The Past (Notes)

Many a lotus, eight petals blooming  The open lotus may represent the land itself surrounding the mountains, or perhaps the religious culture which dotted the landscape with shrines and prayer flags. The specification of eight petals may simply suggest perfection and beauty. Traditional iconography employed the lotus as a throne for a deity, with as few as four or as many as one thousand petals. There was also an implied connection with the system of yogic chakras (energy nodes within the human body), which are conventionally represented as lotuses. In that system the heart chakra is an eight−petaled lotus, and therefore the eight−petaled lotus often serves as the throne of Chenrezig, emanation of compassion. But as Beer notes, “the complexity of Vajrayana imagery rarely accommodates rules of generality” (38).

Yunnan, in sight of Mt. Khawa Karpo  In a footnote, Woeser says the first two lines came to her as she watched the sun set behind Mt. Khawa Karpo (Chinese: Kawagebo), while she was in Yunnan visiting a Tibetan district that is being marketed to tourists under the name of Shangri-la.