What Is Dzi Beads?-gzi beads

What Is Dzi Beads?-gzi beads

The term "Dzi Beads" in Tibetan is transliterated as "zi" in Chinese and is translated as "Se" or "Seth" in English. It is also known as "Heavenly Stone." According to the "Tibetan-Chinese Dictionary,"Dzi Beads refers to a type of gemstone, commonly known as "nine-eyed bead" or "cat's eye stone." It is believed to be made from amethyst and cat's eye stone, and is used medicinally for treating cerebral hemorrhage.


The earliest Tianzhu is known as the "Elephant Xiong Tianzhu" and is associated with the ancient and powerful civilization of the ancient Elephant Xiong Kingdom that spanned Central Asia and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is considered a sacred object in the Yongzhong Bon religion and is considered the top of the Tibetan Seven Treasures. Tianzhu is usually offered and blessed by accomplished masters and high-ranking monks to be used in Buddhist rituals or passed down through generations. The existing (old) Tianzhu are all ancient artifacts and are extremely rare and precious.


The origin of the name "Tianzhu" cannot be verified, but it is known as "Tianzhu" in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, "zi" in Tibetan, and "nine-eyed bead" in Chinese. In Austrian scholars Rene de Nebesky-Wojkowitz's books "Prehistoric Beads from Tibet" and "Tibet's Gods and Ghosts" published in 1952 and 1953, respectively, they are referred to as "cat's eye stone." In Mr. Dubin Lewis's book "The History of Beads," published in 1986, this type of bead is mentioned as "engraved or bleached red agate." The "New Book of Tang" records, "Tubo women wear their braids and adorn themselves with Seth beads. One bead is worth one good horse." Renowned modern Tibetan scholar Dr. Grlbo called these beads "Nine-eyed Lezi" in his essay "The Gods of Tibetan Bon." Professor Liu Liangyou, a prominent scholar in Taiwan, mentioned in his essay "Exploring Tianzhu" that Tibetan scholars usually call Tianzhu "white agate Lezi," a material used in Tibetan ornaments. Tianzhu merchant Lin Dongguang in Taiwan, in his essay "Tibetan Tianzhu" published in 1997, consistently refers to it as Tianzhu throughout.


Tibetan ancestors believed that Tianzhu was a supernatural creation of the gods, either formed naturally or descending from the heavens. They strongly oppose any claim that Tianzhu is a human-made artifact. When asked about the origin of Tianzhu, many Tibetans tell the same ancient myth: in ancient times, Tianzhu was worn as an ornament by immortals. Whenever a bead was damaged or slightly flawed, the immortals would scatter them down to the earth, where they turned into the fossils of living creatures, coexisting with conch shells and trilobites. In the Himalayas, in the area around Dingri, northern Tibet, people have discovered fossil Tianzhu among fossilized shells.


Types of Tianzhu:


Round Bead (also known as Cat's Eye Stone, Yangyan Tianzhu, Yangyanbanzhu, etc.)

Medicine Master Bead (mostly natural lines, but some are artificially etched)

Twined Agate (commercially known by various names)

Conch Tianzhu (originally underwater creatures' fossils, considered sacred due to their circular shape)

Petrified Wood (some trees in desert areas petrify and develop circular patterns, used in accessories after polishing)

Money Stone (beware of those with trypophobia)


Artificial Tianzhu classification:


Artificial Tianzhu is known in academic circles as "inlaid and etched agate," "inlaid and etched jadeite," "etched agate," "etched jadeite," etc. Since the ancestors were not clear about the difference between single-crystal silicon dioxide and polycrystalline silicon dioxide, agate and jadeite are not distinguished here, and they are collectively referred to as agate.


According to the etching material, they are divided into alkaline-etched agate and acid-washed agate. Nitric acid is generally used for acid-washing, and plant alkali is generally used for alkaline etching.

According to the place of origin, they are divided into Tibetan Tianzhu (black lines drawn on a white-etched surface), West Asian Tianzhu (white lines etched on red agate), Indian Tianzhu (white lines drawn on a black-etched surface, such as the "Shouzhu" with turtle back patterns), and Nepalese Tianzhu (alternating etched black and white lines on transparent agate).

According to online scholars, they are divided into pure series, broken series, and impact series.

Dr. Rene de Nebesky-Wojkowitz's five-part classification in his paper "Prehistoric Beads from Tibet."



