Monday, December 15, 2008

Ryan Pyle: Gongga Shan

Photographs © Ryan Pyle-All Rights Reserved

Born in Canada, Ryan Pyle obtained a degree in International Politics from the University of Toronto and subsequently fled to China on an exploratory mission. In 2002 he settled in China permanently (currently in Shanghai, China), and began taking freelance assignments in 2004. He then became a regular contributor to the New York Times covering China, Time, Newsweek, Outside Magazine, Sunday Times Magazine, Fortune and Der Spiegel.

Ryan recently produced a photo essay on Gongga Shan or Gongga Mountain, which was included as an Honorable Mention in the awards at the Banff Mountain Culture Awards.

The photo essay was produced during an arduous journey through China's remote Sichuan province; departing from the Chinese town of Kangding, Ryan and his writing partner walked 4 days (at an average altitude of 4000m) to reach the remote Tibetan Gongga Mountain Monastery. It was very much a journey from Han China to Tibetan China at a time when relations between the two have been severely strained.

Here's an excerpt: "I had first learned about Minya Konka, or Gongga Shan, from naturalist Joseph Rock. His work in eastern Tibet, now western Sichuan, was pioneering and when he first laid eyes on Minya Konka he believed he had found the largest mountain in the world. He wasn't far off. Minya Konka stands an impressive 7556m and towers above the rest of the range. It's a sight beyond words. The Minya Konka Tibetan Monastery rests at the base of the mountain. My journey to the monastery began on foot in the town of Laoyulin, just outside of Kangding. From there the four-day, 120-km trek to the monastery had taken its toll, walking at an average altitude of about 4000 m. But this is the way many of the pilgrims make the journey to this remote monastery, and it was important to follow in their footsteps to understand the significance of the temple and its role in the community. Each morning at the monastery one monk prays alone in the main prayer hall. It was a damp and cold morning and there was a lovely light coming in from the single window; my only concern was to do justice to the moment."

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