Tibet (The Roof of the World)
This land of mysteries has appealed to explorers, scholars, pilgrims, and adventurers, all hoping to find thereal Shangri-La. In the past, Lhasa, the capital and center of Tibetan culture, religion and theology, was almost impossible to reach. Only the most persistent travelers and explorers were able to penetrate the holy city. Now fortunately there are many ways to visit the once Forbidden Land.
The Tibet autonomous Region: Tibet, a rich and beautiful land, is located at the main part of Qrigin- Tibet plateau, south west frontier of China, situates between 26o 50' - 36o 53'north latitude and 78o 25' - 99o 06' east longitude with an average altitude over 4000m. above sea level. Tibet possesses more than fifty peaks above 7000m. among which eleven are over 8000m. Tibet borders with Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Xinjiang; to the south contiguous to India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma, and bounded by Kashmir on the west. The Tibet Autonomous Region with a population of two million (1993AD)mainly of Tibetans, and an area 1.2 million sq. km. Tibet is rich in natural resources and owns a vast expanse of landforms. People living on this land have been creating a glorious culture since ancient times. There has a long history; majestic mountains and rivers, regular customs and habits, wonderful natural landscapes with monks clad in robes and yellow hats are seen everywhere. If you were to set foot on this virgin land, to follow the steps of pilgrims dating from ancients times, to visit the great temples and monasteries, to enjoy the unique culture, to have sips of waters from those limpid rivers and lakes, to sight the different customs and to trek around those mighty snow clad peaks, you would surely be intoxicated with their wonders.
Brief History of Tibet: Inhabitants were in existence in Tibet since the later part of the Paleolithic Age, which is considered as the opening curtain of the Tibetan history. By the Neolithic Age these inhabitants had scattered to a wider range of circle whose result had gradually led to the Tibetan race of the present generation. In the 7th century a famous Tibetan kind named Songtsen Gompo united the whole of Tibet and established the Tubo Dynasty. In the 7th and 8th centuries respectively two princesses from the Tang Dynasty had married Tibetan kings, as a consequence the two peoples, the Hans and Tibetans, became closer in relationship and further exchanges took place within political and economical affairs between the Tubo and Tang dynasties which gave creation to a beneficial condition for the development of the Tubo society. Tibet fell into a decentralization period for over three hundred years since the fall of the Tubo Dynasty caused by inner revolt of the common people. During this period the Tubo society took a change over from the slave society to the feudal society. In the mid13th century Tibet became subject to the Yuan Dynasty, whose central administration, passed the power to the Sakya for the overlordship of Tibet. In the latter part of the Yuan Dynasty, the Sakya's rule over Tibet tottered and the Kagyupa Sect overtook the power and established Pagdu Dynasty. At the end of the Ming Dynaty and at the beginning the Qing Dynasty, the 5th Dalai Lama, by the help of the Mongolian prince, Gorshi Khan, became the ruler of the Tibet and established the Ganden Podrang administration which was recognized by the Qing Dynasty, gave the overlordship of Tibet to the 5th Dalai Lama and established its representative in Lhasa called the "Amban" to supervise political affairs of Tibet in order to strengthen its control over Tibet. After 1911 Revolution the Republic of China established a working office in Lhasa to exercise its management over Tibet. In May 1951 concerning the method of liberation of Tibet, the 17 - Point Agreement, was signed between the Central People's Government of China and the Local Government of Tibet, which opened a new historical page over Tibet. Although Tibetan history can be traced thousands of year's back, the written history dates back to the 7th century. Its history can be divided into four periods as follows:
After Dalai Lama took political asylum in India in 1959, People's Government of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (China) has ruled Tibet. Geographically this land can be divided into three parts; the east, the south and the north. The eastern part is forest region which occupies one-fourth of Tibet. The southern part is open grassland which occupies almost half of Tibet. The Southern and central region is agricultural region occupying one fourth of Tibet and with all the major cities such as Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse, Gantse, Tsedang etc. This area is also considered as the cultural center of Tibet and Buddhism. Tibet covers total area of 1,200,000 sq. Kms. And it has population of approximately 2,200,000. It is divided into one municipality, Lhasa and six prefectures, Shigatse, Ngari, Lhoka, Chamdo, Nakchu and Nyigntri.
Religion in Tibet:
Buddhism, with an history of some 1300 years since its penetration into Tibet, has shaped a unique from "Lamaism". Tibetan history, culture and religion are mixed together and infiltrated on every aspect of social life. Tibet is known for its unique culture and religion. Buddhism influenced Tibet after Songtsaon Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king married Bhrikuti, a Nepali Princess. After the marriage, Buddhism slowly started to replace the Bon religion and it took a better shape after the king's minister translated the first Buddhist scripture. Buddhist scripture is believed to have been descended from the heaven around 5th century and was written in Sanskrit. Now Buddhism is the soul of Tibet and Tibetans. Small number of population are Muslim and there is no trace of Christians and other religions. Tibetan religious arts have a distinctive style with adoption of Nepalese and Chinese Buddhist influence, thus forming itself a pearl of oriental Buddhist art in Chinese Buddhism. Tibetan architecture is rich in shapes, sumptuous and full of noble aspiration. The Potala Palace is built on the top of a hill and penetrates its dome into the sky. It's the king of Tibetan architectural structures. These architectural buildings include wonderful sculptures, carving, murals, "thangkas" and skilled butter sculptures, and a vast accumulation of historical monuments which form a kind of religious art which are developed into a school of Tibetan tradition. Ethnic Communities and customs in Tibet: People living on the Tibetan plateau, such as Tibetans, Monpas, Lhopas and Moslems, have their own ways of living, marriage, burial or other ceremonies. Tibetans call themselves "Bodpas". They have a total population of 3.4 million (1992) among which 2.2 million are in the Autonomous Region. Tibetans mainly engage in agriculture, husbandry and handicrafts. Tsampa (barley flour), beef mutton, butter tea and barley beer are the main food and drinks. As for clothing, Tibetans wear cloaks make of woolen fabrics or lambskins. They love ornaments and women wear striped aprons. Nomads and people living in remote areas depend their transportation on yaks, donkeys horses and yakskin boats. Their marriage system mainly consists of monogamy. Tibetans don't have surnames. Their names consist of four or two syllables chiefly adopted meanings from Buddhist ideas. Festivals in Tibet are in variety among which the grandest being the Tibetan New Year, followed by others such as "Wangkor" Festival and horse races. For the dead, sky burial, water burial, cremation and stupa burial, are in practice, but the sky burial is the most popular of them all.
Science and culture in Tibet:
Along with the development of the Tibetan history, Tibetans have created a unique sciences and culture of their own, which are important formations of the whole of Chinese culture. The voluminous and magnificent historical documents, and cultural relics, humanist and fold literature presently in existence are the fruit of labor and wisdom of the Tibetans, also a treasure of the ancient Chinese civilization. Great volumes of scriptures such as "Kagyur" (Translation of Commandments) "Tengyur" (Translation of Commentaries), "Four Tibetan Medical Tantras", The Happy Feast of Sages", Biography fo Bhutan" and "Biography of Milarepa" have been translated into many languages. Science and culture in Tibet include technology, medicine, grammar, logic, Buddhist philosophy, rhetoric, words and expressions, syntax, drama and astrology. Tibet is known as the sea of the songs and dances; folk songs and daces are various in style, especially during the 'Shoton" Festival in August each year, everywhere is a scene of jubilation.