Dege (Tibetan:Dêgê - Mandarin Chinese: 德格; Dégé), is in Sichuan Province in south-west China. The city is famous for its Tibetan lamasery which hosts an invaluable treasure of wooden printing blocks with Tibetan Buddhist texts. Historically, it belongs to the ancient Tibetan province of Kham and lies at an elevation of 3100 meters, (10,170 ft).
Sharing its destiny with Kangding, Dégé's location in a narrow valley and the resulting lack of space has led to a total demolition of the town's original center and its rebuilding with high, distasteful tiled generic Han Chinese-style architecture. Nevertheless the surrounding quarters on the valley's slopes still preserve the old Tibetan traditions including the temple complex that contains a maze of wonderful old style wooden Tibetan buildings just up the road from the temple complex.
Dege lies as the last town on the provincial border of Sichuan across from the T.A.R. It is a last stop before the wild Sichuan-Tibet highway leaves West Sichuan and if heading from the east requires a grueling day trip from Ganzi over a 5050 meter pass, well worth the incredible views alone.
The paved parts of the road leading up from Ganzi are in disrepair with many potholes, while the part over the 5050m Tro La pass is dirt track of rubble in particularly bad condition. The amazing scenery somewhat pays off for the ordeal as you pray you don't go over the edge! As of June 2012, the entire length of the Ganzi-Dege road is under construction (in the process of being paved), and most of it is still in very rough condition.
Reconstruction work on the Kanding (Dartsedo) to Ganzi highway (G317 / S303) is complete (2014). Dege to Kanding is now a one day journey by bus. Chengdu to Dege can be done in one day by 4-wheel drive vehicle but be warned of altitude sickness. Recommended to stop at least one night in Kanding to acclimatise. As of 2014 there is a tunnel being constructed under the Tro La. Purported to be the worlds highest tunnel and 7 kilometers long.
Derge gGon Chen monastery was founded in 1446 by Yogis Hang Stong Rgyal Po and the first local king Bo. It doubled as palace for the kings, but is most famous for being one of the cradles of Tibetan Buddhist study and practice. Unfortunately, there are only a few old buildings remaining and the newer ones are particularly ugly. Head farther uphill from the Printing Yard along the river following a Chörten-studded road. The entrance to the main temple is in the big red building on the left.
The Dege Buddhist Scriptures Printing House [Tib.: Derge Parkhang] is independent from the monastery and is the first substantial building you'll encounter walking south from the town's center along the stream. The Printing House is in a beautiful traditional temple which was restored in 1991. It is constantly circambulated by townspeople and pilgrims. Admission fee is ¥50/person, and normally photography of the sections with the printing blocks is not allowed, though you can take pictures of the printing process. It is always worth asking your guide if it's allowed to take a particular photograph as the rules change from time to time. The institution was founded in 1729 by Chogyal (dharma king) Denba Tsering. There are more than 140,000 printing blocks, a large collection of national cultural relics and a library comprising 830 books consisting of 10000 volumes. The last surviving copy of an old history of Indian Buddhism is amongst them. As the pamphlet you are handed puts it: "This bright cultural pearl is the crystallization of the wisdom of the Tibetan people living in snow realm.". Inside you can wander the corridor lined with shelves accommodating the printing blocks, their handles protruding. on the 3rd floor there is the workshop. 6 or 7 pairs of workers ink the blocks and press the paper on them with amazing speed. On the next floor, the prints are dried and then assembled to books. In an extra chamber, large format pictures and scripts are printed on cloth. From the roof you have nice views over the surrounding Tibetan neighbourhood and the new town. A tour of the dark temple concludes the visit.
From the Printing House head west into the old quarter and follow a path leading down to the river. Hidden within a maze of traditional houses you will find the Tangtang Gyalpo Lhakhang, a tiny temple. Most any time of day you can find monks inside chanting scripture.
Plenty of small restaurants are to be found downtown. Some places offer skewered vegetables and kebabs which are barbecued using lots of spices. There are a couple of bakeries selling Baba-Bread and dumplings on the road leading to the monastery.
De Ge Hotel is the low-budget sibling of the Que Er Shan. It offers simple rooms starting at ¥20 per bed in a triple. Toilets are ok, but you'll have to go to the Que Er Shan Hotel just opposite for showers (¥5 extra charge)
(Information as of 21 June 2005)
The building separating the “Bus Station yard“ from the road also houses a Golden Yak hotel. Despite the golden pillars adorning the portico, a bed in a seldom filled up triple dorm costs ¥25 and the rooms are tidy. There are also rooms with attached bathroom for ¥120. Prices are negotiable. The shared facilities are clean for Chinese standards, but there is an extra ¥5 for using the hot shower. The hotel has a bar on the 2nd floor.
(Information as of 21 June 2005)
Gesan Tibetan Hotel. From the main street, cross the northern bridge and find the place just on your right. No price information available.
(Information as of 21 June 2005)
Jiao Tong Guest House - This clean, comfortable and newly refurbished guesthouse is run by a very friendly pair of women. Doubles, 2, 3 ,4 and 5-bed rooms for ¥20/person in winter. Clean toilets and hot shower. From the higher bridge head upstream on the left side of the river on the elevated path. The stairwell is just a 10 metres away and the guesthouse is up one floor. 27 January 2008.
Beware of altitude sickness if travelling here straight from the Sichuan Province lowlands/basin. Also beware the numerous stray dogs. Beggars near the bridge and riverside are quite aggressive in comparison to China and its Tibetan regions in general (including trained children); however nothing one yuan won't do. Dege is subject to travel bans to foreigners during times deemed sensitive by the Chinese government, so if you are a foreigner and you are allowed in, you will be safer if you keep any sympathies you may have for the Tibetan independence movement to yourself.
Banking - There is an Agricultural Bank of China but with ATM, but it does not accept foreign credit or bank cards (Sep 2013).
Internet - For a clean and professional internet bar go to the second floor of the large building next to the lower bridge. The stairwell faces on to the north-side of the bridge road. ¥3/hour. 28 January 2008.
Post Office - There is a China Post but it appears to permanently closed. 28 January 2008. Open for business in March 2010.