Tibetan people

Tibetan people
Tibetan people
Tibetan Notable People.PNG
Top: MilarepaThubten GyatsoButon Rinchen DrubNgapoi Ngawang JigmeGendun Drup
Bottom: Tenzin GyatsoTrisong DetsenSongtsän GampoDrogön Chögyal PhagpaTsarong
Total population
5.4 million
Regions with significant populations
Tibet Autonomous Region, and parts of Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu provinces of  People's Republic of China 5.4 million
 India 190,000
 Nepal 16,000
 Bhutan 1,800
 United States 9000
 Canada 5,000
 Switzerland 1,500
 Taiwan 1,000
 United Kingdom 650
 Australia 500

Tibetan, Nepalese, Rgyalrong, Baima language (bqh), Muya language (mvm), Mandarin, Hindi


Predominantly Tibetan Buddhism, Bön

Related ethnic groups
Ladakhis · Baltis · Burig
Uttarakhand, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan
Sherpas · Tamang · Limbu · Thakali · Magar · Gurung · Bhutias · Lepchas · Bhotiya
Arunachal Pradesh
Sherdukpen · Monpa · Memba · Aka · Khowa · Miji
Sichuan & Yunnan
Qiang · Nakhi · Mosuo · Yi · Pumi · Nu

The Tibetan people (Tibetan: བོད་པ།་Wylie: Bodpa; Chinese: 藏族; pinyin: Zàng Zú) are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. The Khampas of Tibet are originally from Mongolia.

Tibetan people
Chinese 藏族

Tibetans speak the Tibetan language, which belongs to the Sino-Tibetan languages and has many mutually unintelligible dialects. The traditional, or mythological, explanation of the Tibetan people's origin is that they are the descendants of the monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo. Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, though some observe the indigenous Bön and others are Muslims. Tibetan Buddhism influences Tibetan art, drama, and architecture, while the harsh geography of Tibet has produced an adaptive culture of Tibetan medicine and cuisine.



As of 2008, there are 5.4 million Tibetans in China.[1] The SIL Ethnologue in 2009 documents an additional 189,000 Tibetan language speakers living in India, 5,280 in Nepal, and 4,800 in Bhutan.[2]The Central Tibetan Administration's (CTA) own refugee register counts 145,150 Tibetans outside Tibet: a little over 100,000 in India; in Nepal there are over 16,000; over 1,800 in Bhutan and more than 25,000 in other parts of the world. Tibetan communities are present in the USA, Canada, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Norway, France, Taiwan, Australia, Mexico and Costa Rica.[citation needed]

How the current numbers compare to Tibetans historically is a difficult claim. The CTA claims that the 5.4 million number is a decrease from 6.3 million in 1959[3] while the Chinese government claims that it is an increase from 2.7 million in 1954.[4] However, the question depends on the definition and extent of "Tibet"; the region claimed by the CTA is more expansive and China more diminutive. Also, the Tibetan administration did not take a formal census of its territory in the 1950s; the numbers provided by the administration at the time were "based on informed guesswork".[5]

The Tibetan population growth is attributed by PRC officials to the improved quality of health and lifestyle of the average Tibetan since the beginning of reforms under the Chinese governance. According to Chinese sources, the infant mortality rate in Tibet was 35.3 per 1,000 in the year 2000, as compared to the 430 infant deaths per 1,000 in 1951. The average life expectancy for Tibetans rose from 35 years in 1950s to over 65 years in the 2000s.[6] Infant mortality in China as a whole was officially rated as 3.1 percent in 2003. UNICEF in 2004 acknowledged the improvements but said that the infant mortality rate still lags behind the national rate eightfold, although Melvyn Goldstein and his colleagues in 2002 reported a 12.9% rate (fourfold), and official sources in 2004 rated it 3.1% (about equal).[7]


The Tibetan language encompasses many dialects. Khampas have several Khams language dialects which may be unintelligible to Amdowas, and the Lhasa dialect may be unintelligible to both of those groups.[8]

Physical characteristics

Areas in which concentrations of ethnic Tibetans live within China.

