FOOTPRINTS OF TIBET
FAR EAST TIBET
MT KALIASH & GUGE KINGDOM
Ngari Prefecture sits on the Western Tibetan Autonomous Region and borders India, Nepal and the Indian Kashmir and is contiguous (adjacent) with Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. It sits at an elevation of 4,500m and has a total area of 310,000 sq-km, accounting for one-forth of Tibet. It is known as the “roof of the roof of the world” and the most Tibetan part of Tibet. It is where the Himalayas, Ganges, Kunlun and Karakorum mountains meet and is simply filled with spectacular mountain ranges, beautiful (60) lakes and (80) rivers and vast grasslands. Mt Kailash and Lake Manasarova are symbolized as the “scared mountain and holy lake” of Buddhism and are thus spiritual centers of the Buddhists.
Ngari Prefecture administers 7 counties – Burang, Shiquanhe, Ge’gyai, Gerze, Coqen, Zhada and Rutog. Shiquanhe sitting at 4,200m is Ngari’s capital town and also the center of politics, economics and culture.
It is rich in natural resources - the Shiquan River, Yarlung Zangbu Geothermal Area, Kunlun Mountain, Kekexili Geothermal Area, Gangdisi Mountain and Nianqing Tanggula Mountain Geothermal Area are located in Ali; and mineral resources such as salt, boron, aluminum, Glauber's salt, chromium, silver and gold. Grassland occupies approximately 87% of Ngari's total area.
It is a cold and dry area. In August, the average temperature during the day is above 10 degree Celsius, and the night is below 0 degree Celsius. The best time to visit Ngari is May, June, September and October. July and August is best to avoid as it is the raining season.
Apart from the numerous abra rodent colonies between Hor and Seralung, lapping the northeast shoreline are strange egg-shaped bundles of lake grass. Along this stretch is possible to find small stones of black jet and is associated with Karmapas. Along a short stretch, just south of Seralung, is made of 5-coloured grains of black, white, red, yellow and greenish-blue – and if one finds such sands, they are of such special value; and also the dried-out bodies of fish which is highly treasured for their medicinal properties and are said to ease the pains of childbirth.
LAKE MANASAROVAR 玛旁雍错
Lake Manasarovar means “Lake Conceived from the Mind of God” and sits at the base of Mt Kailash at 4,572m (14,950ft) and is the highest fresh water lake in the world (its waters are not just fresh but are pure beyond conventional scientific confirmation) and is also a very sacred lake (a solar disc-shaped of turquoise brilliance, passive and at peace), teeming with richness of trout, carp and huge freshwater dolphins.
A bath (dip) in the holy Lake Mansarovar and parikrama around Mt Kailash is a lifetime pilgrimage for a Hindu as “the pilgrimage erases all life time sins! - a salvation or nirvana will be achieved after 108 times of parikrama of Mt Kailash.”
LAKE RAKSHASTAL 拉昂错
Lake Rakshastal lies close to the west of Lake Manasarovar and Mt Kailash. It is 15m lower and totally disconnected from Lake Manasarovar. The Satluj River originates at the northwestip tip of Lake Rakshastal. It is considered to be the residence of Ravana, the 10 headed demon king of Lanka in Hindu myth. In Buddhism, Lake Manasarovar which is round like the sun and Lake Rakshastal shaped as a crescent are respectively regarded as “brightness” and “darkness”. Its salty water, a stark contrast to the fresh water of Lake Manasarovar produces no aquatic plants or and is considered poisonous by locals. There are four islands - Topserma (Dose), the Dola, Lachato (Nadzhado) and Dosharba.
MOUNT KAILASH / GANG RINPOCHE / 冈仁波齐峰
Mount Kailash is one of the highest mountains in Western Tibet at 6,675m (22,022ft) and is regarded by Buddhists and Hindus as the abode of the gods. It is also the earthly manifestation of the mythical Mount Mera (“Pillar of the Universe”). In Hinduism, it is their apex as it is the mountain of Lord Shiva. To the Tibetan Buddhists, it is a holy peak.
In Tibetan, Mt Kailash is known as “Gang Rinpoche” which means “Treasures of the Snow Mountains” or the “Sacredness of Snow”. It is said to be the place where the Buddhist patriarch Sakayamuni conducted the rites and is the Sumeri Mountain to the Buddhism.
THE CIRCUMAMBULATON OF MOUNT KALIASH - THE OUTER CIRCUIT
DAY 1 : DARCHEN TO DRIRAPUK (4,920m)
This trail follows along the western spur of the foothills. Descending to the valley floor at Serzhong, there is a small teahouse, and Chorten Kang-Nyi (the 2-legged stupa), which is the gateway to Lha-Chu (Divine River) Valley beyond.
