Welcome to Tibet !

The Tibet Autonomous Region situated in the west of China, has a total area of 1.2 million sq. km. It is the second largest region in China. To the north lies Xinjiang and Qinghai, Sichuan to the east and Yunnan to the southeast. It shares a border with India, Nepal, Burma, Sikkim and Bhutan to the south and Kashmir towards the southwest. Tibet has a boundary line that is 4000km long. Lhasa is not only the capital of Tibet, but the largest city in Tibet, second largest being Shigatse. Tibet is known as “the roof of the world”. But millions of years ago this was covered by sea and geologists call it “the ancient sea of Turish”.

Tibet has a varied topography divided into three different natural parts: the northern Tibetan Plateau is vast and lies between the Kunlun and the Tangula and the Gandise and the Nyanqin Tangula ranges, covering two-thirds of the total area of the Tibet Autonomous region. The river valleys in the southern part of Tibet lie between the Gandise and the Himalayan ranges; the eastern part of Tibet belongs to an area of deep gorges where a series of mountain ranges from east to west criss-cross mountain ranges running from south to north. This is a part of the Hengduan mountain range, which can be divided into six types of terrains such as ultra-high mountain, high-mountain, medium-high mountain, low mountain, hills and plains. There is also an ice-filled Karst topography, wind-sanded and volcanic land.

The Himalayas to the south of the Tibetan Plateau is the youngest and highest range on earth, which consist of a series of parallel ranges running from south to north. It is 2,400km long and 200-300km in width.  The highest mountain in the world – Mt. Everest (Qomolangma in Tibetan), stands in the middle of the Himalayan range and its northern face lies in Tibet.

Within the boundary of the Tibet Autonomous Region there are over 20 rivers whose flow coverage is over 10,000 sq.km and 100 rivers whose flow coverage is over 2000 sq. km. The famous rivers are the Yangtse, Gyalmo Ngulchu, Zachu, and Yarlung Tsangpo. The source of famous rivers like the Ganges, Brahmaputra, Indus, and the Mekong rivers, all lie here. The waters of Tibet’s rivers come from rainfall, snow and aquifers. There are 1,500 lakes, big and small, in Tibet and they cover more than 2,400 sq. km of land which is one-third the total land mass in China. Tibet is not only the biggest in size and possesses the most number of lakes, but also has the highest number of lakes in the world. The water in these lakes is salty.

Climate

The climate in Tibet is unique and complicated. Generally speaking, the air here in thin, has lower pressure and is also low in oxygen. The sun is strong and sunshine lasts long. Temperatures here vary greatly between day and night. There is a great difference in climate between northern and southern Tibet. Influenced by the humid air current from the Indian Ocean, a number of valleys in the south of Tibet have a warm climate with little rainfall. The average temperature is about 8 degree C, the lowest temperature drops to –16 degree C. The highest temperature in those months rises only up to 16 degree C. The rainy season is between May to September. The north of Tibet has a typical continental climate. The average temperature drops below 0 degree C, the freezing season lasts half of the year. Its highest temperature in July doesn’t even rise to 10 degree C. There is more rainfall in the night during the rainy season and strong winds in winter. The Tibetan year can be divided into two different seasons: the dry season (usually from October to April) and the rainy season.

History

Before the 7th century, there were many tribes in Tibet and often at war with each other in their quest for more territory. Among them, the Tubo tribe owned large tracts of land during their peak period in Yarlung. The earliest capital city of Tubo was where Nedong County is in Lhoka today. After Namri Songtsen, the thirty-second generation Tubo prince inherited the throne and consolidated Tubo’s territories. Namri Songtsen later moved his capital from Nedong to the Gyama area, present day Medro Gongkar County, and built the Gyama Palace. In the early 7th century when, Songtsen Gampo, the son of Namri Songsten came to power he accomplished what his father had initiated-- the unification of the Tibet plateau and set up the central slave regime – the Tubo Kingdom.

