This thesis focuses on pilgrimage (gnas skor) to Drakar Dreldzong, a Buddhist holy mountain (gnas ri) in a remote area of Amdo, Tibet, in the present day Qinghai Province in the western part of China. The mountain had long been a solitude hermitage and still is a popular pilgrimage site for Tibetan lamas and nearby laymen. Pilgrimage to holy mountains was, and still is, significant for the religious, cultural and literary life of Tibet, and even for today’s economic climate in Tibet.
This thesis presents the traditional perceptions of the site reflected both in written texts, namely pilgrimage guides (gnas bshad), and in the contemporary practices of pilgrimage to Drakar Dreldzong. It specifically talks about an early pilgrimage guide (Guide A) written by a tantric practitioner in the early 17th century, and newly developed guides (Guides B, C and D), based on the 17th century one, edited and composed by contemporary Tibetan lay intellectuals and monks from Dreldzong Monastery. This monastery, which follows the Gelukba tradition, was established in 1923 at the foot of the mountain. The section about the early guide mainly introduces the historical framework of pilgrimage guides and provides an impression of the situation of the mountain in from the 17th to the 21st century. In particular, it translates the text and gives comments and analysis on the content. The newly developed pilgrimage guides are in the forms of guidebooks as well as in video forms. They are compared with the early guide. The next section presents the contemporary pilgrimage practice on the mountain led by a majority of nomadic Tibetans all around the areas of the north-eastern region of Amdo. This section describes pilgrimage practices to the mountain and especially the pilgrimage I participated in with a group of local pilgrims in the summer of 2007. The section will compare the written texts and actual practices to generate discussions on concepts of precepts and practice as well as pilgrimage transitions taking place at the site.
Overall, the paper gives an insight into the unique pilgrimage tradition to this particular mountain. The discussion ranges from the written tradition (the Pilgrimage Guides) to contemporary guidebooks and the reality of pilgrimage practice in Amdo Tibetan culture.