Dege/Derge’s Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery, Eastern Tibetan Plateau, China


Lunch over, we sat around outside the 250 year old Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery because it didn’t reopen until 2:30 p.m. The Printing House is located on the east bank of Jinsha (Sequ) River and was founded in 1729 in the Qing Dynasty. Construction took over 21 years on this four-story building. A visit to Dege by tourists, Chinese or Western, is strictly to visit the extremely important Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery that houses more than 215,000 hardwood printing plates.

Texts include ancient works on astronomy, geography, music, medicine and Buddhist classics including two of the most important Tibetan sutras. It is estimated that these materials make up 70 percent of Tibet’s literary heritage. One history of Indian Buddhism has 555 woodblock plates (written in Hindi, Sanskrit and Tibetan) and is the only surviving copy in the world.

While waiting, we walked a small but interesting KoraView image… around the Lamasery/Monastery with yak horns among the mani stones, and sat in the sun watching a group of monks drinking Sprite and Orange Crush.

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yak horns and mani stones at Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery, China
 

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Khampa woman wearing her traditional jewelry and red yarn in Dege, China
 

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monks waiting for Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery to open, China

The Lamasery opened at 2:30 p.m. sharp, paid the entrance fee and entered the outside hall…View image…where a row of men were scrubbing…View image…the hardwood boards printing plates that had been used with orange ink in water. Scrubbed and clean, the boards dried and were carried away until the next day…View image.

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cleaning the used hardwood printing plates in Derge, China

Up a flight of stairs to where pairs of men were sitting, inking and pressing Buddhist texts on paper…View image… “…faster than a speeding bullet.” Don’t think the video is boring…wait until you see the “printers” move in triple time… I was exhausted just watching! They work from 6:00 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. every day of the week and are expected to turn out 3,800 pieces a day! What a life…

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pairs of printers working at an exhausting pace at Bekong, Dege, China
 

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stacks of ancient woodblocks, Bakong Scripture Printing Lamasery, Dege, China

All Buddhist temples and monasteries in Tibet and China get their prayer books from this very important place without exception. I hadn’t realized that Dege/Derge ranked with Sakya Monastery and the Potala Palace in Lhasa in historic and cultural significance.

Up two more flights of very steep and narrow stairs…View image…with reminders to watch your head…View image… to where printed pages were drying and being inspected for errors…View image, and continued up to the rooftop…View image…for views of Dege.

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newly printed prayers drying at Bekong Scripture Printing Lamasery, Dege, China

An early bedtime, tuckered out from no sleep and diarrhea yesterday in Mani Gange. Tomorrow was a return on the same road and high pass (#1 Perilous Mountain) that led to Dege/Derge before turning in a different direction to Ganzi.

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