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Coronavirus, Zanskar and Copper - What's the Blog Story?

Brass Pots Buddhist Changtang Karsha Monastery Ladakh Leh Trekking in Ladakh Zanskar

You may be wondering how I can write a blog connecting Coronavirus, Zanskar and Copper.

Well, here we go. I read a few days ago that coronavirus can survive for up to 3 days on stainless steel but only up to 4 hours on copper. That rang a few bells. I'm a regular visitor to Ladakh and Zanskar in northern India where the "pots and pans" in the kitchen are traditionally made from copper.

This fine collection of brass and copper ladles is in a house we visited in Nierak, near the River Zanskar and on the "border" between Ladakh and Zanskar. Nierak is one of our favourite villages and we've trekked through there on two occasions and met some dear people in the village. A new road is making it's way to Nierak, bringing change, no doubt some good and some not so good. There's a beautiful photo of the late afternoon sun at Nierak on the Photos page.

Copper & Brass Ladles in a house in Nierak

Zanskaris always say that copper pans are very hygienic. That's useful in a place where water can be in short supply and pans were usually washed with river water and an old cloth. I never really thought about it until now but maybe it means copper pans are an inhospitable surface for bacteria and viruses.

These beautiful copper plates are in the Central Asian Museum in Leh, Ladakh. Ladakh and the trading town of Leh was on a branch of the Silk Road before 1950 when the border between India and Tibet was by China when they annexed Tibet. The museum documents the old trading routes, albeit from a Central Asian rather than Ladakh perspective.

Copper plates in the Central Asian Museum in Leh

And the connection with Zanskar? The more traditional spelling is Zangskar. There is an abundance of copper in the region, the Tibetan word for copper is "Zangs" and the word "skar" means valley. So Zanskar, or Zangskar, means Copper Valley or as it's sometimes called, Copper Mountain.

From here on in the quality of the photos is well below par. This was taken on our second trek in Ladakh in 2004. It's in a homestay on the short Sham trek.

An old photo in the kitchen of a house in the Sham district of Ladakh

The next photo was in another village on the Sham trek, a more modest house where the traditional copper pots have mostly been replaced by newer, cheaper metal versions imported from China. Cute kitten!

in the kitchen of a house in the Sham district

A mixture of old and new in this house in Merak village on the shores of Pangong Tso near the border with Tibet. Soft toys and canned drinks get everywhere! There are some photos of the beautiful Pangong Tso in our Photographs collection and in our Pangong Tso and Changtang blog. The white stuff hanging down in the bottom right of the lower photo is dried yak cheese.

Copper pots, Merak, village, Pangong Tso, Ladakh

Copper pots, Merak, village, Pangong Tso, Ladakh

2019 was the first year we were able to get permits to go to Hanle near the eastern border with Tibet. It's a sensitive area, one of the locations where India and China fought borders wars in the 1960's. The border is disputed, because the culture is similar to Tibetan Buddhism (as it has been for a thousand years) China views it as part of greater Tibet. Ladakh has it's own distinct culture and language.
On our last night we stayed in a modest farmhouse and in this photo you can see copper ladles, new aluminium and and old copper cooking pots, a packet of cornflakes, local handmade rugs, Chinese flasks & noodle bowls and a new baby swaddled on the floor.

Copper pots, Merak, village, Pangong Tso, Ladakh

The quality of this photo is truly abysmal but it shows large copper pots in the dark interior of the kitchen at Rangdum monastery in Zanskar. Rangdum is a bleak and remote place and one of the most atmospheric monasteries in Ladakh or Zanskar. We seem to go there every four years, 2008, 2012 and 2016. To keep that up we should be there this year, 2020, but, in the year of coronavirus, that won't be happening and so we wish all blessings to the monks there. May they be safe.

Rangdum monastery kitchensThis photo is available in the Photographs Collection. The monks at Rangdum monastery, Zanskar.

Rangdum monastery monks

Of course, this blog is not a recommendation to protect yourself with copper! Stay well!

Read more about Buddhist monasteries and trekking in Ladakh and Zanskar.

Just in, 2nd April 2020, this news item from the Tribune Newspaper.

Buddhist Ladakhi Nurses treat Muslim Coronavirus patients in Leh


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