Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Tibet Day 4: Gyantse - Pelkor Chode and Kumbum Chorten

Off after breakfast for the sights of Gyantse. The Dzong of Gyantse towers above the town. The dzong (a fort) contains an anti-British Imperialists museum. In 1904 Sir Francis Young-Husband led a British expeditionary force from India into Tibet & they set up camp in Gyantse Dzong, staying for several months before moving into Lhasa.

The British invasion was rife with cultural misunderstandings. The British didn't understand the burial rites of the Tibetans, so in the proper British fashion buried the Tibetan dead. The Tibetans horrified by this practice came later to dig up the bodies for sky burials. And then, the British took the injured Tibetans into their hospitals for treatment. How could they kill one day, and heal the next? Most confusing!

The Gyantse pachu monastery/Pelkor Chode was built in 1418 by a local chieftan and monk kadup gelake pasang (the first panchen lama). The monastery held stacks and stacks of books with Buddhist writing - both in Sanskrit and Tibetan.

The most notable building at the monastery is the Kumbum Chorten, a stupa built in 1427. With 9 tiers and 108 chapels, it is a key cultural relic. Each chapel contains numerous murals, painting and statues.

Gyantse is deemed by the tour books to be the Tibetan city with the least Chinese influence. Possibly true, though given time, that is sure to change. No doubt, wandering through the old parts of town would be interesting given the time.

More harvesting in this part of the country - this time hay - with fields filled with people and hay wagons filled to overflowing.

En route to Shigatse, we stopped at a local barley flour mill. Barley is roasted and then ground. The flour mixed with yak butter, known as tsampa, is a primary food source for Tibetans. One of those local dishes like porridge, poi, and grits that sticks to the ribs, and is an acquired taste to those not born to it.

Link back to the beginning of the October 2007 Tibet trip at: Planning for Tibet, Arriving in Tibet and Off to Tsetang, Tibet Day 2: Tsetang Tibet Day 2: Journey to Samye, Tibet Day 3: Road to Gyantse - Yamdrok-Tso Lake and Tibet Day 3: Continuing on the Road to Gyantse.

Link forward to Tibet Day 4: Shigatse and Tashilhunpo

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