Custom in Nagqu

The herdsmen's located their homes by the foot of mountains and the sides of lakes. When summer comes, they put their simple packing on horseback, wandering and herding around the boundless prairie, the melodious songs accompanying with their changing footsteps. The herdsmen shake away the long loneliness by hardworking and singing in the harsh nature, creating their beautiful and colorful life.


Before the Democratic Reform in 1959, marriage under the feudal serf system demanded strictly matched social and economic status, and marriage between relatives by blood was absolutely forbidden. Today, the practice of marrying someone of the same social status has been abolished. Apart from still abiding by the rule of not marrying one's blood relative, people have a wider range of choices and more freedom in marriage. Also, they do not care as much about which family the newlyweds live with. Whether a young man and woman come to know each other by themselves or by others introduction, the family with which the newlyweds are going to live will propose and choose an auspicious day to hold the wedding.

On the wedding day, at a chosen time, a group of people, led by the welcoming-bride (or bridegroom) team, will walk slowly out of the gate, carrying the dowry with them. At that time, a man will hold a colored arrow and a milk pail in one hand and a leg of sheep in the other, performing the ceremony of soliciting fortune and happiness. When the group walks to the edge of the village, it is a custom that the youths of the village will not allow the welcoming team to pass, and the latter will try their utmost to say all kinds of pleasant words and present them with barley wine and gifts to persuade the village youths to let them pass. Mid-way, a short ceremony will be held where colorful arrows are put on the backs of the newlywed, whether he or she is willing or not. This shows that he or she has found its better half.

When the people accompanying the bride or bridegroom arrive at her or his new home, they will present a hada to the white stone on the right side of the door while singing the chant. Afterwards, they will sing traditional odes to praise the cushion, the door, the watch dog and the stairs of the family. The bride and bridegroom will take the center seats at a table, and around them will be their parents, people who have gone to fetch or who have accompanied the bride or bridegroom there. Then the newlyweds will stand to sing praises of and offer hadas to the statue of Buddha, pillar, wine jar and auspicious vessel.

Thus, the wedding formally begins. Besides the above-mentioned, relatives, friends and neighbors are also invited, and they usually present wedding gifts according to their financial situation, such as barley wine (usually not less than three jars), butter (two to five big chunks), tea (two to three packs), mutton (a whole sheep stuffed with one to two kilograms of wool), a bag of barley, a bag of wheat (40 to 50 kilograms), money, clothes or cloth for the family members, and hadas to the niche, bride, bridegroom, family members, people who have welcomed and accompanied the newlywed here, pillar of the house and wine jar. The wedding ceremony sometimes lasts one day and sometimes several days to 10 days. During the time, the host prepares sumptuous food, tea and wine for the guests, who will enjoy themselves to their hearts content.


The last event of a person's life cycle is the funeral. This is a sad ritual. The Tibetan people believe in Tibetan Buddhism and in the theory of past, present and future life. Therefore, a funeral is imbued with Buddhist concepts. It is a ceremony to expiate the sins of the dead and, moreover, a guarantee for the future life of the dead. It is a key event for everyone.

There are a variety of ways for burial. Like other parts of Tibet, people in Nagqu generally adopt the sky burial. Sky burial is to feed the vulture with the body. After the vulture finishes eating the body and fly to the sky, the Tibetan people think that the dead man will go to the heaven. Earth burial ceremony is an original tradition of the Tibetans, but when sky burial is popular, the Tibetans seldom use it because they think the one use earth burial can be reincarnated.

The sky burial is held at the sky burial spot. There is a fixed place in different places. After one man dies, his body will be held for several days when the lamas are invited to chant sutras or perform Buddhist rituals to expiate the sins of the dead. If the family is rich, they will light 100 lamps for the dead. Once relatives, friends and neighbors of the dead receive the sad news, each family will send one person with a jar of wine to express condolences.

On the day of funeral, it is quite early when someone is hired to carry the body to the sky burial spot. The man in charge of the sky burial bums incense first. Just then, the vultures gather there as they see the smoke. Then the man undressed the dead man and cut the body into pieces. The bones are pounded into pieces too. Tsampas is used to mix the pieces. At last, the man whistles to the vultures eat the pieces, without anything left.
A rich family will hold a sacrificial ceremony for the dead on the 30th day, when one lama is sent for to chant sutras. On the first anniversary, commemorative sacrificial activities are performed in the family home, and relatives, friends and neighbors gather there, bringing hadas, tea, wine, meat, butter and money. The host prepares food to thank the guests for their help during the past year.


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