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Why Tibetan People Worship Yak Head

When you are travelling in Tibet, you can see Mani stones everywhere. Sometimes, there are yak heads carved with Tibetan paternoster on the Mani stones. What are the yak heads used for? For Tibetan people, do the yak heads have any meaning? Why Tibetan people worship yak head?

The Yak is a long-haired bovine found throughout the Himalayan region of south Central Asia, the Tibetan Plateau and as far north as Mongolia and Russia. In addition to a large domestic population, there is a small, vulnerable wild yak population. In the 1990s, a concerted effort was undertaken to help save the wild yak population.

Customs and traditions aside, yak occupies an important place in the lives of the nomadic Tibetans. For them, yaks are so valuable that they call these animals "Norbu," meaning treasures. Yaks also find their way into artwork, such as monastery murals and rock carvings. On the street of Lhasa, you can find many vendors selling yak heads carved with Tibetan paternoster as artware. Some people would use yak head to decorate their house.

Tibetan yak hornMani stones are decorated with a Tibetan yak horn.

According to classics of the Bon religion, yaks came from heaven to the top of Gangdese Mountain. Of the Buddhist warriors, one had a yak's head.

Mysterious as the desolate Mexico Valley, the primitive Tibetan plateau with simple Tibetan people also attracts countless visitors from other places. As we all known, Tibetan people is an ethnic group with its own language, characters, customers and religion. Receiving more and more focus from all over the world, this unique nation arouses more and more people's interest, artists in particular. Flocks of artists, poets, writers, photographers, painters and film makers rush to Tibet to find inspiration from this mysterious land. Except bringing their own works back home, they also bring back a yak head as a souvenir so as to show off their pilgrimage journey.

In fact, when travelling on the last pure land on earth, you can find weathered or new-placed yak heads on the top of a hill, or on the bank of a river,or under an altar, even around monasteries, at the top of the gate of a village and so on. These rough, mysterious and powerful heads are so attractive for artists. Howerver, for local Tibetans, yak means more.

Yak in TibetTibetan yak team

You know, there were no vehicles in Tibet in the past. Animals are what they are used as vehicles. Yak is on the earliest animals that Tibetan people have tamed. Due to their quick adaption to the cold highland and moderate temper, yaks were chosen as means of transportation in remote areas of Tibet. Therefore, yaks were reputed as the “boat on the plateau”. But why Tibetan people worship yak head? I think it is because yak offers Tibetan people food by its meet and impact Tibetan people by its character.

Master Catherine Jigme

About the Author - Master Catherine Jigme

With exceptional passion and outstanding leadership, Mrs. Catherine has dedicated herself to Tibet inbound tourism and China tour for 15 years. As one of the handful females who see great potential of Chinese inbound tourism, Catherine has made great contribution to promoting Tibet tourism and enhancing the employment of Tibetans and prosperity of local Tibetan community.

Over the years, she travelled overseas with Tibet Tourism Bureau many times to promote Tibet tourism. Currently, Catherine works as the marketing director of Tibet Vista, an opinion leader behind the whole team of Tibet Vista.

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