Tibet Geography

Tibet, a rich and beautiful land, is located at the main part of Qinghai-Tibet plateau, south-West frontier of China. Tibet borders with Sichuan, Yuannan, Qinghai And Xinjiang; to the south contiguous to India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma, and bounded by Kashmir on the west.

When the word Tibet is mentioned something icy chils the readers' nerves. In fact it snows only once or twice in a year and owing to the perpetuity of bright sunshine, it is not at all cold during the daytime even in the coldest of the winter. Tibet is so sunny that it produces a year-round sunshine of over 3,000 hours in a year. Its old name-"land of snow" - the name by which Tibet is almost popilary known as, is always thickly covered with snow with hardly any signs Of inhabitation. In fact, it is correct only when it is referred to the world greatest ranges located in Ima, the Tisi, and like. These ranges, run by leaps and bounds across the country showing their beautiful snow covered peaks against the bluest of skies.

Geographically, Tibet can be divided into three majoy parts, the east, north and south. The eastern part is forest region, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. Virgin forests run The entire breadth and length of this part of Tibet. The northern part is open grassland, where nomads and yak and sheep dwell here. This part occupies approximately half of Tibet. The southern and central part is agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet's land area. with all major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse ad Tsetang located in this area, it is considered the cultural center of tibet. The total area of the Tibet Autonomous Region is 1,200,000 square kilometers and its population is 1,890,000. The region is administratively divided into one municipality and six prefectures. The municipality is Lhasa, while the six prefectures are Shigatse, Ngari, Lhaoka, Chamdo, Nakchu and Nyingtri(kongpo). The People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region exercises the hightest adminis-trative authority in Tibet.

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Tibet History

Tibetan history can be traced thousands of years back. However, the written history only dates back to the 7th century when Songtsan Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king, sent his minister Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit who on his return invented the present Tibetan script based on Sanskrit. Tibet's history can be diveded into four period:

1. The Tsanpo's Period
This period starts from Nyatri Tsanpo, the first of the Tsanpos, in 127 B.C(historians differ in view of the date, but this date is taken from the White Annales, a reliabl book on Tibetan history) and ends in 842 A.D. at the death of Lang Dharma, the last of the Tsanpos, who was assassinated by a buddhist monk owing to Lang Dharma's ruthless persecution of Buddhism. During this period some 42 Tsanpos had ruled over Tibet among which Songtsan Gampo's rule was considered as the zenith. Songtsan Gamoi was an outstandingruler, he unified Tibet, changed his capital to Lhasa, sent Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit and promulaged a script for the Tibetan on the latter's arrival to tbiet, married Princess Wencheng of the tang Court and Pricess Bhrikuti Debi of Nepal, built the Potala and the temple and the temple of Jokhang.

2. The period of Decentrailzation
This period began in 842 A.D. the year of Lang Dharma's assassination, and ended in about 1260 A.D, when Pagpa, the Abbot of Sakya monastery, became a vassal of Kublai Khan, the first Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. During this period a little is known in history except that Tibet vecame decentralized into a number of petty principalities.

3. The period of Sakya, Pagdu, and Karmapa's Rule
This period began with Sakya's rule over Tibet, followed first by Pagdu's rule in Lhaoka and then by Karmara's rule in the Tsang region(Shigatse). The sakya period was the time whten tbiet officially became an inseparable part of China. This period lasted from 1260 A.D to 1642 A.D during which political powers centered in the three regions of Sakya, Pagdu, and tsang successively ruled over Tibet.

4. The period of the gandan Podrang's Administration
This period is the period in which the Dalai Lama ruled Tibet. It started in 1642 A.D. when the 5th Dalai Lama overtook the ruling power from the Tsang ruler. It basically ended in 1951 when tibet was liberated and came to a complete end in 1959 when rebellion led by the Dalai Lama was pacified and the People's Government of the Tibet, Autonomous Region was set up.

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People in Tibet

The majority of tibet's population of 1,890,000 are Tibetans. Tibet is so thinly populated thaat it averages out 1.6 8 persons per square kilometers. About 90% of the people live on farming and husbandry. Farmers live in the valleys of Tsangpo River (Brahmapotra) and its major tributaries Kyichu and Nuuang-chu. this area produces barely, wheat, peas and rape-seed, the great northern grassland which occupies a good half of tibet is the home of nomads, yaks and sheep. Nomads have no fixed abodes, and keep roaming along fine pasture together with all their belongings-tents and Livestock. The remaining population, approximately 10%, live in towns earning their living mainly On business and handicraft, and many are factory workers and government officials.

