As I mentioned in my last blog, during my trip to China last year, I visited a part of China which is actually Tibetan. Labrang Monastery at Xiahe is a very large and famous monastery. Below is a picture of it.
Prayer wheels are very important in Tibetan Buddhism and have been used for over 1,000 years. They contain printed prayers and when turned are believed to be beneficial to everyone in the world. Monasteries have very large prayer wheels which people turn. Each monastery has a different style of prayer wheel with intricate designs. This is a picture of two of the prayer wheels at the Labrang Monastery.
Most Tibetans have smaller prayer wheels in their own homes which they turn themselves. Below is a picture of an elderly Tibetan man a few miles from Labrang Monastery turning a small prayer wheel.
I purchased two small prayer wheels at a Labrang Monastery store [Items #185, #186 in Tibetan Objects]. Below is a picture of the monk wrapping up a prayer wheel that I bought. [He spoke English very well.]
Outside another monastery, a Tibetan man was wearing a prayer bracelet similar to Item #191 in Tibetan Objects. Items #192, 193 194 are smaller prayer bracelets.
In my next blog I’ll show some tankas being painted at a monastery near Xining.
Last year I took a trip to China to see a friend in Beijing and as I had seen most of the main tourist attractions in China on previous trips decided to make my main focus seeing some of the 1,500 year old Buddhist caves which I knew existed in this country. After doing some research, I decided to go to the north western provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. These provinces used to be part of Tibet, but were taken over by China in 1928. I was delighted to be able to see a part of Tibet without having to get an expensive visa and take an expensive tour, but felt sorry for the Tibetans having to live under Chinese rule.
The first monastery I saw was the very large and important Labrang Monastery in the town of Xiahe. It was founded in 1709 and belongs to the Yellow Hat sect which is the sect the Dali Lama heads. In fact I was quite surprised to see pictures of the Dali Lama in at least two of the monasteries I visited.
At present, Labrang Monastery has about 1,500 monks – some of whom speak very good English. I was lucky enough to see them gather for a prayer session. They arrived wearing or carrying their yellow hats, and sat on the steps outside the sanctuary. Before entering the temple, they took off their boots.
A number of Tibetans had waited on the other side or the square until the monks entered the temple and then rushed over to the entrance of the sanctuary. Many of them were carrying vassals full of yak butter. Being present at this event was a wonderful experience!
In the first picture, note the prayer beads the woman is wearing. If you check Tibetan Objects #187 -190, you will see that I have some prayer beads for sale.
– – – More about the Labrang Monastery and other monasteries in my next blog.