China
Tibet Autonomous Region

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  • Oct15

    A Different World

    October 15, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 15 °C

    Tibet is on the opposite side of the world, but it might as well be on a different planet. Today we visited a house where the same short prayer is recited for two hours daily in a family chapel built into the house. We ate yak meat and sipped yak butter tea. We heard a debate between Buddhist monks. We saw a temple whose side chapels contained statues to ancient kings that had been canonized. I asked a woman at the Jokang Temple, repeatedly prostrating herself before a statue of the Buhha how many times she had to kowtow. She said, “More than a thousand. Ten thousand, in fact.” That was just for this visit to the temple. Throughout her life she must do at least one hundred thousand prostrations or else she had no hope of improvement in the next life. Prayer wheels are spun by individuals until they get tired or otherwise occupied. Then their battery powered prayer wheels continue to spin and earn them merit. Sound recorders with endless loops offer mantras day and night. The gods like that too and offer benefits in exchange. We did all these things in a place that, according to the local residents, does not really exist. Culturally and intellectually I was forced to unhinge my preconceptions to enter a world with its own logic, its own assumptions and its own reality. I am not saying that the religion, government and society here are nonsense. Quite the contrary. Everything we saw makes sense, but only according to Tibetan rules. I can understand why Buddhists ask the classical question, “What is the sound of one hand clapping,” but I cannot understand the question itself. All reality is illusion, all matter is evil, all worry stems from excessive preoccupation with that which is not real. Even life itself is merely the continuation of life that has gone on before. Though the temples, monasteries and mountains here are stunning, so is Tibetan thought. In fact, despite the beautiful structures, art and people we saw today, perhaps the most stunning thing about Tibet is its cognitive and intellectual flexibility. In Tibet theology is not prose, it is, rather, poetry taken literally.Read more

  • Oct16

    Ceng Gu Buddhist Nunnery

    October 16, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 12 °C

    Shortly before he died some of his disciples asked the Buddha, “Teacher, shall we allow women into our number or not?” Gautama replied, “I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it, but, I don’t see why we shouldn’t.” So from the earliest days of the new religion, women were allowed on an equal footing with men. Today we went to visit a Buddhist nunnery located in a densely populated neighborhood in Lhasa. Before we reached the ornate ceremonial gate of the nunnery, however, we passed a number of shops selling women’s dresses, fruit and electric appliances.

    “These shops belong to the nuns,” my guide told me. “They raise money and it supports their work here in the community.”

    “What is their work,” I asked.

    “They have a small private school here, but their main work is to run their neighborhood clinic. They have a doctor trained in both traditional and modern medicine. Some of the nuns are nurses, other clean the facility, others are simply chore workers, but they do much good here.”

    A few more steps took me through an elaborate archway painted in ornate designs of blue and gold. It led to a plain courtyard whose main attraction was a tall staff that looked like a flagpole covered with a rainbow of prayer cloths. Tibetan Buddhists believe these colored, meter-square colored cloths represent prayers. They string them on lines draped from the top of the flagpole. Then at a religious celebration, the flagpole is twisted, and it becomes a color clad monument to the prayers they have offered.

    As I passed by an open door I saw that the nuns were filling a need in this poor community. A room full of older adults and children waited to see the doctor. We happened to arrive at lunchtime when the nuns were eating their common midday meal. The first red-robed figure I saw looked like a boy with shaved head. Then I saw that the monk had a beautiful face, and I realized that she was a nun, maybe sixteen years of age. I saw others whose gender was hard to determine. Nevertheless, they welcomed us with smiles and had already given our guide permission to allow us to photograph them at their meal. On several instances my eye caught that of a nun. Whenever that happened she would smile. I would nod, and she would return the greeting.