Elephant Xiong Tianzhu


The earliest known Tianzhu (also known as Dzi bead) is the Elephant Xiong Tianzhu. In 2014, during an excavation on the southern bank of the Xiangquan River in Zhada County, Ali Prefecture, China, a large number of precious artifacts from the ancient Elephant Xiong period were unearthed. Among them were exquisitely crafted Tianzhu beads, marking the first archaeological discovery of Elephant Xiong Tianzhu on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. This finding provided important firsthand information for studying the appearance date, morphology, and patterns of Tianzhu beads in the Tibetan region, confirming the existence and prevalence of Tianzhu beads during the ancient Elephant Xiong period. In 2015, archaeologists discovered the earliest Tianzhu from the ancient Elephant Xiong period at a burial site on the southern bank of the Xiangquan River in Ali Prefecture, making it the first Tianzhu unearthed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.


The Elephant Xiong Tianzhu originated from the ancient and powerful civilization of the ancient Elephant Xiong Kingdom that once spanned Central Asia and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is considered a sacred object of the Elephant Xiong Yongzhong Buddhism and the top of the seven treasures of the Tibetan people. Its transmission mainly involves being enshrined and blessed by Tibetan Buddhist temples and high-ranking monks, serving as a symbol of power for the ruling class and a precious inheritance of wealth for the elites. Elephant Xiong is considered the birthplace of Tibetan civilization and is located in the ancient crossroads of cultural exchanges along the Silk Road and the Tianzhu Road, earning it the titles of "ancient civilization communication station" and "ancient Silk Road station."


The Elephant Xiong Tianzhu is enshrined, blessed, and passed down by great achievers and high-ranking monks and is currently existing as ancient artifacts. They are extremely rare and precious. The Elephant Xiong Tianzhu is the oldest and purest Tianzhu with tangible evidence and possesses unique rarity due to its long history, profound totem, rare material, and exceptional blessings. People living on the snowy plateau have revered and worshipped it as a precious heirloom in their lives.


From a medical perspective, the Tianzhu beads from the ancient Elephant Xiong civilization were considered miraculous medicine with incredible healing effects. The "Four Medical Canons" documented more than 70 Tibetan medicinal formulas using Tianzhu beads as essential medicinal materials for treating blood disorders. The "Four Medical Canons" originated from the "Yimang Ming," one of the "Five Brightness" teachings of the Elephant Xiong Yongzhong Buddhism. "Yimang Ming" is a medical theory preached by the compassionate Buddha to heal various diseases and mental afflictions and is the main body of the "Ten Thousand Chants of the Four Medical Canons."


Artificial Tianzhu Beads


The ideal artificial Tianzhu bead should have clear black-and-white or distinct colors and well-defined patterns, resembling a fine oval shape.

It should not show signs of damage, fracture, or additional processing.

The more eyes (patterns) on the bead, especially those with rare single eyes, the higher the price.

It is advisable to choose a Tianzhu bead that closely matches and suits one's magnetic field.

Due to the strong magnetic field effect of old Tianzhu beads, it is recommended to acquire one to harmonize and enhance one's own magnetic field before adding more beads. Otherwise, an excessively strong magnetic field may lead to headaches and discomfort.

Artificial New Tianzhu Beads


Natural eyes with clear patterns and distinct black-and-white colors have higher prices.

They should not be damaged or fractured and should be designed for everyday wear (bracelets or necklaces).

Choose a Tianzhu bead that suits one's magnetic field.

The part containing gold dust (golden sand) has the strongest energy and can be chosen according to individual preferences as a reference.

There are both religious and non-religious styles available, which can be selected based on one's religious beliefs.

Many agate beads on the market, whether from the original Tibetan source or not, are commonly labeled as "Tibetan Tianzhu beads." Those that have been worshipped for many years are called "old Tianzhu beads," while the others are called "new Tianzhu beads." Some are also classified as Type I or Type II. The former can be very expensive, while the latter may cost only a few hundred yuan.

However, acquiring genuine ancient Tianzhu beads that have been passed down for thousands of years in Tibet is extremely difficult, as local Tibetans do not sell them to outsiders. To Tibetans, Tianzhu beads symbolize identity and are only worn by holy individuals. Therefore, when a Tibetan presents a Tianzhu bead to you, it signifies great respect.


Distinguishing between Artificial Tianzhu Beads (authentic and fake):


The best Tianzhu beads are those that are ancient, with clear color and distinct patterns, oval, and plump.

Although some wear and tear are inevitable due to centuries of use, there should not be severe damage, fractures, or signs of additional processing (Tibetans believe that a damaged Tianzhu bead loses its protective effect against disasters).

