Preface – Traveling in Tibet in 1988

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From September 1987 to August 1988 I spent a year in China as a foreign student. I was 21 at that time and was studying Chinese at Shanghai’s Fudan University. During that year I had the opportunity to travel all around the country, from Shanghai to Kashgar, from Xiamen to Dali, from Hongkong to Beijing, and to many more destinations as well.

In May 1988, I was traveling to Xinjiang in the far West, on the border to Pakistan and Afghanistan, together with another German student from Fudan. Due to recent popular unrest in Tibet, Tibet was officially closed for foreigners. However in Turfan and Kashgar we met backpackers who had just been in Tibet, and who told us that there was one legal way to get to Lhasa, and once there, travelling was quite unrestricted.

The only legal and official way to get into Tibet, they told us, was renting a minibus from Golmud to Lhasa from the official Chinese tourism agency. Why not give it a try? On our way back from Xinjiang we stopped over in Dunhuang, and then took the public bus to Golmud.

It was in fact possible to take a minibus to Lhasa, and so I had the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in Tibet. From Lhasa I traveled to Xigaze and Gyangze, and back to Lhasa before returning to Shanghai via Xining. (Link: Route on Google Maps)

The slides I took during the time in Tibet may have almost „historic“ value today, more than 20 years later. I am quite sure that some of landscapes and buildings I was able to see then have now given way to a more „modern“ and supposedly better way of life. This is why I decided to have them digitized and to post some of them, with the date they were taken and the little background information I can still find in my diary from that time. I decided to post in English to reach a larger audience.

Before you expect too much: you will not find any really spectacular photographs – I never was a skilled photographer, and I was taking the pictures with a simple 35 mm rangefinder camera. Also, do not expect too much background information. I am not an expert on Tibet and Tibetan culture. Also, the diary entries have been translated without a lot of editing. They are the sometimes rather naive notes of an uncritical 21-year-old. I hope you will enjoy the pictures anyway, and I am looking forward to comments.

A Page from my 1987/88 Diary

Many thanks to Barry for copy-editing the English text.

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