- Time of issue:2019-07-10 00:00:00
Bala Gezong——Home of Souls
This is a wondrous and magnificent land covering an area of 176 km2. It features majestic snow-capped mountains rising steep and high into the sky; luxuriant forests which will become crimsoned in autumn and lush evergreen aquatic grass; gurgling streams which are so clear that you can see fish frolicking around at the bottom; light green meadows full of life where a herd of cattle and sheep graze on sweet grass. In a word, featuring a collection of natural landscapes including snow-capped mountains, glaciers, canyons, forests, meadows, lakes and pure air, Bala Gezong represents all sublime pursuits of human including beauty, clearness, peace, leisure, contentment, tranquility and harmony. It is a secluded fairyland, where there is no hatred or war, a pure land of generosity, tranquility and peace, as well as a magical and happy land with unparalleled original natural beauty. Life here is clean and simple and far from the hustle and bustle of urban life.
When you are in Bala Gezong, you can feel a strong ambience of Tibetan Buddhism. Over thousands of years, religion has been deeply rooted in the mind of Tibetan people.
Time Traveling——Millennia-old Legend of Kangba Tribe, Bala Village
The sky of Batang, Kham (a historical region of strategic importance in Tibet), was shrouded with black smoke. It looked grim, tired and sad amidst the battles among tribes. The power of Buddhism is far too frail to mitigate the feud and killing that lasted for many generations among tribes and clans with its mercy. When chieftains around this region were vying for the crown, the name Sina Duoji gradually became a well-known name people often talked about and Sina Duoji gradually became a prestigious hegemon among myriads of tribes. Endless battles and countless victories silently killed his humanity, and although endless battles had won extensive respect for himself, they also brought endless turmoil and sufferings to his tribe. His wife Rencheng Lamu also felt exhausted and only wanted to lead a peaceful life in a pure land.
A miraculous experience has completely changed Sina Duoji and made Bala Gezong a renowned sanctuary.
On a rainy and snowy day, Rencheng Lamu was encountered with an old lama Wangdui, who lost his eyes during the war but still kept his heart pure and kind. Tired of the war, they both longed to find a fairyland on earth, where they could lead a carefree life, laughing happily and screaming freely. Soon they found each other like an old friend and held a long talk, in which Wangdui told Lamu about his dream about his encounter with Buddha, “At that place, there were high mountains, green trees and a clear river, and Buddha was taking a rest under a millennial-old bodhi tree. Far away, there was the Shambhala Stupa, snow-capped mountains shining propitious light and expansive pastures Legend has it that, three daughters of the god of Kawagarbo was on their way to marry ‘Gongga Bengsong’(the third son of the god of Mount Gongga) and when set foot in a region where nobody has ever been to together with their servants, it was already bright day; because they felt shy to show their face in daytime, they chose to stay and turned into three main summits of the Gezong Snow Mountain and surrounding areas. ‘Gezong Bensong’, the incarnation of beauty and happiness, brought limitless vitality to the earth and especially the holy Gezong Mountain. Girls born nearby the mountain all look pretty and they are good singers and dancers; elder people live a long life; lovers have a happy ending.”
The last few words “lovers have a happy ending” completely carried Lamu away. She decided to put everything aside but find “Gezong Bensong.”
embarked on their long journey to seek the fairyland.
Sina Duoji once again returned triumphantly, but he did not see his lover. The sudden blow made Douji completely upset. The exhaustion and helplessness stemming from years of expeditions converged and rushed to mind, and not until this moment did he realize that the meaning of everything was Lamu. His jubilance suddenly vanished. After countless sleepless nights, Sina Duoji finally saw his beloved girl in his dream.
In his dream, Lamu smiled brilliantly and played freely in the mountains. The mountains there were tall, the trees were green and the water was clear. There was also an millennial-old bodhi tree, the Shambhala Stupa, the snow-capped mountains shining propitious light, as well as an expansive pasture, where yaks and sheep were running delightedly.
The pure and bright smile in his dream appeased the sorrow and exhaustion in his heart. Finally, in the middle of a night, after gathering all the family members and people who would like to follow him and preparing adequate food and horses, Sina Duoji embarked on a long journey to seek the fairyland on earth, the beautiful dreamy sanctuary in his heart. They walked all over Kham and undergone myriads of hardships until food was exhausted, and people around him died incessantly. Sina Duoji looked at his tired family and people and couldn't hold back his tears. After some days, he was also unable to carry on. When he lost his consciousness, he saw the bodhi Tree.
