In a remote section of Gansu Province, 1200 monks gather year round in the shadow of the Labrang Monastery, one of the holiest Tibetan Buddhist sites outside the borders of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. After riots and protests in recent years, the government in Beijing has set a strict limit to the number of monks allowed in the city, which is nestled between mountaintops on either side. The monks stay there to study the religion and also prepare for the annual Monlam Festival, a week-long set of ceremonies and rituals that’s connected with the Lunar New Year. During the festival, tourists and believers crowd the streets to watch the monks, of the Gelug or “Yellow Hat” order, take part in ceremonies and unveil a gigantic painting of Buddha on a nearby hillside. Monks work on the painting for an entire year, and then display it for about 45 minutes before taking it away again.