That Monday was one of the best days I’ve had in China. The night before in Bhashkar’s during a little dance party Dakpa hosted; he invited me, Zeben and David to join him visiting a temple the next day. I thought that would be it, and initially, I was going to go back to Kunming that night. I thought I would have time to catch a sleeper bus back later that night. But instead of spending just the morning at a temple, Dakpa took us all around Zhongdian and the surrounding areas, including his village, his house, his ecotourism lodge in a village, and a Tibetan Buddhist Temple.
The temple we went to is about an hour’s car ride outside of Zhongdian, half of it on dirt roads. It is on the top of a mountain, a holy mountain. On the stairs up, there are prayer-wheels that people individually spin as they walk past. There is an interesting story about our animal companion to this temple. It is a small goat that was in the trunk of Dakpa’s jeep. One of Dakpa’s friends who came with us to the temple found this goat while she was driving from Kunming to Zhongdian. It was in an area where it was not really suitable for a goat to live. So she brought him to Zhongdian and gave him to Dakpa to give to a farmer. But Dakpa had a better idea. This temple has about 30 goats living on the mountain and within the area. Once they are brought to the temple, the goats are freed. So Dakpa brought our cute little companion to the temple to free him. Once you get past the goats, there are two sections to this temple. The first is a very normal looking area with a few large statues of the Buddha. The second is where the one permanent monk resident lives and works. It is lit only by candlelight. After entering the two sections of the temple, people walk around the temple to hang the prayers flags that are prayed on inside the temple. I asked the Master at the Cultural Center what the prayer flags meant to Tibetan Buddhism, and he told me that it has nothing to do with Tibetan Buddhism, but with local spirits and deities. The mountain gods apparently appreciated the prayer flags, so they appeased this god’s needs and anger by hanging the flags. Tibetans have continued to hang prayer flags. Around this temple, all the eye could see was very colorful prayer flags. It was very peaceful.
After leaving the temple Dakpa took us to lunch and then brought us to his ecotourism lodge in a village about 30 minutes from Zhongdian. The local villagers are working to build this very large, Tibetan-style house. No nails, screws, or any type of binding method used to build western style houses are used to build a Tibetan house . They use interlocking beams to build the frame. The outside walls are made of compressed dirt, and the beams of the second floor were at least a foot diameter. It is a big square with four main posts in the middle. Beams lock into each for the roof. The villagers have been working on this house for a little less than a month and already they have all of the outer walls built, and the main supports and second floor too.
The plan Dakpa has for this center is to promote ecotourism around Zhongdian. This place will be a lodge that tourists can stay in and experience Tibetan village life. After this lodge is completed, he wants to build another lodge a few hours hike away. This next lodge will be in the mountains so that the tourists can get a natural view of this area as well as a view of Tibetan village life.
This is the start of ecotourism in Zhongdian.