One morning Palzang, Yizha, and Imaja, took us into ‘the valley’. The valley is behind one of two of the town’s monasteries. You have to pay to get in but once you are in, you can do hours of hiking in the valley.
We had a storytelling tour. We learned about the story of the town. The town’s Mandarin Chinese name is actually Langmusi, as it appears in most travel books and maps. However, its official Tibetan name, and the name that our community partners have asked us to use is Taktsang Lhamo, which means “the tiger and fairy’s cave.” This name comes from a village myth; a ferocious tiger living in a valley cave often attacked the village, killing people and livestock. Eventually, a bodhisattva took the form of a fairy called Lhamo and defeated the tiger, subdued it as his mount, and made it a protective deity in the spiritual world. The township is thus named after the mythical tiger and fairy. We saw a rock where the people would hang on in defense of the tiger and the cave where the fairy cave. People climbed up into the cave, which can be climbed up with hanging ropes.
We also saw where there used to be a small dam built into the river. The monks are very protective of the river since rivers are very spiritual. The dam brought the river level down and so one day the community got together and disassembled the dam. These stories were all translated from Chinese to English so there might have been some content lost in translation. But from what I understand, monks live in the valley all the time to protect the forest against the Chinese government who keep trying to utilize the area for energy production. They mentioned that some monks were even injured through physical fights between the monks and the government.
After going into a cave and rubbing a belly to alleviate health ailments, we climbed up to a hill and saw a lama that was preserved in gold and in an ornate display. You are supposed to look the lama in the eyes.
One evening we also visited the other monastery in town. We didn’t learn much about the monastery but wandered around and took photos. At this place, they do the sky burials where all Tibetan funerals in town take place. In a sky burial, the body is placed on a hill where birds come to eat the body. The concept is that there should be no remnants of the body left for the spirit to reincarnate.