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Gelugpa monks see in the new year

Back in Beijing after a month on the (very, very bad Gansu and Qinghai) road(s). It’s too hard to describe the natural beauty and human interest of this area of China – from desert to ice, mountain to grassland; not to mention yak to motorbike, horse races to police chases. What I will say is that I was reminded that the environmental tragedy of the Tibetan plateau is in many respects more urgent and sad than its better known human tragedies.

But for the moment, I’ll post two pictures of a Buddhist end-of-year ceremony I was lucky enough to witness. These monks are of the Gelugpa sect (a.k.a. ‘yellow hat’. Guess why.) We climbed over an hour to the top of a mountain, with local friends. There, after an afternoon of waiting – replete  with requisite refills of yak butter tea – we saw the monks process onto the mountainside to perform their annual purification ritual, as tradition dictates, on the day before the new year.

The fire symbolises the purging of all bad elements, influences or character-traits before a new start. Happy Ox year (my birth year) everyone.

Leaving their monastery to perform an annual rite on the mountainside

Leaving their monastery to perform an annual rite on the mountainside

On the mountainside, the day before the new year.

The Gelugpa purification ceremony, on the day before the new year

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