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Where is Yushu?

Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture is located in southern Qinghai Province on the northern Tibetan Plateau with an elevation of around 3,700 m (12,100 ft). It is 500 miles from Xining (the capital of Qinghai Province). Yushu has a population of 300,000 people and is over 95% Tibetan. The prefecture has an area of 188,794 square kilometers (72,894 sq mi), and its seat is located in the town of Gyegu in Yushu, which is the place of the old Tibetan trade mart of Jyekundo. Yushu is the fourth largest city in Qinghai. It has six counties Yushu City, Zadoi County, Chindu County, Zhidoi County, Nangchen County, and Qimalian County.

Yushu Horse Racing Festival
Yushu Horse Racing Festival

Yushu Horse Racing Festival

As the Tibetan Horse Racing Festival is an individual sport in the sporting world. Yushu Horse Racing Festival is one of the most famous festivals in Yushu and all over the Tibetan region. It has long been one of the most celebrated events in Yushu. It draws thousands of people from all over the Tibetan region and many Han Chinese and tourists from many places. The weeklong spectacular Horse festival commences from July 25th to August 1st every year, and more than ten thousand people come to join the festival. All the schools and government offices get a week off.

Yushu Horse Racing Festival

The typical festivities involve horse races, yak races, tugs of war, the Tibetan equivalent of a weight-lifting tournament, eating, and drinking, dancing, and singing performances, traditional Tibetan costumes, etc. This date coincides with the region’s most beautiful times of the year. 

The Yushu Horse Race Festival takes advantage of the warm weather, so the valley floor has lush green grass suitable for long-distance horse races and tent camping. The landscape is so beautiful that filled with so many colorful Tibetan tents surrounding the grassy racing ground. The Tibetans bring their traditional nomadic tent made of black yak hair tents, and these colorful appliques affairs are sometimes bigger than houses. 

Tibetan Dancing performance
Tibetan Dancing performance during the festival

Khampa Cultural Exhibition

This year, the theme of the festival is Khampa cultural exhibition. It will be the biggest event in Yuhsu and is expected to host on the 3rd of August 2021. It will last for a week, and preparations are already begun.

Hundreds of Tibetan traditional dancers from six counties of Yushu Prefecture perform across Yushu City street to the main venue. The display of different cultures shows through the street gathering thousand of people across Yushu City street. The announcer continues describing the display in Tibetan, Chinese, and English. The spectators are lining up across the street, cheering and shouting for the display.

The opening ceremony of the annual Tibetan horse festival here officially begins by lighting a bundle of mulberry branches at the north end of the stadium. Which sits in a treeless valley ringed by rolling hills. Then, as the fire begins to smolder, 20 People’s Liberation Army soldiers march onto the field in tight formation. They lead a procession of thousands of ethnically Tibetan men, women, and children wearing brightly colored costumes. And 200 Buddhist monks and nuns dressed in maroon-and-saffron robes will greet the audience and then march out.

The six representative counties of Yushu Prefecture present their respective cultural shows and display their lifestyles of people. They bring yaks and sheep on the ground to represent the nomadic life and sing Tibetan folk songs. In addition, the participants of each county perform their local dances. Among the dance performance, the most delightful is The performance centered around the admission ceremony of General Gesar, a brave lord and cultural hero of the legendary kingdom of Ling.

Tibetan Cultural show
Tibetan Cultural show

 The famous Tibetan singers present their new album as it is a great opportunity for the advertisement. There is also a traditional Tibetan fashion show as it is quite different from a modern fashion show. The men and women wear different kinds of jewelry which there own and walk with pride as the crowd applauds. 

Festival take away

The most awaited event is finally presented by the 150 riders – all with their horses galloping at full speed through the racing field, and spectators give applause with fireworks exploding over the sky. Some riders carry a rifle in one arm and shoot small paper targets set on the ground. Others hang off the side of their horses to snatch white scarves off the field. It continues with daring stunts like headstands on their saddles and some standing on the back of a running horse—shows of horsemanship skills, archery, and gun shooting skills in front of thousands of spectators. Finally, the three-hour ceremony concluded with fireworks exploding over the stadium, and it was an impressive sight for those lucky enough to get tickets.

In the afternoon, the best horses bring from all over Yushu Prefecture for the race. The race is categorized into three that depend on the age of the horses, and the length of the racetrack will be different for different categories.  The winning prize is 10k Yuan for the first, 8k for the second and 5k for the third. It differs yearly. The winner will have lots of advantages, such as if the horse owner wants to sell the horse, the demand will be high, so the price will be high.

Marching on horseback

     On the falling days, people gather at Gesar Corner and start playing traditional Tibetan games such as tag war, wrestling, and weight lifting. Some individual games are introduced for older and younger people, and it is full of fun. For example, participants have to run, crawl under the wheel and flip over the oil barrel, undress the Tibetan traditional dress, run back and forth then wear the dress again.

Tibetan people love to party, and there’s nothing they love more than a party in nature. So rest of the day, friends and family congregate under the shade of a tall white poplar, on the banks of a beautiful river, or out on the green grasslands. Then, when bellies are full, people sing songs, dance, play cards, drink wine, and tell stories of days gone by.

Horseback stun performance
Horseback stun performance

When the sun goes down over the city, the people gather at Gesar Corner. And people start bonfires near the big statue of Gesar riding on the horse. So many people dancing around the fire and lighting up the different colors of the firework. It lasts till midnight.

During the weeklong festival, people will get back to their daily life with beautiful memories during the festival with their families.

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