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Jiuzhaigou History Culture and Religion

    The total population of Jiuzhai Valley National Park is just over 1,000, comprising of over 110 families.

    The nine Tibetan Villages of Jiuzhai Valley are He Ye, Jian Pan, Ya Na, Pan Ya, Guo Du, Ze Cha Wa, Hei Jiao, Shu Zheng and Re Xi. Although not officially discovered by the government until 1972, the earliest human activities have been recorded as dating back as early as to the Yin-Shang Period (16th - 11th Century B. C.).

    The main villages that are readily accessible to tourists are He Ye, Shu Zheng and Ze Cha Wa along the main routes that cater to tourists, selling various handi-crafts, souvenirs and snacks. There is also Re Xi in the smaller Zha Ru Valley and behind He Ye village are Jian Pan, Pan Ya and Ya Na villages. The Valley's no longer populated villages are Guo Du and Hei Jiao.

    The main religion practiced by the locals is the pre-Buddhism Bon or Benbo-Sec religion. It was introduced to the Aba Prefecture in the 2nd century B.C. It was integrated with primitive local wizardry into the Benbo Sec and became dominant in the 6th Century. In the 7th century, Tibetan Buddhism was introduced to the region. Although through numerous conflicts Buddhism did become prevalent, the Benbo Sec religion has survived and developed, and is now recognised as one of the five sects of Tibetan Buddhism while maintaining unique religious cultural features. There are over 60 Benbo monasteries in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.

    The Benbo and Tibetan Buddhists worship and make sacrifices to natural Gods. Stupas, prayer wheels (hollow cylinders that contain religious scriptures) and chorten can be seen throughout the park, evidence of the local belief that the soul is inherent in all things, including mountains. Prayer wheels are turned by hand as well as some that are turned by the water. One rotation of the prayer wheel equals 100 recitations of religious chants.

    Longda can be pieces of cloth (many small pieces of cloth connected by string) or paper with scriptures written on them. The paper longda are thrown in the air, while the cloth ones flutter in the wind or by rivers. The idea of both the longda and the longer guoda is that the wind or water will set the prayers free.

    Religious banners or guoda in local Tibetan, for different purposes, vary in length from several to dozens of metres. These are blue, white, red, green and yellow each representing the sky, cloud, life, the natural world (plants, trees, grass) and soil according the five element theory. It is said that families of service men in the Tufan Period (Tang dynasty 617-907 AD) hung them as army banners on their gates to honour the family. Later these army banners turned to be of religious implications, and were the integrated product of Mizong religious culture and that of the central plains of China. The Jiuzhai Valley religious banners are an entegral combination of the five-element throry and Mizong incantation, a proud creation of Tibetan Buddhism.

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