Among the draws of many towns in western Sichuan are their Tibetan Buddhist monasteries, most of which belong to the yellow-hat Gelugpa sect. Monasteries form huge medieval-looking complexes sprawling over hillsides, with a central core of large, red-walled, gold-roofed temples surrounded by a maze of smaller buildings housing monks and staff. Monasteries are usually free to enter; if there are no signs to the contrary, assume that photography is forbidden inside temples. Monks are generally friendly, encouraging you to explore, steering you firmly away from closed areas, and sometimes offering food and accommodation – though don’t take these for granted. Most importantly, remember to orbit clockwise around both individual temples and the complex as a whole (the only exception to this rule being at the region’s few Bon temples).

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