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Home >> Tibet Travel Guide >> Tibet Culture

Tibet Culture

Tibet Culture By the end of 2005, the Tibet Autonomous Region boasted 24 professional art performing groups, 172 cultural centers, four public libraries and two museums. It also had one broadcasting station, 34 short and medium wave broadcasting transmitting stations and five TV stations with the radio and TV coverage rate reaching 84.9 percent and 86.0 percent respectively. Tibet published 44.27 million copies of newspapers, 2.83 million different kinds of magazines and 8.60 million books in the year.

Rapid development was achieved in the arts cause. From 2001 to 2005, professional arts teams in Tibet created 603 programs and plays and 289 songs, and many of them made excellent achievements in the whole region or even in the country, gaining 43 national-class awards and 222 autonomous regional-class awards. Great successes were also gained in the research and performances of the civil arts; 17 civil art groups performed 800 shows annually, providing abundant art programs for Tibetan people in their festivals every year. It was calculated that the added number of shows performed by all the professional arts groups reached more than 4,000, including more than 1,600 shows performing in farming and pasturing area where the total audience was 2.32 million.

From 2001 to 2005, the Tibetan cultural industry saw rapid development with constantly enlarged scale and the strength of cultural enterprises and the research and development ability of the cultural products and services gradually being enhanced. At present, there are 2,443 business places of cultural entertainment in Tibet with 10,459 employees, realizing more than 8 million Yuan worth of annual revenue and better satisfying the various cultural demands of the masses.

Tibet carried out grass-roots cultural construction and projects of cultural information resources and publicized policy documents such as the protection of the region¡¯s immaterial cultural heritage, and successfully held regional social and cultural activities gaining 43 different kinds of national awards such as Group Stars Award. In addition, the region trained 30 mass cultural and mid-degree professionals, and trained 100 leaders of cultural centers and more than 160 grass-roots cultural business cadres.

In the next five years, according to the actual demand of the cultural work, Tibet will further increase investment with a stress on building a batch of key cultural facilities necessary for developing the cultural life of the masses, and gradually constructing a structure of grass-roots cultural facilities with a base of mass arts center, library, exhibition hall, arts performing group, county comprehensive cultural activity center, town cultural center and village cultural office. By 2010, efforts will be made raise the per capita cultural entertainment consumption in Tibetan urban and rural area to more than 5 percent of the expenditure volume and for the cultural industry to become the main contributor to the Tibetan economy.

Radio Broadcasting and TV

The average altitude of Tibet is over 4,000 meters and on the land with an area of more than 1.22 million square km, there are less than three persons per square km on average. In order to solve the problem that it is difficult for remote areas to receive radio broadcasts and watch TV, in 1999, the Central Government carried out the project that ¡°all the villages have access to radio and TV programs¡± and during the six years, 180 million Yuan was invested to build radio broadcasting and TV receiving/relay stations and small-scale village cable TV stations, forming a regional network via radio, cable and satellite. By 2005, there were 79 TV relay stations above county-level, one up satellite-earth center especially for TV and 7,456 broadcasting and TV stations accessible to all the villages in Tibet. Tibet's radio and TV coverage rate reached 84.87 percent and 85.97 percent respectively, basically realizing the target that all the administrative villages in the whole region should have access to radio and TV programs.

In 2005, Tibet People¡¯s Broadcasting Station realized digitization, and the digitization of Tibetan TV Station¡¯s news, special topics and art programs coverage and editing and some translating equipments were also under reconstruction and renovation. A broadcasting safeguard system and exigency system were established with the quality of radio and TV broadcasting achieving the best level in the history. At present, Tibet has one Tibetan television channel and Tibetan, Khamba channel with the audience ratings of the Tibetan television channel reaching over 90 percent, and the Tibetan dubbed films and news becoming more and more popular with farmers and herders. Radio and TV have become an important part of the Tibetan people¡¯s life, broadening farmers and herders¡¯ outlook and enriching their spare time and culture life. In 2004, after the Tibetan National TV News Hookup Summary was translated for broadcasting within the same day, Tibet¡¯s people could know the same news as their counterparts in Beijing on the same day. In the future, Tibet will add Tibetan channels enabling farming and pasturing areas to receive three to five radio stations and eight different TV programs, gradually setting up the public service system of rural broadcasting, film and TV.


