Friday, August 17, 2018

Unexspected Mysteries at Shegar

Shegar (Xêgar, Shelkar, New Tingri, Shekar) is a small town in Tibet. It is a military town and the hotels are about 8 km off the dzong and old town. As for some flooded roads we had to change our route and had the good luck to visit this fortress, which sees only a small number of tourists. The old town is intact, but in the valley are quite a lot of new buildings, which aren’t inhabited yet.
To get into the dzong you have to climb quite a lot of stairs at an altitude of about 4400 m (about 14,600 ft). One could see the very old building reaching until the top of the mountain, which aren’t in use anymore. Inside we could see halls and new – a study room, where lectures for the monks are given. You could see the books they use, maybe they make excerpts.
In one of these rooms I could see the Tibetan horns (dungchen), which use a telescope technic to be smaller, when stored, as they are a couple of meters long, when played. These horns are made of metal, whereas alphorns are made out of wood and don’t use the telescopic technic. 

 Look across old town, river, and the new buildings

Older buildings on top


In the main yard of the dzong

Interior of a hall, where the monks gather

Desks with books and writing material 
and the lecturer's place

Tibetan horns (dungchen)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Tibet Road Conditions

As I’ve already written, road conditions vary and get worse if you go west. Maintenance is on a high level, but weather conditions might suddenly lead to havoc. Some road are undermined by water and collapse, bridges are gone – and this might happen every during the monsoon season. Here are three examples from my recent travels to Tibet.

Wading through a stream crossing the road near Shakya

 A congestion because of urgent road works

Again wading through the water

 The bus got stuck and we had to wade through the stream - 
6° C, measured on the spot!

Still trying and also the second vehicle for the baggage hasn't been of use! 

The big truck tried to help us out, but got stuck equally.

 Then the big loader pulled us out

In old times roads weren't build in the valleys, but theses paths were used on foot or on yak. These paths can't be extended to road. So road repairs will stay necessary in the future.

Tibet and Mt. Everest (Chomolungma / 珠穆朗瑪峰)

Mt. Everest is the highest mountain of earth, but the name is only used in western countries. The Tibetan name is: Qomolangma (English transliteration Chomolungma), the Chinese name is 珠穆朗瑪峰, whereof the last character () means summit, peak. As the border between China and Nepal runs on the peak, the Nepali name for the mountain is: Sagarmatha. The official altitude is: 8848,13 m or 29,029 ft.

The bus driver had been four times to Rongbuk monastery / base camp within the past 4 weeks and couldn't catch a glimpse of the mountain. I have been very lucky to see Chomolungma from different viewpoints.

 From a distance ...

From Rongbuk / base camp

The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa

The Jokhang - overview from the Barkhor

Contrary to general belief not the Potala is the most important place for Tibetan Buddhists but the Jokhang temple. The Potala is a dzong, a castle, and had been the more administrative center of the Tibetan universe. But the Jokhang is a place of worship, that where the pilgrims go prostrate and offer yak butter, money etc. This temple truly is the spiritual heart of Lhasa. The temple has been built since 652, which means since the Tang period according to Chinese reckoning. In front of the Jokhang is the Barkhor with two huge stone structures (sankang), in which incense like aromatic plant are burnt. Barkhor means market place and is part of the kora, the route pilgrims take clockwise to circle the Jokhang, which takes about 20 minutes.

Top of the temple - note the flag

One of the huge sankang

Burning aromatic herbs

Pilgrims and tourists

Prostrating in front of the Jokhang - 
in unison, but each one at his/her own pace 

Some pilgrims dress beautifully, e.g. before marriage,
but she might be a Han-Chinese tourist

These two ladies might rather be pilgrims - 
note the elaborate braids, 108!

Interior of the Jokhang

Interior of the Jokhang

Pilgrims queuing for access

Inner court of the Jokhang

Han-Chinese pilgrims! Yes, there  are Han-Chinese believers
of the Vajrayana.

Constant waves of pilgrims ...