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World Tibet Network News

Published by the Canada Tibet Committee

Monday, January 12, 2004

6. Timeless Tibet (HS)

The Herald Sun - Melbourne
9 Jan 2004

Tibet's remoteness accounts for its appeal, writes Tom Cockrem

PILGRIMS come here from all parts of Tibet and beyond.

There are tall, broad Khampas from he east with red tassels in their hair.

There are Amdo women, with extravagant tribal jewellery.

And there are weather-beaten peasants in long, drab sheepskin jackets from
as far away as Sichuan in China, Nepal, even India and Bhutan.

I stand, camera in hand, in a corridor that's a devotional path, or khora,
surrounding the holy inner sanctum.

The same people pass me time and again and eventually we exchange smiles.
They will keep circling long after I leave.

This is Lhasa, capital of Tibet. The temple is the Jokhang, built in the 7th
century by the all-conquering Songsten Gampo, who brought Buddhism to Tibet.

A true survivor, the Jokhang withstood even the carnage of the Cultural
Revolution of the 1960s, when its sacred inner sanctum was deemed fit only
for pigs.

Tibet is famous for its monasteries. They are gargantuan with repositories
of gold and jewel-encrusted art. Most were robbed in the Cultural

One that survived is Tashilhumpo in Shigatse. It is so vast and resplendent
we choose to stay here two nights to do it justice.

The walled site comprises many treasure-laden chapels, prayer rooms and
temples whose corridors are plied by crimson-robed monks.

The nearby town of Gyantse has the splendid Pelkor Chode Monastery.

Dominating its grounds is the golden spire-topped Kumbum Chorten, whose six
concentric floors contain 77 chapels, many embellished with exquisite mural

It is easy to get excited about Tibet, which is so disconnected from our
world. The mountains see to that.

To the south, the Himalayas all but seal the country off from India, Nepal
and almost everywhere else.

The mountains stretch out into a plateau, which at 4000m vies in height with
many of the world's most awesome peaks.

Not much grows on this plateau and the earth is often frozen. The people are
the hardiest of breeds, whose lungs have adapted to the thin air and whose
skins have hardened against the wind and snow.

Lhasa has been modernised to a point of losing its identity, with boulevards
lined with nondescript glass towers and malls.

But there are two compensations: the Jokhang and the Potala.

The Potala has been commanding Marpo Hill since 1645. It's so huge and
multi-faceted it once housed most of Lhasa, including the quarters of the
Dalai Lama and his entourage.

The building is now peopled mainly by tourists, but pilgrims come too. The
most earnest fling themselves prostrate every few steps of their khora,
touching the ground with their forehead.

Most devotees confine such prostrations - the standard quota is 108 - to the
portal of the Jokhang.

It's an extraordinary sight and I feel privileged to visit at all because,
beyond Lhasa and a few other towns, Tibet remains a mysterious and forbidden

Articles in this Issue:
  1. His Holiness the Dalai Lama Conducts Sacred Rituals and Teachings for World Peace in Toronto, Canada this Spring
  2. Tibet photo exhibition opens in UK Parliament
  3. Tibetans and supporters welcome BP's diverstment from PetroChina
  4. Our China Chimera
  5. Hopelessly Hopeful (TR)
  6. Timeless Tibet (HS)
  7. Lhasa Fair (HS)

Other articles this month - WTN Index - Mail the WTN-Editors

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