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The Marvels of Haitong Stone Forest and Doraje Zhui in Mangkang County

Haitong Stone Forest: A Karst Wonder

The Haitong Stone Forest, situated along National Highway 318 within Mangkang County, lies just over 20 kilometers from the county town. This region is enveloped in dense forests teeming with wildlife, showcasing stunning landscapes where majestic mountains meet clear waters. The area boasts vast expanses of pristine forests and numerous peculiar karst formations that rise abruptly from the ground.

The formations vary dramatically, with some standing forest-like and others towering wall-like; they appear grey-white under clear skies and turn dark black when it rains. The gorge is dotted with unique features such as stone caves, bridges, and gates, each with its distinct shape and form. These natural creations showcase the immense imagination of nature, where every stone tells a story, offering visitors boundless space for imagination. Within this stone forest, one feels as though stepping into a fairy tale kingdom.

Doraje Zhui: An Open-Air Sculpture Museum

Doraje Zhui, located in Zongxi Township within Mangkang County, about 90 kilometers from the county seat, comprises over 200 high-relief stone carvings. These range in height from 49 cm to 150 cm, featuring 80 great achievers, Mahavairocana, Amitabha, ancestral images, and inscriptions.

This collection of stone carvings is unparalleled in Tibet, gathering works from the Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties over a span of a thousand years. It stands as Tibet’s “Open-Air Stone Carving Museum,” representing the largest high-relief stone carving group discovered in Tibet to date.

Legend has it that this site was once a rest stop for Princess Wencheng on her journey to Tibet. She dreamt of divine beings descending from the heavens during her stay. Upon waking, she prayed and wished for the area to become sacred. Since then, locals say, the rocks in the area have naturally formed into various Buddha images.

The carvings mainly depict historical figures, including the 80 great achievers and the 16 arhats, known figures from the early periods of Buddhism in ancient India and Tibet. The sculptures also feature Buddhas, bodhisattvas, and protector deities, categorized into five types: line carvings, low reliefs, high reliefs, a combination of low relief and line carving techniques, and a few full round sculptures.

The artistic style of the carvings leans towards realism, especially in depicting the faces of the 80 great achievers and the 16 arhats, resembling real-life portraits from secular society. Great attention is paid to the facial expressions of the figures, capturing emotions such as sorrow, joy, contemplation, and anticipation with lifelike accuracy. The treatment of clothing folds in the sculptures is notably realistic, influenced by Han Chinese stone carving art, demonstrating the rich imagination and skilled craftsmanship of Tibetan folk artisans.

This vast collection of sculptures, with its numerous lifelike figures and smooth lines, showcases the diverse imagination and exquisite carving skills of Tibetan artisans, avoiding repetition and similarity in the depictions and fully displaying the unique artistic heritage of the Tibetan people.

About the author

The Tibetan Travel website's creator, hailing from Lhasa, is a cultural enthusiast. They promote responsible tourism, connecting the world to Tibet's beauty and heritage. Awards recognize their contribution.

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