After some hours, they woke up from tired sleep. When they opened their eyes, they saw a miracle: azure sky, colorful flowers and a heavenly sanctuary facing across the canyon against holy mountains. They soon became overwhelmed by the spectacle in front of their eyes. At this moment, with a smile on his face, Sina Duoji firmly believed that this was the paradise on earth that Lamu had been guiding him to find.
After weathering through untold difficulties and hardships, Wangdui and Rencheng Lamu reached this holy land. The old lama followed the dream in his heart and came to one side of this holy mountain surrounded by other mountains and shrouded in clouds and mist, where people could have a broad horizon. Not far away stood a holy stupa, where the old lama began to practice Buddhism piously.
Lamu came to a canyon where the sky seemed like a single line seen from below, and all the pain seemed to break away from the bottom of her heart. The "Gezong Bengsong" in her heart really materialized, so she settled down, waiting for her husband Sina Duoji to come.
One year later, when Sina Duoji was hunting in the mountain hill, he suddenly saw a golden light slowly extending from the canyon to the sky. He followed this light to the canyon, and saw a familiar person who stood. It was his beloved wife Rencheng Lamu! He shouted and shouted—Rencheng Lamu, Rencheng Lamu! Lamu turned back, her eyes misty with tears. The two ran to each other and embraced tightly together…
Lamu told Sina Duojii that the light signified that the old lama became immortal and went to heaven. Hand in hand, they walked quietly and unconsciously to the vicinity of the holy stupa, finding a rocky mountain shaped like a lama next to the stupa as well as a mountain like a Buddhist scripture behind it. The whole scenario is like: a dedicated lama is chanting sutra and praying devoutly under the blessing of the holy stupa...
After returning to the village, Sina Duoji decided to move to the place where he saw the propitious light (Bala Village), and the existing village would serve as their pasture (Naidang pasture). Everyone agreed to his decision.
Thus, a heroic tribe disappeared and replaced by a mysterious village which led a peaceful life for thousands of years.
Before the 1980s, the only link between Bala Village and the outside world was Zhagu Canyon which was connected to Dongwang Township in the north. Generations after generations came back and forth in this canyon where the sky seemed like a single line seen from below, interpreting the myth of Bala Gezong. In 1979, a post road was built in the south of the village, which brought more convenience to the villagers. In the 21st century, Sina Dingzhu, a posterior of the hero Sina Duoji, gave up his superior life and contributed tens of millions of assets to reviving his own hometown. In the forgotten village, a highway was built and wires were set up for tourism development. Since then, the secluded ancient villages have been opened up to the outside world.
A Guide for Souls——Millennial-old Bodhi Tree in Bala Gezong
More than 2,500 years ago, Sakyamuni practiced meditation for 49 days under the bodhi Tree in the south of Gaya, a city of an ancient Indian kingdom Magadha, during when he overcame all kinds of evil temptations and observed from naturalness the dependent origination and emptiness of nature of various laws. After that, he acquired three vidyas and four noble truths as well as attain unsurpassed perfect enlightenment. Finally, when the day was dawning and Venus was rising, he was fully enlightened and became Buddha.
Buddha said: "You should worship the bodhi Tree. Worshipping it is equal to worshipping Tathāgata because it helped me achieve Buddhahood." His foreign disciple Shi Benxing said, "In the Buddha's Gate, the bodhi Tree is highly worshipped, because Buddha achieved buddhahood under it. Seeing the bodhi Tree is seeing Buddha himself. Therefore, worshipping the bodhi tree has become a popular practice passed down to today."
Drenched in an atmosphere evoking ancient times and the vicissitudes in between, the bodhi tree in Bala Gezong has watched the passing of seasons and the blossoming and withering of flowers for more than 4,000 years. Legend has it that, during one journey of Buddha Sakyamuni to preach his sermons, he was followed by exotic flowers until he took a rest under this bodhi tree, where he illuminated bright light. Feeling the deep love from Buddha, it leaned against a rock and watched him leave until far away and gradually became integrated with it. A guru once said, "Sit to see the bodhi tree, where a spirit bird is learning Sanskrit at its branch." Things made of the bodhi tree in Bala Gezong are rare, not to mention malas. As malas have certain supernatural power, they are highly regarded and cherished by people. Any Buddhist disciples who learn well can feel their power and ordinary disciples who wear them can feel their effect of calm them down especially when they are upset. They are rare and only people who are meant to possess them can get them!
