Coordinates: 31°12′N 88°48′E / 31.2°N 88.8°E / 31.2;
"Greater Tibet" as claimed by Tibetan exile groups
Tibetan autonomous areas, as designated by China
Tibet Autonomous Region, within China
Chinese-controlled, claimed by
India as part of Aksai Chin
Indian-controlled, parts claimed by
China as South Tibet
Other areas historically within the Tibetan cultural sphere
"Tibet" in the Tibetan (top) and Chinese (bottom) scripts
This article contains Tibetan alphabet. Without proper rendering
support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead
of Tibetan characters.
Tibet (/tɪˈbɛt/ ( listen); Tibetan:
བོད་, Wylie: bod, ZYPY: Poi,
Lhasa dialect IPA:
pʰøː˨˧˩; Chinese: 藏区 /ɕi⁵⁵ t͡sɑŋ⁵¹/) is a
historical region covering much of the
Tibetan Plateau in Central
Asia. It is the traditional homeland of the
Tibetan people as well as
some other ethnic groups such as Monpa, Qiang, and
Lhoba peoples and
is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of
Han Chinese and Hui
Tibet is the highest region on Earth, with an average
elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft). The
highest elevation in
Tibet is Mount Everest, Earth's highest mountain,
rising 8,848 m (29,029 ft) above sea level. no country recognize
the validity of Greater
Tibetan Empire emerged in the 7th century, but with the fall of
the empire the region soon divided into a variety of territories. The
bulk of western and central
Tibet (Ü-Tsang) was often at least
nominally unified under a series of Tibetan governments in Lhasa,
Shigatse, or nearby locations; these governments were at various times
under Mongol and Chinese overlordship. Thus
Tibet remained a
suzerainty of the Mongol and later Chinese rulers in Nanjing and
Beijing, with reasonable autonomy given to the Tibetan leaders. The
eastern regions of
Amdo often maintained a more decentralized
indigenous political structure, being divided among a number of small
principalities and tribal groups, while also often falling more
directly under Chinese rule after the Battle of Chamdo; most of this
area was eventually incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan
and Qinghai. The current borders of
Tibet were generally established
in the 18th century.
Xinhai Revolution against the
Qing dynasty in 1912, Qing
soldiers were disarmed and escorted out of
Tibet Area (Ü-Tsang). The
region subsequently declared its independence in 1913 without
recognition by the subsequent Chinese Republican government. Later,
Lhasa took control of the western part of Xikang, China. The region
maintained its autonomy until 1951 when, following the Battle of
Tibet became incorporated into the People's Republic of China,
and the previous Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a
failed uprising. Today,
China governs western and central
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region while the eastern areas are now mostly
ethnic autonomous prefectures within Sichuan,
Qinghai and other
neighbouring provinces. There are tensions regarding Tibet's political
status and dissident groups that are active in exile. It is also
said that Tibetan activists in
Tibet have been arrested or
The economy of
Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture, though
tourism has become a growing industry in recent decades. The dominant
Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism; in addition there is Bön,
which is similar to Tibetan Buddhism, and there are also Tibetan
Muslims and Christian minorities.
Tibetan Buddhism is a primary
influence on the art, music, and festivals of the region. Tibetan
architecture reflects Chinese and Indian influences. Staple foods in
Tibet are roasted barley, yak meat, and butter tea.
3.1 Early history
3.2 Tibetan Empire
3.3 Yuan dynasty
3.5 Rise of Ganden Phodrang
3.6 Qing dynasty
3.7 Post-Qing period
3.8 From 1950 to present
4.1 Cities, towns and villages
6.1 Development zone
8.2 Tibetan art
9 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
Main article: Definitions of Tibet
The Tibetan name for their land, Bod བོད་, means "Tibet" or
"Tibetan Plateau", although it originally meant the central
region around Lhasa, now known in Tibetan as Ü. The
Standard Tibetan pronunciation of Bod, [pʰøʔ˨˧˨], is transcribed
Bhö in Tournadre Phonetic Transcription, Bö in the THL Simplified
Phonetic Transcription and Poi in Tibetan pinyin. Some scholars
believe the first written reference to Bod "Tibet" was the ancient
Bautai people recorded in the Egyptian Greek works Periplus of the
Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) and
Geographia (Ptolemy, 2nd century
CE), itself from the
Sanskrit form Bhauṭṭa of the Indian
Standard Chinese exonym for the ethnic Tibetan region is
Zangqu (Chinese: 藏区; pinyin: Zàngqū), which derives by metonymy
from the Tsang region around
Shigatse plus the addition of a Chinese
suffix, 区 qū, which means "area, district, region, ward". Tibetan
people, language, and culture, regardless of where they are from, are
referred to as Zang (Chinese: 藏; pinyin: Zàng) although the
geographical term Xīzàng is often limited to the
Region. The term Xīzàng was coined during the
Qing dynasty in the
reign of the
Jiaqing Emperor (1796–1820) through the addition of a
prefix meaning "west" (西 xī) to Zang.
The best-known medieval Chinese name for
Tibet is Tubo (Chinese:
吐蕃 also written as 土蕃 or 土番; pinyin: Tǔbō or Tǔfān).