In order to consolidate his emerging power, Songtsen Gampo adopted a series of important measures. For instance, in the year 633, he moved the capital of the Tubo Kingdom to Lhasa where he built the Potala Palace at the summit of the Red Hill and rebuilt the road and some other houses around the palace. Slowly over the years, Lhasa became the economic, political and cultural centre of the Tubo Kingdom. To consolidate his regime, Songtsen Gampo advocated the advanced methods of the Tang Dynasty and set up a system for civil and military officials and appointed officials to control the garrisons in other areas. He developed agricultural production and promoted economic prosperity. He sent people to ancient India to learn scripts and created the Tibetan script and calendar and contributed immensely to the development of Tubo culture.

During Songtsen Gampo’s time, the development of the Tubo Kingdom led to great prosperity. In order to develop the relationship between Tubo and the surrounding countries, he sent envoys to Nepal and then to the Tang Court in China to make an offer of marriage. The Tubo Kingdom became the strongest military power in the west of China since the Qing and Han Dynasties.

Songsten Gampo is the most well-known as well as the most important king in the history of Tibet. He died of an illness in 650 and the Tubo Kingdom gradually declined after his death. During the reign of Trisong Detsan, the people suffered because of his excessive campaigns against outside forces and his large-scale constructions which put a heavy burden on his subjects. There was social upheaval which eventually led the slaves to launch a large scale uprising. Their persistence brought the aristocrats down and put an end to the Tubo kingdom.

The Yuan Dynasty incorporated Tibet into Chinese territory and brought an end to the divisions among the Tibetan people paving the way for a peaceful life. During the Ming and Qing Dynasties, the central government of China strengthened its administrative grip on Tibet although the country remained independent. But after the communist regime came to power in China, Tibet slowly lost its sovereignty and the Dalai Lama went into exile to India. The Tibet Autonomous Region was established in April 1956.



Population

The population of the Tibet Autonomous Region is over 2,600,000. There are four prefectures and one municipality in the southeast of Tibet such as Chamdo, Nyitri, Lhoka, Shigatse and Lhasa, which make up 42% of the territory and 85% of the population of the region. The two north-western regions, Nakchu and Ngari, cover a land area that is 58% of the whole region, but has a population that accounts for only 15% of the total population.

Religion

Tibetans still enjoy a majority in Tibet but there are many other ethnic groups of people such as the Lopas, Sherpas, Tengpas and muslims. These groups form a small minority. The majority of Tibetans are Buddhists while some still follow the ancient Bon practices.

Food and Beverage

Food and drink in Tibet are related to the climate, local products, religion and local customs. Butter tea, barley flour, sweet tea, beef, mutton, barley, ea, horse bean, potato, round root, white lotus are all traditional food. The butter tea is the most common drink in Tibet. It is made of brick tea with butter and salt added together to give a unique Tibetan flavour. Tibetans love to drink beer made out of barley, which tastes a bit sour. This barley beer is used extensively in all kinds of happy occasions.

The main traditional food in Tibet is sampa or fried barley flour. It is eaten with a generous helping of butter and sugar stirred together. Tibetans often carry sampa in small leather bags when they go out or while travelling as its ready to eat any time. The other common Tibetan foods are: noodles, bread and cakes, which have a special taste of their own.

Tibet is rich in beef and mutton. They are not only meant for income generation but are also consumed. In Lhasa, people like to fry the meat in shallow oil. During the winter, Tibetans cut beef and mutton meat into slices and hang them up outside their houses to make dried meat.

Tibet is vast in territory and rich in a variety of products such as, carpets made in Gyangtse, aprons from Giongkar, the tweeds of Dranang, religious artifacts made of gold and copper from Chamdo, Tibetan knives from Lhatse, jade wares of Rinpung, wooden bowls from the Himalayas etc. A lot of Chinese herbal medicines are also produced in Tibet.