White is everywhere in Tibet. In the snow that blankets peaks and pastures in spring, winter and fall, on the whitewashed walls of buildings, in the billowing clouds that fill the sky. White is light, the shade of Vairocana, a personification of the illumination of wisdom, the universal Buddha that stands in the center of the five Dyani Buddhas, his hands in the mudra of turning the wheel of Dharma. White is one of the aspects of Tara, the bodhisattva of long life, that upholds the lotus of the three times and Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion.
White is auspicious, the color of milk and yogurt, the givers of life. Offering bowls of thick yogurt to guests brings good luck and happiness and must be consumed to the last. It is also in the khatas, white silk scarves offered as greetings to gods and humans alike, encapsulating all good things. White marks long life, illustrated by the white hair of the elderly, who have achieved it, and impersonated by the auspicious dancer, the Tashi Chopa, who sports white hair and beard on his mask. When offering a long life puja to holy lama, the last offering is made by an elderly man in a white wool chuba.
At Norlha, we made our finest pieces from the wool of white yaks, the rarest of all. White yaks make up around five percent of all herds, though they tend to be more concentrated in certain areas which are considered blessed.