|Tower in Suopuo village, Danba County, Sichuan, China (James Wasserman/WSJ).|
|Not old Mexico but village life in Tibet now.|
[This sounds exactly like the two-day drive up from the Kashmir Valley to Ladakh, India, the "Rooftop of the World," in the Himalayas behind Mt. Everest along the highest highway in the world. It is a desert moonscape of dust, frozen peaks, and a jade colored river that does not seem to soak into the neighboring ground any better than the might Colorado does the banks of the Grand Canyon.]
This is the route to one of China's most enduring architectural mysteries. Ten hours and 400 kilometers into the journey, the valley opens to reveal green mountains topped with snowy peaks. On a ridge above stand a half-dozen rock towers, like ancient smokestacks.
|Jiarong woman, Frederique Darragon (WSJ)|
Striving to save the towers from the forces of neglect, earthquake, and a planned hydropower dam are a small number of preservationists, including Frédérique Darragon, a 61-year-old global adventurer -- sailor, dancer, trekker, polo player -- turned amateur archaeologist by her love for these mysterious structures. More