Minorities in Yunnan: Dai

Dai (傣族)

The Dai people (Tai) are closed related to the majority people living in Laos and Thailand. The Dai have been categorized as one nationality even though the group consists of clearly different linguistic and cultural groups. The two main languages are Dai Lü (Xishuangbanna Dai) and Dai Nüa (Daihong Dai). In addition the Dai use two written languages: Tay Pong and Tay Dam. All these belong to Tai languages as well as Thai, Lao and Zhuang language and are a part of Tai-Kadai language group.

Dai practice Theravada Buddhism.

Photo yunnanadventure.com

Typically Dai are rice farmers. As they live in the subtropics they also grow sugar cane, coffee, hemp, rubber and different fruits.

”Dai women’s clothes have a variety of styles. In the Xishuangbanna area, women often wear white, sky-blue or pink tight under garments with a jewel-collared short shirt over them that buttons either down the front or on the right. The shirt has long, slim sleeves that wrap tightly around the arms. It is narrow-waisted, exposing the lower back. Below the shirt is usually a long, tight skirt that can even reach the feet. Many Dai women wear a silk girdle around their waists and wind their long hair into a bun on top of their heads, fixing it with a single beautiful crescent-moon-shaped comb.

Photo yunnanadventure.com

Dai men wear collarless tight-sleeved short jackets, with the opening at the front or along the right side, and long baggy trousers. They wind black or white turbans around their heads. Tattooing is common amongst them; when a boy reaches the age of 11 or 12, a tattoo artist is invited to tattoo his torso and limbs with designs of animals, flowers, geometric patterns or Dai script.” (Lähde: yunnanadventure.com)

The most famous and popular of Dai festivals is Water Splashing Festival.

Photo nytimes.com

Autumn day walks

The main flower and mushroom season is over but there are still plenty of treasures to find (especially for those of us who do not necessarily want to eat everything we see). Well, some of the finds were also delicious!

clematis sp.

Wild mint

Epimedium sp.

Epimedium, also known as Rowdy Lamb Herb, Barrenwort, Bishop’s Hat, Fairy Wings, Horny Goat Weed, or Yin Yang Huo (Chinese: 淫羊藿), is a genus of about 60 or more species of herbaceous flowering plants in the family Berberidaceae. The large majority are endemic to southern China, with further outposts in Europe, and central, southern and eastern Asia. Epimedium species are hardy perennials. The majority have four-petaled “spider-like” flowers in spring. Many are believed to be aphrodisiacs, particularly horny goat weed. Many species of Epimedium have aphrodisiac qualities associated with content of icariin. According to legend, this property was discovered by a Chinese goat herder who noticed sexual activity in his flock after they ate the weed. It is sold as a health supplement; usually in raw herb, tablet, or capsule form and sometimes blended with other supplements. The over-exploitation of wild populations of Epimedium for use in traditional Chinese medicine is having potentially serious consequences for the long-term survival of several species, none of which is widely cultivated for medicinal purposes. Animal studies indicate that Icariin also stimulates osteoblast activity in bone tissue, leading to the development and marketing of medicinal products based on Epimedium extracts for treatment of osteoporosis
(Wikipedia)

Dipsacus sp.

Dipsacus is a genus of flowering plant in the family Dipsacaceae. The members of this genus are known as teasel or teazel. The genus includes about 15 species of tall herbaceous biennial plants (rarely short-lived perennial plants) growing to 1–2.5 metres (3.3–8.2 ft) tall. Dipsacus are native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. The genus name is derived from the word for thirst and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem. Rain water can collect in this receptacle; this may perform the function of preventing sap-sucking insects such as aphids from climbing the stem. A recent experiment has shown that adding dead insects to these cups increases the seedset of teasels (but not their height), implying partial carnivory.
(Wikipedia)

Wild oregano

Coral mushroom

Chinese imaginings: Han schauvinism?

