Photo and text: Yellow River (partial photo courtesy of Jamba Tsering)
Format: Houri Wong
“To cross the Nu River or its small tributaries on the way to send a letter, you have to pass through various small chain bridges. In the past, there were very few bridges, and it took a long detour.”
▲Champa Tsering, 35 years old, Tibetan, postman. Chawalong Township, Zayu County, Tibet, the middle and upper reaches of the Nu River
When I saw Jamba Ci again, he invited me to sit at his home and drink butter tea.
When we met each other, I was at the home of a mani stone scripture carving family in their village, watching the owner polish the stone with various tools and his daughter coloring the stone. These stones engraved with Buddhist scriptures are generally used to be placed on the mani pile, not only for themselves, but also for people who do not know how to carve around, and they will come to him to buy and place them.
I was taking pictures of my master at work when Jampa Tsering came in. Although we knew each other ten years ago, we didn’t recognize each other at this time. His Mandarin is obviously better than that of the owner, so he acts as an interpreter from time to time, and even directly as a commentator. Later, when I slowly talked about the past, I realized that he was the postman who led the horse and delivered the letter that I chatted with back then. So, he invited me to his house to play. “I have a motorcycle now, come, take my motorcycle to my house and drink butter tea.”
▲ Standing on the roof balcony of Jampa Tsering’s house overlooking the entire Luang Pu Village. The village is located in a mountain nest among the high mountains on the east bank of the Nujiang River. It has flat and arable land that is rarely seen in the upper reaches of the Nujiang River. Although the high-altitude climate here makes it difficult to grow local crops.
This village is called Longpu Village, located a few kilometers north of Chawalong Township, on the east bank of the Nujiang River, where the Bingchacha Line has an important fork: on the left, continue north along the Nujiang River, leading to Chawalong Township It belongs to the county seat of Chayu County, which is also known as the Chacha Section of the Bingcha Line; on the right, climb up the westernmost line of the Hengduan Mountains and then cross the Lancang River to Zuogong County. From the man who carved scriptures to Jamba Tsering’s house, on the road (that is, the road leading to Zuogong), you will see a Buddhist white pagoda and a mani pile next to it, which is full of colorful scriptures engraved on it. Nishi.
▲The White Pagoda and Manidui in Longpo Village
The roads in the entire Luang Pu Village are all dirt roads. Only the courtyard dams of each household will be paved with cement. You know, the nearest cement factory to Chavalon is several hundred kilometers away.
Along the way—although it only takes a few minutes to drive a motorcycle on this road—Jampa Tsering was talking to me with great interest, all these years as a postman in mountainous areas, he used to use horses and now uses motorcycles to deliver newspapers and letters. Details, so that when he arrived at the door of his house, his two children came over to say hello briefly. After entering the courtyard of his house, he walked quickly to the corner of the yard and opened the door of the stables and said to me: “Look, when I was sent The trustworthy horse is idle now.”
▲The children of Jampa Tsering are sitting on the open-air stairs leading to the second floor. Due to the uneven terrain, the houses here are generally built along the mountain, and most of them are two to three-story buildings. The first floor is usually used as a utility room and housing for livestock, and the second floor is used for living.
After entering the house, he saw that I was interested in his traditional Tibetan wooden house, so he paused his story of the postman and counted his family treasures with me, including large wooden pillars, wooden furniture, and wooden boards on the walls. Engraved decorative painting. Then, he went to the room and changed into his military green postal uniform, and we climbed the stairs made of huge wood to the third floor, and he continued his postman story, “There are too many mountains here, and they are all mountain roads. On the way to send a letter, you have to cross the Nu River or its small tributaries, and you have to pass through various small chain bridges. In the past, I sent letters on horseback. There are few bridges here, and it takes a long way to go around. It takes half a month to go all the way, so one I can only take one trip every month. Later, I bought a motorcycle myself, and my work unit gave me some gas subsidy, so I used the motorcycle to deliver letters, so it only takes one week to make one trip, and three trips a month.”
