A crash course of Buddhism in Lhasa, Tibet

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July 10th 2006
Published: July 10th 2006
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Potala PalacePotala PalacePotala Palace

a phycodalic reflection of the Potala from a department store window
We arrived to Lhasa by plane. we really wanted to get to Tibet with the

new train that opened last week but there was a 10 day (!) waiting list

and our visa to China expires in 3 weeks so we flew. BTW the soft seat

train (48hr) is only 20usd less then the flight (2hr)

we entered the city through the Chinese part which looks like any

other Chinese city we visited. but the bus stopped right under the

Potala Palace and we walked to the Tibetan side of the town and the

atmosphere changed. the Tibetan side is full of pilgrims going between

the temples and praying and the atmosphere is very relaxed.

we stayed at a nice hotel in the Tibetan area. we were on the 3rd

floor - higher then most buildings - so we saw the roof tops with prayer

flags and the surrounding mountains from our room. just one floor

down was the best (and most expensive) restaurant in Lhasa

serving good Tibetan, Western and Eastern fusion food. it also has a

balcony above the main street so we could hang out there and just

watch life pass by below. we spent much of our time in the restaurant

and in the room just resting

the warm dry thin air (3600m) also added to the feeling we were in a

different place.

Welcome to the occupation

the clash between the Chinese and Tibetans is still evident although

over 55 years have pasted since china "liberated" Tibet. The Chinese

police presence here is more then we saw in most of China. There are

police in every Tibetan site. In Lhasa there are also video cameras

next to important places and in the monasteries outside Lhasa there is

a police station at the entrance to each monastery. It is not meant to

"serve and protect" it is there to guard against "crimes against the

state" or any sign of separatist activity. also there is a clear line

dividing the ever growing "Chinese-Lhasa" with it's wide avenues, tiled

buildings and meany shops and the small "Tibetan-Lhasa" with narrow

streets, temples and markets. the Chinese side is
Potala PalacePotala PalacePotala Palace

Tibetans pray and kneel in front of the Potala. in the background the chinese square in front of the Potala
growing and the

Tibetan is always endangered.

You all probably heard about the new train to Lhasa from mainland

china. The news here says that the Tibetans are happy to finaly being

connected to the motherland and that they are looking forward to the

new economic opportunities. but by the number of Chinese tourist that

come with the train (a reported 3000 each day!) it is not difficult to

guess that Tibet will become more and more Chinese. we do not talk to

the Tibetans freely about politics but we are sure the they are not


Another sign of the continuing propaganda of the Chinese is a big sign

on the bottom wall of the Potala building - which was the seat to the

Dali-Lama and the Tibetan government until they fled to India. the

billboard says

Sincerely thank the Central Party for their thoughtfulness and

care, Thanking the people of the country for their great effort and



The police grip is also on the foreign tourists. we needed a special

permit to get to Tibet (not needed anyplace else in China) and this

permit is only for Lhasa and the surrounding area. to get to other
Potala PalacePotala PalacePotala Palace

the back side

parts of Tibet we need more permits. it is a way to control the

movement of the tourists and also to get money since the permits cost.


Finally the world-cup is over. Chinese television showed all the games

free - no need to pay-per-view like in Israel 😊. In almost of the hotels

in the last month we had a television in the room so we could follow

the games. In the first round, the early games were in the convenient

time of 2100. Each day we finished the day's activity with watching one

game and sometimes we would even watch half of the 2nd game that

started at 0000. The best game we saw in the first rounds was

Australia winning Japan 3-1 in the last 10 minutes of play. the final

rounds were a bit more difficult since most of the games were at 0300.

we still watched some of the quarter-finals and the France-Portugal

semi-final (Portugal was better!) and this night we watched the

disappointing final.

Hagit wonders where in the world we will be to
Potala Palace Potala Palace Potala Palace

the Potala Palace was the seat of the Dali Lama and the Tibetan government
watch the games in

South-Africa. we have 4 years to wait and see...


We wanted to eat some Iciecle (KAR'TIV) so we bought a red looking

one that we thought would be strawberry. What we got was a bean

with real pieces of SHEU'IT inside !

