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Relatively recent arrivals themselves, the Sherpas migrated from Kham in Eastern Tibet only about three hundred years ago, since when they have established their cultural stronghold around Tengboche monastery. The monastery is the most renowned Buddhist gompa outside Tibet, and commands breathtaking views south to Tamserku and Kan Tega, east to Ama Dablam, and north to Nuptse, Lhotse and Everest itself. Destroyed by earthquake and fire over the years, the monastery has recently been lavishly rebuilt with generous donations from all around the world. The monks of Tengboche follow the Nyingma-pa tradition of tantric Buddhism and their annual festival of masked dances and drama, Mani Rimdu, takes place over the full moon of the ninth month in the Tibetan calendar, usually in November. Tourists flock to witness this spectacular and colourful pageant.
A similar spectacle takes place in Thame village, usually in May. A large conservation area of 114,800 hectares, the Sagarmatha National Park was created within the Solu Khumbu in 1976. Just over two thirds of the park is barren land, the rest being under forest or used for grazing. The lower reaches of the park (around 3000m) are forested with blue pine, fir and fir-juniper, changing to birch and rhododendron about 3600m. Higher still, between 3800m and 4000m, the vegetation changes from juniper and low rhododendron scrub, through grassland and dwarf shrubs above 4500m, and on to cushion plants from 5,500m to 6,000m. Within these different altitudinal variations, primulas, clematis, buckthorn, cotoneaster, shrubby cinquefoil, gentians, edelweiss, fritillaries, lilies and Himalayan blue poppies flourish, in addition to lichens, mosses, dwarf grasses and sedges which grow at the higher levels. Apparently due to the geologically recent origin of the Himalaya and other evolutionary factors, and also as a result of human activities, the park has comparatively few mammals, amongst the larger of which are the common langur monkey, jackal, Himalayan black bear, lesser panda, Himalayan musk deer, Indian muntjac, Himalayan tahr, and the legendary and elusive snow leopard. Smaller mammals include the short-tailed mole, marmot, pika and woolly hare. The bird population encompasses 152 species, 36 of which are breeding species for which Nepal may hold internationally significant populations.
The park is important for a number of birds which breed at high altitudes, such as the blood pheasant, robin accentor, white-throated redstart, and rosefinch. The park's small lakes, are used as migratory staging points, and over 19 species of water bird have been recorded there. About a dozen species of amphibians and reptiles occur in the park, with about 30 species of butterfly, including the orange and silver mountain hopper which has not been recorded elsewhere in Nepal, and the rare Common-red Apollo.