Tree Beings in Tibet: Contemporary Popular Concepts of klu and gnyan as a Result of Ecological Change
AbstractThe article deals with the perception of trees in Tibet. It focuses on ideas on supernatural beings believed to dwell in trees, particularly klu and gnyan, which form a part of the popular or so called nameless religion. The study is based on fieldwork undertaken in the Tibetan areas of India and Nepal (the Spiti valley and Dolpo) among people of Dolpo origin living elsewhere and Tibetans in exile from different regions of Tibet. Gathered narratives and reappearing myth patterns are presented and discussed. The findings from the fieldwork are compared with the idea of tree beings found in ritual texts studied by Western scholars. The difference between these two sources are striking: popular traditions associate trees mainly with klu, whereas the ritual texts with gnyan. To explain the possible cause of this discrepancy, contemporary theories about the ecological history of the Tibetan Plateau are employed.
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