According to Sutra of Golden Light, the bodhi tree has a protector named called Bodhi Tree God. Tibetan Buddhism believes that the bodhi tree epitomizes all kinds of virtues. It has the ability to make people realize their aspirations and relieve their guilt, and protect all beings forever and after. Worshipping the bodhi tree will delight the gods who live on the tree so that they will make the wishes of all beings come true; make people overcome predicaments and realize their inner wishes.
Do Good Deeds and Accumulate Blessings——Bage Lazong Stupa and Mani Stones
The stupa can serve as a symbolic treasure for Tibetan believers to worship as well as something sacred with the deterrent power to suppress all evil or alien power for them to pray for help from. The chorten, a kind of Tibetan stupa with the local style of the snow-capped plateau, has gradually become well-developed after a long period of time.
The stupa and Tibetan chorten possess a profound symbolic meaning. XIandu Ga'erba said: 'The lotus on the stupa symbolizes six recollections of Buddha (buddhānusmṛti); the base symbolizes the place of the ten good deeds (dasa kusala karma); the stair symbolize the four recollections of Buddha (buddhānusmṛti); the collections symbolize supernatural power; the bottle-shaped body symbolizes the bodhicitta (enlightened mind); the spiral ascending path (flower vines) symbolizes saints and Bōdhipakkhiya Dhamma (37 factors of Enlightenment ); the dharmachakra (dharma wheel) on the untainted lotus symbolizes the ten powers of Buddha and three types of fasting upavāsa); the Guan Yin Mantra symbolizes the great compassion and the integration of 16 types of Śūnyatā (emptiness); the conical top and rainproof eaves symbolize loving kindness and wisdom; dripping eaves symbolizes the prosperity of an undertaking; the sun and the moon symbolize the two prophets'" (Metrics for Tibetan Buddhist Iconography). According to Tibetan Buddhism in Snowy Regions, stupas scattered in countries believing in Buddhism are also mausoleums with a special Buddhist meaning. The square base of the lowermost layer of the stupa represents a solid foundation; it is topped by a "water ball", a "fire triangle", a supporting platform for vital forces and finally fluctuating spirit or vital forces to be separated from the material world at the uppermost layer; and the above structures representing four elements (soil, water, fire and vital forces) can be reached through the stupa support consisting of a pile of three cuboid structures named "Stairs of Happy Learning". The idea of "four realms" in Buddhism—soil, fire, water and emptiness—is thus basically integrated into the stupa so that these four attributes can be expressed as tangible substances and visually observed. The remains of eminent monks and tulku (which literally means living Buddha) have been preserved in this stupa, which not only reflects the Buddhist thoughts of the return of bodies into "four realms", but also symbolizes the cycle of life from birth, living to death with the soul leaving the body, and then back to birth.
Mani stones can be seen in the valleys, intersections, lakesides and riversides of various areas of Bala Gezong. It is known as the "holy heaps" and called "Duobang" in Tibetan language, meaning stone heaps. "Duobang" is sub-divided into two types: one type is used to dispel bad fortunes and alleviate disasters and the other type is used to suppress devils.
On the "Mani Stones", there are slates or rocks engraved with Mani scriptures such as the "six-syllabled Sanskrit mantra" and the Bon religion's "six syllabled mantra", as well as some feather arrows and horns or entire skulls (with horns) of sheep, antelopes and yaks. In the Tibetan region, square or conical "Mani Stones" piled up by rocks of different sizes will have sticks or twigs inserted into them and tied to trees or cliffs with ropes. The ropes and twigs are hung all over with colorful prayer flags and auspicious ornaments such as Khata, colored cords and white wool.
On every auspicious day, people will worship gods with burning god and at the same time add pebbles to the Mani Stones. They throw pebbles or rocks into the pile before touching them with their foreheads and silently chanting sutra. Over a long time, there has emerged a large collection of Mani Stones, which become higher and higher with the passing of time. Every pebble/rock embodies the true inner wishes of believers.
