Auspicious Plant: Tibetan Barley

Culture

Among the animals and plants that can bring auspiciousness to humans, some can bring indispensable physical materi...

Among the animals and plants that can bring auspiciousness to humans, some can bring indispensable physical materials to human clothing, eating, accommodation, and transportation, such as Tibetan barley, wheat, beans, and other crops. Some can bring humans comfort with some kind of visual value, such flowers, honeysuckle, plum blossoms, and other kinds of ornamentation. Some plants, such as kinds of herbs, can even help humans drive away diseases and other problems; some legendary creatures’ patterns, such as the dragon, phoenix, Chinese unicorn, can even bring spiritual vitality to humans.

Since these animals and plants can bring humans auspiciousness and happiness from different aspects, they have been granted beautiful, symbolic meanings and have become mascots, and they vary the most in patterns and are the most popular, for they nearly cover the entire auspicious patterns.

Plants for eating

Tibetan barley: Tibetan barley is the specialty of the Tibetan areas, and the staple food of Tibetans. Therefore, it is irreplaceable. Tibetan barley has the characteristic to endure the cold, is the most widely grown plant in the mountainous areas of the plateau, and nearly becomes the only crop on the plateau. Tibetan barley contains a lot of nutrition, and is rich in protein. As the main Tibetan crop, it serves as the indispensable staple food, and enjoys a unique cultural value in Tibetan culture. During the ancient Tubo period, the Tibetan agricultural productivity had already achieved great progress. Since Tibetan barley can endure the dry and cold climate changes in addition to having other advantages, the Tibetans—who live on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau where it is cold and dry and the crop growth period is short—have accepted the plant.

The diets of humans are on the same level as the natural environment and human physiology, and they are interconnected and cannot be separated. Diet habits vary largely from region to region and from ethnic group to ethnic group. Since they live in different regions, belong to different ethnic groups, and have different forms of work and living, their diet systems and categories are also different from one another. Zanba, a kind of food which is stir-fried and ground into power, Tibetan butter, and tea are altogether complimented as the three treasures of Tibetan food. According to the ancient Tibetan documents, the Tibetans’ staple food Tibetan barley has an ear “with a hexagon”. The crop originated from the southeastern and eastern areas of Tibet and can grow in areas which are 4,500 meters above sea. This shows the important relations between the barely and the living of Tibetans, and also Tibetans’ respect of the barley.

The Tibetan folk song “Caijian Is an Auspicious Omen” (A Caijian is a Tibetan style color banner consisting of an head, a pole, colorful khatas, gold, silver, other jewelries, holy items and so on) has lyrics like this: Caijian is an auspicious omen, and plant Caijians to worship the warrior gods; wool is an auspicious omen, and hold the banners of war to worship the mountain gods; Tibetan barley is an auspicious omen, and throw grains as a sacrifice to the gods of Heaven.

Source: Kham Tibetan Folk Culture



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