Shiqu, the birthplace of King Gesar

by on 週三, 28 十二月 2011 評論

 

The district of Shiqu (Serxu in Tibetan) is located on the border of the Ganze Tibetan Prefecture (Sichuan) where it belongs, the region of Tibet proper and Qinghai province. More than a thousand kilometers away from Chengdu, at an average altitude of 4.526 meters, and twenty-five thousand square kilometers large, the district harbors a population of seventy thousand people, almost all farmers, surviving a severe climate (an average of 1.6 degrees below zero, and record cold dropping to 46 degrees below zero). The miracle is that this area is the one where began to be composed the epic of King Gesar, considered the longest poem in the world. The district also claims to be the birthplace of this legendary Tibetan king. It also keeps the longest wall of Mani stones, and a "city" dedicated to the souls of dead heroes.

 

The photographs gathered here gives testimony to a world with no equivalent. The Barge wall, 53 kilometers away from the district township, is located between a mountain and the sacred waters from which emerges the Yalong River. Started in 1640, repeatedly repaired and expanded since then, the wall now extends over a length of 1.7 kilometer, and its height ranges between two and three meters. The majority of stones that adorn the building are Mani stones (or simply "manis"), which are so called because they are carved with the famous mantra “om ma ni padme hum” ("the mantra of the six syllables" or “drug yi ge pa” in Tibetan). But the Barge wall also comprises more than three thousand stones decorated with representations of Buddhist deities, and about seven thousand stones inlaid with various sutras.

As to the "funeral city" of Songge, it is composed of a wall nine feet high surrounding an accumulation of stupas, through which the visitor circulates as in a maze after having entered through a back door. Its wall (which extends 73 meters from west to east and 47 meters from north to south) is also composed of Mani stones, sutras carved in stone and a sacred iconography, among which the few scholars who have been able to come there are able to identify representations of King Gesar and thirty-General of the State of Ling of which he was the overlord. At the very center of this construction stands a well, the depth of which has not been probed. The construction of this "city" began around the eleventh or twelfth century. It is probably a kind of memorial for the heroes fallen during the wars fought by King Gesar. The epic sings the repentance finally shown by the uncle of King Gesar, his hardened opponent, after he had killed several heroes. The funeral city would then have been built as a sign of atonement.

Nomadic tribes still live in the area. They bring along with them sacred vessels and erect a “portable temple” in a tent wherever they have decided to camp. The whole region is marked by such extremes of hardship, poetry and faith…

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Liang Zhun (梁准)

廣州人,九○年代到四川發展。她是中國國家高級攝影師,也是作家,重心放在民族攝影,善於呈現故事面的人性情懷。

"Ah-zhun" (AZ) is a photographer and reporter from Canton who has lived in Sichuan for the last fifteen years, researching the ethnic minorities of southwestern China. She has taught photography in two universities of Chengdu, and is a member of the Chinese Society for Ethnographic Photography. She has volunteered in the areas devastated by the Sichuan earthquake for more than five months. She is now starting anew as the chief editor of "A-Z cultural enterprise, Shanghai", a company specializing in cultural exchange and creation.

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