Travellers to Tiber often espy strings of tiny flags hanging down from trees or the eaves of buildings, or fluttering on mountaintops. Made of paper or cloth and inscribed with religious incantations, they are known as “prayers' streamers” or wind and horse streamers” because they also bear horse patterns.
A wind and horse streamer is about 10cm square and inscribed with patterns with a strapping stud in the centre. The stud has auspicious symbols inscribed on its back and ix surrounded with the likenesses of its four divine protectors; the roc, dragon, tiger and lion.
These five animals are portrayed in different gestures, but they look heroic and awe inspiring. On some of the streamers the patterns of roc, dragon, tiger and lion are replaced with their names in the Tibetan language. The flags come in white, yellow, red and green colours to symbolize the four direction of universe. In the Tibetan language, “wind” means “dragon”, and “horse” meant
According to ancient Tibetan history books, the wind-riding horse flag was invented by Kongze Chiyai Jambo. “Kongze” is the Tibetan transliteration of“Confucius”, and “Chiyai Jambo”, meaning “Master of Wisdom”, is a title the Tibetans bestowed on Confucius.
Legend has it that in his lifetime, Confucian had served in a variety of positions such as shaman, historian, master of ceremony, and fortune teller; it was probably he who had drawn the likeness of horses and cattle on paper and burned them as sacrifices to the deceased, a practice which found its way to Tibet.
In the beginning the Tibetans, too, burned the horse-patterned streamers as sacrifices to the dead; later they learned to let the streamers flutter in the wind so that the wing-riding horse could fly into the sky freely---a habit which has something to do with the Tibetan tradition of celestial burial, by which bodies are cut up and fed to birds of prey.