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14:40 Jan 09 2009

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English>>Tibet Online>>Travel
Finding lane in Barkor Street
14:36, January 09, 2009  

Two foreign visitors are shopping in the Barkor Street, October 6, 2008.

Barkor Street, or Balang Jie in Chinese, is the oldest street with colorful Tibetan features in the sunlight favoring city Lhasa, capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region, southwestern China. It is not only a saint circle road for Tibetan Buddhism believers, but a corner gathering all aspects of Tibetan culture. Now it's also a shopping center with nation characteristics, which tourists from all over the world will not miss.

Sichuan native takes up a large proportion of the Han nationality in Lhasa. In Sichuan dialect, the pronunciation of "Lang" sounds likely to "Jiao" so they misread "Balang Jie" as "Bajiao Jie", that is why the calling "Bajiao Jie" is pervading and then people misunderstand literally that the Barkor Street has "8 corners or main braches". As a matter of fact, "Balang" means "circulation" in Tibetan language. The Barkor is a concentric circles street with seven major alleys, sitting in all directions.

Characteristic Tibetan ornaments displaying in the Barkor Street dazzle all its visitors, but the "7 alleys" lying stilly in the street can be strange to some.

Strolling in the ancient street in a sunny and breezy day, the mystery emerges piece by piece with profound history.

No.1: Xasarsur Lane-- The most striking element should be people

The Xasarsur Lane presents itself at the corner where west and north Barkor Street meets. It is merely a lane for shopping where goods from all over the world gathered, from cosmetic to daily commodity, from antique to electronic watch, from beef to vegetable and even foreign exchange business is available.

Both businessmen and consumers speaking in different language are trying to seek a compromise method to clinch a deal: goods to goods, cash sale, bargain loudly or silently with gesture language…--either can lead to a successful deal.

Setting aside shopping, the most striking element should be people, male and female, young and old, who are earning a livelihood in the lane. An old man is ironing the cuff with a shabby ironer; the teenage are pedaling overweighted cargos along the streets and whistling to remain passers-by; a woman is smiling at waves of tourists who passing by her shop and waiting for her clients; a litter girl is doing homework amid the prosperity…

Peace and prosperous, busy but not noisy, the Xasarsur Lane continues the mission from generation to generation…

No.2: Chimed Sha Lane-Doing international business amid harmony

A peddlery is selling goods in the Congsaikang Market of Lhasa, capital city of Tibet, April 8, 2008. (File photo)

Walking eastward the north Barkor Street, there is a lane surnamed Chimed Sha. Following the street for not more than a hundred meters, I arrived at the Congsaikang market.

Congsaikang boasts the largest wholesale market in Lhasa. As one of the most ancient zones, Congsaikang absorbs small commodities cross the country: brick tea of Sichuan, fresh fruit from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, traditional handicraft, homemade milk products, balmy perfume…everything imaginable.

Huckster from mainland China and neighbor countries gathered there for business. The difference in cultural background, religion belief and speaking language seems not to be a question for business, they have been racking their brains trying to keep the harmony. Rural Tibetans like shopping here as it offers relatively cheep goods comparing with other markets.

For a large deal, Tibetans prefer an antiquated way of trade--one put the palms into the other's gown sleeve and bargain with gesture language till come to an agreement.

No.3: Cuona-Lane of Tibetan furniture

Different from other alleys, Nacuo mainly sells Tibetan furniture.

Classic Tibetan furniture is classified into desk, cupboard and trunk. Comparing with baroque furniture available in market, Tibetan furniture looks simple, stout and vivid. The shape is either quadrate or square, but the color and design are diversiform. The color of Tibetan furniture just likes women's finery in rural areas and gold decoration is the clever aspect for luxury.

Price for Tibetan furniture varies from 1,000 to more than 10,000 yuan. Furniture from temple or monastery is priced at about 4,000 to 5,000 yuan and some of which adopted high-class ironwood will charge higher to more than 10,000 yuan.

"Some furniture in old house of Barkor Street are as old as their elder owners," a shopkeeper told me.

No. 4-Gyiri Lane- Remains a tranquility in busy street

Gyiri Lane remains a tranquility in the rorty and busy street. I am wondering if I am still in the real life or somewhere in mind's eyes.

Walking forward, I meet the noted Gyiri Hotel, one of the oldest hotels in Lhasa. A taxi driver, who is playing the trichord near the gate, greeted me.

Walking upstair, featured Tibetan houses, snow-capped mountains, blue sky, pily cloud and gentle sunshine, seem to occupy everything. Quite and comfortable, I could not help closing the eyes, to enjoy.

As it is the off tourism season now, the hotel is cooling somewhat. An old man told me, the hotel is an international gathering during the peak tourism season, speaking in different languages, but it is harmonious.

No.5: Dongzisu Road Lane-- Makye Ame Restaurant

The Makye Ame Restaurant. (File photo)

On the Dongzisu Road Lane, there lies a little yellow building--the famous Makye Ame Restaurant, whcih visitors will not miss.

"Makye Ame" means "unmarried pretty girl" in Tibetan. The establishment of the three-story restaurant in 1997 was inspired by a beautiful story relating to the sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso.

The story began with poetic lines: "Rising from the highest mountaintop/ is the bright and glamorous moon/ It reminds me of the smile of Makye Ame/ which shines in the depths of my heart."

The story has it that there once was a pub, run by a devastatingly beautiful Tibetan girl. The 6th Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso,came across the pub, and left behind a poem which is remembered by almost everyone in Tibet.

Today, nobody knows for sure whether the story is true or not. But the wine shop, which the sixth Dalai Lama is said to have frequented, has become famous with travelers to Tibet from home and abroad.

Leaving the Makye Ame, I arrived in Mosque Temple of Lhasa, which absorbs a great number of Islamism believers. The Hui nationality living estate is just in its vicinity. I was told that the Islamism believers should take a half-hour pray for five times every day at 7:30 early in the morning, around two and five o'clock in the afternoon and eight o'clock in the evening. I was super surprised at the frequency, but the believer told me:"Doing pray is the most important job for us."

An air of piety is pervading the road.

No.6: Kaidoi Lane—A lane of quietness and happiness

Kaidoi Lane is a bit exclusive comparing with others. Some protected Tibetan yards dub the street. In a residential yard, local Tibetan people are doing their daily things as usual: a young woman is doing laundry with cold water; a girl is kicking shuttlecock highly; women are having a gossip with neighbors and some boys are firing the firecrackers…, and I seem not to interrupt them.

Leaving the alley, I stepped into the noted Langsai Antique Market, which lies in the junction between the Kaidoi Lane and Barkor Street.

The Langsai Antique Market gave me a total different feeling. It is relative quiet than other business centers and the antiques on display usually charge a high price.

The balcony in the market is a good place to view the landscape of Lhasa city while a cup of tea is available. You can see the pious Buddhism believers, who are taking ritual walk in front of the sacred Potala Palace.

No.7: Rabsai Lane-Lane of Tibetan carpet

A Tibetan carpet shop in Rabsai Lane of Lhasa. (File photo)

Tibetan carpet is the feature of Rabsai Lane. Traditional Tibetan carpet is divided into rug, footcloth, cushion for leaning on and sitting, arras and so on. It is an unique work of art that can date back to the mid-1900s, when the "Maoxi relics", the rudiment of Tibetan carpet was discovered in the Nuomuhong Ruins in Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

Tibetan carpets are of the highest quality in terms of materials used in production, as well as in terms of dyeing technique. The pigments all come from original vegetation so as to be against fading and protect environment.

Source:China Tibet Information Center

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