Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture

Coordinates: 31°54′N 102°13′E / 31.90°N 102.22°E / 31.90; 102.22
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Aba Prefecture
阿坝州 · རྔ་བ་ཁུལ། · Rrmeabba Legea
阿坝藏族羌族自治州 · རྔ་བ་བོད་རིགས་ཆ་བ༹ང་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ · Rrmeabba Shbea Rrmea Nyujwju Gvexueaj Legea
Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture
Jiuzhaigou National Park
Ngawa-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (top centre) in Sichuan
Ngawa-Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (top centre) in Sichuan
Coordinates (Ngawa Prefecture government): 31°54′N 102°13′E / 31.90°N 102.22°E / 31.90; 102.22
Prefecture seatBarkam (Barkam Town)
 • TypeAutonomous prefecture
 • CCP SecretaryXu Zhivin
 • Congress ChairmanLuo Zhenhua
 • GovernorYang Kening
 • CPPCC ChairmanNyima Mu
 • Total83,201 km2 (32,124 sq mi)
 • Total895,200
 • Density11/km2 (28/sq mi)
 • Major Ethnic Groups
Qiang- 18.5%
 • TotalCN¥ 26.5 billion
US$ 4.3 billion
 • Per capitaCN¥ 28,647
US$ 4,599
Time zoneUTC+08:00 (China Standard)
Area code0837
ISO 3166 codeCN-SC-32
License Plate Prefix川U
WebsiteAba China
Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese阿坝藏族羌族自治州
Traditional Chinese阿壩藏族羌族自治州
Abbreviated as "Aba Prefecture"
Simplified Chinese阿坝州
Traditional Chinese阿壩州
Tibetan name

Ngawa Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, also known as Aba (Tibetan: རྔ་བ་བོད་རིགས་དང་ཆང་རིགས་རང་སྐྱོང་ཁུལ་, Wylie: rnga ba bod rigs cha'ang rigs rang skyong khul; Qiang: Rrmeabba Shbea Rrmea Nyujwju Gvexueaj Legea; simplified Chinese: 阿坝藏族羌族自治州; traditional Chinese: 阿壩藏族羌族自治州), is an autonomous prefecture of northwestern Sichuan, bordering Gansu to the north and northeast and Qinghai to the northwest. Its seat is in Barkam, and it has an area of 83,201 km2 (32,124 sq mi). The population was 895,200 by 2022.[2]

The county of Wenchuan in Ngawa is the site of the epicenter of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, in which over 20,000 of its residents died and 40,000 were injured.

History and names[edit]

During the reign of Tibet's king Trisong Deutsen in the 8th century, the Gyalrong area was visited by the great translator Vairotsana.

In 1410 Je Tsongkhapa's student Tshakho Ngawang Tapa established the first Tibetan Buddhist Gelug school monastery in the area, called "Gyalrong".

In contemporary history, most of Ngawa was under the 16th Administrative Prefecture of Szechwan (四川省第十六行政督察區), which was established by the Republic of China (ROC).[3]

The People's Republic of China defeated ROC troops in this area during Chinese Civil war and subsequently established a Tibetan autonomous prefecture by late 1952. It was renamed Aba Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in 1956 and Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in 1987.[4]

On May 12, 2008, a major earthquake occurred in Wenchuan County (Tibetan: ལུང་དགུ་, Wylie: lung dgu), a county in the southeastern part of this autonomous prefecture. 20,258 people were killed, 45,079 injured, 7,696 missing in the prefecture as of June 6, 2008.[5][6]

In 2009, the town of Ngaba in Ngawa prefecture became the self-immolation capital of the world.[7] From 2009 to 2019, more than 60 of Tibet's total 156 self-immolations occurred in Ngaba.[8] By 2020, the town's entrances were barricaded and surveillance cameras installed, with some 50,000 security personnel for the town's population of 15,000.

In 2008, Aba county was stripped of its internet connections. Internet access in the prefecture remains severely restricted as of 2013.[9]


Most of the prefecture lies in the Tibetan cultural and historical region of Amdo. The west, and part of Kardze, is also known as Gyalrong. Gyalrong people speak a Qiangic language known as Gyalrong language. The source of the Min River and its tributary Dadu River are to be found in Ngawa.


As of 2013, the prefecture's population was 919,987 inhabitants at a density of 10.91 per km2:[10]

Ethnic group Population Proportion
of total
Tibetan 489,747 57.3%
Han 220,353 20.6%
Qiang 157,905 18.6%
Hui 26,353 3.3%
Yi 685 0.08%
Manchu 373 0.04%
Miao 266 0.03%
Mongols 202 0.02%
Tujia 182 0.02%
Bai 101 0.01%
Zhuang 95 0.01%
others 278 0.03%


Major languages spoken in Aba Prefecture include Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese and many vernaculars of the Qiangic languages which vary from county to county:

In April 2020, classroom instruction was switched from Tibetan to Mandarin Chinese in Ngaba.[11]

Administrative divisions[edit]

The region is composed of one county-level city and twelve counties:

