From Rigpa Wiki
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Ngawa, courtesy of chensiyuan

Ngawa (Tib. རྔ་བ་, Wyl. rnga ba), aka Ngawa County (Tib. རྔ་བ་རྫོང་།, Wyl. rnga ba rdzong; Chi. Ngawa Zong, 阿坝县, traditional: 阿壩縣), Aba or Ngaba, is a county division of Ngawa Autonomous Prefecture, but culturally belongs to Golok.[1]

Located in the remote northwest part of Sichuan Province, China, Ngawa is on the border with Qinghai (to the northwest) and Gansu (to the north). The county seat is Ngawa Town.[2] [3]



Ngawa county is located in the easternmost part of Golok and shares borders with Chikdril (Tib., Wyl. gcig dril) in the north, Pema Dzong (Tib. པདྨ་, Wyl. pad+ma) in the middle and Dzamtang (Tib., Wyl. ‘dzam thang) in the south of Golok. To its very south is Barkham aka Maerkang (Tib. འབར་ཁམས, Wyl. ‘bar khams) county, home to the prefectural capital of Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. Its Northern borders are flanked by the Ma Chu (Tib. རྨ་ཆུ, Wyl. rma chu) and Dzöge (Tib., Wyl. mdzod dge) counties, as well as Mewa (Tib. རྨེ་བ་, Wyl. rme ba) county, that are part of the southwestern Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Region (Gansu Province) in East Amdo. The central and southern areas of the district occupy the Nga Chu (Tib. རྔ་ཆུ་, Wyl. rnga chu) and Mar Chu (Tib. སྨར་ཆུ་, Wyl. smar chu) river valleys which meet in the south of the district.[4]


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

The main western river of Ngawa is the Nga Chu (Tib. རྔ་ཆུ་, Wyl. rnga chu) in the west, sharing the same name with the county. It is joined by the Longke Chu (Tib. ལོང་ཁའི་་ཆུ་, Wyl. long kha’i chu) from even further northwest of the town of Amdü. At the town of Rongwam in the south of Ngawa, the Nga Chu is joined by the Ta Chu (Tib. རྟ་ ་ཆུ་, Wyl. rta chu), becoming the Marchu (Tib. སྨར་ཆུ་, Wyl. smar chu). The main eastern river is the Ra Chu (Tib. རྭ་་ཆུ་, Wyl. rwa chu) flowing south and joining the Ding Chu (Tib. ལྡིང་་ཆུ་, Wyl. lding chu) at Ramdo into the Mewa county.[5]


Mount Kula (Tib. སྐུ་བླ, Wyl. sku bla, Chin. 四姑娘山), the highest point of the Qionglai Mountains, on the border between Xiaojin County (Tib. བཙན་ལྷ, Wyl. btsal lha, Chin.小金县) and Wenchuan County.


In the north western part of Ngawa are the lakes Longke Tso Nakma (Tib. ལོང་ཁའི་མཚོ་ནག་མ་, Wyl. long kha’i mtsho nag ma) and Nödjin Tso (Tib. གནོད་སྦྱིན་མཚོ་, Wyl. gnod sbyin mtsho).


The main cities of Ngawa county are the following:

