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About Dzi Beads

Naming of Dzi Beads

According to the legend, the practitioners of Tantric Buddhism who left for Nepal for pilgrimage obtained a kind of beads as amulets from their guru (spiritual teacher). Legend also has it that beads were traded for a living by Tibetan refugees. These special beads were considered to be the God's gifts. When Dzi beads fell from heaven to earth, they were believed to have mysterious power to protect refugees and bring in wealth and luck. Therefore, practitioners of Tantric Buddhism called them Tianzhu to represent the respect and value.

Origin of Dzi Beads

It's said that the places and ways that Dzi beads were found were legendary and mysterious with mythological elements. The legends related to the origin of Dzi beads are summarized as follows:
  • Dzi beads were plankton in the ocean originally. They had their own bodies with shells and could move about freely like mollusks and conchs. Due to the Himalayan Orogeny, the sea where these creatures lived was turned to land. As a result, these plankton dried up and died from water shortage, and their shells became Dzi beads.
  • A couple who lived in the Himalayas drew different patterns on a kind of unique Indian stones to create Dzi beads. Since this painting skill was extremely difficult, it was too hard for other people to learn it well. Thus, the technique didn't pass down after the couple died.
  • Meteorites falling from the outer space onto the fields were refined and tempered into Dzi beads by practitioners.
  • Dzi beads were alive and could move like snakes. As soon as they were touched by human beings, they stopped moving and became a string of Dzi beads.
  • Dzi beads had been buried underground deeply. They got exposed to the ground surface through long-term geological movements and were picked up by farmers.
  • Dzi beads which could fly and run were hit or covered by Lama's long sleeves and became solidified. On the other hand, Dzi beads which were able to crawl would also become solidified when they were found and spread sand by human beings. Besides, they would disappear if the sand which were spread out didn't touch them.
  • People with good karma could see Dzi beads flying on the meadow. This kind of flying Dzi beads would become fossils once they were captured.
  • Asura belonged to one of the six classes of living beings. He always acted against Sakyamuni Buddha and didn't care about Buddha's words. Therefore, he was regarded as a non-god, non-divine and non-human. Asura was so aggressive that he produced Dzi beads as his weapon.
  • Dzi beads were God's previous accessories. If there were any defects or cracks, Dzi beads would be discarded to the earth. Thus, it's quite difficult to find a perfect one.
  • Legend has it that there were Dzi beads flowing continuously from a stream in a mountain near Rutog in Ngari. One day, a wicked woman with evil eyes conjured toward this stream, and the flow of Dzi beads stopped from then on.
  • When Tibet was overwhelmed by severe epidemic in early times, Tibetans suffered from disease and difficulties in life. Fortunately, Vajravarahi Buddha was so compassionate that she practiced for them in Heaven and dropped Dzi beads down to the ground. People who obtained them would be relieved from disease, disaster and bad luck.
  • It is said that a severe epidemic spread across those countries near the Himalayas around three thousand years ago. Many people died, and the loss was quite serious. At that time, Manjusri Buddha passed the Himalayas in the sky and saw this disaster. A great compassion grew from his heart, so he spread Dzi beads to solve this problem. These beads fell down to the earth. Whoever picked these Dzi beads would have their disease cured.
  • After King Gesar of the Ling Kingdom defeated the Tagzig Kingdom, he found many precious items from the warehouse of Tagzig Kingdom, including valuable Dzi beads. King Gesar retrieved these Dzi beads to reward the soldiers. After these soldiers brought them back to Tibet, Dzi beads were spread everywhere in Tibet.

Preciousness of Dzi Beads

  • Dzi bead is one of the most appropriate offerings to Buddha. This tradition can be traced back to the ancient times. The statues in Jokhang Monastery in Lhasa offer the best examples.
  • Dzi bead is the most precious gemstone for Tibetans. The value of a gemstone is determined by its beauty, rarity and durability. It is also different from nation and culture. To the Tibetans, the most precious gemstone is neither jadeite nor diamond but Dzi bead.
  • Dzi beads can be used as collateral loans to borrow money from a bank. In Tibet, ancient and pure Dzi beads would be accepted by the People's Bank and City Credit Bureau as collateral security for loans. Dzi beads are the same as money in Tibetan culture, and they can be exchanged into cash at any time.
  • Dzi beads are the most portable property of all. Due to the small size, Dzi beads are easy to keep and carry. Therefore, the royalty and the rich in Tibet use domestic animals or farming fields to exchange for Dzi beads. If necessary, they even spend money purchasing it.
  • The most important tools for Tibetans to avoid evil is amulets and spells. Of all, Dzi beads are the best and most valuable amulets.

Motifs of Dzi Beads

The motifs of Dzi bead can be generally grouped into dots, stripes, rectangles, circles, triangles, lozenges, polygons, seed syllables, irregular patterns, animal designs, abstract designs and special symbols. According to the name, symbolic patterns, signs and meanings from the ceremony and scriptures of Tantric Buddhism, the motifs of Dzi beads can be interpreted in a reasonable way. The following is the example of the Tantric ritual of Homa:
  • Homa of peace

    Represented by white color and a circle sign. It is meant for preventing calamities, averting misfortune and eliminating obstacles.
  • Homa of development

    Represented by yellow color and a square sign. It is meant for prospering business, multiplying wealth, gaining fortune and wisdom.
  • Homa of perfection

    Represented by red color and a crescent sign. It is meant for improving health, perfecting relationship and building leadership.
  • Homa of force

    Represented by black color and a triangular sign. It is meant for warding off harmful forces, subjugating demons and expelling evil obstructions.