This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Potala and its Contradictions

The first full day in Lhasa, we were taken on a guided tour of the Potala in the morning. Christine was still suffering palpitations from altitude sickness and being cooped up in the land cruiser all the way from the Nepali border, but somehow, climbing the almost endless stairs up to the Potala, her heart rhythm got back in synch with her physiology and she came out feeling more normal than when we went in.

Panorama from the gardens at the entrance

Panorama from half way up

Climbing the stairs

Entrance way into the Potala

Visits to the Potala were very crowded and some of our tour group didn;t make it in the first flush, meaning they missed out on Sera and Drepung in the afternoon - another bad piece of tour planning.

Also photography wasn't allowed inside so I have put together a gallery of some of the so-called 'treasures' inside from photographing the glossy brochure we were given and a few additional images from the internet.

Dalai Lama's quarters (Wikipedia)

Golden roofs of the stupa tombs of the Red Palace

The palace is cluttered with somewhat grotesque heavily golden tombs of the past Dalai Lamas.

Golden stupa tomb of the 5th Dalai Lama

I find the Potala a scene of contradictions. Of course it is preserved by the Chinese in its faded glory to reinforce an image of profligate and frankly morbid splendour with all the gold tombs, amid a medieval lack of amenities or a real world governmental concern for the welfare of the general population.

It is true that amid the internecine strife among the lamas at the time China invaded and the lack of a real world politic amid complete inward-looking isolation, some of the blame for the events that followed has to be laid at the feet of the Tibetan hierarchy.

However it is very hard for the Chinese to justify what is a territorial violation of a sovereign country existing alongside Chine over countless centuries, and a ruthless repression of dissent accompanied by gulags and genocidal demographic policies and violent military repression of any forms of protest.

Furthermore it is clear in traveling Tibet that by and large the Tibetan people remain serfs in occupied land, while the Han Chinese influx swelling the cities is both reaping the financial rewards of development while huge Chinese companies exploit the vast mineral resources.

Even today in 2010 as I write, there are protests in Qinghai against an attempt by the Chinese to enforce Mandarin rather than Tibetan as the core language in all subjects in education apart from Tibetan as a language option. These recurring big-brother attempts to stamp out the Tibetan cultural identity are a betrayal not only of the Tibetan people but of the Chinese constitution.


Western hall of the Red Palace

Great Entrance of the White Palace

Chenrezi and a seat of the Dalai Lama

An ornamented skull from which toasts were drunk during pujas

Potala Palace and Queen's Palace 7th cent.

White Palace 17th cent.

5th Dalai Lama's audience with the Chinese emperor Shunzhi

The future Maitreya and the 6th Dalai Lama

Mandala of Chakra Samvara

King Songstan and Princess Wencheng

Chakra Samvara in Yab-yum with consort

A series of images of and from the upper roof courtyard

Descending again

Chinese possession! Good price!

No comments:

Post a Comment