Tibet Autonomous Region

Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Autonomous Region
Xizang Autonomous Region
Chinese : 西藏自治区
Xīzàng Zìzhìqū
Tibetan : བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས།
Abbreviations:   (pinyin: Zàng)
Tibet Autonomous Region is highlighted on this map
Origin of name From word Tibat of disputed origin.
Administration type Autonomous region
(and largest city)
CPC Ctte Secretary Zhang Qingli
Chairman Padma Choling
Area 1,228,400 km2 (474,300 sq mi) (2nd)
 - Latitude 27° 18' to 36° 29' N [1]
 - Longitude 78° 55' to 99° 07' E [2]
Population (2010)
 - Density
3,002,166[3][4] (31st)
2.2 /km2 (5.7 /sq mi) (33rd)
GDP (2009)
 - per capita
CNY 44.1 billion (32nd)
CNY 15,141 (28th)
HDI (2008) 0.630 (medium) (31st)
Ethnic composition 92.8% Tibetan
6.1% Han
0.3% Hui
0.3% Monpa
0.2% others
Spoken dialects
Prefectural level 7 divisions
County level 73 divisions
Township level* 692 divisions
ISO 3166-2 CN-54
Official website
Source for population and GDP data:
《中国统计年鉴—2005》 China Statistical Yearbook 2005
ISBN 7503747382
Source for nationalities data:
《2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料》 Tabulation on nationalities of 2000 population census of China
ISBN 7105054255
*As at December 31, 2004
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Tibet Autonomous Region
Chinese name
Simplified Chinese 西藏自治区
Traditional Chinese 西藏自治區
Tibetan name
Tibetan བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས།

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Tibet or Xizang for short, also called the Xizang Autonomous Region (Tibetan: བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས།; Chinese: 西藏自治区) is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC), created in 1965.

Within the People's Republic of China, Tibet is identified with the Autonomous Region, which includes about half of ethno-cultural Tibet, including the traditional provinces of Ü-Tsang and the western half of Kham. The borders of the present Autonomous Region coincide roughly with the actual zone of control of the then-government of Tibet in 1950. The Tibet Autonomous Region is the second-largest province-level division of China by area, spanning over 1,200,000 square kilometres (460,000 sq mi), after Xinjiang, and due to its generally harsh terrain, is the least densely populated provincial-level division of the PRC.



From 1912 to 1950, the present extent of the Tibet Autonomous Region (comprising Ü-Tsang and western Kham) was ruled by the government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama. Other parts of ethno-cultural Tibet (eastern Kham and Amdo) had not been under the administration of the Tibetan government since the mid-eighteenth century;[5] today they are distributed among the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. (See also: Xikang province)

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army defeated the Tibetan army in a battle fought near the city of Qamdo. In 1951, the Tibetan representatives signed a seventeen-point agreement with the Chinese Central People's Government affirming China's sovereignty over Tibet. The agreement was ratified in Lhasa a few months later.[6][7] Although the 17-point agreement had provided for an autonomous administration led by the Dalai Lama, a "Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet" (PCART) was established in 1955 to create a parallel system of administration along Communist lines. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and renounced the 17-point agreement. PCART was reorganized as the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965, thus making Tibet an administrative division on the same legal footing as a Chinese province.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on earth. In northern Tibet elevations reach an average of over 4,572 metres (15,000 ft). Mount Everest is located on Tibet's border with Nepal.

The Chinese provincial-level areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan lie to the north, northeast, and east, respectively, of the Tibet AR. There is also a short border with Yunnan province to the southeast. The PRC has border disputes with the Republic of India over the McMahon Line of Arunachal Pradesh, known to the Chinese as "South Tibet". The disputed territory of Aksai Chin is to the west, and its boundary with that region is not defined. The other countries to the south are Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal.

Physically, the Tibet AR may be divided into two parts, the "lakes region" in the west and north-west, and the "river region", which spreads out on three sides of the former on the east, south, and west. Both regions receive limited amounts of rainfall as they lie in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, however the region names are useful in contrasting their hydrological structures, and also in contrasting their different cultural uses which is nomadic in the lake region and agricultural in the river region.[8] On the south the Tibet AR is bounded by the Himalayas, and on the north by a broad mountain system. The system at no point narrows to a single range; generally there are three or four across its breadth. As a whole the system forms the watershed between rivers flowing to the Indian Ocean – the Indus, Brahmaputra and Salween and its tributaries – and the streams flowing into the undrained salt lakes to the north.

