181km (112 miles) S of Xining, 107km (66 miles) NW of Xiahe. Altitude: 2,400m (4,872 ft.)
Tongren is at the center of a major revival in Tibetan art, particularly in sculpture and the painting of appliqued thangkas (silk paintings). Although viewed by both Lhasa and Beijing as being on the periphery of the Tibetan world, a number of monks were arrested here during the 2008 protests and historically, locals remember their crucial role in the Sino-Tibetan peace treaty, signed in 822. The treaty is still marked by the Lurol Festival, held in the middle of the sixth lunar month. With fertility dances and body piercing, it has a pagan feel. Monks are not allowed to attend. The major Buddhist festival is held from the 5th to the 12th days of the first lunar month, with debates, religious dancing, and the unveiling of large thangkas moving between the main temples of Sengeshong Gompa, Gomar Gompa, and Rongpo Gompa. The town itself is drab; nearly all the sites of interest are located several miles north.