We will be traveling around Western China and the Tibetan Plateau to produce a collection of nonfiction photo-essays.
During the next year, we will visit sacred Buddhist locations in China (Gansu and Qinghai Provinces) and India, collaboratively studying, through personal interviews and conversations, how one multifaceted religious culture manifests across a region and over borders. The product of this journey will be a self-published collection of nonfiction prose pieces, in book form, ranging from literal translations of conversations (Noryang is a fluent speaker of Tibetan) to personal and/or research-driven reflections. These essays will be accompanied by photos of the people and region. Our goal is to produce pieces which investigate whether or not religious and cultural heritage is necessarily bound to place; i.e., is it immovable or translatable?
We're still mapping our itinerary (largely according to available funds), but some prospective (read: probable) places we'll visit include the Yungang Caves in Datong; Labrang Monastery (one of the six great monasteries of the Geluk school of Buddhism); Beihai Park (an imperial garden once connected to the Forbidden City that contains Buddhist palaces and temples); Tso Ngonpo Lake (where Padma Sambawa visited and tamed nine demon brothers when he was invited to the region); the Mogao Caves (also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas); Drag Kar Drel Dzong (where, according to tradition, Padma Sambawa concealed many treasures); Dang Gya Gar Temple (the most important temple in all of Gome); Bodh Gaya (where the historical Buddha attained enlightenment); Nalanda (the largest ancient Buddhist institute of higher learning, and one of the first great universities in recorded history); and Indasala Cave (where the historical Buddha delivered one of his most well-known discourses, the Sakkapanha Sutra). These locations unite an otherwise geographically scattered religious culture. It is our aim to investigate the nature of this geographical scattering; that is, does or does not the culture fundamentally change according to geographical placement? Needless to say, the money we raise through kickstarter will primarily fund our traveling expenses, but will also go toward a small-scale distribution of the final product after we return, as well as toward the time we will spend writing and editing.
It should be noted that our project differs from others that have recently emerged from this region and culture in that ours is decidedly apolitical.
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