featured Sichuan

Xinduqiao Town in Kanding: Photographer’s Paradise of Sichuan

Xinduqiao 新都桥 is a scenic small town in the Ganzi Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan. It’s famous for its plateau pasture scenery, with beautiful rolling hills, green grasslands, and Tibetan houses spread throughout the land. It is called the paradise of photographers because of the picturesque landscape here. It’s just west of Kanding City, which takes around 2 hours to drive.

In July 2021 I had the opportunity to travel around Ganzi for 12 days. Our first stop was in this village, Xinduqiao. Just know before you go: The town is in a plateau area with a high altitude of around 3300 meters, so it’s important to be aware of altitude sickness!

Here’s a video of some of the highlights of my trip:

Tibetan Language and Culture

In Ganzi 80% of the people are Tibetan, and you’ll find Tibetan culture everywhere in the town. We are really nestled into the mountains here in Xinduqiao. It’s a 25 minute drive from the main town area, which really is just a weirdly modern collection of hotels. But 5 minutes out and you’re surrounded by hills, passing Tibetan houses, prayer flags, and Tibetan writing on the mountain sides. You feel this Tibetan culture all around you. The people here speak Tibetan as well as Mandarin. They will switch back and forth when speaking with us.

While here I met a local Tibetan family and learned more about the people, the culture, and the food. In this town there are around 200 people, or about 80 families. My friend Long Jin Luo was was born and raised here and but left when he was 17 to find a job in Chengdu. Now he revisits Xinduqiao and hopes to share more of traditional Tibetan culture with others outside of the village.

Tibetan Homes in Xinduqiao

The homes are all a similar architectural style, a white blockhouse with patterns of white, black and red surrounding the windows,l and rooftop. They are usually 2 or 3 stories tall and have a bricked off garden area. Outside some of the home are traditional Tibetan tents. The Tibetan people used to be a nomadic people.

The traditional brown tent was used when people were more nomadic. They would tie it low to the ground so the wind couldn’t pick it up and carry it away. Inside is a fire pit, pots for cooking, and warm yak and sheep blankets to stay warm in winter.

While looking around, another lady pulled me from the group. She saw us looking at her neighbors houses, going inside, trying the tea, tasting the bread. And she wanted to show me her house too. She grabbed my hand, and together walked me over to her house next door across the river. She waved excitedly at her baby cow next to the house, chattering quickly in Chinese. The dialect is difficult to understand, even for my Chinese colleagues. I can make out the basics. She told me, “Wo de jia.” My house.

We walk inside. Each of the houses is similar in layout. An entry hallway. To the left, a large bedroom or living area. Religious artifacts, Tibetan patterns, a framed photo of the current Chinese president. To the right is the kitchen and dining room. I love the kitchens. It’s so open, a big room with large comfortable benches and long tables to fit lots of people, several families. It’s a community feeling. You cook and eat and chat around the tables. The tables have built in heating spot, to boil the tea while you chat. She puts the kettle on immediately. Ever hospitable.

Tibetan Food

The Tibetan diet consists of many Yak by-products and filling food to stay warm in winter. When you’re here you must try the yak meat, the yak butter tea, and milk bread. Many of their foods are also designed to combat high altitude sickness.

Common breakfast: mix Butter tea, barley, yak butter to make an edible dough. It’s supposed to be good for maintaining your body temperature so the high altitude doesn’t affect you. Also very high calorie and filling because they don’t often eat meat but they can still be full.

Traditional Tibetan Clothing

I also tried on traditional Tibetan pasture clothing, long colorful layers with patterns and bright designers. Tibetan people love accessories and ornaments as well, and put hats and earrings and necklaces on me. I also tried on one of the winter coat, a super heavy woolen coat!

Here’s a video of me trying on some of the clothes!

Visiting Xinduqiao in Ganzi

It was really an incredible experience to stay near this Tibetan village. I still haven’t been to Tibet, so this was a closer look into what that might be like. I loved meeting the people here especially, learning more about their Tibetan culture and heritage, and eating the food!

I hope I’ll have the chance to come back here again, but there’s more in the Ganzi adventure to come so stay tuned (I know this is 5 months late!)

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