Basongcuo: A Famous Holy Lake in Tibet’s Nyingchi

Basongcuo lies in the Cuogao Village Gongbujiangda County, Nyingchi. It is in the valley of the upper reaches of the Ba River, 50 km from the Town of Gongbujiangda, and 370 km from Lhasa. Busongcuo is a famous holy lake and land for the Red Hat Sect (the Nyingma Sect of the Tibetan Buddhism).

Basongcuo Lake

Basongcuo, also called Cuogao Lake (Cuogao means green water in Tibetan), is a fantastic lake that hides among the mountains and valleys in southeast Tibet, with an altitude of over 3,700 meters. Covering an area of 25.9 square kilometers, Basongcuo Lake spreads like a huge crescent that goes 12 kilometers long, a few hundred meters wide and about 60 meters deep. Different from other holy lakes in Tibet, Basongcuo is surrounded by dense primitive forest. As its name implies, the water is so clear that you can see the bottom of the lake and reflections of the snow mountains.

Cuogao Lake

On the lake center there is an islet called Zhaxi, which is formed by the ancient glacier movement. The Zhaxi Islet is believed to be empty inside. In other words, its bottom does not touch the lake floor; it is floating on the water. You can find out if this is the case when you are there. The Zhaxi Islet can be reached by boat.

Basongcuo-Zhaxi Islet

On the Zhaxi Islet there is a small Nyingmapa temple of 1,500 years’ history called Cuozonggongba Temple, where Buddha Padmasambhava has been worshiped for centuries. The two-storey Cuozonggongba Temple was constructed in the late Tang Dynasty and was built with mud and wood. Standing in the south part of the temple are a peach tree and a pine tree whose branches are joined together like “husband and wife”, which adds some romance to this pure land.

Basongcuo Lake Tourist Area-Cuozonggongba Temple

There is a mysterious cave called “Begging for a Son Cave” beside a brook in the southern bank of Basongcuo. It is said that, if a woman comes here to pray for being pregnant with a son, it will work as the hole was blessed by Buddha Padmasambhava. In the northwest of the lake stands a huge rock with a hole through its center. The locals believe that it will ward off bad luck to go through the hole.

The legend says that each year on the 15th of April Tibetan Calendar a long white ribbon will grow from the center of the lake bed, which is a Hada or Khata (traditional ceremonial scarf used in Tibet) as a tribute to King Gesa’er. The locals still have the tradition of circling around the lake that day. More and more tourists also join the locals to walk around the lake in recent years while appreciating the picturesque lake landscape. You can hardly get lost by taking the very obvious path around the lake. One circle on foot may take one or two days so the travelers sometimes have to bring along tents for lack of hostels on the way. You may also encounter a few streams and it is really interesting to cross them with bare feet.

As a gem in south Tibet, Busongcuo was categorized as a world tourist attraction by the World Tourism Organization (WTO) in 1997 and the national forest park by the Chinese National Forestry Administration in 2002. The beautiful flowers in spring, green trees in summer, fresh fruits in autumn and white snow in winter all suggest that this is real a heaven for both the immortals and the human beings.

Travel Tips:

The best time to visit Busongcuo is autumn when the tree leaves are painted yellow or red. In July and August the lake area turns out to be a perfect summer resort.

Transportation – The 370 km long highway from Lhasa to Basongcuo is all high quality blacktop and the blacktop from the Ba River to the holiday resort may be the most ideal highway in Tibet. But you should take great care when driving on the mountain pass of Mila at the latitude of 5, 000 meters. If taking the route from Chengdu down the Sichuan-Tibet highway, you can book a taxi at the county government of Nyingchi. The whole trip is 128 km.

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