Yarchen Gar : The Kingdom of Women in the Wasteland
Location: Paris
Nationality: Chinese
Biography: Luo Jian is a Chinese documentary photographer based in Paris and Beijing. After working 10 years as a photojournalist in the Chinese press industry, he decided to move to France where he began a new photography journey. His work focuses on the... read on
Public Story
Yarchen Gar : The Kingdom of Women in the Wasteland
Credits: jian luo
Updated: 02/23/21
Location: Tibet
After crossing the bridge, men are not allowed to enter the female living quarter. The island surrounded by the Qushui River is the largest nuns’ residential area in the world. Thousands of ramshackle houses cluster on this 0.15-square-kilometer island and more than 10,000 nuns live there. This is not only the largest community of nuns but also the largest nun shantytown. The cottages are patchworks of wooden boards and thin iron sheets, with tarps occasionally covering parts of the roof or walls. Due to the increasing number of monks, morning lectures are held outdoor. The square in front of the main temple is occupied by crimson-robed monks every morning.

Yarchen Gar, founded in 1985, is the other great "monastic encampment" in the world after Larung Gar. It is located in an isolated valley at 4000 meters above sea level in Baiyu County, Sichuan Province, China. Encircled by mountains, it is a four-hour drive from the nearest town, more than a hundred kilometers of snow-capped mountain roads. Because of the remoteness, very few tourists arrive here, allowing monks to practice and meditate peacefully.

The only men allowed to live on nuns' island are children. They come to Yarchen Gar following their older sister or other female relatives in the family. Adult monks live on the other side of the Qushui River where narrow wooden bridges connect the two areas. Even in common lectures, monks and nuns are strictly separated.

In winter, when the school year is over, nuns must continue their practice of asceticism every day in a one-cubic-meter wooden hut located on the hillside faced to the island. Except eating and drinking, nuns sit and meditate during daytime, still and silent. The asceticism lasts a hundred days. Moreover, less than 1% of nuns earn the approval from Lama Akhyuk Rinpoche, Founder of Yarchen Gar, for having completed the practice. Most of the nuns spend between 3 to 10 years to practice asceticism.


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