The remote settlement located in the Larung Valley, Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China
The thousands of tiny homes sprawled up the mountainside form one of the world's largest Buddhist institutes
By AMANDA WILLIAMS
Nestled amid the rolling mountains, deep within the Larung Gar Valley, thousands of tiny wooden homes form one of the world's largest Buddhist institutes.
The remote but sprawling settlement is found at elevations of 12,500ft and is home to over 40,000 monks, nuns and religious students.
It is located in the Larung Valley, Serthar County of Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, in China.
It is said to have sprung up from a handful of settlers into the sprawling town that now occupies vast areas of hilly terrain.
At the focal point is a giant Buddhist monastery - the Serthar Buddhist Institute - with a huge wall separating the monks from the nuns.
The homes are predominantly made out of wood. Each one is built so close to the next that they all begin to merge into rows of homes.
But the one to three roomed dwellings do not have their own toilets - instead communal ones have been built for the 40,000 plus residents.
Japanese photographer Shinya Itahana, 33, visited the Larung Gar Valley a number of times to capture the eye-catching town in both summer and winter.
He said: 'It is a very welcoming place as long as you do not disturb the peaceful atmosphere. It has become a bit of a tourist attraction - not just with pilgrims but some foreigners too.'
Reaching the picturesque hillside town is not an easy task, with the nearest large city, Chengdu, being located around 400 miles away.
The journey by car can take around 13 - 15 hours. Shinya added: 'During the winter months it can take longer, around a day, because the road conditions are so poor.'
But that has not stopped people flooding to the Buddhist institute to study Tibetan Buddhism.
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