Lhasa, Tibet

2009- 2010
HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 5’59”

Filming in Lhasa is difficult because of Chinese prohibitions, which are strictly enforced in Lhasa.
It is for all intents and purposes an occupied city.
Nevertheless, despite these limitations — and a Tibetan “guide” who was told by the Chinese authorities to watch my every move with care — these street scenes filmed in 2009 and 2010 provide a look at the Tibetan people in Lhasa, who continue to pray, honor Buddhist principles, and maintain their cultural identity.

Many of the following clips were made in 2009 and 2010 during the production of the documentary ” High Train to Tibet”

LHASA, the Old Barkhor

The caterpillar fungus and an old Tibetan tea parlor.
Lhasa, Tibet
2009/ 2010
HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 10’17”

In the old Barkhor market of Lhasa, Tibetan farmers and Hui Muslims farmers are selling a strange brown fungus called the “Caterpillar Fungus”.

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The caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinesis ) is a unique natural resource turned into a valuable medicinal plant that grows in the fertile land of central and eastern Tibet during the months of May to August.
Currently around 50% of the Tibetan population in the Chinese so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) depend their livelihood on these caterpillar fungus.

This Tibetan spore could lead to new drugs for impotency, immune deficiency, cancer, asthma, HIV and diabetes.

In this reel, while mostly men trade the magic fungus, on the plaza, Tibetan ladies have some yak milk tea or Tibetan tea in an old tea parlor of the Bharkor. 

Also featured in this reel are shot of the train arriving in Lhasa the central market and the Potala under Chinese governance marking the “modernization” of Tibet.


The Sakya and the Gyantse Monasteries

 Shigatse, Tibet 

HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 5′ 32″

Sakya Monastery 
( Tibetan: ས་སྐྱ་དགོན་པ།, also known as Pel Sakya (Tibetan དཔལ་ས་སྐྱ།, “White Earth” or “Pale Earth”)
 is a Buddhist monastery situated 25 km southeast of a bridge which is about 127 km west of Shigatse on the road to Tingri in Tibet.


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It is located in the Shigatse region. 
The Zhong Qu river flows by the monastery, which naturally divide Sakya Monastery into the north and south into two temples.
In Tibetan, the word Sakya means “gray soil” referring to the weathered gray earth on the Bonbori Hill where the monastery is located. 

As the seat of the Sakya (or Sakyapa) school of Tibetan Buddhism, it was founded in 1073, by Konchok Gyelpo, originally a Nyingmapa monk of the powerful noble family of the Tsang who became the first Sakya Trizin.
It was eclipsed by the rise of the new Kagyu and Gelug schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
Sakya monastery was destroyed during the Chinese Cultural Revolution but restored for tourists a few years ago.


The Palcho Monastery[or Shekar Gyantse[ is the main monastery  in the Nyangch

u river valley in  Gyantse in the Shigatse Prefecture in the Tibet Autonomous Region.


The monastery precinct is a complex of structures which is believed to be the largest structure in Tibet.
It is most notable for its Kumbum, 
a multi-storied aggregate of 108 Buddhist chapels in its several floors.

The Sakya and Gyantse footage were filmed in 2009.

Tibetan Peasants
Shigatse/ Tingri County,
Tibet Autonomous Region

HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 11″ 30″

acquired by National Geographic Television, US  in 2014

Farmers in the field harvest Tibetan Barley or Highland Barley, the principal cereal cultivated on the Tibetan Plateau, used mainly to make tsampa and alcohol.
We are in this reel in Tingri County in Southeastern Tibet. Altitude 5200 meters (17 000 feet)
This is true Tibet.

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Tingri County, is a county under the administration of the Shigatse prefecture

The county comprises the upper valley of the Arun River with the valleys of its tributaries plus the valleys of the Rongshar Tsangpo  and the Lapchi Gang Tsanpo which flow south into Nepal.
 It is bordered on the south by the main range of the Himalayas including Mount Everest (in Tibetan “Chomolungma”), the Makalu and Cho Oyu peaks
See Sunrise on Everest Range in Tibet Nature for views.


HORSE RACE. Kham, Greater Tibet

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Tibetans (Horse Race) 
Kham Tibetan Area. China

HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 7’ 41”


The people of Kham, who are of Tibetan heritage, were once reputed to be fierce warriors, renowned for their horsemanship. At the annual Racing Festival held every year in Sichuan province in Western China, these Kham riders have equestrian skills which are amply displayed in this reel shot in 2010.
This footage have a rare, authentic quality, since the event was not organized by Chinese Tourism authorities.
The excitement of the event is raw and visceral, rather than being sanitized for public consumption.