Also Dru Gladney (1994) uses the sexual metaphor. He argues that in China “the minority is to the majority as female is to male, as ‘third’ world is to ‘first’, and as subjectivized is to objectivized identity (Gladney 1994: 93).” As we saw the imagery of sexual relations also appeared in Western perceptions but they were in the form of violation and rape. But according to Barnett (2001) the Chinese imagery involves “marriage rather than violation, and the innocence is male, a result not of moral purity but a lack of sophistication or modernity – in other words, an excess of barbarity. In this view, the newcomer in the liaison is not a male violator but a nonviolent female who brings knowledge and advanced culture (Barnett 2001: 274.)” In think this view is interesting especially in the light of what is happening at the local level. Maybe the Han girls marrying their Tibetan boyfriends actually see themselves like this; as the bringers of knowledge and culture to the poor, uneducated, though handsome boys. So, marriage is a metaphor for China’s civilizing mission toward backward people and its modernization project in Tibet.

The Han are also often accused of exoticizing and even eroticizing the minorities (for example Gladney 1994, Heberer 2001). Gladney (1994) uses the ‘Yunnan School’ (Yunnan huapai云南画派) of modern Chinese painting as an example of this. The paintings portray nude minority women. So, again the minorities are seen as female. But in the case of Tibetans, the exotic and erotic is mostly male. Gladney mentions the reported presence of ‘sex tours’ to Yunnan and in our minds eye we can see Han men flocking to Xishuangbanna to see bathing Dai women or Lugu Lake to wonder the walking marriage of the Mosuo people. But in Tibetan areas it is mainly Han girls looking for holiday romance with a Tibetan man.

“It is exactly this exoticism that appears to characterize the official public image of ‘minorities’ in China. Most depictions show colorfully dressed minorities dancing, singing, and laughing in palm groves, on mountain tops, or in downright bizarre landscapes. They dance wildly, fires blaze, and mythic images are created that send a shiver down the spine of the Han-Chinese who view them. In facial structure, figure, and movement these depictions correspond to Han ideals of beauty. The official cultural policy also adapts minorities’ music, song, and dance according to Chinese forms, since the ‘backward’ originals do not meet the Han standards of taste and must be elevated. The other is thus counterfeit (Heberer 2001: 123-124).”

I am not denying the existence of this exotic-erotic image of minorities but what I am arguing is that it is too simplistic. Everything is always seen as ‘done to’ the minorities, forced upon them by the Han. I think that Heberer’s (2001) is a pretty good description of Tibetan music videos, but rather than sending the shivers down the spine of the Han Chinese, I would see the Tibetans themselves shivering. The greatest consumers of Tibetan dance and music videos are Tibetans themselves. For example, many evenings we turn the TV on Lhasa channel as it broadcasts Tibetan singing and dancing programs, and if nothing good is on, we might watch it from DVD instead. And, like I argued in discussion of the mediascapes, this imagery is also how they would like to see themselves. Yes, traditional Tibetan songs are being converted into pop songs with disco beat but I would call this Westernization rather than Sinicization. Tibetan pop is also sometimes sung in Putonghua (普通话) but if the artists desire to have a bigger audience it is better to have the lyrics in a language that more people can understand. No one is criticizing artists singing in English. And it has worked. Tibetan pop is very popular all over Yunnan. I have seen Bai women in Dali performing ‘traditional’ Bai dances danced in Tibetan pop. So, many times the Other is counterfeit but it is not something that is forced upon them. And why would Sinicization be so much more capable of erasing Tibetanness than Westernization or ‘Bollywoodication’, for that matter? Like Shakya (2008) states:

“Tibetans inside Tibet are comfortable with Chinese pop, while Tibetans in India prefer Bollywood. When Dadon, Tibet’s biggest pop star at the time, defected from Lhasa to India in 1995, she was shattered to find that there was no audience for her music. She was virtually unknown and the exiles accused her of singing Chinese style songs. (Shakya 2008: 22.)”

But as Barnett (2006) writes: “‘Tibetanizing’ practices in themselves have no inherent purity of purpose or origin, and it is easy to find examples of economically driven and government-mandated fabrications of the celebration of Tibetan identity (Barnett 2006: 39).” Because tourists will pay a lot of money for a Tibetan-style products, Chinese and foreign entrepreneurs as well as Tibetans, have been quick to cash in on this trend. He also notes that it could actually be said that Chinese culture is so addicted to demonstrating its tolerance of and admiration for its minority nationalities that it is almost impossible to find examples of Chinese pop videos, television programs, books, paintings, music, and costume that do not include Tibetan or other nationality features (Barnett 2006: 39-40). So it could be said that it is all a matter of a point of view. Instead of denigration there might be fascination in the majority’s enthusiasm with the minorities. It could also be argued that the Chinese attitude towards its minorities it not that exceptional. A leaflet promoting eco-tourism to villages in Luang Namtha, Laos, for example, advertise:

