Journey to Kham

At the end of September, 2007 my wife, Suzanne, and I, along with two colleagues from our school, Wendy and Bruce, traveled to the eastern Tibetan plateau. This is the area historically known as Kham and is still populated mostly by people of Tibetan culture.Wayao VillageThe reason for our journey to Kham was three-fold. I had offered to make a short promotional video for Kham Aid Foundation, a non-profit serving the people of Kham in a wide variety of ways. The video I will be doing is about the restoration of wall paintings in buildings that are up to 700 years old in the village of Wayao. Another reason for the journey was to visit another colleague of ours, Susan, who was spending three weeks in the town of Bamei teaching English to, Dolma, the owner of the Golden Sun Hotel. But the main reason was to share this area with my wife and our friends. I had been here four times previously but Suzanne had never been here.Susan and DolmaWe flew from Hong Kong to Chengdu where we were met by our guide, Du, from Tibetan Trekking. He had a van and driver, Mr. Tsang, waiting to take us to our hotel for the night. It was already after 10:00 pm. Next morning we began our drive to Ya’an, the tea capital of China, and on to Kangding (formerly known as Dartsedo). We arrived early enough in Kangding to take a hike up to Horse Racing Mountain above the crowded mountain city and ride a sky lift back down again.Google Earth map of journeyThe next day we drove over a high pass above Kangding. It is 4,200 meters (13,800 feet) above sea level. You finally climb above the 10,000 ft. thick layer of pollution that blankets China and the sky is blue, the clouds distinct and white, the view spectacular!The pass above KangdingNow we stood at the threshold of the Tibetan plateau, at the eastern most edge of ancient Tibet. Through this area caravans used to take horses, wool and other valuable resources down to China and bring tea, silk and other distinctly Chinese goods up here, where some of it went all the way to India and Persia. The Tibetans were masterful traders and as a people enjoyed three major economies – the nomadic lifestyle of the open grasslands, farming in the lush river valleys, and traveling great distance all over Asia to trade. They grew wealthy and supported a huge monastic community that explored and preserved its knowledge of spiritual realities.Minyak Towers, some 700 years oldThe drive was along a river with villages, small towns and an evergreen forest. This is Minyak, a subgroup of Tibetan culture. Some of the village houses had impressive towers standing next to them. These were also around 700 years old and were used as fortresses for the clan in times of war.Road to Wayao across river at ShadeWe drove on to Shade and crossed the river to drive on a narrow dirt road to Wayao. When we arrive we meet Pam and some of the volunteers who are about to start a few days of wall painting recovery work.Our group and the volunteers at WayaoTemple in Wayao with wall paintingsWe arrived about 2:00 pm and spent the next three hours videotaping and exploring this fascinating village. Some Nepali restoration artists were just beginning their work for the fall session. Several local young people were eager to help and learn the art of lifting years/decades of soot and grim off the walls and reveal the original colors on the clay walls. Volunteers from several countries had also just arrived with Pam, the director of Kham Aid Foundation and were put to work by the Nepali artists.Interviewing PamI got several interviews as people worked as well as an interview with Pam and her national counterpart in Chinese. I’ll use the images and interviews to put together a few short videos for Kham Aid Foundation to use for promotional and volunteer recruitment purposes.recoverdwallpainting.jpgLayers of soot and grime, as well as cultural revolution era slogans were removed from this wall to reveal this painting.