Friday, January 6, 2012

My Tibet, by The Dalai Lama & Galen Rowell

Galen Rowell and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama collaborate on the photo essay My Tibet. I assumed, based on the cover image (Never judge a book...) of Everest from the Rongbuk Monastery that Everest might play some auspicious role in this book, but I was disappointed in that respect. However, I discovered a lovely book that focuses on the cultural geography and the wildlife of Tibet. Rowell provides the photographs and the Dalai Lama provides several essays on Tibetan culture, religion, and his life, in addition to comments on several of the images. Rowell's images cover the gamut of his travels, from Kailas in the west to Anye Machin in the east, and they highlight the living Tibet, showcasing its people, flora, and fauna. He focuses on what remains of an older Tibet, with images of pilgrims, monasteries, and many of its endangered species. The Dalai Lama discusses the state of wildlife in the country and speaks proudly of its people. When the authors speak of My Tibet, there is beautiful (but perhaps misleading) idealism in both the Dalai Lama's words and in Rowell's images.

I had hoped to get some idea of what the current Dalai Lama thought of all the crazy people climbing Chomolungma or even learn about the relative importance (or not) of the Rongbuk Monastery, but I was ultimately disappointed. There is a single quote, however, about the Tibetan people's general disinterest in the early British attempts to climb Mount Everest. (This would have been during the 13th Dalai Lama's lifetime, however.) There are several images of the areas around Everest, including the Kama Valley, Tingri, and another image of the Rongbuk Monastery. I wouldn't recommend this book for its Everest material, but it's an enjoyable experience for anyone looking for some quality photographs and a bit of wisdom from a great thinker. Other Rowell books I've reviewed include High and Wild, Mountain Light, and Mountains of the Middle Kingdom. Happy viewing!

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