gZi (pronounced Zi) is not spelt ‘dZi’. ‘dZi’ is a bogus spelling created purely for marketing.
It is not alternative spelling. If it was, it would have to be spelt d.zi — and that syllable does not exist in written form. The syllable Dzi does exist – but it is one letter, not two —moreover it only exists in conjunction with other syllables; as in ‘kam po dzi’ – the Tibetan word for Cambodia. There are other ‘letter clusters’ which contain the syalble Dzi – such as: rDzi – wind; rDzi bo – herdsman or shepherd; and, rDzi ma – eye-lashes.
Some marketing person or persons probably thought the ‘Wojkowitz’ capitalisation of the root letter ‘Zi’ was ‘cute’ – but that the ‘g’ made the word gZi unpronounceable for the Western market.
Few seem to use the Wojkowitz transliteration of Tibetan now — the Aro gTér Lineag being one such group. Anyone using it therefore, is either antiquarian or ignorant of the fact that the ‘Turrell Wylie’ system of transliteration is now more-or-less the universal form. If one wished to write gZi in phonetic it would be ‘zi’ or even ‘zee’ – but not dZi, because the word gZi does not sound like Dzi.
gZi are patterned stone that are akin to agate. They are mainly lozenge shaped – but can be round, or cylindrical. They date according to ‘Khordong gTérchen Tulku Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche to 3,000 BC. They originate mainly in the TransHimalayan regions of Tibet, Bhutan, Sikkim, Ladakh, and Nepal — but also from Afghanistan. A common misconception is that gZi date to the 8th century. This error dervies from ‘The History Of Beads’ by Lois Sherr Dubin, where gZi are placed in Tibetan history in the 700s AD in line with the introduction of Buddhism.
Tibet never permitted archæological digs so scientific dating does not seem to have occurred.
gZi stones are precious in Vajrayana culture because of their patterning – and it is the patterning on gZi stones that is the subject of much controversy amongst those who desire a scientific explanation.
The mystery of gZi is how the surface pattern were created without cracking the stone.
gZi belong somewhere within the Silicate family. In mineralogy, silica (silicon dioxide SiO2) is a silicate mineral naturally found as quartz and variants of quartz – such as chalcedony, agate and carnelian. All Silicate stone is vulnerable to shattering when exposed to heat. Techniques for heating Silicate without damaging them has only recently been discovered. Sophisticated technology is required as the stone has to be heated in a vacuum. The stone is porous – so air and moisture exist within the stone and this is what leads to them shattering when heated. When heated in a vacuum however, the air is removed, which reduces the risk shattering. As gZi stones were heated at high altitude where the air is thin expansion would have not have caused such a great problem.
Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche told us that the markings were made by coating gZis in dKar zhing zhe and ba tshwa before baking.
We consulted various Tibetan dictionaries and concluded this was something like Hydrous Sodium Carbonate.
This, he said made the stone pale. The chu-mig patterns were then painted on the stones in wax. When the wax hardened, the gZis were soaked in a chang (barley beer) for several days until the chang had penetrated the surface of the stone not painted with wax. The gZis were then baked again – and the sugars within the chang turned the gZi as brown.
There are many different types of gZi – the most commonly known being those with chu-mig (water eye or natural water spring).
Namkha’i Norbu Rinpoche suggested that gZi were used for transactions (as fiscal currency is used) because of the illustrative motifs and the number of the chu-mig.
All gZis have holes so according to Chhi’mèd Rig’dzin Rinpoche the ancient TransHimalayan peoples obviously used them as ornaments. He said that some gZi are from the treasure-houses of ancient families. They are found underground, in ruins, and fields – and sometimes in eroded areas of mountains.
In the Aro gTér Lineage—the chu mig (water eyes) on gZi stones—symbolise gZa Rahula, one of the main Nyingma Protectors. They are worn on a gold chain which together with the gZi reparent the peaceful, joyous and wrathful ornaments of the yidams. This symbolism is important to the gö kar chang lo’i dé (gos dKar lCang lo’i sDe ) the non-celibate ordained sangha of Vajrayana — because, in wearing a gZi on a gold chain, a ngakpa or ngakma is always wearing the ornaments of the yidams.
In the Aro gTér lineage gZis are authenticated through the symbolic process that is called ‘The Poison Lightning Noose of gZa Rahula’.
This authentication accompanies the wish on the part of the practitioner – that in the case of recalcitrant vow breakage the gZi and chain will act as a poison lightning noose.
Contributed by Ngakchang Rinpoche
Aro gTer Lineage