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                Stones Which Are Mysterious in Tibet



                TEXT BY QIU BAOYAN PHOTOS BY DEGYI


                Mani stone mound at the Kangrenboqe

                In the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, one can often see short walls built by sutra stones, with the length of several meters, several dozen meters, or even more than a hundred meters. It is a startling sight for many people. Cases in point include those in the Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai Province.

                In the Geri Monastery in Zeku County of Qinghai¡¯s Huangnan Prefecture, there is a Sutra Stone Wall, nearly 300 meters long, 3 meters high and 2.5 meters thick. It is estimated that it is made up of some 200,000 pieces of stone slabs. The prominent feature is that the sutra stones are carved with the full text of the Tripitaka: Gangyur and Dangyur, running to more than 40 million words.


                People carving sutra lines at the foot of the Yaowang Mountain.

                In Xinzai, situated near Gyigu Town of Yushu Prefecture, there also is an interlaced stone wall built by Mani stones, carved with images of Buddha and sutra lines. The local people call it ¡°Gyana Mani¡±. It has a history of nearly 300 years and is made up of over 200 million pieces of carved stones. It is acclaimed as the peak of perfection.


                Stone carving art: Female devil with a tiger head.

                In the eyes of people of the Tibetan ethnic group, rocks that are found everywhere in the plateau are holy and should be worshiped. As a result, on the mountain top or at mountain passes where Tibetans often come and go, accumulated stones on which multicolor sutra streamers are hung are seen everywhere. The Tibetans say these are the mansions of mountain gods. Passing monks or lay people all make a clockwise rotation of the stone heap, adding stones to it and muttering the Six-Syllable Prayer for eliminating personal misfortune and getting rid of disease, and subduing the monster and taming the devil.

                Mani stones carved with sutra lines pile up high and are planted with sutra streamers. Pictured here is a Mani Stone Mound at the Qambaling Monastery. In three years,stones carved with lines from Tripitaka are piled up to from this sutra dagoba.the three however,still have much to do before accomplishing their mission.


                If some Living Buddha or celebrities have passed those places, people also pile up the stones there as a commemoration. Gradually, the stone heaps get bigger and bigger. Among them are stones carved with the Six-Syllable Prayer, sutra lines or images of Buddha. There also are multicolored stones, the colors of which are very fresh.

                According to the traditional belief, once the stone is carved with sutra lines, it becomes something holy. The stone carved with the Six-Syllable Prayer or sutra lines is called a Mani Stone Mound. The shape and size of Mani Stone Mound is not fixed, and the amount of stones is not also set. There are some Mani Stone Mounds on which a yak horn clinging to the frontal bone is placed, and some on which golden ball symbolizing treasure and a silvery cluster of arrows symbolizing divinity are hung.

                Because of this Tibetan stone worship, a group making a living by carving stones has emerged. They mostly are monks. The herders also invite artisans to carve sutra lines or images of Buddha on a huge stone, and some herders themselves are also carvers. They believe that this action is a way of worshiping Buddha.

                When walking along the road, one can often see some fist-sized, carved Mani stones at the roadside. They are put there to pray for good fortune for the passerby. Some carvers carve the cobblestones in the river with sutra lines so that the stream will carry forward the Buddhist doctrine. Monk and lay carvers, wandering among the mountains with hammers and chisels on their back, at random carve images of Buddha or several propitious patterns on the cliffs, troubling the wind to carry forward the Buddhist doctrine.

                Of the numerous cliff carvings, the carved stones with the Six-Syllable Prayer are the most. One still can see an old and mysterious sign. People are unable to decide whether it is the symbol of the sun or that of constant rotation of Dharma wheels. But it can be certain that it has the meanings of ¡°eternal of life¡± and ¡°forever¡±.

                No one can clearly know how many carved stones on earth are hidden among the chain of precipitous mountains. Those carvers of sincerely worshiping Buddha tirelessly rush about among lofty and precipitous peaks and leave the chaste art behind on the rocks, only to profess their belief for the rocks and pursue their physical and mental inclination to Buddha.

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