Tibetans are phenotypically diverse. While political and humanitarian media in the West exaggerate features that supposedly distinguish Tibetans from Han people (such as long hair, dark skin, and ruddy cheeks), even Tibetans cannot distinguish each other from the Han by physical markers alone.[9] Recent research into the ability of Tibetans' metabolism to function normally in the oxygen-deficient atmosphere above 4,400 metres (14,400 ft)[10][11][12][13] shows that, although Tibetans living at high altitudes have no more oxygen in their blood than other people, they have 10 times more nitric oxide and double the forearm blood flow of low-altitude dwellers. Nitric oxide causes dilation of blood vessels allowing blood to flow more freely to the extremities and aids the release of oxygen to tissues. It is not known whether the high levels of nitric oxide are due to a genetic mutation or whether people from lower altitudes would gradually adapt similarly after living for prolonged periods at high altitudes.



Tibetan peddler living in Nepal

In 2010, a study of genomic variation suggests that the majority of the Tibetan gene pool may have diverged from the Han around 3,000 years ago.[14] However, there are possibilities of much earlier human inhabitation of Tibet,[15][16] and these early residents may have contributed to the modern Tibetan gene pool.[17] Further anthropological and genetic studies will be needed to clarify the history of human settlement in Tibet.

The distribution of Haplogroup D-M174 is found among nearly all the populations of Central Asia and Northeast Asia south of the Russian border, although generally at a low frequency of 2% or less. A dramatic spike in the frequency of D-M174 occurs as one approaches the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau of western China. D-M174 is also found at high frequencies in Japanese people but it fades into low frequencies in the eastern mainland China between Japan and Tibet.

The romantic claim that American Navajo and Tibetans are related has not found support in genetic studies. Some light has been shed on their origins, however, by one genetic study[18] in which it was indicated that Tibetan Y-chromosomes had multiple origins, one from Central Asia while the other from East Asia.

Traditional explanation

Tibetans traditionally explain their own origins as rooted in the marriage of the monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo.[19]


Three monks chanting in Lhasa, 1993.

Most Tibetans generally observe Tibetan Buddhism or a collection of native traditions known as Bön (also absorbed into mainstream Tibetan Buddhism). There is also a minority Tibetan Muslim population.[20]

Legend said that the 28th king of Tibet, Thothori Nyantsen, dreamed of a sacred treasure falling from heaven, which contained a Buddhist sutra, mantras, and religious objects. However, because the Tibetan script had not been invented, the text could not be translated in writing and no one initially knew what was written in it. Buddhism did not take root in Tibet until the reign of Songtsän Gampo, who married two Buddhist princesses, Bhrikuti of Nepal and Wencheng of China. It then gained popularity when Padmasambhāva visited Tibet at the invitation of the 38th Tibetan king, Trisong Deutson.

Today, one can see Tibetans placing Mani stones prominently in public places. Tibetan lamas, both Buddhist and Bön, play a major role in the lives of the Tibetan people, conducting religious ceremonies and taking care of the monasteries. Pilgrims plant prayer flags over sacred grounds as a symbol of good luck.

The prayer wheel is a means of simulating chant of a mantra by physically revolving the object several times in a clockwise direction. It is widely seen among Tibetan people. In order not to desecrate religious artifacts such as Stupas, mani stones, and Gompas, Tibetan Buddhists walk around them in a clockwise direction, although the reverse direction is true for Bön. Tibetan Buddhists chant the prayer "Om mani padme hum", while the practitioners of Bön chant "Om matri muye sale du".


Tibetan with typical hat grinding fried barley. (1938 photo)

Tibet is rich in culture. Tibetan festivals such as Losar, Shoton, Linka (festival), and the Bathing Festival are deeply rooted in indigenous religion and also contain foreign influences. Each person takes part in the Bathing Festival three times: at birth, at marriage, and at death. It is traditionally believed that people should not bathe casually, but only on the most important occasions.


Tibetan art is deeply religious in nature, from the exquisitely detailed statues found in Gompas to wooden carvings and the intricate designs of the Thangka paintings. Tibetan art can be found in almost every object and every aspect of daily life.

Thangka paintings, a syncretism of Indian scroll-painting with Nepalese and Kashmiri painting, appeared in Tibet around the 8th century. Rectangular and painted on cotton or linen, they usually depict traditional motifs including religious, astrological, and theological subjects, and sometimes a mandala. To ensure that the image will not fade, organic and mineral pigments are added, and the painting is framed in colorful silk brocades.


