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Home >> Tibet

Tibet

Tibet, the Roof of the World, for centuries the mysterious Buddhist holy place, is locked away in its mountain fastness of Himalaya, and has exercised a unique hold on the imagination of the west. For adventurers and traders it was a land of treasure and riches.

Tibet is in the northwest of China. At the turn of the millennium it is changing faster than at any time in Tibet's history. And yet the quintessence of Tibet remains remarkably intact. The temples are still full of pilgrims murmuring mantras in the golden light of yak butter lamps. Butter tea remains the most popular beverage.

Tibet is without doubt one of the most remarkable places to visit in Asia. It offers fabulous monastery sights, breathtaking high-altitude treks, stunning views of the world's highest mountains and some of the nicest people you will ever meet.

Area: 1.2 million sq km
Province Capital: Lhasa
Language: Tibetan, Chinese
Nearby Countries: This fortress of a region is located on the southwestern frontier of China, bordering with India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma to the south, and the Kashmir region to the west.

Tibet Travel map

Buddhism was introduced into Tibet in the seventh century from India and Central China. After a long and sometimes difficult period of interaction with both versions of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism (also known as Lamaism) was formed. It has a strong Tibetan cultural flavor, while keeping the original basic doctrines of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism was a kind of theocracy ruled by the Dalai Lama until the 1950s. Tibetan Buddhism is not only a kind of philosophy, but also a spiritual harbor for ordinary Tibetans as well as the inspiration for the creation of countless pieces of religious art. Tibetan Buddhism has a great influence in the daily life of the Tibetan People. There were many different schools of the Tibetan Buddhism in history. The four main existing schools are: the Gelug School (Yellow Sect), the Nyingma School (Red Sect), the Sakya School (Flower Sect) and the Kagyu School (White Sect).

TibetOutsiders' fascination with Tibet lies not only in the beautiful scenes of snowy mountains, but also with its unique religious and cultural sites. From Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, to the pastoral villages spread throughout the the grasslands, there are temples with their golden roofs shinning under the sun. The prayer flags flying in the wind, horns blowing at dawn, and the smoke of incense wafting about are all rich symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. Other important symbols of Tibetan Buddhism are the pilgrims who prostrate themselves every nine steps on their way from their home towns to the holy city of Lhasa. Pilgrims can also be seen throughout Tibet visiting religious sites to erase their sins and accumulate virtue.

In scarcely populated Tibet, areas around major monasteries are usually some of the most densely populated places. For instance, there are tens of thousands of monks living in the three largest temples of Lhasa. Drepung Monastery, for example, is a city in a city. The monasteries are also the places where monks study Buddhism and where religion, art and customs have melted into one whole in Tibet.

Local Features: Buddhism

Tibet tourBuddhism was introduced into Tibet in the seventh century from India and Central China. After a long and sometimes difficult period of interaction with both versions of Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism (also known as Lamaism) was formed. It has a strong Tibetan cultural flavor, while keeping the original basic doctrines of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism was a kind of theocracy ruled by the Dalai Lama until the 1950s. Tibetan Buddhism is not only a kind of philosophy, but also a spiritual harbor for ordinary Tibetans as well as the inspiration for the creation of countless pieces of religious art. Tibetan Buddhism has a great influence in the daily life of the Tibetan People. There were many different schools of the Tibetan Buddhism in history. The four main existing schools are: the Gelug School (Yellow Sect), the Nyingma School (Red Sect), the Sakya School (Flower Sect) and the Kagyu School (White Sect).

Outsiders' fascination with Tibet lies not only in the beautiful scenes of snowy mountains, but also with its unique religious and cultural sites. From Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, to the pastoral villages spread throughout the the grasslands, there are temples with their golden roofs shinning under the sun. The prayer flags flying in the wind, horns blowing at dawn, and the smoke of incense wafting about are all rich symbols of Tibetan Buddhism. Other important symbols of Tibetan Buddhism are the pilgrims who prostrate themselves every nine steps on their way from their home towns to the holy city of Lhasa. Pilgrims can also be seen throughout Tibet visiting religious sites to erase their sins and accumulate virtue.

Tibet TravelIn scarcely populated Tibet, areas around major monasteries are usually some of the most densely populated places. For instance, there are tens of thousands of monks living in the three largest temples of Lhasa. Drepung Monastery, for example, is a city in a city. The monasteries are also the places where monks study Buddhism and where religion, art and customs have melted into one whole in Tibet.

