The Loba of Upper Mustang

Project Date: 2011

Book Release Date: November 2011

The region of Upper Mustang sits beyond the Himalaya in northern Nepal, on the outskirts of the Tibetan Plateau. Here, nestled against the tallest mountains in the world, is a former Tibetan kingdom called Lo. For centuries the people of Lo—the Loba—have scratched out a living from the desert mountains and through trade on the ancient Salt Route from China to India. The kingdom’s capital city of Lo Manthang still stands surrounded by medieval fortress walls, and even today much of the culture and lifestyles of the Loba remain unchanged from the kingdom’s heyday in the 1500s. It’s no wonder that Lo Manthang is on the UNESCO World Heritage Site nominee list and is considered by some scholars to be the best-preserved medieval city in the world.

Mustang’s remote mountain geography and political autonomy insulated the area from the cultural reforms that impacted the rest of Tibet, making it one of the last pockets of traditional Tibetan life left in the world. But all of that is about to change. Now, a brand-new highway in the area has connected Mustang to the modernizing forces of China and lower Nepal for the first time, bringing eagerly anticipated yet profoundly transformative change to the area. While many Loba celebrate the arrival of such modern conveniences as electricity and Western hospitals, many locals also fear that the “old ways” will be lost.

The Vanishing Cultures Project journeyed to the Himalaya in 2010–2011 to interview and photograph the Loba, and to report on the effects of the new highway. We found several cultural preservation projects already underway in Lo, and we hope our book, Mustang: Lives and Landscapes of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom, will contribute to the preservation efforts of this fascinating culture.


Check out our articles and slideshows about Mustang:

MSN - Vanishing Cultures
Seattle Globalist - New Chinese highway exposes medieval Tibetan kingdom to the modern world
Global Oneness Project - Modernizing Mustang
Global Oneness Project - Mustang: Lives and Landscapes of the Lost Tibetan Kingdom
Boston Globe - Mustang: Nepal’s Former Kingdom of Lo
The Atlantic - Photos of an Ancient Nepalese Culture in a Modernizing World
Huffington Post - How Indigenous Cultures Can Save the Modern World
Sacramento Bee - Mustang: Nepal’s Former Kingdom of Lo
Asia Sentinel - A Last Look at Shangri-La
Business Insider - An Incredible Look Inside a Vanishing Kingdom
Huffington Post - Buddhist Lama Works to Preserve Vanishing Culture