Day 14 part 2: Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery is the biggest monastery in Tibet.  At times it has housed ten thousand monks, but today its population is closer to a few hundred.  I took so many pictures here, we’ll just let them guide our little tour.

A young monk walk with his hot water canister.  Happily, this idyllic shot does not include the open sewer to his right, sweeping away the waste of hundred of monks.  It was about as literal as the expression “holy shit” gets.

The monastery complex is a maze of plazas and hidden walkways, and fantasticly rustic stairs connect different levels of the grounds.

See?!  Brilliant stairs.
Decadent Decorations Decry Decades of Decline and Decay.  (I have thing for orange and blue, so this photos speaks to me.)

This happy old man was just sittin here at his little wall when we came by.  After miming my request to take a picture of him, he flashed me this priceless grin.  I lament the overblown background, but I love this man’s face.

Every August there is a huge festival in Tibet called Shoton.  This festival was part of the reason that we had such a hard time getting train tickets into Tibet.  It takes place at Drepung, but we got here one day early.  So we got to see people setting up for tomorrow.
For example, these guys putting out banners on the balcony.

This one saw me taking pictures and started hamming it up.

Peace from above.

The highlight of the festival is the unveiling of a giant thangka on the hill behind the monastery.  This is the frame, and the painting unrolls from the top.  Really huge.

Standing in a square looking up from under a canvas covering.  Awesome blue sky peeking through.
Out from under the canvas, looking up at Kristy peace-ing through an upstairs window.

Looking out the same window, down at the canvas cover.  Ahhhh perspectives.

Balconies, ruffles, and sky.  Beautiful, beautiful sky.
Finally we got some shots inside the temples!   There was a monk there to collect “donations.”  This is looking down into a temple through a lattice-like window.
Yak butter candles.  All temples have candles made from yak butter.  When you get close enough to really smell them, you ask yourself why you got this close because it smells really bad.
Cabinets containing statues of Buddhas are reflected in the mirror surfaces of bowls of water set out as offerings to the Buddhas.

Not the greatest picture, really.  Included to show an example of the many temple rooms that have walls completely painted with intricate stories and prayers.  There was a room at Norbulingka that must have had a thousand square feet of wall covered with paintings depicting the story of the birth of Buddhism.  Our tour spent about forty-five minutes going over the beginning of the story and we probably covered ten square feet.  Often, these paintings include a bird riding a monkey riding an elephant, which I think is really awesome.

Remember when I wrote about pilgrims crawling under the cabinets filled with prayer books?  This is one of those cabinets.  Complete with money donations slipped in between the frame and the glass.
Back outside.  Awesome rural wall with a double-decker grass roof.

Remember when I said I have a thing for decayed doors, walls, and windows with vivid colors?  LOVE this.
Lonely, ancient monk walks down the lonely, ancient path.

Monastery building against bright blue.
Taken from up on the hillside while we were waiting to see if James was ever going to make his way down from the giant thangka frame.  I had just brushed up against some mysterious, magical poison plant that caused waaaay too much pain for how lightly I touched it.

Buddhist skyline.


4 Responses to “Day 14 part 2: Drepung Monastery”

  1. April 13, 2010 at 6:00 am

    a-MAZ-ing photos! Your commentary is priceless! The colors of this place must have been simply overwhelming at times. It could easily be the most beautiful place on the planet. I love the way the Tibetans hammed it up for you. And your captures of the monks walking are incredible. They are lost in their faith and yet, exude this magical sort of peace. Stunning all around, Stephen! 🙂

    • April 13, 2010 at 3:09 pm

      thank you thank you! very kind of you to say! at least from my perspective, the monks did seem a little lost in the world – so far away from everything i would consider to be part of normal life. but you’re right – they are definitely at peace with it, and it ends up making me wonder if they are the ones who are really on the right track.

  2. April 13, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    These are stunning photos. Your colors are vibrant and alive – I feel like I’m right there also. How wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing.

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