Local Features: The Tibetan Culture

Receiving Hada: Presenting Hada is a common practice among the Tibetan people. It is done on many occasions, such as wedding ceremonies, festivals, visiting the elders, worshipping Buddha, and welcoming guests. The white hada is a piece of silk and can vary in length. The Tibetan People consider the color white to be a symbol of purity and good fortune, so Tibetans present Hada in order to express their loyalty and respect for others. To receive Hada, it is acceptable to let the person presenting Hada to drape the silk around your neck and placing your palms together, make a small bow.

Receiving toasts of wine and tea: When you visit a Tibetan family, the host will propose a toast, usually of barley wine. Before you drink, Tibetans like to stick their finger in the wine and give a drop to Heaven, Earth, and their ancestors (three drops total). This is done by flicking your finger and letting a drop fall from your finger to the earth three times. At last, the guest would drink up the whole cup.

When given tea, you should wait for directions from your host to drink.

Receiving gifts: You should accept the gift with both hands. While presenting the gift you should bend your body forward and hold the gift higher than your head with both hands.

Courtesy: If you are asked to sit down, you should cross your legs; do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others.

Greetings: Don't forget to add the sound "la" after the name of the Tibetan people when greeting them. It is a typical Tibetan way of showing respect to others.

Keeping away from Burials: Sky burial (the process of disposing of deceased loved ones by a complicated ritual that results in the remains being taken away by vultures) is quite common in Tibet. The process and practice of this unique way of burial may be upsetting to Western travelers. However, unless specifically requested and permitted by the relatives of the dead, strangers are not allowed to attend such ceremonies. Taking pictures of sky burials may lead to big trouble. Visitors should respect the custom of sky burial and keep away from places where they are carried out.

Local Features: Presenting Hada

Tibet Travel LhasaTo tourists, the snow capped mountains, the arid grasslands, the scarcely populated land are all symbols of the mystery of Tibet. But for the Tibetan people, the harsh weather and the poor farming conditions are not so romantic. The extreme natural environment has helped to form the unique culture of the Tibetan people.

Despite the harsh weather and the sparse population in the region, the Tibetan Plateau has a total population of 2,500,000, most of which are ethnic Tibetan. Many Tibetans lead a nomadic life. Others are farmers and plant barley and other hardy crops in poor soil and high altitude climate. It is not until more recent years that one tenth of the population came to live in cities and towns. These city dwellers are mainly engaged in trading and light industries manufacturing.

The dominant element of the Tibetan culture is the religion, Tibetan Buddhism. The original, native religion of Tibet is known as Bon, of which witchcraft and pantheism are large elements. Even after Buddism was introduced into Tibet from India and other parts of China and became the mainstream religion, Bon has never really disappeared, but instead elements and influences from Bon can be seen in Tibetan Buddhism today.

Best Time To Visit

Undoubtedly, the best time of year to visit Tibet is between June and August. The maximum temperatures in Lhasa reach a comfortable mid 20 degrees Celsius, although evenings can still be rather chilly. Watch out though - these are also the three wettest months.

A green army coat (RMB90 in Lhasa!) may be indispensable if you take a land cruiser tour deeper into the region, even during these months. Snow storms whip up apparently from nowhere and many of the mountain passes far exceed an altitude of 5000m and are easily snowed in.

Dining Overview

Tibetan food is famously bad! Perhaps this assessment is a little harsh, but the flavors and tastes of Tibetan cuisine are VERY foreign to most western travelers. However, Nepalese and Indian styles of cooking are also popular here and in Lhasa especially, standard western food can be found as well.

The staple foods in Tibet are tsampa (roast barley meal) and yak butter tea. Momo (dumplings filled with vegetables or meat) and thukpa (noodles with meat) are also popular snacks available at most small restaurants. Other varieties include hipdu (noodle squares and yak meat in soup), thanthuk (another kind of noodles) and shemdre (potatoes and yak meat on a layer of rice). The most common alcoholic drink for Tibetans is chang, brewed from barley.

The infiltration of Han culture, means there are now more restaurants serving Chinese food in the Tibetan urban centers. Most Chinese cuisine in Tibet is typically Sichuan, because of the regions close proximity to Tibet. There are also some good Muslim restaurants in Lhasa, Tsetang and Gyantse. The most popular Muslim food is ganpian, a kind of stir-fried spaghetti-like noodle dish seasoned with yak meat.

One thing to remember about traveling and dining in this region is that there is a shortage of fresh vegetables. It is a good idea to take some vitamins while here, to supplement your diet and to try and eat ample fruit,and drink plenty of mineral water while traveling in Tibet.

Regions Of Tibet
Tibet
Lhasa
Nyingchi
Nagqu (Nakchu)
Ngari
Shigatse (Xigaze)
Shannan
Chamdo
 
 
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