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Kum Bum, sunglasses misadventure, Tashilumpo monastery

Xigaze Travel Blog

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Prayer wheels at Palkor Choide at Gyangze
In the morning, we checked out of the hotel and went to  visit the Palkor Chioide, a walled monastery complex in Gyantse where each of the four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism had temples and small monasteries.  There were lots of dogs here, lounging around in the sun. We would see many dogs in Tibet. What struck us was that how these dogs were well behaved, that is, like dogs.  They may not all be pets, but were obviously fed by somebody or they may have found enough food around themselves. They would just sleep and not pay any attention to you when you walk past them. Hardly any of them ever barked at us. We did not approach them to pet them as we would at home, because they were not vaccinated for rabies and we did not want to find out if they in fact liked us or not.
the Kum Bum and some flowers!
So I think it's safe to say that if you just leave them alone, they would also leave you alone. None of them were leashed (except at the lake yesterday where they were being posed for photos), and we would see dog packs running free near herds of sheep or goats. Sometimes they would be right next to chickens and they would not try to chase or eat them! Our pups at home would have hunted down the chickens or goats for sure!

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 and dogs


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.
The main hall at Palkor Choide in Gyangze
This was the only Monastery in Tibet for all 3 branches of Tibetan buddhism, the Gelukpa, Sakya and Kadam.

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.
Inside the main hall Palkor Choide in Gyangze, a shaft of sunlight shines on the lap of a statue
We made one stop where there was another water powered mill which ground barley into tsampa, the powder form. Well, Kristin took the opportunity to use the toilet hut, and unfortunately dropped her sunglasses down the hole! Those were her favorite sunglasses, and since they did not fall on the "bad" part of the hole, she wanted to retrieve them. There were all kinds of rescue actions, and finally, with a flash light showing the way, one of our drivers fished them out and washed them in the stream powering the mill. Kristin is a nurse and is not scared of human by products, however, all the men in our party were pretty put off by this sequence of events. I thought it was rather humorous to see all the reaction by the various people, although I was not sure if I would have wanted to retrieve them if it were me.
Another statue inside the main hall of Palkor Choide in Gyangze
I also wondered what our Tibetan guide and drivers thought of this! Maybe they thought it was a good thing that she did not just want to forget about them, since I don't believe Tibetans would waste things like many in America, they handled yak dung and goat droppings all the time!

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.
The sun light shining in
The kids were home today because it was Oct 1, the national day in China being celebrated. It was a good thing that we were so far away from the main parts of China, I believe most places would be so packed with Chinese taking their holidays.

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.
A statue at Palkor Choide in Gyangze
The Maitreya was most impressive, at 26 meters high, gold plated and very graceful looking.

