Happy Year of the Horse, from a Tibetan

On Friday, January 31, 2014, in Recent, by Bhuchung K. Tsering

Machu horse festival

Armed forces at the Machu horse festival.

Happy New Year (Tashi Delek or as is said in Chinese, Xin Nian Kuai Le) to the Chinese people on their New Year, which is being celebrated on January 31, 2014. I hope the Year of the Horse will be good to the Chinese people as well as to all others who are celebrating it.

In the days prior to the New Year, there have been media reports about the mass annual migration of people in China, those going back to their homeland to celebrate the festival with their family. There are many other people (hint! hint!) who want to return to their homeland, but cannot.

I understand that in China this year the celebrations might be a little subdued as there is emphasis from the highest level not to be extravagant. This is good as it gives the people some opportunity for introspection.

One of the many Chinese Government websites on Tibet reports on the atmosphere in Lhasa at this time and quotes a Tibetan from Shigatse as saying “that the Chinese New Year falls on the Tibetan New Year of Shigatze [sic]this year.” Something is certainly lost in translation here; I do not believe Shigatse itself has its own New Year. Rather, January 31, 2014 coincides with the first of the 12th Tibetan month, which is also celebrated by sections of the Tibetan community as Farmer’s New Year. While on it, Tibetans in Kongpo celebrate their New Year on the first of the 10th Tibetan month.

The actual Tibetan new year, Losar, comes almost a month later this year, and is being celebrated on March 2, 2014. It is also the Year of the Horse (Male Wood-Horse Year, to be specific) to the Tibetans.

In any case, I understand that the horse symbolizes restlessness in the Chinese zodiac system. Going by the situation in China and Tibet I can find more meanings into the symbolism even before the Year of Horse has begun.

Horses play some role in Tibetan culture, too. You would be familiar with Lungta, Windhorse, a spiritual symbol that Tibetan religious practitioners have used to bring forth auspiciousness and good luck.

The history of horses in Tibet seem to go way back. An article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America talks about “a well-preserved skeleton of a 4.6 million-year-old three-toed horse (Hipparion zandaense) from the Zanda Basin, southwestern Tibet.” This article even had a lofty title, “Locomotive implication of a Pliocene three-toed horse skeleton from Tibet and its paleo-altimetry significance.” Zanda seems to be the Chinese name for the Tibetan region of Tholing.

The horse is also identified with a certain region of Tibet, in terms of popular culture. A description for the three traditional Tibetan provinces identifies Dhomey (Amdo) as being province of the horse (Kham is said to be province of people, while U-Tsang is said to be province of the doctrine).

You would have heard of Tibetan breeds like “Nangchen horse’ and “Riwoche horse” that a Western explorer, Michel Peissel, was credited with being the first to draw the attention of the international community to them. As Peissel told the New York Times, the Riwoche horses “looked completely archaic, like the horses in prehistoric cave paintings.” Nangchen and Riwoche are places in eastern Tibet where the horses continue to be prized.

You would also have heard about the annual horse festivals that are popular in eastern Tibet, including in Lithang and Yushu. I guess it is a product of the agro-nomadic background of the Tibetan society. If you have the time, you should go and experience the atmosphere at such festivals to get a taste of why Tibetans cherish such events. In the process you might get to know the Tibetan people a little better.

But to be frank, except for those Tibetans who reside close to the physical Chinese border and have cultivated the custom of celebrating the Chinese New Year as their New Year, most of the other Tibetans have only come to know of this in the post-1959 period.

Celebrating the “New Spring Festival” and everything that is identified with it is a new identity that Tibetans in Tibet acquired. So the Chinese people should not be too surprised if Tibetans, whether in Tibet or outside, do not show too much enthusiasm in welcoming the Year of the Horse with Chinese characteristics.