“This trip is focused on four ethnic tribes (Hmong, Lantan, Akha and Khmmuand) living in five villages. The villages make a living from collecting the natural products, working on rubber tree orchards and promoting their culture (customs and music) for eco-tourism. All the tribes are very happy to show tourists their handicraft weaving, embroideries, cotton spinning-wheel, rice pounding, blacksmiths as well as their local music instruments and their traditional songs. (Luang Namtha Travel –leaflet.)”

But, as we have seen, in many ways the models presented by Chinese and Western political texts are very similar as Robert Barnett (2001) argues: the phrase “Tibet’s unique natural environment,” for example, is standard in Chinese official texts. What is the difference between the two views is that, for example, when the Chinese official conception sees the uniqueness as backwardness that needs to be advanced or educated through the process of social evolution, the Western conception sees it as something quaint or special that needs to be preserved or returned to earlier condition. At a basic level the differences between the Western and Chinese political representations are small. (Barnett 2001: 277.) According to Adams (1996) the potency and popularity of the ‘Western position’ in relation to the ‘Chinese position’ can be seen in the fact that whenever Western discursive positions are not used in accounts of modern Tibet, the Western author is often accused of subscribing to the ‘Chinese version’ of Tibet and Tibetans. Even the understandings of the people themselves can be seen as false if it does not support Western image of ‘reality’. I overheard a conversation once in Zhongdian where two Westerners were discussing their conversation with a local Tibetan about the Tibetan history. I do not know what was said in the original conversation but in the end the two foreigners agreed that the Tibetan person had a right to his/her views but those views were uninformed, that us-Westerners know things better. At this point I just had to take part in the conversation and I asked if they know, for example, about the Great Game and the events that took place during that period. No, they did not. This part of history had somehow escaped the attention of these know-it-alls.

An interesting approach to the Tibet Question is taken by Robert Barnett (2001) who treats the different political representations as texts. According to him treating these representations of political status or nationhood as texts of the imagination does not mean that they have no power or validity. But they can be seen as constituting the collective imagining by a great number of people forming a description of their identity and relations. This imagining is organized around a selected principle or idea to which they ascribe the certainty of fact. This also means that these texts are authored: They exist because people produce them, not because there is some ‘reality’ that allows only a single interpretation. The discussion of Tibet has been characterized by the collection of facts of different kinds in order to ascribe certainty to one or another of these organizing ideas or imaginary representations. If we view the Tibet Question the way Barnett suggests, the debate between China and Western promoters of Tibetan independence is not really a debate. “It is more the presentation by each side of a strongly held collective imagining that is persuasive only to those who already share that imagining (Barnett 2001: 271).” In the Chinese case, it is the image of China as an integrated nation-state with its borders delineated in some ancient historical past. In the case of the foreign supporters of the Tibetan case, the image is based on a notion that is held to be preexistent or overriding such as, for example, the right of a nation to independence or the right of a people to cultural or religious freedom (human rights). These rights are seen to be violated. “In both cases primordiality is the driving force of the argument: On the one hand, China has existed as a unified state including Tibet for centuries, and on the other, Tibetan culture, identity, or society has existed independently for millennia (Barnett 2001: 271).”

But, according to Barnett (2001), if we judge these representations by the political message they are intended to convey, and by the benefits they offer to those who buy into their imagery instead of some moral principles, the difficulty with the Western representations of Tibet as a victim is that if these promises were ever actualized, the offer they hold for their adherents is the restoration of pride and support for a nationalist ideal. But since these are essentially symbolic or psychological conditions, the sustainers of these representations do not have the power to enforce or actualize their texts. The offer implicit in China’s representation of Tibet is that China will provide the material  and financing for what it defines as civilization or modernity, a promise that it has the ability to carry out and to some extent it has already done so. (Barnett 2001: 277-278.) So instead of all the talk about free Tibet it would be better to concentrate on something more realistic and attainable which might also be more beneficial to the people, like more real autonomy and greater rights. Who actually believes that free independent Tibet can be attained through non-violent demonstrations in the Western world?

