The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet

The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet

The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet

The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet

Synopsis

The Tibetan district of Tsari with its sacred snow-covered peak of Pure Crystal Mountain has long been a place of symbolic and ritual significance for Tibetan peoples. In this book, Toni Huber provides the first thorough study of a major Tibetan Buddhist pilgrimage center and cult mountain, and explores the esoteric and popular traditions of ritual there. The main focus is on the period of the 1940s and '50s, just prior to the 1959 Lhasa uprising and subsequent Tibetan diaspora into South Asia. Huber's work thus documents Tibetan life patterns and cultural traditions which have largely disappeared with the advent of Chinese colonial modernity in Tibet. In addition to the work's documentary content, Huber offers discussion and analysis of the construction and meaning of Tibetan cultural categories of space, place, and person, and the practice of ritual and organization of traditional society in relation to them.

Excerpt

From where did the snow lion come?
It came forth from the glaciers of Tsari.
It brings joy to the world just by coming
To show off its turquoise mane.

Seng ge ga nas phebs pa//tsa ri'i gangs nas phebs byung// 'dzam gling g.yu ral ngom par// phebs pa tsam gyis dga' byung.

Proud white snow lions with turquoise manes are mythical beasts believed to dwell on the great snowy ranges of Tibet. the snow lion and the mountain are also the contemporary emblems used by exiled Tibetans to represent themselves to the world as an independent people. Snow lion is a poetic epithet, as well, for Tibet's most well-known type of religious practitioners and saints--the hermits and yogins who meditate in solitary caves and retreats in areas of high mountain wilderness. the subject of this book, the Tibetan district of Tsari and its sacred snow-covered peak, Pure Crystal Mountain, is one such abode of snow lions, of both the mythical and the human kind. This remote part of southeast Tibet has long been a place of symbolic and ritual significance for Tibetan peoples. It has served as a center for Tantric meditation and yoga, a site of mountain deity worship, and, not least, as one of Tibet's outstanding natural venues for popular pilgrimage.

This work provides the first comprehensive account of Tibetan life at Tsari, the cult of its Pure Crystal Mountain, and both the esoteric and popular traditions of ritual there. It is my primary aim to present a very detailed and multifaceted study of a major Tibetan pilgrimage tradition, which has not been done before. in addition to this documentation, I have tried to contribute to our knowledge of the construction and meaning of certain Tibetan cultural categories of space, place, and person and the practice of ritual and organization of traditional society in relation to them. I have written with the intent of presenting this material to a wider readership than the specialized field of Tibetan studies and have thus adopted conventions appropriate to that aim.

This study takes the form of an ethnohistorical reconstruction that makes extensive use of Tibetan oral and written sources. While devoting attention throughout to a longer historical perspective, my main focus is the period of the 1940s and 1950s, ending at 1959, the year during which one of the most crucial events in modern Tibetan history took place--the Lhasa uprising against Chinese occupation and the ensuing Tibetan diaspora into South Asia and further afield. All Tibetan life has changed dramatically since then. I selected this particular period for two main reasons. First, I wished to thoroughly document Tibetan social patterns and cultural . . .

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