狮泉河镇 · ནག་ཆུ་གྲོང་རྡལ།
The main square in Shiquanhe
Coordinates (Shiquanhe town government): 32°29′35″N 80°06′06″E / 32.4930°N 80.1017°E / 32.4930; 80.1017Coordinates: 32°29′35″N 80°06′06″E / 32.4930°N 80.1017°E / 32.4930; 80.1017
CountryPeople's Republic of China
RegionTibet Autonomous Region
4,255 m (13,960 ft)
Time zoneUTC+8 (CST)
Postal code
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese獅泉河

Shiquanhe (Chinese: 狮泉河镇; lit. 'Lion Spring River Town'), known in Tibetan as Sênggêkanbab (Tibetan: སེང་གེ་ཁ་འབབ་, Wylie: seng ge kha 'bab, THL: seng gé kha bap) or Sênggêzangbo, is the main town and administrative seat of Ngari Prefecture,[1] Tibet Autonomous Region, China. Shiquanhe is located on the bank of Sênggê Zangbo, the main headwater of the Indus River, close to its confluence with the Gartang River.


This modern Chinese-built town is named after the Sengge Zangbo river, the main headwater of the Indus River, on whose banks it is located. It is called "Sengge Zangbo" or "Sengge Khabab" in Tibetan and "Shiquanhe" in Chinese.[a]

Being the headquarters of Ngari Prefecture (which is known in Chinese under the Sinicized form of its name, Ali Prefecture), the town is also commonly known in English as Ngari or Ali (Chinese: 阿里; pinyin: Ālǐ) Town; this is what many guidebooks use as the primary name for the town.[2] In Tibetan, Ngari is only the name for the prefecture, and not the town.

Being the county seat of the Gar County, it is also referred to as Gar (simplified Chinese: 噶尔; traditional Chinese: 噶爾; pinyin: Ga'er). it may be labeled that way on maps.[3]


A view of the northern hill slopes from Shiquanhe; A giant PLA emblem is imprinted on the hillside on the left
A view of the northern hill slopes from Shiquanhe; A giant PLA emblem is imprinted on the hillside on the left

When the Ngari Prefecture was established by the People's Republic of China in 1959, its capital was at Günsa (or Gar Gunsa), at the settlement called Gar Chongsar (སྒར་གྲོང་གསར), which is now the location of the Ngari Gunsa Airport. It was moved from Günsa to Shiquanhe in 1965, due to the extremely difficult living conditions at the former. At that time, Shiquanhe's population was merely 400.[1]

Shiquanhe is a modern Chinese-style town, situated at the confluence of the Sengge River and the Longchu River.[4] According to a government-affiliated source, the population of Shiquanhe had grown from just over 1,500 to over 20,000 in 30 years (1978–2008), and people there now "enjoy their life because the city has been equipped with culture and commerce facilities".[5] Western guidebook writers have referred to the place as a "concrete monstrosity of a town".[2]

Shiquange has a lion statue in the middle of the town.[2] It has high-rise buildings, restaurants, general stores and nightclubs.[4] There are several primary schools and a secondary school.[1] It also has two banks, one of which, the Agricultural Bank of China, near the army post west of the roundabout, has foreign exchange facilities. There is also a post and telecom office.[2]


Sketch map of Gar and Sengge valleys, Henry Strachey, 1851
Sketch map of Gar and Sengge valleys, Henry Strachey, 1851

Even though Shiquanhe is a modern town, its location has been of some importance in the history. Not only is it situated in a wide valley of Sengge Zangbo with an abudance of cultivable land, it also lies along a trade route between Gar Gunsa and Rudok, which continues on to Ladakh in the west via the Pangong Lake, and to Lhasa in the east via Mayum La. The location was historically known as Rala. (See Strachey's map.)

During the Tibetan Era of Fragmentation in the 10th century, Kyide Nyimagon, a descendant of emperor Langdarma, escaped to Ngari in the midst of a chaotic situation in Central Tibet and established a kingdom. He is said to have started by building a Kharmar (reddish fort) at Rala.[6] Later he expanded into the Sutlej Valley and Burang by marrying a princess of Burang.[7] This kingdom came to be known as Guge-Purang.

By the 17th century, Ladakh annexed the entire kingdom of Guge and invited retaliation from Central Tibet under the 5th Dalai Lama. The large of army of Galdan Chhewang, Tibet's general, encamped in the Gar Valley.[8] The first clash with the Ladakhi forces took place near the confluence of the Gartang and Sengge Zangbo, with the locations Langmar and Rala mentioned in the sources.[9] The Ladakhis were defeated and Galdan Chhewang pursued them to Ladakh, leading to the Tibet–Ladakh–Mughal War and the Treaty of Tingmosgang.


Ngari Gunsa Airport, near the town of Shiquanhe, started operations on 1 July 2010, becoming the fourth civil airport in Tibet.[10]

Air China's southwestern branch will operate flight services from Chengdu to Lhasa and on to Ngari – a total of 2,300 km (1,400 mi) – every Tuesday and Friday. "The flight leaves Chengdu at 5:50 AM and arrives at Lhasa two hours later," Bao Lida, a company press official was quoted as saying. "It leaves Lhasa at 8:40 AM and arrives at Ngari at 10:20 AM." the 1,098 km (682 mi) Lhasa-Ngari flight service would start from 2,590 yuan (About US $400). The report said Air China expects to transport 50-60 passengers in winter and 20-30 passengers in summer during each flight service.[11]


Shiquanhe has a cold desert climate (Köppen climate classification: BWk) with short, very mild summers and very cold, dry winters.