This name first appears in Chinese characters as 土番 in the 7th
century (Li Tai) and as 吐蕃 in the 10th-century (Old Book of Tang
describing 608–609 emissaries from Tibetan King
Namri Songtsen to
Emperor Yang of Sui). In the
Middle Chinese spoken during that period,
as reconstructed by William H. Baxter, 土番 was pronounced
thux-phjon and 吐蕃 was pronounced thux-pjon (with the x
Other pre-modern Chinese names for
Tibet include Wusiguo (Chinese:
烏斯國; pinyin: Wūsīguó; cf. Tibetan dbus, Ü, [wyʔ˨˧˨]),
Wusizang (Chinese: 烏斯藏; pinyin: wūsīzàng, cf. Tibetan
dbus-gtsang, Ü-Tsang), Tubote (Chinese: 圖伯特; pinyin:
Túbótè), and Tanggute (Chinese: 唐古忒; pinyin: Tánggǔtè, cf.
Tangut). American Tibetologist
Elliot Sperling has argued in favor of
a recent tendency by some authors writing in Chinese to revive the
term Tubote (simplified Chinese: 图伯特; traditional Chinese:
圖伯特; pinyin: Túbótè) for modern use in place of Xizang, on
the grounds that Tubote more clearly includes the entire Tibetan
plateau rather than simply the
Tibet Autonomous Region.[citation
The English word
Tibet or Thibet dates back to the 18th century.
Historical linguists generally agree that "Tibet" names in European
languages are loanwords from Semitic Ṭībat orTūbātt (طيبة،
توبات) (טובּה, טובּת), itself deriving from Turkic
Töbäd, literally: "The Heights" (plural of töbän).
Main article: Standard Tibetan
Linguists generally classify the Tibetan language as a Tibeto-Burman
language of the
Sino-Tibetan language family although the boundaries
between 'Tibetan' and certain other Himalayan languages can be
unclear. According to Matthew Kapstein:
From the perspective of historical linguistics, Tibetan most closely
resembles Burmese among the major languages of Asia. Grouping these
two together with other apparently related languages spoken in the
Himalayan lands, as well as in the highlands of Southeast Asia and the
Sino-Tibetan frontier regions, linguists have generally concluded that
there exists a
Tibeto-Burman family of languages. More controversial
is the theory that the
Tibeto-Burman family is itself part of a larger
language family, called Sino-Tibetan, and that through it Tibetan and
Burmese are distant cousins of Chinese.
Tibetan family in
Kham attending a horse festival
The language has numerous regional dialects which are generally not
mutually intelligible. It is employed throughout the Tibetan plateau
Bhutan and is also spoken in parts of
Nepal and northern India,
such as Sikkim. In general, the dialects of central
Amdo and some smaller nearby areas are considered
Tibetan dialects. Other forms, particularly Dzongkha, Sikkimese,
Sherpa, and Ladakhi, are considered by their speakers, largely for
political reasons, to be separate languages. However, if the latter
group of Tibetan-type languages are included in the calculation, then
'greater Tibetan' is spoken by approximately 6 million people
across the Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan is also spoken by approximately
150,000 exile speakers who have fled from modern-day
Tibet to India
and other countries.
Although spoken Tibetan varies according to the region, the written
language, based on Classical Tibetan, is consistent throughout. This
is probably due to the long-standing influence of the Tibetan empire,
whose rule embraced (and extended at times far beyond) the present
Tibetan linguistic area, which runs from northern
Pakistan in the west
Sichuan in the east, and from north of
south as far as Bhutan. The Tibetan language has its own script which
it shares with Ladakhi and Dzongkha, and which is derived from the
ancient Indian Brāhmī script.
Starting in 2001, the local deaf sign languages of
Tibetan Sign Language is now being promoted across
The first Tibetan-English dictionary and grammar book was written by
Alexander Csoma de Kőrös in 1834.
Main article: History of Tibet
History of European exploration in Tibet
History of European exploration in Tibet and
Foreign relations of Tibet
King Songtsen Gampo
Neolithic Tibet, Zhangzhung, and Pre-Imperial Tibet
Humans inhabited the
Tibetan Plateau at least 21,000 years ago.
This population was largely replaced around 3,000 BP by Neolithic
immigrants from northern China, but there is a partial genetic
continuity between the Paleolithic inhabitants and contemporary
The earliest Tibetan historical texts identify the Zhang Zhung culture
as a people who migrated from the
Amdo region into what is now the
Guge in western Tibet. Zhang Zhung is considered to be
the original home of the
Bön religion. By the 1st century BCE, a
neighboring kingdom arose in the Yarlung valley, and the Yarlung king,
Drigum Tsenpo, attempted to remove the influence of the Zhang Zhung by
expelling the Zhang's
Bön priests from Yarlung. He was
assassinated and Zhang Zhung continued its dominance of the region
until it was annexed by
Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Prior to
Songtsen Gampo, the kings of
Tibet were more mythological than
factual, and there is insufficient evidence of their existence.
Main article: Tibetan Empire
Map of the
Tibetan Empire at its greatest extent between the 780s and
the 790s CE
The history of a unified
Tibet begins with the rule of Songtsen Gampo
(604–650 CE), who united parts of the Yarlung River Valley and
founded the Tibetan Empire. He also brought in many reforms, and
Tibetan power spread rapidly, creating a large and powerful empire. It
is traditionally considered that his first wife was the Princess of
Nepal, Bhrikuti, and that she played a great role in the establishment
of Buddhism in Tibet. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the niece
of the powerful Chinese emperor Taizong of Tang China.