TIBETAN OPERA. Kham, Greater Tibet

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Tibetan Opera 
Tagong, Kham, Greater Tibet/ China


HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 3’13”

Lhamo, or Ache Lhamo, is a classical secular theatre of Tibet with music and dance that has been performed for centuries, whose nearest western equivalent is opera.

Performances have a narrative and simple dialogue interspersed with comedy and satire; characters wear colorful masks.
The core stories of these theatrical plays are drawn mostly from ancient Indian Buddhist folk tales, lives of important people and historical events from Tibetan civilization.
However the ceremonial, dance and ritual spectacles strongly reflects the Tibetan Royal Dynastic period.
This clip featured the Dance of the Lord of Death and was shot in the province of Kham ( Greated Tibet/ Western China) in 2010.

CHANG TANG 1 (Tibet) Nomads & Pilgrims

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Nomads & Pilgrims
Chang Tang, Tibet

2009- 2010
HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 7’40”

The Chang Tang plateau located in the north of Tibet,  is one of the highest deserts in the world with altitudes of 20,000 ft. (5000 meters). It is a very harsh environment where temperatures can reach minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 Fahrenheit).

Tibetan Nomads live on the plateau in perpetual movement crisscrossing its vast areas rich in nutrients for animals.


CHANG TANG 2 (Tibet) Nomads & Pilgrims

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Chang Tang & Quinghai, Tibet/ China

HD 1080p
Reel Duration: 27’13”

Chinese authorities have placed more and more restrictions on the free movement of people and have adopted policies of “parking” Tibetans Nomads in government housing.
 These policies create modern reservations alarmingly much like the resettlement of Native Americans in the late 1800’s in the USA.
Poverty, alcoholism, domestic abuse is now chronic in these areas.
Nonetheless, the identity of the Nomads cannot be confounded so easily.
Only the nomads can live, from a physiological and morphological aspect in the brutal climate conditions of the Chantang plateau.
This circumstance may slow down the progression of Chinese settlers and mining companies on the plateau.

TIBET in EXILE (India)

From the Tibet in Exile Series (India 2001)
Dharamsala, India

Standard Def: 720p.
Reel duration:  8’36”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, describes himself as a simple Buddhist monk. He is the spiritual leader of Tibet. He was born on July 6th 1935, to a farming family, in a small hamlet located in Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet.
At the age of two, the child, then named Lhamo Dhondup, was recognized as the reincarnation of the previous 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.


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 In 1949, the People’s Liberation Army of China marched into Tibet’s northeastern province of Kham and Amdo, thus setting in motion the forcible occupation of the country that culminated in the flight of its young leader, the XIV Dalai Lama, to India and the crushing of the Tibetan National uprising in March 1959.

This footage was shot in 2001 on the anniversary of the Tibetan insurrection  (March 10th, 1959), in the Namgyal Palace, the current residence of the XIV Dalai Lama, in Mc Leod Gang naer Dhramsala in Himachal Pradesh (India).
It was shot during His Holiness annual lectures (2 months) on Buddhist dialectics.



Rewalsar, India

 Standart def: 720p

Reel Duration: 10′ 13″

The present Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is the 17th in the line of Karmapa incarnations. 

Karmapa means the embodiment of all the activities of the buddhas, or the one who carries out buddha-activity. In the Tibetan tradition, great enlightened teachers are said to be able to consciously control their rebirth in order to continue their activity for the benefit of all sentient beings.


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In this reel,  the 17th Karmapa visits for the first time since his escape from China in 1998,  Rewalsar Lake in  Himachal Pradesh;  one of the sacred Buddhist places of Northern India.

It was on this lake  that the great Indian teacher and `Tantric` Padmasambhava known to the Tibetans as ‘Guru Rimpoche’, the “Precious Master”, left for Tibet. It was under Padmasambhava’s influence that Mahayana Buddhism spread over Tibet. 
 As a Crowd of pilgrims wait for the 17th Karmapa. outside his residency in Rewalsar the young 17 years old man appears among officials.
The Karmapa wears his “John Lennon”  glasses. He looks like a rock star to me coming out of his Mercedes.
Incense is burning. Women from Leh all adorned in purple and with heavy jewelry are waiting patiently while chanting mantras and rolling beads.
On the lake and among prayers flags, islands of floating reeds signal the spirit of Padmasambhava who, it is said, resides in them.

A little later,  on a makeshift stage the Karmapa  is reciting mantras, rings bells and circles his hands.
The crowd is constituted of monks wearing red hats and yellow robes, devotees and pilgrims. 
The Karmapa wears his golden headdress while giving the blessings to the attendees.
These footage were taken in April 2001.