I am movement itself,
But I do not waver.
I am a constellation of forms
But my nature does not change.
I am inseparable from Gesar, Lion Lord of Ling.
And as we pass from life to life and death to death
Every obstacle and hardship
Protects us from the drifting dreams of sleep.
From awake to awake,
Our journey together does not end.*
In 2010 I traveled to the grasslands of the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, China. I wanted to hear the folk songs of Gesar, an 11th century enlightened warrior king, and to photograph the extended families of the Genong Village. The families that form Genong are Khampa Tibetan nomads and proud descendants of Gesar. For the next three years I spent the summer months photographing, living and working with this clan. The families in Genong move three times a year. The cold winter months are spent in stone houses in Gerta, a valley near Lhagang, a small town whose residents mostly consist of former nomads, monks, and the elderly. The warmest months are spent in yak hair tents high up in the summer pasture, Dashika. This is considered the happiest time of the year. The grass is plentiful. The yaks are healthy and milk, cheese, and butter are fresh. In late July, a horse festival is held by each village. Lungta, a wind horse ceremony when new prayer flags are raised, begins the event, followed by trick horseback riding and races. I came to the grasslands for Gesar, but fell in love with the mountain and pastures. Time moves slowly in the grasslands. Days blend together until the pattern of herding, milking, and drinking tea are broken with a visitor or the death of a yak. The following images and texts are as much a story of my time with the Genong clan as it is of them.
*As translated in Crossings on a Bridge of Light:
The Songs and Deeds of Gesar, King of Ling by Douglas J. Penick