Tibetans

Living on the “Roof of the World” in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) and the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan, the Tibetans are a beautiful and hardy people, shaped by their challenging natural environment.

There are about 5.5 million Tibetans in these traditional areas and about 7.8 million worldwide. Tibetans are divided into 3 main linguistic groups: Central (Ü-Tsang), Kham, and Amdo. They share the same written language but distinct spoken dialects with many sub-dialects. In one mountainous Kham area there is the saying, “Another valley, another dialect.”

The majority of Tibetans are farmers and semi-nomadic herders. The farmers usually grow highland barley, wheat, and canola. The herders raise yak, sheep, and goats.

Most Tibetans are Tibetan Buddhists and view this as a central part of their identity as Tibetans. Tibetan Buddhism has combined traditional folk religions of the area (for example, the Bön religion) with Buddhism, which came from India and began to have a strong impact on the Tibetans in the 7th and 8th centuries AD. Tibetan Buddhist rites and rituals shape the daily life of the people. The ordinary people will consult monks, Living Buddhas, or shamans when facing various difficulties or decisions.

Their culture is rich, and Tibetans are known for loving to sing and dance. Their most important holiday is Losar which is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar (January-February). The traditional food is tsampa, a mixture of yak butter, yak milk tea, and roasted barley flour.