The Dukha tribe, Mongolia’s last nomadic reindeer herders

My Modern Met:

After living in Nepal and exploring Tibet and the Himalayas for more than a decade, photographer Hamid Sardar-Afkhami decided he would travel to outer Mongolia to document the nomadic tribes and their unique way of life. A scholar of Tibetan and Mongol languages who received his Ph.D. from Harvard University in Sanskrit and Tibetan Studies, Sardar was just the right person to capture the Dukha people, Mongolia’s last nomadic reindeer herders. The Dukha are an ancient group of people of Turk descent who are dependent on reindeer for their way of life. In addition to milk and cheese, the reindeer provide transportation for hunting. They’re ridden to hunt wild elk and boar.

The Dukha tribe is quickly disappearing. Only about 44 Dukha families remain, or between 200 to 400 people. In the 1970s, it’s estimated that there was a population of about 2,000 reindeer but that number has since dwindled to about 600.

Sardar has not only captured fascinating photos of this lost culture, he shot a film called The Reindeer People which followed a family on its seasonal migrations.

Synopsis:In Northern Mongolia, there exists a sacred alliance between people, ancestor spirits and reindeer. This film is an intimate portrait of a family of Dukha reindeer nomads following their migration through the forests of Mongolia’s Hovsgol province. They move with a herd of about a hundred reindeer through a sacred forest inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors, who communicate to the living through songs. The oldest Dukha, is a divine seer, a 96-year old shaman, called Tsuyan. She is the link between the healing songs of the forest ancestors, her people and their reindeer. She is the centerpiece of an extraordinary adventure that unites people and animals in one of the wildest regions of Mongolia – where people still live and hunt in a forest dominated by supernatural beings. To live in harmony with them, people had to learn to respect nature and animals and to pass down their beliefs, from generation to generation, by invoking the song-lines of their deceased ancestors.”

The film earned a jury prize for Best Film on Mountain Culture at the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Hamid Sardar-Afkhami’s website


Tibetan Monks painstakingly create incredible Mandalas using millions of grains of colored sand


My Modern Met:

Imagine the amount of patience that’s required to create such highly detailed art such as this! To promote healing and world peace, a group of Tibetan Buddhist monks, from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India, travel the world creating incredible mandalas using millions of grains of sand. For days or even weeks, the monks spend up to eight hours a day working on one mandala sand painting, pouring multicolored grains of sand onto a shared platform until it becomes a spectacular piece of art.

Each work begins as a drawing, the outline of the mandala. Then, colored sand is poured from traditional metal funnels called chak-purs. Each monk holds a chak-pur in one hand, while running a metal rod on its grated surface; the vibration causes the sands to flow like liquid. It is almost as if they are truly painting.

A sand-painted mandala serves as a spiritual symbol. Shortly after it is made, it’s deconstructed. The destruction serves as a metaphor of the impermanence of life. As it states on the Drepung Loseling Monastery’s website, “The sands are swept up and placed in an urn; to fulfill the function of healing, half is distributed to the audience at the closing ceremony, while the remainder is carried to a nearby body of water, where it is deposited. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing.”

The Tibetan Buddhist monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery are currently in Dallas, Texas at the Crow Collection of Asian Art. During their week-long residency, they will complete one of these sacred sand mandalas.

Check out this link:

Tibetan Monks painstakingly create incredible Mandalas using millions of grains of colored sand


The Mystical Arts website


China repeats rejection of Dalai Lama’s ‘Middle Way’ for Tibet


Voice of America:


Tibetans play their traditional musical instruments to commemorate Serf Liberation Day in Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, March 27, 2014.

Tibetans play their traditional musical instruments to commemorate Serf Liberation Day in Nyingchi Prefecture, Tibet Autonomous Region, March 27, 2014.

China has marked the 55th anniversary of the dismantling of Tibet’s government in Lhasa with another explicit rejection of the so-called “middle way” approach of the Dalai Lama that emphasizes autonomy for the region.In the televised speech Thursday on state-run Tibet TV, the chairman of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region [TAR], Losang Gyaltsen, said the Dalai Lama’s approach is “a camouflaged approach” that seeks Tibet’s independence.

Tibet cannot be independent, neither can it be a semi-independence or disguised independence,” Gyaltsen said, standing next to China’s national flag.

He added that China’s fight against a “Western enemy force” and the “Dalai Clique” is an important political fight for unity versus separation, democracy versus authoritarianism, and progress versus backwardness.

Kunga Tashi, who works in New York for the exiled Tibetan government, said the statement shows that Chinese leaders are unwilling to compromise to solve the Tibetan problem.

The middle way approach agrees with the principle [demand] of China,” he said. “We say we are not separating from China, if we get a meaningful autonomy.”

In addition to the speech Thursday, Chinese officials carried out a campaign this week to highlight how much they say conditions have improved in Tibet since China took over.

Beijing frequently cites improved living standards in the region when defending its rule. Tibetan exile MP Kalsang Gyaltsen Bapa said the comparison of old and modern societies is just an excuse.

China has no historical and legal support to occupy Tibet,” Bapa told VOA Tibetan service, speaking in Tibetan. “So they need to say old Tibet was dark and backward, and they came to develop Tibet. Such policy was used by other colonizers.”

The anniversary, which China calls “Serf Liberation Day,” marks Beijing’s 1959 dismantling of Tibet’s government in Lhasa shortly after the Dalai Lama fled into exile. The date, however, has been officially commemorated only since 2009.

This report was produced in collaboration with the VOA Tibetan service.

Check out this link:

Shangri-La burns down: The aftermath of today’s Dukezong Ancient Town blaze



More than 240 houses along with shops and cultural relics were destroyed in the fire that broke early Saturday morning in Dukezong Ancient Town of Shangri-la, one of the largest and best-preserved Tibetan towns in China.


Over 2,600 residents had to evacuate as the flames roared on for nine hours, finally being extinguished around 10:30 a.m. Because many of the houses in the town are made of wood, it was especially hard for firefighters to control the blaze.


Investigators have ruled out arson as the cause of the fire, according to Xinhua. No casualties have yet been reported, but several buildings were destroyed along with cultural relics including Tibetan thangka and other art pieces.

Check out this link:

Shangri-La burns down: The aftermath of today’s Dukezong Ancient Town blaze


African Chinese history: Turn of the century Tibetan nuns, wearing African-inspired wigs!

African Chinese history: Turn of the century Tibetan nuns, wearing African-inspired wigs!

At about 35,000 B.C. a group of African Chinese; later known to us as the Jomon, took this route and entered Japan, they became the first Humans to inhabit the Japanese Islands. Later, another group; Known to us as the Ainu, followed. Oddly, Indians were not part of this group.

Today, their genes can still be found in 40% of modern Japanese, as well as Mongolians and Tibetans.

This photo showing is a group of Tibetan nuns circa 1903, their heads are shaved and these are (African inspired) wigs.


Artist Profile: Tenzing Rigdol


Check out the works of Tibetan artist Tenzing Rigdol this morning. Tenzing’s work ranges from painting, sculpture, drawing and collage, to digital, performance art. Widely exhibited internationally, the artist currently lives and works in New York.

Check out this link:

Artist Profile: Tenzing Rigdol

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