# Name Hanzi Pinyin Tibetan Wylie Qiang Population
(2010 Census)
Area (km2) Density
1 Barkam City
(Ma'erkang City)
马尔康市 Mǎ'ěrkāng Shì འབར་ཁམས་གྲོང་ཁྱེར། 'bar khams rdzong Muerkvua shi 58,437 6,639 8.80
2 Wenchuan County 汶川县 Wènchuān Xiàn ལུང་དགུ་རྫོང་། / ཁྲི་ཚང་རྫོང་། lung dgu rdzong / khri tshang rdzong 100,771 4,083 24.68
3 Li County 理县 Lǐ Xiàn བཀྲ་ཤིས་གླིང་། bkra shis gling pauɕuq 46,556 4,318 10.78
4 Mao County 茂县 Mào Xiàn མའོ་ཝུན། ma'o wun ʂqini 104,829 4,075 25.72
5 Songpan County 松潘县 Sōngpān Xiàn ཟུང་ཆུ་རྫོང་། zung chu rdzong 72,309 8,486 8.52
6 Jiuzhaigou County 九寨沟县 Jiǔzhàigōu Xiàn གཟི་རྩ་སྡེ་དགུ་རྫོང་། gzi rtsa sde dgu rdzong 81,394 5,286 15.39
7 Jinchuan County 金川县 Jīnchuān Xiàn ཆུ་ཆེན་རྫོང་། chu chen rdzong 65,976 5,524 11.94
8 Xiaojin County 小金县 Xiǎojīn Xiàn བཙན་ལྷ་རྫོང་། btsan lha rdzong 77,731 5,571 13.95
9 Heishui County 黑水县 Hēishuǐ Xiàn ཁྲོ་ཆུ་རྫོང་། khro chu rdzong khǝtʂǝp 60,704 4,154 14.61
10 Zamtang County
(Rangtang County)
壤塘县 Rǎngtáng Xiàn འཛམ་ཐང་རྫོང་། 'dzam thang rdzong 39,173 6,836 5.73
11 Ngawa County
(Aba County)
阿坝县 Ābà Xiàn རྔ་བ་རྫོང་། rnga ba rdzong Ggabba 72,391 10,435 6.93
12 Zoigê County
(Ruo'ergai County)
若尔盖县 Ruò'ěrgài Xiàn མཛོད་དགེ་རྫོང་། mdzod dge rdzong 74,619 10,437 7.14
13 Hongyuan County 红原县 Hóngyuán Xiàn རྐ་ཁོག་རྫོང་། / ཁྱུང་མཆུ་རྫོང་། rka khog rdzong / khyung mchu rdzong 43,818 8,398 5.21

Though situated within Wenchuan County, Wolong National Nature Reserve and Wolong Special Administrative Region are administered separately by the Forestry Department of Sichuan.


Taxi fare for Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport in Ngawa prefecture

The prefecture is served by Hongyuan Airport in the west and Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport in the east. Private taxis can be hired from these airports. Jiuzhaigou Train Station is under construction 55 km (34 mi) north-west of Jiuzhaigou County's town. The railway is to run between Chengdu and Lanzhou.


Songpan Bridge
Kirti Gompa
Aerial panorama of Waqie Talin 瓦切塔林 in Hongyuan county.
Aerial perspective of the Songpan Ancient City walls and fort. October 2023.

Tourism produced 71.0% of the GDP of the prefecture in 2006.[12] There are many places of interest in the prefecture, including


  1. ^ 四川省统计局、国家统计局四川调查总队 (September 2016). 《四川统计年鉴-2016》. 中国统计出版社. ISBN 978-7-5037-7871-1.
  2. ^ "阿坝藏族羌族自治州2022年国民经济和社会发展统计公报_阿坝藏族羌族自治州统计局" [Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture 2022 National Economic and Social Development Statistics]. 阿坝州统计局 (in Chinese). Retrieved 2024-02-05.
  3. ^ "Öйú°¢°ÓÖÝ". Archived from the original on 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  4. ^ 历史和民族. Ngawa Prefecture People's Government. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2018-08-13.
  5. ^ 伤亡汇报_四川汶川强烈地震_新闻中心_新浪网. (in Chinese (China)). 2008-06-02. Retrieved 2008-06-02.
  6. ^ 截至6月6日18时阿坝州地震灾区遇难人员达20258人 (in Chinese (China)). Ngawa Prefecture People's Government. 2008-06-07. Archived from the original on 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-07.
  7. ^ "The Chinese Town That Became the Self-Immolation Capital of the World". The New York Times. Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  8. ^ Tenchoe, Lobsang (2019-11-28). "Tibetan youth dies after self-immolation protest in restive Ngaba county". Retrieved 2023-11-22.
  9. ^ Beam, Christopher (2013-12-05), "Behind China's Cyber Curtain. Visiting the country's far reaches, where the government shut down the Internet", New Republic "Aba [county] was first stripped of its connection in 2008, after riots in Tibet led to unrest in this place known for its wide grasslands and Buddhist monasteries. Both mobile phone signals and the Web have been erratic ever since, coming back for months at a time only to disappear again, usually after a Tibetan monk sets him or herself on fire in protest. For example, the Internet returned last December and January and then, according to residents, disappeared again in February. With politically charged "incidents" occurring as recently as September, no one knows when—or if—the information blackout will end for good."
  10. ^ 基本州情 (in Chinese). Ngawa Prefecture People's Government. Archived from the original on 2017-08-03. Retrieved 2015-05-04.
  11. ^ Lobe Socktsang; Richard Finney. (9 April 2020). "Classroom Instruction Switch From Tibetan to Chinese in Ngaba Sparks Worry, Anger". Translated by Dorjee Damdul. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  12. ^ Ngawa Prefecture Government. 中国阿坝州. (in Simplified Chinese). Archived from the original on 2008-06-08. Retrieved 2008-05-30.

Further reading[edit]

  • A. Gruschke (2001) The Cultural Monuments of Tibet's Outer Provinces: Amdo - Volume 2. The Gansu and Sichuan Parts of Amdo. Bangkok: White Lotus Press ISBN 974-480-049-6
  • Tsering Shakya (1999) The Dragon in the Land of Snows.: a history of modern Tibet since 1947, London: Pimlico, 1999, ISBN 0-14-019615-3

External links[edit]