Worship of White Color in Tibet

White is the most common color in southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. In Tibet, white symbolizes justice, kindness, nobility, purity, auspiciousness as well as festival, and the Tibetans love and worship the white color. If you know about the “white culture” in Tibet, you will have a deeper understanding about Tibetans and their culture.

The white snow accompanies Tibetans throughout the year. In the lengthy winter, the plateau becomes a sea of snow. Even in summer, the snow on the Himalayas and the Gangdisê Mountains of the region won’t melt at all. White nurtures and maintains Tibetans, giving them many important daily supplies. Fox example, Tsampa, a main staple of Tibetans, is white; the milk and the highland barley wine they drink are white; the clothes they wear are made of white wool. The Tibetans have both gratitude and awe toward white. As the proverb goes, a timely snow promises a good harvest. However, if the snow is too light, a harvest is out of the question; if the snow is too heavy, a snow disaster may come and threaten people’s life and property.

Mount Kailash

Mount Kailash, the highest peak in the Kailas Range (Gangdisê Mountains), with an altitude of 6,638 meters.

Tibetan people connect white to their respectable deities. For example, they consider the white Mount Qomolangma (commonly known in the west as Mt. Everest) as the auspicious goddess in white, and they see the snow-covered Gangdisê Mountains as holy mountains.

Mount Qomolangma

Also, white is an indispensable color in the Tibetan Buddhism as white prayer flags and white pagoda are seen everywhere in Tibet. And the Kagyu Sect, one of the five major sects of Tibetan Buddhism, is customarily called White Sect. The Avalokitesvara, deeply respected and adored by Tibetans, is dressed in white, contrary to black, symbol of evil and disaster.

Potala Palace and the White Pagoda in downtown Lhasa

The Tibetan people bring the symbolic meanings of white to not only the transcendent world but also their daily life. The houses they live are mostly decorated with white auspicious patterns, and the khatags (or Hada in Chinese) they present to each other are usually white, delivering best wishes…

Tibetan Khatag

Among the Tibetan etiquettes, presenting khatag is a most important traditional practice.

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