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The Fact of Ngari - the Most “Tibetan” Part of Tibet

As a prefecture of Tibet Autonomous Region, Ngari is located in the core area of the Qiangtang Plateau, a paradise of wild animals but sparsely populated. To the north, Ngari is next to Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, China; to the south, it’s contiguous to India, Nepal, and Kashmir. Ngari covers 345 thousand square kilometers (133,205 square miles), but lives only 86 thousand people, so, it’s one of the regions with the smallest population density in the world. As everybody knows that Tibet is known as “the Roof of the World”. With an average elevation of 4,500 meters (14,764 feet), Ngari is called “the Roof of Tibet” or “the Most Tibetan Part of Tibet”. Besides, the Himalayas, the Gangdise, the Kunlun Mountains and Karakorum Mountains are gathered here, that’s why Ngari is named “the Origin of All Mountains” as well. There are 7 counties in Ngari, the prefectural administrative office is set up in Shiquanhe Town, Gar County.



Before the 9th. Century, Ngari was named “Yangtong”. After that, it changed to “Katao”, because the royals of the Ancient Katao Dynasty had controlled here. The name kept changing for a long time. “Ngari Sugluson” during Yuan Dynasty; “Esili” in Ming Dynasty; finally, it became “Ngari” in Qing Dynasty and had been used until now. “Ngari” means the territory in the Tibetan language.


There are two famous kingdoms in the history of Ngari, one is Ancient Katao, another is Guge. Both of them are mysterious existences for later generations.

For a very long time, Ngari was ruled by the Ancient Katao Kingdom, which is considered the most mysterious period in Tibetan history. “Katao” means the living area of roc (the largest bird in Chinese legend story). According to the commonest academic theory, Katao Kingdom existed in the Ngari area. At that time, Katao people already had very advantaged technology. They had a powerful military force, controlled vast land, invented Katao characters, and founded the original Tibetan religion – Bon. The posterity is called the high level of civilization created by Katao people as Katao Civilization. But it suddenly disappeared and got away from the stage of history. There was a little record left for us to read the truth of it. The Ancient Katao Kingdom became an unfathomable enigma in the history of Tibet, even of China.

In the 9th. Century, the last king of the Tubo Kingdom (Tibet’s name during that time) Lang Darma started to suppress Buddhism. After he was assassinated by a crazy Buddhist devotee, his son Nima escaped to Ngari and married the daughter of the local tribe’s leader. Ngari was divided into three parts, each belonging to one of Nima’s sons. Among the three manors, the strongest one was ruled by Dezu Gun, who founded the Guge Kingdom. After a long-time of development, Guge Kingdom became powerful and prosperous. But in the 17th. Century, as same as Katao, Guge Kingdom was destroyed in one night and the 100 thousand Guge people vanished. Up to now, there are only empty ruins left to prove that the Guge Kingdom really existed.

the ruins of guge kingdom


The culture and art of the Ngari area are an important part of the ancient Xiangxiong civilization, and many myths that interpret nature in the form of legends have emerged. The Xiangxiong culture is known as the root culture of Tibet, and the traces of the ancient Xiangxiong culture run through all aspects of Tibet. From production to life, from folk customs to beliefs, there are impacts of Xiangxiong culture everywhere. For example, religious activities such as offering sacrifices to mountain gods and circulating mountains are all derived from the Xiangxiong culture. Even today, many customs and lifestyles are also inherited fromt era of Xiangxiong. Besides the above-mentioned two, worshipping the holy lakes, raising wind horse flags, inserting colorful prayer flags, carving stone scriptures, placing mani piles, playing divinations, and fortune-telling, etc., all have been influenced by Bon religion. The Tibetan script also originated from the Xiangxiong script. At that time, Songtsen Gampo sent his minister Tunmisambuza to create the Tibetan script, which is actually a kind of improvement of the Xiangxiong script.

In the 7th century, after the introduction of Indian Buddhism to the local area of ​​Ngari, Buddhist legends and ballads appeared. They are rich in content and diverse in form. They reflect the spiritual outlook and inner pursuit of people in different periods from different aspects, and have a distinctive style and charm of western Tibet.

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