Tibet Autonomous Region situated in the west of China has a total area of 1.2 million sq.km, occupying one-eighth of the national total area. It is the second largest area in China. It is adjoined with Xinjiang and Qinghai to the north, Sichuan to the east, and Yunnan to the southeast. It is bordered to India, Nepal, Burma, Sikkim and Bhuntan to the south and Kashmir to the southwest. The boundary line is as long as 4000km. Lhasa is not only the capital of Tibet, but the first largest city in Tibet, second being Shigatse. Therefore, this region is known as “The roof of the world”. People called it “The lost Shangrila” or “The land of snowy mountains”. The geologists call it” The ancient sea of Turish”. The landforms and historical remains can still be found in Tibet. The Tibet Plateau has shown the historical testimony that time has brought great changes to the world. Tibet has a varied topography divided into three different natural parts: the northern Tibet Plateau in the west which lies between the Kunlun and the Tangula and the Gandise and the Nyanqin Tangula ranges,covering two-thirds of the total area in the Tibet Autonomous region, the river valleys in the southern part of Tibet which lie between the Gandise and the Himalaya ranges; the eastern part of Tibet belongs to an area of deep gorges where a series of mountain ranges from east to west criss- crossing mountain ranges mountain ranges running from south to north. This is some parts of the Hengduan mountain range, whose landform can be divided into six types of terrains such as ultra-high mountain, high Mountain, medium-high mountain, low mountain, hill and plain. There is also ice- field land 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 series of parallel ranges running from south to north. Its main part is at the juncture of three countries: China, India and Nepal. It has a distance of 2400 km. in the length, 200-300 km in width. Its altitude is over 6000m, the highest range in the world. Mount Qomolangma, stands in the middle of the Himalaya range. In Its surrounding area of more than 5000 sq. km, there are four of the world’s 8000 meter peaks and thirty – eight of the 7000- meter peaks. The Tibet plateau is one of the most isolated regions in the world, bound to the south by 2500 km – long Himalaya, to the west by the Karakoram and to the north by the Kulun and Altyn Tagh ranges. Four of the world’s 10 highest mountains straddle Tibet’s southern border with Nepal.
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, the Gyalmo Ngulchu, the Zachu, and the Yarlung Tsangpo. Tibet also is the most extensively distributed of the international river area in China. The source of the famous rivers Ganges, Bramaputra, Indus, and the Mekong river, the Salween, the Yilowade river are all gathered here. The water of Tibet’s rivers comes from rainfall, snow and underground water . There are 1500 lakes, big and small, in the Tibet Plateau of which the largest are Nam tso, Yamdrok-tso, Manasarovar, Siling-tso and Pangong-tso, the last crossing the Indian border into Ladakh. Among them, 47 lakes are over 100-sq. km. in size. The total area of lakes is more than 2400 sq. km, which is one-third of the national total in China. The Tibet plateau is not only the biggest in size and the most spotted in Lakes, but also the highest altitude of the surface of Lakes. The water in these Lakes is salty.
The climate in Tibet is Unique and complicated. Generally speaking, the air here is thin, lower pressure with low oxygen. The sun is strong and sunshine time is long. Temperature here varies greatly between day and night. There is great difference in the climate between the northern and southern part of Tibet. Influenced by the humid current from the Indian Ocean, a number of valleys in the south of Tibet have warm climate with great rainfall. The average temperature is about 8 ° C. The lowest temperature drop to -16 ° C. The highest temperature in those months comes up to 16 °C. The raining season is between May to September. In the north of Tibet, it has a typical continental climate. The average temperature drops below 0 °C, the freezing season lasts half of the year. Its highest temperature in July can’t rise to 10 °C. More rainfall in the night during the raining season and strong wind in the winter. The whole year in Tibet can be divided into two different seasons; the dry season (the dry season usually is from October to April) and the raining season from May and September.
