Namtso Culture and History

The “Namtso” is a Tibetan language, meaning of the “Heavenly Lake”. Namtso is one of the three Holy Lakes in Tibet. Namtso is the first sacred lake of Bonismo of ancient Zhang-Zhung Buddha Dharma, and is one of the famous Buddhist holy places.

The Holy Land of Religion

Namtso, the Mongolian language refers to “Tengri Nore(腾格里诺尔)”(or “Tengri Sea”); The Tibetan language is known as “Namtso Pumo(纳木措普摩)”, which means rich heavenly lake(or Heavenly Lake, Soul Lake or Sacred Lake), and the two names have the meaning of “Heavenly Lake”.

History records, the lake makes people feel like the blue sky dropping to the ground, so called “Heavenly Lake”. And lakeside herdsmen said that because the lake elevation is very high as in the sky, so called “Heavenly Lake”. In Tibetan language, “cuo” means “lake”. The local Tibetan people call it “Tengri Sea”, which means “Heavenly Lake”.

It is recorded in the Classic of Yongzhong Benism, “there are 72 holy places at Namtso.” Later Namtso became one of the most famous Buddhist shrines. The Tashi Temple, on the Tashi Dor Island stretching into the heart of the lake, is popular among Buddhists. When the year of the Sheep in Tibetan Calendar, hundreds of believers come to pilgrimage there. In summer, many lamas come to pilgrimages to predict the future with the spiritual view of the lake.

The legend of the believers, when the year of the sheep in Tibetan calendar, the Buddha, the Bodhisattva and the Dharma Protectors assembly is set at Namtso Lake. At this time, coming to pilgrimage and doing Lake Kora once is superior to 10000 lake kora at ordinary time. When the year of the sheep in Tibetan calendar, monks and believers take a long journey to do Namtso Lake Kora. The activity reaches a climax on 15 April every year. Marni stones are all over the lakeside. If there are believers passing through, they will always leave a stone there. The Tibetan people’s holy lake, every year, attracts the local Tibetans and those believers from Qinghai, Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan to complete the arduous journey, to do the lake kora and make a pilgrimage to seek the transcendence of the soul. The highest lake in the world, far from the pollution of modern civilization, remains the natural primitive ecology and is the sacred place of the Pilgrims.

Myths and Legends

1. Legend of Nyenchen Tanglha念青唐古拉传说

It is said that Namtso is the daughter of the Sakra-devanam-mdra and the wife of Nyainqentanglha. Nyainqentanglha is the most authoritative among northern gods, he has vast northern territory and rich treasure. In ancient Tibetan mythology, in the Pantheon of Bon or Tibetan Buddhism, in the folk songs and legends of local shepherds and hunters, Nyainqentanglha and Namtso are not only the most eye-catching holy mountain and sacred lake, but also the lover and couple. Nyainqentanglha is more handsome than ever against the backdrop of Namtso, and Namtso is more beautiful and moving because of the reflection of Nyainqentanglha.

2. The Legend of Baoji Mountain保吉山传说

There is a mountain called Baoji Mountain on the 30 kilometers north bank of Namtso, which is far from Nyainqentanglha Mountain. The majestic Baoji Mountain often whispered, and then fell in love with Nyainqentanglha’s beloved wife, Namtso. They gave birth to a son, Mount Tanglazhajie(唐拉札杰). Baoji Mountain and Namtso, in order not to let Nyainqentanglha Mountain find Tanglazhajie, hid it in the dam about 6 kilometers west of Baoji Mountain. The strange thing is that Nyainqentanglha can be seen from any angle in the north area of Namtso Lake, but can not be seen when standing on Tanglazhajie Mountain. Although Mount Tanglazhajie was not found by Nyainqentanglha, unfortunate thing happened. Once a secret meeting between Baoji Mountain and Namtso was found by Nyainqentanglha, Baoji Mountain was about to escape north. Nyainqentanglha cut off its legs, and Baoji Mountain could never stand again.

Traditional Festival

Shoton Festival雪顿节

Shoton(Xuedun), one of the most important festivals for Tibetan people, is held on July 1 in Tibetan Calendar, lasting 4-5 days. Xuedun is transliteration of Tibetan language, meaning “Yogurt Banquet”, so the Shoton Festival is interpreted as a festival to drink yoghurt. Later, it gradually evolved into mainly Tibetan opera, also known as Tibetan opera festival. According to the regulations of the Tibetan Buddhism Gelug Sect, every year during the forbidden period from June 15 to July 30 in Tibetan Calendar, the Lama of every temple is not allowed to go out, only after the release of the ban on July 30, lamas are allowed to go down the mountain. As the lama go down the hill, the farmers and herdsmen will take out the yogurt and offer them respectfully, hence the Shoton Festival.