Kids and Kirti


Dear L.,

I’ve been going through my archives and found a photo, which might interest you.

This is the last photo I have made before I was dragged to the police station. And it was the closest I got to the famous Kirti monastery in Aba town, North-East of your native Sichuan province, China.

I remember you telling me once how you wanted to visit the monastery but couldn’t because it was barred from access to every stranger, including a Chinese one at that time. Maybe another monk opted for self-immolation or a politically-sensitive activity was on schedule. Anyway, I managed to get to Aba one week before the town was closed off.

The kids in the photo sit right in front of the entrance onto a large square. There is a wide building in the far end of the square, a temple of sorts, as I’ve managed to see. Behind the corner there is a long shed filled with prayer wheels, where I’ve been wandering for an hour or so, taking photos and giving a spin to the wheels.

I saw the kids wandering at the entrance and took out my camera. A girl, a bit scared and shy, grabbed the other two and perched on a metal bar, as if it could protect her from a stranger. I made a shot or two, turned in the direction of the temple and was about to start walking, when I was nailed and collared by two police officers in civvies.

Politely, they invited me for a chat and a photo viewing in their office. What to do, I followed, thinking that if I spun those wheels for another minute, they would have missed me and I could have sneaked further in. But karma said no, while the policemen made sure I “made my evening stroll in the other direction”. In my turn I made sure to get out of the town as early as I could the next morning, walked to the other end of it and out onto the narrow road, waved my hand at a passing car and climbed in. That was a fabulous ride all the way to Chengdu, dear L., where we met the very next morning.

Hugs from Europe,



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