An astonishment a day- 
drives your depression away...

Medicine mice for export . 

Lhasa, the capital of Tibet and the center of Tibetan Buddhism is well known for its large number of Buddhist temples. The most prestigious of these is the temple of Jokhang (Zokang), which is over 1300 years old. For many years it has been, and still is, a place of the pilgrimage for Buddhists from many countries of Central Asia. In this temple, apart from the statue of a young Buddha, there is a statue of the goddess Palden Lhamo (dPal-ldan-hla-mo). This goddess is worshiped by all of the inhabitants of Lhasa, and she is given offerings of barley, wine and other foods. A hundred years ago, pilgrimages to this temple also had another purpose. As the offering table was always covered spilt wine, grain and the like, it was a perfect place for mice. These mice were never chased away, in fact they were looked after for purposes of trade, even for export out of Tibet. 

It was believed that the meat of the dead mice that lived on the offering table, and fed on the offerings made to the goddess had amazing powers to soothe labour pains and could speed up and ease a difficult labour. I do not know the exact recipe for preparing these mouse dishes, but keeping in mind some of the creations of the East, it does not seem entirely unlikely that it was a tasty dish. One mouse could cost up to as much as 10 kopek, which at the time was quite a significant sum of money (in Tibet the rental of a small apartment for a year cost approximately 2 rubles).

Times have changed, Tibet as a country has ceased to exist, the Cultural Revolution went through like storm, poverty still exists, and so does the belief in the magical force of women's problems. Every year, in October, for only one day, the face of the Goddess Palden Lhamo is uncovered. At this occasion, crowds of people flood into the temple hoping for help with their intimate matters. I think that mice are no longer exported, but the statue of the Goddess, as it has always been is hung with votive offerings for healing and help. 

Lhasa, October 1993, kew at the gate to Jokhang temple. 




(C) (selected from publications of 
 R. Antoszewski

Titirangi, Auckland, 
New Zeland

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April 2003