An Open Tibet: 17 / 30

May 30, 2008

17 of 30 from the Open Tibet series.

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Above: Artifacts of monkdom: red telephone, bookcase

Contrary to popular misconception, Tibetan Buddhist monks do have red telephones and ash trays on the love seat of their window sill.

Which is to say I was quite surprised when I saw the above red telephone in the room of these monks.

In light of recent riots and protests involving Tibetan monks and the Chinese government, looking back it's far more surprising to note that on a pillar (not pictured) in the center of the room there was a photograph of the current Dalai Lama. Illegal in China, monks of the recent protests were arrested not only for the damage caused during the protests but also for possessing images of their spiritual leader. Secular Tibetan citizens have also been arrested for the same reason.

The image on the bookcase doesn't appear to be of the current Dalai Lama, which is why it may be so prominently featured in the room. This Dalai Lama didn't stage an unsuccessful revolt against Chinese rule.

Of note to bibliophiles: The gold cloth wrapped items in the middle left section of the bookcase are Tibetan prayer books. Prayers are hand printed at nunneries on thin, long strips of paper. The pages are loose leaf stacked and capped with two pieces of thick cardboard, often red, and often with gold leaf embossed script. The printing of the prayers themselves can range from simple (and often messily done) one color (black), to multicolored, ornately illuminated manuscripts.

I brought back about ten with me from Lhasa. When I return to Japan I'll photograph them in detail and put them online.

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