Kum Bum, sunglasses misadventure, Tashilumpo monastery
Xigaze Travel Blog› entry 10 of 24 › view all entries
October 1st, 2007 – by: portia
In the main hall of the monastery (20RMB cost for photo permit), we saw butter sculptures which were carved out of yak butter. They were very elaborately done! The monks would leave their robes sometimes on the bench, and some of them would be folded in a way to resemble a cone, or probably more likely, a sitted monk! Especially if this was the seat of a high lama.
The Kum Bum (10RMB for photos) was this round structure with many levels, and 70 small chapels on each level. Pilgrims would go to EVERY one of them to touch their heads on something inside, and to say some prayers. But they would walk very fast, and again, I believe they did not really pay too much attention to the art on the walls or the fine statues inside. As we spiraled up higher and higher, eventually we reached the level just below the buddha eyes. We walked around the platform, which had no railing or other things for safety, but it would not feel right to have railings! I hope American style lawyers and suits never reach Tibet. We didn't find a way to go higher, but according to the guidebook I have, it says there were ladders leading above the buddha eyes through a trapdoor to an open wooden turret, under the very top umbrella-like structure! Built in the 14th century, the Kum Bum was somehow spared from the destruction of the Cultural Revolution, however, the monastery itself had to be rebuilt, although some statues survived.
We walked through the old Tibetan quarters next to the monastery. This was a village with lots of cows and goats tied in front of homes. Kind of like car garages in the US, they have cow and goat parking! On the top of walls there would be lots of patties of yak dung drying. Yak dung was a major source of fuel here because there were almost no trees! Goat droppings were also collected and used as fuel. You get a good feel of what an old Tibetan village is like walking through here.
Our next destination Xigaze (aka Shigatse altitude 12792') was only 90km away on good roads.
We made another stop before arriving in Xigaze and dropped in to visit a Tibetan family to see what their home looked like. This was a pretty well-to-do family, with 8 cows and 3 horses in their posession. Their home was a 2 story structure, the first story being used for the animals, and the 2nd story for the people. They had 2 rooms which served as sitting and sleeping quarters, one of them had a small buddha shrine. There was a kitchen where we saw meal being prepared by the mother. The stairs from the lower level courtyard leading to the 2nd story was steep, just like the ones we saw at monasteries, so I think the locals were quite used to that style of climbing stairs.
In the early afternoon, we arrived in Xigaze (the 2nd largest city in Tibet) and had lunch before venturing out to visit the Tashilumpo Monastery. Tashilumpo Monastery is the seat of the 2nd highest incarnation in Tibet, the Panchen Lama. The current Panchen Lama (11th) is in Beijing, but supposedly had visited here before. Tashilumpo is very large, and we visited four of its main buildings - the westmost Maitreya Chapel, The tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama, the tomb of the 4th Panchen Lama, and the tomb of the 9th Panchen Lama.
The Tomb of the 10th Panchen Lama was completed in 1993, in design similar to previous tombs. The Chinese government reportedly donated 500 kilograms of gold for use in its construction. After visiting the tombs of the 4th and 9th Panchen Lamas, we exited the Tashilumpo and took a walk around it (the Kora). This was a bit of a hike, with prayer wheels along the path, view of Tashilumpo from the north and one could even hike up the hill a little more . eefab had a photo taken from up the hill looking down at the Tashilumpo monastery complex, with the 4 buildings we went into clearly visible (since they were the largest). Near the end of the circuit, we veered off to visit the old market, while a good-willed pilgrim tried to tell us we should continue on the kora!
The old market was for both Tibetans and tourists.
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