A colleague of mine recently recounted his 2018 trip to Northern China via the office WhatsApp group. The pictures were that good that Chris White agreed I could share them on my blog……..
Xining Winter Festival
Chris flew to Xining in North West China via Beijing and started by taking in their Winter Festival with an amazing light show.
Thangka Paintings, China
Chris visited several monasteries during the trip and was treated to insights into their customs and traditions, as well as their arts and crafts. One such art is the creation of Thangka paintings which serve as an aid to teaching Buddhist philosophy.
They can reach amazingly high prices and are often important sources of income to a monastery.
Thangka Prayer Flags, China
Chris transited some high passes along the way, which were decked with prayer flags.
There was time for an overnight stop for a monastery visit high up in the Himalayas to watch the unrolling of a huge Thangka display on the mountainside.
At nearly 4,000 metres, the hotel was without lifts and a room on the fourth floor was not recommended unless one is extremely fit!
New Year Festival, China
South of Xining the tour group stopped to take in the New Year celebrations.
Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre, China
A visit to China would not be complete without panda watching and Chris got his fix at the Chengdu Panda Breeding Research Centre.
Cham Parade, Aba, China
The group spent three days in Aba, a place that is about as Tibetan as you can get outside of Tibet itself.
Lots of ceremonies, parades, cham dancing, home visits, etc. were enjoyed.
Aba has also been a centre of self-immolation since 2009, with dozens of monks setting fire to themselves to protest against Beijing’s rule over the region. See this Guardian article for more detail.
Tibetans in their Chubas
A chuba is a long sheepskin coat made of thick wool worn by both sexes.
Developed by nomadic herders to keep warm at high altitudes, the long sleeves are used both to act as an extra wrap around as well as to hold things in. Increasingly a fashion item, there are also lighter, summer versions.
Tibetan Restaurant Kitchen, Aba
Cuisine is also very important for getting the full cultural experience and Chris could not resist wandering into a kitchen to see how the myriad of dishes were prepared.
Chris travelled further north towards Tibet, getting high up into the Himalayan altitude.
The people that Chris met were all very friendly and honoured that he and his tour party were visiting their remote region. The children were especially adorable!
Cham Dancing, China
In another monastery visit Chris watched the monks perform Cham dancing, a ritualistic animation of the good versus evil story.
The monks wear colourful costumes and have fantastical headdresses that represent the character they are portraying.
Bon Sect Monastery, Tongren, China
The city of Tongren has a number of monasteries in the vicinity.
Chris visited one of the Bon Sect, the indigenous, animist religion that preceded the introduction of Buddhism, but which now has many similarities.
Bonpos worship household gods in addition to other deities. Chris watched a ceremony involving a bonfire that the monks and locals used to make offerings to their deities, followed by a procession round the surrounding area, similar to ‘Beating the Bounds’ of an English parish.
Bon Sect Monastery, Tongren, China
Restaurants Near Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China
Finally, it was back to Beijing for goodies and tour reflections before the flight back to London.