About Tibet

Map showing Tibet in relation to the nations that border it.

Tibet lies at the centre of Asia, in the South-west frontier of China, on the main part of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau. Encompassing with an area of 2.5 million square kilometres, Tibet borders the Sichuan, Yuannan, Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces of China; India, Nepal, Bhutan and Burma in the south, and is bounded on the west by Kashmir. Also known as the Roof of the World, Tibet has the worlds highest mountains (average altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level), including Mt. Everest, and is the homeland of 6 million Tibetans.

The history of Tibet can be traced back thousands of years; however, written history only dates back to the 7th century when Songtsan Gampo, the 33rd king who unified Tibet, sent his minister Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit. Sambhota later returned to Tibet and invented Tibetan script based on Sanskrit.

Tibetan Buddhism, or Lamaism, was also introduced to Tibet from India in the 7th century. Buddhism's values and goals permeate almost everything Tibetan.

A Tibetan farming family.

The majority of Tibetans living in the valleys of Tsangpo River and its major tributaries are farmers who produce barley, wheat, peas and rape-seed. Occupying almost half the country, the great northern grassland of Tibet is home to nomads, and their yaks and sheep. The remaining population, approximately 10%, live in towns earning their living mainly through the sale of handicrafts or as factory labourers.

In 1949-1950, Chinas military forces invaded Tibet, forcing the independent nation to face the realities of violent battles, and soon after, the loss of their cultural freedoms, stemming from Chinas Communist ideology. Repression of Tibetans and their culture continues unabated, however, despite over 40 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Tibetan people refuse to be conquered. About 100,000 Tibetans have fled their homeland and now live in India along with their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Although the exile population is working to preserve Tibetan culture in India, lack of resources and separation from their homeland mean that their traditions are still under threat.