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    2008-03-07 15:44:48     CRIENGLISH.com

Dongguan Mosque in Xining [Photo Source: baidu.com]

Xining is located in the eastern part of Qinghai Province in western China, and lies on the HuangShui River. It is the capital of Qinghai Province, and is often called the "Summer Resort Capital of China" because of its cool summers.

For centuries, it has been the major commercial hub on the caravan route to Tibet, the Silk Road, trading in wool, hides, salt, and timber.

Nearly 37 ethnic groups live here, including Han, Hui, Tu and Tibetan people. The local traditions and customs are influenced by these distinctive groups, particularly the Tibetans.

--What to see:
The region offers a number of attractions which make a visit to the area well worth considering.

1. Qinghai Lake
The scenery of the Qinghai Lake, situated within Xining, provides an escape from the busy cities with its beautiful natural scenery.
The Birds Island, situated on the northwestern end of Qinghai Lake, is home to an extensive array of birds.

2. Ta'er Monastery
The birthplace of the founder of the Gelugpa Sect (³) lies to the southwest of Xining. The gem of the Tibetan culture, the Ta'er Monastery, was built here.

The white pagodas in front of the Ta'er Temple in Xining [photo source: news.xinhuanet.com]

Ta'er Temple, also known as the Pagoda Lamasery, is one of China's largest Buddhist temples, and is a sacred place of the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Lamaism.

Lamaism took root in Tibet in the seventh century as a new form of Buddhism. Over the centuries that followed, numerous sects developed. In the fifteenth century, a well-known Lama called Zongkaba founded a new reform sect which strictly observed Buddhist precepts.

His followers were easily identified by their hats, hence the derivation of the name "Yellow (Hat) Sect." Their influence grew to such an extent that they eventually became the ruling sect in Tibet.

3. Dongguan Mosque
With a more than 600-year history, the Dongguan Mosque, is one of the most famous mosques in northwestern China.
Many visitors are fascinated by the splendid and diversiform towers, walls and halls in the mosque. The number 1, 2 and 23 buses will take you directly to the mosque. Please note that visitors are allowed during Muslim prayer sessions.

Ta'er Temple [Photo Source: baidu.com]

--What to eat:
For most visitors, Xining offers a variety of delicious food and snacks. You can find some special meat products easily here, for Xining is also a grazing area. Food is substantial, but happily, quite inexpensive.

--Local Snacks:
Snacks in Xining are named after their creators.

1. Liangfen (bean jelly) is made from pea powder and cut into short strips. Liangfen is served with vinegar, chili, mashed garlic, mustard and salt to enhance the taste.

2. Niangpi is a popular snack made of flour and baking soda. It can be found anywhere in Xining for four yuan, less than 1 dollar. The most famous version of this snack is called Mazhong Niangpi, and can be found in Mojia street.

3. Zasui Tang is a soup cooked with lamb and ox entrails. Locals often eat this snack for breakfast. The hot soup helps warm people during winter.

4. Muslim yoghurt is a must-eat while in Xining. This yoghurt, often eaten for breakfast, is made by local Muslim families and served in small bowls for one yuan.

5. "Mutton Eaten with Fingers" is the most famous snack in Qinghai Province. It is made of fresh mutton and served with a dash of salt. This snack is the favorite food of the herdsmen in Qinghai Province.

Xining has a vivid nightlife. The streets are filled with small vendors selling food and clothing. It's best to try vendors' food at night, when it has been enriched with the flavors of northern China.

--Where to stay:
There are dozens of small guesthouses near the train and long distance bus station. And you can also find many star-rated hotels in the downtown area. Prices range from several bucks to some hundreds dollars.

--How to get there:
By plane
Xining Airport, located 15 kilometers southeast of the city, offers flights to major cities in China, including Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Xi'an. The local CAAC office offers transport to and from the airport for around ten yuan.
Xining is also a big stop on railways, including the Qinghai-Tibet railway. 



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