Tibet #2

There is obvious tight control in Lhasa. Access to both the Palace and the Temple were controlled by checkpoints staffed by polite guards. All bags were screened by x-ray technology. There were police in our hotel who peeked over our shoulders while we corresponded via Wi-Fi. Our hosts advised us not to wander about by ourselves, especially at night.

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Many in the west worry about the dilution of Tibetan culture and their ability to continue to practice freely. We did not see any images of the Dali Lama anywhere we went. Still, their reverence for all things Buddhist was openly displayed without apparent reservation. Many locals and Tibetan tourists walked around these two important buildings clockwise, dressed in traditional, regional garb spinning large and small prayer wheels, clicking off mala beads, and prostrating themselves.

That money is changing the landscape is incontrovertible. There is ongoing building in evidence everywhere. Although I did not see any of the destruction to the Square described in one of the links below, there are modern, mall-like shops mixed in with the smaller stalls and storefronts. Many of the changes have the potential to improve educational and economic opportunities for Tibetans but I doubt that they are all motivated by altruism. I don’t think the Chinese can afford to have ethnic groups feel emboldened to seek self-determination at the expense of China as a whole. China is not alone in that fear and motivation. And, they are not the first nation to try and homogenize culture with money in the name of progress.

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Still, despite all of the building, Lhasa strides the past and present seemingly unsure who she is. A distinct rural feel remains part of the present. As we drove out to the airport we saw about 10 Yak meander free-range and unmolested down the sidewalk and out onto a street lined with new offices, high-rises and a BMW dealership.

Here are few links, albeit dated and of western sources, that offers some views on China and Tibet.

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