Namco Lake: Gate to the Heavenly waters

China Tibet Information Center, Published on the Buddhist Channel, Nov 17, 2004

Dangxiong County, China -- Namco Lake is 4718 metres above the sea level,70 kilometres in lenghth,30 kilometres in wideth and 1940 square kilometers in size. It is located 60 kilometres northwest of Dangxiong County, lying at the foot of Nyainqentanglha Mountain. It is both the highest and biggest salt water lake in the world. In the eyes of the Tibetans, Nam Co is the partner of Nyaintanglha, and the Guardian of the Bon religion.

By the lake there are also two standing stone pillars, each rising 30 meters and eight meters apart. One has a crack large enough to hold a single person inside. Some Tibetans believe it is the Gate God of the Nam Co Lake.

Meaning Heavenly Lake in Tibetan, Namco is respected as one of the four holiest lakes and the seat of Paramasukha Chakrasamvara by Buddhist pilgrims. Buddhists believe Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Vajras will assemble to hold religious meeting at Namco in the year of sheep on Tibetan calendar. Circumambulation around the lake at the right moment equals 100 thousand times of that in normal years. Hence thousands of pilgrims from every corner In the 5th & 6th month of the Tibetan calendar each year, many Buddhists come to the lakeside on pilgrimage to pay homage and pray. Deep tracks are worn into the lakeshore due to this activity. In history, monasteries stood like trees in a forest around Lake Namco attracting large numbers of pilgrims with eminent monks in Buddhist temples developing body and character and extending Buddhism. On the four sides of the lake stand four monasteries, which have Buddhist meanings.

In the eyes of the Tibetan Buddhists, taking ritual walk around Nam Co Lake and worshipping Nyainqentanglha in the Tibetan Year of Sheep is of great importance for them for these reasons: The aforementioned Zhaxior (Auspicious Island) on the eastern bank of the heavenly lake holds the "body" of Sakyamuni, where 3,000 deities gather; Dorje Gongzhama, the deity in charge of the heavenly lake, holds the "language" of the Buddha and is also the Queen of the God of Nyainqentanglha. And both the mountain god and his queen were born in the Tibetan year of Sheep. Walking around the lake takes a week.

Ritual walkers love to burn aromatic plants for auspicious smoke on the Auspicious Island and throw a piece of snow white hada scarf into the lake as a token of fulfilled wishes. If the scarf sinks, it implies one's wish is accepted by the Buddha; if the scarf flows on the water or only half sinks, it means one has failed to be honest and something unhappy lies ahead.

Ritual walkers also pay sacrifice to Lu, King of the water deities who lives in the lake. Tibetans think Lu is invisible, but all pervasive. Even in a small pit of the size of a horse hoof, there might be dozens of invisible deities. Lu owns huge wealth and is a miser, and is also prone to illness. Anyone who does something that Lu decides is not good enough will suffer back luck or will fall ill.

When paying sacrifice to Lu, one has to pay with cereals and expensive medicinal herbs. Almost all worshippers bring Luboin (Treasure Bottle containing sacrificial objects and sutra books, to be presented to Lu), which they throw into the lake.

Five islets, planting themselves in the vast sapphire blue lake, is said to be the incarnation of the Buddha of Five Directions. Every pilgrims circumambulating the lake will piously worship them. Those islets are famous for their topography, covered by weird but vivid stones. Producing abundant fish and lodging many birds and beasts, the lake is also a heaven for animals and plants.The natural pastureland around the lake offers ideal condition for animal husbandry. Wild animals, such as yaks and bharals, can often be found in this area.

Lake Namco is also rich in its products with its gorgeous and enchanting sights. The lake is full of islands and islets in varied forms with birds sporting over the water surface. It is said to house a 1,000-year-old fish, which is as large as a cow; there are also other creatures resembling the shape of a dragon that Tibetan call "lake sheep." These lake sheep are often seen to jump out of the water in groups of three to five. Herders say that those who see them will be able to have their lifelong wishes fulfilled.

There is a peninsula in calcareous stone southeast of the lake, called Zhaxiduo Island,on which stands a forest of strange-shaped stones, among which occur numerous fantastic caves. lake Namco also has abundant resources of fish. The annual volume of fishing goes up to 350,000 or more kilogrames. The views around Lake Namts every evening at dusk are even more varied, beautiful and fantastic.