The Tibetan folk opera, known as Ache lhamo, which literally means "sister goddess" or "celestial sister," is a combination of dances, chants and songs. The repertoire is drawn from Buddhist stories and Tibetan history.

Tibetan opera was founded in the fourteenth century by Thangthong Gyalpo, a lama and a bridge builder. Gyalpo, and seven girls he recruited, organized the first performance to raise funds for building bridges, which would facilitate transportation in Tibet. The tradition continued uninterrupted for nearly seven hundred years, and performances are held on various festive occasions such as the Lingka and Shoton festival. The performance is usually a drama, held on a barren stage that combines dances, chants, and songs. Colorful masks are sometimes worn to identify a character, with red symbolizing a king and yellow indicating deities and lamas. The performance starts with a stage purification and blessings. A narrator then sings a summary of the story, and the performance begins. Another ritual blessing is conducted at the end of the play. There are also many historical myths/epics written by high lamas about the reincarnation of a "chosen one" who will do great things.


The most unusual feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south. They are commonly made of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heating or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area. Tibetan homes and buildings are white-washed on the outside, and beautifully decorated inside.

Standing at 117 metres (384 ft) in height and 360 metres (1,180 ft) in width, the Potala Palace is considered the most important example of Tibetan architecture.[citation needed] Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it contains over a thousand rooms within thirteen stories and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.

Tibetan nomad and tent. 1938.


Tibetan medicine is one of the oldest forms in the world. It utilizes up to two thousand types of plants, forty animal species, and fifty minerals. One of the key figures in its development was the renowned 8th century physician Yutok Yonten Gonpo, who produced the Four Medical Tantras integrating material from the medical traditions of Persia, India and China. The tantras contained a total of 156 chapters in the form of Thangkas, which tell about the archaic Tibetan medicine and the essences of medicines in other places.

Yutok Yonten Gonpo's descendant, Yuthok Sarma Yonten Gonpo, further consolidated the tradition by adding eighteen medical works. One of his books[specify] includes paintings depicting the resetting of a broken bone. In addition, he compiled a set of anatomical pictures of internal organs.


The Cuisine of Tibet reflects the rich heritage of the country and people's adaptation to high altitude and religious culinary restrictions. The most important crop is barley. Dough made from barley flour, called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet. This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called momos. Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or mutton, often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item.[citation needed]


Tibetan warrior in chainmail enforced by mirror plate

Most Tibetans wear their hair long, although in recent times due to Chinese influence, some men do crop their hair short. The women plait their hair into two queues, the girls into a single queue.

Because of Tibet's cold weather, the men and women wear long thick dresses (chuba). The men wear a shorter version with pants underneath. The style of the clothing varies between regions.[citation needed] Nomads often wear thick sheepskin versions.


Tibet has national literature that has both religious, semi-spiritual and secular elements. While the religious texts are well-known, Tibet has the semi-spiritual Gesar Epic, which is the longest epic in the world and is enjoyed by people in Mongolia and Central Asia too. There are secular texts such as The Dispute Between Tea and Chang (Tibetan beer) and Khache Phalu's Advice.

Marriage customs

Polyandry is practiced in parts of Tibet. A typical arrangement is where a woman may marry male siblings. This is usually done to avoid division of property and provide financial security.[21] However, monogamy is more common throughout Tibet. Marriages are sometimes arranged by the parents, if the son or daughter has not picked their own partner by a certain age.

