Pages

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kumbum Monastery in Qinghai, China

Despite Tibet now being closed to foreigners, there remain other Tibetan regions in China that remain open such as Amdo -- now assimilated into the Chinese province of Qinghai. One clear sign of Tibetan culture can be found not far from Xining, the capital of Qinghai. In the town of Huangzhong, the Kumbum Monastery (Tǎ'ěr Sì) serves as a major religious site for the Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism. It is an immense complex and somewhat reminded me of the famous Ganden Sumtseling Monastery (Sōngzànlín Sì), also belonging to the Gelugpa sect, in Zhongdian, Yunnan province.

Although rich with Tibetan culture and worth a visit if one is the area, the touristy nature of the monastery can provide a somewhat surreal feeling as local Tibetans are prostrating in prayer while affluent-looking Chinese tourists mill about with cameras. During my vist this past weekend, I was sometimes able to capture scenes like this:

Scene without tourists at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

But more often it was like this:

Scene with tourists at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Of course, I was also one of those tourists. In some respects the mix of tourists and a holy site was reminiscent of many churches I have visited in Europe. And at times there seemed to be a certain charm in the mixture. For example, here is a Tibetan monk and several tourists spinning the prayer wheels:

Tibetan monk and tourists turning prayer wheels at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

However, it was not too difficult to get away from the many tour groups. During my wanderings higher up along a hill I found this path lined with prayer flags:

prayer flags at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

and prayer wheels:

prayer wheels at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

I also came across some "off-limit" areas due to construction:

construction at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

But in most cases they did not seem to care if I looked about and in one case a worker gave me a brief personal tour (not the first time I was provided a tour in construction area at a religious site).

construction at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Out of respect to limits on photography, it is not possible to share some of the more religious and beautiful scenes, particularly those inside the halls and temples. So I will share some some other scenes that help capture a small part of the spirit one can find at Kumbum Monastery.

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

Tibetan monk and two other men sitting at Kumbum Monastery (Taer Si) in Qinghai, China

2 comments :