  • Chöjema(Tib. ཆོས་རྗེ་མ་, Wyl. chos rje ma, Ch. Qiujima 求吉玛)[6]
  • Charo (Tib. གཅའ་རོ་, Wyl. gca’ ro, Ch. Jialuo 贾洛)[7]
  • Gyatö (Tib. རྒྱ་སྟོད་, Wyl. rgya stod, Ch. Jia'erduo 甲尔多)[8]
  • Amdü (Tib. ཨ་འདུས་, Wyl. a ‘dus, Ch. Amdou 安斗乡)[9]
  • Gomang (Tib. སྒོ་མང་, Wyl. sgo mang, Ch. Gemo 各莫)[10]
  • Suwa (Tib. བསུ་བ་, Wyl. bsu ba, Ch. Siwa 甲尔多)[11]
  • Dekyi (Tib. སྡེ་ཀྱི་, Wyl. sde kyi, Ch. Dege 德格乡)[12]
  • Löntsang (Tib. བློན་ཚང་, Wyl. blon tshang, Ch. Longcang 龙藏)[13]
  • Trotsik (Tib. སྤྲོ་ཚིགས་, Wyl. spro tshigs, Ch. Hezhi 河支)[14]
  • Ngawa (Tib. རྔ་བ་, Wyl. rnga ba, Ch. Aba/Ngawa 阿坝) is the town capital of Ngawa county.[15]
  • Barma (Tib. བར་མ་, Wyl. bar ma, Ch. 足忙村)[16]
  • Mekor (Tib. དམེ་སྐོར་, Wyl. dme skor, Ch. Maikun 麦昆)[17]
  • Me’u Ruma (Tib. རྨེའུ་རུ་མ་, Wyl. rme’u ru ma)
  • Lota (Tib. ལོ་རྟ་, Wyl. lo rta, Ch. Luo'erda 洛尔达)[18]
  • Akyam (Tib. ཨ་འཁྱམ་, Wyl. a ‘khyam, Ch. Anqiang 安羌)[19]
  • Ramdo (Tib. རཱ་ མདོ་, Wyl. ra’ mdo)
  • Kogpo (Tib. ཁོག་པོ་, Wyl. khog po)
  • Karsar (Tib. མཁར་གསར་, Wyl. mkhar gsar, Ch. Kuasha 垮沙)[20]
  • Rongwam (Tib. རོང་ཝམ་, Wyl. rong wam, Ch. Rong'an 茸安)[21][22]


It is reported that already during the reign of Tibet's King Trisong Detsen in the 8th century, the great translator Vairotsana visited the Gyalrong area. In 1410 Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa's student Tshakho Ngawang Tapa established the first Tibetan Buddhist Gelug school monastery in the area, called "Gyalrong".[23]

Nevertheless, from the perspective of the people of Central Tibet, Ngawa seemed to constitute an area devoid of religious attainments but it actually was and still is one of the most important centres in Amdo, not only due to its impressive numbers of monasteries and temples, but also because of the large variety of Tibetan Buddhist schools represented there. As the prime example, the Bön tradition has a vivid religious life in Ngawa and surrounding areas, so the south-eastern corner of Amdo—together with the north of Gyalrong—forms one of the two main strongholds of Bön religion in today’s Tibetan areas. Ngawa also provided shelter for the almost extinct Jonang school. For long, Ngawa was inaccessible to foreign travellers and explorers, and was apparently avoided by Tibetans, other than those from the fierce Ngawa and Golok Serta tribes. This was mainly due to the rather martial attitude of that area’s population. Not only had some of the few foreigners who tried to get in lost their lives, but their Tibetan guides and porters were usually much too afraid to approach the region, and refused to do so. At the end of the 19th and early 20th century, Ngawa Tsenda was ruled as an independent princedom by two chieftains who were brothers. As the chief (gyalpo) of Ngawa Metsang had robbed merchants from Songpan, the commander of the Chinese garrison in Songpan sent a punitive expedition to Ngawa in 1902. The troops returned unsuccessful, and thus a second, better equipped army, was detached the year after. This time they had some results through mediation by a dignitary of the neighbouring Gyalrong’s Merge Gompa; peace and compensatory payments could be negotiated but the belligerent did not change afterwards, since the region stayed virtually inaccessible until the mid-20th century, when the quasi-independent time of the ferocious tribes was followed by the seclusionist period of communist China.[24]

On May 12, 2008, a major earthquake occurred in Wenchuan County (Tib. ལུང་དགུ་, Wyl. lung dgu), a county in the southeastern part of this autonomous prefecture. 20,258 people were killed, 45,079 injured, 7,696 missing in the prefecture as of June 6, 2008. In 2009, the town of Ngaba in Ngawa prefecture became the self-immolation capital of the world. From 2009 to 2019, more than 60 of Tibet's total 156 self-immolations occurred in Ngaba, leading to heavy video surveillance in the area. [25]

Ngawa county is named after the Nga Chu tributary of the Mar Chu, which flows south from Nyenpo Yutsé. It is an area where nomadic groups and long-established settled communities intermingle. The villages are characterized by large detached adobe farming houses with tapering walls and windows all on one side of the building. Agricultural produce is limited to valley floors and alluvial fans, where fields or barley, rapeseed and beans are planted, but it is animal husbandry and forestry that provide the principal economic outputs. The town of Ngawa itself has grown extensively in recent years. It is a vitally important and thriving trading town, with scenic hill-top panoramas. As is the case in Dzamtang and Serta, the forested hills on the upper reaches of the Nga Chu tributaries have proved easier to log than the gorges further south, and many hillsides were stripped bare prior to the 1998 ban on logging.[26]


