- We made it to Tibet. Even though I've read a lot about this area, its
- geography was intriguing to me. Desert surrounded some of the area
- around the airport, and the climate seems really dry. Seeing how
- Chinese/Tibetan farmers carve out an existence in the most
- inhospitable conditions is still mind-blowing even after two weeks.
- It's been raining rather faithfully each morning though.
- In some other good news, I'm not dying of altitude sickness. Lhasa
- rests at 11,800 feet above sea-level, but due to where we've been
- travelling over the past few weeks, our gradual climb has let me
- acclimate just fine. Only one of us in our entire group is showing any
- symptoms and with another day of rest they'll be find.
- Naturally we've been visiting the many famous temples and monasteries
- of this historic city. Yesterday we went to the Jokhang temple in the
- center of the city. It was founded in the 7th century by one of the
- great kings of Tibet, Songsten Gampo. It was reportedly built in honor
- of the Shakyamuni Buddha to house statues brought from China and Nepal
- by the king's new wives (one of whom was Princess Wen-Cheng, legendary
- in that her dowry sparked the tea-horse road).
- It was interesting that we were still able to visit it, considering
- that the monks who had self-immolated last week had done it at this
- site. Tons of checkpoints had been set up and in addition to increased
- police presence, several PLA squads had been posted around different
- parts of the square and throughout the commercial district surrounding
- the temple. All of them were in riot gear, with shotguns or staves
- being carried. It was pretty eerie, especially when I noticed that at
- least two out of each squad were carrying portable fire-extinguishers.
- Security is tight across the entire city. A ban has been created on
- all foreign journalists and our group has been given two guides that
- are required to travel with us for most of our movements through the
- TAR. Last night I managed to break free for a bit and along with two
- others, I walked to the Potala palace, the traditional home of the
- Dalai Lama until his departure in 1959. It's one of the most iconic
- images of Lhasa/Tibet and I'm really glad I got a chance to see it as
- it stands today.
- Today we visited the Dregpu and Tsera monasteries. These institutions
- once housed over 10,000 monks each before the PRC occupied this
- region. Now they each have a little under 1,000. I'm relearning a lot
- that I'd forgotten about Buddhism and picking up on a few new things.
- Today we saw the monks of the Tsera monastery congregate to debate
- scripture. It was interesting and encouraging to see that many of the
- monks were within a few years of my age.
- Being here really puts perspective on this turbulent time in Tibet's
- history. This region is being heavily colonized by Han Chinese, and
- only 200,000 out of the 600,000 living in Lhasa are Tibetan. The
- landscape of Tibet is changing, and being on the ground really
- punctuates this for me.
- Hope everything is going well for those of you across the pond. I
- can't believe that it's already been over two weeks. I'm not sure what
- day of the week it is in most given moments.
a guest Jul 8th, 2012 12 Never
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