I took lots of photos at the monastery and the small park just outside of the entrance. It will take a few emails to share them all.
Tibet # 15 Tashilhunpo Monastery
The Tashilhunpo Monastery has a great deal of historical, religious, and modern political importance associated with it and the Panchen Lama. If you just “Google” it you’ll get lots of anti-Chinese opinions and lots of “official” Chinese versions of any event in Tibetan history. Because of that, I’ve broken my rule not to use Wikipedia because “probably” it doesn’t fall into either camp, though no one is really responsible for Wikipedia’s accuracy. If you’re really interested, go to your local library and see what they have about Tibet. At least library books have been edited and reviewed and there are books representing all perspectives though I was disappointed in our online magazine database which seems to include mostly articles written either by the Chinese press or the Tibet government in exile and not what I would call neutral sources.
Lobsang walked up ahead to get our tickets followed by Randal, David Ronnie.
Saying there were lots more visitors here than the Pelkhor Monastery would be a gross understatement and there wasn’t a chance at all of anyone being locked in a room unnoticed.
“It was founded by the first Dalai Lama in 1447 and is the spiritual home of the Panchen Lama, Tibet’s second most important spiritual leader. The monastery houses 900 monks today compared with the 5,000 in 1959. Key buildings are the Maitreya Chapel with a 85 ft gilded bronze Future Buddha statue, the Kelsang Temple, with its grand hall, the Panchen Lama’s Palace and the 115 ft Thangka Wall where giant images of the Buddha are displayed on April 14 of the Tibetan lunar calendar. Photography inside each building costs 75-150 RMB. “ AA Keyguide China 2009 edition p 212
Randal and I didn’t see any of it. The lines were way, way, way too long and after not liking the crowds at the Jokhang in Lhasa I really didn’t protest when Randal said he didn’t want to go into the really crowded buildings. Ronnie and David didn’t take any photos because of the cost. I first thought that they should just raise the price and let everyone take photos. But many people who come are real “pilgrims” who have made great effort to visit what is a place of religion for them and not a photo opportunity. So there is no reason for them to have to pay a high fee. I did take lots of photos of the women working in and walking through the monastery. Lots of photos.
This photo has a lot to say.
I asked permission before taking the photos. The adorable twin girls have shaved heads. The mom has some butter in her had to add as offerings at the butter lamps. The people on the left side of the photo are mostly tourists with cameras. The ones on the right in more traditional Tibetan clothing are there to visit the monastery for religious reasons. The stack of flat yellow bags are bags of butter for sale.
This looked like a bag check where people could buy their butter and leave their backpacks. The man in gray is carrying his prayer wheel as did many people and their long strands for beads. No one was stopped from wearing their backpack.
It seemed the majority of religious visitors were women.
Not serious visitors!
Look at the young woman in the middle. . When I started to work with the picture, the young woman in the middle looked familiar as did her jeans.
I photographed these women at the Pelkhor Monastery the previous day.
Same young woman? What do you think? She certainly is very pretty as are many of the Tibetan women.
I followed this woman for a while just to take a photo of her shoes.
Actually, most of my photos are of the women we saw.
This was only part of the line waiting to see the giant gilded Future Buddha and why Randal and I didn’t see it.
Once inside all of those people are forced into really narrow walkways that are dark and filled with the smoke of butter lamps. We had separated from David and Ronnie and later when we caught up, they sheepishly said they’d cut the line. They were determined to fill their 6 month, 7 continents with everything they could see. Randal saw everything on his bike trip in 2000 so can easily skip stuff now. I never would have cut the line so there really wasn’t so much time because once inside the lines go really slowly as many people actually spend time praying. I don’t remember David or Ronnie saying much other than it cost too much to take photos and if you’re trying to share the story with others, photos are essential or there really isn’t much of a story.
Restoring the damage done during the Cultural Revolution.
I loved the blue aprons first seen worn by the Ani Tsamkhung nuns.
I don’t know what actually prevented me from going up to speak with these women instead of just taking their photos. I was definitely impressed by their strength. The blue aprons are worn lots of different ways. I don’t take it for granted that people speak English and actually assume that most don’t. Many Tibetans, especially those outside the bigger cities, don’t get a chance at many years of school and even if they do, many are required to learn Chinese rather than English.
This woman is carrying what is probably a container of new butter for the lamps.
I did go into one of the smaller chapels and on the way out everyone, including me, jumps up to ring the bell.
A small group of monks sit in a courtyard that was once full of hundreds learning Buddhist philosophy.