The Wudangzhao Lamasery (Wudang Zhao) is the biggest tourist attraction near to the city, and thus is often flooded with both Chinese and foreign faces, that somewhat swamp the charm of the place. The Lamasery itself is of traditional, pretty Tibetan architecture, with white walls and flattened roofs, and was allegedly modeled after its distant Tibetan cousin, the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. This, and the fact that you can get away from it all in the nearby hills, still make this attraction worth going to see.
Located about 70km to the northeast of Baotou, the 250-year-old Lamasery is the largest of its kind in western Inner Mongolia. The style of Buddhism that is practiced here, of the Yellow Hat Sect (Gelukpa), has a strong following in Mongolia, ever since the Mongols invaded Tibet in the thirteenth century, and nowadays this area still attracts pilgrims in a multitude. The Lamasery is named Wudangzhao, literally Willow Lamasery in Mongolian, because the area around the temple has long been covered by these wispy trees.
In its prime Wudangzhao had over 1,200 resident monks, but these numbers have dwindled down to but a few, leaving the 2,500 room complex active, but filled mainly by tourists and believers. The complex was built in 1749, and covers a total area of approximately 50 acres. It has been home to a number of "Living Buddhas", seven of whose ashes have been deposited in one of the main halls. In total the place has six main halls, the Sugabi Prayer Hall (Sugabi tang) being the most elaborate. There are also a large collection of Buddhist art in the lamasery, ranging from ancient sculptures to murals of gold, silver, copper, wood and even soil.
How to get there and away: The easiest way to get to the lamasery is to take a minibus (about RMB10) from outside the Donghe railway station, at around 8am (sometimes after). If this fails you may take bus No.7, also from near the railway station, to its terminus at Shiguai (40km from Baotou). From the Shigai bus stop there are normally minibuses that will take you the rest of the way (25km), but if there are none, a taxi from here should be no more than RMB30. It is also possible to take a tour with CITS, although this is not really worthwhile, except for convenience. Getting back there are a number of minibuses that will take you before 5pm.
Hostels: If you are still in the monastery after the last minibus, and do not wish to take a pricey taxi ride, there is a dorm in the monastery that has very simple facilities for between RMB10-15.
Opening hours: 8am-6pm.
(Photo source: baidu.com)
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