Tagged with:

Solidarity with Tibetans on their Losar (New Year)

On Monday, February 11, 2013, in Culture & History, by Melissa Jimison

LosarLosar Tashi Delek! Today marks the first day of the Tibetan New Year, Losar. At this time of increased tumult inside Tibet, I am especially thinking about our brave Tibetan brothers and sisters inside Tibet and the challenges they face. I’m thinking about families who are unable to celebrate this Losar together. I want them to feel the embrace of compassionate people outside of Tibet who care about them and stand with them.

At the end of last year ICT collected messages of solidarity from Tibet supporters worldwide as part of a “Season of Solidarity.” As we send Losar greetings to our Tibetan friends around the world, I wanted to share some of the messages of support. I hope they lift your heart as they do mine.

Thousands of people from around the world signed our “Season of Solidarity” message, but others wrote more personalized notes. Some of those follow.

May the year of the Water Snake 2140 bring peace to Tibet and the Tibetan people.

Dear people of Tibet,
I think of you every day and what you are going through. I fly the Tibetan flag over my front door because you cannot. Know that we care and are trying and we will never stop telling your story and asking the world to relieve your suffering. Know that it will happen.

Most sincerely,
Gail H, USA

Tibetan People
Tashi delek! Everyday I meditate on compassion and love for all sentient beings, the people of Tibet always weight heavy in my heart though and the struggle that you ensue each day. Please know that you are in my thoughts and that I am behind you in every step you take towards peace in Tibet.

Please know that you are not alone on your path to justice and peace for all the people of Tibet.

You have my support, my admiration, and my solemn promise that I will not allow the plight of your people to be hidden from the world’s conscience.

I am with you. The world is with you. Take heart.

Most sincerely,
Brittany H.

The truth of the Tibetan situation will eventually change the minds and hearts of those who oppress you and your culture. Freedom will return to Tibet.

Most sincerely,
Steven H, California

We pray that the Chinese people will soon force their government to adopt a more humane and loving attitude toward their Tibetan brothers and sisters on this Earth. Remember, Truth and Goodness always prevail in the end, so you will ultimately be victorious in spite of unimaginably horrible losses on the way to your destination.

Most sincerely,
Devki J

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Tibet,
Please know that you are not alone on your path to justice and peace for all the people of Tibet.

It is always darkest before the Dawn.

Most sincerely,
Steve S.

I’m deeply ashamed that the powerful of the earth are silent on Tibet’s suffering. But many ordinary people suffer with you, and are outraged at the situation in Tibet.

You have the support and best wishes of my entire family. We will speak out for Tibet at every opportunity. We hope to one day visit a free Tibet and see His Holiness the Dalai Lama once again in Lhasa.

We are with you in heart and spirit. Stay strong. Your compassion is a beacon for a troubled world.

All the best,
Mary C.

Things always look darkest before the dawn, so keep your chin up. Know that it is your spirit that counts and no force, nor money will ever destroy it unless you let it.

Most sincerely,
Mario G. C.

I feel so grateful and indebted to the Tibetan people who practiced and served Buddhism so faithfully for a thousand years. Your teachings of kindness, compassion, love, and non-violence are what the world needs most right now. I stand with you, and you have my solemn promise that I will not allow the plight of your people to be hidden from the world’s conscience.

With gratitude and in solidarity,
Flint C.

I keep all of you in my thoughts every day, and deep in my heart I’m grateful for all that you are, and all that you gave us through your culture.

I’m praying for you, from Brazil, to be strong and to be free!

I am with you. The world is with you. Take heart.

Most sincerely,
with best wishes and prayers,
Martha, Brazil

Please know the world’s citizens are aware of your strength and determination. We stand in solidarity with all the people of Tibet as we do with the beloved Dalai Lama, who in his benevolence, has awakened us all to your plight. Prayers go daily to you in love, in petition for protection and for peaceful resolve.

You have my support and my solemn promise that I will not allow the plight of your people to be hidden from the world’s conscience.

I am with you. The world is with you. Together we are One.

Tagged with: