"If we conquer this mountain, then we conquer something in people's souls." - Reinhold Messner
Pilgrimage Route: Lhasa
The pilgrimage route leading to Mount Kailash is dotted with pilgrimage sites. Lhasa, the first place we visited on our journey, is the home of the Jokhang Temple- the most sacred monastery in all of Tibet for Tibetan Buddhists. Thousands of pilgrims congregate daily to sit outside the main temple and pray, or recite mantras. They perform full body prostrations, and other rituals to garner merit and blessings.
Over the course of our journey through Tibet, the days were full of variables - the landscape, the people, the food. Tibetan tea was one of the constants. We found that tea brings Tibetans together - it warms them, feeds them, and keeps them busy. The stories shared during tea time were, for us, some of the richest and longest lasting.
Faces of Kailash
On our journey to and around Mount Kailash we met many amazing people with fascinating stories. We wanted to to give you an opportunity to meet some of them- to learn their names and to better understand how the pilgrimage route brings people from far-flung areas of the globe together. We wanted to show you Kailash- a mountain of many faces ...
Lhasa to Samye: A Pilgrimage Festival
After four days in Lhasa we drove to Samye to research pilgrimage practices at the oldest monastery in Tibet. Samye is closely connected to Kailash because its layout mirrors a giant mandala. Like Kailash, the main temple of Samye represents Mount Meru, the legendary mountain at the center of the world. Buildings surrounding the center stand at the corners and cardinal points of the main temple; these buildings represent continents and other aspects of tantric Buddhist cosmology. We didn't realize that our visit would correspond with the Samye pilgrimage festival, or that we would find ourselves transfixed by the dances and music of the monks and pilgrims. I think it's fair to say that our time at Samye framed much of our later work; we learned first-hand that Tibetan pilgrimages, apart from being, serious sacred practices, can be journeys to joy and celebration. We learned to join the dance.
Samye to Gyantse: Simple Gifts are Great Offerings
As you travel overland across Tibet you become more and more aware of the interconnection between the landscape and the people. You see how the landscape is both changed by its inhabitants and how it changes them. Gyantse used to be the third largest town in Tibet. Now, it has been eclipsed by other cities across the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is split in half by the Gyantse Dzong, a large fortress; on one side there is a modern industrial center, and the other side there is a traditional Tibetan town. Gyantse is mainly known for the Kumbum, the largest stupa, or reliquary shrine in Tibet. During our visit we were surprised to find the pilgrimage community clustered around Rabse Nunnery, a nunnery slightly outside of Gyantse; we wondered if this might be a response to the heavy tourist culture surrounding the town's primary monastery, Palcho Monastery. In fact, over the course of our stay we had this strange sense of multiple-line tightrope-walking. We were walking the fine lines between our own Western culture, various traditional Tibetan cultures, and recent modern industrial cultures. And it was fascinating how our preconceptions about pilgrimage shifted with the communities we met...
Note: We have permission from Otti Albietz to use the song "Lighting Bolts in Little Ships" in this video.
Walking with the Landscape: Gyantse to Shigatse
Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet- the site of Tashilunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lama. On our journey the city was densely packed with tourists. We walked, stifled, through the sacred chapels of the monastery with throngs of visitors; it was only when we joined pilgrims on the Lingkor, or outer pilgrimage route, around the Shigatse's perimeter that we finally connected to the landscape and culture of pilgrimage. Even then, it was in the quiet concentration of a lone mantra carver and pilgrim etching carvings into stone tables, that we found what we were looking for.International Mountain Day 2013 (December 11) is a day to celebrate the power of mountains, to bring people together, to inspire awe, and to remind us that conserving mountain landscapes is a necessity for both human and nonhuman populations around the world.Please sign this petition to issue a heritage alert to have Mount Kialash recognized as a World Heritage Site at
Note: We have permission from Otti Albietz to use his song "Times Time" from the album "Bubbytone II" in this video.
Shepherding and Silence: Shigatse to Saga
There was always something profoundly peaceful about the openness of the Tibetan landscape. While we felt the tranquility of that expanse throughout our journey across the Tibetan Plateau it really struck us when we stopped to film some sheep by the side of the road near Saga on the final drive to the Tibet/Nepal border. Perhaps that sense of peace was magnified by an underlying sense of completion: we had made it, as pilgrims, around Kailash. Or perhaps it was the inherent beauty of the mountains and the sky, a beauty amplified by the white bodies of sheep finding their way across the distance.
Note: We have permission from Otti Albietz to use his song "Who are the Wishful" from the album "Bubbytone II" in this video.
A Love Story of Mountains
International Mountain Day 2013 (December 11) is a day to celebrate the power of mountains, to bring people together, to inspire awe, and to remind us that conserving mountain landscapes is a necessity for both human and nonhuman populations around the world.Please sign this petition to issue a heritage alert to have Mount Kialash recognized as a World Heritage Site at We have permission from Tenzin Choeygal to use the two music selections in this video: "Homage" (Gyatso) and "Awakened Heart" (Semchok).
To check out more of this artist's music use the following link: tenzinchoegyal.com/