Under the next few Tibetan kings, Buddhism became established as the
state religion and Tibetan power increased even further over large
areas of Central Asia, while major inroads were made into Chinese
territory, even reaching the Tang's capital
Chang'an (modern Xi'an) in
late 763. However, the Tibetan occupation of
Chang'an only lasted
for fifteen days, after which they were defeated by Tang and its ally,
the Turkic Uyghur Khaganate.
Kingdom of Nanzhao
Kingdom of Nanzhao (in
Yunnan and neighbouring regions) remained
under Tibetan control from 750 to 794, when they turned on their
Tibetan overlords and helped the Chinese inflict a serious defeat on
In 747, the hold of
Tibet was loosened by the campaign of general Gao
Xianzhi, who tried to re-open the direct communications between
Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750, the Tibetans had lost almost all of
their central Asian possessions to the Chinese. However, after Gao
Xianzhi's defeat by the Arabs and Qarluqs at the
Battle of Talas
Battle of Talas (751)
and the subsequent civil war known as the
An Lushan Rebellion
An Lushan Rebellion (755),
Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence resumed.
At its height in the 780's to 790's the
Tibetan Empire reached its
highest glory when it ruled and controlled a territory stretching from
modern day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India,
Nepal, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan.
In 821/822 CE
China signed a peace treaty. A bilingual
account of this treaty, including details of the borders between the
two countries, is inscribed on a stone pillar which stands outside the
Jokhang temple in Lhasa.
Tibet continued as a Central Asian empire
until the mid-9th century, when a civil war over succession led to the
collapse of imperial Tibet. The period that followed is known
traditionally as the Era of Fragmentation, when political control over
Tibet became divided between regional warlords and tribes with no
dominant centralized authority. An Islamic invasion from Bengal took
place in 1206.
Mongol conquest of Tibet
Mongol conquest of Tibet and
Tibet under Yuan rule
The Mongol Yuan dynasty, c. 1294.
The Mongol Yuan dynasty, through the Bureau of
Buddhist and Tibetan
Affairs, or Xuanzheng Yuan, ruled
Tibet through a top-level
administrative department. One of the department's purposes was to
select a dpon-chen ('great administrator'), usually appointed by the
lama and confirmed by the Mongol emperor in Beijing. The Sakya
lama retained a degree of autonomy, acting as the political authority
of the region, while the dpon-chen held administrative and military
power. Mongol rule of
Tibet remained separate from the main provinces
of China, but the region existed under the administration of the Yuan
dynasty. If the
Sakya lama ever came into conflict with the dpon-chen,
the dpon-chen had the authority to send Chinese troops into the
Tibet retained nominal power over religious and regional political
affairs, while the
Mongols managed a structural and administrative
rule over the region, reinforced by the rare military intervention.
This existed as a "diarchic structure" under the Yuan emperor, with
power primarily in favor of the Mongols. Mongolian prince Khuden
gained temporal power in
Tibet in the 1240s and sponsored Sakya
Pandita, whose seat became the capital of Tibet. Drogön Chögyal
Sakya Pandita's nephew became
Imperial Preceptor of Kublai
Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty.
Yuan control over the region ended with the Ming overthrow of the Yuan
and Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen's revolt against the Mongols.
Following the uprising,
Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen founded the
Phagmodrupa Dynasty, and sought to reduce Yuan influences over Tibetan
culture and politics.
Main articles: Phagmodrupa Dynasty, Rinpungpa, and Tsangpa
Further information: Sino-Tibetan relations during the Ming dynasty
Between 1346 and 1354,
Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen toppled the Sakya
and founded the Phagmodrupa Dynasty. The following 80 years saw the
founding of the
Gelug school (also known as Yellow Hats) by the
disciples of Je Tsongkhapa, and the founding of the important Ganden,
Drepung and Sera monasteries near Lhasa. However, internal strife
within the dynasty and the strong localism of the various fiefs and
political-religious factions led to a long series of internal
conflicts. The minister family Rinpungpa, based in Tsang (West Central
Tibet), dominated politics after 1435. In 1565 they were overthrown by
Tsangpa Dynasty of
Shigatse which expanded its power in different
Tibet in the following decades and favoured the Karma
Rise of Ganden Phodrang
The Khoshut Khanate, 1642–1717.
Tibet in 1734. Royaume de Thibet ("Kingdom of Tibet") in la Chine, la
Tartarie Chinoise, et le Thibet ("China, Chinese Tartary, and Tibet")
on a 1734 map by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville, based on earlier
Tibet in 1892 during the Qing dynasty.
Main article: Ganden Phodrang
Altan Khan of the
Mongols gave Sonam Gyatso, a high
lama of the
Gelugpa school, the name Dalai Lama, Dalai being the
Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso "Ocean".
Dalai Lama is known for unifying the Tibetan heartland under
the control of the
Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism, after defeating
Jonang sects and the secular ruler, the Tsangpa
prince, in a prolonged civil war. His efforts were successful in part
because of aid from Güshi Khan, the Oirat leader of the Khoshut
Güshi Khan as a largely uninvolved overlord, the 5th
Dalai Lama and his intimates established a civil administration which
is referred to by historians as the
Lhasa state. This Tibetan regime
or government is also referred to as the Ganden Phodrang.
Chinese expedition to Tibet (1720) and
Tibet under Qing
Qing dynasty rule in
Tibet began with their 1720 expedition to the
country when they expelled the invading Dzungars.
