About four hours from Xining by minivan/bus is a Tongren. Tongren (known as Repkong in Tibetan) is a small and friendly town home to a monastery and a number of Tibetan monks and Hui shop owners - both of whom reside here because of the number of monasteries found in the valley. The villages directly outside of the city are famous (and have been for centuries) for producing some of Tibet's best thangkas and painted statues. The villages have two main monasteries named Wutun Si. Here visitors are allowed to meet the local artists and purchase a religious painting or two. There are two Wutun Si's, an upper and a lower one. The lower temple is much more attractive aesthetically, but the upper one has a better art school. It is said that the thangkas here are the best in the world and are sent to be used in important temples and places such as Potala. Not much for buying souvenirs on this trip (as I feel souvenirs are just more material possessions that generally speaking we don't really need) I decided to buy a thangka here as a memento. Tongren's main monastery in the city is the Longwu monastery, and active yellow hat (Gelukpa) branch of buddhism that was established in 1301 and greatly expanded during the Ming Dynasty.
Some of the children monks. They mugged me. no joke. They asked for pens or pencils and when i reached into my bag the next thing i knew i was swamped by tons of little hands reaching for anything i had. one kid got the pen one got the cap. I later gave a few kids some gum i had and again was swamped by all these little monk children.
this cow stared at me for a while and then started following me. i was wearing a red coat and was afraid it may start to charge at me. Also, while it was staring at me it was usually in the middle of the road causing many near car accidents.
I went back in the morning to upper Wutun Si to find some thangka artists and watch them do their work. When I got to the temple the whole town was sitting around the temple grounds drinking milk tea and eating bread. I was invited to join them and so I drank fresh milk tea with them. these giant vats were where they made the milk tea.