Climate data for Shiquanhe (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 6.4
Average high °C (°F) −4.1
Daily mean °C (°F) −12.0
Average low °C (°F) −19.7
Record low °C (°F) −36.6
Average precipitation mm (inches) 1.6
Average relative humidity (%) 36 33 31 29 30 31 39 43 36 27 24 31 33
Source: China Meteorological Administration[12]

Shiquanhe Observatory

China, Japan, and South Korea are currently entertaining plans to construct a large high-altitude observatory on a ridge 25 km (16 mi) south of Shiquanhe, which was selected after a series of site surveys through Tibet and western China for candidate sites. Atmospheric conditions from the site's elevation 5,050 m (16,570 ft) above sea level have been roughly characterized, initial facilities (including two small domes) have been built, and a 25 cm pathfinder telescope project is in place as of 2012, with 50 and 60 cm telescopes planned for 2013 and 2014 and a 3 m telescope in the indefinite future: but the ambitions for the site include the possibilities of megaprojects like a 30 m-class competitor to E-ELT and a 10–20 m class spectrometer as a sequel to LAMOST.[13][unreliable source?][14]

Also planned for the site[15] is the Ali CMB Polarization Telescope (AliCPT) for studying the polarization of the cosmic microwave background.[16] This location is, during winter, as high and dry (and thus good for observations as) the South Pole location of the similar BICEP and Keck Array telescopes,[15] with the tremendous logistical advantage of being 30 minutes' drive from the airport and city.[16]: 7 

Construction has begun on the telescope, codenamed Ngari No.1, and it is expected to enter operations in 2021.[17]


  1. ^ The name Shiquanhe is originally the name of the river; in Tibetan, it is Sengge Zangbo (in SASM/GNC/SRC transcriptions, sometimes simply Senge Zangbo),[1] Senge Zangbu (森格藏布) or Sengghe Tsangpo (in a transcription used in Western books).[2] The source of that river, a hot spring supposedly resembles a lion's mouth; hence the name, interpreted as "river flowing from lion's mouth".[1][2]


  1. ^ a b c d e Liao, Dongfan (2001), Ngari, Tibetan Local Series Picture Books (in French), Wuzhou Communications Pub., pp. 14–18, ISBN 7-80113-835-X (This book uses SASM/GNC/SRC transcriptions)
  2. ^ a b c d e f Buckley, Michael (2006), Tibet, Bradt Travel Guide (2nd ed.), Bradt Travel Guides, pp. 222–223, ISBN 1-84162-164-1
  3. ^ E.g. 秀荣·杜 (2008). 使用中国地图集 [Practical Atlas of China]. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-7-5031-4772-2.
  4. ^ a b Dorje, Gyurme (1999), Footprint Tibet Handbook with Bhutan (2nd ed.), Bath: Footprint Handbooks, p. 1151, ISBN 0-8442-2190-2 – via
  5. ^ Chen Jiang, Town: From small village to modern town, China Tibet news, 23 December 2008. Archived July 21, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ Ahmad, Zahiruddin (1963), "Tibet and Ladakh: A History", Far Eastern Affairs, St. Antony's Papers, vol. 14, Chatto & Windus, p. 36
  7. ^ Fisher, Margaret W.; Rose, Leo E.; Huttenback, Robert A. (1963), Himalayan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ladakh, Praeger, p. 18 – via
  8. ^ Petech, Luciano (1977), The Kingdom of Ladakh, c. 950–1842 A.D. (PDF), Instituto Italiano Per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, p. 76 – via
  9. ^ Petech, Luciano (September 1947), "The Tibetan-Ladakhi Moghul War of 1681-83", The Indian Historical Quarterly, 23 (3): 178 – via
  10. ^ "Tibet's fourth civil airport opens". Archived from the original on 14 December 2010. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Ngari airport declared open", Tibetan Review, 2 July 2010, archived from the original on 9 July 2010
  12. ^ 中国气象数据网 - WeatherBk Data (in Chinese (China)). China Meteorological Administration. Retrieved 16 April 2020.
  13. ^ "China invites Japan and South Korea to build observatory in disputed Shiquanhe (Aksai Chin)". Haohao Report. 2013. Archived from the original on 17 February 2015.
  14. ^ Stone, Richard (7 September 2012). "World-Class Observatory Rising on 'Roof of the World'". Science. 337 (6099): 1156–1157. Bibcode:2012Sci...337.1156S. doi:10.1126/science.337.6099.1156. PMID 22955808.
  15. ^ a b Yifang, Wang. The Quest of Infinity. CityU Distinguished Lecture Series. City University of Hong Kong. 42 minutes in.
  16. ^ a b Li, Yong-Ping; Liu, Yang; Li, Si-Yu; Li, Hong; Zhang, Xinmin (27 November 2017). "Tibet's Ali: A New Window to Detect the CMB Polarization". arXiv:1709.09053 [astro-ph.IM].
  17. ^ Xinhua News Agency (7 January 2017). "China to set up gravitational wave telescopes in Tibet". China Daily. Archived from the original on 12 January 2017. Construction has started for the first telescope, code-named Ngari No.1, 30 km south of Shiquanhe Town in Ngari Prefecture, said Yao Yongqiang, chief researcher with the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The telescope, located 5,250 meters above sea level, will detect and gather precise data on primordial gravitational waves in the Northern Hemisphere. It is expected to be operational by 2021.