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December 19, 2010
Small, cylindrical cone-shaped objects often found deposited in and around the holy sites of stupas and chortens are known as “tsa tsa.” This is a form of a centuries-old Buddhist art practiced in Himalayan Buddhism, traditionally handmade by clay using a metal mold in the image of a miniature stupa, then dried in the sun or hardened by fire. A tiny scroll of prayers is inserted beneath the tsa tsa into its hollow body, and then a plug of clay is used to seal the scroll inside the tsa tsa. The practice of making tsa tsa is often performed for merit accumulation and purifying obstacles, as well as to honor the deceased. Ashes of the deceased are mixed with the clay for molding 108 tsa tsa memorials as a way to remember departed loved ones. Tsa tsa are sacred religious objects and must never be moved, touched or stepped on.