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Himalaya

Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk

Michael Palin - HimalayaThough perfectly comfortable in my congenial little room, sleep was light and fleeting and broken by twinges of headache and nausea. The zero temperatures with which Mr Tse Xiu threatened us didn't materialize and when I should have been sleeping I was engaged in an energy-consuming nocturnal striptease, peeling off the various layers of clothing I'd gone to bed in and dropping them out of my sleeping bag one by one.

Open the curtains to find a yak calf helping itself to a bowl of water which has been put outside my room.

Wash in what's left of it and join the others for breakfast. On the way there I notice a big satellite dish in one corner of the courtyard. There's no evidence of a television anywhere about the place.

This is my first chance to have some time with Migmar, who has so far been preoccupied with getting us into China. He's 27, the son of Tibetan nomads who were enlightened enough to send him to school, from where he won a place at Lhasa University. He read Chinese (the Dalai Lama would have approved) and English, which, despite the fact he's never left Tibet, he speaks pretty well.

I'm impressed by the richness of the decoration on almost every inch of the timber columns, beams and ceiling boards, and Migmar explains that in the 9th century a Tibetan warlord tried to eradicate Buddhism and the only way that the culture survived was through a pictorial code. The Buddhist heroes were depicted as animals: dragons, tigers, even sheep. What began as a cipher developed into a rich tradition of imaginative painting, a particular target during the Cultural Revolution, when a renewed and virulent attempt was made to destroy Tibet's Buddhist past.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 60: Tingri to Rongbuk
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Tingri
  • Book page no: 142

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