The Original Yushu Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall before the 2009 Earthquake: New photos

New and re-done photos of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall near Yushu, Qinghai Province, China; before the 2010 earthquake that destroyed it.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Earthquake

On the 14th of April 2010 in a remote area of China’s remote province of Qinghai, a huge aerthquake struck the town of Yushu and the surrounding areas.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The earthquake resulted in a terrible loss of human life and a vast amount of cultural damage was done to Tibetan monasteries and temples. The greatest cultural loss was the destruction of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, the longest in the world and one of the most sacred for the Tibetans.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

A mani wall is a wall that has been built up over time using rocks, stones and pebbles that have prayers written on them. The most common mantra is Om Mane Padme Hum, but ather mantras are also written or engraved on the rocks.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Tibetan pilgrims often pay to have the rocks placed on the ever expanding walls. The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani wall, just a few kilometers outside Yushu was, and still is, the longest Mani wall in the world. The wall was re-built after the earthquake.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

We were fortunate enough to have visted Yushu in the summer of 2009; eight months before the eathquake.Here are some of our photos that I have re-done and some new ones that I didn’t post the first time. The photos still don’t do justice to mind-blowing exerience of visiting the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Click here to read the original travel article and the subsequent article that we posted after the earthquake.

Original travel article: https://holachina.com/?p=1363
After the earthquake: https://holachina.com/?p=1854
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

Mani Walls

As previously mentioned above: Mani Walls are rows of piled-up stones, engraved or painted with orations. The size of such Mani Wallscan vary from the humblest pile to a circuit of several hundred meters. Pilgrims walk round these walls of holy stones in a clockwise direction, uttering prayers and twirling prayer wheels.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall was truly enormous; a sign by its side proudly proclaimed that it is 283 metres long, 74 metres wide, 2,5 metres high and consists of 2 billion stones!

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

What’s more, the Wall, before the earthquake, was still growing, as we witnessed with our own eyes: devout pilgrims contributed new stones everyday, which were hoisted up on to the pile carefully.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China

The billions of beautifully carved stones carry the Buddhist prayers “Om Mani Padme Hum” or, “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus”, and other orations.

Building the Mani wall

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The whole team

I never really sussed out how the system worked. But it seemed that wealthier pilgrims paid more money for bigger stones or rocks to be placed on top of the Mani wall in order to get more merit (I could be wrong here).

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The whole team

As you can see from this series of photos; a pilgrim, a monk and rock carriers were all involved in the process of heaving the rocks to the top of the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China The rock carrier

Hoisting the rocks and stones up onto the top of the Mani-wall was done by muscle power alone and not only was the toil unceasing, but it was also back-breaking. You could read the expressions of pain and agony on the faces of the carriers as they struggled with the larger rocks.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. the rock carriers

The muscle and stamina of these guys puts anyone doing exercise in a gym to shame.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The rock carriers

I can’t imagine how they must of felt having to put the wall back together again after its collapse in the wake of the 2010 earthquake.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The rock bearer
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The pilgrim watches his rocks being place on top of the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall

The pilgrims

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

The other fascinating part of a visit to the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall is to observe the thousands of Tibetan pilgrims who come every day to place rocks and circumambulate the wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

Tibetan pilgrims from all over the Kham region and further afield descend on this huge Mani Wall from dusk to dawn.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China.Pilgrims circumambulating the wall with great determination and devotion.
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

Dressed in their finest, they circumambulate the sacred stones in a constantly rising and ebbing flow. The early morning sees a high tide, while the crowds ebb during the afternoon, only to return again in the early evening.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims and Margie
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Pilgrims

The Awesome Hats

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats

The Hats! We had never seen anything like them before. Huge, pancake-flat, wide-brimmed, and elaborately-embroidered; these stunning hats seemed to be all the rage in and around the Yushu and Serxu areas of Qinghai and Sichuan Tibetan areas.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

These photos we taken at the Sang-ze Gyanak Mani-wall.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

Elsewhere, we had never laid eyes on them, not even in Lhasa or around Ganzi, Litang or Dege.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. Awesome hats.

The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The best way to take in the ambience was, and probably still is, to join in with the pilgrims and accompany them on their walk around the Wall.

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The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

The more times you circle the Wall, the more fascinating it becomes.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

Numerous dark chapels and prayer-wheel halls, lit up by thousands of flickering yak-butter lamps, provided a diversion from the routine.

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels
The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall, Yushu , Qinghai, China. The Chapals and Prayer Wheels

If anybody reading this has been to Yushu recently, please lets us know what it is like now.

Buy some fungas at the wall.

