The Tibetans adore the white color, the snow-capped mountains, the Tsampa, the Hada, the white pagodas... all have been given the cultural connotations of sincere, kindness, brightness, and sacred. In the snow-covered Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the sheep is the most ancient animals accompanied with the Tibetans' ancestors. They are white, gentle and are regarded as symbols of the deities. Affected by the Buddhist concept, people believe that releasing captive animal can take away disease and misfortune, so as to accumulate virtue and pray for good fortune.
Near the monasteries in Tibet, it is often possible to see two or three individual sheep with red cloth tied on their necks but with no owner. In fact, these sheep have their own masters before. Their masters are all faithful believers in Tibetan Buddhism, so they are released by the masters. Returned to nature, they become free sheep and excused the destiny of being slaughtered. Traditionally, these sheep are known as "release sheep". On Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, once the sheep are released, they cannot be slaughtered as livestock.
Releasing the sheep is also a form of atonement for believers to confess their sins to the gods. It carries the unique emotions between humans and sheep, as well as the understanding of goodness and love, and the reverence, grateful and repentance of nature. Therefore, releasing sheep is a very solemn rite. In other regions, the shepherds have their own sheep at home and it is very easy to pick and free one. But in Tibet, it is necessary to buy a sheep first, and it is better to buy one that is just to be slaughtered. In this way, the releasing rite has a special meaning for this sheep, because its fate has a miraculous transition. With the sheep, it is not a matter of casually leave it away, but a series of rituals must be held first. Generally, the owner first takes the sheep to a monastery to turn the prayer wheel, burn aromatic plant and kowtow (former Chinese custom of touching the ground with the forehead as a sign of respect or submission), and let the sheep do some similar actions. Finally, the sheep is given a red cloth, and the owner tap the sheep slightly and let it leave alone. From this time on, these sheep became free. But a marvelous thing is, these free sheep will not leave freely. They seem to be influenced by a deep religious atmosphere and understand the owner's intentions, so they still follow the praying believers to express their grateful.
The fortune of released sheep is not only to be free from being slaughtered, but also because they will be taken care of by many other believers. Believers will consciously give them something to eat. Because of this, these released sheep behave very clever and will integrate into the believers all day. This scene has become a unique landscape in Tibet.