The more eyes (patterns) on the Tianzhu bead, especially with an odd number of eyes, the rarer it is, and thus, the higher the price. A Tianzhu bead with closer to nine eyes is preferable. If a Tianzhu bead has too many eyes, it is considered a "Thousand Eyes Tianzhu," which would be valued less. Each eye should be similar in size; otherwise, it cannot be considered a good Tianzhu bead.

As the technology for making imitation Tianzhu beads has matured, one can examine the surface's natural patterns under clear water or light to distinguish authenticity.

Some old Tianzhu beads may have vermilion powder on the surface (but not having vermilion powder doesn't necessarily mean it's not a Tianzhu bead). Some beads may have visible vermilion powder, while others may have it integrated into the surface.

Due to their age and past usage, old Tianzhu beads may have a certain degree of weathering patterns, also known as "fish scale patterns." The distribution of these patterns is not uniform. Imitation beads can also be made to resemble these patterns through high-temperature baking (with a dry and rigid texture). Genuine patterns of weathering resemble a galaxy-like pattern of celestial bodies when observed under magnification (over 100 times).

The perforation of the Tianzhu bead should be consistent with the surface color and smoothness (with a jade-like texture). Milky white or light yellow color is preferred, while dark brown is acceptable.

The surface of the Tianzhu bead should have a natural luster, similar to wax. However, buyers should not undervalue a Tianzhu bead just because its surface appears hazy; some beads may have been cleaned beforehand and may gradually improve in appearance after wearing them for some time.

If a Tianzhu bead has eyes (patterns), they should not have overlapping cracks, as it would decrease its value.



Tianyan Tianzhu (Heavenly Eye Bead) is a naturally formed sedimentary rock with a strong magnetic field that creates regular patterns resembling an eyeball, along with triangles, quadrilaterals, and others. It is considered a sacred Buddhist artifact that can attract blessings, ward off negative energies, and bring good luck. The finished product highlights patterns resembling eyeball decorations and is said to have an immeasurable value.


The significance of Tianyan Tianzhu varies based on the number of "eyes" it possesses:


One-Eye Tianzhu: It is believed to bring clarity of mind, joyful emotions, and enhance intelligence. They are quite rare.

Two-Eye Tianzhu: Symbolizes harmony, contentment in family life, and good relationships with others.

Three-Eye Tianzhu: Symbolizes the perfection of body, speech, and mind, with blessings from the Three Jewels. It brings good fortune, longevity, and protection from obstacles, and is regarded as the wealth deity in Tibetan Buddhism.

Four-Eye Tianzhu: Represents the four great Bodhisattvas – Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri, Ksitigarbha, and Samantabhadra. It removes obstacles, brings success, wealth, and helps alleviate the sufferings of birth, aging, illness, and death.

Five-Eye Tianzhu: Represents the five wealth deities – Buddha, Lotus, Vajra, Ratnasambhava, and Amitabha. It signifies abundance and all-around auspiciousness.

Six-Eye Tianzhu: Represents the six elements of the human body – earth, fire, water, wind, space, and consciousness. It is believed to restore the physiological functions of the body's organs, provide physical strength, and bring wealth and auspiciousness.

Seven-Eye Tianzhu: This bead forms a pattern with seven stars, representing the Medicine Buddha's blessings. It signifies the continuous growth of positive forces, great auspiciousness, and the fulfillment of blessings and wisdom.

Eight-Eye Tianzhu: Represents the eight auspicious symbols, signifying smoothness in all endeavors, honor, wealth, and protection by the eight great Bodhisattvas. It helps overcome the eight harms and attain the Eightfold Path.

Nine-Eye Tianzhu and above: As the number of eyes increases, the merits and virtues also multiply, signifying compassion, authority, and achieving supreme achievements. It is considered the highest-grade Tianzhu, capable of averting all calamities.

Ten-Eye Tianzhu: It dispels karmic hindrances, brings influence and popularity, and leads to a successful and perfect life.

The descriptions also mention other Tianzhu types like the Eleven-Eye, Twelve-Eye, Thirteen-Eye, Fifteen-Eye, Twenty-One-Eye, and various other designs such as the Swastika (卍字), Pestle (杵), Lotus (莲花), and many more. Each type of Tianzhu is believed to possess unique attributes and spiritual meanings.


Tianzhu can be worn as accessories, often made into necklaces, and are considered precious items. They are also used for religious purposes, like being placed inside Buddhist statues during consecration or used as currency for transactions in Tibet.


Note: The translation provided is based on the information provided in the original text. The names and meanings may vary slightly in different cultural contexts or regions.

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