Burgundy-Clad Heroes Airbrushed And Kicked Out

Tibetan Monks In central Yushu 2009

Reading foreign news reports about the Yushu earthquake, it was clear that large numbers of Tibetan monks had participated in the rescue efforts in the aftermath of the disaster. If, however, you had only relied on the Chinese state media, you would never have known they were there. In a classic case of Communist style photo-shopping that would make Mao proud, the Tibetan monks have been airbrushed from the picture. In the Chinese media, you can only see Han Chinese rescue workers and the Peoples’ Army, rescuing hapless and grateful Tibetans from the ruins.


To add insult to injury, the government is now actually ordering the monks out of Yushu, for fear that these burgundy-clad heroes might become too popular in an area where 97% of the population is ethnically Tibetan. Most of the monks have come from the neighbouring province of Sichuan, from the huge monasteries of Serxu/Serchul and those around Ganzi. These monasteries are known for their devotion to the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Something we witnessed last year.

Yushu Main Street 2009

The pity is that the earthquake might have served to bring about a better understanding between the Han Chinese and the Tibetans. Instead, most Chinese will never know that the monks where there helping, and the Tibetans will again feel that the Chinese are now going to move in and control the area even more tightly than before.

There have been very few personal accounts of the tragedy in Yushu. But Losang, the creator of the Land of Snows Website, has written a first- hand account of how he and his family were caught in the earthquake.

Click here: http://kekexili.typepad.com/life_on_the_tibetan_plate/

Thrangu Monastery Destroyed


The reports I have heard from Yushu say that  Thrangu Monastery has been almost completely destroyed and many of the monks are missing.

We spent a wonderful evening at Thrangu Gompa being shown the fantastic murals and wall paintings that had been recently painted by master painters from Tongren. The monks were so enthusiastic and proud of their monastery. We can only hope that they and the paintings  have survived.

Yushu Earthquake

For anybody who has been following our blog over the last few months, you will know that we were in Yushu and the surrounding area last year. It is one of the most stunning and fascinating areas of China we’ve visited.

It’s difficult to express how we feel at the moment. Sitting here in the comfort of our flat in Madrid, the catastrophe in Yushu seems a world a way, and yet so close. We can only hope that the people we met and their families have survived this tragedy.

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa / 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa

石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院

We pass quickly through Serxu Xian, the modern administrative town, 35 kilometres after the huge Serxu monastery. Our driver seems concerned that the local police may look for an excuse to fine him, just because he has Qinghai number plates.

It feels like a long drive now. Progress is brisk, as the road is paved and in reasonable condition, but in general, signs of life are few and far between; we pass a few Tibetan villages with the odd monastery.

In some places the landscape is a bit less harsh; we pass a large lake, surrounded by soft, green hills.

Soon after, there is a succession of passes and the landscape changes abruptly. Suddenly, Continue reading “Serxu to Manigango & Dzogchen Gompa / 石渠 到 马尼干戈 与 竹庆佛学院”

Yushu (Qinghai) to Serxu (Sichuan) 15/8/09玉树到石渠

Yushu to Serxu


Preliminaries:
I could see the doubt in the driver’s eyes. Either he thought Christmas had arrived early, or, more likely, he was contemplating some grim and rapid end to his life. What we had proposed was the following: Yushu to Manigango in a day, with stops at Serxu Gompa and Dzogchen Gompa.

His reservation: his claim that Sichuan Tibetans were not honest like the Tibetans who lived in Qinghai. The word ‘Manigango’, he repeated it several times with distaste, evoked some kind of hellhole from which you’d never return. “Bandits, the lot of them; what if I just drop you at Serxu?”, he protested.

His incentive: The 1,000 Yuan I was offering, plus food and accommodation in Manigango.

I pointed out to him that we had been to Manigango in 2004 and found it quite safe. Even though we too had heard numerous stories of pillaging bandits around Manigango, these seemed to belong to an era long gone. Still, I remembered that Manigango had felt like a real Wild West frontier town in 2004.

The main problem was that I had no option: the altitude sickness was playing havoc on my body; five days without sleep and the Tibetan medicine and the oxygen tank were having little or no effect. Serxu, at 4,200 metres above sea level, is another 500 meters higher than Yushu; lingering around, counting on dodgy bus schedules, didn’t appear to be the best option. So, basically, the upshot was: “Either you take us or we’ll have to hire another car”.

The first leg of the journey
Price agreed and the driver’s mind set somewhat at ease, we set off at 6.00 am.
The road followed what was now familiar territory, passing the Mani wall, Domkar Gompa, the turn- off to the Leba gorge and finally Continue reading “Yushu (Qinghai) to Serxu (Sichuan) 15/8/09玉树到石渠”

Youning Si (to go or not to go?)