Ideology of people in this land differs greatly from any other nationality both at home in china and in the world. Religion seems almost everthing. Many live for the next life, rather than for the present. They accumulate deeds of virtue and pray for the final liberation-enlightenment. Lips and hands of the elders are never at still, either busied in murmuring of the sixsyllable mantric prayer OM Ma Ni Pad Me Hum (Hail the Jewel in the Lotus) or in rotation of hand prayer wheels, or counting of the prayer beads. Pious pilgrims from every corner of Tibet day to day gather at jokhang Temple and bharkor Street offering donations and praying heart and soul for their own Selves, for their friends, and for their friends' friends.

Frequent visitors to Tibet can make out folks from different regions judging by costumes and dalects. Floks from agricultural regions drss in woolen home-woven gowns, and those from the grassland clad in sheepskin. men folk from chamdo wear huge tassels of black or red silk which were used in old days for protection in fight, while the Lhasa residents are more stylish and modrn. Dialects in tibetan are in variety, but mainly can be categorized into four :lhasa., Tsang (Shigatse and Gyantse), Chamdo and Amdo.

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Climate

Basically, the Tibetan climate is not as harsh as many people imagine it to be. The best time of year to be in Tibet is from April to the beginning of November, after which temperatures start to plummet. The central Tibet, including Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse and Tsedang, generally has very mild weather from April to November, though July and August can be rainy - these two months usually see around half of Tibet's annual rainfall. October and November often bring some dazzling clear weather and daytime temperatures can be quite comfortable at Tibet's lower altitude.

The coldest months are from December to February. It is not impossible to visit Tibet in winter. The low altitude valleys of Tibet (around Lhasa, Shigatse and Tsedang) see very little snow. Spring does not really get under way until April, though March can have warm sunny days and is not necessarily a bad month to be in Tibet. More specific information in different areas :

Lhasa - the border of Nepal/China: The Friendship highway is basically in good conditions year around. But from December to February, the thawed road could make some trouble Besides, try to avoid August - landslide could happen in the rainy season.

Mt. Everest Region:
Early May and early October are the best time to visit Mt. Everest. Due to the clear weather, you have great chance to see Mt. Everest's true face. From December to February, it's too cold to go to this region. But the magnetism of Mt. Everest always attracts people anytime of the year.

Ali (Mt.Kailash):
Even without climate restrictions, this area is already inhospitable. Big rain and snow could make the journey worse. However, for those determined tourists, the appropriate time is May, June, July, September and October.

Eastern Tibet:
Don't touch this area in July or August, the rain could ruin the road, and make terrible landslides. While in winter, the road could be frozen.

Northern Tibet:
With the average altitude of 4,500m, this area offers very limited time for tourists. Summer is the prime time to enjoy the great plain in northern Tibet.

Temperature in Lhasa

 Month 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
 The Highest (C) 6.8 9.2 12 13.7 19.7 22.5 21.7 20.7 19.6 16.4 11.6 7.7
 The Lowest (C) -10.2 -6.9 -3.2 0.9 5.1 9.2 9.9 9.4 7.6 1.4 -5 -9.1

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Tibetan Custom

Presenting Hada
Present hada is a common practice among the Tibetan people to express their best wishes on many occasions, such as wedding ceremonies, festivals, visiting the elders and the betters, and entertaining guests. The white hada, a long narrow scarf made of silk, embodies purity and good fortune.

Proposing a Toast and Tea
Proposing a Toast and Tea When you come to a Tibetan family, the host will propose a toast, usually barley wine. You should sip three times and then drink up. To entertain guests with tea is a daily etiquette. The guest has not to drink until the host presents the tea to you.

Greetings
Greetings Don't forget to add "la"after saying hello to the Tibetan people to show respect . Make Way to others. Try not to make any sounds while eating and drinking.

Sky Burials
Sky burial is a common form in Tibet. There are many prohibitions. Strangers are not allowed to attend the ceremony. Visitors should respect this custom and keep away from such occasions.

Tibetan Buddhism
Also known as the Lamaism, the Tibetan Buddhism was introduced to Tibet from the mainland and India in the seventh century. The Tibetan Buddhism consists of four major sects, the Ge-lug-pa(Yellow) Sect, the Nying-ma-pa(Red)Sec, the Saturday-kya-pa(Variegated) Sect, and the Ka-gyu-pa(White) Sect.

Pilgrimage
The immediate motivations of pilgrimage are many, but for the ordinary Tibetan it amounts to a means of accumulating merit or good luck. The lay practitioner might go on pilgrimage in the hope of winning a better rebirth, cure an illness, end a spate of bad luck or simply because of a vow to take a pilgrimage if a bodhisattva granted a wish. In Tibet there are countless sacred destinations, ranging from lakes and mountains to monasteries and caves that once served as meditation retreats for important yogin. Specific pilgrimages are often proscribed for specific ills; certain mountains for example expiate certain sins. A circumambulation of Mt. Kailash offers the possibility of liberation within three lifetimes, while a circuit of Lake Manasarovar can result in spontaneous Buddhahood.

