High Peaks Pure Earth has translated an appeal letter by Tibetan writer, poet and blogger, Woeser, that was published on her blog on July 10, 2011. The urgent appeal letter relates to planned developments for tourism at Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar in western Tibet.
Woeser’s blogpost has already generated mainstream media interest and US based Tibetologist Elliot Sperling has also issued a similar appeal. In the appeal letter, Woeser mentions the Dalai Lama’s meeting with Chinese scholars in the US. This is a reference to the Dalai Lama’s current Kalachakra teachings in Washington DC where, on July 11, 2011, he addressed a conference on “Democratic China and the Future of Tibet”.
Nine years ago, I made a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, where I spent nearly 20 hours walking the 50km path that circled up the mountain. When at last the wonderful shape of Mount Kailash appeared in the distance, it was just like looking upon the symbol of Buddhism − like the Mandala flower, so pure, bright and clean. For non-religious people, it is only a normal mountain. But today, for profit-driven businessmen, it has become a novelty attraction to bait tourists, and a way of making money.
Recently, on the Sina Weibo micro-blogging website, friends who have just returned from Mount Kailash revealed that they witnessed construction projects on the mountain trying to widen the paths, and build a new highway. Soon enough, all kinds of vehicles will be able to drive up to Darchen Monastery, and some have even seen the erection of cable poles along the hillside.
As I understand, the Tibetan Tourism Company is a subsidiary of the Beijing-based Guofeng Company. They have been “contracted” to take over the holy Mount Kailash, as well as Lake Manasarovar, and turn them into tourist areas. From the internet, I have discovered that The Tibetan Tourism Company in 2010 began publicly trading, using the Holy Mountain and the Sacred Lake as a way of selling shares. It is now known as the “Tibetan Kailash Manasarovar Tourism Development Project”, and includes “the development of the scenic area, the building of hotels and restaurants, purchasing of environmentally-friendly vehicles, oxygen plants and other facilities, etc.” In the future, they plan to have “a big entrance gate, scenic viewing towers, scenic motorcars and roads etc.” Apart from the commercialisation of the sacred, religious site, the construction of oxygen plants and other facilities will also result in greater emissions and pollution to environment.
This year, a cross-country competition on Mount Kailash will run in secret from July 31 until August 11. The company responsible for this is the “Beijing Extreme Experience & Outdoor Adventure Company”. On their website, it states their fees for taking part as: “Business Team: 68,000 Yuan per team, Non-commercial Team: 56,000 Yuan per team, Individual: 15,000 Yuan per person“. Although this activity is allegedly for charity, it is a sign that the long arm of business has already begun to butcher Mount Kailash for the sake of profit. This is not merely speculation, because there are many other sacred mountains and lakes, all doomed to suffer a similar fate and be butchered on the chopping board of business.
Today Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar reside in the administrative divisions of Puhreng county, in the Ngari region of Tibet. People who understand Tibetan and Indian culture know that this is not an ordinary mountain or lake. Of the four main religions −Buddhism, Bön, Hinduism and Jainism− all agree that out of all the holy sites, this is the most important “sacred ground” (according to the words of the Buddha), because traditionally, to worship at Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar was an essential experience in life. The walk around the mountain and lake is a continuation of the traditions of pilgrims in the past, because only through the physical act of walking, and the “labour of the bones”, can one achieve religious sublimation. It is completely unnecessary to build highways, or have tourist cars travel these paths. On the contrary, highways and touristic cars will only to attract a certain kind of person. If we take the logic of cultural anthropology, this is a kind of “touristic imperialism” in order to blaspheme and destroy the holy mountain and lake. It is as if there is someone ridiculing : “One day you will hear a song, and that song will be ‘Sittin’ in the cable car, circling the holy mountain’”.
Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar is a specific sacred area, and every blade of grass, every tree, mountain or drop of water is treated with care by the Buddhist nation who has historically always protected the natural world and all livings things. This is reflected in their concept of a “cultural environment”, which has retained a place for human beliefs and traditions. Mankind has a shared belief of “natural heritage” and “cultural heritage”, and these things should be treasured, but most of all respected.
As we all know, the Tibetan Plateau is called the “World’s Third Pole”, because its mountains and rivers are vital to the rest of the world’s ecology. At the moment, Tibet has become “open for development” to all kinds of mines, dams and tourism projects. But these developments will cause irreparable damage to the Tibetan nation, culture, and way of life, the sacred mountains and lakes, and in turn, the ecology of the world. This year on January 4, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama met Chinese people via video-link, the lawyer Jiang Tianyong stated that “the melting of the glaciers, deforestation and mining all cause pollution to the waterways. These problems cannot wait. But on the topic of politics, the Tibetan people can wait another 5 to 10 years “. His Holiness replied that “My biggest concern is that restoring the severely damaged environment and ecosystems is a very difficult problem. Especially in the case of the destruction to the Tibetan plateau, because the source of all the major rivers in Asia will come under threat, and endanger the lives of several billion people.”
Today, Tibet has been plundered and exploited all under the name of “development”. As Wang Lixiong says in Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet, “Tibet is like a person who has lost all movement, lying on the snow-covered rooftop of the world. From all directions, vultures and eagles swoop down on it, tearing its body to pieces to fulfil their own needs–be it for sovereignty, to win over public opinion, demonstrate a certain ideology, or international diplomacy. There are also the greedy and insatiable businessmen, the gunmen and poachers of wild animals, pleasure-seeking tourists and Westerners tired of modern civilisation… all these people pour into Tibet to take what they need from it. Throughout history, Tibet has never been so manipulated by external forces to such a degree as it is now. It has never been so helpless, so confined, and unable to act independently for itself.”
His Holiness the Dalai Lama plans to visit America soon, to meet with hundreds of Chinese scholars to discuss the future of China, the fate of Tibet and other topics. These discussions are of great theoretical significance, but what is more pressing at this moment is that Tibet is currently being devoured and torn apart for profit. If we cannot put a stop to this exploitation, and wait for Chinese democracy to solve this problem, Tibet will be soon dead and buried. Therefore, we must open our eyes and put a stop to the greedy actions of businessmen, and let everyone in the world know about the destruction to the Tibetan environment, cultural traditions and way of life!
For this reason, I would like to call for democracy and justice, and compel the people of Tibet to use their power to protect our sacred Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, and to bring the topic of Tibetan culture and way of life into urgent attention.
July 3, 2011, Beijing
From Sina Weibo (Chinese Microblog Site):
@GangRenMani: This is one of the paths around the holy Mount Kailash, the road leading up to the Temple is currently being turned into a highway. At the moment construction has already began on this road, but the greater tragedy is that there are also plans to build a cable cars leading up to Dolma La Hill. One day we will hear a song, and it will be called “Sitting on the cable car, Goin’ up the holy mountain”. [In the Mahabharata, Mother Earth complains that: "Everyday I am trampled on by the arrogant and conceited people... I have suffered so much pain."]
@WorldWellbeing: I took this photo on June 15 at the Saga Dawa Festival when climbing the mountain. The temporary houses on the left are for the construction project, so I hope it is only to widen the roads, and not more. This is just after Jingfang Square.
@WorldWellbeing: On the left side of the photo there is an excavator, I hope it is only for smoothing out the pavement. I took this on June 16 in the morning after leaving Dirapuk monastery.
It is understood that during the path-widening construction project, many different vehicles from Darchen could travel straight through to Dirapuk monastery. There are already many adverts for the Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar Tourist Region online, boasting that the mountain will have an entrance gate, viewing towers, environmentally-friendly cars, hotels… the paths up the mountain have already seen cable poles being erected.
[Note: Thanks to Sina Weibo friends for providing photos, please click to enlarge.]
This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified)