Mapam Yumco Lake lies 20 km southeast of Mt Kailash and is north to Namnani Peak. It is the highest freshwater lake in the world. With an altitude of 4,588 meters, the lake covers an area of 412 sq. km and has a maximum depth of 70 meters.
Mapam Yumco in Tibetan means the “eternal and invincible jade lake,” named to mark the victory of Buddhism over the local Bon Religion in the 11tth century. Xuan Zang (600-664), an eminent monk of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), described Mapam Yumco Lake in his book Records of Western Travels as “a jade pond in west”.
Mapam Yumco enjoys a reputation equal to the holy mountain. Mapam Yumco Lake once appeared in many religious records and legends. Indian legend claims it to be a place where Siva and his wife Goddess Woma, daughter of the Himalayas, bathed. Tibetan legend claims it to be where the God Guangcanlong lived. In Buddhist scriptures, the lake is named the “mother of the rivers in the world”.
There used to be nine monasteries surrounding the lake. Gyiwu Monastery and Curgu Monastery are the best known of them.
The area surrounding Curgu Monastery is respected as a holy and pure bathing place. Buddhist followers believe that the water here can wash away “five malignancies of the human soul (greed, anger, craziness, sloth and jealousy)” and can remove filth from human skin. As a result, the holy lake is crowded with people who come to take a bath every year. These people also carry samples of water from the holy lake back home for their relatives and friends.
The Main Attractions:
There are four bathing gates in the holy lake: the Gate of Lotus Baths in the east, the Gate of Sweat Baths in the south, the Gate of Filth-Removing Baths in the west, and the Gate of Belief Baths in the north. The holy lake also has four water heads: Maquanhe River in the east, Shiquanhe River in the north, Xiangquanhe River in the west, and the Peacock (Kongquehe in Chinese) River in the south. Mapam Yumco Lake’s reputation as mother of the rivers in the world was probably thus established.
As is recorded in Gangdise Records, the Tibetan ancient book, there was a dragon palace in Mapam Yumco Lake, where numerous treasures were gathered. If the pilgrims circumambulate the lake or if they get a small fish, a small stone, or a piece of feather of the bird, they get largess from the Dragon King (the sea and rain god in Chinese mythology). Buddhist followers believe that water here can wash away “five malignancies of the human soul” and can remove filth from human skin and purify the soul. It is also a holy place in Hinduism.