The emergence of the Mani Stones has provided these natural stones with figurative meanings. In the long history of the Tibetans, there have been a vast collection of Mani Stone carvings, which can be seen everywhere. They are the pursuit, ideal, emotions and hopes of the Tibetans carved on the stone.
The Summit of Shangri-La——Gezong Mountain
The Gezong Mountain is the mountain of holy gods in Shangri-La honored as the "Summit of Shangri-La". Also known as one of the three holy mountains in Khampas, it is impressive both for your eyes and souls. Shaped like a pictograph in Chinese "山" meaning mountain, it rises straight into the sky and will shine brightly when there is sunlight. Because its shape is singular and magnificent, and its tip resembles a needle piercing straight into the sky, it is said by an old man that the Gezong Snow Mountain is also known as "Gezong Bensong", which means three sisters of Gezong. They are three daughters of the god of Kawagarbo betrothed to ‘Gongga Bengsong’(the third son of the god of Mount Gongga). In a year of goat according to the Tibetan calender, when they came to Bala Village with their servants, it was already bright day; because they felt shy to show their face in daytime, they chose to stay and turned into three main summits of the Gezong Snow Mountain and surrounding areas. The summit is covered with snow and ice, and legend has it that Guru Rinpoche once stepped on it. "It is a holy place for all beings to worship god for blessings." The summit of the Gezong Mountain is often shrouded with white clouds, which makes it more enigmatic. Locals think it would be a blessing to see the summit. Between people's heartbeat and breathing, it shows strong vitality and exerts a great appeal; which makes the souls of people impressed, overwhelmed, and inspired in silence. The summit of Gezong Mountain is often surrounded by white clouds, and locals think that it would be a blessing to see the summit. Surrounded by numerous other eccentric summits, this towering and holy mountain features imposing and majestic as well as placid and austere places. Moreover, there scatter grotesque rocks, canyons, shrubs and cypresses, as well as clean springs and creeks.
Since this place is regarded as a holy place by Buddhists, many believers pay pilgrimage to it every year. They reach here after taking a long journey with myriads of hardships and difficulties. Only when they kow-tow and pray many times on the way up the mountain and finally pay their worship to holy gods on the summit do their complete their pilgrimages and realize their wishes.
A Majestic and Singular Canyon Leading to Heaven
The Bala Gezong Grand Canyon is a stunning work of nature. The largest altitude difference—from the main summit with an altitude of 5,545 m to the valley with an altitude of 2,000 m—is 3,545 m. Its greatest characteristic is "there is a canyon within or above another canyon and different canyons crisscross and connect with each other." The cliffs on both sides of these canyons are mostly 1000-2000 m, where the patterns of grotesque rocks and geological folds constitute a giant picture. In the luxuriant original forest, all kinds of exotic flowers and herbs as well as grotesque trees and vines complement each other; rows upon rows of cactus and palms alternate with endless rhododendrons groves and vast expanses of vegetation; a clean and beautiful river meanders forward, and now and then a gigantic wave rises high above water; a swath of the blue sky narrow like a line is wedged between the cliffs on both sides of the canyon, and there are also waterfalls pouring down from the cliffs and the echoing wall... everything seems made by magic and looks remarkable. The amazing canyon leave a host of mysteries to people: Is this the sculpture of the orogeny of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, or the ancient dynasty of the Cenozoic 80 million years ago, or pelagic organisms of subtropical plants in the Quaternary Period?
The Balaguezong Grand Canyon is a mythical place you must pay pilgrimage to when you travel in Bala Gezong. On both sides of the main trunk Shangri-La Grande Canyon, there are many branches, such as the Dalarong Canyon, the Bala Canyon, and the Nanka Zhuorong Canyon.
