Tibet - Thin freedom on the roof of the world
The Tibetan Plateau: The Tibetan Plateau, also known as the Qinghai-Tibetan (Qingzang) Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province in China and Ladakh in Kashmir, India. It occupies an area of around 1,000 by 2,500 kilometers, and has an average elevation of over 4,500 meters. Sometimes called "the roof of the world," it is the highest and biggest plateau, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers (about four times the size of Texas or France).Yarlung Tsangpo: The Yarlung Tsangpo River, usually just called "Zangbo" (also spelled "Tsangpo", meaning "purifier"), originates from Mount Kailash and running east for about 1700 km drains a northern section of the Himalayas before its enters the gorge near Pe, Tibet. The canyon has a length of about 150 miles as the gorge bends around Mount Namcha Barwa (7756 m) and cuts its way through the eastern Himalayan range. Its waters drop from 3,000 m near Pe to about 300 m at the end of the gorge. After this passage the river enters Arunachal Pradesh, India, and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra.The "Everest of Rivers”: Since the 1990’s the Yarlung Tsangpo River has been the destination of a number of teams that engage in exploration and whitewater kayaking. The river has been called the “Everest of Rivers” because of the extreme conditions of the river. The first attempt to run was made in 1993 by a Japanese group who lost one member on the river.
Its beauty, remoteness, and mystique make it one of the places thought to have inspired the notion of Shangri-La in James Hilton´s book Lost Horizon in 1933.Lhasa: Lhasa (literally means "place of the gods") is the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China. Lhasa is located at the foot of Mount Gephel.
Traditionally, the city is the seat of the Dalai Lama and the capital of Tibet, and is the highest capital in the world. It is the location of the Potala and Norbulingka palaces (both are included in a World Heritage Site), and in Tibetan Buddhism is regarded as the holiest centre in Tibet.Kora: The prayer circuit (Kora) around the Jokhang Temple in the center of Lhasa.
The Barkhor is an area of narrow streets and a public square located around Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.
The Barkor was the most popular devotional circumabulation for pilgrims and locals. The walk was about one kilometre long and encircled the entire Jokhang, the former seat of the State Oracle in Lhasa called the Muru Nyingba Monastery, and a number of nobles´ houses. There were four large incense burners (sangkangs) in the four cardinal directions, with incense burning constantly, to please the gods protecting the Jokhang.Barkhor: An elderly Tibetan women holding a prayer wheel on the Lhasa's pilgrimage circuit of Barkhor. The Barkhor, a quadrangle of streets that surrounds the Jokhang Temple, is both the spiritual heart of the holy city and the main commercial district for Tibetans.Jokhang Temple: The Jokhang Temple, Jokhang Monastery or Tsuklakang, is the first Buddhist temple in Tibet, located on Barkhor Square in Lhasa. It was built during the reign of king Songsten Gampo (605?-650 CE) to celebrate his marriage with Chinese Tang Dynasty princess Wencheng, who was a Buddhist. The temple was called the Tsulag Khang or 'House of Wisdom' but it is now known as the Jokhang which means the 'House of the Buddha'.Jokhang: Prayer and prostration in front of the Jokhang Monastery.
For most Tibetans the Jokhang Monastery is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet. It is in some regards pansectarian, but is presently controlled by the Gelug school.
Along with the Potala Palace, it is probably the most popular tourist attraction in Lhasa. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site "Historic Ensemble of the Potala Palace" and a spiritual centre of Lhasa.Jokhang: The Jokhang temple is a four-story construction, with roofs covered with gilded bronze tiles. The architectural style is based on the Indian vihara design, and was later extended resulting in a blend of Nepalese and Tang Dynasty styles. The rooftop statues of two golden deer flanking a Dharma wheel is iconic.