Incomplete statistics show Tibet has, since the 1970s, published close to 20,000 kinds of books, with circulation totaling some 60 million copies. Books in Tibetan accounted for about 85 percent. Eight publishers in China have, in the past 20 years, been working on the publication of Tibetan classics and books on Tibetan studies.

The Tibet People¡¯s Publishing House, inaugurated some 30 years ago, publishes many books in Tibetan, mostly readings for the spread of knowledge. Thus far, it has published readings on science in Tibetan, and a number of Tibetan classics, including Buddhist sutras and those on Tibetan medicine, Tibetan calendaring, Tibetan history, Tibetans influential in history, folk arts and cultural relics. Of these, there are close to 30 kinds of works on King Gesar in Tibetan and nine kinds of books on cultural relics. Its Charter on the Four Medical Code won a major prize at the First National Books Contest.

The Tibetan Ancient Classics Publishing House, set up in the late 1980s, has in the past few years gathered some 200 copies of rare Tibetan ancient books. They will be published under the title of ¡°Snowland Literature¡±.

The China Tibetology Publishing House has published dozens of volumes of Selected Hetu Works and Bon Religious Documentations, as well as some 200 kinds of Tibetan ancient classics in some 1 million volumes.

In 1984 the Buddhist Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region opened the Lhasa Printing House. In 1985, the Tibet Branch of the Buddhist Association of China launched Tibetan Buddhism, a journal in Tibetan. In 1990, the Buddhist Association of the Tibet Autonomous Region organized people to create woodblocks for the printing of the Lhasa edition of the Dangyur in Tibetan in the Moru Monastery, which the late 13th Dalai Lama intended but failed to create.

Publication of the collated Tibetan part of the China Tripitaka represents progress China has made in work on Tibetan ancient works. The China Tripitaka appears in many editions in the Chinese, Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchurian languages. The Tibetan part of the China Tripitaka is composed of Dangyur and Gangyur, and is known as Tibetan Tripitaka or Tripitaka. In 1986, the State listed the collation and publication of the Tibetan part of China Tripitaka into the 7th Five-Year Plan for National Philosophy and Social Science (1986-1990) in its capacity as a national key project.

The year 1995 saw the publication in Beijing the first collated volume of China Tripitaka-Dangyur (Tibetan), which won first prize among national ethnic books in 1997. In 2001, the 50th anniversary of the peaceful liberation of Tibet, and in 2004, the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the delegations of the Central Government used the China Tripitaka: Dangyur as gifts presented to 100 monasteries in Tibet.

The collated edition of China Tripitaka: Dangyur has 124 volumes, all of which were published by August 2005. The collated edition of China Tripitaka: Gangyur will be published in 2007. The collated Tibetan part of Tripitaka is laid out and printed using computer technology and holy bound. It is collected by Buddhists, monasteries and major libraries overseas.

Collating and publishing the China Tripitaka is a major project undertaken to protect and carry forward outstanding traditional Tibetan culture. It is also a major project in the Chinese history undertaken to deal with an ethnic minority classic. For this purpose, close to 100 specialists worked for some 20 years, and the Central Government invested some 40 million Yuan in the project. All this is unseen in history.

At present, Tibet has 14 kinds of magazines in Tibetan and 10 kinds of newspapers also in Tibet. They include Tibet Daily. In addition, Tibet publishes some 100 kinds of Tibetan books with the circulation runs to hundreds of thousands of copies.

Protection of Cultural Relics

Tibet is one of the provincial-level regions in China richly endowed with historical and cultural relics. A rough calculation shows that there are more than 2,000 cultural relics sites in the region. They include 35 subject to national protection, 48 to regional protection and 96 to prefectural and county level protection. Lhasa City, Xigaze City and Gyangze county seats are rated by the PRC State Council as national historical and cultural cities subject to special protection. And the Potala Palace, Jokhang Monastery and Norbu Lingka have been listed as UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites.

The Central Government attaches great importance to protecting cultural relics in Tibet. From the 1980s to the early 1990s, it invested 53 million Yuan in the first-stage repair of the Potala Palace. In June 2002, it invested 330 million Yuan for the protection and repair of the Potala Palace, Norbu Lingka and the Sagya Monastery. The project progresses smoothly and will continue in 2006. Lawns are being added to the Potala Palace.

