Tibet 1986 and Beyond

Tibetan travel & study

First Batch of Photos – Central Tibet

Finally, some of the Kodachromes from Tibet are scanned in. More pictures will go up as time allows. These are of medium to low quality to make viewing online convenient. There is a local outfit that scans slides and negatives at very high resolution. Naturally, the originals are sharper and have better color fidelity but the scans are pretty good.

So these slides are just a few of approximately 1,000 total. I hope you find them appealing.

These were taken in the summers of 1985 and 1986. 1985 was entirely in central Tibet. You will see pictures of Lhasa, Shigatse, Sakya, Chongye, Samyas, Gyantse, and other locations.

1986 pictures are from Central Tibet as well but dominantly Khams, east Tibet. A Swiss guy, Frank, and I traveled from Chengdu, Sichuan to Lhasa over land. He was a great travel companion and a good sport to put up with me for such a long trip. Neither of us had done any serious mountain hiking and this was in the days before Global Positioning Systems. However, we were young and confident we could do anything. Ended up, we did pretty well.

We took a month or two with lots of stops. On the way, we walked from Derge to sGrolma Lhakhang. It took almost three weeks and two 17,000-18,000 passes. It was a bit of an adventure as no Westerner had taken this route ever. Most of the villagers had never seen a gringo. The dialect seemed to change every couple of valleys. Despite a fair amount of research in the Dharamsala, India library and interviews with refugees from that area of Kham, we were not all that familiar with the route.

Often local directions conflicted. Was that one big pass and two river crossings or two big passes and one river crossing? It was pretty confusing at times but a very rewarding experience.

PotalaOK, so maybe this is another cheesy tourist picture of the Potala.


Olympic Prostration Team 1985

This guy was amazing. We called him and two others the Olympic Prostration Team. They were out on the Barkor (the holy circuit around the most sacred Tibetan Temple, the Jokhang). Some pilgrims measure the length of their body all the way around. These guys would do speed prostrations around. Literally the fastest on the block. Some days, they would measure the width of their body around the circuit, amazing.

A regular in 1985. Part of the Olympic Prostration Team.

Gyantze Dzong from the south. 1985

Gyantze is the third largest city. This picture is from 1985 while going from Lhasa to the Nepal border. I probably was in town for 5-6 days doing some day trips to the destroyed monasteries nearby. It was a great town.

View from Gyantze Dzong. 1985

Below the Dzong (fort or administrative center) is the old town and monastery. The straight street on the left was built by the Chinese government, the right side is the old street.

The monastery is mostly destroyed as the entire area inside the walls was covered with buildings. Those left are the originals. The stupa is one of the few remaining Kumbums (“thousand doors”). The art inside all the building is spectacular.  The wall in the upper right is where a huge thanka hangs once a year.


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