The Jokhang temple complex has several decorated shrines and rooms. The main hall of the temple houses the Jowo Shakyamuni Buddha statue, perhaps the single most venerated object in Tibetan Buddhism. There are also famous statues of Chenresig, Padmasambhava and King Songtsan Gambo and his two famous foreign brides, Princess Wen Cheng (niece of Emperor Taizong of Tang China) and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Many of the statues were destroyed during the "cultural revolution" but have since been remade - often including broken pieces of the original statues.LhasaSera Monastery: Sera Monastery is one of the 'great three' Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet. The other two are Ganden Monastery and Drepung Monastery. The origin of the name 'Sera' is not certain, but it may derive from the fact that the original site was surrounded by 'Wild Roses' (se ra in Tibetan).
Sera was founded in 1419, by Jamchen Chojey (Sakya Yeshe), a disciple of Tsong Khapa.
Like the Drepung and Ganden monasteries, it had several colleges: Sera Mey Dratsang, built in 1419, gave basic instruction to the monks. Sera Jey Dratsang, built in 1435, was the largest, and was reserved for wandering monks, especially Mongol monks. Ngagpa Dratsang, built in 1559, was a school for the teaching of the Gelukpa tantras.Sera: Sera housed more than 5,000 monks in 1959. Although badly damaged following the invasion of Tibet and the Cultural Revolution, it is still standing and has been largely repaired. In 2008, it housed 550 Buddhist monks, but the number dropped to only a handful after the 2008 Tibetan unrest.
After the Chinese invasion of Tibet and the destruction of the majority of the monasteries in Tibet, Sera monastery was re-formed in Bylakuppe, India, near Mysore. Because none of the monks of the Ngagpa Dratsang (Tantric College) survived the invasion, only the Sera Mey College and Sera Jey College were re-formed in India.Debating: Monks practicing their debating skills following afternoon meditation in Sera Monastery. Sera housed more than 5,000 monks before the Chinese invasion in 1959. It now houses a few hundred Buddhist monksLhasa: The city of Lhasa contains three concentric paths used by pilgrims to circumambulate (walk around) the sacred Johkhang Temple, many of whom make full or partial prostrations along these routes in order to gain spiritual merit. The innermost, the Nangkor (Nang-skor), is contained within the Jokhang Temple, and surrounds the sanctuary of the Jowo Shakyamuni, the most sacred statue in Tibetan Buddhism. The middle circumambulatory, the Barkor (Bar-skor), passes through the Old Town and surrounds the Jokhang Temple and various other buildings in its vicinity. The outer Lingkor (Gling-skor) encircles the entire traditional city of Lhasa. Due to the construction of a large new street, Beijing Lam, the Lingkor is not usually used by pilgrims today.LhasaLhasaLhasaPotala Palace: The Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to Dharamsala, India after an invasion and failed uprising in 1959. Today the Potala Palace has been converted into a museum by the Chinese.
The building measures 400 metres east-west and 350 metres north-south, with sloping stone walls averaging 3 m. thick, and 5 m. (more than 16 ft) thick at the base, and with copper poured into the foundations to help proof it against earthquakes. Thirteen stories of buildings – containing over 1,000 rooms, 10,000 shrines and about 200,000 statues – soar 117 metres (384 ft) on top of Marpo Ri, the "Red Hill", rising more than 300 m (about 1,000 ft) in total above the valley floor. Tradition has it that the three main hills of Lhasa represent the "Three Protectors of Tibet." Chokpori, just to the south of the Potala, is the soul-mountain (bla-ri) of Vajrapani, Pongwari that of Manjushri, and Marpori, the hill on which the Potala stands, represents Chenresig or Avalokiteshvara.The Potrang Karpo or ´White Palace´: The White Palace is the part of the Potala Palace that makes up the living quarters of the Dalai Lama. The first White Palace was built during the lifetime of the Fifth Dalai Lama and he and his government moved into it in 1649. It then was extended to its size today by the thirteenth Dalai Lama in the early twentieth century. The palace was for secular uses and contained the living quarters, offices, the seminary and the printing house. A central, yellow-painted courtyard known as a Deyangshar separates the living quarters of the Lama and his monks with the Red Palace, the other side of the sacred Potala, which is completely devoted to religious study and prayer. It contains the sacred gold stupas—the tombs of eight Dalai Lamas—the monks' assembly hall, numerous chapels and shrines, and libraries for the important Buddhist scriptures, the Kangyur in 108 volumes and the Tengyur with 225. The yellow building at the side of the White Palace in the courtyard between the main palaces houses giant banners embroidered with holy symbols which hung across the south face of the Potala during New Year festivals.Dekyi Shar Lam: Dekyi Shar Lam (Central Beijing Road) is a major road of the city of Lhasa in the Tibet Autonomous Region which links the city to the north-east of Tibet and China.