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Adams, Vincanne. 1996. “Karaoke as Modern Lhasa, Tibet: Western Encounters with Cultural Politics.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol.11, No. 4, (Nov., 1996), pp. 510-546.

Gladney, Dru C. 1994. “Representing Nationality in China: Refiguring Majority / Minority Identities.” The Journal of Asian Studies 53, No. 1 (Feb., 1994), pp. 92-123.

Barnett, Robert. 2001. “’Violated Specialness’: Western Political Representations of Tibet.” In Imagining Tibet. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 269-316. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Barnett, Robert. 2006. “Beyond the Collaborator – Martyr Model: Strategies of Compliance, Opportunism, and Opposition within Tibet.” In Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region. Eds. Barry Sautman & June Teufel Dreyer, pp. 25-66. New York and London: M.E. Sharpe, Inc.

Heberer, Thomas. 2001. “Old Tibet a Hell on Earth? The Myth of Tibet and Tibetans in Chinese Art and Propaganda.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 111-150. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Luang Namtha Travel –leaflet.

Shakya, Tsering. 2008. “Interview: Tibetan Questions.” New Left Review, Vol. 51 (May, June 2008), pp. 5-26.

Western ideas of Tibetanness: baby seals and depositories

I graduated as a Master of East Asian studies about year ago. I thought to post here a section of my thesis.

In this section I decided to include a discussion about the Western ideas of Tibet and Tibetanness as many Westerners have strong opinions of the subject and our conceptions are affecting the Tibetans themselves. In the Western imagination Tibet is seen as ‘Roof of the world’, ‘Land of the snows’, mystic Shangri-la, heaven on earth, which was a holy kingdom led by peace-loving lamas. It was a depository of ancient knowledge and unchanging tradition which is now under threat of being lost because of Chinese invasion and assimilation schemes. As Vincanne Adams writes (1996):

“Construction of Tibet as a place of spirituality, as exotic, as offering esoteric forms of Buddhism, as a location for dynastic intrigue, as a wild frontier of bare-chested, horseback-riding singing nomads and rugged yaks, and, of course, as a place for ultimate challenge for Western physical endurance have all been bound up, Bishop (1989) notes, both not only with realities that actually exist in Tibet and among Tibetans but also with Western geopolitical interests in the region (Adams 1996: 515).”

According to Adams (1996) there are two types of images of Tibet that dominate the Western popular imagination. First is the pre-Mao Tibet that was universally and uniformly religious. All of the Tibetans possessed esoteric spiritual awareness and religious knowledge. The second one is an image of Tibet as a place that has been destroyed by Chinese communism and where Tibetans, one and all, are engaged in acts of political resistance. So authentic Tibetanness can only be found in people who are religiously devout and resist the Chinese government. (Adams 1996: 515.)

Besides religion and resistance there are also other images of Tibetans, and according to these the Tibetans are innately nonviolent, environmentally friendly and equal. Common statements are: “Tibetans are an essentially peaceful and nonviolent people, who never developed an army of their own,” and “Environmentalism is an innate aspect of Tibetan culture,” and “Women in traditional Tibet enjoyed a higher degree of equality than in other Asian societies.” Toni Huber (2001) argues that these types of reflexive, politicized notions of Tibetan culture and identity are unprecedented and distinctly modern (Huber 2001: 357). According to him:

“Tibetan exiles have reinvented a kind of modern, liberal Shangri-la image of themselves, which has its precedents in two different sets of discourses, the first of which is the product of the tree powerful “-isms” of early modernity: colonialism, orientalism, and nationalism. The second set derives from liberal social and protest movements that originated mainly in the industrialized West, but which are now transnational in scope and appeal: environmentalism, pacifism, human rights and feminism.” (Huber 2001: 358.)

