Tse Deng Village

Typical Chinese construction in a Tibetan village. You don't see the Tibetan village in this picture, because it isn't there (it's on the outskirts of this town). Chinese architecture, Chinese construction, Chinese economy. Not many Tibetans. You see them, but they tend to aggregate more in their villages. I noticed them shopping a little in these stores, but most noticeable, were the Chinese. The two cultures are stuck with each other, but they really don't tend to mingle much. Commentaries below refer to images found in the photo gallery.

The sun. Damn, it's bright. Bright doesn't really describe it. Overwhelming. No wonder why they have such a high incidence of cataracts. It's easy to get sunburned, and even with my 3% light transmission arctic sunglasses, I had trouble. But it's warm, and when it drops below the mountain top, it gets cold. Fast.

Chinese military barracks on the outskirts of Tse Deng, with an agricultural field in the foreground. You can see how bright it is; also, there was a small snowfall during the night. Notice that no snow falls at the base elevation of 12,000 feet during this time of year. Precipitation is not common, though the mountains get pretty significant snow in November through February.

Ahhhh. Now this is what you would probably call Tse Deng. This Tibetan village is on the outskirts of Tse Deng. Not the earthen construction, and the walls around the homes. You can see prayer flags in the distance on the roof of the larger home. They tend to enclose all of the structures within the family unit

Another Tibetan village, this one further out from Tse Deng. Higher up on the hill is a Tibetan monastery, which was destroyed during the Chinese "Liberation". Now this photo was taken during a tour of the burial grounds of some of the famous leaders and dalai lama's of Tibet. Nothing really to see, just large mounds of earth piled up all over the area. Supposedly, the rulers were buried somewhere under the mounds, but no one has ever found any crypts or bones. The Tibetans find the region to be sacred. No proof, just legend, but sacred.

One of the nineteen or so burial mounds, each of which are supposed to contain the remains of one of the rulers of Tibet. From what I was told, these date back over a thousand years; the Dalai Lama's who presided over Tibet in the last thousand years or so are buried within the Potala Palace. I didn't take this photo; it obviously is from the spring during the "wet" season. Quite to contrast to the fall.

The village was off limits to tourists. At least, most tourists....

It was really interesting, this situation that I had found myself in. I had a Chinese driver, who spoke "no English", and a Tibetan guide, who spoke good English. The guide was very careful as to what she told me, despite the probing nature of my questions. ("So, how does it feel to watch the Chinese rape your country?"). I got the distinct impression that the driver was ever observant, keeping track of our conversations, making sure that I didn't go to where I wasn't supposed to go.

But a little digression first. You see, I wasn't supposed to even be here. The Chinese don't allow Americans in groups of less than ten to enter the country, and they have to be accompanied by a tour guide (and no doubt, a "driver"). The Europeans have to be in groups of five or above. It all has to do with Americans and the like coming into the country and starting pro-democratic movements. Stupid. As if they have a chance. I, was alone. I got special permission from the government, as my travel agent has guanxi ("juice", "pull"), and she had made it clear that I go to the Shaolin Temple on a yearly basis to train with the monks. How bad could I be?

You see, they thought me as being harmless.

So, in I got. And I probably got further than I was supposed to.

I recognized the symbiotic nature between the guide and the driver, and I worked the relationship to the hilt. So, instead of standing upon big mounds of dirt all day, under which were supposed to be kings and gods whose names I couldn't even dream of pronouncing, I "convinced" the driver to "disappear", and the guide and I went to the off limits area.

In the foreground, the villagers had all gotten together to build a house for a new couple. All earthen and stone construction. The women go out and get the materials, the men put it together. Everybody helps, from the ten year old boys, to the seventy year old women.

Women carry and haul, men construct. All day long.

The famous yak, inside one of the villager's courtyards. The yak provides the ever important yak butter, which is used not only for dietary reasons (the tea is predominantly yak butter, with a bit of salt), but also for prayer. Scoops of yak butter are put into burning plates of the stuff, inside all of the temples. But the yak, on top of providing food, also has another very important function. Note the brown stuff on the wall. Yak dung (shit to the rest of us); it is picked up by hand and thrown on the walls in an effort to increase insulation. Can't get that at Home Depot.

Village streets, are, well, that's one of them. I wouldn't exactly say that they have a general plan to their village layouts. Most houses are one to two stories in height, with the "basement", or storage area, underneath.

The monastery which used to overlook this village, destroyed during the liberation. The populace was pretty much gone; the only thing that wasn't either scared of me ("Hide the women!"), or curious, were the animals.

But when you happened upon a Tibetan, after the initial look of surprise, came the typical warm, friendly smile. You don't get smiles from people like this, anywhere else in the world.

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