Ma’er kang (马尔康)


Home alone in Chengdu last weekend so I packed my backpack to do some travelling. I visited the Zhuokeji (卓克基) Tibetan village, a few km east from Ma’er kang (Barkam).


Zhuokeji means supremacy in Tibetan language. originally build in 1286, it housed the regions highest official for politics, economy and martial power.

Every room has a story, opera, guest rooms, execution hall, one notable conference room as the red army and Mao Zedong stayed here for a week in 1935.

After the visit, I wandered around town with it’s beautiful bridge and hillside alleyways and found the Dandalun Temple.

Hilltop picnic

Outside again, I passed a group of villagers, calling me over. The group – a mom with four years old twins, a CPC army soldier, an engineer and a yak cow farmer – all early thirties, old friends enjoying the summer day outside.

They treated me to some raw spicy yak meat (delicious), and local green veggies dishes. And lots of Chinese lukewarm beer.

I didn’t want to overstay but they were just so cheerful, hospitable, patient and interesting. There is a pride of their cultural heritage, they sang traditional songs, dance, which they learned directly from their parents, and they tried teaching me some of their native language. (See below).

When they asked me to sing one of my cultures songs, I could only think of the Dutch kids song “Berend Botje”. Yep, sang that, no dance though.

Whilst connected to their past heritage, all are connected as anyone else about international pop, news, sport culture. It’s not one or the other.

rGyalrong Tibetan language

Learned some ‘Jiarong’ (Zang) or rGyalrong (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་རོང). I’m by no means a linguistic, but I do want to archive and share my hosts teachings.

  • Me – N’ah*
  • You – Cho
  • Nice to meet you – Cho dé mo
  • Really nice to meet you – N’áh dé mo
  • I love you – N’áh cho gah
  • Cheers – da ghi de lech

* Compared to Mandarin Chinese, has more tones. This one is compressed and hard. There is a hard (not rolling) “N’áh!”

Notes for those who travel here

  1. Get details of taxi taxi proposed a fixed fee of 30 RMB from ma’er kang to Zhuokeji. On the way back ~9PM it was more difficult to find a taxi, I had to ask around to call a taxi to pick me up. Next time I would get their details on the way up
  • Sleeping in street? Reading up in blogs on Ma’er kang, i read a post from 2012 with someone saying there are no hotels for foreigners. It would be too cold for sleeping in the the fields, so just pay a local for sleepover but run if police comes ” (link). No such thing. I checked with 康嘉绒大酒店 hotel and it was no problem.
  • Ngawa? Another is that most people, well at least myself naively associated this region with Tibetan Ngawa Town, which was still another 275km away and too far for this weekend’s journey.

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