Thousands of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns gathered for the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma Assembly. The last of four annual assemblies, the week-long gathering takes place in the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar and marks Buddha's descent from the heavens.

The event was held at the Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in Sertar county, in the remote Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, China. It lies at an elevation of 4,000m (13,123ft). The nearest large city is Chengdu, about 650km away.

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The Larung Gar Buddhist Institute in the Larung Valley of Sertar county, in the remote Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province, ChinaKevin Frayer/Getty Images

Getty Images photographer Kevin Frayer, who has previously covered Tibetan Buddhist religious festivals and documented the challenges faced by nomads on the Tibetan Plateau, visited the institute. He told IBTimes UK: "This trip was part of an ongoing project looking at nomadic people on the Tibetan plateau. It is an incredible part of the world. Sertar sits in a valley at an altitude of about 4,000m and for most of the year the closest airport is at least a 12-hour drive away. The road is bumpy and long, but the place is breathtaking."

The institute was founded in 1980 by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, an influential lama of the Nyingma sect. Despite its remote location, it grew from just a handful of disciples meeting at Khenpo's house, and is now the world's largest and most influential centre for Tibetan Buddhist studies.

The institute houses up to 40,000 monks and nuns, who come to study various schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Chinese authorities have imposed a perimeter road, outside which construction is not permitted. Houses for monks and nuns continue to be added within the perimeter, packed tightly in the valley and surrounding mountains. A road winds through the middle of the settlement, separating the male and female encampments.

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Monks walk along a road at the heLarung Gar Buddhist InstituteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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The homes of Tibetan Buddhist nuns and monks are packed tightly together on a hillside at the Larung Gar InstituteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist woman carries her son in the crowd on a hillside overlooking the Larung Gar Buddhist InstituteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad woman prostrates herself at a monastery during the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist woman prostrates herself at a monasteryKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad listens during the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist nomads sit on a hillside during the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma Assembly at the Larung Gar Buddhist InstituteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist monks pray during a chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad prays during a chanting session as part of the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad carries his daughter in the crowd on a hillsideKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns make tea from yak butter and milk before a morning chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A man walks through smoke from juniper, which is burned as a blessingKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist nomads cook and stay warm around a fire as dusk fallsKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist nomads drink tea at dusk following a chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist nuns prepare butter lamps during the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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An elderly Tibetan Buddhist monk prays with lay people on a hillside during a morning chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad boy is seen at the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad woman prepares tea at dusk following a chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist monk prays during the annual Utmost Bliss Dharma AssemblyKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist woman wears traditional stones in her hairKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist monk tries to keep warm in sub-zero temperatures before a chanting sessionKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhist nuns read a religious book in their tent at a campsiteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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A Tibetan Buddhist nomad reads a religious book by candlelight in his tentKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Men carry the body of a relative as they walk around a monastery before taking it for sky burialKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Vultures that consume the bodies of the dead in a traditional ritual called sky burial fly over the crowd during a funeral near the Larung Gar Buddhist InstituteKevin Frayer/Getty Images
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Tibetan Buddhists visit the Temple of Death, a tourist site decorated with fake skulls built at the sky burial area Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Frayer said the Utmost Bliss Dharma Assembly "was the final prayer of four in the year so it was significant. There were thousands of people; monks, nuns and lay people listening to recitations and attending chanting sessions. There was no pageantry like other Tibetan Buddhist rituals, but people seemed happy. For many of them it was a pilgrimage that they made on foot and they camped. It was special to be able to see it."