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Author Topic: Tibet, China 中國西藏 (20 Jun - 4 Jul 2004)  (Read 26844 times)
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« Reply #30 on: 09 February 2009, 04:46:52 »

Waterboys

Young lamas coming down from the "castle" with vases.

Later, in the second picture, I found out that they are transporting water.


* Waterboys.jpg (99.06 KB, 669x456 - viewed 482 times.)

* WaterMonk.jpg (98.78 KB, 456x589 - viewed 469 times.)
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« Reply #31 on: 09 February 2009, 04:47:23 »

Flag Carrier

Before the main ceremony starts, these young lamas brought the "flags" (I don't know what are they called) from the castle to the low ground.

Tashilhunpo Monastery is the seat of the Panchen Lama and "one of the great centers of Tibetan Buddhism." The castle-like building is probably the most important building in the monastery. (I did not get to visit the "castle" because by the time I wanted to go up, the road was blocked for the ceremony.)

When we first entered the monastery, there was a great banner the covered the whole front side of the castle. The square banner must have been 30 to 50 meters long on each side. On the banner is the image of Buddha and other religious drawings.

At the first signal, a blue and yellow cover (of the same size as the banner) fell from the top of the "castle" to cover the banner. At the second signal, both the banner and the cover felt to the ground following few guiding wires. At the third signal, the wires were retrieved by perhaps 15 lama monks on the roof.

It was quite a scene that shows the design, organization and discipline of the monastery.


* FlagCarrier.jpg (99.78 KB, 456x669 - viewed 460 times.)
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« Reply #32 on: 09 February 2009, 04:48:06 »

Banner Carriers

About 30 minutes after the drop of the banners, a long procession started to come down from the "castle".

It start with musicians and the flag bearers in the front, followed by man dressing in horse like costumes, then two very large and heavy object each carried by perhaps 20 monks (picture here.) I think these two are the great banner and the cover of the same size.


* ToughJob.jpg (103.24 KB, 669x456 - viewed 452 times.)
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« Reply #33 on: 09 February 2009, 04:48:42 »

Lama Musicians

As the long procession came down to where we were allowed to observe the ceremony, the musicians entered a platform on a bit higher ground, while the horses and the banner carriers disappeared into a courtyard that was off limit to us.


* LamaBand.jpg (124.62 KB, 669x456 - viewed 459 times.)

* Peek.jpg (71.91 KB, 669x456 - viewed 449 times.)
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« Reply #34 on: 09 February 2009, 04:49:39 »

Misadventures

We left Lhasa in the morning for Chongqing. The plan was to stay in Chongqing for one night before heading home the next day.

So we thought we would stay in Chongqing.

Turned out the travel agent booked us in a hotel 120km (!!!) from downtown Chongqing, in an area that is technically still within the Chongqing municipality. And that was only the beginning of our misadventure.

Picking us up from the Chongqing airport is a minibus just have enough seats for our group, but no room for our bags and gears. So we had to pile up the bags in the walkway, 2 or 3 bags deep.

After more than an hour's drive, the hotel was no where in sight (we didn't know the hotel was 120 km from the downtown at that time.) Then the bus came to a stop in a dim tunnel. The driver then announced that the engine ran out of water. After cool down for some time, and gathered all the drinking water we have then, the bus would move and stop few more times.

It took more than 4 hours to travel the 120 km. In comparison, the flight from Lhasa to Chongqing was only 2 hours.

After checked into the "120 km hotel", my wife and I decided enough is enough. We wanted to see the famous mountainous historic city of Chongqing. After few calls to make hotel arrangement, we packed and get a taxi and off to Chongqing downtown.

It was the most expensive taxi ride I ever have in China at RMB400 (except when we chartered hotel cars for the whole day.) And another adventure in itself.

We spent the first 5 minutes insisting the driver to take us to the hotel front door, instead of dropping us at the downtown taxi station and get a local taxi. Then after few minutes of driving, he stopped the car, pulled out the key, and went straight to the trunk with two other guys waiting on the roadside.

I jumped out of the car immediately, afraid that they might take our bags. Turnout that one of the guy was the owner of the taxi and is getting his own stuff from the trunk, and the other guy was the driver for the evening shift who will take us to downtown.

With the new driver on board, we again spent the next 10 minute insisting that he take us to the hotel directly, instead of dropping us off at a taxi transfer. I even called the hotel on my cell phone to get him the direction. Luckily at the exit of the highway to downtown, we were able to hire a driving guide.

Finally, we arrived at the Chongqing Hilton, with all the creature comfort offered by a real 5-star hotel. The first thing we did, after a long hot shower, was to enjoy the sushi and pastries at the executive floor lounge.

It's good to back to civilization.


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* StalledBus.jpg (78.14 KB, 589x456 - viewed 441 times.)
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« Reply #35 on: 09 February 2009, 04:53:24 »

One of our group members, Memie Kwok, a medical doctor working in the Chinese University, reflects on the trip.

Quote
Letter from HK- a rambling reflection of my journey through Tibet
by Memie Kwok
 
I got back from Tibet on Sunday with a huge bruise on my left leg which extended from the knee down to the ankle, as well as abrasions of the left hand and right knee, a result of being thrown off a horse carriage a week prior.