Lhasa has many sites of historic interest, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Sera Monastery, Zhefeng Temple, Drepung Monastery and Norbulingka. However, many important sites were damaged or destroyed mostly, but not solely, during the Cultural Revolution.Drepung MonasteryDrepung MonasteryDrepung MonasteryDrepung Monastery: Drepung Monastery (literally “Rice Heap” monastery), located at the foot of Mount Gephel, is one of the "great three" Gelukpa university monasteries of Tibet.
The other two are Ganden and Sera. Drepung is the largest of all Tibetan monasteries, and indeed at its peak was the largest monastery of any religion in the world. It was founded in 1416 by Jamyang Chojey, a direct disciple of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelukpa school. It is located on the Gambo Utse mountain, 5 kilometers from the western suburb of Lhasa.Drepung Monastery: About 40% of the old monastic town was destroyed after the Chinese arrived in Lhasa in 1951, though luckily the chief buildings including the four colleges, the Tsokchen and the the Dalai Lamas´ residence were preserved.
Drepung monastery was shut by Chinese authorities on 14 March 2008, after monk-led protests against Chinese rule turned violent and businesses, shops and vehicles were looted and torched. The PRC claims that 22 people were killed in the riots but Tibetan sources put the figure much higher. It was reopened in the last week of August after being shut for five months.Drepung MonasteryDrepung Monastery: Drepung was known for the high standards of its academic study, and was called the Nalanda of Tibet, a reference to the great Buddhist monastic university of India.
Drepung monastery was shut by Chinese authorities on 14 March 2008, after monk-led protests against Chinese rule turned violent and businesses, shops and vehicles were looted and torched. The PRC claims that 22 people were killed in the riots but Tibetan sources put the figure much higher. It was reopened in the last week of August after being shut for five months.LhasaThangka: A "Thangka" is a painted or embroidered Buddhist banner which was hung in a monastery or a family altar and occasionally carried by monks in ceremonial processions.
Based on technique and material, thangkas can be grouped by types. Generally, they are divided into two broad categories: those which are painted (Tib.) bris-tan and those which are made of silk, either by appliqué or with embroidery.
Painted thangkas are done on cotton canvas or silk with water soluble pigments, both mineral and organic, tempered with a herb and glue solution - in Western terminology, a distemper technique. The entire process demands great mastery over the drawing and perfect understanding of iconometric principles.Foods in Lhasa: Foods in Lhasa can also be seen as a culture. Usually, Tibetans live on mutton and beef. Especially for the herdsmen, they dry the mutton and beef before winter comes, so they can eat mutton and beef in winter. Ani Tshamkhung: Ani Tsankhung Monastery is a Buddhist nunnery in Lhasa, the administrative centre of Tibet. It was built in the 7th century by Songsten Gampo who used its meditation chamber.
The monastery is a yellow building which lies on the street parallel and north of Chingdol Dong Lu in Lhasa.
Since the 12th century the monastery has been used chiefly by Buddhist nuns.
The nunnery´s main hall contains a beautiful image of Chenrezi, the multi-armed bodhisattva of Compassion. The sacred meditation chamber lies behind it.