In the past five years, Tibet has worked hard on a blueprint for the repair of 10 cultural relics units including Jokhang Monastery. The PRC State Cultural Relics Bureau has approved the protection and repair of the ruins of sites such as Zongshan Hill in Gyangze and the Nangserling Manor where Tibetans resisted British invaders a century ago; preparation is being made for the undertaking of the project. In the meantime, efforts have been made to record and create archives for 371 pieces of Class A cultural relics of 35 cultural relic sites subject to national protection, including the Potala Palace, Tibet Museum and Norbu Lingka. On the basis of surveys of cultural relics while undertaking construction of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, a Field Archaeological Survey on the Tibet Plateau (I): Report on the Field Archaeological Survey Along the Qinghai-Tibet Railwayhas been compiled and published. The Cultural Relics Protection Institute of the Tibet Autonomous Region has been set up for the protection of ancient architecture, archaeological surveys and digging, and protection of cultural relics, helping strengthen protection of cultural relics in a scientific way in the region.

Recent years also have seen strengthened work on protecting the safety of cultural relics in Tibet. For this purpose, the TAR Cultural Relics Bureau has signed contracts with cultural relic organs in the seven prefectures (cities).

From 2006 to 2010, Tibet will undertake repair and protection of 10 major cultural relics units, including Tombs of Tibetan Kings, ruins of the Guge Kingdom, Jokhang Monastery, Zhaibung Monastery, Tashilhungpo Monastery, Samye Monastery, Qamzhub Monastery, Kegya Monastery, Xalhu Monastery, and Naining Monastery. In the meantime, Tibet will set up an organ to take charge of management of cultural relic units in the region, build museums or warehouses for cultural relics, establish a cultural relic database, and make efforts to standardize archives on cultural relics. A security system will also be introduced for the protection of cultural relics.

Twenty-Seven Tibetan Cultural Relics Units Subject to National Protection






Jokhang Monastery

Tang Dynasty (618¡ª907)

Built in the mid-7th century



Potala Palace

From Tang (618¡ª907) to Qing (1616¡ª1911)

Built in the 7th century and reconstructed in 1645



Gandain Monastery

Ming Dynasty (1368¡ª1644)

Built in 1409

Dagze County


Sagya Monastery

Song Dynasty (960¡ª1279) to Yuan Dynasty (1206¡ª1368)

Built in 1073

Sagya County


Tashilhungpo Monastery

Ming Dynasty (1368¡ª1644)

Built in 1447



Qamzhub Monastery

Tang Dynasty (618¡ª907)


Built in about the 7th century

Nedong County


Zongshan Resisting British Invasion Ruins?


Gyangze County


Tombs of Tibetan Kings

Tang Dynasty (618¡ª907)

7th-9th centuries

Qoingyi County


Ruins of Guge Kingdom

11th Century

Zada County


Zhaibung Monastery

Ming Dynasty (1368¡ª1644)

Built in 1416



Sera Monastery

Ming Dynasty (1368¡ª1644)

Built in 1419



Norbu Lingka

Qing Dynasty (1616¡ª1911)

Built in1755



Xalhu Monastery

From Yuan (1206¡ª1368) to Qing (1616¡ª1911)

Built in 1087

Xigaze County


Samye Monastery

Tang Dynasty (618¡ª907)

Built in 762

Zhanang County


Palkor Monastery

Ming Dynasty (1368¡ª1644)

Built in 1427

Gyangze County


Zhatang Monastery

Song Dynasty (960¡ª1279)

Built in 1081

Zhanang County


Toding Monastery

Song Dynasty (960¡ª1279)

Built in 996

Zada County


Karub Culture Ruins

Late New Stone Ages (4000-5000 years from today)

Qamdo County


Gyidui Tubo Tombs

Tang Dynasty (618-907)

7th-9th centuries

Lhozha County


Leshan Tombs

Tang Dynasty (618-907)

7th-9th centuries

Nang County


Ruins of Lhagyali Palace

13th-18th centuries

Qusum County



Ming Dynasty( 1368-1644)???

