It is an ancient story, a heartbreakingly familiar one.
Once upon a time in the high reaches of Tibet, a spare prince laid the foundations for a kingdom on the high cliffs north of the Indian Himalaya on the south bank of the Sutlej river. Tsaparang, the capitol city of the great Guge Kingdom, ruled largely unopposed from these highly defensible spires for nearly 700 years. As the Muslims swept through the surrounding lands, Guge grew with the influx of Buddhist refugees. Gifted artisans from the Far East, the Near East, and all the conquered lands between joined together in Guge to create a uniquely international mix of Buddhist art that can still be seen today on the walls Tsaparang’s great ruins.
Guge did not long out live its king.
And the kingdom of Guge vanished.
And with it, the art and the culture…the dreams of its people.
The abbot had his reasons. I’m sure the king did as well. Religion was just as much a game of politics then as it is now. In the end the reasons don’t really matter, we are only left with the results: the destruction of a heritage, the extinguishing of possibilities.
The abbot could not allow for other possibilities, other ideas, so he shut them down at the expense of all ideas. At the expense of life.
It is an ancient story, a heartbreakingly familiar one. One that continues daily from the destruction of Buddhist artifacts in Afghanistan to the taunts on the playground.
I never considered that it might be my son that would find himself shut off from so many of the wonders the world has to offer.
Don’t paint…unless it’s monsters.
Don’t write…unless it’s battle scenes.
Don’t think…unless it’s about sports.
Don’t dance…unless it’s the drunken bounce.
Don’t sing…unless it’s rap.
Don’t play music…unless it’s heavy metal.
Don’t stop to enjoy a beautiful garden. Don’t wear flowers on your shirts. Don’t let color into your wardrobe. Don’t enjoy the company of girls. Don’t. Don’t. Don’t.
Don’t. Don’t. Don’t. So much beautiful art, so much amazing culture that we will never know. I see it disappearing already.
I can’t stop it completely. And I wouldn’t. We find a measure of our strength in life through our gender roles. And I would never deliberately subject my children to the taunts I endured when I walked in their shoes. (And if you think this sort of idea extinguishing can’t take a life just as well as the abbot’s armies, you are wrong.)
But what I lack in bravado, I make up for in unabashed enthusiasm. For what greater motivator has there ever been than joy?
Yes, my daughter, you are powerful when you figure it out for yourself!
Yes, my son, you created a beautiful arrangement of flowers!
Yes, my son, you can fly to moon on the wings of your own voice!
Yes! Yes, you can.
*Other sources state that the king and his family were sent into exile. Legend did always like a good controversy!
Guge – The Lost Kingdom of Tibet
The Kingdom of Gu-ge
Mountains of Travel Photos: Tibet Guge Kingdom Travel Guidebooks, Books, External Links, Videos
David Antoniuk Travelogue
Magic Tirthapuri and the Lost City of Tsaparang
The Lost Kingdom-Guge
A Dream Come True: Diary of a Journey to Western Tibet