Tibet 1986 and Beyond

Tibetan travel & study

Portraits Eastern Tibet ཁམས་

Frank and I managed to meet some great folks in Eastern Tibet while riding and hiking. We were in rural or very remote areas most of the time. The Khampas (people of Eastern Tibet) tend to be more informal and their dialect reflects this. Their reputation is that they make good priests and good warriors.

Woman inviting us in just outside Gatar Gompa 1986

We were frequently invited to have Yak Butter Tea as there were few foreign visitors at that time.

Monk at Yena Gompa near Derge 1986

Yena was our first stop on the trek from Derge to Drolmalhakang. Except for some remote areas infested with bandits, we were received in a friendly manner.

More monks at Yena 1986

We were surprised to see a novice in the group.

Monks circumambulating the Derge print works 1986

There was always always a crowd around the printworks. Given the lack of foreigners, we always attracted a crowd.

Weathermaker near Gatar Gompa 1986

We loved this guy. Weather makers are kind of a throw back to pre-Buddhist times where shamens ruled. Ngapa (weather makers) are said to influence the climatic conditions and perform various rituals like exorcisms. I am told they do not really make weather but influence the local conditions such as pushing a rain cloud to the crops or keeping it sunny for an official function. The government in exile in India has one on the payroll.

Husband and wife in Onto Gompa 1986

Husband and Wife in Onto Gompa 1986

Onto was a Sakyapa town. All the men were monks and allowed to marry. This couple was kind enough to invite us in for the night. The paint on the walls are indicative of the Sakya sect of Buddhism.

Bonpo woman 1986

Bonpo woman 1986

We visited a Bonpo shrine outside of Kanze. Bonpo is the pre-Buddhist indigenous religion. Given our modest understanding of the local dialect, we were only able to understand that a saint rode a horse through the air, across the valley, landing in a cave then rode across the roof of the cafe leaving a hoof print. I am pretty sure we got it right.

Onto Gompa school teacher 1986

Another guy we really liked. He taught all subject to the kids living around Onto Gompa. They did not have much paper (this was two days walk from the nearest road) so they dusted the 8″X10″ blackboards with chalk dust and wrote with sticks or bamboo to practice math or Tibetan.

Tibetan couple 1986

Frank and I were stuck in some remote area in East Tibet waiting/hoping a truck would pick us up. A couple came out from their house set a ways off the road to greet us.

I will post some more portraits soon. We were fortunate to have met lots of very nice people along the way.


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