This is the first of two films about Buddhism in China made by two brothers, Jeff and Peter Hutchens, who were themselves born in Hangzhou, and therefore speak Mandarin.
The pair traverse China on push bikes, getting to know the local peoples, and finding out more about their culture, traditions and religion, etc.
In this episode they are travelling first in Gansu, but not amongst the local Gansu people, but with the exiled Tibetan population, who have set up the largest monastery outside Tibet at Labrang.
Their programme is prgressing smoothly, and they are discovering more about the community and about the religion itself, when they suddenly have to leave the area immediately owing to the beginning of riots in Lhasa and Gansu itself.
They decide to head for Yunnan province and specifically to Xishuangbanna, which is the home to the Dai peoples and their Theravada Buddhism. The Dais are of course the Chinese branch of the Tai peoples who live in Thailand and NE Myanmar.
So this is the first documentary I have actually seen from that area, and it is interesting indeed to see how the religion seems to be thriving there, with big new cultural centre opening, and festivities proceeding.
I would have liked more informed comment about the form of Buddhism found in Xishuangbanna, and their culture, but the brothers seem more interested in Tibetan Buddhism, and even make friend with a Tibetan who acts as their guide there.
The film, besides looking at Buddhism, also looks at the local cultures, at rainforests, and gives background on the Bon religion and local animism.
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