Siguniang mountain region is located about 200 kilometers northwest of Chengdu. The area has attracted climbers and trekkers with its magnificent granite peaks, beautiful alpine meadows, and colorful wild flowers. Siguniang, which means “four sisters” is made up of four pyramid-like granite peaks standing side-by-side with elevations of 5,355 meters, 5,454 meters, 5,664 meters, and 6,250 meters. Of course the “little” sister, Yaomei peak, is the highest and the most technical one, and has the reputation of “the queen mountain of Sichuan.” It is also the second highest peak of Sichuan.
The Siguniang region has three major valleys to explore: Haizi Valley, Changping Valley, and Shuangqiao Valley. Haizi means “oceans” and Haizi Valley has the highest concentration of alpine lakes. Shuangqiao Valley displays diverse plant and animal life as well as countless untouched granite spires. Changping Valley travels right past the stupendous rock walls of Siguniang’s north face. Adventurous backpackers challenge themselves by taking on the thru-hike from Changping Valley to the Bipeng Valley north. This multi-day backpack requires them to cross a high pass and, even though the journey might be strenuous, the seldom-touched wilderness is worth the efforts.
Tibetan Cultures in Siguniang Region:
When people hear the word “Tibetan,” they would usually think only of Tibet. Yet, there are large populations of Tibetans in Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces of China. Visiting these regions offer a unique, unencumbered experience of Tibetan people and culture, as current travel and exploration in Tibet itself is limited and tightly controlled. Also, the word “Tibetan” can be a generic term under which houses at least four subgroups of Tibetans. For example, the Tibetans in Siguniang mountain range are “Jia Rong Tibetans.” Each subgroup of Tibetan has their own spoken and written languages, and sometimes they vary so much that they have to use Mandarin to communicate with other Tibetan subgroups.
Jia Rong Tibetans have darker skins and slightly different facial features than Han Chinese. Due to close proximity to Han Chinese regions, Jia Rong Tibetans in Rilong speak both fluent Mandarin and Sichuan dialect. Their daily clothing is no different than the people walking on the streets in Chengdu. However elders still dress in traditional outfits and their Tibetan heritage is strong. Every year the Siguniang Festival and Tibetan New Year are the biggest and most important holidays for them.
1. Siguniang Festival
Siguniang Festival is a sacred occasion. It’s on lunar calendar May 4th, just one day before Han Chinese Dragon Boat Festival. On this day, every resident of Siguniang mountain range dresses in traditional outfits and walks up along Hanzi Valley to a Tibetan pagoda to worship Siguniang Mountain. Chaoshanping is the alpine meadow right next to the pagoda, where Tibetans sing, dance, horse race, and perform other rituals.
The festival is also an important day for young people to mingle and socialize. If a young man is interested in pursuing a lady, he will rob an accessory from her outfit and run away. She has to chase him. If she is not interested in him, she will get the accessory back right at the spot; otherwise, she will set up a date and get her accessory back later.
2. Tibetan New Year
Tibetan New Year is an important holiday – people eat, drink, dance, party with other families traveling from one family to the next, day after day.
During Tibetan New Year, kids take yak skulls, decorate them, and make yak skull lanterns while each family prepares many yummy traditional dishes. Kids then dance in front of all the families with their decorated skulls and receive this good food and pocket money in return.
After New Year, the next big day is the Seeding Day. Every family wants to host the seeding ritual and be the first family to start farming. However, it is too difficult to settle the matter so nowadays families just take turns to host the event.