Amdo came under Qing
control in 1724, and eastern
Kham was incorporated into neighbouring
Chinese provinces in 1728. Meanwhile, the Qing government sent
resident commissioners called Ambans to Lhasa. In 1750 the Ambans and
the majority of the
Han Chinese and
Manchus living in
killed in a riot, and Qing troops arrived quickly and suppressed the
rebels in the next year. Like the preceding Yuan dynasty, the Manchus
Qing dynasty exerted military and administrative control of the
region, while granting it a degree of political autonomy. The Qing
commander publicly executed a number of supporters of the rebels and,
as in 1723 and 1728, made changes in the political structure and drew
up a formal organization plan. The Qing now restored the
Dalai Lama as
ruler, leading the governing council called Kashag, but elevated
the role of Ambans to include more direct involvement in Tibetan
internal affairs. At the same time the Qing took steps to
counterbalance the power of the aristocracy by adding officials
recruited from the clergy to key posts.
For several decades, peace reigned in Tibet, but in 1792 the Qing
Qianlong Emperor sent a large Chinese army into
Tibet to push the
invading Nepalese out. This prompted yet another Qing reorganization
of the Tibetan government, this time through a written plan called the
"Twenty-Nine Regulations for Better Government in Tibet". Qing
military garrisons staffed with Qing troops were now also established
near the Nepalese border.
Tibet was dominated by the
various stages in the 18th century, and the years immediately
following the 1792 regulations were the peak of the Qing imperial
commissioners' authority; but there was no attempt to make
In 1834 the
Sikh Empire invaded and annexed Ladakh, a culturally
Tibetan region that was an independent kingdom at the time. Seven
years later a Sikh army led by
General Zorawar Singh
General Zorawar Singh invaded western
Tibet from Ladakh, starting the Sino-Sikh War. A Qing-Tibetan army
repelled the invaders but was in turn defeated when it chased the
Sikhs into Ladakh. The war ended with the signing of the Treaty of
Chushul between the Chinese and Sikh empires.
Qing dynasty weakened, its authority over
Tibet also gradually
declined, and by the mid-19th century its influence was minuscule.
Qing authority over
Tibet had become more symbolic than real by the
late 19th century, although in the 1860s the Tibetans
still chose for reasons of their own to emphasize the empire's
symbolic authority and make it seem substantial.
This period also saw some contacts with
Jesuits and Capuchins from
Europe, and in 1774 a Scottish nobleman, George Bogle, came to
Shigatse to investigate prospects of trade for the British East India
Company. However, in the 19th century the situation of foreigners
Tibet grew more tenuous. The
British Empire was encroaching from
India into the Himalayas, the
Emirate of Afghanistan
Emirate of Afghanistan and the
Russian Empire were expanding into
Central Asia and each power became
suspicious of the others' intentions in Tibet.
In 1904, a British expedition to Tibet, spurred in part by a fear that
Russia was extending its power into
Tibet as part of The Great Game,
invaded the country, hoping that negotiations with the 13th Dalai Lama
would be more effective than with Chinese representatives. When
the British-led invasion reached
Tibet on December 12, 1903, an armed
confrontation with the ethnic Tibetans resulted in the Massacre of
Chumik Shenko, which resulted in 600 fatalities amongst the Tibetan
forces, compared to only 12 on the British side. Afterwards,
Francis Younghusband imposed a treaty known as the Treaty of
Lhasa, which was subsequently repudiated and was succeeded by a 1906
treaty signed between Britain and China.
In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own
Zhao Erfeng to establish direct Manchu-Chinese rule and, in an
imperial edict, deposed the Dalai Lama, who fled to British India.
Zhao Erfeng defeated the Tibetan military conclusively and expelled
the Dalai Lama's forces from the province. His actions were unpopular,
and there was much animosity against him for his mistreatment of
civilians and disregard for local culture.
Rogyapas, an outcast group, early 20th century. Their hereditary
occupation included disposal of corpses and leather work.
Xinhai Revolution (1911–12) toppled the
Qing dynasty and
the last Qing troops were escorted out of Tibet, the new Republic of
China apologized for the actions of the Qing and offered to restore
the Dalai Lama's title. The
Dalai Lama refused any Chinese title
and declared himself ruler of an independent Tibet. In 1913, Tibet
Mongolia concluded a treaty of mutual recognition. For the
next 36 years, the 13th
Dalai Lama and the regents who succeeded him
governed Tibet. During this time,
Tibet fought Chinese warlords for
control of the ethnically Tibetan areas in
Kham and Amdo) along the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. In
1914 the Tibetan government signed the Simla Accord with Britain,
South Tibet region to British India. The Chinese government
denounced the agreement as illegal.
When in the 1930s and 1940s the regents displayed negligence in
affairs, the Kuomintang Government of the Republic of
advantage of this to expand its reach into the territory.
From 1950 to present
History of Tibet
History of Tibet (1950–present)
Emerging with control over most of mainland
China after the Chinese
Civil War, the People's Republic of
Tibet in 1950
and negotiated the Seventeen Point Agreement with the newly enthroned
14th Dalai Lama's government, affirming the People's Republic of
China's sovereignty but granting the area autonomy. Subsequently, on
his journey into exile, the 14th
Dalai Lama completely repudiated the
agreement, which he has repeated on many occasions. The
Chinese used the
Dalai Lama to be able to have control of the
military's training and actions.