See also


  1. ^ "China issues white paper on history, development of Xinjiang (Part One)". Xinhua. 2003-05-26. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2003-05/26/content_887226.htm. Retrieved 2010-07-31. 
  2. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com/.
  3. ^ Population transfer and control
  4. ^ "1950—1990 年藏族人口规模变动及其地区差异研究" (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2007-11-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20071124053818/http://www.tibetology.ac.cn/article2/ShowArticle.asp?ArticleID=2764. 
  5. ^ Fischer, Andrew M. (2008). "Has there been a decrease in the number of Tibetans since the peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951?" In: Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China's 100 Questions, pp. 134, 136. Edited: Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24464-1 (cloth); 978-0-520-24928-8 (pbk).
  6. ^ Tibetfrom the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
  7. ^ Barnett, Robert (2008). "People at the side of the Dalai Lama also said that the hospitals in Tibet only serve the Han people. Is that true?" In: Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China's 100 Questions, pp. 106-107. Edited: Anne-Marie Blondeau and Katia Buffetrille. University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24464-1 (cloth); 978-0-520-24928-8 (pbk).
  8. ^ Robert Barnett in Steve Lehman, The Tibetans: Struggle to Survive, Umbrage Editions, New York, 1998. pdf p.1
  9. ^ Yeh, Emily (2002), "Will the real Tibetan please stand up! Identity politics in the Tibetan diaspora", in Klieger, P. Christiaan, Tibet, Self, and the Tibetan Diaspora, Brill, pp. 235-237, 240 
  10. ^ "Special Blood allows Tibetans to live the high life." New Scientist. 3 November 2007, p. 19.
  11. ^ "Elevated nitric oxide in blood is key to high altitude function for Tibetans." [1]
  12. ^ "Tibetans Get Their Blood Flowing": http://sciencenow.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/2007/1029/2
  13. ^ "Nitric oxide and cardiopulmonary hemodynamics in Tibetan highlanders": http://jap.physiology.org/cgi/content/full/99/5/1796
  14. ^ Yi, Xin et al. (2010). "Sequencing of 50 Human Exomes Reveals Adaptation to High Altitude". Science (AAAS) 329 (5987): 75–78. doi:10.1126/science.1190371. PMID 20595611. http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/sci;329/5987/75. 
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ [3]
  17. ^ [4]
  18. ^ Su, Bing, et al. (2000)
  19. ^ Stein, R.A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization. J.E. Stapleton Driver (trans.). Stanford University Press. pp. 28, 46. 
  20. ^ 卡力岗现象及其分析—— 中文伊斯兰学术城
  21. ^ Stein (1978), pp. 97-98.


External links

--Trotters Independent Traders (talk) 01:14, 25 October 2011 (UTC)Rukor where the world discusses the fate of the nomads

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужна курсовая?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Tibetan culture — Tibetan Monk churning butter tea Tibetan culture developed under the influence of a number of factors. Contact with neighboring countries and cultures including Nepal, India and China have influenced the development of Tibetan culture, but the… …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan Review — Une des anciennes présentations de la Tibetan Review Pays …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Tibetan Buddhist architecture — Tibetan Buddhist architecture, in the cultural regions of the Tibetan people, has been highly influenced by China and India. For example, the Buddhist prayer wheel, along with two dragons, can be seen on nearly every temple in Tibet. Many of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan — can refer to: *Of or relating to Tibet *Tibetan people, an ethnic group *Tibetan language *Tibetan script, a writing system *Tibetan art *Tibetan culture *Tibetan food *Tibetan Spaniel dog breed *Tibetan Mastiff dog breed *Tibetan Buddhism …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan sovereignty debate — The Tibetan sovereignty debate refers to two political debates. The first is whether the various territories within the People s Republic of China that are claimed as political Tibet should separate and become a new sovereign state. Many of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan independence movement — The Tibetan independence movement is a movement to establish historical Tibet, comprising the three traditional provinces of Amdo, Kham, and Ü Tsang as an independent state. The movement is largely led by Tibetans in exile with the support of… …   Wikipedia

  • People's Liberation Army invasion of Tibet (1950–1951) — Infobox Military Conflict conflict=People s Liberation Army Invasion of Tibet (1950 1951) caption= place=Tibet date=1950 1951 result= * Decisive Chinese Military victory. * Signing of the Seventeen Point Agreement which integrated Tibet to the… …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan language — Infobox Language name=Tibetan nativename=བོད་སྐད་ bod skad familycolor=Sino Tibetan states=China, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan region=Tibet, Kashmir, Baltistan speakers=6,150,000Fact|date=September 2008 fam1=Sino Tibetan fam2=Tibeto Burman fam3 …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan American — Infobox Ethnic group group = poptime = 10,000 popplace = California (mainly Northern California), Colorado, Minnesota, Vermont, New Jersey, New York langs = Tibetan, English rels = Buddhism related = Tibetans, Asian Americans, South Asians,… …   Wikipedia

  • Tibetan Aid Project — The Tibetan Aid Project s mission is to strengthen, rebuild, preserve and perpetuate Tibet s cultural and spiritual heritage for the benefit of the Tibetan people and all humanity. The Tibetan Aid Project, located in Berkeley, California, was… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”