Tibetan Buddhism Culture – the Carved Stone (part 2)

What will Tibetan people do when meeting the Mani Stone Mounds?
As the stones are carved for worship, they are full of religious overtones. When a devotee meets the Mani Stone Mounds, he or she will pick up a stone and make a circle walking around the mounds, usually following the clockwise direction and murmuring the mantras “Om Mani Padme Hum”. Then he/she will put the stone on his/her forehead and pray. At last, he/she will drop the stone into the mound to complete this small ritual.

A traditional handicraftsman of Mani stone

Another meaning of Tibetan Stone Carving Art
Apart from the connection to Buddhism, there is another important meaning of the carved stones. In ancient times, Tibetan people didn’t know how to write, they had to carve some scenes on the rock in order to record some significant events. These scenes were including some animal images, hunting, eating, or maybe a few scenes of daily life. The carving skill passed down generation to generation. It’s really a priceless treasure to study the history of the plateau for the posterity.

A Long Mani Stone Wall

Tibetan Stone Carving Materials and Methods
In the past, Tibetan people used to carve on the ordinary rocks, stones or pebbles manually. The range of materials is various from small as a pebble to large as a cliff of a mountain. And the scale of Mani Stone Mound is not required. You can see huge mounds on the empty ground which is formed with thousands of stones. Or you can see small mounds of a few pieces of stones near the lake which is easily moved away by a child. According to the local Tibetan people, the largest Mani Stone Mounds is made of 2.5 billion carved stones!
The shape, color or theme of Mani Stones are not specific either. Monks, peasants, and herdsmen are the traditional handicraftsmen in the old times. They usually carved stones in winter because it’s too cold to do other things outside. In the other hand, it’s also a perfect meditation time for them when carving.
But this traditional skill has changed a lot nowadays. With the development of economy and tourism, Tibet tours become more and more hot for travelers. That’s why the Mani Stone is turning into an art form and many craftsmen class appeared in Tibet. The stones can be carved by machine in order to sell on the market to visitors who believe in the stones carrying tremendous positive energy. You may find them on the internet as well, named “Compassion Rocks".

Different Mani Stones You Can Buy From the Market

Mani Stone Wall and black stones in Tibetan house
A little different from the mounds, there is another type of carved tablets called the Mani Stone Wall. This is a vertical display, like an extended line which is from a few meters to maybe more than a kilometer. The height of the stone wall can be two meters at most. The devotees will walk along with the wall and pass it from the left side to the right side, which is the same direction as the earth revolves.
So, when you travel to Tibet today, don’t feel strange when you see the people are praying towards the stone mounds. It’s just a common action of their religious life.
And you may see some black stones in local Tibetan families. These stones are normally made by machine and cheap to afford for poor people. Tibetans believe the black stones could protect them from demons and bring good luck to the family.


                                                                                                 ---to be continued