The lake region extends from the Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, Lake Rakshastal, Yamdrok Lake and Lake Manasarovar near the source of the Indus River, to the sources of the Salween, the Mekong and the Yangtze. Other lakes include Dagze Co, Nam Co, and Pagsum Co. The lake region is an arid and wind-swept desert. This region is called the Chang Tang (Byang sang) or 'Northern Plateau' by the people of Tibet. It is some 1100 km (700 mi) broad, and covers an area about equal to that of France. Due to its great distance from the ocean it is extremely arid and possesses no river outlet. The mountain ranges are spread out, rounded, disconnected, separated by flat valleys relatively of little depth.

The Tibet AR is dotted over with large and small lakes, generally salt or alkaline, and intersected by streams. Due to the presence of discontinuous permafrost over the Chang Tang, the soil is boggy and covered with tussocks of grass, thus resembling the Siberian tundra. Salt and fresh-water lakes are intermingled. The lakes are generally without outlet, or have only a small effluent. The deposits consist of soda, potash, borax and common salt. The lake region is noted for a vast number of hot springs, which are widely distributed between the Himalaya and 34° N., but are most numerous to the west of Tengri Nor (north-west of Lhasa). So intense is the cold in this part of Tibet that these springs are sometimes represented by columns of ice, the nearly boiling water having frozen in the act of ejection.

The river region is characterised by fertile mountain valleys and includes the Yarlung Tsangpo River (the upper courses of the Brahmaputra) and its major tributary, the Nyang River, the Salween, the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Yellow River. The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon, formed by a horseshoe bend in the river where it flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.[9] Among the mountains there are many narrow valleys. The valleys of Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and the Brahmaputra are free from permafrost, covered with good soil and groves of trees, well irrigated, and richly cultivated.

The South Tibet Valley is formed by the Yarlung Zangbo River during its middle reaches, where it travels from west to east. The valley is approximately 1200 kilometres long and 300 kilometres wide. The valley descends from 4500 metres above sea level to 2800 metres. The mountains on either side of the valley are usually around 5000 metres high.[10][11] Lakes here include Lake Paiku and Lake Puma Yumco.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is a province-level entity of the People's Republic of China. It is governed by a People's Government, led by a Chairman. In practice, however, the Chairman is subordinate to the branch secretary of the Communist Party of China. As a matter of convention, the Chairman has almost always been an ethnic Tibetan, while the party secretary has almost always been a non-Tibetan. The current Chairman is Padma Choling and the current party secretary is Zhang Qingli.[12]

Administrative divisions

Tibet Autonomous Region is divided into one prefecture-level city and six prefectures.

Map # Conventional[13] Hanzi Hanyu Pinyin Tibetan Wylie Administrative Seat
Xizang prfc map.png
Prefecture-level city
5 Lhasa 拉萨市 Lāsà Shì ལྷ་ས་གྲོང་ཁྱེར་ Lha-sa Grong-khyer Chengguan District
1 Ngari 阿里地区 Ālǐ Dìqū མངའ་རིས་ས་ཁུལ་ Mnga'-ris Sa-khul Gar County
2 Nagqu 那曲地区 Nàqū Dìqū ནག་ཆུ་ས་ཁུལ་ Nag-chu Sa-khul Nagqu County
3 Qamdo 昌都地区 Chāngdū Dìqū ཆབ་མདོ་ས་ཁུལ་ Chab-mdo Sa-khul Qamdo County
4 Xigazê 日喀则地区 Rìkāzé Dìqū གཞིས་ཀ་རྩེ་ས་ཁུལ་ Gzhis-ka-rtse Sa-khul Xigazê (city)
6 Lhoka / Shannan 山南地区 Shānnán Dìqū ལྷོ་ཁ་ས་ཁུལ་ Lho-kha Sa-khul Nêdong County
7 Nyingchi 林芝地区 Línzhī Dìqū ཉིང་ཁྲི་ས་ཁུལ་ Nying-khri Sa-khul Nyingchi County

These in turn are subdivided into a total of seventy-one counties, one district (Chengguan District, Lhasa) and one county-level city (Xigazê).

