Fascinating Lhasa - China Travel Story
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As an American it is difficult to think of Tibet without conjuring up images of "Free Tibet" bumper stickers, Tibetan freedom concerts, and the cinematic abortion that was Seven Years in Tibet.
We have painted a black and white picture of its situation: a beautiful land full of peaceful people ruled by the just Dalai Lama (played in the movie by a young Tiger Woods-like character, could anything be more American?) struggling to regain its political and religious freedom from the inhumane, communist Chinese government.
I was coming to Lhasa from southern China, where I had been teaching for a year -- so I had heard both sides of the debate.
In fact, to hear the proverbial "man on the street" talk about the situation in China, you would think the Chinese were taking back land that was rightfully theirs, and freeing Tibet from the feudalism of Tibetan Buddhism which had kept 95% of the population in poverty.
I don't pretend to understand the entire situation, only enough of it to know that it's not as black and white as America wants it to be. I think it would be very easy to arrive in Lhasa, see all the Chinese development, the influx of Chinese people, the visible presence of Chinese military personnel, the Chinese flag waving outside the Potala, and become infuriated. Rightfully so perhaps.
Lhasa was not the medieval entrance to the majestic land that I hoped to explore. Hell, I flew there on China Airways. But at the same time, there IS something magical about the people in Tibet, strong in the face of all this attention. Attention both from China and the global community, thousands of whom are constantly gathered in and around the cafes and hostels of Lhasa just watching all the drama unfold.
I would definitely recommend visiting, as much for all of the natural beauty surrounding Lhasa as the social enigma that is the capital city itself. Go soon though.
Story Courtesy to Donny