Abstract= We visit first the tumuli of Chonggye, its monastery and then all those of the valley while descending the Yarlung river until Yartö. A very busy day.
Tsetang. We get up early and leave the city at around 8h00 in the morning. The weather is against us, the air is icy and foggy. The road which connects Tsetang to Chonggye on the Western bank of the river has been under reconstruction for several years is still impassable. We attempt to follow the valley on the opposite side. This section has been prohibited to foreigners for several years. To go there, we follow the Yarlung valley in direction of Yumbulhakang, then we pass Tandruk gompa which we visit later and at the place where the valley divides in two, we cross the bottom of the valley by taking a narrow path which curves between scattered cultures and farms. The farmers are busy with their work, children play and animals are free to roam. It is a very pastoral view. The village is called Kesum and scattered on more than one km . We cross the Yarlung river here on very thin bridges as it is divided at this place into multiple irrigation canals.
We continue on the southern bank of Chonggye River and pass Tangboche on a road which was very degraded. After Tangboche a bridge crosses Chonggye chu and we continue on the northern bank. The works are in progress is such we are forced to leave the sections of new road covered with fine gravel and travel on portions of paths where the surface is very rough and twice as long. Fortunately the rain does not fall, otherwide it would be impassable.
Arriving at Chonggye, we pass recent Tibetan houses before crossing the Chinese city. The street ends at a wall. On the right-hand, a track leads to the monastery and on the left, another track leads to a bridge in construction.
We park the car on a plateform and cross the bridge on foot. On the other side, a linear section of road carries us to the tumulus of Songtsen gampo. The path leading to the top starts from the south-eastern angle of the tumulus.
At the top, there is enclosed
a small, well maintained temple.
The interior is rich and we meet groups of Tibetans on pilgrimage.
The view over the various valleys which encircle this place is fantastic and encourages us to take pictures.
I can make out other tumuli, that of Drigung surely. There was formerly more than ten tumulus but most of them were ransacked by the Chinese.
We have also an excellent view of the prefecture of Chonggye, the fort in ruins, the new chorten (stupa) and the monastery now rebuilt. We return back to the car. We take it again to climb to the monastery of Riwo Dechen which is half way up the slope.
We pass on our right a large white chorten more than 30m high and reach the new monastery buildings.
The new principal building seems to be restored according to the aspect of origin. The yellow phone box near the entrance gate is a shock but the sight on the valley is remarkable.
After crossing two courtyards we accede to the principal temple. The Dukhang is rather odd with, on the main floor, 3 large statues, and on the first floor, the room of recitation for the monks and a large side chapel.
The interior is richly decorated and we attend the religious service.
Paintings are in the course of execution.
There is no enclosing wall. We then take the road back and pass several villages. I complain to the driver who drives the Toyota like a bull.
We recross the Chonggye chu river and reach the monastery of Tangboche painfully.
The monks here still recite sutras. After the visit, we make a short stop at the foot of a small lhakhang called Bairo Phuk which dissimulates the entry of a meditation cave. As it is necessary to climb more than 200m and since the room is likely to be closed, I will take only one picture from the bottom of the valley.
We continue to the intersection of the Yarlung valleys at Rechung, a small village, located below the monastery and the caves of the same name. The monastery which is 150 m above the village is under reconstruction and was presently closed, the monks being in pilgrimage. I take a short walk to approach it but I cant see anything as it is enclosed by a wall. We continue by going up the Yarlung valley to the W.
A small village and behind the houses, at the foot of the mountain, we discover the monastery of Trashi Chöde.
The Tibetan lama who makes us visit the place and offers some tea. Unfortunately there are only three people to rebuild and maintain the monastery.
After this visit, we cross the Yarlung river by a bridge which reaches the east bank, north of Yumbulhakang.