An air of quiet serenity pervades the ancient place with its flower bushes and spotless compound and is one of the quieter tourist locations in the Tibetan capital.Gelug-pa: The Gelug or Gelug-pa, also known as the Yellow Hat sect, is a school of Buddhism founded by Tsongkhapa (1357–1419), a philosopher and Tibetan religious leader. The first monastery he established was at Ganden, and to this day the Ganden Tripa is the nominal head of the school, though its most influential figure is the Dalai Lama.
Lhasa between 1987–1989 had major demonstrations against the Chinese occupation led by monks and nuns. As a result the Chinese imposed restrictions and political re-education programs in the monasteries. Many had to go through these "re-education sessions to align themselves with the Communist views and denounce the Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence." Many monks who refused were sent to prison, while others left the monasteries and many escaped into India to carry on with their studies.LhasaYamdrok Tso: Yamdrok Lake is one of the three largest sacred lakes in Tibet. It is over 72 km (45 miles) long. The lake is surrounded by many snow-capped mountains and is fed by numerous small streams. The lake does have an outlet stream at its far western end.
Around 90 km to the west of the lake lies the Tibetan town of Gyantse and Lhasa is a hundred km to the northwest. According to local mythology, Yamdok Yumtso lake is the transformation of a goddess.The Tibetan PlateauThe Tibetan PlateauThe Tibetan PlateauGyantze: Gyantse is a town located in Gyangzê County, Shigatse Prefecture. Gyantse was the third largest city in Tibet before being overtaken by Chamdo. It is often referred to as the "Hero City" because during the British Younghusband expedition of 1904, the 500 soldiers of the Gyantse dzong held the fort for several days before they were overcome by the British forces.
The town was nearly destroyed by flooding in 1954. After rioting in 1959, local industries were dismantled and artisans fled while others were placed in workcamps. Some 400 monks and laypeople were imprisoned in the monastery. During the Cultural Revolution the fort, the monastery and Kumbum were ransacked. Precious objects were destroyed or sent back to China. Fortunately, the chorten was spared.Kumbum: A Kumbum is a multi-storied aggregate of Buddhist chapels in Tibet. It forms part of Palcho Monastery.
The first Kumbum was founded in the fire-sheep year 1427 by a Gyantse prince. It has nine lhakangs or levels, is 35 metres (115 ft) high surmounted by a golden dome, and contains 77 chapels which line its walls. Many of the statues were damaged during the Cultural Revolution but have since been replaced with clay images, but they lack the artistic merit of the originals. The 14th century murals showing Newari and Chinese influences, survived much better.Chana Dorje: Vajrapāṇi (from Sanskrit vajra, "thunderbolt" or "diamond" and pāṇi, lit. "in the hand") is one of the earliest bodhisattvas of Mahayana Buddhism. He is the protector and guide of the Buddha, and rose to symbolize the Buddha´s power. Vajrapani was used extensively in Buddhist iconography as one of the three protective deities surrounding the Buddha. Each of them symbolizes one of the Buddha´s virtues: Manjusri (the manifestation of all the Buddhas´ wisdom), Avalokitesvara (the manifestation of all the Buddhas´ compassion) and Vajrapani (the manifestation of all the Buddhas´ power).GyantzeGyantzeKumbum: The Kumbum or great gomang (many-doored) chorten at Gyantse is a three dimensional mandala, meant to portray the Buddhist cosmos. The Kumbum, like other mandalas, which are portrayed by a circle within a square, enables the devotee to take part in the Buddhist perception of the universe and can depict one´s potential as they move through it. Mandalas are meant to aid an individual on the path to enlightenment. The Kumbum holds a vast number of images of deities throughout its structure with Vajradhara, the cosmic Buddha, at the top.GyantzeThe Tibetan Plateau: The Tibetan Plateau , also known as the Tibel-Qingai Plateau is a vast, elevated plateau in Central Asia covering most of the Tibet Autonomous Region and Qinghai Province in China and Ladakh in Kashmir, India. It occupies an area of around 1,000 by 2,500 kilometers, and has an average elevation of over 4,500 meters. Sometimes called "the roof of the world," it is the highest and biggest plateau, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers (about four times the size of Texas or France).The Tibetan Plateau: Here the average altitude exceeds 5,000 meters (16,500 feet) and year-round temperatures average −4 °C, dipping to −40 °C in winter. As a result of this extremely inhospitable environment, the Changthang region (together with the adjoining Kekexili region) is the least populated region in Asia, and the third least populated area in the world after Antarctica and northern Greenland.Shalu Monastery: Shalu Monastery is small monastery 22 km south of Shigatse in Tibet. Founded in 1040 by Chetsun Sherab Jungnay, for centuries it was renowned as a centre of scholarly learning and psychic training and its mural paintings were considered to be the most ancient and beautiful in Tibet. Shalu was the first of the major monasteries to be built by noble families of the Tsang Dynasty during Tibet´s great revival of Buddhism, and was an important center of the Sakya tradition.Shalu Monastery: In 1329 a devastating earthquake demolished the temple of Shalu but was later rebuilt in 1333 by local lords under the command of the Mongol Emperor of China. The new architectural framework of the monastery was dominated by Mongolian styles with massive inward-sloping walls around a main courtyard and strong woodwork and glazed roof tiles from Qinghai. At the time of the new establishment in the 1330s Shalu Temple was under the command of the 11th Abbot Buton Rinchen Drub who lived 1290-1364. Buton was not merely a capable administrator but he is still remembered to this very day as a prodigious scholar and writer and is Tibet´s most celebrated historian. Buston catalogued all of the Buddhist scriptures at Shalah, some 4,569 religious and philosophical works and formatted them in a logical, coherent order. He wrote the famous book the History of Buddhism in India and Tibet at Shalu which many Tibetan scholars utilize into their study today.
Buton´s activity inevitably attracted a great deal of attention to the monastery and brought in other Buddhist interllectuals around Tibet and India to study in the grounds amounting to some 3000 by 1360. After his death the monastery became an important epicentre of esoteric studies and psychic training for centuries. The avowed purpose of lamas who cultivated paranormal abilities were not to become magicians or miracle workers but to attain philosophical enlightenment, a belief that all earthly phenonoma are a state of the mind. Shalu Temple became known throughout the far east for its dedication to these philosophies and its enlightenment of the Buddhist faith.
However by the 1800s the monastery had become less influential and Tibetan scholars chose to study at the Samye monastery which had grown to be one of the most politically powerful in the Tibetan lands by this time. The monastery fell into ruin and little of the original 1330 structure remains, although the outer wall and the main building with damaged roofs still stands, and a number of 14th century murals on the outer walls of the temple still follow an iconographic scheme developed by the great Buton himself. One of the murals is an allegory in which an elephant representing a human soul evolves through many steps and earthly trials to Nirvana becoming progressively white and purer in the cleansing process. Precise rules are still imbedded into the walls on what the monks should wear, place their robes and how to behave in the central courtyard Deyangshar. Remnants of former mandala murals are concealed by over 100 Thanka most of which were emboidered in Hangzou in eastern China in the 1920s. Only two chapels of the Shalu temple are open to tourists although funds were allocated in 1995 for roof repair and the eventual restoration of the fine 14th century structure by 2005.Tashilhunpo: Tashilhunpo Monastery, founded in 1447 by Gendun Drup, the First Dalai Lama, is a historic and culturally important monastery next to Shigatse, the second-largest city in Tibet.
It was sacked when the Gurkhas invaded Tibet and captured Shigatse in 1791 before a combined Tibetan and Chinese army drove them back as far as the outskirts of Kathmandu, when they were forced to agree to keep the peace in future, pay tribute every five years, and return what they had looted from Tashilhunpo.
