Invaded by China in 1949-50, the independent country of Tibet was forced to face the direct loss of life that comes from battles and, soon after, the loss of universal freedoms that stemmed from Communist ideology and its programs such as the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 1976). However, it is erroneous to believe that the worst has passed. The fate of Tibet's unique national, cultural and religious identity is today seriously threatened and manipulated by the Chinese.
China's policy of occupation and oppression has resulted in no more or less than the destruction of Tibet's national independence, culture and religion, environment, and the universal human rights of its people. China has broken international laws and routinely violates its own constitution by inflicting this destruction, yet time and again goes without punishment.
With a written history of more than 2000 years, Tibet existed as an independent sovereign state prior to Chinese rule. As recently as 1914, a peace convention was signed by Britain, China and Tibet that again formally recognised Tibet as a fully independent country. But having no representation in the United Nations, the world largely stood by and allowed China's occupation and destruction to happen.
Tibetans have demonstrated repeatedly for independence from China. Ours has been a non-violent struggle, yet even when Tibetan children as young as ten whisper the words "Tibet is independent" or "Long Live His Holiness the Dalai Lama", the Chinese accuse them of trying to "split" the "motherland" and often sentence them to prison. Possessing an image of the Tibetan national flag can lead to a seven- year jail term. As of 1998, 1083 known Tibetans remain incarcerated in Chinese prisons on account of their political, religious or ethical views. Of these, 246 were women and 12 were juvenile.
Tibet (Tibet Autonomous Region, TAR for short) borders Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan internally while India, Burma, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Nepal meet its external borders. It covers a massive 1,220,000 square kilometres (470,920 square miles), which is about 12.8 % of the whole of China. With an average height of 4,000 meters above sea level, Tibet is encompassed by some of the world's highest mountains. The Himalayas to the south, the Karakoram to the west, and the Kunlun to the north are the dream lands of all adventurers and mountaineers.
The vast land is also the cradle of several great rivers such as the Yangtze River, the Yellow River, the Nu River (Salween), the Lancang River (Mekong), the Yarlong Tsangpo (Brahmaputra), the Indus, and the Ganges. Tibet also offers awe-inspiring scenery of beautiful lakes and valleys.
Potala Palace in Lhasa
Debating of Buddhist Doctrines in Sera Monastery
Debating of Sutra in Sera Monastery
Over 1,500 lakes including Heavenly Lake Namtso and the holy Lake Manasarova make Tibet the plateau with largest amount of lakes. Without irrigation and nurturance of these rivers and lakes, the surrounding lands may not flourish.
The long history and exotic religion allures more and more tourists every year. Tibetan Buddhism inhabits most Tibetans' hearts. Thus, a great deal of splendid monasteries, vivid murals and sculptures, and solemn stupas were built to worship the unparalleled Buddha. Lhasa and Shigatse, the most important cities of Tibet, feature most of the religious monuments including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Drepung Monastery, Sera Monastery, Ramoche Monastery, Tashilunpo Monastery and Sakya Monastery. Besides the monasteries, sacred mountains and holy lakes are also great places to show the Tibetan peoples' devotion to Buddha.
Western Tibet, Ngari, is a vast barren plateau and renowned as the Roof of Tibet. As the place where the Holy Lake (Lake Manasarova) joins the Sacred Mountain (Mt.Kailash), Ngari is a holy pilgrimage destination of Tibetans and Hindus, as well as a popular challenge to trekkers. The ancient Shang Shung Kingdom and Guge Kingdom also exert a pull. As the climate is so inclement few people live in this region. Therefore, Ngari is also the home of wild yak, Tibetan antelope, wild donkey, and many other rare wild animals.
In Tibet, five mountains exceed the altitudes of 8,000 meters (26,240 feet) and many of the mountains exceed the altitudes of 7,000 meters (22,960 feet). Hence, south-western Tibet has been a popular destination for mountaineers. Mt. Everest towers over the region. Besides, more than 40 snow capped peaks are open to mountain climbing enthusiasts. Each year, thousands of adventurers and mountaineers come to Tibet to challenge both nature and themselves. Southern Tibet also offers primeval forests, running waters, and a relatively mild climate. Yarlong Tsangpo Canyon, the largest canyon in the world, is the home of rare plants and animals, and remains unknown to anyone other than the local people.
