This photo was taken in 2004 on the road from Litang 理塘 in Sichuan Province to Batang on the border with Tibet.
The photo is a harbringer of the changes that were about to come to this area of Sichuan. In the photo there are traditonal Tibetan nomads herding their Yaks. Behind them a brand new car that was about to drive them off the road.
“Sky burial or ritual dissection was once a common funerary practice in Tibet wherein a human corpse is cut in specific locations and placed on a mountaintop, exposing it to the elements or the mahabhuta and animals – especially to birds of prey. In Tibet the practice is known as jhator (Tibetan: བྱ་གཏོར་; Wylie: bya gtor), which literally means, “giving alms to the birds.”
The majority of Tibetans adhere to Buddhism, which teaches rebirth. There is no need to preserve the body, as it is now an empty vessel. Birds may eat it, or nature may let it decompose. So the function of the sky burial is simply the disposal of the remains. In much of Tibet the ground is too hard and rocky to dig a grave, and with fuel and timber scarce, a sky burial is often more practical than cremation.” (quote taken from Wiki-pedia)
The journey to Litang takes about 7 or 8 hours and takes you through some pretty rural scenery. For the first two hours or so, the bus goes through farming land and past some gorgeous two-or three-storey Tibetan farmhouses; these are sturdy stone and wood dwellings with a courtyard and….