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Story of Digging Cordyceps Sinensis in Tibet's Nagqu

  • Source : China Tibet Online Author : Time : 06/08/2015 Editor : Tenzin Choedron

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    In Tibet, there is a long nomadic history of being without a permanent residence, but rather pitching a tent upon reaching a water source and grassy area. Because of this, there aren’t regular village names. Until recently, Tibetan families would move around frequently, and villages were relatively safe. In order to easily remember and manage an area, a number would be used as a village name.





    Dasa Township’s “Twelve Villages” [Photo/China Tibet Online]


    In “Twelve Villages” in Dasa Township in Nagqu County even more fascinating than the 10 regular mud houses are the sporadic tents set up at the foot of the mountain. This is the harvesting area for the people of the village. Originally, since the Tibetan region is so vast, often a village’s area would be around a hundred square kilometers.


    Therefore the cordyceps sinensis harvesting area is far away from many families in the village, and the road to get there is bumpy. Coming and going from the harvesting area is inconvenient, which is why people set up tents to live in near the entrance of the cordyceps sinensis harvesting area. Once they are finished harvesting the cordyceps sinensis, they will move back home.


    Soon after this author arrived at “Twelve Villages”, it unexpectedly began to rain, falling heavier and heavier. As a result, the author took shelter inside a nomad’s home. The head of the family warmly and sincerely served their best yak meat and butter tea to the guests, and he also brought out some cordyceps sinensis for them to view.


    There are four people in the family, and they rely mostly on two children for digging cordyceps sinensis. One of the children is 10 years old, and the other is 12. They dug fifty-five strands of caterpillar fungi over two days, which, according to prices at the time, could earn around 5,000 yuan.




    A nomad family leader takes the best yak meat to serve guests inside his home [Photo/China Tibet Online]




      After the rain stopped, the Tibetan family once again went out to dig for cordyceps sinensis with small hoes. [Photo/China Tibet Online]




      On the mountain, most of those digging for cordyceps sinensis are women and children [Photo/China Tibet Online]


    In Tibet, only the local Tibetans are able to dig for cordyceps sinensis in these areas, and they must have their identity cards, residence permits, and digging licenses checked. People from other areas are not allowed to dig for cordyceps sinensis; they are only allowed to watch from afar.




      This is a cordyceps sinensis digging license. Without this, you are not allowed to dig for the fungus. [Photo/China Tibet Online]




    Compared with more developed regions in inland China, relying on cordyceps sinensis for work is not a very good living condition for Tibetans. However, they themselves don’t think it is very tough. Rather than complain about their fate, their faces are brimming with optimism and honest smiles from start to finish. They don’t seem to really care whether or not they will harvest any fungus or how much they will harvest. They only think that this is the time they should be harvesting cordyceps sinensis, just like they must work during the day and sleep during the night.




      Digging for cordyceps sinensis [Photo/China Tibet Online]




      Using hands to feel if it is really cordyceps sinensis [Photo/China Tibet Online]




      Cordyceps sinensis that has come out of the ground [Photo/China Tibet Online]




      Tibetans digging for cordyceps sinensis [Photo/China Tibet Online]

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