Long long ago, Tibet was a boundless sea. A large piece of continental plate on orogenic-movement drifting from the south met together with the European plate. At that time, a large stretch of highland was uplifted on the earth. This region of today with a high altitude and cold weather had once been an area with warm, humid climate of subtropical zone of grassland with low altitude which provided a profitable condition for ancient human beings who lived and multiplied in this land. The scientist’s survey tells: the activity of the ancient human being in Tibet shows clear difference between areas. The earlier cultural remains were mainly discovered in the west and north of Tibet, which belonged to the earlier uplifted areas. But the later cultural remains were mainly distributed in the east and middle part of the Qinghai – Tibet plateau. That is to say, the ancient human being in the Qinghai – Tibet plateau firstly originated and activated in today’s high altitude areas.
Before the 7th century, there were many tribes in Tibet. Wars broke out as the in tribes in tribes tried to scramble for their domains. Among them, the Tubo tribe owned a large number of lands at its flourishing period in Yarlung. The earliest capital city of Tubo was in today’s Nedong country in Lhoka. After Namri Sogtsen, the thirty – second generation of Tubo prince inherited the power and he consolidated and developed the Tubo’s territory. Later in order to refrain from the interior opposite influenced between the tribes. Namri Songtsan moved the national capital from Nedong to Gyama area, present Medro Gongkar country, and built the Gyama places. In the early 7th century, Songtsen Gampo, the son of Namri Songtsen, in herited the power, he completed his father’s cause and realized the unification of the Tibet plateau and set up the central slave regime – the Tubo kingdom.
In order to consolidate the newly emerging power, Songtsen Gampo adopted a series of important measures. For instance, in the year 633, he moved the capital of Tubo Kingdom to Lhasa, built the Potala palace on the summit of the capital of Tubo Kingdom to Lhasa, built the Potala palace on the summit of the Red Hill and rebuilt the road and some other houses around the Potala palace. Step by step, Lhasa had become economic, political and cultural center of the Tubo Kingdom. To consolidate his regime, Songtsen Gampo advocated the advanced methods of the Tang Dynasty and set up system for civil and military officials, appointed the officials to control the garrisons in other areas and delimited the administrative regions etc. He divided the administrative area into 18 bi areas and eatablished five big ‘Ruchen’. Every Ruchen was divided into; up and down parts of Ru; every branch of “Ru” had 5000 families who are the common herdsman in peacetimes, but soldiers at war times. Meanwhile, he strengthened the system of discussing officials business in alliance prosperity. He sent people to ancient India to learn scripts and created the Tibetan written Language and calendar and made great contribution to develop the Tubo’s culture.
During Songtsen Gampo’s time, the development of the Tubo Kingdom came to a period of great prosperity. In order to develop the relationship between Tubo and the surrounding countries, he spent envoys to Nepal firstly and then to the Tang’s court of China to make an offer of marriage in one hand . And by relying on his own armed strength to expand his territories steadily in other hand. With his territories expanding Guhuei to the north, he made an expedition to the west till they reached the four towns such as Guezi, Yutian, Yianqi etc, where it connects with Nanzhuo, Dasi countries to the east. The Tubo Kingdom had became the strongest military power in the west of China since the Qin and Han Dynasties.
Songtsen Gampo is the most important and well- known king of Tibet in the Tibetan history. In 650, Songsten Gampo died of illness. The Tubo Kingdom gradually declined. Because Trisong Detsan, the King of Tibet used force to flight against outside and went in for a large-scale construction and increased the heavy load of the people. He sharpened the social contradiction and led to successive turmoil. In 823, because of the aristocrats in the interior of the Tubo Kingdom fought for their power with each other, the society was in a turbulent situation. The slaves launched a large – scale uprising and stroke relentless blow at the rule of slavocracy’s class. Therefore, the Tubo Kingdom was thoroughly collapsed from then on.
