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The design for the Freedom Bracelet was first made by Tibetan political prisoners near Lhasa, Tibet. These bracelets were originally woven from white and black yak hair, or whatever bits of thread were available in the prisons. Today these bracelets are worn as an expression of endurance and defiance against Communist Chinese oppression. This bracelet woven of various fibers was hand-made by a Tibetan nun at Dolma Ling Nunnery in the hope that it will spread awareness of the plight of her people and the desperate need for basic human rights in Tibet. For more information contact the Tibetan Nuns Project, 510.647.3423.
Almost every recent escapee from Tibet is wearing a string bracelet known as Rangzen or Freedom Bracelets, and their pattern of '9 eyes' has deep historical significance. Rangzen bracelets were patterned after the sling used by shepherds and nomads to protect their herds from wolves As such, the sling came to symbolize the conquering power of good over evil The people of Tibet took up the idea so that even city dwellers owned slings as a sort of protective force. They were kept in a Yang-gam, a small box that contained precious stones, gold, silver, and blessed objects. It was believed that your defensive power was so heightened that just owning one would make you victorious even in a fist fight. The first Rangzen Bracelets were made by Kusho Youlo Dawa Tsering. He is a great scholar and valiant freedom fighter, who was arrested and remained in prison in a solitary cell under the most dreadful conditions for 21 years. To pass the time Kush Tsering took white wool and black yak hair and wove small bracelets in the traditional 9- eyed pattern. He handed them out secretly to his fellow prisoners who wore them as a form of silent protest. When the guards asked the meaning of the bracelets, the Tibetans explained that the 9-eyed pattern protected the wearer from numerous fatal diseases, nervous disorders and other illness. Eventually these bracelets became very fashionable among Chinese and Tibetan alike. Once the true meaning was discovered, the Chinese tried to ban them, but were unsuccessful. Though the majority of Rangzen Bracelets are made in black and white, other colors came to be used depending on what was available in the prisons.