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Strange to think that just three days ago I was here!   We drove south from Lanzhou, up and up through grassy or rocky hills, toward the edge of the Tibetan plateau, until we reached the city of Xiahe.  This sits at an elevation of about 3000 meters - but it's at a strategic intersection of four cultures: Tibetan, Mongolian, Han, and Hui (Chinese Muslim).  And this is where we saw Labrang Monastery: the biggest Tibetan Buddhist monastery outside Tibet. 

We spent two days wandering around here.   The building shown here is just one of many: there are 18 halls, six institutes of learning, and libraries holding nearly 60,000 sutras!  It's very beautiful, and raised lots of questions.  I want to learn more about the history of this place, and about Tibetan Buddhism.

The kids in red are novice monks.  At its height, 4000 monks lived in Labrang Monastery.  During the Cultural Revolution, they were kicked out and forced to work in villages.  The monastery was reopened in 1980.   Now about 1500 monks live here: that's the upper limit imposed by the Chinese government.

Now I'm back in Singapore.   I'm too tired to show you my photos in an organized way... so I'm afraid you'll get them in a random order, and later I'll organize them on my online diary.  You can already see a lot of my Silk Road posts starting here:

http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/diary/february_2013.html

#silkroad  
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Cytia Beata's profile photoअदीन् ऐक्लर्'s profile photoKam-Yung Soh's profile photoshonie Hutter's profile photo
19 comments
 
How long are you staying here in Singapore, and what are you doing here?
 
I'm there until September 20th.  I spent two years (2010-2012) working here at the Centre of Quantum Technologies, but for the foreseeable future I'll just be spending my summers here - roughly July to the end of September.
 
+Kam-Yung Soh - I hadn't known about htat lecture.  Thanks for pointing it out!  But I'm insanely busy, and I doubt I'd learn a lot about the Higgs from a public lecture.
 
Glad to know you had a good journey and everything went fine! Looking forward to see the photos when you find the time for uploading them,even in a random order :-).
 
Thanks!   I'll try to get some photos from Weiwei Pan, too.  She's a better photographer. 

Unfortunately lots of the best sights on this trip weren't photographable.  It was against the rules to photograph the paintings in the Mogao and Western Thousand Buddha Caves - but I think I can get photos from some books.  And it was hard to take good photos of mosques, yak herds and nomadic herder's tents from a moving bus.
 
Thats a great photo, I like the body language of the monks and their placement as compositional gravity for the image, the maroon against the green is very nice :)  

+John Baez This is a weird question but did your "math brain" start seeing various ratios in the construction of the buildings? We don't normally build using "sacred geometry" much anymore, I am just curious if your sense of "place" was different or effected?
 
+David Washington - I'm glad you liked this photo.  It's all downhill from here, composition-wise. I find it pretty hard to take good photos when I'm
walking with friends.

I didn't think about math in the construction of the buildings, perhaps because I was spending a lot of this trip trying to compute properties of certain 4-dimensional and 8-dimensional polytopes.  :-)  But I did notice nice mathematical features in the mandalas which graced some of the temple walls. 
 
I could draw a really cool 8-dimensional one if I knew what 240 bodhisattvas looked like.
Yao Liu
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Great trip!

Columbia University Press just published a Sources of Tibetan Tradition. Their other Sources (of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean traditions) are really good, as your wife probably knows.
 
So many wonders to see in this world — it makes one hope (against hope) that, as some Dharmic worldviews hold, we do indeed live many lives in order to be able to relish it in all its glory. Sigh.
 
I'd say: don't hope for a continuation of your personal identity beyond this life; we're all in this together so we should be happy enough knowing someone is relishing all the glories of the world.
 
Ok, I admit I was thinking about what 240 bodhisattvas would look like ;)

It involves handwaving and abuse of mathematical terminology...

When Padmasambhava was giving Yeshe Tsogyel high Tantric initiations he demonstrated how mandalas are used as a mental programming language.

The impression I got from their conversations when they were laying around after the initiations smoking imported cigarettes was that the mandalas are hyperspace systems and the mind is "layers" of them, by constructing a mandala and rotating it into the frame of reference of the mind one "programs" the mind interferometrically. 

So all the attributes possible for a Bodhisattva would be the dimensions of a Hilbert space and the manifestations of them would be vector lengths.

These would then be integrated into the meta-space of the mandala itself.

I just had to get that out :)
 
Thanks!  The great thing about the internet is that if one person goes somewhere, many can enjoy the trip.
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