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Himalaya

Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa

Michael Palin - HimalayaWe drive to the monastery along modern, urban streets decked with ads for China Mobile. The temple, however, is resolutely Tibetan and mightily impressive. Its complex of buildings is laid out on a slope leading up to the row of tombs of the Panchen Lamas and a chapel that contains the tallest Buddha in the country.

A steady line of pilgrims, many in sheepskin coats and clutching prayer beads, are making their way up the stone-flagged pathways, flanked by juniper trees, that lead between the low, long buildings housing the various living quarters (there are 800 monks here) and the colleges where they can study Tantric philosophy, astrology, Tibetan medicine and history. Inside the colleges, small courtyards and whitewashed walls give the whole place the look of a mediaeval Spanish village.

Migmar tells me that boys are sent away to monasteries from the age of six, and they're only allowed back home once a year. He admits that when he was young all he wanted to do was become a monk, but his family sent him to school.

I ask him if it's right to say that education at a monastery would be more exclusively Tibetan, and school would offer a more international approach.

He agrees but says things are slowly changing.

'Today, in a monastery most of the monks try to study other languages, something like English or Chinese. In the past it was only Tibetan.'
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 64: Shigatse to Lhasa
  • Country/sea: Tibet
  • Place: Shigatse
  • Book page no: 153

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