Shigatse Tibet

Xigaze Travel Blog

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Tashilhunpo Monastery Panorama

After leaving our Tsampa man on the road between Gyantse and Shigatse we cruised our way for the relatively short drive into town and pulled up at the Everest Guest House which we expected would be a bit more downscale than our previous Tibetan accommodations. Lucky for us said Tenzin, they were overbooked and so his company had told him to put us up at a better place that was previously owned by the Panchan Lama, the second in command next to the Dalai Lama. This ended up being a pretty nice hotel and is conveniently located within walking distance of one of the main sites in Shigatse, the Tashilhunpo Monastery whose monastery and temple complex are actually the currently un-used seat of the Panchan Lama.

Tenzin dropped us off at another tourist type restaurant where it seemed all of the very few westerners in town were lunching and told us to “take a rest” before visiting the monastery this afternoon.

Tashilhunpo Monastery
For a twenty-something, energetic guy, he definitely doesn’t like to work too hard. Afterwards, we went to the monastery by ourselves while he went off to get our permits to enter the Chomolungma National Park which is where Everest Base Camp (and of course Everest, a.k.a. Chomolungma is located).

We had read that Tashilhunpo was one of the few monasteries in Tibet that weathered the Cultural Revolution relatively unscathed. This is perhaps because the 10th Panchan Lama, unlike his predecessors, was actually chosen by the Chinese who thought that they could mold him into a pro-Chinese high level Tibetan. Apparently, even though he was raised and educated in China, he ended up moving more and more to the Dalai Lama’s point of view on Tibetan independence and actually ended up in jail for fourteen or so years.

Buddha wall paintings at Tashilhunpo Monastery
He was eventually released and then later died under supposedly mysterious circumstances in 1989. All of the Tibetan’s say that the Chinese poisoned him as they were disappointed in his disobedience. If you recall or read in the Darjeeling entry, we visited a Tibetan Help Center there where there were posters all over the place about the 11th Panchan Lama (the one recognized by the Dalai Lama and Tibetans, not the one that the Chinese recognize) who was abducted several years back as a small child and currently being detained and most likely “re-educated” in an unknown location.

Anyway, Tashilhunpo is the seat of the Panchan Lama and we were looking forward to wondering around the complex and seeing the temples. You might notice a lack of pictures in this entry. That is because, unlike the other monasteries we have visited who might occasionally charge a modest camera fee, this place charged $10-$20 per temple to take pictures and is known for having monks who at best are indifferent and non-friendly and at worst, rumored to be Chinese informants.

Tashilhunpo Monastery Rooftop

The panorama shot gives you an idea of the size of the complex with all of the golden roofed temples and the large fort on the right. The open courtyard itself was nice but in wandering up towards the hill and the temples, the grounds are really dirty and poorly kept. That in addition to the over the top camera fees and unfriendly monks made for a pretty short and disappointing visit. At least you can take pictures outside of the temple without having to bribe the monks. A few of them are here just to break up the text (I know many of you only like to skim over my long-winded diatribes and descriptions and just look at the pix J

Later that evening, we walked a bit down the road searching for the local internet café that Tenzin mentioned and eventually found it, a huge, smoke filled rooms with 100’s of computers and 100’s of kids mostly playing games and IM’ing each other.

Roof Details at Tashilhunpo Monastery
We eventually got someone to help us but there was no way to change the keyboard setting from Chinese to English which made menu’s rather difficult (impossible) for us to read so we quickly checked email and headed off for an uninspiring dinner.

Tomorrow we climb to higher altitude (about 16,300 ft) at Shegar in preparation for our ascent of Everest (OK really just a visit to base camp but it sounds much cooler to say “ascent of Everest”)

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Tashilhunpo Monastery Panorama
Tashilhunpo Monastery Panorama
Tashilhunpo Monastery
Tashilhunpo Monastery
Buddha wall paintings at Tashilhun…
Buddha wall paintings at Tashilhu…
Tashilhunpo Monastery Rooftop
Tashilhunpo Monastery Rooftop
Roof Details at Tashilhunpo Monast…
Roof Details at Tashilhunpo Monas…
Prayer Pole at Tashilhunpo Monaste…
Prayer Pole at Tashilhunpo Monast…
photo by: mountaingirl