Visiting the Labrang Buddhist monastery in Xiahe, China our guide quickly jumped aside upon the appearance of the tall yellow hat. Ducking inside the gateway to another temple, he quickly motioned for us to follow, explaining that the tall yellow hat belonged to the spiritual leader of the monastery. Needless to say, we peeked out around the heavy door and asked permission to take photographs. The spiritual leader didn’t so much as look our way, but our guide granted photography permission without hesitation.
Wrapped in burgundy cloth, the spiritual leader was closely followed by just one man, who held a long octagonal pole with streamers on one end. Other monks greeted his presence with reference, or ran away the chosen behavior of the young monk who was guiding us.
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IF YOU GO: Labrang Monastery is the largest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside of Tibet. It is one of the six greatest Geluk (Yellow Hat) schools of Tibetan Buddhism. Although you may not be familiar with the name, the Geluk school is the most influential school of Buddhism, counting the Dalai Lama as its most influential teacher.