Ascent of sacred mountains acts as a new form of worship

Updated: 2016-01-01 15:20

By Palden Nyima and Da Qiong in Lhasa(China Daily)

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Most Tibetans regard high, snow-capped mountains as sacred and they have long tradition of honoring them by making religious offerings or circling the base on foot.

Tsering Tandar climbs them instead. He regards the trek to the summit as a different way of worship.

"Climbing gives me the opportunity to feel those sacred mountains closely, and I regard it as a new way to pay my homage to them," said Tsering, a 28-year-old mountaineer.

"Some Tibetans have asked me why I climb the mountains, and they felt it was a strange thing to do," he said. "The social transformation has brought new thoughts to the Tibetan people, and many Tibetans no longer think it is wrong to climb the sacred mountains."

An early graduate of the Tibet Mountaineering School and a member of the Tibet Mountaineering Team, Tsering is eager to attract more people to the rigors and joys of climbing the world's tallest mountains.

Although mountaineering may do a little harm to the fragile environment, it makes a great contribution to the region's social development, Tsering said.

Raising awareness of environmental protection during mountain climbs is one of his goals, and he counsels climbers from outside not to cook meat as Tibetans believe such actions near sacred mountains will aggravate the gods and pollute the air.

To care for the environment, the Tibet Mountaineering Team regularly organizes volunteers to clear the area around Qomolangma, known as Mount Everest in the West.

"Mountaineering can lead to the region's economic growth, and the people near those mountains are direct beneficiaries as well," Tsering said.

Besides working at the mountaineering school, where he teaches Chinese, English and geography, and as a coach on the mountaineering team, Tsering is in his third year of postgraduate work in communications at the China University of Geosciences in Wuhan.

In addition to climbing, Tsering loves photography. He was one of the six photographers covering the torchbearers on Mount Qomolangma in celebration of China's 2008 Olympic Games.

Whenever there is mountaineering or outdoors activity in Tibet, Tsering posts the news on WeChat, a popular messaging app. Through his efforts, he said the number of participants at the mountaineering school's activities has increased from about 40 to 60.

"Many people, especially Tibetans, are unfamiliar and are afraid of the sport," he said. "I want to promote the activities to help more Tibetans get to know about mountaineering."

Tsering has conquered more than 30 mountains over the past 10 years, including six mountains on seven continents, and the world's highest peak, Qomolangma.

One of his proudest accomplishments was hanging colorful Buddhist prayer flags at the peak of a high mountain, as Tibetans believe they accumulate good luck by hanging the prayer flags - symbolizing luck, happiness, compassion, prosperity, health and longevity - atop the highest mountains.

Although Tsering was thrilled and excited when he first reached the summit of a high mountain, he was afraid of climbing down. Because mountaineering is dangerous, he and his fellow climbers gather to pray before they start a climb.

"The prayer ceremony gives us courage and faith, and most climbers join the activity no matter if they are religious or not," he said.