In the Clouds is a meditation on the endurance of Tibetan Buddhist culture in two western provinces in China. Long a part of Tibet, Qinghai retains its flavor today as a separate jurisdiction, encompassing almost 720,000 square kilometers of high-altitude grassland, spectacular mountain ranges and forbidding saline stretches. Gansu is alternately dry and dusty, lush and lonely. Caravans along the famed Silk Road made stops at its many oases, and threaded their way through the province’s mountain paths. Both provinces still seem neglected in a way, places to travel through perhaps, but not to stay, despite a wealth of attractions.
Qinghai’s remoteness, for instance, made it an ideal match for those banished by kingdoms and governments alike. But perhaps because of their minimalist and often hostile environments, Qinghai and Gansu remain strongholds of Buddhist belief for many who may prefer the freedom and space of traditional occupations over the homogenization of city life. Labrang Monastery in Gansu is a shadow of its former self, where once a thousand monks were housed and educated. But it is there – as are those who pray and practice, farm and tend their flocks, and live the lives they always have, whether or not, for the nomad, the motorcycle has replaced the horse.
Humanitarian Issues and Cultural Tradition Worldwide
ALL PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT COPYRIGHT JAY DUNN 2008