Additional photos below
Photos: 58, Displayed: 25


Potala Palace Potala Palace
Potala Palace

it is 400 years old and it is the heart of Lhasa
Potala Palace Potala Palace
Potala Palace

it is also a stunning building that you cannot stop looking at or photographing
Potala Palace Potala Palace
Potala Palace

the red palace on the top of the Potala is the holy site
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

the monastary is on top of a high mountain (4700m)
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

Yaron climbed the mountain above the monastery to photo the spectacular lacation.
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

roof top of one of the temples
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

this guy is fixing the mold used to print the holy scriptures
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

After being bombed and damaged in the Chinese "liberation" and "Cultural revolution" the monasteries are now being renovated
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

a library containing sacred scriptures
Ganden MonasteryGanden Monastery
Ganden Monastery

Each monastery has tens of temples and chapels each containing statues or tombs. it is not alowed to photo inside. This was one of the tombs...
Ganden Monastery KoraGanden Monastery Kora
Ganden Monastery Kora

Around each holy site there is a root to circle it to gait merit. it is called a kora. During the kora people fly prayer flags, chant, light fires and such
Ganden Monastery KoraGanden Monastery Kora
Ganden Monastery Kora

we call this guy - "VE BLORITO HA'MITNAFNEFET"
Ganden Monastery KoraGanden Monastery Kora
Ganden Monastery Kora

the views from the Kora

11th July 2006

how do you know the tibetans are not pleased with the train when you have not even spoken to them? what most tibetans want is not political or religious freedom as what many westerners assume, they just want a chance to catch up with the rest of china or even the developed world, something they can never achieve if they are in a medieval country sandwitched between two powerful nations and led by a smiling monk. this is a very complicated problem that cannot be explained in a few words, my advice is to look at things from their perspective, since you are in tibet it is a good chance to do so. and for your info, tibet had been part of china for centuries until the british came, so it is not wrong to use the word liberated.
13th July 2006

answer your questions....
it is ture Tibet has proggressed much in the last years. friends that have traveled to Tibet 10 years ago tell a diffrent story of how Tibet was. it is also true that if Tibet gets indipendence then it will be the poorest country in Asia along with East-Timor BUT..... It is the asperation of people to retain thier culture, customes and treditions. (this is not a "Western view" - it is even your own view wherever you are!) China did not do that in the last 60 year. on the contrary: from the start of the chineese rule through the "cultural revolution" to the present day distruction of holy-lakes for electric pklans there has been nothing of Opration. the emprisonment of countless Tibetan leaders (not to mention the Panacha Lama himself!). the distruction and bombing of Temples and Monestaties show how deep the orprestion is. Only now has China found the economic benafit of this minoraty due to tourism. but traveling to Lhasa, where most chineese tourist are, one has a sence that you are more in a chinese disnyland that in Tibet. luckly the countryside (empty of the chinese tourist) is still not as developed. the fact the the Police have such a strong presence at the Tibetan centers of political power (read: the monestaries) and the many Tibetan uprisings (last one in 1996) is the idication that under the serfice the Tibetans want thier freedom. if not political then at least cutlrual
14th July 2006

I'm sure the tibetans want the liberation and economic pros, unfortunately it's going to come at a fairly large cost of culture, traditions, etc. Eighther way you go you lose out on something.
17th July 2006

Great photos......
Having just travelled through Lhasa several months ago, your photos brought back so many memorires and are a great snapshot of the place. I've also just been through Dharamasala ( seat of Tibetan Government in Exile and home of HH 14THDalai Lama) where free speech is allowed and there was definitely a movement against the new train, with posters all round the place and a movement to wear a black armband for mourning. I think the new railway line will further dilute Tibetan traditions, which is a real shame as I MUCH preferred the Tibetan areas to the soulless Chinese new constructions. One further point, which is not publicised in Tibet ( because of no free speech)- did you realise the Chinese in 1995 kidnapped the Panchen lama - only 6 years old- who is the second highest spiritual leader in Tibet after the Dalai lama, and who would normally choose the next Dalai Lama. He hasn't been heard of since, and the Chinese have nominated their own Panchen Lama, which can't be done, as these lamas are supposed to be the reincarnation of the previous lama, so I'm not sure how the Tibetans will now find their next Dalai Lama. It seems such a crime.....
17th July 2006