Last year we visited the Monastery of Youning Si in the Huzhu Tu Autonomous Region of Qinghai near Xining. The Monastery is famous not only for its beautiful setting, but also because the monks are descendants from the Mongols and continue to speak an old Mongolian dialect.

They are known as the Tu minority. We visited Youning Si by taking a bus to the town of Ping’an and then hiring a taxi the rest of the way. We never saw a check point or a police patrol during our entire visit.

However, we have had a few comments on our previously posted article saying the area is actually closed to foreigners and that any traveller found visiting without a permit, or without an authorised group, runs the risk of being punished or fined. The most recent comment came Continue reading “Youning Si (to go or not to go?)”

Yushu Gompa Excursion / Domkar Gompa 当卡寺 / Sebda Gompa 赛巴寺 / Xiewu si 歇武寺 (Drogon Gompa)

Yushu Gompa Excursion

It was one of those moments you dread when travelling: the old monk poured some strange-coloured liquid from a rusty old vessel into a grimy cup, raised it up to the sky and then downed it all. A yellowish juice trickled down the corners of his toothless mouth and then he motioned us to cup our hands and follow suit. To drink or not to drink? – that was the question. Nights of frequent visits to the rather grim bathroom in our hotel immediately sprang to mind but, on the other hand, we couldn’t enter the chapel without taking the offering. Refusal would have been an offence. Luckily, our driver understood the situation. He took the first swig, emptied the content into his mouth, swilled the liquid around, rather like mouth wash, and then spat it out. The old monk smiled. We did the same and entered the Chapel…


We start our second excursion around Yushu at the nearby Domkar Gompa, scenically located on the mountainside, overlooking the main road. Today, our driver has brought his little son along, a boy of about five, with a Fu Manchu pigtail at the back of his otherwise bald head. Both father and son are in good spirits, as if they are looking forward to the day’s sightseeing as well.

First, we are shown around the Gompa’s main Assembly Hall, which houses an impressive collection of large, gem-studded statues. For 15 Yuan, our Continue reading “Yushu Gompa Excursion / Domkar Gompa 当卡寺 / Sebda Gompa 赛巴寺 / Xiewu si 歇武寺 (Drogon Gompa)”

Yushu /Jyekundo/玉树

Yushu / 玉树/ Jyekundo

I’d been racking my brains out, trying to find an adjective with which to describe Yushu. Beautiful it isn’t; old and quaint neither. Calling the town modern and vibrant would perhaps be going a bit too far, but then again, modern and boring wouldn’t do it justice. Is it ugly? In some ways yes, the new buildings are pretty bog-standard Chinese white-tiled affairs. But that would be too harsh a verdict: the surrounding mountain scenery, the ramshackle old monastic quarters, but most of all, its people lend Yushu a special air. And that’s when I hit upon the epithet ‘funky’. Yes, Yushu is pretty funky.

Location

One more thing you can say about Yushu is that it is remote. The town is situated in one of the remotest areas of one of China’s remotest provinces, Qinghai; so getting there takes a bit of an effort. It is actually a pretty uncomfortable 16 to 18 hour bus ride away from Xining, the capital of Qinghai (though the recently opened airport will change all this).

This feeing of discomfort, characteristic of any Chinese sleeper bus, is heightened by the extreme altitudes at which the bus has to travel: On route there are several passes over 4500 meters and the Qinghai Plateau never drops below 3000 meters.

Yushu’s remoteness also has its advantages: for instance, Continue reading “Yushu /Jyekundo/玉树”

The World’s Longest Mani Wall / 世界上最长的嘛尼石城

The World’s Longest Mani Wall/嘛尼石城

 

 
Only three kilometers from Yushu lies one of the great sights in the Tibetan world, the Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall (), reputedly the largest in the world. Found all over the Tibetan lands, Mani Walls are rows of piled-up stones, engraved or painted with orations. The size of such Mani Walls can vary from the humblest pile to a circuit of several hundred meters. Pilgrims walk round these walls of holy stones in a clockwise direction, uttering prayers and twirling prayer wheels.  

 

The Seng-ze Gyanak Mani Wall is truly enormous; a sign by its side proudly proclaims that it is 283 metres long, 74 metres wide, 2,5 metres high and consists of 2 billion stones! What’s more, the Wall is still growing, as we witnessed with our own eyes: devout pilgrims contribute new stones everyday, which are hoisted up on to the pile carefully. The billions of beautifully carved stones carry the Buddhist prayers “Om Mani Padme Hum” or, “Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus”, and other orations.

 

Tibetan pilgrims from all over the Kham region and further afield descend on this huge Mani Wall from dusk to dawn. Dressed in their finest, they Continue reading “The World’s Longest Mani Wall / 世界上最长的嘛尼石城”