The Tibet autonomous Region:
In a region of mystery colour and culture, Tibet flourished in secrecy for centuries. A medieval magic of a land where people eat, sleep and breathe religion, following traditions laid down one hundred lifetimes ago. Tibet is indeed a very rich and beautiful land, located on the highest plateau on Earth at an average altitude over 4000 meter. Within its borders there are more than fifteen peaks above 7000 m. among which eleven are over 8000m. It borders with Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Xinjiang; in the North, Nepal, India, Sikkim, Bhutan Burma and Kashmir form its Southern borders. The Tibet Autonomous Region with a population of over two million covers an area of 1.2 million sq. km.
The journey to unlock the complexities posed by this arid mass of discovery (almost the size of Europe) begins with probably the most magnificent flight in the world. From Kathmandu, you will have an amazing view on the mountains and will fly over the backbone of the High Himalayas to land deep in the heart of the Tibetan plateau. A further two hours drive by road through barren wilderness Lhasa, the capital and home to the famous Potala Palace unfolds.
Geographically Tibet can be divided into three parts the East, the South and the North. The Eastern part is a forest region which occupies around 25% of Tibet. The Southern part is open grassland occupying almost a half of Tibet. The Southern and Central region is an agricultural region occupying the rest of Tibet as well as containing all the major cities Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse and Tsetang. This area is also considered as the cultural center of Tibet and Buddhism.
Religion in Tibet:
Buddhism, has a history dating back over 1300 years, these years have shaped a unique form “Lamaism” and Lhasa remains the major focus of Buddhist worship anywhere in the world. Tibetan history, culture and religion are mixed together and infiltrated into every aspect of social life. Buddhism in Tibet came into prominence after Songtsen Gompo, the 33rd Tibetan King married Bhrikuti, a Nepali Princess. After the marriage, Buddhism slowly started to replace the Bon religion but really gained momentum after the king’s minister translated the first Buddhist scripture. Buddhist scripture is believed to have descended from heaven around 5th century A.D. and was written in Sanskrit. Now Buddhism is the soul of Tibet and Tibetans. A small number of the population are Muslim but there is little suggestion of any other religion. Tibetan religious arts have a distinctive style which has adopted both Nepalese and Chinese influence, it is regarded as the pearl of oriental Buddhist art in Chinese Buddhism. Tibetan architecture is rich in design, sumptuous and full of noble aspiration. The Potala Palace, built on the top of a hill is a classic example of the wealth of Tibetan architectural structures. These buildings include wonderful sculptures, carvings, murals, “thangkas” and skilled butter sculptures alongside a vast array of historical monuments
Ethnic Communities and customs in Tibet:
People living on the Tibetan plateau, Tibetans, Monpas, Lhopas and Muslems, have their different ways of living, marriage, burial and other ceremonies. Tibetans call themselves “Bodpas” with a total population of 3.4 million (1992) among which 2.2 million reside in the Autonomous Region. Tibetans mainly engage in agriculture, husbandry and handicrafts. Tsampa (barley flour), beef, mutton, butter tea and barley beer are their most common food and drink. Traditional Tibetan clothing is made from wool and lambskin. They have a passion for ornaments with women wearing traditional striped aprons. Nomads and people living in remote areas depend on Yaks for their transportation, although donkeys and horses are also used. Their marriage system is mainly monogamous. Tibetans do not have surnames, their names consist of four or two syllables mainly adopted meanings from Buddhism. Festivals in Tibet are numerous, the grandest being the Tibetan New Year, (Lhosar) followed closely by the holiest day ‘Saga Dawa’ Festival and horse races.
Science and culture in Tibet :
Along with the development of the Tibetan history, Tibetans have created a unique science and culture of their own, amongst some of the most important formations of the whole of Chinese culture. The vast range of magnificent historical documents cultural relics, and literature presently in existence speak volumes of the wisdom of the Tibetans. Great scriptures such as “Kagyur” (Translation of the Commandments) “Tengyur” (Translation of Commentaries), “Four Tibetan Medical Tantras”, The Happy Feast of Sages”, Biography to Bhuton” and the “Biography of Milarepa” have all been translated into many languages. Tibet is also known as the Sea of the Songs and Dances; folk songs and dances of various styles, witnessed especially during the ‘Shoton” Festival in August each year.