A Conversation for Lost Lhasa

Memories

Post 1

Metal Chicken

It's nearly 10 years since I visited Lhasa but the powerful impression it made has stayed with me ever since. I'd been travelling around China for some weeks previously and arrived in Lhasa with a Chinese man who knew only the stories he'd been brought up to believe ie Tibet as a distant backwards province of China being benevolently modernised by the Mother country. Within a day of arrival he was saying he felt he was visiting a foreign country and even he could not deny the oppressive impact of the Chinese troops marching in the street.
The Potala was as overpoweringly impressive on first distant sight as my imagination thought it would be. Close up, somewhat patchy renovation and empty rooms told a different story - walking around as a tourist felt intrusive although the monks were happy that we visit some of the huge grand rooms holding the remains of previous Dalai Lamas. Much more poignant was the small room which should have been the personal prayer room for the current Dalai Lama.
Visiting the Jokhung was one of the most humbling experiences of my life as I saw people making their way along the street outside by means of repeated prostrations. Having driven passed somebody doing just that on the main road outside town I knew some of these people had travelled long distances on their knees to come to this site that I had just strolled into. To see this level of devotion continuing to be expressed in a country where it is a crime to have even carry a Dalai Lama picture...well, as I said, it's humbling.


Memories

Post 2

John the gardener says, "Free Tibet!"

It's worth remembering that the pilgrims are going to all that trouble for our benefit as much as theirs. Far from having been oppressed by the monasteries, as the Chinese government would have us believe, people who are so powerfully equipped to do good, and sincerely believe in their empowerment, are very fortunate. You would have to be very callous indeed to look into the eyes of an ancient leather-skinned lady and not feel that she has given you something special.

On a more pragmatic level, the fact that such simple piety has endured
half a century of 'peaceful liberation' and modernisation is eloquent testimony that the Tibetan people consider what they have lost to be more valuable than what they have gained.

JTG


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