Mengda National Nature Reserve in Haidong, Qinghai

Why is Mengda National Nature Reserve So Special?

It is so named because of the location at the east of well-known Qinghai Lake. The tourism of Haidong reflects its natural eco-culture, history, folk culture and religious culture. The representative attractions are Mengda National Nature Reserve, Gautama Temple, Beishan National Forest Park, and Liuwan Site.

Where is Mengda National Nature Reserve

Haidong Prefecture is located in the northeast of Qinghai Province.Due to the sudden rise of peaks around the Mengda National Nature Reserve in Qinghai Province, the attack of dry and cold air flow is weakened and the southeast air flow is met. The climate in the area is mild and rainy.

History of Mengda National Nature Reserve

Mengda Tianchi Nature Reserve was established in 1980 and approved as a national nature reserve in April 2000.

Introduction of Mengda National Nature Reserve

Mengda National Nature Reserve is located in the northeastern part of Xunhua Salar Autonomous County. Owing to its towering mountains, rich forests, lush grasses, wild flowers, and pleasant climate, the nature reserve enjoys the reputation as ‘Xishuangbanna in Plateau’.

The densely wooded reserve covers an area of over 9,300 hectares (22,981 acres) and its average altitude is higher than 2,500 meters (8,202 feet). Stone peaks, gifted by nature, seem to have sprung from the ground into many different shapes.

As it is stuated in the transitional area between Loess Plateau and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, it is rich in plants and animals. There are about 509 kinds of plants and many herbs, such as Bashan firs, Cyclobalanopsis glauca, Chinese gooseberries, ginsengs, fritillaries. Some rare wild animals also live a happy life here. It also offers large stretches of grasslands, and the air is always fresh and pure. Different species of ancient trees touch the sky, such as spruces, firs, and Pinus armandies. Fragrant wildflowers can be found everywhere on the mountain, including lilacs, red azaleas, hydrangeas, Chinese small apples and roses.

The most beautiful scenic spot is Heavenly Lake (Tianchi) surrounded by green mountains. It is bright and serene, sparkling in the sunlight. The water is so green that it looks like an emerald studded on the mountain. An abundance of exuberant trees and fantastic rocks surround the lake. An eight-meter (315 inches) wide waterfall tumbles over a tall cliff to the southeast of the lake. In summer, the waterfall magnificently falls and in winter, you will see an icefall. Most visitors are attracted by the peaceful environment of the charming lake. 

Gautama Temple (Qutan Temple)

Gautama Temple is around 21 kilometers (13 miles) from south of Ledu County, and about 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Xining downtown. As one of top things to do in Haidong, it is famous for magnificent buildings, fine fresco and valuable cultural relics. Its architectural style is very similar to the Forbidden City in Beijing, so it enjoys the title of ‘Small Forbidden City’. 

Originally built in 1392, at the beginning of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), this attraction now is the only well-preserved architectural complex of that dynasty in northwestern China. It consists mainly of front, central and back courtyards, totally covering an area of 28,000 square meters (33,488 square yards). On the central axis stand the Temple Gate, Vajra Hall (Jingang Hall), Qutan Hall, Baoguang Hall and Longguo Hall. Other buildings are symmetrically laid out on both sides to achieve the effect of perfect unity, which is the traditional Chinese architectural style.

The Longguo Hall, crowned with a multiple-eave roof, is the most imposing and magnificent building in the temple. The hall rises on a granite terrace with carved columns and painted beams. On both sides are rooms with covered corridors. A huge colorful fresco, about 400 square meters (478.4 square yards), is painted on the long corridors. It is just like nature itself and very clearly describes the story of Sakyamuni (Gautama Siddhartha) from birth to death.

The valuable cultural relics in this temple are too numerous to list one by one, including a giant bronze bell, a ivory rosary, cloisonne vases, imperial steles of the Ming Dynasty, and ten horizontal inscribed boards that date back to the Qing and Ming Dynasties. 

Admission Fee CNY40
Opening Hours 08:00-17:00
Best Travel Season Summer and Autumn.
(On June 15th of Chinese Lunar Calendar, a temple fair is held every year.)
Transportation Take a bus at Xining Xinning Coach Station or Jianguo Road Coach Station to Ledu first. Upon arrival at Ledu, there are direct buses to Gautama Temple.
Taboo in the Temple 1. Never touch the Buddhist sutras, and statues of Buddha;
2. Never touch the heads and hats of Tibetans.

How to Get There

Transportation Take a long-distance bus to Xunhua from Xining. Then transfer to another bus to the scenic area.
Note: 1. It is around 161km (100mi) between Xining and Xunhua. There are many buses running between and the bus fare is around CNY30.
2. Xunhua is around 20km (12mi) from Mengda National Nature Reserve, so you can also rent a car or take a taxi to reach.

Useful Travel Tips

  • Qinghai is a continental plateau climate with large temperature difference between day and night. The average temperature at night in summer is not more than 10℃, so keep warm and prevent colds. Causing a cold at high altitude means the possibility of worsening to fatal pulmonary edema.
  • The northwest region is affected by religion and has different customs and habits. When visiting (such as entering temples), please keep in mind the tourism precautions announced by the local tour guide. When entering the hometown, do as the Romans do. Under no circumstances should you mention political issues concerning ethnic minorities and cooperate with the tour guide.
  • Dog meat, horse meat and donkey meat are forbidden in Tibetan areas.

Nearby Attractions

Edited by Sean/代志云