Tibet

November 12, 2008

02

In Summer 2006 I went to a place called Xiahe. This is a small town in the southern part of China’s Gansu province, on the way from Lanzhou to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. It’s a high altitude place at about 3000m (10,000 feet) above sea level, sitting in a valley between the mountains and the Tibetan grasslands.

Xiahe is not part of Tibet Autonomous Region but very Tibetan already. It belonged to Tibet before the provincial borders were changed in the early 1950s. However, it hosts one of the biggest and most important Tibetan monasteries and attracts a lot of pilgrims from the Tibetan grasslands.
The place is very impressive: The landscape, the architecture, the dirt (!), and above all the people. I found it amazing how determined and passionate these people are when it comes to their religious believe. There are (very) old folks who spend days walking around the whole monastery compound again and again, throwing themselves on the ground every hundred meters to pray and to worship.

Doing my photography was more than rewarding. People were friendly (despite some very fierce looking knives being worn) and open and I had an awesome time with old pilgrims, football playing young monks, noodle shop owners etc etc etc.
I am glad I did the trip in 2006 when the whole atmosphere was very relaxed an open. I am not even sure if authorities would let me in right now. Xiahe was facing some serious protests earlier this year when Tibetan monks demonstrated against the 2008 Olympic Games.

This image was taken with a Hasselblad 500CM + 80mm, no crop.

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