We travel in S direction of the valley. The valley narrows. We pass several villages: Kera, Hari, Podrang, Halakang, Yamda, Shago, Risur, Chentowo and Gyurme before reaching the monastery of Yartö. This one is in the village itself in a street on the left of the main road.
We meet large incense burners which face the entry door of the monastery. We join pilgrims who have just arrived and a group of women start dance steps and sing some songs before entering the monastery.
Once past the threshold, we are in a large courtyard facing a splendid frontage.
The interior of the Dukhang is vast with 30 pillars and in the back 3 large chapels showing many statues.
Here still we are surrounded by numerous pilgrims who recite prayers and deposit offerings on altars and supply butter to the lamps.
On the first floor we visit the chapels dedicated to Cherenzik, to the Green Tara as well as a room where the Dalai Lama will have slept during his flight to the Indies. Here emotion reaches a top level. There are in Tibet summits of wonderfull landscapes and behind these tops there is the kingdom of the gods and in the valleys, there are temples, relics of the saints and behind these relics a population which tries to reach wisdom, compassion and the knowledge of the good. Foreigners and "de passage", we pretend not to understand, but one week passes, we begin to wonder! If these people convince us, how to transmit the message to our friends?
We go back descending the east bank of the Yarlung chu.
We arrive at Yumbulhakang dzong and hill. On the right-hand side of the village a spur surmounted by a construction which is the oldest in Tibet: a stony castle built by one of the the first kings of Tibet in the 2nd century. The Toyota manages to climb half the track that leads to the palace entry. A group of tourists are not so lucky. They arrive by minibus and only one part of them manages to climb the slope.
We pass a hall where the guide takes the tickets then we enter a small temple including numerous statues on its four sides.
A staircase goes up to the higher terrace
from where we have a remarkable view of the valley upstream and downstream. We see there the splendid section of road which arrives from Tsetang and stops in front of the rock. This section is an extension of the Lhasa-Tsetang road.
We travel up this road and arrive at Traduk gompa. It was built during the reign of Srontsan Gampo, with the objective to fight the demoness of rocks that infested the area! The king, after consulting shamans, received the help of a hawk (tra) and a dragon (druk).
As always many pilgrims! It is an old construction and like Jokhang, the interior contains many chapels on the three sides of the Dukhang. The monks recite sutras and we meet groups of pilgrims sitting in corridors.
They turn their prayer wheels while trying to share these moments of enthusiasm by listening to the deep voices of the monks and the melodious sounds of the musical instruments. We visit also the chapels on the floor which hold relics and several temples surrounding the main Dukhang.
We visit also the first floor chapels with their numerous relics and several temples surrounding the main Dukhang.
Before reaching our hotel in Tsetang we visit two additionnal monasteries which are in the center of the old city at the foot of the mountain. They are downtown, located at the N-E of the modern city. We first visit Tsetang gompa
then Trebuling gompa located 200m east of the first one. They look alike: the entry courtyard is narrow and the Dukhang is on the left. There are still many faithful people despite the late hour. I notice that the people who surround us are rather young and pass by the monastery before regaining their residence after a long day of labour.
The Chinese city is hopelessly sad and empty, but I cross it nevertheless after dinner looking for a telephone box in order to join the house. Once again there is no circuit and I fall on a answering machine. Before returning, I discover an Internet kiosk and show my site to the local Net surfers. They feel very interested but we are handicapped by the language barrier, because nobody here speaks nor reads English. As opposed to what I had seen in Hong-Kong, the keyboards do not comprise any Chinese sign. The Chinese use only the standart American keyboard and type in pin-yin language before selecting one of the Chinese characters which appear in the bottom of the screen. Caution, if the machine writes in English when starting Windows installation, all the signs which appear then on the screen are in Chinese.
In China, software is sold nearly one dollar each. But it is rare that the CD corresponds with its bag and many exchanges are necessary. Accordingly they are all scratched. When back home, I try to install a Chinese XP Windows but I was stopped with the first screen covered with chinese signs!