I Love Tibet!>>travel tales>> Derge, the home of Tibetan Sutras

Derge, the home of Tibetan Sutras
(Kham Derge, 2003&2004)

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Derge (Dege), one of the major town in Kham (Eastern Tibet) area, is famous for the Derge Printing House (Parkhang) to print Buddhist scriptures.It was the capital of Derge Kingdom which once ruled the whole northern Kham area. Three days away by bus from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province, the town, a hinterland in mountain area, still has strong Tibetan color.

On the way to Derge, we can enjoy views of black tents of nomads on the pleasant grassland with glaciers and mountains. When you visit a tent, be sure to check the dogs are kept properly!

After crossing the 5050m Tro-la pass (Que'er Shan), we went down to the Derge valley with barley fields along the river. The Derge royal family was derived from the Gar family connected with Gar Thongtsen, a minister of King Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century.

The huge complex in dark red is the main chapel of Gonchen Monastery, named for 'great monastery'. The town of Derge has spread on a slope of the hill behind the Gonchen Monastery. The notable feature is the striped walls in white, dark red and gray, the unique colors to the Sakya sect of Tibetan Buddhism.

The Gonchen Monastery was opened by the great ascetic Thangtong Gyalpo in 15th century. He is famous for the originator of Ache Lhamo, the Tibetan opera. He was also an expert of building iron bridges. The versatile saint traveled all over Tibet to spread opera and to build bridges.

At the famous Derge Parkhang (Printing House), Buddhist scriptures are printed with woodblocks in traditional handwork. We can see pilgrims circumambulating around the Parkhang all day long.

Inside the building in front of the Parkhang, artisans are carving the woodblocks in silence. All the artisans are young. We have to visit Parkhang itself guided by a 'watchman' who strictly prohibits us from taking photos. But we can relax here.

The Khenpo, chief priest, of Gonchen Monastery guided me inside the monastery. He brought me to the back of Buddha statues, as if he tried to avoid my Chinese friend, shaked my hands and started to say, "Oh, you are from Japan! Japanese are friends!" with full smile. Some past experiences taught me that I had to be aware of monks approaching me with too much smile. A drama might begin. :)

The Khenpo led me to the boarding school for the orphans and the children from poor family. It is operated by the monastery and the Khenpo is responsible for the management. A new classroom was almost ready for 100 children. He invited me to his private house, served cups of tea and asked me, "please visit us again with more and more Japanese tourists". I had expected the word exactly. :) The financial situation of the monastery is not good in spite of its fame. Well, please try to visit the orphan school at Derge. He will welcome you!

Around Derge, we can visit major monasteries of Nyingma and Kagyu sect. The up-and-coming tourist spots are historic spot connected with the King Gesar. All the Tibetans know the stories of "King Gesar" which is said to be the longest epic in the world. Derge was the home of the heroic king. Well, will the miracle power of Gesar revive today?

I Love Tibet!>>travel tales>> Derge, the home of Tibetan Sutras