Big Picture

Sea of red in the hills of China

PHOTO: REUTERS

Among the green rolling hills in the Larung Gar Valley in China, the last thing you would expect to see in the countryside is thousands of red wooden huts that have been built in a massive cluster.

Despite its secluded location, it is home to the Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the world's largest Buddhist settlement, located in Sertar county, Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan province, China.

The academy, founded in the 1980s among the mountains of the remote prefecture, is one of the largest Tibetan Buddhism institutes of the world, housing tens of thousands of monks and nuns.

The colourful settlement sprung up in the 1980s and is now a haven for over 40,000 monks and nuns.

The sprawling settlement sits on elevations of 3,810m, and the religious devotees battle the harsh climate to study at the remote dwelling. The wooden huts are built so closely together, they look like a red sea spreading up the hilly terrain.

Founded by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok in 1980, the institute which started out from a handful of students gathering in Khenpo's home has since grown to be the largest and most influential centre to study Tibetan Buddhism in the world.

The duration of the courses varies from one month to 13 years. It is said that in its heyday, the academy housed 30,000 students. The official number currently is 5,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2015, with the headline 'Sea of red in the hills of China'. Print Edition | Subscribe