The horse was spooked by a truck and made a sharp U-turn, the flimsy carriage couldn't follow suit so it collapsed sideways and sent me flying and crashing onto the gravel ground!

It was lucky my teeth weren't all knocked out which could easily have happened!

The trip was not as hard as I imagined, we only got up to 5200 meters (Tibetan base camp) , and the trekking route was actually the car route, so it's more like walking than trekking. All in all the trekking was not as challenging or interesting as trekking to the base camp (5600 meters) in Nepal last year.

On the other hand we visited a lot of temples and learnt a lot about the Tibetan culture and religion, which I found intriguing but unfortunately not everyone in the tour appreciated it.

The food was good though, as you'd expect travelling anywhere in China, with the result I actually put on weight in spite of the physical exertion! The yak meat didn't have as much of the strong flavour as when I tasted it the first time in Nepal, but in Tibet they use a huge amount of garlic in their cooking, which might have something to do with it.

I picked up a certain under-current of political and ethnic tension between the Tibetans and the local Han Chinese, though everyone tries to avoid discussing it openly.

Coming from a colony which underwent 150 years of foreign rule, I understand fully the Tibetan sentiment for independance. But from what I've seen during the trip I really don't see how Tibet can survive as an independant state, particularly in this global economy.

The place is desperately poor despite all the money China's pouring into the province every year and there's not a lot of natural resources, there's some minerals/oil about but it'll take a lot of money to mine them. It appears most of the food there is imported from China as the hostile climate, high altitude and poor soil cannot support a great variety of farming and animal husbandry.

Illiteracy rate is high, especially among women. There seems to be little concept of law among the indigenous people and most rules are religious rules, which is not necessarily a bad thing except it seems the people are allowed to bend them in whichever way they please to suit their own purposes.

There're a lot of inconsistencies and paradoxes between their proclaimed beliefs and their actual practices and behaviour, which we as outsiders might find baffling but somehow make perfect sense to them!

Efficiency is a foreign concept and making do or going without seems to be the rule of the day. All this is rather quaint but unfortunately does not inspire confidence in foreign investors.

On the other hand the peddlers were the most aggressive I've encountered anywhere in Asia , as were the beggars, some of them appeared to be religious personnel.

As a health worker I was appalled by the hygienic conditions: upon arrival the first thing the guides cheerfully informed us was "Everywhere is toilet!" which literally means you can stand (if you're a man) or squat (if you're a woman) and answer nature's call anywhere you want! A friend of mine, an English doctor working in Tibet, said educating people to wash their hands after defecation is like pulling teeth! So it does not come as a surprise the leading cause of death in infants is diarrhea illnesses.

I found the Tibetan people to be generally quite good looking though a bit scruffy, but I was told those who live in the city now do take more baths. Our cook was adamant he bathed everyday but I didn't really believe him. That darkness of the skin is not all due to pigment! But as the weather is fairly cold all year round maybe you really don't need to bath every day.

Then too, water is a big problem in the area and everywhere we went we saw engineering projects in progress by the Chinese Government to improve water supply to the villages.

Maybe because of the harsh climate or the harsh life there, people do age pre-maturely, and the older people all have terrible dentition. This is why I get very irate when tourists hand out sweets to the local kids, with no proper dental care available their teeth would get ruined in no time!

On this trip I'm again struck to the core by the greatest injustice of all in this world, which is the unequal distribution of resources. In HK we spend roughly one million dollars on education alone to put through ONE university educated person (9 years of free schooling and for each year of university study, the tax payers have to subsidize HK 200,000 dollars per student), not counting food, lodging, clothing, medical costs, etc. One million dollars could probably have fed a whole village in Tibet for a life time! And what do we get for our million? Unfortunately the investment return in some of our students is dismal: it's not only that they're below par in knowledge and skills, but that the bigger issue is in their weak character which makes them easily influenced by others and make bad choices for themselves, an inadequate personality which leads to the lack of direction in life, and poor self-confidence which results in their constant need to seek superficial approval from superficial people over trivial matters !

In our group we had a brief discussion (2 sec , which regrettably is the extent of intellectual capacity prevalent in the group) on age and maturity. It is my view that as globally the overall life expectancy is not more than 50 years, and in a society that retires people at age 60, 30 plus is definitely middle aged, at this age most people would have worked for about 10 years, settled in a career and saddled with family and children, so youthfulness can no longer be used as a excuse for some people for their conduct and outlook on life.

There's an old Chinese saying "四十而不惑" , there's just not that much time for these people to sort themselves out and set a course in life before they're at the age when they're expected to have acquired a certain level of enlightenment.

This Tibetan trip re-impressed on me the belief of Karma: nothing comes from nothing, and what goes round comes around. The fundamental teaching of Buddhism is on the Four Noble Truths, and the underlying principle of this teaching is the universal principle of causality. There is no concept of punishment in Buddhism, only consequences of our actions; repetition of the same actions produces a habit; a collection of habits is a personality; and this personality will produce its own destiny. Morality in Buddhism then is understanding what will bring good. What we do, therefore, can be wholesome or unwholesome, skilful or unskillful. We do indeed reap as we sow!

It's hard to argue with this philosophy of taking personal responsibilities, having good life values and never take our good fortune for granted .

It is good to remember a thankful heart is a sure index of spiritual health, and that one can never pay in gratitude; one can only pay in 'kind' somewhere else.
 
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