Dharma Lineages

Ngawa’s religious landscape is predominantly influenced by the Geluk school[27] The tradition lineages practised are those related to:

Main Dharma Places

  • Chöten Chog (Tib. ཆོས་རྟེན་ལྕོག་དགོན་, Wyl. chos rten lcog dgon) has 200 Gelukpa monks. In Mekor township.
  • Dechen Chökhor Ling (Tib. བདེ་ཆེན་ཆོས་འཁོར་གླིང་, Wyl. bde chen chos ‘khor gling) has 300 Gelukpa monks. In Suwa township.
  • Dékyi Gönlek Terdzö ling (Tib. སྡེ་ཀྱི་དགོན་ལེགས་གཏེར་མཛོད་གླིང་, Wyl. sde kyi dgon legs gter mdzod gling) has 300 Sakya monks. In Dekyi township.
  • Dongli (Tib. གདོང་ལི་སྨིན་གྲོལ་བསམ་གཏན་དར་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. gdong li smin grol bsam gtan dar rgyas gling) has 70 Bön monks. In Lota township.
  • Dongri Kirti Geden Damchö Ling (Tib. དོང་རི་ཀི་རྟི་དགེ་ལྡན་དམ་ཆོས་གླིང་, Wyl. dong ri ki rti dge ldan dam chos gling) has 140 Gelukpa monks. In Lota township.
  • Dopa (Tib. མདོ་པ་དགོན་བསམ་གཏན་གླིང་, Wyl. mdo pa dgon bsam gtan gling) has 100 Gelukpa monks. In Tsenyi township
  • Droge (Tib. འབྲོག་དགེ་དགོན་ངས་དོན་བསམ་གྲུབ་གླིང་, Wyl. ‘brog dge dgon ngas don bsam grub gling) has 300 Jonang monks. In Lota township.
  • Ganden Tubten Rabgye Ling (Tib. དགའ་ལྡན་ཐུབ་བསྟན་རབ་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. dga’ ldan thub bstan rab rgyas gling) has 150 Gelukpa monks. In Amdü township.
  • Geden Lungtok Chöden Ling (Tib. དགེ་ལྡན་ལུང་རྟོགས་ཆོས་ལྡན་གླིང་, Wyl. dge ldan lung rtogs chos ldan gling) has 200 Gelukpa monks. In Trotsok township .
  • Gomang (Tib. སྒོ་མང་དགོན་བཤད་སྒྲུབ་འཕེལ་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. sgo mang dgon bshad sgrub ‘phel rgyas gling) has 900 Gelukpa monks. In Gomang township. It is formally known as Tashikyil. Its assembly hall contains central images of Jowo Shakyamuni, Mahakarunika, Tsongkhapa and the first five Jamyang Zhepas of Labang.
  • Kashal (Tib. ཁའ་ཤལ་དགོན་, Wyl. kh’a shal dgon) has 100 Gelukpa monks. In Löntsang township.
  • Kirti Gönsar (Tib. ཀི་རྟི་དགོན་གསར་, Wyl. ki rti dgon gsar) has 2000 Gelukpa monks. In Ngawa township. It is the largest monastery close to Ngawa properly known as Kirti Gon Tashi Lhundrup, located on the northwestern edge of town. It was founded in 1472 by Rongpa Chenakpa, a disciple of Tsongkhapa; and established as a branch of the original Kirti Monastery at Taktsang Ljamo. By 1840 it had outgrown its mother monastery, and now houses approximately 2000-2,500 monks. The head lama Kirti Tsenzhab lived in India. At its entrance is a huge 35m stupa, known as the Dudul Chorten, one of the largest in Amdo, which contains multiple chapels on successive floors, respectively dedicated to Shakyamuni Buddha, Majakarunika, the Three Deities of Longevity, Tsongkhapa, and Sitatapatra.
  • Lündrup Ösel Yungdrung Ling (Tib. ལྷུན་གྲུབ་འོད་གསལ་གཡུང་དྲུང་གླིང་, Wyl. lhun grub ‘od gsal g.yung drung gling) has 400 Bön monks. In Barma township.
  • Namchok (Tib. གནམ་ལྕགས་དགོན་/གནམ་སྐྱག་རི་ཁྲོས་རྣམ་དག་གླིང་, Wyl. gnam lcags dgon / gnam skyag ri khros rnam dag gling) has 200 Gelukpa monks. In Mekor township.
  • Namtso (Tib. གནམ་མཚོ་གསེར་སྡེར་ཐུག་བསྟན་ཆོས་འཁོར་གླིང་, Wyl. gnam mtsho gser sder thug bstan chos ‘khor gling) has 75 Nyingma monks. In Me’uruma township.
  • Nangshik Gyalten Püntsok Ling (Tib. སྣང་ཞིག་རྒྱལ་བསྟན་ཕུན་ཚོགས་གླིང་, Wyl. snang zhig rgyal bstan phun tshogs gling) has 700 Bön monks. In Barma township.
  • Nyentse (Tib. གཉན་རྩེ་དགོན་, Wyl. gnyan rtse dgon) has 200 Gelukpa monks. In Gyatö township.
  • Raktsa (Tib. རག་རྩ་དགོན་བསམ་གཏན་འཕེལ་རྒྱས་གླིང་, Wyl. rag rtsa dgon bsam gtan ‘phel rgyas gling) has 150 Sakya monks. In Mekor township.
  • Rongpö Kirti (Tib. རོང་པོ་ཀི་རྟིའི་མ་དགོན་བཀྲ་ཤིས་ལྷུན་གྲུབ་གླིང་, Wyl. rong po ki rti’i ma dgon bkra shis lhun grub gling) has 250 Gelukpa monks. In Rongwam township.
  • Sagang Tubten Gyepel Ling (Tib. ས་སྒང་ཐུབ་བསྟན་དགེ་འཕེལ་གླིང་, Wyl. sa sgang thub bstan dge ‘phel gling) has 200 Sakya monks. In Lota township.
  • Segön (Tib. བསྭེ་དགོན་, Wyl. bswe dgon) has 800 Jonang monks. In Barma township.
  • Tsenyi Monastery (Tib. མཚན་ཉིད་དགོན་གསར་དགའ་ལྡན་འཇམ་དབྱངས་གླིང་, Wyl. mtshan nyid dgon gsar dga’ ldan ‘jam dbyangs gling) has 900 Gelukpa monks. In Tsenyi township.
  • Tsinang (Tib. རྩི་ནང་དགོན་, Wyl. rtsi nang dgon) has 350 Jonang monks. In Gyatö township.
  • Yengö (Tib. ཡེ་ངོས་དགོན་གསང་སྔགས་རབ་བསྟན་གླིང་, Wyl. ye ngos dgon gsang sngags rab bstan gling) has 200 Nyingma monks. In Khogpo township. [28]

