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China: Batang sky burial

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Batang sky burial | China | Asia

[Visited: April 2007]

Sunlight entered the room, and when I looked out of the window, the surrounding mountains were covered by a fresh layer of snow. Quickly, we were on our way to Batang. I marvelled at the fantastic landscape, the white mountains, frozen lakes, and when we arrived at the Batang plain, I just stepped out and stood still, absorbing the majestic view. It was a short ride up to the actual sky burial site of Batang, the destination of the day. An old woman walked her kora, and I immediately saw the spot where burials take place.

Picture of Batang sky burial (China): View from Batang sky burial site

For centuries already, Tibetans have disposed of their dead by chopping them up and feeding them to vultures. Apparently, lack of firewood makes burials impossible - since Tibetans strongly believe in reincarnation, the body is first left to rest for a few days after death, during which a priest will pronounce prayers to enable the spirit of the body to leave it. Once these days are over, the body is nothing more than the previous container of the spirit, and specialized body-breakers (called rogyapas) chop up in small pieces and prepare the body, mix them with tsampa (roasted barley flour also used for food); this mixture is then left on the burial site or dürtro.

Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Batang sky burial site: small birds nibbling remains

On a circular stone, and around, it was easy to still recognize human bones and a jaw with teeth, on which small dogs and birds were still feeding. I walked around the place, and was touched by the beauty and serenity of it. I walked up the hill, to where the prayer flags ended, which allowed me a stupendous view over the plains and the mountains towering above it. The strength of the sun caused the snow to evaporate, and in the vapour I saw yet another woman going around her kora, with a prayer wheel in her hand. I stayed here for a while, absorbing the tranquillity, the appropriateness of the place for the dead, the sun burning on me, the gold glistening in the high altitude rays of sunlight. A marvellous place!

Picture of Batang sky burial (China): View from the burial site at Batang sky burial
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Crow on roof of a buildling at the Batang sky burial site
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Dog at Batang sky burial site looking for something to eat
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): View from the top of the prayer flags above Batang sky burial
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Snowcapped mountains and prayer flags at Batang sky burial
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Colourful prayer flags and snow covered mountains at Batang sky burial site
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): White mountains and hill with prayer flags seen from Batang sky burial site
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Batang sky burial site seen from below
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Prayer flags on snow and under a deep blue sky at Batang sky burial
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Building at Batang sky burial site
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Prayer flags and stupas at Batang sky burial site
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Close-up of one of the prayer stones at Batang sky burial
Picture of Batang sky burial (China): Stupa and hill seen from below at Batang sky burial site

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