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Etched in Time Dege Sutro Printing House


Our journey began in Kangding, capital of Sichuan Province’s Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and after crossing Zheduo Mountain (“bend” in Tibetan language), we continued westward to the hinterland of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, towards our destination: Dege, the center of the Tibetan Khampa Culture.

Only a few hundred kilometers separate Kangding and Dege, but nearly all the roads and highways connecting them were far from comfortable. Despite enchanting scenery along the way, we endured unexpected difficulties, including scaling the jagged summit of Chola Mountain. After an exhaustingly bumpy ride, with no help from the Jeep’s broken fan casing, we finally realized why Kangding was a historic commodities hub of the Tibetan-inhabited areas. In the past, when modern highways didn’t yet connect the western regions, the Ancient Tea-Horse Road remained the only trade route, on which Tibetan yaks and mule caravans abounded.

Dege is one of three cradles of Tibetan culture in China, along with Lhasa (Tibet) and Labrang (Gansu). The county is particularly famous for Dege Sutra Printing House, which boasts the most comprehensive and complete collection of Tibetan cultural documents along with a host of frescos and printing plates well preserved within an age-old building. In Tibetan, Dege translates to “land of mercy,” and the locale is considered the birthplace of the hero of King Gesar, the world’s longest epic. Historically, Dege was once the capital of a theocratic kingdom with a hereditary line of rulers.

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