Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries
by Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble and Marietta Kind
Edited by Samten G. Karmay and Yasuhiko Nagano
National Museum of Ethnology and THL
Reproduced with permission from the authors
under the THL Digital Text License.

Wen chuan County

(218) La tha Temple

1. Name

The temple is also called A lo Temple. This name of the temple is said to be Mongolian, since the temple’s devotees are mainly of Mongolian origin and are said to be descendants of a Mongolian army.

2. Location

The temple is located 120 km from the county town of Yanyuan, which is part of Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province.

3. History

When I went to visit the region I was unable to reach the temple owing to floods that had destroyed the road to Yan yuan county. I was unable to find any written Sources concerning the temple’s history (and I doubt that any exist). In Xichang, the capital of Liangshan Prefecture, I met one aged woman from the village where the temple is located. She told me that according to a legend the temple was founded in the 13th century. The devotees of this temple are mainly Mongolians but also include some Tibetans and Naki, and even some Yi, another ethnic group living in the area. The Mongolian army, of which the present Mongolians are said to be the descendants, arrived in the region in the 17th century with Gushri Khan. In the past, the temple was looked after by the leading Mongolian family, whose eldest son inherited his father’s position as chief, while the second and third sons became the gnyer ba and head of the temple respectively. When there were not enough sons, the incumbents were chosen from among the family’s relatives. The temple was rebuilt in the nineteen-eighties.

4. Hierarchical system

There is one dge skos and one dbu mdzad, both replaced every three years.

5. Current number of devotees

There are one hundred and twenty-nine tantric practitioners who work as farmers and live with their families and only go to the temple to perform the annual rituals.

6. Current education

The younger practioners are trained by the elder practitioners.

7. Educational exchange

Since it is the only Bonpo temple in the area, it has no direct ties with any other temple.

8 / 9. Rituals

  • 1st month: the smon lam prayer from the 10th to the 20th day
  • 4th month: the smyung gnas fast from the 1st to the 16th day
  • 8th month: the minatsho ritual from the 6th to the 11th day
  • 9th month: the dutsetshok ritual from the 26th day to the 29thday; this is followed by the gelacha ritual.

The terms minatsho, dutsetshok and gelacha are said to be the Mongolian names for the rituals, but none of the people whom I interviewed in Xichang knew what they meant.

11. Income and expenses

The temple has no regular Sources of income and depends on offerings from its followers.

12. Local community

About 5,000 Mongolian, Tibetan and Naki in the area

14. Occupation of the local people



(1) Interviews

In autumn 1998 with: Wang Wenzhi, a Mongolian woman who comes from the village where the temple is located and who works at the Department of Minorities and Religion of Liangshan Prefecture government.


Note Citation for Page

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind, A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya (Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003), .

Bibliographic Citation

Dondrup Lhagyal, Phuntso Tsering Sharyul, Tsering Thar, Charles Ramble, and Marietta Kind. A Survey of Bonpo Monasteries and Temples in Tibet and the Himalaya. Osaka: National Museum of Ethnology, 2003.