. The gentle ascent of the first 4 kilometers has stopped many mountain trekkers. Every step I take, my heart beats faster, and no one dares to speak loudly, but walks forward silently.

The time to test the physical strength has come. Don’t underestimate the 4 kilometers from the Sky Burial platform to Dolma la Pass. It is the most difficult section of the entire Kailash kora tour itinerary. The altitude rises from 5370 meters to 5648 meters.

At 8 o’clock in the morning, Dolma la Pass was half bathed in warm sunlight and half soaked in cold wind. The huge array of prayer flags danced with the wind, as if to praise the perseverance and determination of the mountain trekkers, and also as a kind of blessing and protection for the devout believers.

Mercy Lake
Mercy Lake

Mercy Lake, also known as Toji Co, is the first scenic spot on the way down the mountain. It is like a piece of jasper left in the mortal world, lying quietly on the mountain plain, day after day, and waiting for the arrival of the mountain trekkers and escorting them to leave.

The 6-kilometer downhill road is smooth beyond imagination, but it also consumes a lot of physical energy. After taking a break at the supply point, Master Dorje and I re-embarked on the way down the mountain. The road out of the mountain, which is nearly 20 kilometers away, seems to have no end, extending all the way into the distance.

Walking across the wooden bridge, Master Dorje said that soaking your feet here will wash away all diseases on your feet and legs, and local Tibetans will take a dip when they pass by. Well, I’m not superstitious, but when I come, I have to do as the Romans do. Snow water is really that ice.

Walking along, it is a flat river valley area, under blue sky and white clouds. On the golden grass, if there is a horse (conjecture).

The appearance of the mountain pass also means that the two-day Kailash kora trip is about to end. And Darchen, the patron saint of Gang Rinpoche, like a kind mother, opened his warm arms to welcome the return of those who do Mount Kailash trekking journey.


The moment I left Darchen, I knew that I would come back again. Not for faith, not for pilgrimage, just to see you again.

Hey, Gang Rinpoche, we’ll see you in the year of the house in 2026. Goodbye.

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