Ancient Tea Horse Caravan Trail
We left Lijiang, an old border of Tibet, north for Zhongdian, which was renamed Shangri-la (locally called Xiangelela) by the government to encourage the tourists who were seeking the Shangri-la, Shambala in Hilton’s 1930’s book “Lost Horizon,” which I read before my travels. Hilton’s Shangri-la was a combination of descriptions from the people, geography, culture and religion of Dali, Lijiang, Zhongdian and the Meili Snow Mountain area.
Our Tibetan home styled hotel was steps away from the golden roofed Ganden Sumsteling Monastery, (which may have been the inspiration for the lamasery in Lost Horizon) the largest Tibetan monastery in Yunnan. (Built in 1679) It has several names, as most places do in this region. One is Little Potala Palace, due to its similar architecture to the one in Lhasa. Photos were not allowed inside buildings, but we circumambulated the exterior of the main buildings and within each temple and prayer hall. The centuries of positive intention were palpable, encouraging us to slow our pace, speak softly, be present. Red-robed monks were in prayer and their deep throated chanting reverberated inside me. The younger boys were, well, boys and one threw something at another, obviously not yet as dedicated to praying. An older monk quietly stepped up beside him, his presence reminding the boy to return to meditation.
Interiors were resplendent in intricate wood carvings, gold leaf, columns of multi-colored brocade, the larger than life Buddhas and other deities. I had also just read the Dalai Lama’s autobiography, which was historically fascinating, yet his description of all the layers and paths and symbols of Buddhism needed more time to absorb. My eastern religions college class was too long ago. The main takeaway is that each of us can help ourselves and the world by detaching from our distractions and concentrating on our our true selves, our spiritual selves and then we can more easily be kind and generous and caring.
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A place to decant my brain, to capture inspiration and share fresh insights. [Posts from 2015 onward]