Photographer's Note

Khampa men are known to be taller than other Tibetans, they are fierce warriors, good horsemen and independent. Apparently Khampas escorted the Dalai Lama fleeing out of Tibet in the early 1950s. On their traditional dresses, the Khampas look beautiful especially the women. Both in men and women, red seems to be the dominant colour, perfectly contrasting with their thick, black hair. Ornamentation and jewelry, for very pratical reasons, are an essential part of their lives and culture. Rich Khampas have for centuries needed to invest in gold and precious stones to store their wealth - simply because it's the most portable form of wealth. So Khampas for centuries have invested all they have into jewelry.

The rugged, handsome Khampa men in Western Sichuan are famously direct and plain-spoken, in contrast to the more formal, oblique manner of the Tibetans in Lhasa. Most Khampa men have long hair braided with red yarn and tied up around their heads. They wear rings with big stones, gold teeth, wears a single earring made of turquoise, which is especially popular as personal adornment and often decorate their hair with ornaments. Stand a good six feet tall, ware great heavy boots and cowboy hats and flowing khaki robes that flapped like whips as they walk, advancing with their feet slightly apart as if to trample the grass to extinction. Unlike Tibetans of Lhasa, their features are not Mongoloid, but straight, with large fierce eyes set beside beak-like noses. They love riding horses, and almost always carry silver-sheathed daggers dangling from their waists. When Khampas stray outside their homeland they make a fearsome impression on outsiders.

Like Buddhists from other parts of Tibet, Khampas are highly devout. Some bid farewell to their families and prostrate themselves all the way to the Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet or even to Mount Kailash in western Tibet, a journey that may take years or even a lifetime. They believe this act will generate the necessary merit for a better rebirth. A number of famous reincarnated lamas who live in the West, such as Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche and Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche are Khampas and this makes Khampas even prouder of their homeland.

Khampa man with a single earring piece and cowboy hat at Tagong Tibetan town, Western Sichuan

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Additional Photos by abmdsudi abmdsudi (abmdsudi) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 8742 W: 136 N: 21264] (95869)
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