Zhanang County


Inscriptions by Tang Dynasty Envoy Sent to Tianzu in Zholmalakang of Qude Monastery

10th century



Gyilung County


Serga GutogMonastery

Built in 1080

Lhozha County



Built in 996

Burang County


Ramoche Monastery

Built in 641




Tang Dynasty (618-907) to Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)

Built in the 8th century

Nedong County


Chamoqen Tombs

Tang Dynasty

Lharze County


Sumkashe Dagoba

Tang Dynasty

Zhanang County


Nytang Zholma Lhakang

Song Dynasty

Quxui County


Chagyima Hall

Yuan to Qing Dynasties

Qamdo Prefecture


Minzhuling Monastery

Ming Dynasty

Zhanang Count


Puncoling Monastery

Ming Dynasty

Lharze County


Bamna Monastery

Ming Dynasty

Sog County



Qing Dynasty

Zhanang County


Tibet Museum

During the period 2001-2005, the Tibet Museum placed the protection of cultural relics and the display of quality articles at the core of its work. One key task was to complete the establishment of grades as well as creating archives for over 1,800 Buddhist statues. In view of the special climatic conditions on the plateau, the museum employs modern techniques to treat its collections by placing them in special rooms, such as ones equipped with a system for maintaining constant temperature and humidity; there is also a renovation room for cultural relics and a paperhanging room. The museum has made great efforts to collect the cultural relics scattered across the country and, currently, over 6,000 relics and modern works of art have been brought together, a considerable number of which some are the only ones known to be existence or are peerless works of art of world stature.

The Tibet Museum has a strong academic research team composed of experts who are at the peak of their working lives and are highly proficient in their respective fields. In recent years, this team has made plentiful and substantial achievements in research of such fields as the prehistoric culture of Tibet, Tibetan history in general, Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan folkways and customs, and in aspects like the collection, arrangement and interpretation of ancient books and literature. In cooperation with other concerned departments, they have also published large-scale introductory picture albums, such as Tibet Museum, Chamber Collections, Golden Chamber Collections, Treasures of the Snowland and a classic entitled Contents of Tang in Tibetan, effectively displaying the special glamour of Tibetan culture and its cultural relics. Moreover, with a view to coordinating with the general investigation work of cultural relics, the museum¡¯s archaeological team has taken part in the excavation of the Banggar Relics and the Dala Gangbu Monastery in Shannan and so on, adding important new contents to Tibetan archaeology and providing precious information for research on the history of civilization in ancient Tibet.

The Tibet Museum has held a series of exhibitions not only in Tibet but also in Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Hong Kong, as well as overseas in the Republic of Korea, the United States, Belgium and Canada etc. The basic exhibition of the Tibet Museum, the History and Culture of Tibet, using modern mainstream ideas on exhibiting, has created a dense artistic atmosphere and vividly reproduced Tibetan culture with a long history; the three major special series, namely the Tibet Natural Resources Hall, the Ming and Qing Quality Chinaware Hall, and the Yuan, Ming and Qing Quality Jade Articles Hall, play a significant role in enriching the cultural life of the masses.

Intangible Cultural Heritage

In 2006, on the list of the first 518 items of national intangible cultural heritage published by the State Council, there were 15 from the Tibet Autonomous Region, including the Shoton Festival, the mercury-cleansing method of the Lhasa Northern Branch of Tibetan Medicine, Tibetan tangka, Tibetan Opera, Qamdo Gorzhuang Dance, Tibetan Bamdian aprons and the kardian cushions of woven silk.

From 2006 to 2010, Tibet will implement protection work for its intangible cultural heritage. According to the policy of ¡°putting protection and rescue first, rational utilization, inheritance and development¡±, the region will carry out a general investigation of such heritage items in order to figure out their present status, while establishing archives and databases on the basis of actual, systematic and comprehensive records. It will make positive efforts to build a system of representative intangible heritage items; gradually establish a Tibetan classified protection system and a protection center of intangible heritage, aiming at protecting the heritage in Tibet more effectively by stepping up the research, identification and inheritance.

Astronomical Calendar

With a nearly 1,000-year history, the Tibetan astronomical calendar combines the calculation methods of the calendars both from the Chinese hinterland and India while also containing strong Tibetan characteristics. Through its calculation of the movements of the sun, the moon and stars, it can precisely forecast solar and lunar eclipses, the production, farming and grazing seasons, the transitions of the four seasons, the collection time of various Tibetan medicines and various types of natural disasters and has become the main ground for both peasants¡¯ and herdsmen¡¯s reckoning in their daily productive activities and living. Now, not only is the Tibetan calendar part of ordinary people¡¯s lives, but is also taken as an important reference point in weather reports, which are delivered in two forms by the Tibetan media: one from meteorological departments and the other in accordance with the Tibetan astronomical calendar.

From 1916 until now, a new version of the Tibetan calendar booklet, with an annual circulation of over ten thousand, has been published every year. The booklets are sold not only in Tibet but also to some distant areas of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces where groups of Tibetans live in compact communities, as well as in neighboring countries like India, Nepal and Bhutan.

