Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ramoche: How do monks cut their hair?

Ramoche, Lhasa 1995 ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This picture was taken at Ramoche, an imposing temple in central Lhasa. I've always wondered how monks and nuns cut their hair, and got the answer this day. Two friends (or should I say colleagues?) were giving each other haircuts. The hairclipper must have been a little blunt (or the expertise of the person wielding it lacking), because there were numerous verbal exchanges, winces and lot's of pushing and shoving. It seemed to be general cleaning day as all the young monks, these included, were washing their heads and faces etc. For me it was a wonderful insight into a private world. 

My most memorable image of Ramoche is walking around the temple in the company of the Ramoche Abbot, a man of wily, roving eyes and impressive girth. While turning the temple's massive prayer wheels he flicked his prayer beads back and forth in snappy fashion, all the while chanting "Ooooommmmmm mani padme HUM!" - beginning with a deep, Barry White, back of the throat voice and then ending up with a high, girlish HUM!

Ramoche is the most important temple in Lhasa after the Jokhang. Is is unusual in many ways: Constructed during the Tang Dynasty by Chinese architects (ca 641) it is a powerful link between the two cultures, being built to house the important Jowo statue that had been brought to Lhasa by Princess Wencheng as a wedding gift from the Tang Court. It was later switched with a statue in the Jokhang where it is housed today.  The temple has been called the "Chinese Tiger". 

If you would like to read more about architecture and temples in Lhasa I highly recommend: The Temples of Lhasa, Tibetan Buddhist Architecture from the 7th to the 21st Centuries
, by André Alexander, Serindia Publications. 

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