truth of occupation
imagine what the american or any other government would do if some foreign government and organisation keep influencing certain groups of its population that they are under oppression and urges them to fight for independence? a "preemptive strike" on those terrorists bases or air strikes against countries that are responsible for infuencing its citizens? by contrast the "chinese occupation" is very moderate. talking about culture revolution and its damages, it was definately not targeted at tibet, it was a nationwide catastrophy to chinese and whatever culture in china, tibetan culture by contrast was relatived spared due to tibets' remoteness and small presence of mad students. regarding panchen lama, no body knows what really happened to him, probably the cia kidnapped him and put the blame on china, even if the chinese government really kidnapped him it must be because people with evil intention may use him against the stability of tibet, if that happens who is going to suffer? have you ever wondered why those who seems to care so much about human rights and religious freedom in china never seems to realise that millions are dying in congo, and never seems to care much about what israel is doing to its neighbours. have you also wondered what those tibetans who talks about oppression all the time really want, some probably really think so, but the majority of them is using this as an excuse to seek asylum in dharamsala, a tibetan friend once asked me if dharansala has any link with chinese police because her cousin is trying to escape after accidentally knocking down someone while driving with no license. and for those of you who think china stands to gain something from the "occupation", you probably don't know that every year huge amount of money and resources are pumped into tibet from other parts of china, even with the construction of hydroplants and extraction of local resources, tibet is still heavily dependent on others, and if you think the meagre income from its travel industry could have any leftover for the central government you are very wrong. if you think chinese other than businessman and tourists enjoy going to tibet you are wrong again, in the early days of "occupation", tens of thousands of fresh graduates from big cities were sent to aid the development of tibet only to be slaughtered by simple minded tibetans influenced and armed by cia agents there (documents regarding the deployment of cia agents in tibet after the "occupation" to arm locals against the central government was declassified recently), and many others perished in the harsh environment. Lastly to mad dog mo, tibet is not disneyland, tibetans do not live in mud houses and chant budhist sutras in monastries for you to enjoy. many wish to go to university, get a good job and live in houses with concrete walls and airconditioning.
17th July 2006

talking to tibetans
I understand the difficulty to talk to the Tibetans about their feelings. I had one monk come to me and ask me for a photo of the Dali Lama. after he explained the Dali Lama is good and China is... then he stomped his feet
18th July 2006

panchen lama
Ref the subject of panchen lama the Chinese freely admitted they were keeping him in custody 'for his own safety' shortly after he disappeared 11 years ago, but nothing has been heard of him since. Sorry guys!!- we seem to be taking over your blog!
19th July 2006

no problem
mad dog mo - we have no problem if our blog is used to debate Tibetan politics as long as you look at the rest of the blog and comment on that as well :)
25th July 2006

Hey, you guys. I read all your comments from the top the end. That really intrigues me. Currently I am in Saudi Arabia. From a Chinese's point of view, for the agument
10th March 2007

Waiting for your reply
These commnets are interesting. I am a Chinese living in Beijing. I never been to Tibet but a couple of my best friends in high school are from there and I always want to be there. The train to Tibet is good thing and bad thing for Tibatans. I think westerners have to understand Tibet in 50 years ago is still a slavery society. Landowner can buy and sell humans at that time. I hope Tibet can develop its own economy. Of course, the train rail is damaging the eniroment and the Tibetan society maybe loosing its orginial flavor, but I think at the end of the day, people have to admit building a train rail does benefit Tibet a lot. You can separate people one from another. It's the seperation causes hatride. This train will be a bridge between Tibetan and the rest of China. Also, China is a very diversed country. While white people sometimes discriminate black people, in China people don't think it that way. For example, I was bron as a Han people but many of my classmates are minorities. We get along well and really don't think ethincs is an issue.
11th March 2007

discrimination vs assimilation
Chinese (Han Chinese that is ....) are sometimes very blind to the fact that they force their culture on the minorities. After the minorities accept the Han culture (either by force or by the Chinese giving them a big "bear-hug")they are not discriminated upon. However, after this assimilation, there is not need for racial discrimination. The minorities are changed forever. I guess the train symbolizes the Han cultural invasion in Tibet. It is obvious how Lhasa is very different culturally then the rest of Tibet. Lhasa looks and feel like any mid size Chinese city. it's too bad that in order to gain economic benefits the Tibetans are forced to loose their identity

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