Travel in Tibet西藏纪行In pursuit of understanding寻悟
How different cultures confront the fact of death 不同文化如何领悟死亡
A pilgrimage not to be taken lightly朝圣之重
To a Mountain in Tibet. By Colin Thubron. Harper; 240 pages; $24.99. Chatto & Windus; ??16.99. Buy from Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
《西藏朝圣之山》，作者：科林.休布伦，哈伯出版社，240页，售价：$24.99; 查托&温达斯出版社，售价: ??16.99，购买网址：Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk
THE physical journeys that Colin Thubron makes in his travel writing are also intellectual and emotional quests of particular intensity. His latest book, which tells the story of his journey to one of the great sacred places in the world, Mount Kailas in southern Tibet, is no exception.
The book begins with him crossing the Tibetan border from Nepal on his way to the mountain. This is a land dense with sacred associations and mythical stories. Stones are carved with ritual incantations, prayer flags blow in the high mountain winds and devoted chanting comes from the numerous monasteries along the way.
The mountain itself is an important site of pilgrimage for Hindus, Buddhists and followers of ancient Tibetan faiths. The goal is to seek purification by trudging round the mountain on a route that is physically demanding but brings spiritual reward. Some die from the effort, others give up, all are possessed by the sense that they are living close to a divine presence.
In the midst of all this Mr Thubron acts like a kind of secular shaman, allowing himself to be possessed by the many spirits of the place without succumbing to their power. He respects what it is that drives pilgrims to Mount Kailas, and follows them round it, but he does not pretend that he is at one with them.
This is not the familiar story of a traveller from the West finding spiritual consolation in Eastern religions. Mr Thubron’s particular quest is to find out how different individuals and different cultures confront the fact of mortality. This book is autobiographical in a way that his others are not. He is mourning his mother’s recent death and throughout he is haunted by memories of her and of his dead sister and father.
Their words, looks and gestures come back to him as he climbs a mountain path or talks to a Hindu pilgrim or Buddhist monk. The beliefs about reincarnation and the journeys of dead souls that he sees being enacted all round him do not assuage his own sense of loss. Instead his grief becomes one of the multitude of emotions and stories that have brought people over many centuries to Mount Kailas.
Like his earlier work, the book reminds us that for Mr Thubron travel is a kind of ascetic discipline. He takes the reader to high places, literally and metaphorically, and to an understanding of how people from other cultures somehow get by in an unpredictable world.