Namtso Lake


With an average of only 2 people per square kilometer, The Tibet Autonomous Region has the lowest population density among any of the Chinese province-level administrative regions, mostly due to its harsh and rugged terrain.[14]

In 2009 the Tibetan population was 2.91 million. The ethnic Tibetans, comprising 92.8% of the population,[15] mainly adhere to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, although there is an ethnic Tibetan Muslim community.[16] Other Muslim ethnic groups such as the Hui and the Salar have long inhabited the Region. Smaller tribal groups such as the Monpa and Lhoba, who follow a combination of Tibetan Buddhism and spirit worship, are found mainly in the southeastern parts of the region.

Historically, the population of Tibet consisted of primarily ethnic Tibetans. According to tradition the original ancestors of the Tibetan people, as represented by the six red bands in the Tibetan flag, are: the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra. Other traditional ethnic groups with significant population or with the majority of the ethnic group reside in Tibet include Bai people, Blang, Bonan, Dongxiang, Han, Hui people, Lhoba, Lisu people, Miao, Mongols, Monguor (Tu people), Menba (Monpa), Mosuo, Nakhi, Qiang, Nu people, Pumi, Salar, and Yi people.

Most Han people in the TAR (6.1% of the total population)[15] are recent migrants, because all of the Han were expelled from Outer Tibet following the British expedition until the establishment of the PRC.[17] Some ethnic Tibetans claim that, with the 2006 completion of the Qingzang Railway connecting the TAR to Qinghai Province, there has been an "acceleration" of Han migration into the region.[18] The Central Tibetan Administration of the Dalai Lama claims that the PRC has actively swamped Tibet with migrants in order to alter Tibet's demographic makeup.[19]

Towns and villages in Tibet


A Tibetan farmer ploughing a field; yaks still plow fields in Tibet

The Tibetans traditionally depended upon agriculture for survival. Since the 1980s, however, other jobs such as taxi-driving and hotel retail work have become available in the wake of Chinese economic reform. In 2009, Tibet's nominal GDP topped 44.1 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion), nearly more than four times as big as the 11.78 billion yuan (US$1.47 billion) in 2000. In the past five years, Tibet's annual GDP growth has averaged 12%.[20]

While traditional agricultural work and animal husbandry continue to lead the area's economy, in 2005 the tertiary sector contributed more than half of its GDP growth, the first time it surpassed the area's primary industry.[21][22] Rich reserves of natural resources and raw materials have yet to lead to the creation of a strong secondary sector, due in large part to the province's inhospitable terrain, low population density, an underdeveloped infrastructure and the high cost of extraction[23].

The collection of caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis, known in Tibetan as Yartsa Gunbu) in late spring / early summer is in many areas the most important source of cash for rural households. It contributes an average of 40% to rural cash income and 8.5% to the TAR's GDP.[24] The re-opening of the Nathu La pass (on southern Tibet's border with India) should facilitate Sino-Indian border trade and boost Tibet's economy.[25]

In 2008, Chinese news media reported that the per capita disposable incomes of urban and rural residents in Tibet averaged 12,482 yuan (US$1,798) and 3,176 yuan (US$457) respectively.[26]

The China Western Development policy was adopted in 2000 by the central government to boost economic development in western China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region.

  • Lhasa Economic and Technological Development Zone


The Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of the TAR

Tourists were first permitted to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region in the 1980s. While the main attraction is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, there are many other popular tourist destinations including the Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery.[27]


The civil airports in Tibet are Lhasa Gonggar Airport,[28] Qamdo Bangda Airport, Nyingchi Airport, and the Gunsa Airport.

Gunsa Airport in Ngari Prefecture began operations on July 1, 2010, to become the fourth civil airport in China's Tibet Autonomous Region.[29]

The "Peace Airport" for Xigazê Prefecture was completed on October 30, 2010.[30]

Nagqu Dagring Airport is expected to become the world's highest altitude airport by 2014 at 4,436 meters above sea level.[31]

