YouTube – Travelogue Ethnic Odyssey – Magnificant Tibet 1/3

Travelogue Ethnic Odyssey – Magnificent Tibet 1/3

Travelogue Ethnic Odyssey – Magnificent Tibet, History, Culture and People of Tibet

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On this episode of Travelogue, the world’s highest plateau, the most mysterious people. With a long, unique history, meet the brave and devout, Tibetans in Tibet.

Variety of its landscape and diversity of its people, welcome to Travelogue’s Ethnic Minority Special. If you think about the minorities of China, perhaps the most mysterious of all are the Tibetans. And that’s why today we are in Tibet. This place right now is actually the birthplace of Tibetan culture. These mountains, this plateau, everything around me is where it happened originally. So, get ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Welcome to Travelogue, I’m Yin.

For most people, a journey to the Tibet Autonomous Region is a fantasy – something beyond their reach. For others, it’s a lifelong dream that may just come true. And for yet others, it’s a mission that defines their very existence.

We’ll be drifting downstream on the Ya3long2 River from the birthplace of Tibetan civilization, Shannan, as far as Linzhi, and onwards to the heart of Tibet, the capital Lhasa.

We’re accompanied on our journey to Lhasa by tourists and Buddhists. Tibet, with its average altitude of 4000 meters, is called the roof of the world. Everyone who travels here has their own unique reasons for doing so – from exploring the unknown to attaining enlightenment.

Religion is the foundation of traditional Tibetan culture.

Buddhism first came to the region during the reign of Songtsan Gambo in the 7th century. In the Tubo kingdom, he laid the foundation for Buddhism by importing scriptures and building monasteries. His other great achievement was to cement the ties between the Han and Tibetan peoples, which he did by marrying the Tang Dynasty princess, Wencheng.

Today, Tibetans live in a land where past and present merge. From traditional yak butter tea to international fare, religious paintings to postmodern art, it’s a bizarre mix unlike any other. But one ting that’s never changed over the years is the spirit of the people.

In Shannan – the ancient birthplace of Tibetan culture – there stands the first palace built by the first Tibetan king. That was in the second century BC. The Yumbu Lhakang Palace is the oldest surviving example of Tibetan architecture.

Look at the crops over here. These are the lands the first Tibetans settled over 2000 years ago. It’s believed they came here, had a Tibetan king, and built the first palace. Perhaps that’s why this area is so sacred.

Legend has it that the original ancestors of the Tibetans were a sacred monkey and a mortal woman. Over the centuries, their descendants multiplied and formed a tribe, and they turned the valley into agricultural land.

After the first king descended to Earth from the Heavens, he was followed a little later by the first sacred texts, which fell on the roof of his palace.

Buddhism made its way into Tibet from India. The central figure in Buddhism – and its founder – is Sakyamuni.,

Still today, a sign of devotion among Buddhists is to recite the sutras, spin prayer wheels, and offer yak’s butter for the oil lamps in the monasteries.

The Yumbu Lhakang Palace, geometric in shape, was the model based on which many other structures were later built. There’s something magical about the towering palace, perched on the mountain, beneath the clouds and brilliant sun. It’s actually impossible to describe.

Tibetans live in compact communities on the Tibetan Plateau, making up 95% of the population. The natural environment is harsh, temperatures are cold, oxygen is deficient, and vegetation is scarce. For these farmers and herdsmen, the most important crop is barley, and dough made from barley flour, is the staple food of Tibet.

This site, covering almost four million square meters, is the celebrated tomb of the Tibetan kings. Among those buried here are Songtsan Gambo himself, along with his wives and concubines. The tombs are flat on the top and piled with earth and rocks. There are believed to be 20 of them in total, although not all have been found.

Tibetans live in an area with an extensive river system and vast lakes. Naturally, they have learned to use these waterways as a means of transport. By tradition small boats made of animal hide were used to cross the rivers. Although today’s boats are a bit more sophisticated, the journey is no less difficult.

After about 20 minutes, we’re stuck in the middle of the river because surprisingly, the river is not deep enough. This man is pushing us over because the sand is stuck underneath and we’re slowly gravitating this way and hopefully get on the right path soon.

Discovering the hidden wonders of Tibet is a real challenge. You’ll need a car and a boat, along with some rather more strange-looking vehicles; and not forgetting your own two feet, of course. Dust, bright sunshine, and the unpredictable weather all add to the difficulties. But an adventurous spirit and some endurance are usually enough to open up a world beyond your imagination.

To get to this very old and traditional monastery, I think the most sacred journeys ever. It’s said all Tibetans in their lifetime have to go to this temple. Some go by horse, by foot, on this thing, and even prostrating. They bow down on their hands and knees and walk over. It’s quite a journey.

Samye Monastery, built in the 8th century, was the first monastery in Tibet. It was commissioned by an Indian Buddhist master. It combines elements of Han, Tibetan and Indian architecture, and because of this it’s called the “three-style temple”. It’s one of the most popular destinations for pilgrims, some of whom travel on foot for weeks to reach it.

The ground floor is Tibetan in style, the middle floor is Han, and the top is Indian.

Samye monastery is particularly famous for its grand scale and its position as the oldest and earliest monastery containing all three religions. The name in English translates into the “unimaginable monastery.” That’s because when it was first being built, it was unimaginable how huge this place was. After it was constructed, it was being taken down by the demons every night. But somehow, miraculously, it still came to be what it is today.

An air of mystery surrounds Samye Monastery, enhanced by its grandiose and complex design. It’s supposed to replicates the universe, as described in the sutras. Four towers, each of a different color, stand at the four angles of the main temple hall. They symbolize the Four Heavenly Kings, who are said to protect and bless the monastery.

The monastery’s interior is large and colorful. It’s a place where many monks come to study. But there’s one room we’re not allowed to see. It’s where monks of the highest standing spend three years studying the scriptures – and they don’t come out until their time is up. Food is delivered to them daily.

Here the wall paintings are most informative. For instance, this one displays the rules of the monastery. It seems they’re very particular about the types of shoes allowed inside. This is the type of kettle used for carrying holy water, these are the rules for praying.

A daily ritual for monks is debating the Buddhist scriptures. It’s a way for the novices to learn. The debate also serves as a test, by which a ranking can be drawn up, of how much the monks have mastered the rules of the Buddha.

A must for all Tibetans is to make a trip to this temple and come here. You must pray infront of this door. This door is supposed to be the gateway to heaven. If you look inside this hole, you’ll see your future.

Tibetans from all over the world will come here. And they always leave a personal token. Sometimes it’s a picture, sometimes it’s something written; or it may be something of more practical use. Beside the door hang two leather bags. Visitors leave a hair in one of them, as a token that they have reserved their place on the path to heaven. For Tibetans, death is not something to be feared. Rather like life, it’s a process to be experienced and passed through.

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