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Posts Tagged ‘buddhism’

I learn a lot from well-researched murder mysteries set in foreign lands. And ever since Kate’s Mystery Books got me hooked on Eliot Pattison’s The Skull Mantra, the nomads in the mountains of Tibet have intrigued me.

That is why I loved Diane Barker’s photographs at the Global Oneness Project, which creates beautiful “Stories of the Month” about endangered cultures. (Maybe you saw my post on saving a language, here.)

For the photo collection on the Dropka, Barker writes, “Tibet has the youngest and therefore some of the highest mountains on earth. Journeying there, I have found a landscape of awesome beauty with the average altitude being 14,000 feet, an extreme and savage climate. It strikes me that it takes a tough and resilient people to flourish in these conditions, and also that perhaps the vastness and solitude of the landscape has encouraged Tibetans’ natural bent for visionary mysticism and unique brand of Buddhism.

“I have been photographing Tibetans for a number of years — deeply inspired by a culture that places spirituality at the heart of life. I have been most moved by Tibet’s Drokpa, or nomads, who until recently comprised an estimated 25 percent to 40 percent of the Tibetan population. …

“On trips to Tibet from 2000 to the present, I have been privileged to stay with nomad families in Amdo and Kham in eastern Tibet, and have found myself totally smitten by their wild earthiness and independent spirit as well as their friendliness, hospitality, and sense of fun. The nomad women, particularly, have impressed me, holding life together and doing most of the work. …

“Traditionally, the Tibetan nomads were very free, forming tribal communities to protect and support each other in their harsh environment where the major threats included weather, disease, bandits, wolves, or snow leopards. But this beautiful earth-based way of life is dying …

“From 2006 on, I have seen fewer nomadic encampments and the land in many areas has an empty, abandoned feeling. … I sense that the loss of the Drokpa way of life will have impacts beyond what we can imagine. As rangeland ecologist, Daniel Miller, writes …  ‘Who will pass this indigenous knowledge of the landscape on to the next generation if nomads are settled in towns?’ ”

More explanation, plus Barker’s amazing photos here.

Photo: Dropka.org

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We read a lot of mysteries in our house. We especially like stories set in places we don’t know much about, although my husband enjoyed the Qiu Xiaolong books because he had lived in Shanghai himself.

I just finished a mystery by James Church (pseudonym for an author who is a “former Western intelligence officer”). He writes about North Korea. Since hardly anyone ever goes there, I tend to accept Church’s descriptions as better informed than your average Joe’s. And I find that whenever there’s a news story about that isolated country, it seems to mesh with the murder mysteries. The series starts with The Corpse in the Koryo.

Eliot Pattison’s Tibetan series, starting with The Skull Mantra, was a great hit with me — son John, too, until he got tired of exotic locales and started reading business books (snore). Pattison now alternates writing Tibetan mysteries with writing mysteries about pre-Revolution America and Indians. I heard him say at a book reading in Porter Square that he finds similarities in the spiritual beliefs and practices of Tibetan Buddhists and American Indians.

The wacky Colin Cotterill writes a series set in Laos, stating with The Coroner’s Lunch. We love his style and his unique characters. I’m just starting his new series, set in Thailand and featuring a malapropism of George W. Bush at the start of each chapter.

S.J. Rozan’s detective Lydia Chin operates mostly in New York’s Chinatown, but she does get to Hong Kong, and you can pick up a lot of Chinese culture from her. That series starts with China Trade.

Good novelists do a lot of research. You can get the flavor of a culture without going anywhere.

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