    Whatever their religion, I feel that God must be very pleased with the work these women are doing to help their neighbors. I can only guess what effect they may be having on the people in their poor community, but I know they certainly had an effect on me.
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  • Oct16

    Potala Palace--The Lost World

    October 16, 2019 in China ⋅ 🌙 0 °C

    The Potala Palace was built in the eighth century and destroyed in the eleventh. It was rebuilt and stands today perched high upon its mountain. The 1.7 mile climb up is arduous but worth the effort. Unfortunately photographs were not allowed inside the former residence of the Dalai Lama. Even so, the pictures we were allowed to take on the outside of the building were remarkable. Until 1959 this was the home of the spiritual and political leader of Tibet, but when the fourteenth Dalai Lama was unwilling to embrace Maoism, he was spirited away by some of his followers across the border to India, where he set up a government in exile.

    The inside of the building is dark, smoke-filled with incense and festooned with colorful flags, pennants and banners hanging down from the roof and the rafters. Prayer wheels line the hallway leading to the Dalai Lama’s quarters. In his sitting room along the sides of the floors are colorful khangs, shin-high couches with velvet covered cushions. Some cushions are deep blue, burgundy, or even burnt orange. The thick incense smoke chokes visitors. Breathing is so difficult that the queue of tourists threading through the thirty rooms we saw stuffed handkerchiefs, scarves and masks over their noses. Dim, colored light trickles in through elaborately patterned stained-glass windows. A knee-high table holds a book, a prayer wheel, and a pair of glasses. Money from all over the world, offerings from devout worshippers, litters the floor in front of the table,. A display case holding a golden statue of the Buddha and two companion covers the entire opposite wall. The statue was two hundred years old when Jesus was born.

    Adjacent to this room is the library containing ancient books, translations from the original Sanskrit writings transported into Tibet centuries before Christ. These books themselves are quite old. Tibetan paper does not change color or become brittle over time, and in this dry climate can books last for millennia.

    Other dimly lit rooms hold more statues of the Buddha, some life-sized, some much larger. Always the thick cloud of incense almost obscures the view. Some statues are made of gold, others of lifelike polychrome ceramic. Some are smiling, others displaying fierce faces ward off evil. There are even female Buddhas, reminders that the Buddha has been reincarnated many times, sometimes as male, sometimes as female. These motherly goddesses called Tatas are especially adored by people who need a compassionate friend in the upper world.

    One of the most attractive rooms in the building is the assembly room. Here the Dalai Lama lectured his student for two hours each day. The room is large and comfortable, with palettes and khangs spread all around the floor. Narrow walkways wide enough only for a monk’s foot allow access to the center of the room. The ornate painted and carved ceiling is supported by square burgundy columns, smaller at the top than the bottom. The borders of each face of the two dozen identical columns display royal blue with gold painted trim. As in all the other rooms of the palace, the view is obscured by billowing clouds of incense smoke and tiny colored windows that make seeing difficult. Multicolored banners and prayer flags adorn the cushions on the floor and sag from the rafters above. The room is cluttered with them. Nearby in an adjacent room is a huge golden statue of the Buddha accompanied by famous Bodisattvas of history. Connecting rooms contain huge stupas covering the graves of other beloved teachers who were incarnated as the Dalai Lama.

    Eastern theology tends to be more poetic than prosaic, so one should not be surprised to learn that there has only been one Dalai Lama. He has been reincarnated, however, in fourteen different bodies. Yet, whenever and wherever he lives, the Dalai Lama is believed to be the same individual. The current Dalai Lama is over ninety years old. When he dies it will be interesting to see whether he names the person whose body will house his spirit in the next lifetime. Will he rule the government in exile in India? Will he live in the United States? Will his death mark the end of the Tibetan tradition of Buddhism. It will be interesting to see how all of these issues play out in years to come.
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  • Day11

    Leaving Nepal

    May 11, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ -3 °C

    Today was a big day up at 4.00 am to start our journey to Tibet.

    In the 4WD are 3 other people all very nice and seasoned backpackers. As you know John and I are more your 5 star travellers. Not sure where to start with today. We drove along for 9 hours on the worst roads or should I say tracks we have ever been on. I don't think I could really explain how bad it was.

