Friday, January 16, 2009

Color on a Drab Gray Canvass

Tibetan Monastery in Nepal: this is to give you an idea of the type of architecture and painting that we saw in Tibet.

Colorful Prayer Flags: look carefully, these go on for miles between the trees on the mountain tops.

After breakfast we went in search of local color and found a lot of it. Paintings similar to the flower and jewel design in our bedroom could be found all over the dusty gray of Lhasa's landscape. Tibet's distilled sunshine reflected dazzlingly off of the white-washed homes with elaborately painted doors and window frames. At least 100 red-robed monks strolled the crowded streets. Many of them continuously churned the ethers with their silver prayer wheels.

The Tibetan women wore long gray cloth dresses that covered them from the neck to the ground. They accessorized with brightly woven belts and beautiful necklaces of coral, turquoise, gold and silver. Pink, purple and green yarn with turquoise beads were woven into the coiled braids of their hair, and giant gold and turquoise earrings hung from their ears.

As I was desperately in need of a new pair of shoes, we headed to the outdoor market. (See earlier post 'Feet to the Fire') Men stood behind tables selling amethyst, crystal, citrine, aventurine, multi-colored glass beads from India, stone chops, painted bottles, enameled harmony balls from China and bronze or silver Gurkha knives and rainbow colored sweaters from Nepal. The few items that might actually have been from Tibet were hand woven cloth, carpets and prayer flags in primary colors.

At last, I found a vendor selling shoes. Alas, the only shoes that fit my feet were made for Chinese soldiers, military green and drab brown made of canvas uppers and a flat leather sole. I bought some very thick hand knitted socks to keep my feet warm. The shoes were absolutely terrible. I used those shoes to go trekking in the Annapurna Range of the Himalayas and halfway through the trek, the nails poked through into my heels. I ended up with bleeding blistered feet hiking the mountains in shower thongs.

*People always ask me about all of the Tibetan handicrafts that I buy in Tibet...I don't buy them in Tibet. They have a thriving international trade in Lhasa, but all of the Tibetan items that I buy are always made by Tibetan refugees living outside of Tibet. Other than the prayer flags, I did not see evidence of any traditional Tibetan ritual objects actually being made in Tibet. I can only guess the reasons so I won't try to tell you why this is.

*A prayer wheel looks something like a scepter. Inside is a tightly wound scroll of prayers. The Tibetans use it as a tool to help keep them focused in the generation of prayers for the enlightenment of all sentient beings. (They are praying for you, always.) You can see a few of these on the Himalayan Handicraft portion of our web site.


  1. I love the photos you post.

  2. Nice post and will have to look backwards and at the photos later.

    Thanks for stopping by.....although coffee is a theme running through my life/blog, I am interested in many other aspects of life too
    ; )

  3. I wish I could be there. That part of the world still mysterious for me and definitely I will be there experiencing all the events you are describing.

    I checked the web sites, nice work.