July 18, 2013, Today we began with visiting the Drepoung Monastery 哲蚌寺.
Dreepoung 哲蚌寺 Monastery was the largest monastery in Tibet before Dali Lama fled to India in 1959. After the Chinese Communist Party took over and appointed Benji Lama to administrate the religion matters, the monasteries in Tibet also have been either closed or down-sized. For example Lobulinka used to have a couple thousand monks, now only around three hundred. Our tour guide explained to us that for centuries the only place for Tibetans to receive an education was in the monastery, and the monastery provided food and shelter. But, now the Chinese Communist government only allows a limited number of people to be monks, in addition, the monks will receive “salary” from the central government, not much, our guide said, but it has made sure monks would not do anything that the Chinese government does not like.
A lovely boy saw me and came up to pose for me to take a picture of him, so I did. Then our tour guide said he did that for money. He then pointed out many Tibetans sitting on the side of the road also are waiting for hand out money. I gave the boy a couple dollars and a couple elder ladies, but was stopped by the tour guide telling me “don’t give to too many people especially young people which makes them lazy.”
I asked why the burning grass? The tour guide said the grass is fragrant grass, it is meant for people to cleanse their odor before entering the temple for worshiping the Buddha. The monastery is built on the top of the mountain, so we have to take many steps to go up to the monastery. In Tibet you will see many painting on the rocks. The painting usually a Buddha, sometime step ladder or other religion symbols. The paintings shown even under the Communist ruling, Tibetans are still having their tradition in their religion, the religion that has last couple thousands years. If you are asking, do I feel the high altitude? Yes, I did feel it especially when walking up a hill like this one. How about sickness? You might ask?. No! I did not have headache, sickness or dizziness the primary symptoms for high altitude. Perhaps because Ralph went to Portland Travel Clinic and got some altitude sickness medicine for both of us (The clinic has my travel abroad record) and medicine helped with situation.
We did not see many monks but we did see a loyal dog. Khatas (Tibetan scarf. White means purity.) hang on the door way. The scarf was offered by the pilgrims before entering the temple as the scarf is showing their sincerity to the Buddha.
The floor of the temple is very clean. It is one of the monks daily activities – clean the temple – because they believe cleaning away dust is also as important to clear your bad/dirty mind away.The window for the room is small. It is design to prevent less cold air coming into the building during the long cold winter time. The square is for monks to do their group activities, such as performing. The window in the center (covered by curtain) was the place for Dali Lama to see the activities. Tibetans love these colors, yellow = earth; blue = sincerity; red = sun; green = planet and white = purerity. (The person stands on the left of the picture is our tour guide, a true Tibetan. He went to inland received college education, spoke good English, but rather return to his homeland making much less money.) There is another temple behind the one we visited, but it is much higher, we decided one monastery is enough. This is part of the view for the monastery. (Most of the monasteries are built on the hillside – according to our tour guide.)This walkway presents such a peaceful feeling. Certainly, this is not a hot tourist point, otherwise, I would not have had a peaceful feeling. Over look Lhasa as it is surrounded by the mountains. So happy we came to Tibet. I believe there are more meaning for each objects, but we just don’t have time to learn all of them. You can see orange (when mud is fresh) or light brown color mud on the top of the roof, it is Tibetan mud. Because it is very heavy and sticky, the Tibetans use it to seal the roof from rain. This object – Round drum liked item with gold plates at outer layer, bells hanging at top rim, in the center is a Buddha symbol – it is seen at important temples or monasteries.
The main kitchen. The food for the entire monastery is being cooked here. Monks will bring the food from here to their room to eat. The food is only serves once a day. They still burn wood as fuel. I wonder where do they get fire wood? I did not see thick forest near. The tea kettle for milk tea and the bucket is for carrying food. Because the kitchen only serves one meal a day, I asked if monks get hungry during the day what do they eat? Our tour guide said “Nothing!”. Big wok! Tea in bundles. The Tibetan as well as the monks drink a lot of tea daily. (Did you see there is a wash machine liked item? I did not get chance to verify with our tour guide.) Our tour guide pointed out that there are lots of seats that have not been taken foe decades based on the monastery has a low number of monks than before because Chinese government restrict certain number of monks per year, and the number can only be smaller. A sincere pilgrim offers his oil to the lamp. I forgot what kind of oil, but remember it is animal fat. Dali Lama the fifth (I think) sitting in the front of Buddha. These saint figuring is made by butter and have to keep in the box to preserve figuring stay in low temperature (from melting). It is very intriguing. Beautiful Tibetan carpet, again, it only uses the five Tibetan color – white, blue, yellow, red and green. In the cabinet keeps a big long quilt (carpet) and only taking out to display during the important events. Drain from the roof. These donkeys carries heavy load of construction materials were afraid to cross the bridge, they kept on backing up of turn around unfortunately they still cannot escape, after their handler whipped them few times, they had to cross the bridge. I guest the muscle (and weapon) talks. These are nuns – female monks. Tibetan pilgrims carry oil to offer to the Buddhas.
