Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Tibet, or the rooftop of the world, has an interesting history including periods of jostling for independence from Monguls, Chinese, Thais, Nepalese and the British. While it has experienced war, during the last two to three hundred years, it's people were better known for their study of philosophy, meditation, sentience, and the nature of existence. Prior to 1950, Tibet was an autonomous nation with a rich Buddhist culture where most families had at least one son or daughter who were dedicated monks or nuns. Thousands of monasteries existed; even small villages of a few houses far away on the vast Tibetan Plateau had their own small monasteries or nunneries decorated with prayer flags, food offerings, and incense. Tibet had a history of isolation which led to a very strong and unique cultural identity which was only gradually allowing change in the middle part of the 20th century. All that changed when 40,000 armed Chinese invaded in 1950. By 1959, the embodiment of their God of Compassion, the 14th Dalai Lama, had to flee to India, in all probability never to
We were surprised at the level of constraint and monitoring we observed. In a trip of over a thousand miles, we rarely traveled for an hour without multiple stops by Chinese police and military who examined our visa, passports, and our guide's and driver's identification papers. Getting permission to visit Tibet can be challenging with the country's borders frequently being closed to all foreigners. When open, the rules change each year about which country is allowed visas, what group compositions can be allowed, which areas may be visited. We asked one day to deviate from our approved path by 1.6 miles and were told how we could
In the end, despite more than 6 decades of Chinese occupation, we met some of the most passionate pilgrims, free nomads, and kind souls we have encountered on the planet. Our next blog entry will describe the wonders that remain embedded within the people and place known as Tibet.
Posted from Siem Reap, Cambodia. Images are of a Tibetan pilgrim completing a circuit in Lhasa; monks from the Sera Monastery who are currently allowed to practice their Buddhist religion; and of the ever present Chinese riot police marching below the silent and empty Potala, home of the exiled Dalai Lama.