Only when we walked deep into the canyon could we feel the inner shock and visual impact brought by the Grand Canyon. This was a U-shaped canyon, and when we walked on the see-through path between the gurgling Gangqu River below and a steep cliff above rising straight up into the blue sky decorated with white clouds, everything seemed to be dangerous, singular and placid but also thrilling. Between the large chunks of rocks on the cliff wall, small squat shrubs and clusters of delicate and bright-colored wildflowers struggled for their life. Even black rocks were mottled with an assortment of mosses. Accompanied by such picturesque views, we walked to the end of the long path out of our awareness. Asang said further ahead was still the domain of Shangri-La Grand Canyon, but the road would be tough. Therefore, we walked on the beach towards the water, put on a life jacket and sat in a rubber boat. Sometimes rapidly and sometimes steadily, we drifted down the Gangqu River. A see-through walkway hanging over the cliff was the way we enter the canyon. This was a U-shaped canyon, and when we walked on the see-through path between the gurgling Gangqu River below and a steep cliff above rising straight up into the blue sky decorated with white clouds, we felt dangerous with our heart pulsing vigorously, but we also felt extremely cheerful. Deeper into the canyon was “Nanke Zhuorong”, a branch of the Grand Canyon of Shangri-La, where the views were even more gorgeous. The canyon was so deep and narrow that, when we looked up from below, only a swath of the blue sky narrow like a line was seen between the cliffs on both sides. It is about 4 km from the bottom to the top, and at present, only a section of less than 1 km is open to tourists. However, it is enough for us to appreciate the ambience of the heaven. There is an echoing wall in the canyon, and if you scream loudly at it, your scream will first travel far away and then bounce back.
Tribe’s Homeland——Naidang Pasture and Plateau Lake
This is the original homeland of Sina Duoji’s tribe, and it features rolling mountains and expansive forests; meadows upon meadows thronged with yaks and sheep; babbling rivers and rare birds and beasts; verdant valleys and snow-capped summits. The pasture is scattered with meadows upon meadows where there are large herds of yaks and sheep, surrounded by snow-capped mountains with luxuriant forests, and blessed with abundant precipitation. In the Naidang Pasture, not only can one enjoy the pastoral landscape of the Tibetan grassland, but also feel the mysterious culture of the Tibetans in Shangri-La County, Diqing Prefecture.
The spring here is sometimes snowy with biting wind, and sometimes verdant with bright sunlight. This singular phenomenon caused by vertical temperature changes is always so thrilling as to make your heart throb!
Every time when summer comes, the picturesque Naidang pasture seems like a green ocean, where all kinds of flowers vie with each other, white clouds floats in the endless blue sky, and the shepherd rides among a slow parade of yaks and sheep. Such beautiful views make tourists become one with nature and feel very refreshed and cheerful.
After about an hour's walk (including rest), we found an original forest in front of our eyes, where there were various kinds of trees in eccentric shapes, including towering spruces, tall and straight pines, and low and squat bushes. Amidst the chirping of birds, this luxuriant forest shunned sunlight, so that we only felt cool and refreshed. On the slope there is a natural rhododendron grove, and every mid-May, a carpet of rhododendrons will cover the slope down to the valley. If you take a stroll in the grove, you can see high snow-capped summits, flowers in full blossom, gurgling springs and carefree life in Tibetan villages, all of which are so breathtakingly beautiful. While the summits in the distance are still covered with snow, rhododendrons are already in full blossom.
vie with each other like sunset clouds—this is a spectacle that makes you ecstatic!
Naidang Pasture is a paradise of birdsongs and flowers. Since its original forest landscape is well-preserved: there is an extensive range of plant species such as the Tibetan cypress, the Himalayan fir, the living fossil "tree fern" and more than 100 kinds of rhododendrons, the pasture is long reputed as the "natural museum of natural history" and "natural green gene pool." When we stood here and marveled at its magnificence and mystery, we couldn't help but exclaim in our minds, "This is the most precious original canyon landscape and forest in china."
Around the Gezong Mountain, there are 18 plateau lakes such as Luozucuo (a lake that herds of sheep often take a bath), Zanwangka (Tuguo Lake) and Cirencuo (Changming Lake). That beautiful lake was placidly situated like a sapphire-made mirror under the blue sky and against snow-capped mountains. It looked so transparently blue and crystal clear and ripples whenever there is wind. When we closed our eyes, this lake and we seemed to be the only things left in the world. Shadow chased light with the wind, and occasionally when sunlight dappled our faces, we couldn’t help but squint our eyes, raise our heads and feel every movement of the sun—it was such a blessing that we felt as if we had been bestowed with a gift from the heaven.