Main Teachers

  • Kirti Zenshab (Tib., Wyl. ki rti ?], (1926-2006) was the head-lama of Kirti Gönsar.


  1. Emeric Yeshe Dorje, The History of the Düdjom Tersar Lineage, Volume 1: “Golok”, forthcoming.
  3. Ngawa today designates two different administrative units lying in the north-western part of Sichuan Province: 1. Ngawa county (rnga ba, Ch. Aba Xian) 2. Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (Ch. Aba Zangzu Qiangzu zizhi zhou), a larger, higher prefectural level unit, incorporating Ngawa county, (Andreas Gruschke, The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces, Amdo, Volume 2. The Gansu and Suchuan Parts of Amdo, White Lotus, 2001, p.59).
  4. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p.246-247.
  5. Emeric Yeshe Dorje, The History of the Düdjom Tersar Lineage, Volume 1: “Golok”, forthcoming.
  22. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. 274-275
  24. Andreas Gruschke, The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces, Amdo, Volume 2. The Gansu and Suchuan Parts of Amdo, White Lotus, 2001, p.59.
  26. Gyurmé Dorjé, Tibet, Footprint, 3rd edition, p.645.
  27. Emeric Yeshe Dorje, The History of the Düdjom Tersar Lineage, Volume 1: “Golok”, forthcoming.
  28. Stewart Smith, The Monasteries of Amdo, Volume 1: East and South Amdo, 2017, Stewart Smith, p. ….

Internal Links

External Links