During the early 1960s, as the Chinese army clamped down on Tibetans’ freedom to move about, engage in trade, and practice their religion, the residents of Ru, an old Tibetan trading village and site of the renowned Taiga monastery, realized that their very means of survival – as well as the survival of that which provided meaning to their lives – were in grave danger. In order to avoid detection by Chinese patrols, the villagers stole away in the night with whatever few possessions they could manage to carry, fleeing across a high mountain pass that marked the frontier with Nepal. Ones across the border, the refugees petitioned Nepal’s king for permission to settle in the highland meadow of Samdo, citing land rights granted to the Taiga monastery over six hundred years earlier by a Nepali ruler. The government of Nepal conceded their claims, and the community went to work building houses, clearing fields, planting crops, and trying to start a new life.
Despite the scarce resources and harsh condition of their new home, the courageous settlers of Samdo managed to eke out a bare living through hard work, steadfast perseverance, and a continued adherence to their traditional lifestyle practices. But as modern economic developments in China, Tibet, India, and Nepal have undermined the trans-Himalayan caravan trade upon which their survival hinges, the villagers have been forced to adapt their age-old trade practices o new circumstances.
This book tells the remarkable story of the Samdo refugee community’s struggle to survive and hold on to their traditional way of life in the face of seemingly insurmountable political, economic, and physical challenges. With a sensitivity and deep appreciation for the unique culture that continues to exist to this day in Samdo, the author’s vivid descriptions and striking photographs provide a rare look, both touching and informative, into the life and customs of an intact Tibetan village community still reliant upon trans-Himalayan caravan trade of survival. At the same time, the author’s personal reflections on the simplicity and spiritual grace of life in Samdo offer a deeply resonating critique of the harried material culture of the west.
The author, who holds a PHD and MA in Geography and an MBA in Business, all from the university of California at Berkeley, traveled and conducted research in mountains of Nepals, India, Pakistan, Tibet and China for ten consecutive years. He spent five years living in Nepal while carrying out doctoral and post-doctoral research in Manang and Samdo and traveling in the Himalayan and highland regions of Mustang, Nyishang, Nar-Phu, Nubri,Tsum, Langtang, Rolwaling, Khumbu, Walung, and Kangchenjunga. Dr. Rogers is the author of two previous books on the Himalayan, Secrets of Manang and The Lure of Everest.
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