As these images are constructed they do not conform to the reality. Elliot Sperling (2001), just to give an example, has written about the aspects of violence in the Tibetan tradition. Helena Norberg-Hodge (2001) sees the Ladakh Tibetans as a model of ecological sustainability but I would argue that this environmentalism is just the result of local conditions (namely poverty). When people have the opportunity to consume they do so, and the results of this consumption can be seen in the environment. In Xidang, for example, the slopes of the mountains are littered with plastic and glass bottles. We also had a big disagreement in the family as I did not let them dump the bottles in to the river. Barnett (2001) argues that according to the ecological image of Tibetans they are seen as an endangered species or Tibet as a threatened habitat. As the American Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman described it, “the Tibetans are the baby seals of the human rights movement.” (DeVoss, 1997 [see Barnett 2001: 276-277]). What comes to the relative equality of men and women I would say the Chinese are more equal than Tibetans. As women do most of the farm work they have some power in the family affairs but they are far from equal. An example of this is that women are considered impure and even their clothes can not be washed in the same water as men’s clothes. Women’s clothes below the waist can not be washed in the washing machine as they contaminate it and they have to be hung lower to dry than men’s clothes.

These images are basically constructions based primarily on Western psychological needs but they have been adopted and developed by the government-in-exile in India. Such identity construction also has roots in what Heinz Bechert (1984) calls “Buddhist Modernism,” some of whose salient features he describes as: the reinterpretation of Buddhism as an essentially rational religion; the idea that Buddhism is a natural vehicle for various kinds of social reform; and the close connection between Buddhism and emergent South Asian anti-colonialism and nationalism (Bechert 1984: 275-277). All of this belongs to the Orientalist discourse. As Huber (2001) points out one aspect of that discourse “is the way in which the Oriental Other has also been creative agent for essentialist constructions, and moreover an agent who reflects, refracts, and recycles Orientalist discourse back to what is held to be the dominant objectifying group (Huber 2001: 363).” So according to Romantic Orientalist reading Tibetan identity is seen as innately spiritual in opposition to the soulless materialism and moral bankruptcy of Communist China or the greed and spiritual impoverishment of the industrialized West. Huber also notes that many of these identity images first appeared in multiple English texts before they appeared in Tibetan versions. This gives clear picture of their targeted audience and purpose: they are aimed at the West as a weapon in a propaganda battle against the Chinese state. (Huber 2001: 364-367.) But often this presentation has depended on historical distortion and the editing out of negative evidence. As Heather Stoddard points out “[a] considerable number of new books written in Tibetan…have been censored or banned from publication [by the exile government] because they do not conform to the desired image of traditional Tibetan society. Any serious discussion of history and possible shortcomings in the society before 1959 is taboo (Stoddard 1994: 152).”

Still, this ‘Shangri-la syndrome’ continues and captivates the Western imagination. Donald S. Lopez Jr. (1998) has argued that the Western definitions of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism have been so powerful that the Tibetans have been denied agency, so that, in effect, they have been colonized. In his response to Lopez’s book Tsering Shakya (2001) writes:

“There is certainly a process of mimicry, hybridization, and appropriation of western representations of Tibetanness or Buddhism among certain sections of the Tibetan diaspora. However, it is clear to me that the penetration of the western construct into the Tibetan community remains at best superficial, and the mimicry is not necessarily carried out by way of imbibing a set of values and definitions offered by the West. Unlike the case in many colonized territories, penetration by western constructs, whether cultural or political remains at the margins of Tibetan subjectivity (Shakya 2001: 185).”

But as Jamyang Norbu (2001) writes it is this dreamlike, Shangri-la quality that is focused on, so much so that other aspects of Tibetan life or culture are ignored no matter how important they may be to the Tibetans themselves. According to him this can also be seen in the desire to maintain the cultural purity of such societies by sheltering them from the realities of the outside world, especially politics, commerce, and technology. Development for such societies is seen appropriate only if it is nonmilitary, nonindustrial, and environmentally friendly. This kind of stand ignores the society’s own needs and the desires of its people, who may be seeking change. (Norbu 2001: 375.) In the conclusion of his article Donald S. Lopez (1994) contends that for Westerners to indulge in the Shangri-la fantasy of Tibet is “to deny Tibet its history, to exclude Tibet from real world of which it has always been a part, and to deny Tibetans their role as agents participating in the creation of a contested quotidian reality (Lopez 1994: 43).” Even, if we leave out the Western imaginations, these identities are creations of the exiles in contact with Western audiences. As Tsering Shakya (2008) says the Tibetan communities in Tibet have little interaction with the Tibetan community in India. According to him “the exiles in India sometimes see themselves as the ‘true’ representatives of Tibetanness, and the Tibetans inside as merely passive, oppressed victims – a patronizing attitude that does not go well in Tibet (Shakya 2008: 22).” These images are also catered to the West in hope of political support for the Tibetan cause. But according to Shakya “the joke in Tibet is that the Dalai Lama wants “one country, two systems”, but what people there want is “one country, one system” – they want the more liberal policies that prevail in China also to apply in Tibet (Shakya 2008: 26).”

