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Landscape of Matö

Matö (Tib. རྨ་སྟོད་, Wyl. rma stod), aka Matö County (Tib. རྨ་སྟོད་རྫོང, Wyl. rma stod rdzong, Chin. Maduo 玛多县) or Machuka, ‘Source of the Yellow River’, is a county division of Golok.[1].

Located in southeast-central Qinghai province, bordering Sichuan to the south, its area is about 25,000 km2 (9,700 sq mi). With an elevation of about 4,300 m (14,000 ft) it is the highest Chinese county by average elevation. In Matö County is the upper stream of the Ma Chu (Yellow River) which flows to Ngoring Tso and Gyaring Tso lakes. [2][3].



Matö occupies the north-eastern corner of Golok. It borders the following counties clockwise from the north: Tu’u Len (Tib. ཏུའུ་ལན་, Wyl. tu’u lan), Tsigor Tang (Tib. རྩི་གོར་ཐང་, Wyl. rtsi gor thang), Machen (Tib. རྨ་ཆེན་, Wyl. rma chen), Darlak (Tib. དར་ལག་, Wyl. dar lag), Sera (Tib. སེ་ར་ཤུལ་, Wyl. se ra shul), Tridu (Tib. ཁྲི་འདུ་, Wyl. khri ‘du) and Shumar Leb (Tib. ཆུ་དམར་ལེབ་, Wyl. chu dmar leb).[4]

Matö is a high plain area with terrain slopes from northwest to southeast. With altitude between 4500-5000 meters, the terrain is relatively flat, with height differences of 500-1000 meters. The county’s northwest is higher, and its southeast is lower. Between mountains, are desert plains and marshland.[5][6]


With an elevation of around 4,300 m (14,000 ft), Matö has an alpine climate (Köppen EH), with long, bitterly cold and very dry winters, and brief rainy cool summers. Average low temperatures are below freezing from early September to mid-June; however, due to the wide diurnal temperature variation, average highs are only below freezing from early November thru mid-March. Despite frequent rain during summer, when a majority of days sees rain, no month has less than 50% of possible sunshine; with monthly percent possible sunshine ranging from 53% in June to 79% in November, the county seat receives 2,838 hours of bright sunshine annually. The monthly 24-hour average temperature ranges from −15.7 °C in January to 8.0 °C in July, while the annual mean is −3.33 °C, making the county seat one of the coldest locales nationwide in terms of annual mean temperature. Nearly three-fourths of the annual precipitation of 332 mm is delivered from June to September.[7]


Map of Matö, courtesy of Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017.

The main river of Matö is without contestation the Ma Chu (Tib. རྨ་ཆུ་, Wyl. rma chu, Yellow River) that has its sources in Matö county. It then flows south east, dividing the counties of Darlak (Tib. དར་ལག་, Wyl. dar lag) and Machen (Tib. རྨ་ཆེན་, Wyl. rma chen). Other important rivers are the Tung Chu (Tib. རྟུང་ཆུ་, Wyl. rtung chu) and Yul Chu (Tib. ཡུལ་ཆུ་, Wyl. yul chu) in the east and the Lunak Chu (Tib. ཀླུ་ནག་ཆུ་, Wyl. klu nag chu), the Kyang Chu (Tib. རྐྱང་ཆུ་, Wyl. rkyang chu) and the Lungen Chu (Tib. ལུང་རྒན་ཆུ་, Wyl. lung rgan chu) in the west of the county.Cite error: Closing </ref> missing for <ref> tag.


Matö is a county of many lakes, sometimes numbered to be more than 4000, from which its most important rivers spring. In the western part, the tow largest lakes are the Tso Kyaring (Tib. མཚོ་སྐྱ་རིང་, Wyl. mtsho skya ring) and the Tso Ngoring (Tib. མཚོ་སྔོ་རིང་, Wyl. mtsho sngo ring). In the eastern part, there are the Tongi Tso Nak (Tib. སྟོང་གི་མཚོ་ནག་, Wyl. stong gi mtsho nag), the Dugtso (Tib. དུག་མཚོ་, Wyl. dug mtsho), the three Washung Lakes (Tib. ཝ་གཞུང་མཚོ་གསུམ་, Wyl. wa gzhung mtsho gsum) and the Gang Nakma Tso (Tib. སྒང་ནགས་མ་མཚོ་, Wyl. sgang nags ma mtsho). There is a bird sanctuary at the southwest corner of Tso Kyaring, where swans, gulls, wild geese and ducks can be seen nesting. The two major lakes provide fishing grounds for Chinese immigrants, Tibetans on the other hand, tend to avoid eating fish.[8][9]