The monastery is the traditional seat of successive Panchen Lamas, the second highest ranking tulku lineage in the Gelukpa tradition. The "Tashi" or Panchen Lama had temporal power over three small districts, though not over the town of Shigatse itself, which was administered by a dzongpön (prefect) appointed from Lhasa.
Located on a hill in the center of the city, the full name in Tibetan of the monastery means: "all fortune and happiness gathered here" or "heap of glory".Sakya: Sakya Monastery, also known as dPal Sa skya or Pel Sakya ("White Earth" or "Pale Earth") is a Buddhist monastery situated 25 km southeast of a bridge which is about 127 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.
The seat of the Sakya or Sakyapa school of Tibetan Buddhism, it was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo (1034-1102), originally a Nyingmapa monk of the powerful noble family of the Tsang and became the first Sakya Trizin. Its powerful abbots governed Tibet during the whole of the 13th century after the downfall of the kings until they were eclipsed by the rise of the new Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.Sakya Monastery: Its medieval Mongolian architecture is quite different from that of temples in Lhasa and Yarlung. The only surviving ancient building is the Lhakang Chempo or Sibgon Trulpa. Originally a cave in the mountainside, it was built in 1268 by Ponchen Sakya Sangpo in 1268 and restored in the 16th century. It contains some of the most magnificent surviving artwork in all of Tibet, which appears not to have been damaged in recent times.The Gompa grounds cover more than 18,000 square metres, while the huge main hall covers some 6,000 square metres.Sakya: A huge library of as many as 84,000 scrolls were found sealed up in a wall 60 metres long and 10 metres high at Sakya (Ch: Sagya) Monastery in 2003. It is expected that most of them will prove to be Buddhist scriptures although they may well also include works of literature, and on history, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics and art. They are thought to have remained untouched for hundreds of years. They are being examined by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences.SakyaSakyaShegarRongphu: Rongbuk monastery lies by the foot of the Rongbuk Glacier at 5,100 metres (17,000 ft) above sea level, the highest monastery in the world. It is only 200 metres (660 ft) lower than the north side Everest Base Camp of Mount Everest. The monastery is accessible today via vehicle by means of an undeveloped road. Prior to this, explorers such as George Mallory and Sandy Irvine had to walk for five weeks from Darjeeling, in the Indian foothills of the Himalaya, to reach this location.
It is accessible by dirt road - a two to three hour drive from the Friendship Highway, soon after kilometer marker 5145.CHOMOLANGMA (Mt.Everest): Mount Everest – also called Chomolungma or Qomolangma is the highest mountain on Earth, and the highest point on the Earth´s crust, as measured by the height above sea level of its summit, 8,848 metres (29,029 ft). The mountain, which is part of the Himalaya range in Asia, is located on the border between Sagarmatha Zone, Nepal, and Tibet, China.
In 1856, the Great Trigonometric Survey of India established the first published height of Everest, then known as Peak XV, at 29,002 ft (8,840 m). In 1865, Everest was given its official English name by the Royal Geographical Society upon recommendation of Andrew Waugh, the British Surveyor General of India at the time. Chomolungma had been in common use by Tibetans for centuries, but Waugh was unable to propose an established local name because Nepal and Tibet were closed to foreigners.EVEREST BASE CAMP,5,208 m: There are two base camps on opposite sides of Mt. Everest: to the South in Nepal, and to the North in Tibet. Located at the altitude of 5,360 metres (17,600 ft) is South Base Camp in Nepal, and at 5,208 metres (17,090 ft) is the North Base Camp in Tibet.
These camps are rudimentary campsites on Mount Everest that are used by mountain climbers during their ascent and descent. South Base Camp is used when climbing via the southeast ridge, while North Base Camp is used when climbing via the northeast ridge.
Tingri: Tingri or Dingri or Dhingri is a town in southern Tibet. It is in Tingri County, Shigatse Prefecture with a population of around 523. It is often used as a base by mountain climbers preparing to ascend Mount Everest or Cho Oyu.