Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Western Sichuan 5 Danba: Jiaju Tower and hilltop shrine

Jiaju, July 2007. All photos ©Ingrid Booz Morejohn

This is a continuation of several postings about Western Sichuan and the Danba area.

On our two days of walks around Jiaju we found many things: small shrines and watermills, running rivers and stunning views, even a vein of garnet stones and large crystals. One day we hiked up to the temple shrine and large fortification tower situated on the ridge to the north of Jiaju. We had packed a picnic lunch of nuts, corn cakes, chocolate and fruit and walked through apple orchards and brambles to get up to the shrine high up on the mountain. It consisted of several stupas (or chörtens as the Tibetans call them) bedecked with prayer flags, tsa-tsas, incense and butter offerings. A local family had the same idea in mind and visited with us, the older women making numerous circumambulations of the shrine, counterclockwise in local Bön fashion. 

After this we parted ways and continued on through the brush to the tower and abandoned building further up. Along the way we encountered a man who was the "appointed caretaker" of the tower. He asked for 5 yuan "entrance fee" which we gave him, he looked as if he had very little money to his name. His coming along turned out to be a great benefit. We met other locals on the way and we all had a long chat near the tower, facilitated by the old man's presence. A lady passed by and paused for a visit. She was very hard of hearing, but the old man knew her and could tell us a little of her story: It turned out she was well over 80 and our guide himself was not much younger. 

Asking these people about the tower in front of us was quite futile. Like most people that live near the towers, they haven't a clue to how old they are or what they were used for, only guesses and hearsay. The tower here was connected to a fort-like structure. We asked to be let in but our "guardian" said he didn’t have the key. He could go get it if we wanted but it would take several hours so we unfortunately declined and made our return to Jiaju below. Later we would visit more towers in Zhonglu and Suopo. (See posting nr 6, Feb 19).

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