August 10, 2007: Gyantse to Shigatse
Woke up at 7 am. No electricity and no water pressure. We met with our driver and guide at 9 am
and went to the Pelkor Choede Monastery. This Monastery was founded in 1418. Inside the Main
Assembly Hall, it was very dark and gloomy. The sprawling monastery complex is enclosed by walls.
Next to the Main Assembly Hall is the Gyantse Kumbum. It was built in 1427 and is a huge chorten.
It is 35 meters high and packed with Tibetan paintings and sculptures. Its stairways are very narrow
and I hit my head several times. The Kumbum has a total of six floors. From the sixth floor one can
walk out onto the veranda from which there are great views of the Monastery, the Gyantse Dzong as
well as the Tibetan quarters of Gyantse.
After visiting the Monastery, we drove over to the Gyantse Dzong. Gyantse and the Gyantse Dzong
(which means fort) played a big role in Tibetan history. It was here that in 1903 Sir Francis
Younghusband and his British army of some 1,000 troops and their modern warfare equipment
defeated a badly equipped Tibetan army. Failing to occupy the deserted Dzong while waiting for
Tibetan officials from Lhasa, the Tibetans reoccupied the Dzong. The British army then shelled the
Dzong and retook it in one day, killing about 300 Tibetan soldiers. The fall of the Gyantse Dzong
was the final straw in Tibetan attempts to repel the British Invasion of Tibet, also called the
Younghusband expedition, which finally resulted in Younghusband taking Lhasa later that year.
After getting to the foot of the Dzong, we
walked up. Tsering and also our driver, Mr.
Gan, came with us. They both had not been
up there, so it took a couple of Germans
from Texas to make them do it. It took us
about 20 minutes to make it to the entrance
to the Dzong. From here, we had to climb
up a steep flight of stairs and through some
buildings until we made it to the very top of
the Dzong. No wonder the British did not
want to occupy the Dzong back then as the
going up was steep and strenous because of
the altitude. All the way at the top of the
Dzong there were great views of the Pelkor
Choede Monastery, its surrounding walls,
the Kumbum and the Tibetan quarters.
Also, we saw how fertile and green the
Gyantse valley is.
We went back down and, bought some tea and snacks and started our drive to Shigatse. The road
was very nice. On the side of the road were markers with the year 2006 on it, so the road must be
only a year old. The valley from Gyantse to Shigatse is lush and green with lots of farming. The
distance between both cities is about 90 km.
We got to Shigatse around 1 pm. Our first stop was at the Bank of China to exchange some money.
Then we went for lunch. We stopped at a Chinese Restaurant. Our driver knew the Owner of this
restaurant. Marc and I ordered fried rice and pork with veggies. Shortly after serving our lunch, the
owner, who had just been in the kitchen fixing our lunches, proceeded outside where his little
grandson was playing. He picked him up and let him do his business all over the pedestrian
walkway....at least he cleaned it up afterwards. Luckily, I had already finished my lunch as I had a
clear view of these proceedings....
Then we went to our hotel, the Gang-Gyan Hotel which is located just outside of the Tashilunpo
Monastery. We had a nice room with a view of the busy road and the Monastery.
The Tashilunpo Monastery is one of the great Gelugpa Monasteries, along with Ganden, Sera and
Drepung. It was founded in 1447 by a disciple of Tsong-khapa, whose name was Genden Drup.
Genden Drup was retroactively named the First Dalai Lama. As most of the Gelugpa affairs centered
around Lhasa, Tashilunpo did initially not play a major role. However, once the Fifth Dalai Lama
declared his then teacher, who was the abbot of Tashilunpo, to be a manifestation of Amithaba, the
Buddha of Infinite Light, Tashilunpos status changed dramatically. Tashilunpo became the seat of
the Panchen Lama. Panchen means "Great Scholar" and this title was bestowed from then on to the
abbot of Tashilunpo. With a second leader established, albeit behind the Dalai Lama, rivalry was
introduced into the Gelugpa order. The Chinese used this rivalry to their benefits. In the 1920's, the
ninth Panchen Lama flew from Tibet to China and ever since then, the Chinese have used the
Panchen Lama for their own good. The tenth Panchen Lama, who grew up under protection from
the Chinese Government, was widely regarded as a Chinese puppet.  The current eleventh Panchen
Lama has been held hostage by the Chinese Government since May 17, 1995. Today, he is 18 years
old, but nobody knows anything about his whereabouts.
After checking into our room, we then visited Tashilunpo. The biggest attractions are the Chapel of
Jampa which holds a 26 meter high statue of the Future Buddha and the tombs of the 10th and 4th
Panchen Lamas. Another building contains the tombs of the 5th to 9th Panchen Lamas and finally,
there is the Main Assembly Hall which is one of the oldest buildings of Tashilunpo dating back to the
15th century. As the Panchen Lamas were regarded as the vassalles of China, the Tashilunpo
Monastery was almost untouched by the Cultural Revolution.
Leaving Tashilunpo, we walked towards the Tibetan Market. Above the Tibetan Market, the Chinese
just finished a brandnew building in the style of the Potala, apparantly a "gift" from the Chinese
people to the Tibetans. How pathetic! Walking through the Tibetan Market was fun. From live goats
to all kinds of trinkets for sale.
We then went to the Chinese part of
Shigatse. We knew that there was an
internet cafe on the main street, which
we found. We went upstairs and there
were probably a hundred or so monitors
behind which were Chinese kids playing
games and chatting. I had heard a lot
about the Chinese addiction to
computers and online gaming, but I did
not expect this in the middle of Tibet.
Marc and I checked our e-mails and
then left to go back to our hotel.
On the way back to the hotel, Marc and I were scouting for a restaurant, but we did not find
anything too appetizing. The hotel restaurant did not look too good either and so we went back into
the streets. We finally ate at a place called Fala, a Chinese fast food chicken restaurant. We had a
chicken burger and french fries and it was real good!! On the way back to the hotel, we bought a
couple of beers in a store. Here, I had to pose with the shopkeepers 5-year old daughter for pictures.
Back at the hotel, we watched the Shanghai Snookers tournament for the second night in a row.
Main Square of Gyantse from top of
Dzong
Pelkor Choede Monastery from top of
Dzong
The "new Potala" in
Shigatse