Located in the southwest of Matö County, Bayankhala range, ‘Fertile Black Mountai’ in Mongolian or Gyalla,’Gorgeous Mountain’, in Tibetan, extends 780 kilometres east from Kunlun Mountain, and is regarded as the southern branch of this mountain. Bayan Har Pass is located in the middle of this mountain range. Since ancient times, it has been the main road to connect Xining and Yushu.[10]


The main cities of Matö county are the following:

  • Tsogen Rawar (Tib. མཚོ་རྒན་རྭ་བར་, Wyl. mtsho rgan rwa bar, Ch. Haushixia 花石峡). In 2010, it had a total population of 4,190 people. 80 kilometers northwest of Tsogyen Rawar are the Mogedwa Tombs. They are under third-level cultural relics protection unit of Qinghai Province, covering an area of about 2,000 square meters. Unfortunately, after being left unattended for a long time, the site of the tomb complex was violently excavated by tomb raiders and suffered severe damage.[11]
  • Tsokya Ring (Tib. མཚོ་སྐྱ་རིང་, Wyl. mtsho skya ring, Ch. Tso Kyaring 哈美茶卡) has about 1,250 residents and an elevation of 4,260 metres.[12]
  • Matö (Tib. རྨ་སྟོད་, Wyl. rma stod, Ch. Maduo 玛多) can be used as a base for exploring the supposed source of the Yellow River. Machu has about 11,300 residents and an elevation of 4,208 metres, and is in the city of Matö.[13]
  • Machu (Tib. རྨ་ཆུ་, Wyl. rma chu, Ch. Huanghe 热江坎多) has about 1,590 residents and an elevation of 4,200 metres. [14][15]


Dharma Lineages

All of the monasteries in Matö follow the Nyingma tradition.

Main Dharma Places

  • Tsakor (Tib. ཚྭ་སྐོར་དགོན་ཐུབ་བསྟན་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. tshwa skor dgon thub bstan dar rgyas gling) has 30 Nyingma monks, and is located close to the city of Dzögen.
  • Kakor (Tib. མཁའ་སྐོར་དགོན་ཐུབ་བསྟན་བཤད་སྒྲུབ་འཕེལ་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. mkha’ skor dgon thub bstan bshad sgrub ‘phel rgyas gling) has 60 Nyingma monks; and is located close to the city of Dzögen.
  • Tsowar Kardze Doka (Tib. ཚོ་བར་དཀར་རྩེའི་རྡོ་ཁ་, Wyl. tsho bar dkar rtse’i rdo kha) has 20 Nyingma monks and is located in the city of Tsokya Ring. Tsowar Kardze Doka is a reconstructed monastery said to mark the unknown site of Kardze palace which according to Chinese sources is where Songtsen Gampo met and married Princess Wengcheng. It contains the mortal remains of Mani Lama who passed away in Jekundo in the 1950’s.
  • Horkor (Tib. ཧོར་སྐོར་དགོན་བཤད་སྒྲུབ་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. hor skor dgon bshad sgrub dar rgyas gling) is a Nyingma monastery which has 100 monks. It was built in 1927 when Tubten Chogye of Dzogchen Monastery in Kham came to teach. The monks first gathered into a tent camp monastery and subsequently built the first structure.[16][17]

Main Teachers

  • Mani Lama


  1. Emeric Yeshe Dorje, The History of the Düdjom Tersar Lineage, Volume 1: “Golok”, forthcoming.
  3. Emeric Yeshe Dorje, The History of the Düdjom Tersar Lineage, Volume 1: “Golok”, forthcoming.
  4. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. 246-247.
  8. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. 292-293.
  9. Gyurmé Dorjé, Tibet, Footprint, 3rd edition, p.631.
  14. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. 274-275
  16. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. 171.
  17. Gyurmé Dorjé, Tibet, Footprint, 3rd edition, p.631.

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