Sunday, November 25, 2007

Xiahe-Meeting a Lama

A small boy hides from me

Meeting a Lama

Xiahe is home to the Labrang Monastery, one of the most important monastery towns in Tibetan Buddhism and a major pilgrimage place. Tim and I were doing the prayer wheel circuit alongside a couple who took their wallet out and presented it to the Buddha statues in each of the temples and who informed us that at 3:00 we could see the resident Lama, who is a reincarnation of a past Lama and now maybe 8-10 years old.

We showed up in the outer courtyard of his private apartments a little before three to find a small gathering of pilgrims dressed in there very finest, cleanest, and most colorful clothing and dripping with coral, turquoise, and silver jewelry. The couple who had told us to come here was getting their wallet out, ready to be blessed yet again. When the door opened to the inner courtyard the people rushed in and formed a single file line to offer the Lama money and white scarves, collected by a monk at the bottom of the steps. The Lama was seated on the porch, on a high, richly colored fabric draped table with a fuchsia cloaked monk on either side.

Tim and I pulled out about $1.40 each and slipped into the line with the other pilgrims. When the pilgrims approached the Lama, they bowed their heads and he whacked them on the top of the head with a yellow fabric wrapped bundle. When I reached the Lama he looked at me strangely, but recovered quickly and tapped my head with his bundle. I wonder if he has ever hit a honky on the head before! Tim was behind me, and got whacked hard. When everyone had payed his respects to and received blessings from the boy Lama, he then proceeded to carefully fold a paper airplane and fly it across the porch.


I did not take any photos on the day Tim and I went to see the lama, but the following day I went back, slipped quietly into the shadow of the doorway, and snapped this shot.Click on it to enlarge and see the boy Lama better.

Pilgrims leaving the courtyard of the Lama. The women wear large silver and coral ornaments on their waists.

A pilgrim on the prayer wheel circuit. This circuit is 3 Km long, with over 1100 prayer wheels. I walked it each day, along side colorfully dressed pilgrims-some prostrating themselves around the entire thing-and fuchsia cloaked monks. All though many of the people walked the circuit with a focused, almost desperate, determination, some pilgrims would turn to give me the thumbs up sign (usually when I had the camera hidden!).

Some of the pilgrims and people of Xiahe

This beautiful Tibetan lady has huge silver and coral earrings.

A man getting his ears cleaned in the street

Collecting sage branches for the holy fires

A shopkeeper takes a snooze in the Muslim area

Boy eating a banana

Some of the monks from the monastery

The Yellow Hat sect is named for these distinctive hats the monks wear

The monk blowing into this long horn is hidden in the doorway

Tim and I overlooking the monastery from the top of the Golden Pagoda

Inside the Golden Pagoda

Another overview of the monastery and monks quarters from the hills beside the monastery

A closer shot of some of the golden roofs

Mao's Quote:

"We must undoubtedly criticise wrong ideas of every description. It certainly would not be right to refrain from criticism, look on while wrong ideas spread unchecked and allow them to monopolize the field. Mistakes must be criticised and poisonous weeds fought wherever they crop up."

"Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung" 1966, Foreign Languages Press.

Please note that Mao's quotes are presented for informational purposes only, and do not reflect the opinions of the blog author!

Breathing Trouble!!

China is the most polluted place on earth! People burn everything-leaves, trash, fields, etc. Factories spewing various colors of smoke dot the landscape. Everyone heats with coal in their homes and businesses. Although we have purportedly been in several cities surrounded by mountains, we haven't seen them. Stars? What are those?

In addition to outdoor pollution, indoors almost every man in China smokes. Chain smokes, right under the nonsmoking sign. I have become the cigarette Nazi, pointing to peoples cigarettes and then the signs. It's a losing battle. The women don't smoke. Why? The men think its gross if they do!

People here do not seem to be aware of the health dangers posed by the constant thick haze of smoke that settles over the landscape and obscures the horizon. Many times we have seen high rise apartment blocks literally in the shadow of a large, spewing factory, right in the dead zone. You would think that someone would realize that since nothing grows there, maybe they shouldn't live there!

Tim and I noticed that many people wear clothe face masks. We even bought some. We were discussing how some people became aware of the pollution, when we were informed that the people wear the masks for the cold, not the pollution.Sometimes I see a person wearing an old, white mask. The nostril and mouth areas are black.

A small factory along the road

Sunrise on a bright, clear day, believe it or not.

Skyline of a "modern commercial and industrial city" in China.

Here is a close up of that big spewer. This one might only be steam.

Typical heating and cooking smoke that comes from every home and small business in China

Burning leaves and trash by the road.

Burning branches in Xiahie

Part of the Jiayuguan fort with it's factory backdrop

This view of the fort should have big, beautiful snow mountains for a backdrop.

This one is only spewing a bit of smoke

Mao's quote of the day from the little red book.

A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.

"Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung" 1966, Foreign Languages Press.

Please note that Mao's quotes are presented for informational purposes only, and do not reflect the opinions of the blog author!

Saturday, November 24, 2007


After arriving in Urumqi, we quickly got on a bus to Turpan. Our first thought on arrival to the brightly lit Chinese center of the city was "why do so many people recommend this place?" Once we began to wander through the old town with its traditional mud brick courtyard homes and old bearded men riding in donkey carts we began to see Turpan's charm. There was a night market where what by day was a clean, paved parking lot became an outdoor restaurant with many vendors selling dirt cheap shashlik, stir fry, and steamed dumplings, all cooked on portable coal grills. In one corner you could even find such delicacy's as cows lung and sheep head. We ate here nightly, with a bottle of Turpan wine, a steal at $1.60.

The Chinese are sometimes a bit weird. One thing we have seen in several towns is birds with noise makers. I first encountered these birds in Turpan, when I heard overhead a sound something like a large motored airplane. I looked up to see that it was a flock of birds, of which at least one had been caught and outfitted with a noisemaker.

We arrived into Turpan just in time for the raisin harvest. The grapes had been harvested and hung to dry and now people were sorting the raisins in huge piles on the oily pavement, after which they were bagged with garden shovels. Seeing this method of handling, Tim and I decided not to eat any. This really upset one young vendor. When we refused to purchase some he began screaming at us "please, please, my family raisin! please, it's my family raisin"

Another interesting thing we saw in Turpan was the city dump. Interesting because it was the way the entire thing was sorted into neat little piles-fabric scraps, metal, bicycle tires, cardboard, different thickness of paper, and plastic and glass containers of all sizes. There was even a cloths line hung between two trees where scavangable clothing was hung.

While Tim hung out in Turpan, I took a day trip one day by bus to a small Uyger village called Tuyoq . Here it seems like the people live like they must have for centuries. Their mud brick courtyard homes were interspersed throughout the crumbled homes of the past. Muezzins climbed to the mosque roof to call out the prayer call the old fashioned way, with no loudspeakers. But still, progress creeps in-there was an oil well in the middle of the fields.

Hanging out

Outdoor pool

Exercise in the park

An old Uyger man

A typical donkey cart

The Emin minaret behind some fields and large, well ventilated brick buildings used for drying grapes

Sorting raisins on the pavement


A typical courtyard home

Homes mixed in with the ruins of the past

I have recently gotten a hold of Mao's little red book in English. At the end of each blog in China, I will share a paragraph or so out of the book. Please note that I am doing so for informational purposes only and that the quotations I choose to share do not reflect my own opinions!

Mao's quote from the little red book for today:

"For instance, to arrest, try and sentence certain counter-revolutionaries, and to deprive landlords and bureaucrat-capitalists of their right to vote and their freedom of speech for a specified period of time-all this comes within the scope of our dictatorship. "

"Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung" 1966, Foreign Languages Press.

Please note that Mao's quotes are presented for informational purposes only, and do not reflect the opinions of the blog author!