National Geographic : 1912 Oct
MEDICAL HILL THE YAK, THE CHARACTERISTIC ANIMAL OF TIBET As I have already said, the principal animals of Tibet are the yak and the horse. Of the two, the yak is by far the" more useful and also much more common. The yak in many respects resembles the American buffalo, except that it is smaller. Tibet is the only country that produces this peculiar animal, for it must live in a region at least 9,000 feet above the sea level, and the average height of Tibet is; from 12,000 to 15,000 feet above the sea. To the Tibetans the yak is absolutely indispensable. Nearly every part of the animal is utilized. They eat its meat, drink its milk, use its butter, and wear its skin. Ropes and cloth are made of yak's hair, and dusters are fashioned from its tail. Strange to say, many houses in the northeast and southwest parts of Lhasa are built with yak horns (see page 988). Boats are also con structed with yak hide (see page 989). Owing to the lack of coal and the fact that wood is so scarce, the Tibetans use dry yak dung for fuel. The walls of some houses are also built of this ma terial. PRAYER WHEELS As to all Christians, prayer is to the Tibetans also the most vital factor of their religious life. Fearing that the tongue and the mind may fail.to offer sufficient prayer, additional praying is done by -mean&of prayer wheel. A prayer wheel consists of a hollowed box, or cylinder, within which is a- roll of prayers, with an axis ru ning through the center, revolved by the centrifugal force. Attachedo the outside is a short string or chain with a small .weight at the end. The wheel is made to "revolve by the centrifugal force of the weight, caused by a twirling motion of the hand. Thus the roll of prayer is turned within while the wheel revolves, and the prayer is done. Meanwhile the holder of the wheel also makes oral and silent prayers. Tibetans believe that emancipation from sin can be obtained by walking over the road which surrounds the city several times a day and praying in the above manner. Another way of offering prayer is by arranging prayer wheels in such a way that they will be turned by the wind (see page 993). There is still a third way, in which the prayer wheel is turned by the water of a stream. Prayer pen nants are seen everywhere throughout the country. Some say that these ridicu lous ways of praying originated from the extraordinary laziness of the Tibetans.