Photos from the Shoebox: Gyantse Tibet 1990
If you had a 35mm camera you probably have a shoebox full of pictures that you never got around to sorting and putting in an album. In this series “Photos from the Shoebox” I take them out of the closest and shine light on them once more.
It’s November in Tibet and the surrounding landscape is a monotone of grey and brown. After hours and hours of driving over a moon like landscape the town of Gyantse suddenly appears before us looking as if it’s carved right out of the side of the mountain. We stop here to visit the Palcho Monastery.
It’s 1990 but it’s as if we’ve stepped back in time. We explore the alleys and see traditional urban architecture that looks very much like the temples and monasteries in the mountains.
Our walking leads us past an unusual sight. It’s the meat market. The market is part of the Tibetan way of life and is the traditional place for trade and conversation.
The Palcho Monastery is a complex of structures built between 1418 and 1428. It’s unique in that it is fuses Han, Tibetan and Nepali architecture.
Traffic on the road consists mainly of people, bicycles, donkey carts, tractors and the odd truck and car. Here in Gyantse there’s no worry of getting stuck in a traffic jam.
The Kumbum of the Palcho Monastery is also known as “the Ten Thousand Buddha Pagodas” and is the largest chorten in Tibet. It enshrines about ten thousand figures of Buddhas as images and murals.
Lining the walkway to the main temple are prayer wheels. As you walk towards the temple you spin the wheels to accumulate good karma and purify bad karma. I spin as many as I can.
This is just one of the buddhas we are able to see in the Kumbum. After a British invasion in 1904, rioting during a revolt against Chinese rule in the 1950’s and the Chinese cultural revolution of the 1960’s it’s amazing the monastery remains well-preserved.