Zhagana, “Rock Box”
Zhagana is in Yiwa Township, Tiewu County, Gannan (Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture), Gansu province. It’s mountain regions on the northeastern rim of the Tibetan plateau, with an average altitude of 3,200 meters. Zhagana means “Rock Box” in Tibetan language, which is fitting as it is surrounded by large rocky spires on all sides. Lush, verdant villages fill the space between the mountains. The morning sun reveals the beauty beneath the rocky surface of the mountains. When the clouds come in, a different kind of beauty emerges. The rocky mountain fortress has historically segregated this precious place, but it also bestows pride to the community within, as it continually communicates what they have is special and ought to be protected. Something deeply mystical and almost magical glitters on the surface of this hidden land. To pay homage to the beauty of this natural setting, the residents burn incense. They believe in and practice a harmonious existence between mankind and nature.
The stunning landscape, primitive forest, local Tibetan villages and unique culture will make you feel you never want to leave. The locals really haven’t for thousands of years. People do both farming and pasturing work in Zhagana. The best season to visit is from May to October. Summer is the best time to go as everything turns to green and flowers bloom. In autumn, you can find people harvesting in the fields and also witness the changing colors of the trees. Breathtaking.
It’s only been a few years since Zhagana has been open for tourists. Visitors must pay a 20RMB entrance fee to go in and explore the village. Local Tibetan people provide homestays and guesthouses for visitors to experience the authentic culture. Zhagana is also an ideal place to hike. Many hiking trails have been developed to enjoy and explore the beautiful vistas. Hike to the monastery if you are interested in knowing more about Tibetan Buddhism, or if you love taking photos, hike to the top village and get the whole view of Zhagana from there.
The altitude in Zhagana is 3,000 to 3,300 meters (9,800 to 11,000 feet) above sea level. To prevent altitude sickness, remember to drink lots of water and not over-exert yourself. However, if you do feel severe symptoms of altitude sickness, the quickest way down is to return to Diebu County (only 34 km away).
Zhagana is a must-stay if you are headed to Eastern Tibet’s Amdo region. If you are anywhere in the neighborhood of Labrang monastery, Langmusi monastery or Zogi grassland, make sure you add Zhagana to your itinerary!