Above the shallow depression of Darpoche (4,660m) is a large flat ledge of read rock and on its surface, alongside a footprint of the Buddha, with many prayers and mantras carved on it. It is here that Buddha came with 500 disciples from India.
Langchen Bepuk (Hidden Elephant Cave) is where Padmasambhava stayed and mediated when he came to Mt. Kailash.
Three Pinnacles of Longevity represents the 3 deities of longevity of Amitayus, White Tara and Vijaya.
Rock formation – Monkey God Hanuman to the Hindus and Torma-Offering of Padmasambhava to the Tibetans; and Mahakala, main Budhhist protectors.
Drirapuk Temple (Cave of the Female Yak Horn) is a retreat cave associated with the great yogin Gotsangpa.
DAY 2 : DRIRAPUK TO DZUTRULPAK (Miracle Cave of Milarepa) (4,690m)
Dolma La Pass (Pass of Tara) (5,630m) ascent takes about 4hrs and is physically arduous. The peak of Mt Kailash rises to the right and can now be seen linked to a long spur which joins the eastern ridge. This is the top edge of the glacial valley from which the Lha-Chu flows. There is a large boulder into which 21 emanations of Tara are said to have been absorbed during Gotsangpa’s sojourn here.
Silwutsel Charnel Ground is the place where Tibetan pilgrims discard an item of their possessions here and it represents the renouncing of attachment to worldly objects and to this life.
Tu-Je Chenpo Dzingbu (Pool of Great Compassion) is where the Hindu pilgrims takes their bath.
DAY 3 : DZUTRULPUK TO DARCHEN
Milarepa Cave – can sit within the cave where the central image depicts Milarepa himself. There are stone footprints of Padmasambhava, Yeshe Tsogyel, Ling Gesar and his horse arrayed on the altar within the cave. There is also tangkas depicting the Drigung lineage and a central image of Amitabha, flanked by Avalokiteshvara and Padmasambhava.
The return to Darchen is an easy walk and can be reached within 3hrs.
Trangser Trangmar (Gold and Red Cliffs) is a multicoloured strata of rocks changing from red to yellow, from black to purple.
The RUINS OF GUGE KINGDOM
The Ruins of Guge Kingdom is located in Zhabran Village, 18km west of Zanda County, on a hillside about 300m in height and covers an area of 180,000 sq-m, and includes more than 300 chapels, 300 caves, 3 stupas (each about 10m in height) and 5 magnificent temples and palaces. In the temples, many lively murals and clay sculptures can be still seen.
Guge was an ancient kingdom in Western Tibet and today it sits in the Zanda County of the Ngari Prefecture of Tibet, at an altitude of 3,800m above sea level. It was originally built in 10th century and founded by a descendant of King Lang Darma, who fled from Lhasa after the collapse of the Tubo Kingdom.
According to historical records, some 16th hereditary kings had dominated the Guge Kingdom. It played an important role in the 2nd renascence in Tibet and survived for about 700 years before disappearing mysteriously in the 17th century. At various points in history after 10th century, the kingdom held sway over a vast area including south-eastern Zanskar, Upper Kinnaur and Spiti Valley (of Ladakh) either by conquest or as tributaries.
Large-scale of archeological work began in 1985 and in the following years, a lot of sculpture works and mural paintings were unearthed - houses, cave dwellings, monasteries and stupas. Most of the sculptures are either gold or silver Buddhist statues, among which the best is a statue called Guge Silver Eye (Yin Yan in Chinese). Sutras written with liquid gold or silver have been excavated in Tholing Monastery and in the villages of Zhabran, Piyang and Donggar - the sutras were written on a kind of dark blue paper with the lines written alternately in liquid gold and liquid silver
The murals (although hundreds of years old) were preserved in good condition and the themes include every aspects of the social life of that time. A chapel on the summit of the mountain houses a mural depicting male and female Buddhas bringing the Tantric cultivation (civilization) together, while the lower part displays purgatory with naked, enchanting Dakins flanking each side. The artistic and aesthetic value of Guge murals is deemed comparable with that of Mogao Caves (located in Gansu Province, China).
** Compiled by Daphne Choo.
** All the above information and maps were extracted from various sources including Lonely Planet, Wikipedia, Tibet travel websites, and Footprint Tibet Handbook (4 th edition) by Gyurme Dorje
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