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Pole (start of a mani pile)
A shrine at the top of the mountain (off limits to us)
Stoves becoming mani piles
Me and the Hengduan Mountain Range (the source of the Yangtze river)
Off in the distance that huge mountain made where I was standing seem pretty low to the ground.
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Down from the mountain, we head back to Shangrila Old Town and then to the north to Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (松赞林寺) in the late afternoon. Built in 1679 by the 5th Dalai Lama, and the size of a small village, this is the largest monastery in Yunnan and one of the most important Buddhist monasteries in China. Because of its importance to the Yellow Hat Tibetan sect of Buddhism and close ties to the Dalai Lama, this monastery was nearly demolished during the Cultural Revolution. Since 1983 it has gone under extensive reconstruction which continues today.During my visit a large crane sat atop the east lamasery.
Once home to upwards of 2000 monks, it now houses just under 700. It covers a sole hill and sits across a shallow lake. To the east and west are small domiciles of the faithful, which are then surrounded by rolling farmland. Each hilltop and mountaintop in sight is crowned with an alter.
Here is a satellite image of the monastery The lake to the south is completely dried up in this imagery.
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A panoramic of the Gandan Monastery
Click here to load a large version of the panoramic
Clouds overhead and the light getting lower, the gold-capped roofs and grass-covered walls turn the whole temple gold.
Several entrance-ways lead to a maze of alleys
So what do we do? Buy some street-potatoes!
A view of the Monastery from the lake.
The lake. Notice the alters on the tops of each hill.
Prayer flags circle the lake.
Light is getting low... hurry to into the monastery...
Notice construction on the top there.
Entering one of the temples. I took no photos inside as it is disrespectful. To enter, males must step over the foot-high threshold left foot first, careful not to touch the wood. Females step right foot first. No hats, no photography, no commerce.
The interiors of the temples are some of the most elaborately decorated structures I have ever seen. The walls and pillars are painted with bold and bright colors, day-glow accents and gold trim. Giant bronze Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, or Vajrayanas tower over everything else, and they are adorned with gifts of fruit, money, bottled beverages, and trinkets. A monk is usually at the base of the statue, reading scripture and available to talk with any worshipers. Visitors should walk in a clockwise direction, and a tunnel under each statue allows them to circomvent each room. Photos, statues, paintings, and word commemorate other deities, monks past, and Lamas. Everything is colorful, decorated and meaningful. It's sensory-overload. If one wall isn't stacked with statues, its walls are covered with deity-filled murals (Tibetan Buddhism has hundreds of deities). Money is stuffed into every crack, set on every surface, and offered on platters to the deity or dead who best symbolized what the worshiper needs, wants, or has. The scent of potala incense is calming, and the chanting of monks, either in the temple or from some distance away, gives me a sense I am out of place, yet safe and at peace. I could easily spend hours in each temple, viewing the art, observing the details, (and if I could read Tibetan or Chinese) learning a bit about the people honored there.
If I could photograph inside the temples, I'd plan a trip based on it. For now, the experience is all I needed.
Some homes within the monastery are simple, others are elaborately decorated.
Some hand carved and panted doors were ruined by the construction.
A view towards the lake from a construction zone.
View a larger version of this panoramic
View a larger version of this panoramic
Pretty fancy incense at this place
Very old and well-used prayer wheel
Really enjoying these photos. Perhaps an odd favorite to choose - considering the construction mess - is this one. The colors are very soothing and I just really love the feel of it.
Oh Matt.... wish there was a "LOVE" button for each photo...
what a pleasure to be able to follow your trip with these fantastic photos...
and of course...I envy you the whole experience.
I love the night shots...sweet city lights...
so much colour and texture everywhere...love the details in all the shots.
the panos are exquisite...could spend a lot of time examining those alone.
thanks for sharing the pics and the info...I would love to follow in your footsteps.
I headed back to the village square for sunset.
Here's a map of the the old village, with the Tibet Buddhist temple on the hill at center.
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Turns out there is a huge temple on a hill right around the corner from my hotel
This fountain and pool is kinda sacred. That didn't stop people from using the water to wash their children's asses.
Villagers dance in the square as I climb the steps to the temple
This room is closed but I go around to get the main temple.
From here, I can see the cultural museum across the square.
The hill is surrounded by player flags. Visitors circumvent the temple 3 times, clockwise, as a form of prayer ritual.
The village surrounds the hill to the north and east.
Click here to see a large version of this panoramic
Under construction: the world's largest prayer wheel.
NaXi women finish their rounds at the temple.
From the top of the hill I could see all the hotels being built on the far side of the village.
As the sun goes down, the buildings light up.
NaXi women sit an chitchat along the stairs of the temple.
A view of the temple from the square.
the pool below the temple.
Museum and courtyard.
The temple, gold prayer wheel, gate, steps, and pool
I go exploring the old village at night. Restaurants and cafes are busy. There's a bar or two... all playing loud Tibetan techno music. Things are dark here. There are a lot of shadowy alleys and gaps in what is expected to be lit up. There tourist industry has just begin and the infrastructure isn't there yet.
A window of a cafe.
The alley leading to my hotel. The rise in the stone is actually the base of the hill (with the temple on it) - and that's how i was able to navigate back to my room. The granite cobblestone road here is slippery (polished by hundreds of years and millions of people stepping across.
Restaurant have these hot pots flaming in the alleys. After settling down enough that pick up the brass pot and set in on a customer's table to heat up stew for Tibet-style hotpot.
The government encourages trilingual signs to help with tourism.
More slippery steps lead down an alley filled with shops and restaurants.
A small square, surrounded by shops, is another place villagers congregate to dance in a circle.
Walk too far and you'll find yourself out of the old village and into modern streets.
An alley of bars in the old town pumped out Tibetan techno music.