In the Yuan Dynasty, Tibet was officially incorporated into China’s territory and finished the long term divisive situation in the interior of Tibet. The Tibetan people obtained the steady life. In the Ming and Qing Dynasty, the central government of China strengthened its administrative grip on Tibet. In recent years, the Tibetan people together with the Chinese people of all nationalities fought against the imperialist invasion and uphels the unified motherland of China.
The population in the Tibet Autonomous Region of over 2,600,000 is the smallest and least densely populated provincial area. The Tibetans make up 94.7% of the total region. The distribution of population in Tibet is unbalanced. There are four prefectures and one municipality in the southeast of Tibet such as Chamdo, Nyitri, Lhoka, Shigatse and Lhasa, which make up 42% in the territory and population 85% of the whole region. The two areas northwest Nakchu and Ngari, where the land areas make up 58% of the whole region, and the population only 15%of the totality.
Tibet is an area where Tibetans live as major ethnic group; there are other ethnic nationalities such as Moslems, Lopas, Sherpas, and Tengpas who haven’t been distinguished as individual groups owing to their little population which is only about 2000 people. The main religion of Tibetan people is Buddhism.
Food and Beverage and Specialty
Food and drink in Tibet are much related to climate, local products, religion and folk customs. Butter tea, barely flour, sweet tea, beef, mutton, barely, pea, horse bean, potato, round root, white lotus are all traditional food. The butter tea is the most common drink in Tibet. The butter tea is made of brick tea with butter and salt being mixed together, which is quality tea for receiving guests. Tibetans like to drink barely beer very much, which is made of barely and tastes a bit sour. The barely beer can be always used in all kinds of happy occasions.
The main traditional food in Tibet is firstly offered in barely that is fried flour. It is enjoyed eating with a proper amount of butter and sugar stirred together. Tibetans often bring barely flour with them in small leather bags while they go out or do some business, and then they catch to eat in hand at any time. Besides this, the Tibetan noodles, breads, cakes, all have a special taste.
Tibet is rich in beef and mutton. They are not only used as main food but also as the non-staple food. The herdsmen like to eat a big piece of mutton cut by the hand, but the people in Lhasa specially pay attention to fried dishes in shallow oil. Every year in winter, Tibetans cut raw beef and mutton into slices and hang them up outside their houses and make them dry in cool air.
Tibetan food has its own cuisine. There are more than 48 dishes in the noble banquet; Tibetans avoid dog and donkey meat. They don’t eat fish, but some of them have changed now. In recent years, with the development of transportation, the foods on the Tibetans table are getting richer day by day. All kind of fruits, wines and fresh vegetables can be found everywhere.
Tibet is vast in territory and rich in variety of products, exquisite of traditional craftsmanship and many local specialties. Some of them are exported to many foreign countries; for instant, carpets of Gyantse, aprons o Gongkar, the tweeds of Dranang, religious articles made of gold and copper from Chamdo, Tibetan knives of Lhatse, jade wares of Rinpung, wooden bowls from the Himalayas, etc. A lot of Chinese medicines produced in Tibet are deer musk, caterpillar fungus, bulb of fritillary, rhizome of Chinese goldthread, snow lotus flower, and tube of elevated gastrodia.
The Tibetan calendar, a kind of almanac created by Tibetans has a history of 1300 years. The Tibetan calendar is mixed with the calendar of Yin and Yang, which is divided one year into four seasons: winter, spring, summer and autumn. The first month of twelve is Yin (corresponding to March). The big months alternate with the small months. After every two or three years an intercalary month is added to regulate the seasons. It is quite different between the intercalary time and agricultural calendar. Due to being influenced by the Han calendar, the heavenly stems have always designed the Tibetan calendar and Earthly branches as annuals. Its difference is used the five elements to go instead of ten Heavenly steams. Jia yi (the first and the second of the ten heavenly steams) is symbolized of wood. Bing din (the third and the fourth) is symbolized of fire. Mao ji (the fifth and the sixth) is symbolized of earth. Geng xin (the seventh and the eighth) is symbolized of gold. Ren kui (the ninth and the tenth) is symbolized of water. Any of the twelve animals goes instead of the twelve Earthly branches such as Zhi is symbolized of the rat. Chou is symbolized of oxen and so on. For instance, Jia zhi year in lunar calendar is called the year of fire tiger in Tibetan calendar. A cycle of sixty years is called “Ribchung” in Tibetan content to “the sixty year-old” in the hinterland of China.
