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The roof of the world as I saw it
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Overall, only administrative services, enterprises, hotels and supermarkets are in big buildings. About 80 percent of the Tibetans build their own houses, preferring them to skyscrapers. What strikes me every time I enter a Tibetan house in Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan, or Tibet is the space, something that could raise envy in many urban Chinese people!

Two things made the biggest impressions on me in Tibet. The first was a feeling of continuous surprise, engendered by their language, clothing, food, customs, art and crafts, and especially the life inspired by Lamaism and Bon religions. The symbols of these religions affected me -- temples, prayer mills, prostrations, piles of mani (flat stones), 108-bead rosaries, colourful flags printed with sutras, barley seeds sounding on copper plates, typical sound horns, all the objects that enhance the dialogue between man and divinity. And I thought, ‘How can some people think there is no religious freedom in Tibet? How dare they speak of cultural genocide?' But I sadly remembered that people like to repeat what others have said, without seeing for themselves.

Everything was different from other places of China where ethnic minorities live. Several Tibetans could speak Tibetan, Chinese and even good English. I expected to see more Hans since it was summer, when migrant workers from Sichuan go to Tibet for seasonal work in catering and tourism business mostly, and account for up to 10 percent of the population, while normally they are 5.9 percent (National Census 2000).

The other deep impression I got was of being in close contact with nature. Sitting on the grass writing my notes, I looked at the 40-cm-long goldfish practising their high jumps in the pond. A dragonfly rested on my notebook. It seemed that each plant looked at me and talked to me, and that each stone was alive. Yaks were new to me, and dogs impressed me by their sheer numbers. What a wonderful place, so close to the sky, to concentrate, write poems, and practise Qigong!

Tibetans respect animal life of any kind. If a fly is an annoyance in the house, they will guide it outside. If it falls into the water, they will save it. Even mice are left in peace, and live harmoniously with human beings.

Oh, Tibet! I surely did not have enough, and promised myself that I would return as soon as possible.

(Beijing Reivew May 8, 2008)

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