After the monastery, we visited Norbulinka 罗布林卡, the 14th Dalai Lama’s summer palace. Unfortunately, since he fled to India in 1959 no one can openly worship him, his palaces cannot have his picture. However, according to our tour guide, all families in Tibet all have his picture – secretly, and all know of him as their religion leader.
Outside of the palace has four sided wall kept privacy for the 14th Dali Lama.
How can we not take a picture to proof that we have actually arrived to Dali Lama 14th’ Palace?! In fact, Dali Lama has spent lot of time here until he was actually took the role as Tibetan’s religion leader then he moved to Potala palace.
The door handles wrapped by the prayer’s Tanka, it leads the way to enter the palace.
The windows on the second floor (it does not shows much in the picture maybe you can review it from the picture above this one) were the viewing windows for Dali Lama to look out of the window since he supposedly spent lots of time study, meeting or praying inside the building.
This building is for ceremony and bigger meeting. The window did not covered again is for Dali Lama to view outside of the square.
We observed the abandoned former quarters of the Dalai Lama at the Potala. The empty vestment placed on the throne symbolises his absence. (Our tour guide informed us it is prohibit by the Chinese government to take photo of his “throne”. I could not understand why, but I went ahead took one – quickly – any way.)
Because this is Dali Lama’s Summer Palace, there is pond surrounded by flowers and plants.
Unlike other places, here you do not see many tourist. Either because too many restrictions, or Chinese mainlanders are not as much interested of Tibetan history compares to the westerners. Ralph was the only “westerner” in the entire Summer Palace along with few elder Tibetan ladies (below).
In the afternoon, we go to the renowned Jokhang Temple 大昭寺 which will provide us one of our first sights of devout Tibetans. This temple was built in the 7th century has glistening Sakyamuni statue which is considered Tibetan Buddhism’s rarity.
By the way, as far as current days, Tibet’s air has not been polluted. We were so glad to see the blue sky and beautiful white cloud.
To show sincere to Buddha, pilgrims threw their body to the ground level until “five points – two hands, two feet and forhead touched the ground – and repeat this motion several times. I have heard for years, Tibetan pilgrims would walked hundreds mile to Lhasa. They will perform this kind of pray every seven steps. We did not see any, maybe because we took train instead of bus.
The turning wheels in this temple is so much bigger but it is blocked by the fence otherwise I might try to turn it too. (I wonder the reason they block the turning wheels maybe because this is the most popular temple in Tibet, the monks cannot accommodate big number of the pilgrims all want to spin the wheels. So, they built the fence to protect the wheels.)
The roof of the building is made out of thick straws. The diagrams/pictures on the curtain all have special meaning, unfortunately I could not expect our tour guide to explain to me all. I guess if I like to learn about them, I better log on website or find the reference books.
Stair way to upper level of the temple.
It is quite beautiful when golden roof (real gold) shined by the bright sun.
On the top floor of the Jokhang Temple 大昭寺.
Now you can see the size of this building. Keep in mind, this is only one of the corners in this temple.
Out tour guide told us this side of the turning wheels will only open for the pilgrims on special religion day – to accommodate large number of them.
From this temple we can see Potala Palace in distance. It is so …. beautiful!!!
Look down from the roof is square connect to Barkhor Street. The tall pole at center of the square currently is wrapped with five color fabric. All the fabric will opens up on the religion days as symbolic of welcoming the gods.
The Tibetan wishing well.
At this time, we were very tired. Before Ralph came to China he has received medication for high altitude sickness from Portland Travel Clinic for both of us, although we did not get actual “High Altitude” sickness, but every time when we walked fast or climb up the steps, we found we both experienced short of breath. We decided no shopping this afternoon, we went straight back to hotel after visited temple which our hotel located just outside of the square.
After we took a nap it already night time. Based on our tour guide informed us NOT to walk far away from our hotel it would cause difficulty for us to explain to local police why we did not stay in our hotel area. So, we only went to one of the two restaurant that our tour guide suggested – we do not want to create any trouble, especially me, I really want to able to return to my comfortable home after I have gone for near six months, I do not want to have any reason to make me stay any longer if I don’t have to. Turned out this restaurant served pretty tasty food. We had Yak meat over jasmine rice and semi-Indian combination plate.
After the dinner, we observed couple native Tibetans on the square. Two boys with a man, maybe their father. The man looks like holding a cell phone. The secrete and hidden Tibet has being penetrated by the modern items. I did not want to violate their culture, the culture I believe do not wish being photographic, so the pictures I took did not angled in a good position. However, I believe they still presented very good image – for the outsiders.