Archive for July 7th, 2010

Randal and I visited lots of monasteries in Tibet and Nepal.  Each was interesting in its own way.  I think my favorite was actually the Tsamkhung Nunnery in the center of Lhasa because the nuns were so sweet and open and active; much more so than most of the monks we saw.  Because we stayed mostly around Lhasa, that’s why we saw so many monasteries which I guess were located near the big city.  And I’m writing about things in the order that we did them so it will be a bit before you get to see me patting the yak or the photos of us at Mount Everest. 



Tibet # 6 Ganden Monastery


Randal and I visited several monasteries. To me, they were all pretty similar on the inside with similar images of Buddhist characters and Lamas. I hardly know how to write about it because I really know too little and everything would probably need follow up corrections. Ganden was our first monastery and the drive along the river and up into the mountain was wonderful. I’ve sent some of those photos earlier. Again, in hind sight it would have been nice to have spent more time just sitting somewhere on the mountain and reading or maybe painting or attempting the hike to the very top of the mountain.

“Ganden Monastery, a holy land which Buddha once predicted, is the central monastery of the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It was built in 1409 under the supervision of Zongkapa (Tsongkhapa.) Major constructions in the monastery, which cover an area of 150,000 square meters, include the Tsokchen Hall, Yangbachen Hall, Zhacang’s Buddhist College, dozens of Kangtsens. Garden also includes a statue of Sakyamuni, the gold throne, Chitokang (the bed chamber of Zongkapa,) and the cave where Zongkapa cultivated himself according to his religious doctrine. A large number of pilgrims are attracted by many naturally formed manifestations of Buddha, the lush shrubbery and the beautiful sceneries surrounding Ganden Monastery. In 1961, Ganden Monastery became a national cultural relic protection unit.” Info from the back of the entry ticket to Ganden Monastery.

Have your eyes glazed over? It’s a lot to take in. On the back of the ticket I’d written this information.

About 30 miles from Lhasa.

Located on top of Wangbur Mountain at an altitude of 12, 467 feet above sea level.

One of the great three university monasteries.

Connected to the Yellow Hat Sect, the largest sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

At one time housed up to 6,000 monks. Now there are about 300.

1959 bombed and ransacked by the Chinese. gives what I think might be fairly accurate information and tells the sad tale of the destruction of the monastery though it has been rebuilt since that time.


Looking back down the valley from the monastery.

If we’d had all day it would have been nice to hike part way.


I believe this is called a stupa and they were visible at all of the monasteries and even at small clusters of houses through the Tibet countryside.


We weren’t sure if this is water or milk, but it’s an offering, not an attack. People had offerings of money and butter for the candles which is used instead of wax.


The Main Prayer Hall where the Monks pray. The robes are there to wear when it’s cold.


There were some pretty colorful visitors with long braids and wraps and prayer beads.

Money is inserted as offerings.


There’s my folded up small bill in the center that gave the Sox a few good days……


This mural tells a story of Buddhist history and the image of the “Yellow Hats.”


Gods, Buddhas, Lamas, Abbots…. Possibly Tsongkhapa the founder of the Yellow Hats.


Butter candles and sunlight often were the only light sources.


My pilgrim ladies again…I was more intrigued by them than by the monks or the religious symbols.


The buildings painted red are buildings that house the more religious aspects of the monastery.


Those dedicated enough hiked the path to the top of the mountain where you can see prayer flags. Not far from the red roof on the left you can see some tiny people walking up the mountain.


Lobsang pointed out a plant and Randal misunderstood and touched it. It was a nettle plant and it took days for the sting to go away. Tibetans boil the nettle plant to make tea.


On our drive home we passed a bridge covered with prayer flags


The flags stretched from the top of the mountain across the road over to the bridge on the river.

A tributary of the Yarlung Zangbo River runs through Lhasa. Near Lhasa it’s called the Lhasa River but changes its name as it passes through other parts of Tibet. It is a holy location.


On auspicious days people hang prayer flags for special occasions and for requesting all of those things people tend to ask for in their prayers. Each color, Red, white, green, yellow and blue represents a different meaning in the Tibet culture. tells a bit about the flags.

I don’t think I have felt more ignorant writing up our blog. I spent all of my time looking rather than listening or learning. And each God, Buddha, Lama or Abbot seemed to have three names depending on whether it was the Indian or Tibetan. I couldn’t keep any of it straight. But it was all quite interesting. Randal wasn’t quite so intrigued by it all as I was. But I was looking at it for all of you too so that kept me more interested perhaps.