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Main Folk Festivals

Tibetan New Year (February or March)
It is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 AD., the first day of the first month became fixed as the new year. On the New Year's day, families unite " auspicious dipper" is offered and the auspicious words " tashi delek" are greeted.


Butter Oil Lantern Festival (February or March)

It's held on the 15th of the first lunar month. Huge yak-butter sculptures are placed around Lhasa's Barkhor circuit.

Saga Dawa Festival (May or June)
It is the holiest in Tibet, there memorable occasions coincide on this day, Buddha's birth and Buddha's enlightenment. Almost every person within Lhasa join in circumambulations round the city and spend their late afternoon on picnic at " Dzongyab Lukhang" park at the foot of Potala.

Gyantse Horse Race & Archery (May or June)
Horse race and archert are generally popular in Tibet, andGyantse enjoys prestige of being the earliest in history by starting in 1408. Contests in early times included horse race, archery, and shooting on gallop followed by a few days' entertainment or picnicing. Presently, ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, barter trade are in addition to the above.

Changtang Chachen Horse Race Festival (August)
There are many horse racing festivals in Tibet, the one in Nagqu of Northern Tibet is the greatest. August is the golden season on Northern Tibet's vast grassland. Herdsmen , on their horsebacks, in colorful dresses, carrying tents and local products, pour into Nagqu. Soon they form a city of tents. Various exciting programs are held, such as horse racing, yak racing, archery, horsemanship and commodity fair.

Shoton Festival (August)
It is one of the major festivals in Tibet, also known as the Tibetan Opera Festival. The founder of the Gelugpa (Yellow Sect of Buddhism), Tsongkhapa set the rule that Buddhists can cultivate themselves only indoor in summer, to avoid killing other creatures carelessly. Because creatures are most active in summer. This rule must be carried out till the seventh lunar month. Then Buddhists go outdoor, accept yoghurt served by local people, and have fun. Since the middle of 17th century, the Fifth Dalai Lama added opera performance to this festival. Famous Tibetan opera troupes perform in Norbulingka (Dalai Lama's summer palace).

Bathing Festival (Sptember)
It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and cures diseases. During its appearance for one week, usually the end of the seventh and beginning of the eighth lunar months, all the people in Tibet go into the river to wash away the grime of the previous year.

Kungbu Traditional Festival (November or December)
Long long ago,when Tibet was in danger of large scale invasion, the Kongpo people sent out an army to defend their homeland.It was in September and the soldiers worried that they might miss the New Year,highland barley wine and other good things.So people had the Tibetan New Year on 1st October ahead of time.To memorize those brave soldiers Kongpo people present three sacrifices an stay up at night from then on. And now it has becoe the Kongpo Festibal for entertainment like Kongpo dancing, horse race, archery and shooting.

Harvest Festival (September)
The farmers in Lhasa, Gyantse and Shangnan to celebrating their bumer harvest in this time. During that time, people enjoy with horse racing games, costum fashion show, songs and dance Archery and picnic etc.

Festival 2003 2004
 Tibetan New Year  Mar 3rd  Feb 21st
 The Monlam Festival  Mar 11th - Mar 19th  Feb 28th - 7th
 Butter Oil Lantern Festival  Mar 18th  Mar 6th
 Saga Dawa Festival  Jun 14th  Jun 3rd
 Horse Racing Festival, Gyantse  Jun  Jun
 Chubacexi Festival  Jul 2nd  Jul 21st
 Yalong Cultural Festival  Jul 25th  Jul 25th
 Shoton Festival  Aug 27th - Sep 3rd  Aug 15th - Aug 22nd
 Qiangtang Kyanggen Horse Racing Festival  Aug 10th - Aug 16th  Aug 10th - Aug 16th

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Tibetan Food

Foods in Tibet differ in pastoral areas and agricultural areas. The staple food include roasted highland barley flour, wheat flour, meat, or red food, and milk, or white food. The principle in summer is the white food, while that in winter is the red food. Local flavors in the pastoral areas are mutton sausage, and dried beef.

The flavor of the Tibetan food is fresh, light ,andtender. Salt, onion, and garlic are the main ingredients. There are many restaurants in Lhasa, Shigatse, and Zetang, All restaurants of various classes are decorated and furnished in the traditional Tibetan style. Diners can enjoy delicious Tibetan Tibetan dishes while admiring paintings and murals symbolizing happiness and good luck in the restaurants.High on the menu are such flavors as sausages, barley wine, butter oil tea, beef and mutton eaten with the hands, yak tongue, steamed buns, zanba made from highland barley, pastries, sweet tea, butter tea, dried beef, and xiapuqing, or minced mutton and beef.

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Information provided by Tibet Tourism Bureau Shanghai Office.

 

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