    We then arrived at the Nepalese border and that was just unorganised. Our visa to enter China was a group one shared with travellers in another 4WD and they got stuck in a traffic jam so we had to wait 50 min or so for them to arrive and sort out our exit from Nepal. We then got back into the car for 5 min to the next check point where our bags are searched in a shack with dust everywhere. We then walked across the Chinese border in the dust and over rocks to the Chinese Immigration we paid $5US so a porter could carry our bag it was just awful and that is being polite.

    At the Chinese border we met our next tour guide, he seems OK but hard to understand. Then it is time for immigration to check our bags again the only thing that made this pleasant was the building was quite nice and no dust.

    Now in Tibet and 9 of us climb into a dirty minivan which is going to be our transport for the next 8 days. Oh the joys of backpacking, I keep telling myself it is all about the experience and the stories we can tell our children and grandchildren.
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  • Day11

    Tibet

    May 11, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Tibet is a remote Buddhist territory known as the "roof of the world" and is governed as a region of China.

    China claims the centuries old sovereignty over the Himalayan region but the allegiances of many Tibetans lie with the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, seen by his followers as a living god, but by China as a separatist threat.

    Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties.

    China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces.
    In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India.

    Most of Tibet's monasteries were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s during China's Cultural Revolution. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed during periods of repression and martial law.

    Under international pressure, China eased its grip on Tibet in the 1980s, introducing "Open Door" reforms and boosting investment.

    Buddhism reached Tibet in the seventh century. The Dalai Lama, or Ocean of Wisdom, is the leading spiritual figure and the Panchen Lama is the second most important figure. Both are seen as the reincarnations of their predecessors.

    Tibet's economy depends largely on tourism and agriculture. Forests and grasslands occupy large parts of the country. The territory is rich in minerals, but poor transport links have limited their exploitation
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  • Day12

    Kungthang La Pass

    May 12, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 8 °C

    The drive was lovely with so many snow capped mountains and winding roads. We are now at the highest altitude of this trip 5236m. What a wonderful place to celebrate John's Birthday and Mothers Day. Once back on the bus we all sang Happy Birthday John.

  • Day12

    Lake Paiku

    May 12, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 1 °C

    The scenery was so different driving to old Tingri. The snow capped mountains changed to rocky mountains and flat plains. We stopped by the road side to take photos of a Lake Paiku and then continued to Old Tingri for lunch. Back on the bus and we passed by where you can actually drive to Everest Base Camp on the Tibet Side. Some time in the future this might be where we will actually get the opportunity the go the Everest Base Camp.Read more

  • Day12

    Tingri Home for Tonight

    May 12, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    New Tingri is our home for tonight. This is another small town only resturants and hotels. The Hotel whilst not our usual is not that bad. Other than the very hard pillow which feels like it is made of seeds like a lavender heat pack. John is OK today but I may have a little allitide sickness. The altlitude where we are staying tonight is 4300m.Read more

  • Day13

    Driving to Xigstse

    May 13, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 10 °C

    Today we continued our scenic drive crossing over Gyatchu La the highest pass en route to Lhasa. We continued along the Friendship Highway which runs through to Shanghai. We had a clear glimpse of Mount Everest before heading on to our overnight stop in Xigatse which is the second largest city in Tibet..Read more

  • Day13

    The Yak Hotel

    May 13, 2019 in China ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Our stay tonight is at the Yak Hotel or should I say the Yuk Hotel.

    Again we have a run down hotel with our room being on the second floor. In view of the high altitude of this city (3,900m) it is draining just walking up 2 flights of stairs.

    During the afternoon our toilet leaked over the bathroom floor so we had to relocate rooms. Apart from a better bathroom in the new room we have two broken lights (making the room very dark) and no working power points in the main room. We are charging our phones in the Bathroom.Read more

You might also know this place by the following names:

Tibet Autonomous Region, Région autonome du Tibet, Den autonome region Tibet, Tibet, 西藏

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