Thursday, March 31, 2005

"Taking shelter in a bandit monastery"

Chongu, originally uploaded by sydneyphoto.

This is the "bandit monastery" of Chonggu Gompa - or Tsengu Gompa as Rock called it back in 1928. It was then the base of the gang of renegades who robbed and murdered throughout the region. Only the kingdom of Muli remained safe from these bandits, as the king there had a deal with them to allow them safe passage - so they could sell their looted wares in the larger towns further afield in Sichuan and Yunnan!

This is what Rock wrote about the monastery in 1928:

The lamas were ignorant as to the age of the monastery, but said it was well over a hundred years old, for this was the third generation of their living Buddha. With my lama guide I visited the monastery, armed with silver half dollars, which I distributed as gifts among the monks. The main buidling contained four rooms, one housing an obscene, many armed image [see the contemporary image below]. Outside, tied to posts, were all kinds of offerings, left there by perambulating pilgrims - bracelets, rings, beads, feathers, bells - even hairs. There was nothing beautiful wahtever, only filth and evil smells. The few praying lamas were dressed in rags shiny from yak butter, for their robes served as towels as well as hankerchiefs."

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