What is in common with all these images of Tibet is that it is seen as a zone of specialness, uniqueness, distinctiveness, or excellence that has been threatened, violated, or abused. In some cases the violation is seen as a result of advancing modernity or commercialization in general. But usually this violation is identified with acts of violence, desecration, or intolerance that have been carried out by the Chinese authorities. (Barnett 2001: 273.) Like I wrote earlier Stevan Harrell (1995) argues that the Chinese state sees its minorities as women, as children, or as ancient and thus needing protection, education and modernization. But the metaphor of Tibetans as women is also used by the Westerners as Barnett (2001) points out citing U.S. congressman: “The rape of Tibet is going on (see Barnett 2001: 273).” The same way in Western imaginations the Tibetans are seen although not as children but as innocent and needing protection and preservation. And, of course, the Tibetans are seen as ancient and always deeply religious. But what if every Tibetan is not willing to be our baby seal or depository of archaic knowledge?

Brett Neilson (2000) has argued that the myth of Shangri-la and the search for it has actually nothing to do with real Tibet. The Shangri-La myth conjures up the imagining of a space outside of globalization. Although it is the stuff of fiction and fantasy, it does this in an immediately material way, since, in its present cultural political articulation, it is inseparable from the geopolitical conflict surrounding Tibet. He does not to claim that Tibet is Shangri-la or that Shangri-la is Tibet, since one of the key aspects of Shangri-la in the original story (James Hilton’s Lost Horizon [1933]) was that this mysterious land is knowable only to a dedicated few, who commit themselves to a life of peace, simplicity, and meditation. One consequence of this hypothesis is that Shangri-la can be detached from the physical territory of Tibet thus becoming a sign of longevity, joy, and other stereotypical qualities that are associated with spurious ideals of Asian authenticity and anti-modernity (even when these attributes are clearly lacking). (Neilson 2000: 98-99.) So, is it the space outside of modernity that all of us (The Chinese tourists as well as Westerners) are imagining and looking for?

BIBLIOGRAPHY:

Adams, Vincanne. 1996. “Karaoke as Modern Lhasa, Tibet: Western Encounters with Cultural Politics.” Cultural Anthropology, Vol.11, No. 4, (Nov., 1996), pp. 510-546.

Barnett, Robert. 2001. “’Violated Specialness’: Western Political Representations of Tibet.” In Imagining Tibet. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 269-316. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Bechert, Heinz. 1984. “Buddhist Revival in East and West.” In The World of Buddhism. Eds. Heinz Bechert & Richard Gombrich, pp. 273-285. London: Thames and Hudson.

Bishop, Peter. 1989. The Myth of Shangri-la: Tibet, Travel writing, and the Western Creation of a Sacred Landscape. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Harrell, Stevan. 1995. “Introduction: Civilizing Projects and the Reaction to Them.” In Cultural Encounters on China’s Ethnic Frontiers. Ed. Stevan Harrell, pp. 3-36. Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Huber, Toni. 2001. “Shangri-la in Exile: Representations of Tibetan Identity and Transnational Culture.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 357-371. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Lopez, Donald S., Jr. 1994. “New Age Orientalism: The Case of Tibet.” Tricycle, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp. 36-43.

Lopez, Donald S., Jr. 1998. Prisoners of Shangri-la: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

Neilson, Brett. 2000. “Inside Shangri la/Outside Globalization: Remapping Orientalist Visions of Tibet.” Communal/Plural, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp. 95-112. .

Norberg-Hodge, Helena. 2001. “Tibetan Culture as a Model of Ecological Sustainability.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 331-338. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Norbu, Jamyang. 2001. “Behind the Lost Horizon: Demystifying Tibet.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 373-378. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Shakya, Tsering. 2001. “Who Are the Prisoners?” Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 69, No. 1 (March 2001), pp. 183-189.

