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Myth / Tibetan Mythology

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Tibet's origin myth

Tibetan mythology comprises the traditional and religious stories of Tibet, both pre-Buddhist and Buddhist. While the country may be part of China now, it still maintains it's own distinct culture and mythology from that of China, and elements from Tibetan mythology have managed to break through and become mainstream to the West. For more interesting info on the folklore and mythologies of the other East Asian cultures, see the pages on the Chinese, Koreans, Mongols and Japanese, and for the folklore and mythology of the other countries in the Himalayas, see Hindu Mythology.


Tibetan mythology provides examples of:

  • Bigfoot, Sasquatch and Yeti: The Yeti is the Trope Codifier and one of the Trope Namers. The name "Yeti" is derived from the Tibetan words for "rocky", "rocky place" and "bear", the Lepcha people worshiped a "Glacier Being" as a God of the Hunt, and it was once believed by followers of the Bön religion that Yeti blood had use in certain mystical ceremonies, with the being itself being depicted as an apelike creature who carries a large stone as a weapon and makes a whistling swoosh sound.
  • Cool Horse: The Wind Horse, which acts as the pivotal element in the center of the four animals symbolizing the cardinal directions and a symbol of the idea of well-being or good fortune, and is also a symbol of the human soul in shamanism.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa, the mythical monkey-ancestor of the Tibetan people and one of the most important figures in Tibetan culture.
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  • Mineral MacGuffin: Cintamani, a wish-fulfilling jewel that is said to be one of four relics that came in a chest that fell from the sky during the reign of king Lha Thothori Nyantsen.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: Hungry ghosts, who have tiny throats too thin to pass food and huge stomachs with a never-ending appetite to match, tulpas, which are created through mental effort, purely from the thoughts of its creator or creators, and are not self-aware at first but may gradually acquire awareness and go on to become a normal human being, and gyalpo spirits, a class of spirits who have either white (peaceful) or red (wrathful) forms, with nervousness and confusion provoking them. It is believed that one can be protected against gyalpo spirits by means of appropriate rituals.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The ro-langs, whose name literally means "a risen corpse", and who come in two varieties: the Voodoo Zombie tantric type, which are raised from the dead through a ritual for personal reasons, such as to serve a necromancer, and the Plague Zombie demonic type, which are created by either a gdon spirit that has broken its oath and become evil or a bgegs spirit which are already evil, who enter the body before burial and have the power to infect other humans by touching them on the head. They signal to their victims by wagging their tongue back and forth, and cannot speak, bend over or bend any joints, making them walk with a stiff-armed lurch.
  • Panthera Awesome: The Snow Lion, which represents the snowy mountain ranges and glaciers of Tibet and may also symbolize power, strength, fearlessness, joy, east and the earth element, is referred to as the "king of beasts", is the emblem of Tibet and is one of the Four Dignities along with the tiger, dragon and Garuda.
  • The Shangri-La: The mythical kingdom of Shambala is the Ur-Example. It is said to have been built by 20,000 followers of Surya Samadhi (solar worship) who were expelled from Tibet by king Manjuśrīkīrti in 159 BC when they refused to follow Kalachakra Buddhism, and it is prophesied that when the world declines into war and greed, and all is lost, the 25th Kalki king will emerge from Shambhala with a huge army to vanquish Dark Forces and usher in a worldwide Golden Age, with the date of this final battle being prophesied for the year 2424 or 2425 (in the 5,104th year after the death of Buddha).

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