▲As a postman who has been driving on the Bingchacha line all year round, his income is not high but he has worked hard, and he has been working as a temporary worker for more than ten years. It is estimated that what supports his continued efforts is the happiness and gratitude of the ladies and folks when they receive the newspaper letters.
“I own the motorcycle, and with the fuel subsidy, my monthly salary is only more than 1,000 yuan, which is too little. I have been doing this job for more than ten years, and I am still a temporary worker. The other two who work with me Everyone has been transferred to a full-time postal employee. You can surf the Internet, please tell everyone this news for me, is my situation reasonable, should I improve it?” he added.
▲With the economic development along the Nujiang River, the main means of transportation for local people has gradually changed from mules and horses to motorcycles and cars. However, the tradition of the horse racing festival is still well maintained here.
“In the mani pile over the White Pagoda, I carved many mani stone scriptures. When they need it, they come to me, and when they are carved, they take them to the mani pile.”
▲ Gesang Quzha, 49 years old, Tibetan, farmer, Mani stone carver. Chawalong Township, Zayu County, Tibet, the middle and upper reaches of the Nu River
Ten years later, the place where I met Jamba Tsering was at the home of the Mani stone carver Gesang Chodha.
In Tibetan areas, although everyone can speak Tibetan, not everyone can understand Tibetan characters, and there are very few who can carve mani stone scriptures. According to visual inspection, the whole Luang Pu village is engaged in this way of life by Gesang Chodrak’s family. On the one hand, in addition to understanding this technique, doing scripture carving requires a considerable amount of reading of Tibetan Buddhist scriptures—in other words, one must be a person who is familiar with scriptures and educated.
▲Walking through the upper and lower reaches of the Nu River, I realized how unfair the distribution of earth’s resources is to human beings. It is rare for Luang Pu Village to have such high-quality cultivated land. Because the villagers basically have no worries about food and clothing, they seldom eat the organic pumpkin they grow, and use it to feed pigs, and pumpkin kernels are their daily snacks.
Gesang Quzha’s family usually focuses on farming. This village has a large arable and gentle slope land that is rarely seen in the middle and upper reaches of the Nu River. In addition to highland barley, the villagers also grow many fruits and vegetables, including pumpkins, green vegetables, apples, pomegranates and sunflowers.
▲ Gesang Quzha is carving under the scorching sun in his courtyard dam.
After all, there is not much demand, and Gesang Cuzha usually only does scripture carving during the slack season. Before my daughter graduated, when she came back from school or during vacations, she would help her father with carving, even if it was simple coloring; my son was in junior high school on August 1st, and he was boarding, so he couldn’t help much; while my wife mainly did farm work, and housework.
▲These pre-made Mani stones with animal patterns are stacked on the slope opposite to Gesang Cuza’s house, waiting for those in need to come and get what they need.
Usually, the Mani stones we see in Tibetan-inhabited areas are mainly engraved with characters, and there are few other contents. But in Luang Pu Village, the ones carved on the hands of Gesang Chodrak have characters and animal patterns. “In our belief, if you kill animals, they will come to trouble you after death. So we will engrave the patterns of the killed animals and scriptures on the Mani stone and put them on the side of the White Tower. That way the animals don’t come to make trouble.”
▲Behind Gesang Quzha is a diesel water pump. Due to the improvement of the economy and the introduction of technology for digging deep wells, water is now very convenient for local people.
▲In 2007, even though the Nujiang River was right next to it, even the people on Chavalon Street had to use mules and horses to transport water far away.
“In the Mani pile over the White Pagoda, I carved many Mani stone scriptures. When they need it, they come to me, for example, if they kill and eat some animals, tell me. After I have carved them, they take them to the Mani. On the heap.”
▲Carving is a pleasant and fulfilling thing, especially when the sculptor can use his skills to achieve salvation for a whole village.