Dalai Lama had a strong following as many people from
at him as their leader from not just a political point of view but,
also from a spiritual perspective. After the Dalai Lama's
government fled to Dharamsala, India, during the 1959 Tibetan
Rebellion, it established a rival government-in-exile. Afterwards, the
Central People's Government
Central People's Government in Beijing renounced the agreement and
began implementation of the halted social and political reforms.
During the Great Leap Forward, between 200,000 and 1,000,000 Tibetans
died, and approximately 6,000 monasteries were destroyed during
the Cultural Revolution, thus the vast majority of historic Tibetan
architecture was destroyed. In 1962
India fought a brief
war over the disputed
South Tibet and
Aksai Chin regions. Although
China won the war, Chinese troops withdrew north of the McMahon Line,
South Tibet to India.
In 1980, General Secretary and reformist
Hu Yaobang visited
ushered in a period of social, political, and economic
liberalization. At the end of the decade, however, before the
Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, monks in the
Drepung and Sera
monasteries started protesting for independence, and so the government
halted reforms and started an anti-separatist campaign. Human
rights organisations have been critical of the Beijing and Lhasa
governments' approach to human rights in the region when cracking down
on separatist convulsions that have occurred around monasteries and
cities, most recently in the 2008 Tibetan unrest.
Main article: Geography of Tibet
Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region.
Himalayas, on the southern rim of the Tibetan plateau
All of modern China, including Tibet, is considered a part of East
Asia. Historically, some European sources also considered parts of
Tibet to lie in Central Asia.
Tibet is west of the Central China
plain, and within mainland
Tibet is regarded as part of 西部
(Xībù), a term usually translated by Chinese media as "the Western
section", meaning "Western China".
Yarlung Tsangpo River
Tibet is often called the "roof of the world, because it is a very
Tibetan Plateau and surrounding areas above 1600 m –
Tibet has some of the world's tallest mountains, with several of them
making the top ten list. Mount Everest, located on the border with
Nepal, is, at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft), the highest mountain on
earth. Several major rivers have their source in the Tibetan Plateau
(mostly in present-day
Qinghai Province). These include the Yangtze,
Yellow River, Indus River, Mekong, Ganges, Salween and the Yarlung
Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra River). The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand
Canyon, along the Yarlung Tsangpo River, is among the deepest and
longest canyons in the world.
Tibet has been called the "Water Tower" of Asia, and
investing heavily in water projects in Tibet.
The Indus and Brahmaputra rivers originate from a lake (Tib: Tso
Mapham) in Western Tibet, near Mount Kailash. The mountain is a holy
pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Tibetans. The Hindus consider the
mountain to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The Tibetan name for Mt.
Kailash is Khang Rinpoche.
Tibet has numerous high-altitude lakes
referred to in Tibetan as tso or co. These include
Qinghai Lake, Lake
Manasarovar, Namtso, Pangong Tso, Yamdrok Lake, Siling Co, Lhamo
La-tso, Lumajangdong Co, Lake Puma Yumco, Lake Paiku, Como Chamling,
Dagze Co and Dong Co. The
Qinghai Lake (Koko Nor) is
the largest lake in the People's Republic of China.
The atmosphere is severely dry nine months of the year, and average
annual snowfall is only 18 inches (46 cm), due to the rain shadow
effect. Western passes receive small amounts of fresh snow each year
but remain traversible all year round. Low temperatures are prevalent
throughout these western regions, where bleak desolation is unrelieved
by any vegetation bigger than a low bush, and where wind sweeps
unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. The Indian monsoon
exerts some influence on eastern Tibet. Northern
Tibet is subject to
high temperatures in the summer and intense cold in the winter.
Tibet consists of several regions. These include
Amdo (A mdo)
in the northeast, which is administratively part of the provinces of
Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.
Kham (Khams) in the southeast encompasses
parts of western Sichuan, northern Yunnan, southern
Qinghai and the
eastern part of the
Tibet Autonomous Region.
Ü-Tsang (dBus gTsang)
(Ü in the center, Tsang in the center-west, and Ngari (mNga' ris) in
the far west) covered the central and western portion of Tibet
Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring states of
Bhutan, Nepal, regions of
India such as Sikkim, Ladakh, Lahaul, and
Pakistan baltistan or Balti-yul in addition to
designated Tibetan autonomous areas in adjacent Chinese provinces.
Cities, towns and villages
Further information: List of populated places in the
Looking across the square at
Jokhang temple, Lhasa
There are over 800 settlements in Tibet.
Lhasa is Tibet's traditional
capital and the capital of
Tibet Autonomous Region. It contains two
world heritage sites – the
Potala Palace and Norbulingka, which
were the residences of the Dalai Lama.
Lhasa contains a number of
significant temples and monasteries, including
Jokhang and Ramoche
Shigatse is the second largest city in the
Tibet AR, west of Lhasa.
Qamdo are also amongst the largest.
Other cities and towns in cultural
Nagchu, Bamda, Rutog, Nyingchi, Nedong, Coqên, Barkam, Sakya, Gartse,
Pelbar, Lhatse, and Tingri; in Sichuan,
Kangding (Dartsedo); in
Jyekundo (Yushu), Machen, and Golmud; in India, Tawang, Leh,
Gangtok , In
Skardu , Khapulu
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region § Government
The central region of
Tibet is an autonomous region within China, the
Tibet Autonomous Region. The
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region is a
province-level entity of the People's Republic of China. It is
governed by a People's Government, led by a Chairman. In practice,
however, the Chairman is subordinate to the branch secretary of the
Communist Party of China. As a matter of convention, the Chairman has
almost always been an ethnic Tibetan, while the party secretary has
always been ethnically non-Tibetan.