Tibetan medicine has history of 2000 years. According to the historical record, several centuries ago, during the lengthy course of fighting the nature and disease by Tibetans, some part of flora and fauna and mineral products are found to deliver people from pains. They thought, “Poison could be as an antidote to poison”. Then they developed the medicinal knowledge of stanching bleeding by using butter.
With the people’s recognition to nature and productive development, Tibetans accumulated rich experience for Tibetan medicine. When the Han Princess Wencheng and Jingcheng came to Tibet in marriage, they bought a large number of books on traditional Chinese medicine and medical practitioners and promoted the Tibetan medical development. Among them, the most famous Tibetan medical practitioner in the 8th century was Yuthok Nyingma Yonten Gonpo systematically compiled the four Medical Tantras as the result of combining art and medicine, whose major works are systematically described through colored wall charts which are convenient for people to study and understand. It is not only the initiative in our country but also being rare in the world.
Tibetan medicine has the astonishing description in the embryology of humanity and the formation of human body in early times as well as many remarkable features of curative effects on medical treatment. For instance, the ready-made medicines to cure hemiplegia with seventy medial peal herbs and hypertension with the red coral are all testified by medicinal experiments as good dosages. Specially, they have very remarkable curative effects on curing leprosy and cancer.
Painting and sculpture are two of the most representative items in Tibetan art. Tibetan painting is originated from ancient rock paintings, which mainly depict animals such as deer, yak, sheep, horse, and hunting activities. During the Tubo period, the art of painting was flourishing. Specially, after Buddhism was introduced to Tibet, the religious paintings had been kept and inherited the traditional technique of Tibetan nationality. They have paid more stress on absorbing the art essence of India, Nepal and Han national cultures with unique splendor and style. The expressive form in Tibetan painting mainly is in stone inscription, fresco, Thangka, etc.
The fresco has a grand scale of capacity, which deals with a wide range of religion, politics, history, economy, culture, Tibetan medicine and social life, etc. It all encompasses varied contents from Buddhist inscription, religious doctrine, mythology, legend, historical story, and living scene to the landscapes of mountain and river or plume with birds and flower and picture’s decoration etc.
The drawing style of the frescos is so particular that its color is inclined too cold, dark. The colors chiefly consist of deep blue, purple, grey, earthly yellow and white. Mainly lines and traces in white depict it. The coloring is applied to be simply, bold or leave empty and blank. The fresco is not only provided with artistic image of exaggeration, the vivid and vigorous expression or the strongly unsophisticated flavor of decoration.
Thangka is another traditional art of painting next to mural painting, which is a roll of painting with decoration in colored ribbons. It has a clear national character and is strongly in religious colors and in unique art style. The theme of Thangka has drawn from the social history of Tibet and the historical and genre paintings for living customs and also reflected the scientific range of astronomy, calendar, and Tibetan medicine and medical treatment. The Thangka has remarkable characteristic of making a painting according to history or explaining history on painting. But the major subject of Thangka in Tibet is religion. Tibetan Thangkas over 80% are Buddha’s images, preachings, monasteries, religious figures and stories. Thangkas, which describe Tibetan history and natural science, are all painted strongly in religious color. Tibetan folk art in sculpture can be divided into several styles such as stone carving, copper carving, clay sculpture, animal bone sculpture and butter sculpture of which stone carving is most popular.