The sky is so pure and blue, the summit in the distance is so crystal white, the lake is so placid and elegant, green grass stirs in the air... All makes you think you are in a fairyland and you can't help but hold your breath for fear of disturbing any quietness here. In the face of nature, people become foreign visitors. Those who are used to speaking loudly may find themselves inhibited. You may even want to find a place to sit down quietly, doing nothing and thinking about nothing as if you were a rock or tree in meditation. Such a state is the most compatible with this enticing beautiful landscape.
When we sat on the rock by the lakeside as the waves incessantly lapped the bank, we could see the bright and clear reflection of surroundings in the lake. How can you easily bid farewell to such beautiful landscape and such a good place? Perhaps the best choice is to saunter along the lake with the a Tibetan local and enjoy its beauty as much as possible, or bring a tent and a sleeping bag with you and find a place by the lakeside to set up a camp, where you can listen to the whisper of wind and gaze at the stars in company with the moon. Only by doing so can you feel no regrets. If you are fortunate enough to have a green wedding in this grassy fairyland, where you sit on a carriage and see people dance to fairy music on bare feet, it should be the ultimate bliss in the world!
Her color of blue is so pure and crystal that it seems it doesn't belong to the mortal world. It ranges from pure and transparent lake blue, soft-looking indigo and soul-cleansing ocean blue to calming dark blue. Her beauty overshadows any high praise that one can think of.
We sauntered along the lake and found the views were really gorgeous. Walking on the gravel and residual snow, we kept making crunchy sounds. In the lake, the melted part surrounded the iced part like a blue ribbon; above it, there were waterfowls flying and all made a crisp cry, a sound rarely heard in the city. This sound gave us the most direct spiritual experience and made us feel the truest expression of emotions. Just like the natural landscape we have seen, any emotion, whether it is happiness or sadness and whether it is a peaceful or strong feeling, can reveal its charm naturally without any more description in this place. Pain is as beautiful as happiness.
A Place of Buddhism—Shambhala Stupa
After the old lama became immortal and went to heaven, he turned into a rocky mountain. Under the blessing of the holy stupa, another mountain like a Buddhist scripture appeared behind it. The whole scenario is like: a dedicated lama is reading a Buddhist scripture and praying devoutly...
At one sunny day's dusk, we stood at the foot of the stupa, where we saw the stupa's silhouette in front of us against sunlight. Behind the ridge, radiant beams of light shone into the blue sky, illuminating a group of white clouds nestling against the tip of the mountain. The mountain breeze came slowly and steadily, bringing forth refreshing coolness while taking impatience off our hearts and melancholy feelings off our eyes. Unconsciously, heaven, earth, people, and gods became ethereal. Unconsciously, the stupa cleansed from heads to toes, from skins to hearts and from bodies to spirits.
The beauty of the tower is beyond description. She is so exceptional and ingenuous that every tourist covets her. She boasts both plateau magnificence and boudoir elegance. Under the blue sky, white snow-capped mountains overlook gentle and elegant blue lakes, and tall and straight firs alternate with soft meadows, exerting both strong visual and sensual impacts on people.
When we arrived at the site of the stupa, the sky was cloudless and crystal clear like sapphire. Like a fan made of immaculate jade, which was giant, delicate and crystal clear, it came closer and closer to us against sunlight.
One of my companions said, "The stupa is so awesome that, when you see it, your eyes will be filled with tears, and then you want to cry, want to swear, want to scream and want to fall in love."
The stupa is a place that you must pay a personal visit to experience it.
From sunrise till sunset, it remains there and bears the hope of thousands of years.
The breeze was like water, making the night cool down, our dreams as if they were true, and our mind filled with thoughts all night. In the early morning, our thoughts were still unwilling to leave the sweet dreams, sauntering and idling around.
The sky was as blue as the ocean and as graceful as the luster of jade. It hung over your head like a giant hat and lay so low that it seemed almost reachable; the cloud was as clean and white as cotton and as ethereal as gauze, so just a puff from one's mouth could take it to the summit.
The air became transparent, and beams of sunshine were just like groups of children, sifting through the cedar forest and then frolicking around. They at times swayed around my eyes and at times touched my skin. Whatever place they passed by was livened up and dappled with sunlight.
And it came from the purely holy stupa that I would worship and pray for forever—the paradise in my heart...
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