Shakya, Tsering. 2008. “Interview: Tibetan Questions.” New Left Review, Vol. 51 (May, June 2008), pp. 5-26.

Sperling, Elliot. 2001. “’Orientalism’ and Aspects of Violence in the Tibetan Tradition.” In Imagining Tibet: Perceptions, Projections and Fantasies. Eds. Thierry Dodin & Heinz Räther, pp. 317-329. Boston: Wisdom Publications.

Stoddard, Heather. 1994. “Tibetan Publications and National Identity.” In Resistance and Reform in Tibet. Eds. Robbie Barnett & Shirin Akiner, pp. 121-156. London: Hurst and Co.

Trekking Baima 3

The third day wasn’t any clearer than the previous ones so we decided to leave our stuff to the research station and also stay the last night there. The options for the days hike were hiking up another valley, where we might see mountain goats, or continue down stream in hope of seeing the monkeys. We headed down. If we’d had enough time we could have followed the river down to Weixi area but it was 3-4 days walk to the nearest village.

After a while we came to yet another nomad hut and decided dad could wait for us there hile we explored the forests on both side of the river. We would meet at the hut around 3 pm.

Short walk down from the hut we came to a bridge crossing the river. First we walk the right bank, then the left. I spent more time taking photos while Alan hiked searching for the monkeys.

You have already seen my mushrooms so here’s some more flowers and other things.

We came back to the hut aroud four and to our surprise the old man living there told us that dad had already left. We decided to stay for tea anyway and after 20 minutes dad also came back. He had gotten worried when we weren’t back on agreed time and my phone could not be reached (it got wet and stopped working). So he left to look for us.

Afternoon tea

Mantou (steamed bread), butter tea and fresh yak cheese (which is put into tea)

After tea we walked back to the research station. For the last night we decided to take a room. The evening was spent by the fire chatting with the staff and enjoying chicken soup and barley alcohol.

This was our trip to Baima nature reseve. The last day consisted of a 2 hour hike up to the road and a bus trip back to Hara. Even getting the ride went smoothly as the bus from Deqin came just as we came to the road. So we didn’t see the monkeys but many interesting things anyway.

Yunnan is often accused of being extremely touristy but, as you can see, there are also places with hardly any tourists. We hiked the biggest nature reserve in Yunnan and during 3 days met only one other hiker (who also is the boss of Shangri-la botanical garden, so not really a tourist. Deqin government is trying to develope tourism at Baima but at the moment it s still off the beaten path of Yunnan travellers.

Trekking Baima 2

Last time we were left resting on a mountain meadow. From there we continued down into the valley.

The rain started on our way down and continued more or less for the rest of the trek. In the valley we found another nomad hut and set up our tent near it. Our guide got a place to sleep in the hut.

After we’d set the tent up we were already starving so we started preparing dinner. The nosy cows could smell the food and came sniffing around our tent.

Nosy yak licking our tent.

After eating the sun was already seting so there was really nothing more to do but to crawll into our sleeping bags and try to get some sleep. I was a bit nervous wether the yaks would tramble our tent at night (or bears or wolfs!) and a screaming horse was a bit of a disturbance but finally I fell asleep.

In the morning the yaks woke us up sniffing around the tent again and the bells around their neecks clanging next to our ears. It had been pouring rain at night but the morning was a bit clearer so we could see the nearby mountain from which the small stream we had camped by was flowing. Well, the stream was small at this point.

After breakfasr we packed our stuff and started walking down stream. Another option would have been to leave the camp and gear there and do a day trip to a near by glacier lake. There also would have been a small monastery a days hike away. But as Alan really hoped to see the Yunnan snub-nosed monkey, we decided to head lower down. Now we were too high for the monkeys.

The Yunnan snub-nosed monkey is the highest altitude (3000-4500 m) living monkey in the world andits diet mainly consists of lichen. There are less than 2000 monkeys left.

So we crossed the stream and headed down.

We hadn’t walked very far when the terrain turned first boggy and then into a horrible thicket. Our guide suggested we’d cross the stream over a trunk placed across it. But now the stream wasn’t that small anymore. It had widened and deepened and flowing fast. I didn’t dare to cross it over a slippery and narrow tree trunk. So we continued in the thicket. Machetes would have been handy!

