In recent weeks, I had been planning a post about the walled cities I’ve visited and was busy digging up photos of Dubrovnik, Xi’an, Kotor, Tallinn, and others. These (often) medieval towns have a historical charm that makes for both an interesting visit and great photos.
But the Weekly Photo Challenge went further, asking us for an image of a wall that reveals something about its place or about me.
I knew my wall photo had to be from Lhasa, Tibet, to reveal something about me. Visitors to my blog can see that I’ve traveled a good deal, but no trip has meant as much to me as my two visits to Tibet, especially Lhasa. For years, I had an inexplicable and deep-rooted captivation with Tibet in general. It started with reading Lost Horizon, The Snow Leopard, and Into Thin Air, and continued with Seven Years in Tibet and a growing fascination with Lhasa in particular. As I read about the young Dalai Lama’s years in the Potala Palace looming high above the city, this building and its forbidding walls came to symbolize for me the mystery and inaccessibility of this kingdom on the roof of the world. I vowed to see it someday before it was ruined by tourists (of which I would paradoxically be one, of course!).
Now I look at the mighty walls that surround the Potala Palace and hope that they can metaphorically hold off the onslaught of Sinicization that is rapidly overtaking Tibet as the Han Chinese flock to the city as tourists, residents, and government officials. The city’s face is changing, and the traditional Tibetan quarter shrinks yearly. I see this imposing wall as a last bulwark against the overbearing Chinese assault and their attempt to control this proud civilization.