Melanie Dornier: a journey in Qinghai

Culture, Travel | by Melanie Dornier
Posted: February 14th, 2012 | Updated: July 25th, 2012 | Comments
China Photography_travel photography_chinese culture_chinese landscapes Qinghai grasshald After studying in the UK and a stint in India, French freelance photographer Melanie Dornier has been living in Suzhou for the last two years. Her experience abroad plays a major role in her worldview and is evident in her photography. With a focus on photojournalism, the reality of social issues and the humans that experience them emerge at the forefront of nearly all of her projects. Her photographs of China have earned her international praise and her work continues to have an impact around the world. Here Melanie shares a collection of photographs from her travels in Qinghai. Check out more great photos on her post on the China Travel Blog.>>>

I have traveled extensively around China, and have discovered many of the different cultures and traditions of the country. Living abroad, it's exciting to continually discover your "adopted country." Qinghai is one area I had the chance to visit in the summer of 2011. It is one of the best places I have ever seen in China; I was impressed by the culture and authenticity of the area. Tibetan culture is still very strong there, as the area used to be part of Amdo, one of the three provinces of ancient Tibet. The Gelug sect of Buddhism, the predominant sect of Tibetan Buddhism, is on display in every town and village. It is easy to distinguish practitioners of the Gelug sect from other forms of Buddhism by the yellow hats the monks wear (the Gelug sect is often known as the Yellow Hat Sect).

The photo above on the right was taken on the road between Tongren and Xiahe (in neighboring Gansu province). On this journey, you drive across some of the grasslands of the Tibetan plateau, which have long been the home of Tibetan nomads. Read on after the jump for some more photos of Qinghai...   China travel photography

I had some beautiful encounters with the Tibetan character. Living closely with nature, the Tibetan nomads are respectful of their surroundings. This Tibetan hunter was walking with his dog through the grasslands.

China photography

Tibetan people are very grateful for nature; this woman is giving tsampa (a Tibetan dietary staple of roasted flour mixed with Tibetan butter tea) to the ants, praying at the same time with prayer beads in her hands.

Melanie Dornier China photography
Tibetan young man, August 2011 © Melanie Dornier

On the grasslands of Qinghai, a timid smile and a mischievous glance. His hair is mussed from a ride on his motorbike, a popular way to travel on the grasslands.

Melanie Dornier Photography
Tea pot on stove, 2011 © Melanie Dornier

In small villages on the road between nomad camps, living conditions are basic. The teapot is hot to ensure a warm welcome for cold guests. This is the interior of a house in Duo Wa Village between Tongren and Xiahe.

Traveling in Tibetan areas
Tibetan tea house, 2011 © Melanie Dornier

For a cup of tea, you can't do much better than a Tibetan tea house, and they are very popular places in every village and city. Where people go to have a rest, to eat and to meet one another. A warm and colorful ambiance.

Ethnic minorities in China

Tibetans are strong believers, often praying many times a day. Many hold their beads in their hands for the entire day.

Tibetan Buddhism
Portrait of young monks of the Gelug sect, 2011 © Melanie Dornier

Portrait of a monk wearing his yellow hat during evening ceremony.

Tibetan people are very attached to their religion and monasteries; it is very common for children to be sent from home to study at a monastery. In the Amdo region the biggest monastery is in Xiahe, located just at the border with Qinghai. The Repkong monastery remains very important, well know for Tangka painting. The predominant Tibetan sect of Buddhism is the Gelug sect, distinctly visible by the yellow hats.

Tibetan photography
Gelug sect outfit, 2011 © Melanie Dornier

A monk's robes waiting to be worn at evening ceremony.

Tibetan Buddhism
Ceremony of Gelug sect 2011© Melanie Dornier

Evening prayer ceremony at the Repkong monastery.

Qinghai province photography
Monks boots 2011© Melanie Dornier

The monks wear thick boots to protect against the region's frigid temperatures.

Gelug Buddhism
Interior of monastery 2011 © Melanie Dornier

Prayer hall of a small monastery on the road to Tongren from Xiahe.

Tibetan art
Mandala drawing 2011 © Melanie Dornier

Young monks are practicing how to draw a perfect mandala. Once finished, the white clay drawing will be erased, only to be begun anew.

Traveling in Qinghai
Monastery kitchen 2011© Melanie Dornier

One of kitchens of Labrang Monastery. Cooking is one of a monk's many duties.

Gelug Buddhism
On the way out, 2011 ©Melanie Dornier

I hope you enjoyed this selection of photographs, focusing on the religion and people of Qinghai and the surrounding Tibetan areas.

A big thanks to Melanie Dornier for her marvelous portrait of the Tibetan people of Qinghai. Keep up to date with her work on her website.

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