2001 Photo Contest, Daily Life, 3rd prize

Haseon Park

for Geo Korea

20 October, 1997

The Tianzang Master has to grind the remains finely with a hammer to make them easier for the vultures to eat. Tibetans believe the soul can be reborn in a better place only if the body is completely devoured. In the Tibetan funeral tradition of 'Tianzang' (sky funeral), also called 'Niaozang' (bird funeral), the dead are fed to vultures. Tibetans believe that the soul passes from the body after death to be reborn, so the body can be used to benefit other living things. In the 1960s and 1970s Chinese authorities banned the practice, but it regained limited acceptance in the 1980s. Outsiders are seldom welcome at the ceremony. In the tiny village of La Rong high in the mountains of Sichuan there are few trees for firewood and the ground is stony, so Tianzang is a natural alternative to burial or cremation. Three days after death the corpse is placed in a fetal position in a box or sack and carried to the temple for prayers, and then to the Tianzang ground.

About the photographer

Haseon Park

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