Tibet People and Culture

Tibetan people are known for their optimistic spirit and seemingly inexhaustible reserves of happiness. They have largely managed to maintain this reputation, despite the invasions of the Chinese and the consequent restrains imposed upon them. Much of this resilience is due to the fact that the vast majority of Tibetan people are Buddhists; they have a serenity, which is derived from generations of people steeped in this faith.

Tibetans are the main inhabitants on the plateau but share their region with Menpa, Luopa, Han Chinese, Hui, Sherpa and a few Deng people.

The earliest Tibetans were barley farmers who created small settlements. Nomads also formed part of the original population and tended to herd yaks and sheep. Gradually larger settlements evolved, with some of the populations turning to craft-work to make a living. In fact, from Tibet, we see some of the most beautiful weavings, crafts and jewellery. Latterly more and more Tibetans have made the move into business and commerce.

Most Tibetans are devout Buddhists, a small minority still believing in the old Bon religion, which pre-dates Buddhism and follows the old rites such as sky burials. There are clusters of followers of the Islam and Catholic religions in Lhasa and Yanjing respectively.

Tibetans have their own language with many regional and sub-dialects, which are generally mutually intelligible. English is not commonly spoken in Lhasa. Of course, nowadays many Tibetans speak Mandarin, which is taught in schools and proficiency in Chinese is essential for any Tibetan hoping to progress within the power structure.

The estimated population within the TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region) is 2.62 million, 93% of which are Tibetans, and 6% are Han Chinese, whilst the rest (about 6 million Tibetans and 7.5million Chinese settlers) live in the Tibetan areas outside the TAR.