VIII. China

Tibet – nowadays part of China - is where the Before They Pass Away project was born long before Jimmy even knew it. When he was eighteen, he ran away from life. Two years earlier, Jimmy's world had changed overnight. He had woken up one morning and all his hair had mysteriously fallen out. This had changed him not only physically, but also emotionally. He felt different from everyone else. Not long after, he dropped out of university and headed east for Tibet to figure out who I was.

"Returning to the place that triggered my love for indigenous cultures was a rollercoaster ride of mixed emotions"

Jimmy had the romantic idea that Tibet should be part of the project, because that is where it had all started for him. But in a sense it was unfulfilling, because the majority of what he had seen and come to love back in ’86 was no longer there. Comparing the pictures he had taken on his first trip with the more recent ones, it becomes painfully clear there was a lot more of the pure Tibet back then than there is today. But deep under the surface the spirit is still very much alive.




View people ›

The approximate 5.5 million Tibetans are an ethnic group with specific traditions. Archaeological and geological discoveries indicate that the Tibetans are descendants of aboriginal and nomadic Qiang indigenous cultures. The history of Tibet began around 4,000 years ago.

“Better to see once than to hear many times”

Prayer flags, sky burials, festival devil dances, spirit traps and rubbing holy stones are all associated with Tibetan beliefs, evolved from the ancient shamanist Bon religion. The costume and ornaments communicate not only the habits but also the history, beliefs and climate of the people.