In many places in Tibet-at holy mountains and sacred lakes, on grasslands and at ferries-you come across mani piles, cairns of stones inscribed with a Buddhist mantra or Buddha image, carved with utmost reverence by stone masons. Believers add a stone to the mani pile whenever they pass by, and this is deemed the equivalent of reading a whole set of sutras. As the days add up, the stones accumulate, and the mani pile grows, sometimes forming a pile one kilometer long.
On top of mani piles in Tibet you often come across yak skull, with mighty horns pointing into the blue sky, giving off an aura of mystery-almost a symbol of eternity.
The yak is native to the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau; it is a big and shaggy animal capable of withstanding harsh weather and carrying heavy loads. It is very strong and has a pair of thick, curved horns. Known as the “Boat of the Plateau,” the yak is a major means of transport as well as a source of meat.
The yak is to the plateau what the camel is to the desert. Yaks are hardy beasts of burden, capable of long mountain journeys in the worst conditions. In pastoral areas, caravans of dozens of yaks are often seen transporting goods and herdsmen’s belongings. Every part of the yak is essential and precious to the Tibetan herdsmen; its hair can be woven into tents and ropes, and its dried dung serves as fuel.
In the unlimited wildness of northern Tibet, all is grassland. Despite the unpropitious natural environment and harsh climate, wild yaks determinedly cling to life here. Covered with long black hair, they. roam the wilds in the piercing wind. Nature is so magical and life so resilient, it is no wonder the yak is revered-in the eyes of Tibetans, it is an incarnation of God.