Around noon we had a lunch break in a rhododendron forest.

Lichen = monkey food

Now we were around the right altitude.

Finally we came to a place where two large trees had fallen across the river. The other was branchy enough so that we decided to try the crossing. Dad went over on his feet but we two hauled ourselves over on our bottoms. And that was scary enough! And of course I managed to rip my pants. But the terrain on the other side was really much easier to walk. Also the forest was tottally different.

Late afternoon we arrived to Baima Nature Reserve research station.

Here we found out that there is a 100 yuan etrance fee per person to the area. After negotiations we managad to bargain this down a bit (as we really didn’t know about it and weren’t prepared). At thiss point it was pouring rain so we decided to stay the night at the station. The friendly staff gave us an empty room for free where we could sread our sleeping bags. We spent the evening sitting by the fire and sipping local barley alcohol. Just before dark there also came two nomads with their mules and one Chinese hiker to the station.

Ps. If we would’ve walked the left side of the stream all the way the days hike would have taken roughly an hour.

Trekking Baima

A bit over a week ago I got a customer who wanted to go hiking in Baima nature reserve. All the travellers he’d met were going to the Tiger Leaping Gorge but he wanted to go to Baima. He contacted a guide in Shangri-la but they were too expensive. Then he emailed me.

In Baima pass

”Baima Snow Mountain Nature Reserve, the largest in Yunnan Province with an area of nearly 200,000 hectares, is located in the mid-section of the Hengduan Mountain Range in Southwest China. The snowcapped peaks of the reserve, the highest in Yunnan, reach 5,640m above sea level. These peaks provide a sanctuary for frigid-zone primeval forests and rare plants and animals which thrive in the temperate to cold climate. The nature reserve gained its status in 1983 in order to protect the alpine coniferous forests, mountainous vegetation and the golden monkey. Other species particular to this reserve include the lesser panda, the snow leopard and the white-eared pheasant, as well as forty-seven other mammal species and forty-five bird species.”

In Baima pass

Despite Baima being the biggest nature reserve in Yunnan it is quite unknown and untouristy.

I called to my Tibetan dad in Xidang to come to guide us. Then we jumped on the first mornin bus to Deqin and got off at the highest point in Baima pass where we met our guide. We had some butter tea and baba in a nomad hut while planning the route. And then we started walking.

As it has been raining alot lately the high plateau reminded more of a bog. But the rains also mean flowers.

After a while of jumping from tussock to tussock we started the climbing. We were joined for a while by an old nomad walking with his mules but we were too slow for him.

You can really feel the altitude up here. We started hiking from about 4 300 m and at highest we were around 4 700-4 800 m. I nearly passed out a couple of times when I was crouching down taking my flower pictures and got up too quickly. So some rest was in place at some points.

The peaks really don’t seem that high looking from here.

And after going up it’s time to come down. A bit lower down we came to a nomad hut and enjoyed a break at the surrounding meadow. The residents of the hut also came to great us.

We would have been welcome to set up our tent on the meadow but as it was really windy up here and there was still day light left we decided to continue down into the valley.

To be continued…

Mushroom season

These days the villagers are busy roaming around the forests picking mushrooms. They mainly look for the expensive ones to sell (matsutake and truffle) but some delicious mushrooms also come along for home cooking as well as some Tibetan medicinal plants.

Here are some mushrooms I picked with my camera while hiking in Baima Snow Mountain nature reserve (which is coming up later).

So if you like mushroom picking, now is the time to come. And if you know what these mushrooms are, please, let me know.

Summer day walks

The other day I managed to spill ice tea on my pc. After a day of drying out it started working again except that the key-board is stuck. I still haven’t been able to fix the problem but luckily there is this on-screen keyboard. Only writing with this is soooo slow. So this post will be mainly photos.

The photos are taken on two walks up the valley where the village fields are located and then a bit further. The fist walk was on mid-summer day, second a few days ago.

Yellow fields

The last peonies. The flowering is almost over.

Because of all the flowers there are many, many butterflies.

What is this? It's edible when ripe.

It's leaves

The new cones of the spruce are purple.

More butterflies

one on my bag

some on my hand

and some on my shoe

And flowers…

What is this?