Birds In A Cage

Lhasa Travel Blog

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Climbing up the steps at Potala Palace

Note: The views expressed in this blog are entirely those of the author and should be read as they are intended; as the experiences that I had whilst in Tibet and merely my own reflections.

This is one of the hardest blogs that I have had to write:

How do I write about Tibet, which I view as a separate country from China, and still provide a balanced view into a culture that has been beaten down and subjugated since 1959 by its larger and more powerful neighbour? How do I try and leave my bias at the door and not get emotional about the things that I experienced? How can write about a culture and the events that so affected me that I was left in tears?

Tibet had been an independent country until 1959 when China came and took over under the recently formed Communist Party.

The Dalai Lama fled to India, where he still resides, and the Chinese military set up camp there. Within decades China had expanded into this land and their population increased. Now there are seven Chinese to one Tibetan; a scary statistic considering that the new constructed railroad is bringing in more and more numbers of Chinese into this area.

A local explained that China had taken control of Tibet under the "Successful Liberation of Tibet by China" in 1959 because centuries ago the Tibetan king, Song Tsan Gampo had married the Chinese princess Wencheng in order to promote diplomacy between the two countries. Furthermore, this same king had married a Nepalese princess named Bitikuti and a Tibetan princess called Monksa Trijam. Okay, so the king liked pretty girls, but it was the Tibetan princess who bore him a child who went on to rule Tibet.
The Debating Monks

I have nothing against Wencheng she seems very lovely from the statues that I saw of her within Jokhang Temple, but to me it seemed like a weak argument for occupation of a country.

I asked a local what it was like living under Chinese rule and they equated it to being stifled, their exact words were, "Tibet is like a beautiful bird in a cage". Later they expressed themselves more by saying they hated living under Chinese rule. What made this situation so much more poignant was that we had to look around before we could discuss any of this. Everywhere in Lhasa there are police and uniformed military watching you, waiting for an uprising of some sort. How the Tibetans are meant to up rise is beyond me.
Meeting the friendly locals

Tibetans are different from their Chinese counterparts. Not only are they quick with a smile but they wear their traditional clothing, have their own language and are very devout in their Buddhist religion; something that is not understood by the politicians of China. Communism and religion has never worked well together and this was further emphasised in the Muslim quarter of Lhasa where there were soldiers stationed on the roof of the mosque.

Lhasa has some beautiful architectural sites to go and visit, including the impressive Potala Palace, which was constructed in the seventh century. At 3800 metres about sea level, I was at the highest I had ever been (outside a plane), and the Sera Monastery, which is home to the debating monks. Daily, young monks go out into the courtyard and debate with each other, slapping their hands when they ask a question.
Leaving Tibet, about to board my flight to Kathmandu and fly over Mt Everest
I remember being explained the reason behind the slap, something about opening the mind of the answerer, but all I can remember now are the beautiful shaved heads of the monks were in the sunlight as the sounds of slaps and rosary beads connected with palms. We just sat in this courtyard soaking in the atmosphere and watching the earnest intent on their faces as they debated the ideas of Buddhism together.

But for me the real highlight of Lhasa was the Tsamkhung Nunnery. For 30 Yuan ($6 NZD) you can visit the 60 nuns and see their daily activities including meal preparation and the cutting and rolling of the prayers for the inside the prayer wheels. However, it was within the Assembly Hall where I connected most with these group of women. Sitting in the hall with them as they repeated a mantra over and over again, I listened with my eyes closed and my ears open.
Laqdo, the nun and me
After it ended and the ladies left, I was overcome with deep feelings of elation and sadness. I had found the real Tibet, it was not about the hippy jump-on-the-bandwagon 'Free Tibet' kind, but I had found inner peace and I think for a moment that is why I was so upset. In a place that is noticeably overrun with soldiers and weapons, the simple prayers of these nuns, the local pilgrims walking with their prayer wheels, the prostrating of the devout in front of Jokhang Temple, the singing and dancing of workers all led me to fall head over heels for these oppressive people. If their gentle way of life can reduce a cynical soul like me to tears, imagine if, in the words of John Lennon 'We Gave Peace A Chance'.

Jay yong from Tibet

Pietro53 says:
Hi,nice to meet you.
I'm Peter ,an Italian doctor.
On September i'll go in Tibet.
I have read your news about your trip.
Very interesting. I hope to discuss my impressions with you after my journey in that country.
Thank you very much
Posted on: May 25, 2013
sleepingsunshine says:
Yeah, it is sad that politicians think that they can own a country just by using arms forces. I have few friends from China and I always feel uneasy when they talked about how Tibet should belong to them, they can be quite aggressive in this matter... I mean I am not trying to be bias or whatever , I just don't think anybody in this world can actually own a place/country.. it belongs to people, creatures, elements that reside there in this time in this moment.. Anyway, it is just my opinion :)
Posted on: Oct 15, 2010
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Climbing up the steps at Potala Pa…
Climbing up the steps at Potala P…
The Debating Monks
The Debating Monks
Meeting the friendly locals
Meeting the friendly locals
Leaving Tibet, about to board my f…
Leaving Tibet, about to board my …
Laqdo, the nun and me
Laqdo, the nun and me
On the TOP of the world  :)
On the TOP of the world :)
photo by: mountaingirl