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Tibet – where you can touch the sky… Episode 1

Tibet trip

It is a legendary place, where, for hundreds of years, man has merged with nature following the Buddhist religion. For centuries, people have not died, but reincarnated in successive lives. For centuries, faith was stronger than the economic or military force. But this land, regarded by many as the mythical Shangri-La, was crushed under the Chinese tank tracks over half a century ago. A whole culture was beheaded, a whole people was punished. But the roots were strong, so the signs of revival begin to sprout. This land is Tibet.

Inhabiting an inhospitable but huge plateau, at a height of over 4000 metres, the Tibetans have created a unique society, closely linked to religion. Before 1951, the year of occupation, Tibet was a mysterious land, hidden to the rest of the world behind the eight thousand-ish Himalayan Mountains. Few could get there, and those that returned from this land, used to come with amazing stories, a place frozen in the Middle Ages, but a peaceful and quiet place, where many found their inner peace. Perhaps the most interesting testimonies are gathered in Austrian Heinrich Harrer’s book “Seven Years in Tibet”, brought to the big screen in a famous Hollywood production with a budget of $ 70,000,000, the Austrian man being played by Brad Pitt. It is the true story of two Austrian climbers who had gone to conquer a peak in British India where they were surprised by the beginning of the Second World War and interned into a camp by the British authorities. The two manage to escape and, after a superhuman fight with the Himalayan Mountains and with the Tibetan provincial bureaucracy, they manage to reach Lhasa where they start serving the young Dalai Lama, being witnesses to an exotic, mysterious world, but also to the aggression against a peaceful people.

Today‘s Tibet is much changed. If Harrer took almost a year to reach Lhasa from the border, today, impeccable highways cross the plateau (such as the Friendship Highway that links Lhasa to Kathmandu). A railway that has cost over $ 3 billion connects Lhasa with the rest of China and modern neighborhoods  have been built in the major cities, in the Chinese style with the well-known architectural thrash with a glass facade. But, in this changing world, there are still enclaves where Tibetan culture continues to exist – whether they are rural areas, or it’s the lively Barkhor neighbourhood in Lhasa, or the many Tibetan monasteries in spite of the numerous restrictions (such as limiting the number of monks or their closure for visitors at certain times) continue to exist and develop. Click ChinaTibetTrain.Com to view more about the “rail above the clouds”, ChinaTibetTrain is the official tourist website of Tibet Train, offering authoritative Tibet Train Travel Guide, Update Schedules, and booking service.

To visit Tibet and know nothing about Buddhism is like visiting the Vatican not having heard about Jesus Christ. Therefore, before a visit to Tibet, everyone should read something about Buddhism. Unfortunately, due to lack of space, I shall limit myself to a few lines. Buddhism is one of the great religions of the world. Founded in northeastern India and southern Nepal in the fifth century BC, Buddhism is based on the teachings of a historical character, Prince Siddhartha Gautama (around 480-400 before Christ). We know that Prince Siddhartha was married and had a son before giving up his world full of privileges and committing himself to healing the suffering of his peers for a final enlightenment. The main element of Buddhism is reincarnation – life is a cycle of births and deaths. Depending on the merit of each individual, he or she will reincarnate in one of six levels – three of them are positive (god, demi-god and man), three are negative (ghosts, hell and animals). You reincarnate in a certain level according to karma, which is a sort of a bag of the good and bad things you’ve done during a lifetime, the so-called “merit”.

In Tibet, Buddhism entered the Himalayan passes from the south. Over time, there were several orders of monks who held temporal power for longer or shorter. They bear names such as the Sakyapa order (named after the founding monastery), Nyingmapa, Karmapa (all orders have leaders who reincarnate, most of them refugees in India, Nepal or Bhutan), but most important is Gelugpa order, whose leaders are Dalai Lama, de jure, leading from Lhasa, but currently in exile in Dharamssala in India and Panchen Lama (the real one being arrested at the age of 6 years along with his whole family by the Chinese in 1995, right now not being known where they are, Chinese imposing a fake Panchen Lama) residing in Shigatse, the second largest city of Tibet.

Tibetan monasteries are, indeed, a visual festival. Extremely coloured, a welcome contrast to the rather austere landscape around them. The monasteries are a complex of buildings, real villages with winding streets, with cells for monks, with grand meeting rooms, with giant statues of the various manifestations of Buddha. Everywhere, you see candles made ​​from yak butter (bees do not really live at an altitude of 4000 meters!), the smell of incense sticks burning, the murmur of mantras. In some monasteries, there are chörten-s, huge sarcophaguses in the shape of a stupa, which did not save on any gold and precious stones and where the earthly remains of various lamas are kept.

For many tourists, the first contact with the world of Tibetan Buddhism will be in Lhasa. In the middle of the Barkhor district, an animated, colorful, exotic neighborhood, combining the merchant with the religious spirit, you can find the Jokhang temple, the Vatican of Tibetan Buddhism. This place, the holiest one in Tibet, is also the oldest built by King Songtsen Gampo who married two princesses – the Nepalese Princess Bhrikuti and the Chinese Princess Wencheng. Both brought, as dowry, a holy image of Buddha from their countries and the Jokhang Temple was built around them. Every day, thousands of pilgrims and tourists revolve around the temple, a sacred procession around the monastery on the streets – kora, and the atmosphere suggests a medieval carnival – pilgrims who prostrate, advancing slowly, foreign tourists with cameras, children in medieval outfits, women dressed in “Sunday attires”, murmuring mantras and spinning darchen-s, it is a magical place where you want to return again and again.

Near Lhasa, there are other two important monasteries – Sera and Drepung. Before the “liberation”, Sera housed as many as 5000 monks, today their number being limited by the state to several hundreds. It is recommended to come to Sera in the afternoon, when the monks meet in one of the patios for debates. Here, you will witness, amused, one-on-one debates between monks discussing Buddhist philosophy issues and trying to convince each other. It is a true spectacle, all the gestures and body language being extremely fun for visitors. In fact, their arguments are accompanied by clapping. Drepung is the largest Tibetan monastery and was the largest one in the world. No less than 10,000 monks used to live and study here before 1951. Fortunately, both monasteries have only undergone minor losses during the Cultural Revolution, unlike the Jokhang, which was robbed, a part of it being converted into a pigsty.

Pictures of Tibet

Tibet photos: Jokhang

Jokhang Monastery, the Tibetan “Vatican” in Lhasa

Tibet picture: Jokhang

TibetL visiting Jokhang

Tibet: Jokhang square

Jokhang Square

Tibet photos: Jokhang

Tibet photos: pilgrims prostrating

Pilgrims prostrating in front of Jokhang temple

Tibet: visiting Drepung

Drepung monastery

Tibet photos: Drepung

Tibet: Drepung

Tibet: Sera debates

Sera debates

Tibet pictures: Sera debates

Tibet trip: Pilgrims in Lhasa

Pilgrims in Lhasa

Tibet: Tangka

Tangkha – the traditional Tibetan-style painting

Tibet: Pilgrims in Lhasa

Tibet

Potala Palace – the historical residence of Dalai Lama

Tibet photos: Potala Palace

Tibet: Potala Palace

Până acum există "1 comentariu" la acest articol:

  1. Basanta says:

    I gone through your article about Tibet, and i got it very informative and pictures are awesome.I see paradise in earth ie ; Tibet.

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