One of the most fascinating places I have traveled is Tibet. Having gone to cities with progressively higher altitudes in the days before arriving in Tibet, the group was prepared for the rarefied air of Lhasa whose elevation is 3650 meters (11,975 feet) above sea level. Normally visitors are unable to tour on the first day there and must rest, but we “hit the ground running” much to the consternation of the local guide who thought he would have the afternoon and evening off.
I had many adventures in Lhasa and took a large number of photos. One of the most interesting places we visited while there was the Sera monastery. It was founded in 1419, during the Ming Dynasty and the name means “wild rose” in Tibetan. It was named Sera because the hills behind it were filled with wild roses at the time it was being built.
It may be only a coincidence, but the young monks who now study there wear robes that are rose colored. A study session of theirs is fascinating to watch. They gather outside, under the trees in dyads or triads. They refine their knowledge of their faith by asking questions of one another. The questioners stand and the answerers sit. If the answer is deemed good and satisfying based on the traditional sources, the questioners indicate that through a hand gesture signifying approval. If not, they continue to question. Questions are punctuated with slaps on the questioner’s arm. To the observer, it is a somewhat disconcerting sight. Some are standing, some are sitting, there is lots of noise as all of the dyads and triads are constantly speaking, and there is an unpredictable cacophony of slaps.
It is, however, both fascinating and beautiful. Here are a couple of images: