13 questions to help you understand Tibet

1. What does Tibet look like? Are these only high mountains?


Yes and no. The Himalayas are indeed located in Tibet - the highest mountains on the planet. Their peak Chomolungma is 8848 meters high. Moreover, in Tibet there are not only mountains, but also fertile valleys, deserts, rivers and lakes. It's just that all this is raised to a great height: the average height of Tibet is about 4000 m above sea level. Therefore, geographers and travelers called Tibet "the swelling of the Asian continent," "a table-like mass," "a giant pedestal." And for the same reason, many people think that Tibet is only mountains.

2. Which is older - Tibet or Russia?


Depends on what is meant. If we take the adoption of world religion and the formation of statehood as a starting point, then Tibet is older: Buddhism was adopted here in the 7th century, at the same time the Tibetan Empire arose. In Russia, we recall, statehood began with the vocation of the Varangians in 862, and Christianity was adopted in 988. Chinese written records mention proto-Tibetan tribes that existed before our era. In this sense, Russia was less fortunate - among its neighbors there were no such fans of historical records as the Chinese.

3. What is Tibet: state, religion or place?


Rather a place. Tibet is a geographic area made up of a large number of distinct regions. They are inhabited by peoples who speak the same language. In addition, they share a common religion, culture and history. Today, these areas belong to different administrative regions and even countries. Central Tibet forms the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, the northern Amdo region is partly part of the Qinghai and Gansu provinces of the PRC, the eastern Kham - in the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces of the PRC, the western regions (Ladakh and others) belong to India.


4. So Tibet is a part of China?


Today, China is often called the PRC, but in fact it is only part of the People's Republic of China. Historically, China is a state in which mostly Han people lived. In the era of the Manchu Empire, which established the Qing dynasty in China, which ruled from the 17th to the 20th centuries, the power of Beijing began to spread to the neighboring territories of Eastern Turkestan, Mongolia, and Tibet.

After the 1949 revolution, a new state, the PRC, was formed: parts of these regions became part of it with the rights of autonomies. In 1951, an agreement was signed in Beijing on the annexation of Tibet to the PRC, and the People's Liberation Army of China occupied Lhasa. This is how the Tibet Autonomous Region was formed, which became part of the PRC. Other areas inhabited by Tibetan peoples became part of the provinces of the PRC: Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, Yunnan. However, many Tibetans live outside the PRC - in India (in particular, in Sikkim), Nepal, Bhutan.

5. Who rules Tibet?


Government of the People's Republic of China. It controls all aspects of life - state, administrative, political, economic, cultural and others. However, there is also the so-called government of Tibet in exile: it was formed in 1959, after the flight from Tibet of the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the Tibetans who followed him.

The goal of this government is the liberation of Tibet. At the same time, it deals with the education and culture of Tibetans living in exile. There are about 150 thousand such people.

6. Who lives in Tibet: Chinese or Tibetans?


Tibetans. But this is not a monolithic ethnos, but different local groups: Amdos, Khamba, Sherpas, Ladakhs and others. Today, Tibet is also home to the Chinese (mainly officials and the military), Uighurs (traders) and Mongols (Buddhist monks).

They are connected with each other purely functionally: the Chinese are in charge, the Uighur sells pumpkins, and the Mongol prays. Inter-ethnic marriages are rare. Studies of the language, a few archaeological excavations, and most importantly, Chinese written sources that appeared in the II century BC show that the basis of the Tibetan ethnos was formed by the so-called Qiang: they came from the northeast and, mixed with various groups of Indo-Iranian, Turkic-Mongolian and of Australo-Asian origin, formed the Tibetan ethnos.

7. Do they speak Tibetan in Tibet?


Quite right. The Tibetan language belongs to the Tibeto-Burmese subfamily of the languages ​​of the Sino-Tibetan family. The classical written language appeared in the 7th century. At the same time, various ethnic groups living in Tibet speak different dialects and do not always understand each other. For example, an Amdos from Qinghai province may not understand a Central Tibetan. And vice versa.

8. Are all Buddhists in Tibet?


Not all, but the overwhelming majority. Buddhism is the real national idea of ​​the Tibetans and the basis of their self-identification. Moreover, it is heterogeneous and consists of many local traditions.

In European literature, they are often called sects, but this is not entirely correct: the concept of "sect" assumes the existence of a mainstream and a certain number of branches, while Tibetan Buddhism consists of local schools - Nyingma, Kagyu, Gelug, and so on. The Gelug school originated in the 14th century and became incredibly popular. She reformed the church structure, religious rituals, the canon, the clothing of monks and hierarchs. For example, representatives of the Gelug school invented high yellow hats: therefore, the school was first called yellow cap, and then simply yellow.

The Dalai Lama and the second most important hierarch of the Tibetan Church, the Panchen Lama, belong to her. Some Tibetans practice the ancient pre-Buddhist Bon religion. In addition, there are a small number of Christians in Tibet.


9. By the way, who is the Dalai Lama?


The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the Tibetans. The current fourteenth Dalai Lama is called Tenzin Gyatso: he is a Tibetan and was born in the northeast, in the Amdo region, into a simple peasant family. Buddhists believe that when people die, they are reborn into other people or animals, but they do not remember their previous births.

But holy people are the reincarnations of deities and great saints of the past: for example, the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. When the "living god" dies, which is how Buddhist saints are called in European literature, his companions go in search of the boy who the deceased has incarnated into. A set of magical (for example, special omens, dreams of hierarchs) and bodily (for example, the shape of ears and nails) indicates a particular baby. In the case of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, everything pointed to a boy from Amdo.

10. Are Shaolin monks also from Tibet?


The Shaolin Monastery is located in Central China and has nothing to do with Tibet. Shaolin and Tibet are united only by Buddhism: Shaolin, which was originally a Taoist monastery, became Buddhist almost a century earlier than Tibet.

11. The words "Freedom to Tibet" immediately cause a scandal. Why?


The question of the political independence of a large ethnic group, which in the past had experience of independence and its own statehood, is very painful. After fleeing in 1959, the current Dalai Lama gained great popularity and support in Western countries.

That is why the northern, Tibetan branch of Buddhism is so widespread in the West, and not the southern one (for example, Thai or Burmese). This also explains why the question of Tibet's independence is often louder than the question of the independence of the Kurds, Uyghurs or anyone else.

12. Yoga was invented in Tibet?


No, yogic practitioners come from India. They came to Tibet along with Buddhism, like many other things: great literary monuments, writing, the Hindu pantheon of deities, myths. Elements of yoga entered the tantric practices of Tibetan Buddhists, using physical and mental exercises to achieve a higher spiritual state. However, this is not at all the mainstream of Buddhism in Tibet.

13. Is there a civilization in Tibet?


Tibet is changing rapidly. Several decades ago it was a country where people really lived like in the Middle Ages. In the northern regions, pastoralists roamed, grazing yaks and rams, as ten centuries ago. The inhabitants of the Tsangpo Valley grew millet and vegetables by carrying water in wooden buckets.

Wealthy landowners used the labor of farm laborers. The goods were delivered by caravans. Polygamy and polyandry, that is, polyandry, were widespread. The dead were dismembered and given to be eaten by birds of prey. When the British invaded Tibet in 1904, they were opposed by men armed with bows and arrows, slings and pikes, as well as spells and magical rites. Now there are five star hotels in Lhasa. Tibet has excellent roads, and Lhasa can be reached by train.

There are power plants, universities, publishing houses. Of course, in some areas people live like in the old days. In addition, all Tibetans still believe in magic and are very religious. However, the latter is typical for many peoples, whose faith and superstition get along well with technical progress.


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