The city of Shiqu I mentioned several times in previous posts, but I have to write a little bit more about this hypnotic end of the world, because it is my favorite place of all I have visited in Western Sichuan.
Not the city itself actually, because it has changed beyond recognition in eight years since my last visit, but what surrounds it. And they are surrounded by nothing 🙂 generally only endless pastures and herds of yaks. For lovers of postcard landscapes, the area may seem a bit monotonous. We will not see snow-capped, rocky peaks reaching more than 5,000 meters, although the city itself and the entire region are above 4,000. But the magic is in the simplicity and the awareness that it is a complete shithole contributes to the atmosphere of this place.
Just a few kilometers outside the city and we stand alone in the middle of nowhere and listen to the wind sliding through vast valleys carrying with it vultures soaring somewhere above. Sometimes we see them circling over a hill, if there is a sky burial nearby, or they kill a yak in one of the numerous nomad camps.
From time to time a large monastery will suddenly appear before our eyes. Quite unexpectedly, instead of another hill, we have a shiny temple building in front of us with a cluster of monastic quarters scattered around. And something that the monasteries in southern Sichuan do not have is a free-standing, one of the tallest buildings in the entire complex, erected only to house a large statue of Buddha. Simply a Buddhahouse.
If we go further, sometimes flocks of crows will fly over our heads with loud croaks announcing their presence.
And sometimes we sit somewhere on the hill in almost complete silence. A very limited number of stimuli makes our senses sharper to everything around. Every little noise is impossible to miss, and whatever appears within our eyes or ears, it’s almost like an event. This is probably why the Tibetan Plateau functions in the minds of many as a place of pilgrimage to seek oneself, however banal and corny it sounds. In reality it’s all about slowing down, sitting on your ass and taking a break from everything that defines your everyday life.