Main article: Economy of Tibet
The Tibetan yak is an integral part of Tibetan life
The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to
limited arable land, the primary occupation of the
Tibetan Plateau is
raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, dzo,
The dogs of
Tibet are twice the size of those seen in India, with
large heads and hairy bodies. They are powerful animals, and are said
to be able to kill a tiger. During the day they are kept chained up,
and are let loose at night to guard their masters' house.
The main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, and
assorted fruits and vegetables.
Tibet is ranked the lowest among
China’s 31 provinces on the Human Development Index according to
UN Development Programme data. In recent years, due to increased
interest in Tibetan Buddhism, tourism has become an increasingly
important sector, and is actively promoted by the authorities.
Tourism brings in the most income from the sale of handicrafts. These
include Tibetan hats, jewelry (silver and gold), wooden items,
clothing, quilts, fabrics, Tibetan rugs and carpets. The Central
People's Government exempts
Tibet from all taxation and provides 90%
of Tibet's government expenditures. However most of
this investment goes to pay migrant workers who do not settle in Tibet
and send much of their income home to other provinces.
40% of the rural cash income in the
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region is derived
from the harvesting of the fungus
Cordyceps sinensis; contributing at
least 1.8 billion yuan, (225 million USD) to the region’s GDP. 
Farmers' market in Lhasa
Qingzang railway linking the
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region to Qinghai
Province was opened in 2006, but not without controversy.
In January 2007, the Chinese government issued a report outlining the
discovery of a large mineral deposit under the Tibetan Plateau.
The deposit has an estimated value of $128 billion and may double
Chinese reserves of zinc, copper, and lead. The Chinese government
sees this as a way to alleviate the nation's dependence on foreign
mineral imports for its growing economy. However, critics worry that
mining these vast resources will harm Tibet's fragile ecosystem and
undermine Tibetan culture.
On January 15, 2009,
China announced the construction of Tibet’s
first expressway, a 37.9 km (23.5 mi) stretch of
controlled-access highway in southwestern Lhasa. The project will cost
1.55 billion yuan (US$227 million).
From January 18–20, 2010 a national conference on
Tibet and areas
inhabited by Tibetans in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and
Qinghai was held
China and a substantial plan to improve development of the areas
was announced. The conference was attended by General secretary Hu
Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping,
He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang, all members of CPC
Politburo Standing Committee signaling the commitment of senior
Chinese leaders to development of
Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas. The
plan calls for improvement of rural Tibetan income to national
standards by 2020 and free education for all rural Tibetan children.
China has invested 310 billion yuan (about 45.6 billion U.S. dollars)
Tibet since 2001. "Tibet's GDP was expected to reach 43.7 billion
yuan in 2009, up 170 percent from that in 2000 and posting an annual
growth of 12.3 percent over the past nine years."
The State Council approved
Lhasa Economic and Technological
Development Zone as a state-level development zone in 2001. It is
located in the western suburbs of Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet
Autonomous Region. It is 50 kilometres (31 miles) away from the
Gonggar Airport, and 2 km (1.2 mi) away from
Station and 2 km (1.2 mi) away from 318 national highway.
The zone has a planned area of 5.46 km2 (2.11 sq mi)
and is divided into two zones. Zone A developed a land area of
2.51 km2 (0.97 sq mi) for construction purposes. It is
a flat zone, and has the natural conditions for good drainage.
History of Tibet
History of Tibet (1950–present) and Demographics of Tibet
Tibetan Lamanis, c. 1905
An elderly Tibetan woman in Lhasa
Historically, the population of
Tibet consisted of primarily ethnic
Tibetans and some other ethnic groups. According to tradition the
original ancestors of the Tibetan people, as represented by the six
red bands in the Tibetan flag, are: the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and
Ra. Other traditional ethnic groups with significant population or
with the majority of the ethnic group residing in
Tibet (excluding a
disputed area with India) include Bai people, Blang, Bonan, Dongxiang,
Han, Hui people, Lhoba, Lisu people, Miao, Mongols,
people), Menba (Monpa), Mosuo, Nakhi, Qiang, Nu people, Pumi, Salar,
and Yi people.
The proportion of the non-Tibetan population in
Tibet is disputed. On
the one hand, the
Central Tibetan Administration
Central Tibetan Administration of the Dalai Lama
China of actively swamping
Tibet with migrants in order to
alter Tibet's demographic makeup. On the other hand, according to
the 2010 Chinese census ethnic Tibetans comprise 90% of a total
population of 3 million in the
Tibet Autonomous Region. Exact
population numbers probably depend on how temporary migrants are
Main article: Tibetan culture
Main article: Religion in Tibet
Main article: Tibetan Buddhism
Buddhist monks practicing debate in
Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong
influence over all aspects of their lives.
Bön is the indigenous
religion of Tibet, but has been almost eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism, a
distinctive form of
Mahayana and Vajrayana, which was introduced into
Tibet from the
Buddhist tradition of northern India.
Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in
Tibet but also in Mongolia,
parts of northern India, the Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and
Republic of Kalmykia
Republic of Kalmykia and some other parts of China. During
China's Cultural Revolution, nearly all Tibet's monasteries were
ransacked and destroyed by the Red Guards. A few
monasteries have begun to rebuild since the 1980s (with limited
support from the Chinese government) and greater religious freedom has
been granted – although it is still limited. Monks returned to
Tibet and monastic education resumed even though
the number of monks imposed is strictly limited. Before
the 1950s, between 10 and 20% of males in
Tibet were monks.
Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions (the suffix pa is comparable
to "er" in English):
Gelug(pa), Way of Virtue, also known casually as Yellow Hat, whose
spiritual head is the
Ganden Tripa and whose temporal head is the
Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled
Tibet from the mid-17th to
mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th
centuries by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa
tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his
Dalai Lama belongs to the
Gelugpa school, and is regarded
as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion.
Kagyu(pa), Oral Lineage. This contains one major subsect and one minor
subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those
that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo
Kagyu consists of four
major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa
Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa
Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th-century teacher Kalu
Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister
Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is
very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its
most famous exponent was Milarepa, an 11th-century mystic.
Nyingma(pa), The Ancient Ones. This is the oldest, the original order
founded by Padmasambhava.
Sakya(pa), Grey Earth, headed by the
Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon
Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa.
Sakya Pandita 1182–1251 CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog
Gyalpo. This school emphasizes scholarship.
The first Christians documented to have reached
Tibet were the
Nestorians, of whom various remains and inscriptions have been found
in Tibet. They were also present at the imperial camp of Möngke Khan
at Shira Ordo, where they debated in 1256 with Karma Pakshi
(1204/6-83), head of the
Karma Kagyu order. Desideri, who
Lhasa in 1716, encountered Armenian and Russian merchants.
Jesuits and Capuchins arrived from Europe in the 17th
and 18th centuries. Portuguese missionaries Jesuit Father António de
Andrade and Brother Manuel Marques first reached the kingdom of Gelu
Tibet in 1624 and was welcomed by the royal family who
allowed them to build a church later on. By 1627, there were
about a hundred local converts in the
Guge kingdom. Later on,
Christianity was introduced to Rudok,
Ladakh and Tsang and was
welcomed by the ruler of the Tsang kingdom, where Andrade and his
fellows established a Jesuit outpost at
Shigatse in 1626.
In 1661 another Jesuit, Johann Grueber, crossed
Lhasa (where he spent a month), before heading on to Nepal. He
was followed by others who actually built a church in Lhasa. These
included the Jesuit Father Ippolito Desideri, 1716–1721, who gained
a deep knowledge of Tibetan culture, language and Buddhism, and
various Capuchins in 1707–1711, 1716–1733 and 1741–1745,
Christianity was used by some Tibetan monarchs and their courts and
Karmapa sect lamas to counterbalance the influence of the Gelugpa
sect in the 17th century until in 1745 when all the missionaries were
expelled at the lama's insistence.
In 1877, the Protestant James Cameron from the
China Inland Mission
Chongqing to Batang in Garzê Tibetan Autonomous
Sichuan province, and "brought the Gospel to the Tibetan
people." Beginning in the 20th century, in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous
Prefecture in Yunnan, a large number of
Lisu people and some Yi and Nu
people converted to Christianity. Famous earlier missionaries include
James O. Fraser,
Alfred James Broomhall
Alfred James Broomhall and
Isobel Kuhn of the China
Inland Mission, among others who were active in this area.
Proselytising has been illegal in
China since 1949. But as of
2013[update], many Christian missionaries were reported to be active
Tibet with the tacit approval of Chinese authorities, who view the
missionaries as a counterforce to
Tibetan Buddhism or as a boon to the
Main article: Islam in Tibet
Tibetan mosque in Lhasa
Muslims have been living in
Tibet since as early as the 8th or 9th
century. In Tibetan cities, there are small communities of Muslims,
known as Kachee (Kache), who trace their origin to immigrants from
three main regions:
Kashmir (Kachee Yul in ancient Tibetan), Ladakh
and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet
also came from Persia. A Muslim Sufi Syed Ali Hamdani preached to the
people of Baltistan, then known as little Tibet. Which became main
cause of the cultural separation of the people of
Baltistan from the
Tibet . After 1959 a group of
Tibetan Muslims made a case
for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to
the Indian government declared all
Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens
later on that year. Other Muslim ethnic groups who have long
Tibet include Hui, Salar, Dongxiang and Bonan. There is also
a well established Chinese Muslim community (gya kachee), which traces
its ancestry back to the Hui ethnic group of China.
Main article: Tibetan art
A thangka painting in Sikkim
A ritual box
Tibetan representations of art are intrinsically bound with Tibetan
Buddhism and commonly depict deities or variations of Buddha in
various forms from bronze
Buddhist statues and shrines, to highly
colorful thangka paintings and mandalas.
Tibetan culture § Architecture
Tibetan architecture contains Chinese and Indian influences, and
reflects a deeply
Buddhist approach. The
Buddhist wheel, along with
two dragons, can be seen on nearly every
Gompa in Tibet. The design of
the Tibetan Chörtens can vary, from roundish walls in
squarish, four-sided walls in Ladakh.
