Yushu (aka Jyekundo (སྐྱེ་རྒུ་མདོ་) in Tibetan) is an Autonomous Prefecture in the Qinghai Provence of China. Located 800km south of the nearest city Xining, Yushu used to be a daunting 12-16 hour bus ride from Xining in the north or about 10 hours to Gantze in the south (where I came from). Now, it appears that Yushu has it’s own airport and has become quite a hot spot for tourists.
I was only able to spend two days in Yushu due to visa restrictions, but it left a wonderful impression on me. I also did something a little different while I was there. I only spent one day site-seeing, and I spent the other in the market, shooting lots and lots of portraits. Click “Read the rest of this entry” to see some of my favorites.
Nearby the town of Yushu is Jiana (Gyanak), the city of mani stones. Mani stones are slabs of rock carved and painted with holy scripture and symbols. Usually the stones are carved with the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum”, a chant to recite during meditation that roughly translates into all the teachings of the Buddha.
Tibet is covered with these stones that usually pile up nearby monasteries and important religious monuments. But the largest in the world can be found in Yushu.
It estimated that there are 2.5 billion stones in the 20,000 square meter pile, and it’s growing by about 300,000 every year. Apparently, it was originally built 1,700 years ago and later destroyed to be rebuilt in it’s present form. (I’m having trouble finding good information about it.) In and around it are a few temples and, as usual for Tibetan holy sites, lots of prayer wheels to spin.
On my second day, I visited the Jiegu Tibetan Buddhist monastery on the mountain just above Yushu. This isn’t the most famous in the area, that would be the Princess Wancheng Temple outside of town, but I didn’t have time to visit it. The Jiegu monastery doesn’t have a lot of sites, but it does have a nice row of chortens and a great view of Yushu and the surrounding mountains.
Yushu, like Zhongdian and Litang, is famous for a big horse riding festival held every summer. Unfortunately, I arrived just after the festival had finished, but there were still a lot of Tibetans dressed in their best clothes around, and this made for some good people watching.
So, I spent the rest of my second day in Yushu doing nothing but trying to meet people and take their portraits. Now, I usually do take a lot of portraits of people when I travel, but I don’t often spend as much time doing it as I did on this day.
I started out by finding a doorway with nice light and asking interesting-looking passer-bys if they would let me take their pictures. At first it was a bit difficult, but after an hour and a half or so, I found myself with quite a few nice ones.
After that, I headed for the market area to take some more. Markets are always good places to people watch and photograph people. There you can get a combination of candid photos and portraits but the atmosphere can often be a little hectic, so there is a process that I follow… I’ll write a separate post on my techniques to do this in the next week, so check back!
This is the sixth article on my travels to Tibet. The next will be about the amazing Jokhang Monastery and Barkor Square. The last was about Dege and its holy scripture printing press. The rest of the articles can be found here.