See also


  1. ^ Does not include South Tibet
  2. ^ Does not include any area disputed with India or Pakistan
  3. ^ "Tibet's population tops 3 million; 90% are Tibetans". News.xinhuanet.com. 2011-05-04. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-05/04/c_13858686.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  4. ^ 张军棉 (2011-06-10). "Top 10 least populous Chinese regions". China.org.cn. http://www.china.org.cn/top10/2011-06/10/content_22757346.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  5. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom, The Making of Modern Tibet, M.E. Sharpe, p245.
  6. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin, Dalai Lama XIV, interview, 25 July 1981.
  7. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C., A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951, University of California Press, 1989, p. 812-813.
  8. ^ "Tibet: Agricultural Regions". http://www.tew.org/geography/t2000.agricultural.html. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  9. ^ "The World's Biggest Canyon". www.china.org. http://www.china.org.cn/english/MATERIAL/185555.htm. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  10. ^ Yang Qinye and Zheng Du (2004). Tibetan Geography. China Intercontinental Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 7508506650. http://books.google.com/?id=4q_XoMACOxkC&pg=PA30&dq=%22South+Tibet+Valley%22. 
  11. ^ Zheng Du, Zhang Qingsong, Wu Shaohong: Mountain Geoecology and Sustainable Development of the Tibetan Plateau (Kluwer 2000), ISBN 0-7923-6688-3, p. 312;
  12. ^ "Leadership shake-up in China's Tibet: state media". Agence France-Presse. France: France 24. 2010-01-15. http://www.france24.com/en/20100115-leadership-shake-chinas-tibet-state-media. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  13. ^ Zhōngguó dìmínglù 中国地名录 (Beijing, Zhōngguó dìtú chūbǎnshè 中国地图出版社 1997); ISBN 7-5031-1718-4.
  14. ^ http://thechinaperspective.com/topics/province/tibet-autonomous-region/
  15. ^ a b BBC News. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/guides/456900/456954/html/nn5page1.stm. 
  16. ^ Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  17. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. East Gate Books. pp. 114–119. 
  18. ^ Johnson, Tim (2008-03-28). "Tibetans see 'Han invasion' as spurring violence | McClatchy". Mcclatchydc.com. http://www.mcclatchydc.com/homepage/story/31913.html. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  19. ^ "Population Transfer Programmes". Central Tibetan Administration. 2003. Archived from the original on 2010-07-29. http://www.webcitation.org/5rbC9I6bP. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  20. ^ http://thechinaperspective.com/topics/province/tibet-autonomous-region/
  21. ^ "Xinhua - Per capita GDP tops $1,000 in Tibet". News.xinhuanet.com. 2006-01-31. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-01/31/content_4121797.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  22. ^ "Tibet posts fixed assets investment rise". News.xinhuanet.com. 2006-01-31. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2006-01/31/content_4121796.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  23. ^ http://thechinaperspective.com/topics/province/tibet-autonomous-region/
  24. ^ Winkler D. 2008 Yartsa gunbu (Cordyceps sinenis) and the fungal commodification of rural Tibet. Economic Botany 62.3. See also Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  25. ^ Maseeh Rahman in New Delhi. "China and India to trade across Himalayas | World news". The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/china/story/0,,1801322,00.html. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  26. ^ "Tibetans report income rises". News.nen.com.cn. http://news.nen.com.cn/guoneiguoji/280/3349280.shtml. Retrieved 2011-10-11. 
  27. ^ * Birgit Zotz, Destination Tibet. Hamburg: Kovac 2010, ISBN 978-3-8300-4948-7 [1]
  28. ^ (English)"Gongkhar Airport in Tibet enters digital communication age". Xinhua News Agency. 2009-05-12. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-05/12/content_11357826.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  29. ^ (English)"Tibet's fourth civil airport opens". Xinhua News Agency. 2010-07-01. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2010-07/01/c_13378773.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-11. 
  30. ^ (English)"Tibet to have fifth civil airport operational before year end 2010". Xinhua News Agency. 2010-07-26. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2009-07/26/content_11773529.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 
  31. ^ (English)"World's highest-altitude airport planned on Tibet". Xinhua News Agency. 2010-01-12. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2010-01/12/content_12796690.htm. Retrieved 2010-12-12. 

Further reading

  • Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han, travelogue from Tibet - by a woman who's been travelling around Tibet for over a decade, ISBN 978-988-97999-3-9
  • Sorrel Wilby, Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1900-Mile Trek Across the Rooftop of the World, Contemporary Books (1988), hardcover, 236 pages, ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.

External links

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