Joseph Rock and the History of the Bon religion among the Moso


The banishment of the Bon religion in Tibet at the order of King Khri-srong -lde-btsan, who ruled approximately between 740 and 786 A.D. is possibly responsible for the Na-khi and Mo-so having become convert to Bonism… Most of the Bon went into exile, under insults were expelled to the most desolate regions on the periphery of Tibet. Among the names of the places to which they were banished occurs the name IJang-mo. Now IJang is the term the Tibetans have for the Na-khi and Mo-so. It is to be noted that the country of the IJang up the 16th century extended to within forty miles south of Li-thang. All the inhabitants of that region confessed the Bon religion.

Then there came the incarnation of the Yellow Sect from Chamdo to Yongning to convert the inhabitants to the Gelugba sect… All the people of Yongning, Qiansou, Housou, etc, became adherents of the Yellow Church except the Zuosou district whose inhabitants effused to be converted and until this day remained attached to the Bon religion. When the incarnation from Chamdo wanted to return home he was persuaded by the Yongning Mo-so chiefs to remain, and they give him the extensive territory to the north of Yongning now known as Muli.

As the Mo-so were suppressed by the Yellow Lama Church they retained only with great difficulty their primitive Bon rituals, and as they had no writing a great deal of their ritual has been forgotten, while in Zuosou land the primitive Bon cult gradually become modified under the influence of Bon priests from Nyarong who were personae non gratae in Yongning and the other converted regions, and who helped the Zuosou people to firmly establish a Bon Church with temples, lamas, dances, etc., the same as is now found in Tibet and on the borders to the north of Yunnan.

In Zuosou land gShen-rabs-mi-po, Stag-lha-me-hbar and the great Bon god dBal-gsas are worshipped and their tangkas hung suspended from the rafters in the temple. In Yongning the primitive Bon has barely survived and I was privileged to witness ceremonies performed out in the open, the place were the rituals were to take place decided by divination. They are known as Nda-pa and only five priests had survived when I last visited that region in 1930.

Rock, J.F.. The Na-Khi Naga cults and related ceremonies. IImeo. Roma. 1952, pp 2 to 4

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