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.
Inside the Palkor Choide in Gyangze, butter lamps and sculptures
The butcher shops were clearly not for tourists, but there were plenty of vendors selling souvenirs of all kinds. Be sure to bargain! I saw a westerner who spoke Chinese trying to tell the vendor he did not want to buy something, but many minutes later, I saw him again, and he was still trying to shake off the vendors!
portia says:
Thanks! It's only a small part of experience though. The air, the feeling of stepping on melted butter in temples, and a general feeling of awe can not be expressed adequately.
Posted on: Oct 21, 2007
Andy99 says:
Your photos of Gyantse and Xigaze are stunning! Wonderful blog!
Posted on: Oct 20, 2007
mountaingirl says:
Hope you had enjoyed the scenery along the way to Shigatse :-)
Posted on: Oct 14, 2007
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Prayer wheels at Palkor Choide at …
Prayer wheels at Palkor Choide at…
the Kum Bum and some flowers!
the Kum Bum and some flowers!
the Kum Bum and dogs
the Kum Bum and dogs
The main hall at Palkor Choide in …
The main hall at Palkor Choide in…
Inside the main hall Palkor Choide…
Inside the main hall Palkor Choid…
Another statue inside the main hal…
Another statue inside the main ha…
The sun light shining in
The sun light shining in
A statue at Palkor Choide in Gyang…
A statue at Palkor Choide in Gyan…
Inside the Palkor Choide in Gyangz…
Inside the Palkor Choide in Gyang…
Butter sculptures at Palkor Choide…
Butter sculptures at Palkor Choid…
fabric banners hanging in Palkor C…
fabric banners hanging in Palkor …
Main hall with benches and monks r…
Main hall with benches and monks …
Part of the wall rising above Palk…
Part of the wall rising above Pal…
Another part of the wall at Palkor…
Another part of the wall at Palko…
The moon over the Kum Bum
The moon over the Kum Bum
The top of the Kum bum showing the…
The top of the Kum bum showing th…
The dzong from Palkor Choide in Gy…
The dzong from Palkor Choide in G…
stairs at Palkor Choide in Gyangze
stairs at Palkor Choide in Gyangze
a monk making the rounds at the Ku…
a monk making the rounds at the K…
a building on the hill in Palkor C…
a building on the hill in Palkor …
The Kum Bum
The Kum Bum
Panorama of the Kum Bum with the w…
Panorama of the Kum Bum with the …
the huge wall on the mountain behi…
the huge wall on the mountain beh…
Another view of the huge wall on t…
Another view of the huge wall on …
Sign at entrance of Palkor Coide
Sign at entrance of Palkor Coide
Tibetan quarters outside of the Pa…
Tibetan quarters outside of the P…
Yak dung drying on the wall
Yak dung drying on the wall
Being friendly with a baby cow in …
Being friendly with a baby cow in…
View of the Dzong at Gyangze
View of the Dzong at Gyangze
Prayer flags on top of Tibetan hom…
Prayer flags on top of Tibetan ho…
Tsampa grinder
Tsampa grinder
Water powered shaft for turning th…
Water powered shaft for turning t…
Tibetan farmer kid and cows
Tibetan farmer kid and cows
Tibetan family home
Tibetan family home
Tashilumpo Monastery
Tashilumpo Monastery
Snow lion painted on the gate of t…
Snow lion painted on the gate of …
Inside the entrance of Tashilumpo,…
Inside the entrance of Tashilumpo…
Chortens inside Tashilumpo
Chortens inside Tashilumpo
Building inside Tashilumpo Monaste…
Building inside Tashilumpo Monast…
a design on the ground of Tashilum…
a design on the ground of Tashilu…
Walking toward the tomb of the 10t…
Walking toward the tomb of the 10…
A door at Tashilumpo monastery
A door at Tashilumpo monastery
Sign above the entrance to the tom…
Sign above the entrance to the to…
Roof decorations at Tashilumpo
Roof decorations at Tashilumpo
Wanted to capture the steepness of…
Wanted to capture the steepness o…
People were sticking corns on the …
People were sticking corns on the…
The courtyard in front of the tomb…
The courtyard in front of the tom…
View of the tomb of the 9th Panche…
View of the tomb of the 9th Panch…
A peek at some flowers inside a re…
A peek at some flowers inside a r…
Just a view of the alleys and peop…
Just a view of the alleys and peo…
Walking the Kora outside of Tashil…
Walking the Kora outside of Tashi…
Prayer flags up the mountain behin…
Prayer flags up the mountain behi…
View of Tashilumpo monastery from …
View of Tashilumpo monastery from…
Yak horns on the kora circuit behi…
Yak horns on the kora circuit beh…
View of the golden roofs of Tashil…
View of the golden roofs of Tashi…
View of the dzong ruins in Xigaze …
View of the dzong ruins in Xigaze…
Ticket to the Palkor Choide, aks B…
Ticket to the Palkor Choide, aks …
Ticket to Tashilumpo (aka Tashilhu…
Ticket to Tashilumpo (aka Tashilh…
Xigaze Hotels & Accommodations review
We had a nice big rug in the room of this hotel in Xigaze. They had a beauty salon and massage service too. They had an business center with several P… read entire review
Xigaze
photo by: mountaingirl