Isn't he beautiful? He wants his people taken. I love it. He's wearing a chuba, a Tibetan cloak. When its warm, they slip out of one sleeve and it is really hot, they slip out of both sleeves and has only the bottom on. I've seen pictures of women in the summer time, topless and they are not concious about it. It's like a very natural thing to do. In winter the chuba are fur lined and they can various decorative trim for it, even animal furs. I've seen some trimmed with real snow leopard fur though it is frowned upon. Snow leopards are an endangered species.
Not everyone is camera shy. As we were walking we happened upon these two Tibetan ladies. They saw us with our camera as they were about to step into the taxi. There is no public transportation in Xiahe, just the taxis running up and down the one street. One just hail a taxi, join other passengers and go. They stepped out of the taxi, adjusted their clothing and posed for us. What lovely people, so endearing. It's not just them who are in the spotlight, its the whole Tibetan struggle. Will Tibet be ever free from Chinese accupation? Who knows.
We were eating dinner at a restaurant across the street when we saw this Tibetan cowboy playing loud music on a bullhorn. He was dancing as well, kind of awkwardly. So I sent Zac out with my camera and he took this series of pictures. The joy of traveling are in these impromptu moments when people do the unexpectedly and you are right there to capture it on the camera.
Even without seeing her face, I can tell she's a lovely young woman, going shopping with her man. They are both dressed in their traditional style clothing. She sort of stopped to pose for us. Maybe she's making a statement, 'I'm Tibetan, not Chinese!'
The very very faithful prostrate while praying. It's a lovely thing to see. They even prostrate while doing the kora. Prostration in worship is not new, it is mentioned and practised in the Bible in the Old Testament. Lately I've incorporated it in my private prayer time. They prostrate, get up and do it again. They never rush. The pictures are amazing (Thank you, Patrizia of Sicilyscene) because of these amazing people. I've been to so many places in the world and these are by far the most fascinating. I hate to think that they will become modernized like us and our worship practices will be so simplified. Many still dress their traditional way and refuses Western clothing. Wearing Western clothing would mean China has won. They are Tibetans first, Chinese? Probably never! One cannot help but be political when it comes to the Tibetans. Free Tibet, I say!
This group is circumambulating an important temple.
Here these monks are doing a kora around the perimeter of the monastery complex. The word 'kora' means a pilgrim walk. They believe in circumambulating religious objects, religious buildings, religious complexes. The whole idea is devotion on earth in order to collect more merits for heaven. Early in the morning at 5 am the temple hums with the chanting of prayers by the monks. Then at daybreak the religious Tibetan pilgrims start arriving to do their kora. Everyone will be heading towards the monastery. When we first arrived and were on the outskirts of the city we came upon a chorten high above on the hilltop. We tried to get to it but it was too steep and muddy because of the rain. We saw numerous people walking around it. It was so exciting, these are what I read about and here was witnessing it in person. One comes away with an increased appreciation for our own faith.
Tibet or not Tibet? China or not China? This section of town, the closest to the monastery is so interesting. Here the restaurants serves yak meat. Here is where you buy all the paraphrenelia for worship at the temple, your butter lamps, the prayer flags, and also the fabrics for making chubas and the decorative trim for it. Also sold are knives, saddles and all things Tibetan. Beyond this area is the Tibetan village where the Tibetans live in squalor. But they are happy. As long as they can worship in a temple they are content. It's hard not to be impressed with such simple spirits and not to take away their example and incorporate it into my own life.
There are many similarities among all religions. The Old Testament of the Bible speaks of making burnt offerings to the Lord, it speaks of the fragrance that rise up to heaven and into God's nose. Here in the Tibetan Buddhist practice, juniper is burnt and it causes a lot of smoke that rises up to heaven. In Chinese Buddhist temples, candles are burnt. The Tibetans practised an animistic religion called 'bon'. Today Tibetan Buddhism incorporates 'bon' practices into their Buddhism. It's called Tibetan Buddhism or Bon Buddhism. Some Tibetans still practises the 'Bon' religion.
Sophie taking a picture of the Tibetan writing on the board.
Just outside Labrang is a wide expanse of rolling hills and grasslands. We were too early in the season, it was still the rainy season and the grass is short and the earth is muddy. But come late summer the grass is lush and long and the yaks and sheep that graze here become fat. We can still see grazing up in the hills. A lot of Tibetans are herders and nomads and live in the grasslands away from people. It's a hard and lonely life and the songs they sing reflect the sentiment. Come festivals and everyone would come down from their nomadic ways, dress up in their finery and gather together. I'm only in the early stages of discovering about the Tibetans and I'm impressed with whatever I have observed.
Rammed earth and wood, these are the basic building blocks of Tibetan monasteries. They aren't very lasting. Tibetans have learned the lesson of impermanence and live it. They live in the most hostile of conditions, high altitude, lonely grasslands, severe weather and a homeland that is now occupied. Their beloved leader, the Dalai Lama lives in exile in Dharamsala, India. Still they continue to practise their religion and worship in their temples and savor whatever is allowed of them by their occupiers.
This was our first foray into a predominantly Tibetan area. The best part of being in Xiahe was people watching. As usual we wished we had more time. It's just wonderful to sit near the monastery and just watch. The Tibetans are dressed in their cultural clothes and are so photogenic and beautiful. Some doesn't want their picture taken, others just loved to pose as soon as they see a camera lens pointed their way. I love them. It was still pretty chilly and they don't live in nicely heated houses. In fact they live in the most basic of housing and almost always wear their 'chuba' or cloak.