The number of buyers at cordyceps auctions has doubled from a decade ago. Rangers patrol the mountains to deter illegal harvesting
To reach cordyceps grounds, a Layap must hike slippery paths, cross rivers and wend through forest, eating and sleeping under tarp between a rock and a tree branch amid torrid weather. But with all that mountainous yakrearing, perhaps no people are better equipped to gather this fungus, whose sales have since made them the richest community in the country. Chinese, American and Japanese buyers clamour for the “Himalayan Viagra” to make tonics, while it is to locals a medicine and household remedy.
But not all Layap have been swept up in the cordyceps craze. Some, like Wangmo, still herd: Each yak in her flock of 49 has a name, and her son sells their butter and cheese at Punakha, the closest big city.
“I’m absolutely uninterested in that expensive caterpillar,” says the middle-aged Layap, who is wearing a flowery blouse and black skirt made from yak wool. “I like constantly moving from one pasture to another. I can’t imagine life without my yaks.”
Perhaps Wangmo is onto something. Experts – and the Bhutan government – have observed that the quantity and quality of cordyceps in the Himalayas has been decreasing with each passing year. Global warming threatens the longevity of this fungus, throwing into question how long the Layap’s new tradition can stick around for. ag
16th century BCE
ȑȑcockfighting is wildly popular across the Indus Valley and Southeast Asia
POPULATION LANGUAGE preceding the world’s earliest code of laws by Sumerian king Ur-nammu: “I did not deliver the orphan to the rich. I did not deliver the widow to the mighty. I did not deliver the man with but one shekel to the man with one mina. I did not deliver the man with but one sheep to the man with one ox.”
When disputes did arise, parties often pleaded their case before the king himself or his appointed judges, and rulings created a body of precedents from which the general severity of punishments could be inferred. Legal agreements were ratified through the swearing of oaths before pagan gods, and contracts, carved into clay tablets, were placed in temple archives for safekeeping. In order to ensure all citizens knew the law, it was often inscribed on stone and displayed in public.
Lex talionis was born of one of these stone documents: the famous Code of Hammurabi, which dates back to around 1780 BCE. Inscribed in Akkadian on a black stone pillar over two metres high, the text comprised 282 decrees by King Hammurabi, the first king of Babylon. These ancient statutes outlined punishments for different crimes, and contain the famous adage under rule 196: “If a man puts out the eye of another man, his eye shall be put out.” This code is topped with a carving of the king receiving the laws from the Babylonian sun god, Shamash. ag