The most distinctive feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of
the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing
the south, and are often made out of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement
and earth. Little fuel is available for heat or lighting, so flat
roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed
to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as
a precaution against the frequent earthquakes in this mountainous
The Potala Palace
Standing at 117 metres (384 feet) in height and 360 metres (1,180
feet) in width, the
Potala Palace is the most important example of
Tibetan architecture. Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it
contains over one thousand rooms within thirteen stories, and houses
portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is
divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the
administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the
assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast
Buddhist scriptures. The
Potala Palace is a World Heritage
Site, as is Norbulingka, the former summer residence of the Dalai
Main article: Music of Tibet
The music of
Tibet reflects the cultural heritage of the
trans-Himalayan region, centered in
Tibet but also known wherever
ethnic Tibetan groups are found in India, Bhutan,
Nepal and further
abroad. First and foremost Tibetan music is religious music,
reflecting the profound influence of
Tibetan Buddhism on the culture.
Tibetan music often involves chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit, as an
integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often
recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals.
Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by
resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Other styles include
those unique to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the
classical music of the popular
Gelugpa school, and the romantic music
of the Nyingmapa,
Nangma dance music is especially popular in the karaoke bars of the
urban center of Tibet, Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the
classical gar style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. Lu
are a type of songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches.
There are also epic bards who sing of Gesar, who is a hero to ethnic
Main article: Tibetan festivals
The Monlam Prayer Festival
Tibet has various festivals that are commonly performed to worship the
Buddha throughout the year.
Losar is the Tibetan New
Year Festival. Preparations for the festive event are manifested by
special offerings to family shrine deities, painted doors with
religious symbols, and other painstaking jobs done to prepare for the
event. Tibetans eat
Guthuk (barley noodle soup with filling) on New
Year's Eve with their families. The
Monlam Prayer Festival
Monlam Prayer Festival follows it
in the first month of the Tibetan calendar, falling between the fourth
and the eleventh days of the first Tibetan month. It involves dancing
and participating in sports events, as well as sharing picnics. The
event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai
Lama and the Panchen Lama's order.
Main article: Tibetan cuisine
See also: List of Tibetan dishes
Thupka with Momo – Tibetan Style
The most important crop in
Tibet is barley, and dough made from barley
flour—called tsampa—is the staple food of Tibet. This is either
rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called momos. Meat
dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or mutton, often dried, or cooked
into a spicy stew with potatoes.
Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet,
and therefore features heavily in its cuisine.
Yak yogurt, butter and
cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yogurt is considered
something of a prestige item.
Butter tea is very popular to drink.
Central Tibetan Administration
Human rights in Tibet
Index of Tibet-related articles
Major national historical and cultural sites in Tibet
Outline of Tibet
Tibet Area (administrative division)
Tibetan independence movement
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^ Kapstein 2006, pp. 31, 71, 113
^ Stein 1972, pp. 36, 77–78
^ Françoise Pommaret, Françoise Pommaret-Imaeda (2003).
Lhasa in the
Seventeenth Century: The Capital of the Dalai Lamas. BRILL. p.159.
^ Graham Sanderg, The Exploration of Tibet: History and Particulars
(Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1973), pp. 23–26; Thomas Holdich, Tibet,
The Mysterious (London: Alston Rivers, 1906), p. 70.
^ Sir Edward Maclagan, The
Jesuits and The Great Mogul (London: Burns,
Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), pp. 344–345.
^ Lettera del P. Alano Dos Anjos al Provinciale di Goa, 10 Novembre
1627, quoted from Wu Kunming, Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi
(Beijing: Zhongguo Zangxue chubanshe, 1992), p. 163.
^ Extensively using Italian and Portuguese archival materials, Wu's
work gives a detailed account of Cacella's activities in Tsang. See
Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, esp. chapter 5.
^ Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet, and of the
Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, pp. 295–302. Clements R.
Markham. (1876). Reprint Cosmo Publications, New Delhi. 1989.
^ Stein 1972, p. 85
^ "When Christianity and Lamaism Met: The Changing Fortunes of Early
Western Missionaries in
Tibet by Lin Hsiao-ting of Stanford
University". Pacificrim.usfca.edu. Archived from the original on June
26, 2010. Retrieved 2010-03-26.
^ "BBC News Country Profiles Timeline: Tibet". 2009-11-05. Retrieved
^ Lettera del P. Antonio de Andrade. Giovanni de Oliveira. Alano Dos
Anjos al Provinciale di Goa, 29 Agosto, 1627, quoted from Wu, Zaoqi
Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, p. 196; Maclagan, The
The Great Mogul, pp. 347–348.
^ Cornelius Wessels, Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia,
1603–1721 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1924), pp. 80–85.
^ Maclagan, The
Jesuits and The Great Mogul, pp. 349–352; Filippo de
Filippi ed., An Account of Tibet, pp. 13–17.
^ Relação da Missão do Reino de Uçangue Cabeça dos do Potente,
Escrita pello P. João Cabral da Comp. de Jesu. fol. 1, quoted from
Wu, Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, pp. 294–297; Wang
Yonghong, "Luelun Tianzhujiao zai Xizang di Zaoqi Huodong", Xizang
Yanjiu, 1989, No. 3, pp. 62–63.
Yunnan Province of
China Government Web". Archived from the
original on March 12, 2009. Retrieved February 15, 2008.
^ Kapstein 2006, pp. 31, 206
^ Kaiman, Jonathan (21 February 2013). "Going undercover, the
evangelists taking Jesus to Tibet". The Guardian. Retrieved February
^ Masood Butt, 'Muslims of Tibet' Archived September 10, 2006, at the
Wayback Machine., The Office of Tibet, January/February 1994
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