The Prayer Flags in Tibet

As one of the most dreaming places on earth, Tibet attracts people not only by its stunning landscape but also the mysterious religious culture. Most of Tibetans believe in Buddhism, which was originated from Nepal and after transformed into a local feature. Only a few people believe in Bon, one kind of a home-grown religion. People who prefer a Tibet Cultural Tour must have noted there is a normal prayer flag that can be seen almost everywhere in Tibet, especial in some empty ground. So, let’s check what it is through this post.

The colorful prayer flags hanging on the road

In the Tibet plateau, people can always see ropes of colorful flags hanging all over. These square, triangle, or strip-shape of flags are fixed on the top of doors or trees. In this way, it looks like the path to the sky when waving in the wind. The Western scholars usually call it “the Religious Flag”, while Chinese give it a more vivid name---the Wind Horse Flag as there is a horse painted in the center of it. In the Tibetan language, it’s named “Long Da”, “Long” means the wind, “Da” means horse.

The Wind Horse Flag is an intermedium connect between the Tibetans and their gods in spiritual level as same as other arts in Tibet. Regarding its source, there is no unified answer yet, but most of the specialists consider it was born in Bon religion in the first place. Because it was known that in the 12th. Century, the flags were hanging for Bon’s doctrine spread by many Kagyu Buddhist monasteries.
Dated back to ancient times, the Tibetan people put little wool on the grass or trees to adore the soul of animals. They simply believed the God Zan from the sky and God Nian from the earth was protecting the mountains and rivers on the plateau. They rode horses shuttling around the forests or prairie, depending demons to make sure the safety of the tribes. That’s why a horse was painted on the flag, it’s a talisman for Tibetans. Afterward, they started to write lection on the flag around the horse and put the flag on some stones or monasteries, thus, the scriptures would spread with the wind and they would get protected.

A heap of wind horse prayer flags in Tibet

Other Animals Painted on the Flags
The horse painted in the center of the flag means the soul. The other four corners are painted with a roc(the biggest bird in the legend), a tiger, a dragon and a lion. They stand for vitality, strength, prosperous economy and fate. Another theory is these four lucky creatures symbolize four basic elements in the world---fire, wood, water, and earth. No matter which one is right, the flags show the messages of hope and peace for pure Tibetans.

the prayer flags hanging on a hill

The Color of the Flag
There are five colors of the flags, White, Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue. These are symbols of five characters. White is for pure, red for strong, green for calm, yellow for merciful, and blue for smart.

Generally speaking, hanging the Wind Horse flags can bring the Tibetan people inner peace. So, once you see the waving flags in Tibet, please don’t do anything to destroy it after you know how important it is for Tibetans. Maybe you can pray like the locals and your wishes will be heard by the gods. Who knows?

a symbol of Buddhist culture in Tibet