Sunday, November 23, 2008

Step by step to Guge

Guge? Never heard of it until early this morning.

Michael Wood's documentary (BBC) aired on PBS and caught my attention. Somehow, the sight of solitary people walking through deserts (and mountains) has always captured me (re: Kwai Chang Cain in Kung Fu, circa 1976?).

My understanding of Buddhist history is scant, but in this place tucked away in Western Tibet is a place that once was home to 100,000 people. Almost impossible to imagine. It's in a mountainous desert. Dry. Bone dry. Not a fertile valley in sight.

But the story of Guge's prominence as a key trading post and bridge to India's Buddhist scholars is very intriguing. No, I don't believe in Buddha. But the history and how the Chinese came to both destroy its amazing relics, then go beyond the call to preserve what still remains, is perplexing. Those wacky Chinese and their kooky Cultural Revolution. Talk about a lack of tolerance.

But as for Guge, Michael Buckley has much to say about it in this excerpt from his 2002 book, Heartlands: Travels in the Tibetan World.

The tiny bit of research I've done doesn't satisfy me: 1. Where did the descendants of the Guge people go when they were violently driven from their homes? Who are they today? 2. Was there any lasting impact of the Catholic church built there by Andrade in the 1600s?

To think that the Catholic church drove a wedge between neighbors in that region and caused a war is not shocking. But to think that nobody lives there -- no Buddhists, no Catholics -- is really a mystery.

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