prayers in the wind

Several hours’ drive north of Shangri-La, northwest Yunnan province, May 2008

This was taken during one of our stops on a leisurely 6-hour car ride from Shangri-La to Deqin, the northernmost border town (80% Tibetan) at 3550m before Tibet proper. The higher we drove up the single, winding mountain road, the more of these colorful Lung-ta style Tibetan prayer flags we saw, all set against jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape.

These flags are wound around and tied to the pole, connected by that thick white rope at the top of the flags. You can’t see it, but holding up the other end of the rope is the top of a rough mound of stones. For the rest of the time that we were in the area, I saw variations of this all over the mountains.

Prayer flags are often seen along mountain ridges, peaks, stupas, monasteries, and temples, especially high in the Himalayas. This is not the Himalayas, but we’re basically around the corner. From the little I know (and it is very little), these flags have inscriptions of prayers, and are used to bless the surrounding countryside.

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