Photo Essayby Brian Awehali

Rabbit, Nun and Powers in Tibet

Tibetan nun and rabbit, alongside Han Chinese roadbloack heading into Tibet. Photo (c) 2013 Brian Awehali

There’s really only one highway going from southwest China to Tibet, and it’s long, uneven, often blocked or jammed by convoys of military vehicles or commercial trucks, and subject to periodic closures.

It’s a sparsely populated area, but you can tell that the Chinese have big plans for it. Enormous electrical power lines lope over the hills, and in spots unpaved road gives way incongruously to new four-lane highways.

TibetHighwaySignThe picture at the top was taken at a routine road block that’s set up en route to Lhagong, which the Han call Tagong. If you can read Mandarin, the sign to the right will tell you all about that roadblock. There’s just a gate they drop over the road at a standard time every day, and everyone piles out to stretch, mill around, or stare at a handful of the locals. This monk was just standing around, smiling like some obnoxiously enlightened being, looking radiant alongside the martial roadblock, as this rabbit followed her around.

At the daily roadblock into Kham. (c) 2013 Brian Awehali

As counterintuitive as it might seem, I don’t think the Han Chinese stand a long-term chance against this kind of power or altitude.

Horse at Golden Hour in Lhagong, Kham, Tibet ( ཁམས)

Horse and prayer flags at golden hour in Lhagong, Kham, Tibet ( ཁམས) – photo (c) 2012 Brian Awehali



by Brian Awehali

Golden Hour Thoughts in Lhagong, TibetTraveling through Kham, in what’s called the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), I had the considerable pleasure of staying in Lhagong. Chinese people will tell you it’s named Tagong, but re-naming is just one strategy of the Chinese occupation of Tibet. Approaching this “stupa” on the edge of town during a clear moment in an otherwise rainy day, I couldn’t decide which idea held more magic for me: that this was a giant fortification full of monks and nuns who, not fearing death, were more than a match for any earthly army or floodtide of settlers, or an immense palace full of exquisitely beautiful people of belief, happily lashing their souls to some great transcendent hum.

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by Brian Awehali

These days, urban China is made of people, cars, and ubiquitous green scaffolding and yellow-orange cranes flying the red Communist Party flag over construction sites. Everywhere you look, edifices of glass, concrete and stone predominate. By day, construction; through the night, construction. It stops for nothing, not even torrential downpours so heavy that the cab of the crane can’t be seen from the ground.

In western Sichuan, the rains have fallen particularly hard this year, causing floods and mudslides that have killed several dozen people and blocked key roads.

One of those key roads is the one that takes you from Chengdu, where I’ve spent most of my time in China, to Lhasa, the epicenter of Tibet, which is just now laboring under its 59th year of Chinese occupation. It’s rugged country, and the Tibetans are rugged people, accustomed to harsh conditions and high elevations. As an American of partial Native American descent, I feel what I consider a natural resistors’ affinity with Tibetans. Many Han are good and respectable people, but en masse, and acting under the corrupt dictates of the Chinese government, they’re part of an unjust invading force that has to tell themselves soul-killing lies to justify their expansion at the expense of the Tibetan people’s rights to self-determination.

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