Zhada (扎达) or Zhanda county is a further 200km travel by road from Pulan. It is in the west corner of the Ali rgion of Tibet. This is sparsely populated arid region with vast expense of yellow earth and sandstone formations. The county is geographically close to a number of major Indian cities, including New Delhi. The town itself is a typical small town with one major street, at 3700m elevation. Owing to influx of tourists, a number of new restaurants and guest houses have sprung up in last few years.
There are two main places of interest in Zhada county. The first one is the earthern or sandstone forest. The geological weathering process causes the vast expense of sendimentary rock formations to be sculptured into all kind of shapes. This brings in a sense of aura in wonders of nature for anyone watching the ‘earthern forest’, particularly as the sun is about to set.
The second attraction is the ruin of the ancient city of Guge kingdom. This kingdom existed between the 10th to 16th century. The ruin is a remarkable site, where most of the structures are still preserved. The king lives in the highest point, on top of a hill fotress. The common people live in the caves at the bottom of the hill, while the monks and others live in caves at mid levels. These are not natural caves, but holes dug from the natural mudstone formation.
The most remarkable relics in the ruin are the brilliantly painted 1000 years old wall murals that depict various aspects of the people living in the ancient kingdoms as well as major religious figures. The best preserved murals are currently found in the Red temple. This is a wooden temple painted in red. As there is no forest in Zhada, all the timbers were transported from Kashmir region of India. I have to say drawings seem to be very good work of art, and are still in relatively good conditions. The other temples with drawings are undergoing restorations at the moment.
It is hard to imgine how a seemingly prospherous kingdom could have existed her before, given the the place is barren nowadays. However, there are highland barley fields and grassland nearby. Perhaps, the place was also more green a few hundred years ago. Amazingly, the locals have also preserved a traditional dance style that is said to be have been inherited from another earlier ancient kingdom, called the Xiangxiong kingdom of about 3000 years ago.