The monastery is at the end of the Tibetan city and has remained unchanged since my previous visit with its enclosing wall, its Dukhang, its Kumbum (big chorten), its Rinpoche building and some small annex buildings on the left. Most of the place is empty!
Abstract= We visit the monastery of Gyantse while waiting for the arrival of a new vehicle. Then we go downstream the Nyang chu river and visit Gadong G before joining Shigatse.
Gyantse. This morning we visit the monastery at the end of a large rectilinear avenue. We leave the fortress which dominates the valley on our left. It seems to have been rebuilt by the Chinese authorities and looked impresive.
We begin the visit with the Dukhang or main temple.
The Kumbum, constructed in the 15th century, is the largest chorten of Tibet with its 84 chapels. Olivier gives up and refuses to visit all of them.
Many pilgrims circumbulate the monastery with their body length. Their hands are protected by large mittens or small block of wood fixed to the waist by a lace. People kneel, their hands reach the ground and they start sliding until the whole body extends on the ground too. Standing up they then repeat the action again and again.
Three years ago during my trip from Gongkar airport to Lhasa, I met on the road a group of pilgrims and a teenager who stretch on the ground each two meters. Three days laterI met the same group in Lhasa with the same teenager extending his body with the same fervour.
Hard to believe that the distance was travelled in the same manner. The objective is not to mutilate oneself than enlarge the distance between physical sufferings and the soul...
We may think that this exercise is a bit stupid. But I have a similar thought for the people jogging in Central Park.
From the top we have a sight on the valley of the Nyang chu River and the fortress. It has been repainted outside.
Just as we arrive on the top Lobsang emerges suddenly in front of us. He arrives with a new vehicle, a Toyota model 3000 and not 4500 as scheduled in the contract and with a new driver and his daughter who had driven all night.
We were given the following explanation. Tensing looked for a driver and an available vehicle and found only this vehicle which had just returned from the nepalese border and whose driver was drunk in a bar in Lhasa. At midnight, the driver's daughter retreive her father from the bar and while he slept off his alchool, she drove through the night to reach us! She was also accompanied by Lobsang and a mechanic who was left with the broken vehicle. We heard that the Toyota 4500 was not going to be repaired on the road side but was to be transported to Lhasa.
I had planned to join the town of Rinpung. But contrary to the informations contained in the Chinese maps, the road which leads to Rinpung had been abandoned 5 years ago and no driver uses it yet. Also the Rinpung road must be given up and we will run directly to Shigatse.
The driver, by leaving Gyantse, wishes to show us a village opposite the valley, the house of a former Tibetan land-owner which has been transformed into museum and is called "Pala house". Furniture corresponds completely to what one finds on sale in the large cities or in our Lhasa bed room. The dwellings of the servants are on the other side of the road. There is a feeling of propaganda which I did not appreciate very much.
When we started on the road to Shigatse, "road works" detoured us towards the straight track which skirts the Nyang chu River whose bed is entirely canalized.
On the opposite bank, in the W, at the top of a hill, can be seen the old monastery of Tsechen G. I had listed many names of villages to check but I was not be able to see them.
The canal surroundings are deserted. The villages are not in sight, or are located far from the bed of the river, and as a curtain of trees easily hides all the sight, I am very depressed with the idea to lose so much informations on this route. After two hours on the road, on the left side, a bridge crosses the Nyang chu River and we enter the Chinese city (and Prefecture) of Panam.
We then looked for the monastery of Gadong. We crossed numerous villages in an extremely undulating plain. We finally reach the village of Gadong which is nearly one kilometre in length and arrived at the monastery. It is rather large but not entirely rebuilt. Several teams of young people prepare cement and assemble walls. This monastery is where the Dalai-Lama's former doctor spent his childhood.
As the system of irrigation covers the plain, the road follows a succession of right angles and I quickly become disorientated. Although made of rectilinear portions, the road is tiring and I am eager to reach Shigatse. At the bottom of the valley, some small villages claim a toll when crossed. Past the canal, we arrive on the Gyantse-Shigatse road near the southern suburbs of Shigatse and we headed downtown. I vainly look for the Tensing hotel which was facing the market. but it is going to be rebuilt. I think that the Chineses delay the re-construction because it was successful with foreigners and they want to force the tourists to use the Chinese hotels in the new town.
We are placed in one of them. As in the other establishments of this kind, with a lot of Chinese immigrant staff, employees are unpleasant and the rooms are of a doubtful cleanliness. On the ground floor, there is a souvenir shop and an Internet kiosk. I watched a Chinese who seemed to handle the PC computer quite well but who took more than one half-hour to type a text of 4 lines.
In spite of the introduction of the pin-yin, the use of the Chinese signs is a problem for the development of China! One needs five to ten times more time to learn how to read and write in China. That is a delay in education that only the most gifted manage to overcome. If one adds to this archaism the traditional attitude of pride of the Chinese mind, this country is far from controlling the process of development.
We dine in the evening in a small Tibetan restaurant which is recommended to us by our driver in the Chinese city. He knows the woman! Here I again show my method for cooking, preparing chips and roasted meat as in France.