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Mt. Gongpori and the Monkey Cave

There is a legend descended from Tibetan generations about their origin. Once upon a time, as the legend tells, Avalokitesvara*, a monkey and a Raksasi* were separately living on the three hills of a mountain. In deep loneliness, the Raksasi lured the monkey with all her attempts while the latter was meditating in one of the caves by the order of Avalokitesvara. Ambivalent but later enlightened by Avalokitesvara, the monkey eventually married the Raksasi and gave birth to six children, thus starting the history of Tibet.   More than a legend, the mentioned mountain and cave are believed by Tibetans to have their real existence, namely, Mt. Gongpori and the Monkey Cave. Located east of the town of Tsedang, Mt. Gongpori is considered as one of the four Sacred Mountains in Tibet. Legend has it that the mountain, sustained by four deities, is endowed with a magic power which can foretell the future of those who climb up to its summit. Every April 15, the day of which the climax of the Saka Dawa Festival falls on, flocks of convinced pilgrims walk around Mt. Gongpori, to celebrate the birth of Sakyamuni.   The three hills once inhabited by the hero and heroines are named Yanggar Woze, Sengmo Woze and Chokangze, among which Chokangze, the mediation place of Avalokitesvara, is the highest of the mountain. The Monkey Cave, located halfway up the mountain, is a 25-meter-high (82 ft), 7-meter-wide (23 ft) natural grotto at an altitude of 4, 060m (13,320 ft). In a crack near the entrance, there is a monkey-shaped stone believed to be the very ancestor of Tibetans. A colorful mural painting of the monkey and its offspring can be found on the southeast wall. 'Om Mani Padme Hum' was carved on walls with prayer flags and khatags hanging in and out of the cave.   The name of Tsedang, the town at the foot of Mt. Gongpori, literally means 'the place where the monkeys play' in Tibetan. The widely-known legend further tells that as the monkey population continued to grow, a food scarcity became serious. To rescue his offspring from starvation, the old monkey once again turned to Avalokitesvara, who later spread the seeds of five grains over Soitang, presently a small town near Tsedang, hence, the first farmland of Tibet. Cultivation not only provided sufficient food for the monkeys, but finally turned them into humans.  

*Avalokitesvara: also called Chenrezig in Tibetan, is one of the most important deities in the Mahayana sect of Buddhism (Tibetan Buddhism belongs to Mahayana Buddhism) and worshipped as the Goddess of Mercy.  
*Raksasi: female form of Raksasa, a demon in Buddhism who eats humans. Raksasas are usually ugly and horrifying while Raksasis lure men by their beauty and then eat.

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