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Hi All,

  Some of you may have missed our emails from China and Tibet.  Our notebook computer didn’t have my Outlook email address book and my web address book apparently is out of date.  Sorry.  You can read them at and find out about our time in China, the train trip from Guangzhou, China to Lhasa, Tibet and our early adventures in Lhasa.  Now things are back to "our normal" and I have my big computer making email easier.  It was great to have the notebook though the keyboard is small making it too easy to hit the wrong keys.  Sometimes that made everything GO AWAY!  We did have Internet access in our room at the Mandala Hotel in Lhasa and in the hallway of our hotel in Kathmandu and the small restaurant just next door where we ate most of our meals.  Along the way we used other access when it was available.  It was hard to check up on the Sox at times….they were doing great.  Now I follow the games daily and they lose.  Hmmmm. 

  I wish I could click my heels and be back in Tibet to ride horses, go trekking and do some painting.  I never even took out my paint brush once. 

Randal and I bought many books while in Kathmandu which has what seems like 3 or 4 book shops on every street in the Thamel area where our hotel was located.  It’s the "tourist" area of Kathmandu packed with small shops, eating places, and book stores.  I am currently reading Last Seen In Lhasa by Claire Scobie. She is a journalist who has made several trips to Tibet and during one made friends with Ani, a Tibetan nun.  This book talks about their meeting and friendship and seems to capture the image of Lhasa that we saw. 

Now it’s catch up time.  Catch up email, laundry, boat cleaning, following the Red Sox, reading and hopefully painting. 



Tibet # 5 Norbulingka (Summer Palace)

“ Norbulingka means Jewel Park in Tibetan. It is the summer palace of the successive Dalailamas. Now it is listed as World Cultural Heritage, State class protected unit of culture relics and appointed four class tourist site. It is a shady place with very rich plants and very important place where every year Tibetan traditional opera and folk song and dancing are performing.

The palace inside is great and luxurious, all the murals are very delicate, among them some of the mural unique to Tibet. Norbulingka is an huge ancient royal garden with natural scenery and cultural landscape.” This information is written on the back of the entry ticket for Norbulingka

Norbulingka is a huge park where the 7th Dalai Lama built his summer home in the 1750s. The New Summer Palace, completed in 1956 was built by the 14th (current) Dalai Lama. The main meeting room contains a huge throne and according to AA Keyguide China, the only photo of the Dalai Lama on public display in Lhasa. Also, the clock at the top of the stairs is stopped at 9 o’clock, the time the DL fled to India on March 19, 1959. As we walked through the grounds our guide Lobsang explained much about the DL and Buddhism. But I was busy taking photos so didn’t listen hard enough. It is really difficult to take photos and listen at the same time. Also, prior to our trip to Tibet and Nepal, I didn’t even know where they were. I also, really didn’t know anything about Buddhism. Now I know a little bit about everything. According to a BBC news story (see below) much of the Summer Palace was destroyed by Chinese artillery: I’m not sure what building were part of the original construction and what was rebuilt after the destruction. Honestly, what was confusing to me was how modern the religion is and following the events around all of the different DL.


Lobsang and the map of Norbulingka.

We just walked through the small zoo (really needs lots of upgrading!) and the palace of the 7th DL and the 14th DL. We couldn’t go into the small building that is the library and houses hundreds of scrolls.

“In the worst single incident, four days ago, the Chinese army fired about 800 artillery shells into the Dalai Lama’s Summer Palace, razing the ancient building to the ground.” (March 28th, 1959)


Home of one of the earlier DL. Maybe the 7th, maybe the 13th. I just don’t remember.


Lobsang and Randal in front of the Palace of the 14th DL.


Drive up to the Palace


A small lake near the “library.”


The building houses hundreds of scrolls but we weren’t allowed to go inside. Also, must buildings prohibited photos. We found that to be the case many places, or, alternatively, you had to pay a small fee to take photos. Sometimes I paid; sometimes I didn’t.  I would have liked to have gone into this little "library." 




Walking along through the park.

It would have been nice to stay at the park longer and many people apparently do that; take a picnic and spend the day. It was interesting to visit the Palace of the 14th Dalai Lama though not being allowed to take photos was really disappointing. The other buildings were very dark so hard to see the decorations. Also, many of the building burn yak butter or other oil lamps and the smoke made it hard for Randal and me to breathe. Anyone who goes should bring a flashlight if it would be allowed. It couldn’t hurt more than the residue from the smoke.

We left the Summer Palace to go to the Tibet Museum, but it was closed…so we went another day.

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Ruth and Randal

Boston Red Sox hat travels the world.