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Tibetans in western China preserve, honor traditions
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15:26, April 10, 2009

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Economic development changes people's lifestyles, but that hasn't stopped many Tibetans from preserving their traditions.

WALL OF STONES

Sitting on a carpet, Jigme Tenphel was busy carving a palm-sized stone Buddha. Behind the monk stood several stone plates.

"I have been working on this statue of Padmasambhava for half a year, and I still need two months to finish it," he said.

Jigme lives at the Derdon Monastery in the Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, famed for its 200-meter wall of stone plates, each carved with a sutra.

He learned to carve at the age of six as his master, Gonpo Tseten, passed on the intangible cultural heritage of stone carving.

"Now my master is old and his eyesight is poor," so he can't carve any more, Jigme said.

Jigme, who was the old man's senior disciple, left the Sichuan Buddhist Academy in 2001, where he had studied for six years, to carry on the artistic tradition.

To Jigme's regret, many of his master's sculptures were not well preserved.

"I must pass down his skills to the younger generation," he said.

On a hill next to Jigme's house are many of his own and his master's carvings. He has told his students that stone sculptures are an art, not just a means to earn money.

"When you strike a stone with your knife, it's a beautiful sound," he added poetically.

SPINNING PRAYER WHEELS

Spinning the bronze prayer wheel with his right hand, 62-year-old Dalog chanted Buddhist verses while circling the mani stone mound. The elderly herder visits the Jiana mani stone mound in Xinzhai Village, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghaito pray each spring. It's a trek of about 400 kilometers from Madoi Village, where he lives.

The Jiana mound is the largest of its kind in the world. Over the past three centuries, it has grown to be 2.5 meters tall and 283 meters long, with an estimated 2.5 billion stones.

Mani stones, engraved with the universal mantra Om Mani Padme Hum, are used by local people when they pray to Buddha.

This time around, Xinhua interviewed Dalog after he had been in Xinzhai for a week. Each day, he rose early and had tsampa and ghee tea before going to the mound, where he made at least 30 circuits.

"Spinning the prayer wheel soothes my mind," he said.

The pilgrimage benefited him in another way as well. "I suffered from stomachaches, arthritis and headaches," he said, but the pilgrimage had relieved his symptoms.

Some young people also make pilgrimages, like 23-year-old Kunga Drolma. She works in a store in Jyegu Township, about 3 km from Xinzhai Village.

"Spinning the prayer wheel refreshes me after a day's work," she said. "Even if I am bored and vexed, the activity can relax me."

Dalog had other purposes for his prayers. "I hope the holy place could cure my illnesses, and we could enjoy a harvest this year."

Source:Xinhua



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