Tangra Yumco: the Holy Lake of the Bön Believers and the Third Largest Lake in Tibet

Close to the ruins of Yamtung Kingdom, Tangra Yumco is the holy lake of the Bön believers, and is also the third largest lake in Tibet with the length of 70 km and width of 15-20 km. According to a legend, the Lake Tangra Yumco was the place where the most respected Goddess Gangzhuoma of the Bön stayed.

Lake Tangra Yumco

Lake Tangra Yumco lies at the bottom of a deeply sunken basin, next to Tangra Qonco. In the past, Tangra Yumco was connected to Tangra Qonco in the north. Later the climate became dry, the lake was shrunk, so Tangra Qonco was separated from Tangra Yumco. That is how the name “Tangra Qonco” comes, which means little Tangra Yumco in Tibetan. It is said that water of this lake may change into three different colors a day. In the west bank, there stand continuous dark red cliffs, just like a row of screen. These cliffs clearly recorded every water decline in Lake Tangra Yumco. Stone steps eroded by the lake water surround the lake round in round from the top mountain at the lakeshore to the lakefront. Go ahead from Lake Tangra Qonco, after about 5 kilometers, and you’ll see the most famous holy lake in the north Tibet-Lake Tangra Yumco.

Tangra Yunco, with an altitude of 4,530 meters above sea level, runs from south to north, shaping like a sole. The lake is surrounded by mountain on three sides, with only a gap at Daerguo Mountain in the south lakeshore. Daerguo Mountain, whose mountain body is black, has seven peaks with the top covered by white snow, like 7 well arranged pyramids. The mountain together with Tangra Yumco is respected as the holy lands by Bön believers.

Tangra Yumco Lake

There are 5,500-6,000 meters high south-north mountains at the western bank and the eastern bank, with developed modern glacier. The southeastern bank and the northern bank of Tangra Yumco Lake are widely distributed with lacustrine plain, and the lake phase terrace is developed, reaching more than 20 tiers. The terrace has flat and slow ground, with the width of dozens of meter to hundreds of meters, and even several kilometers. The lake water is mainly fed by melt ice and snow.

Tangra Yumco

Tangra Yumco is located in the lonely Wenbu wasteland. Here is the world’s famous “no man’s land”, there are only one people per six square kilometers in the Wenbu District. At the shore of Lake Tangra Yumco, there is a small village with nearly 100 households – Wenbu. Majority of the villagers live partly on agriculture, partly on livestock. They explored a little field on the lakeshore and plant qingke, tomatoes, cole and green Chinese cabbages etc. It’s really amazing to see these plants being planted in the place above the elevation of 4,500 meters, which is attributed to local lake area climate.

Wenbu Village at the shore of Lake Tangra Yumco

At the entrance of Wenbu Village you can find a Sutra Wheel Spinning House furnished with a giant sutra tube for worshippers to spin. Unlike those in other parts of Tibet, worshippers of the Bön religion spin sutra wheels or tubes leftward. Beside the lake there is a monastery, Yubon Monastery, built in the cliff cave. It is said that Yubon Monastery is the oldest monastery of Bön sect.

Getting there:

Start towards southwest from Nyima country, after 8 kilometers turn left at the crossroad. Go straight in the south direction about 80 kilometers, and cross a mountain pass at an altitude of 5 kilometers, and you’ll arrive at Tangra Yumco lake basin.

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