Trip Information

Towards the Himalayas
Towards the Himalayas (38)
Trip Date:2010-10-07 - 2010-10-15
# Photos:36 [View]
Countries visited:China
Viewed: 3607
In October 2010, I spent 10 days at the "Roof of the World". It was a dream come true.

Contrary to my expectations, Tibet’s capital Lhasa proved to be, compared with Nepal’s Kathmandu, a modern city with large avenues, modern cars, international brands’ shops, Chinese banks and telecom companies. Apparently, the ongoing Chinese investments and a serious population influx have been reshaping the Tibetan economy and social structure in the past decades. A rising interest in Tibet among Chinese tourists is also contributing to this rapid change.

But the similarites with the symbols of “modernity” end here. It is very common to see many nomad families walking in the avenues of Lhasa, who come to the capital city every winter to pay hommage to their spiritual leader Dalai Lama, thru a pilgrimage around his used-to-be-palace, Potala. Dressed in traditional clothes, those faithful followers of Tibetan Buddhism offer striking contrast to the symbols of modernism.

Buddhism is certainly the main motif of Tibetan life. Converted to Buddhism fairly late compared to surrounding nations, from the 7th century on, Tibetans seem to practice their religion rigorously at every walk of life. It is sufficient to visit Potala Palace to see their humble faith in their cultural and religious heritage.


Historical background of the Chinese presence in Tibet is quite controversial and I’m hardly an expert on the issue. But from what I’ve read so far, it seems like, although an independent Tibet existed briefly in the beginning of the 20th century, it was not recognised as a sovereign state by the UN. China, claiming historical sovereignty rights, occupied Tibet in the early 1950s. Chinese call their interruption the "peaceful liberation of Tibet", whereas some Tibetans call it a "ruthless occupation". Whatever it may be, Tibetans couldn’t show any resistance to the modern People’s Liberation Army and all uprising attempts were punished with force. Monasteries were confiscated and bombed. Dalai Lama finally evaded to India in 1959, and has begun conducting negotiation talks with the Chinese government for an independent Tibet.

Since the 1980s, some minor improvements with respect to the accordance of cultural rights were achieved within the autonomous region of Tibet, which makes roughly 1/8 of the area covered by the People’s Republic of China. But a constant presence of Chinese military in the streets of Lhasa, military vehicles waiting at its entrance, big infrastructural projects being carried out in Tibet by the Chinese government, and a considerable Chinese refugee flow which changes the demographic structure of the society, all show that Tibet is very rapidly becoming a Chinese prefecture.