Tibetan people are warm and hospitable. Tourists can visit local families and experience the daily life of Tibetan people. Holidays and festivals are the most important days in Tibet. Enjoying the local food and dancing with beautiful Tibetan girls are the most excellent ways to celebrate these joyful times. Buying some typical handicrafts in Barkhor Street or from other authentic vendors may add extra happiness to your visit.
Beside white snow capped mountains, verdant virgin forests, clean running rivers and tranquil beautiful lakes, the devotional pilgrim progress toward their places of worship by prostrating themselves under the sky and along the roads, making people humble and modest. Tibet, the lost paradise under the sky, is undoubtedly a place where the spirit lives!
The already famous Tibet Railway that was completed last October has been officially set for operation from July 1, 2006. This miraculous engineering achievement will make Tibet, the mysterious and amazing sacred land with a thousand-year history, witness many changes leading to prosperity.
Statue of Maitreya, Tashilunpo Monastery
Following the opening of the Tibet Railway, 3,000 - 4,000 tourists are expected to travel to Tibet every day. It is anticipated that the railway will enhance tourism to both Qinghai Province as well as the Tibet Autonomous Region, thus bringing prosperity to that part of West China that until now has not enjoyed all the benefits attributable to the tourist industry. The new rail link provides the traveler with a more convenient, comfortable, safer and economical way to go to Tibet. In turn the railway will alleviate the pressure on exiting passenger transport during the peak period of the high season. The Tibet Railway offers the tourist the opportunity to see more of the wonderful landscape that is unique to the 'roof of the world'. By opening up the connection between Lhasa and Qinghai, the railway will not only give outsiders the opportunity to take Tibet tours but will also facilitate economical freight transport for the benefit of the Tibetan people as a whole.
The miraculous railway now closely connects mainland China and remote Tibet, which will speed up economic development. The Tibet Railway will not only bring about a significant change of the mystical view of the outside world to Tibet, but will also create a better cognition of the Tibetan people by the outside world. There is a strong belief that Tibet will welcome a better tomorrow thanks to this widely hailed sacred road.
Tibet lies on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau of the southwest border of China. The average height of the whole region is more than 4,000 meters above sea level, for which Tibet is known as "Roof of the World". The highest peak of Tibet, also the highest in Himalayas and in the whole world, is Everest Peak, which is as high as 8,846.27 meters above sea level.
Although a part of China, Tibet has a unique culture of all their own, It is mainly inhabited by Tibetans, a minority nationality of old and mysterious people. Tourist attractions include the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Jokhang Temple, and a number of Buddhist sacred places.
Tibet (Xi Zang in Chinese) is to the south of Xin Jiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Qing Hai Province, to the west of Sichuan, to the northwest of Yunnan and to the north of India and Nepal. Its population of 2.3 million people come from a variety of ethnic groups including Tibetan, Han, Monba and Lhota. Its capital city is Lhasa.
Northwest Tibet, mainly Qing Hai plateau, is home to a variety of unusual and unique animals. Across the northern expanse of Tibet, you can see vast grasslands where horses, yak and sheep roam freely. The world's lowest valley, the Grand Yarlun-tzanpo River Valley lies in east Tibet.
Nearly all Tibetans follow Tibetan Buddhism, known as Lamaism, with the exception of approximately 2,000 followers of Islam and 600 of Catholicism. Tibetan Buddhism was greatly influenced by Indian Buddhism in its early time, but after years of evolution, Tibetan Buddhism has developed its own distinctive qualities and practices. A well-known example is the belief that there is a Living Buddha, who is the reincarnation of the first, a belief alien to Chinese Buddhism.
It is freezing cold in most time of the year. Most tourists come to visit Tibet only in the warmest seasons, June, July, August and early September.
The Tibetans are among the easiest people to get along with in Asia. But still there are some cultural considerations you should better to pay attention to when you travel in Tibet.
1. Do not photo them without permission!
2. Always circumambulation gompas and other religious objects clockwise, thus keeping shrines and chortens to your right.
3. Don't touch or remove anything on an altar.
4. Don't take photos during a prayer meeting. At other times always ask permission to take a photo, especially one using flash. The larger monasteries charge photography fees.
5. Don't wear shorts or short skirts in a monastery.
6. Take your hat off when you go into a chapel.
7. Don't smoke in a monastery.
8. Do not eat dog, donkey and horse in Tibet.
9. Be aware that Tibetans often gesture with their lips to show a direction, so if a member of the opposite sex pouts at you they are just showing you where to go.