In 1981, the former calendar compilation department of the Tibet hospital of the TAR was formally expanded into the research institute of astronomical calendaring especially in charge of the compilation of the Tibetan calendar. In the same year, the Astronomical Calendar Society of the TAR was also founded. Each year, with the purpose of further enhancing the accuracy and authority of the Tibetan calendar and make it more scientific, the institute not only needs to collect a lot of phenological material, unearth and sort out the traditional heritage of the Tibetan astronomical calendar, but also needs to send experts to rural and pastoral areas, surveying the changes of climate and geography as well as tracking and checking the accuracy of the calendar, and adjusting and amending its forecasts if necessary. In addition, an annual convention is held by the Astronomical Calendar Society, of which the 4th session of the Tibet Astronomical Calendar Society Convention and Academic Seminar, held in Lhasa in September 2004, attracted more than 40 astronomical experts and amateurs from all districts of Tibet as well as Qinghai and Sichuan.

In 2005, the government of the Tibet Autonomous Region earmarked 400,000 Yuan for sorting out as well as publishing the ancient books and literature about the astronomical calendar in 2006 and 2007, and also decided to appropriate 100,000 Yuan per year for further research, work on literature, academic exchanges and almanac compilation every year from 2006.

Cultural Exchanges With Foreign Countries

Tibet has been increasing its cultural exchanges with foreign countries. In July 2005, the ¡°Snowland Bright Pearl: China¡¯s Tibet Culture Week¡± was held in Hong Kong. In September the same year, the China Association for Cultural Exchanges With Foreign Countries, the TAR Association for Cultural Exchanges With Foreign Countries, the Danish-Chinese Friendship Association and the Italian-Chinese Foundation jointly the ¡°China¡¯s Tibet Culture Week¡± in Denmark and Italy. Tibetan singing and dancing performances, tangka painting shows, and academic exchanges conducted by Tibetan Living Buddha¡¯s and Tibetologists with their foreign counterparts showed the audience aspects of the brilliant Tibetan culture.

Statistics show that, since 1999, the local government of Tibet has been sending groups of officials and people with Tibetan cultural circles to conduct 12 activities for 140,000 people in 20 countries and regions. They include the China Tibetan Children Art Troupe which performed for 45 days overseas before some 70,000 people. The ¡°China Tibet Culture Week¡± has become a brand name for Tibet to show its culture overseas. The first such week was held in Melbourne in 2001. Thus far, the week has been held in the eight countries of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Belgium, Thailand, Denmark, Italy and Austria. Through tangka paintings, photos, audio-visual shows, singing and dancing performances, and academic exchanges conducted by Living Buddha¡¯s and Tibetologists with their foreign counterparts, the week shows the traditional culture of Tibet, and its customs and habits.

The Tibet Autonomous Region has since the 1980s had more and more contacts with the outside world through exchanges of visits, books and data, and by giving art performances and conducting academic seminars. This has strengthened Tibet¡¯s cooperation with overseas cultural circles, scientific research institutions, and international organizations. The Tibet Autonomous Regional Association for Cultural Exchanges With Foreign Countries has organized song and dance ensemble troupes and Tibetan opera troupes for performance tours to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Nepal and Singapore, as well as in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. It has also organized shows of cultural relics, movies, photos and art works in South Africa, Japan, Italy and Southeast Asia. In recent years, various localities and departments in Tibet have received visitors from some 20 countries and regions, and some 500 foreign officials and journalists in close to 100 groups.

Experts and scholars from religious and cultural circles in the Tibet Autonomous Region have been repeatedly invited to lecture and conduct academic exchanges in Austria, France, Thailand, Norway and Sri Lanka. The Tibet Autonomous Region has also signed agreements for technological cooperation and cultural and academic exchanges with Hungry, Canada, Germany, Italy and Austria. They also received more than 130 scholars from 14 countries and regions who came to visit Tibet, conduct academic exchanges and negotiate on cooperative projects. Each year, there were Tibetan scholars and Living Buddha¡¯s who were sent to conduct academic exchanges abroad, while foreign scholars were invited to visit Tibet.

Foreign cultural exchanges conducted by the Tibet Autonomous Region focus on sovereignty, human rights, economic development, religion, literature, education and environmental protection,striving to show the world a real socialist Tibet.

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