Tibet - People & Religion

Religion in Tibet

Buddhism, has a history dating back over 1300 years, these years have shaped a unique form "Lamaism". Tibetan history, culture and religion are mixed together and infiltrated into every aspect of social life. Buddhism in Tibet came into prominence after Songtsen Gompo, the 33rd Tibetan King married Bhrikuti, a Nepali Princess. After the marriage, Buddhism slowly started to replace the Bon religion but really gained momentum after the king's minister translated the first Buddhist scripture. Buddhist scripture is believed to have descended from heaven around 5th century A.D. and was written in Sanskrit. Now Buddhism is the soul of Tibet and Tibetans. 

A small number of the population are Muslim but there is little suggestion of any other religion. Tibetan religious arts have a distinctive style which has adopted both Nepalese and Chinese influence, it is regarded as a pearl of oriental Buddhist art in Chinese Buddhism. Tibetan architecture is rich in design, sumptuous and full of noble aspiration. The Potala Palace, built on the top of a hill is a classic example of the wealth of Tibetan architectural structures. These buildings include wonderful sculptures, carvings, murals, "thangkas" and skilled butter sculptures alongside a vast array of historical monuments.

Ethnic Communities and Customs

People living on the Tibetan plateau, Tibetans, Monpas, Lhopas and Muslems, have their different ways of living, marriage, burial and other ceremonies. Tibetans call themselves "Bodpas" with a total population of 3.4 million (1992) among which 2.2 million reside in the Autonomous Region. Tibetans mainly engage in agriculture, husbandry and handicrafts. Tsampa (barley flour), beef, mutton, butter tea and barley beer are their most common food and drink. Traditional Tibetan clothing is made from wool and lambskin. They have a passion for ornaments with women wearing traditional striped aprons. Nomads and people living in remote areas depend on Yaks for their transportation, although  donkeys and  horses are also used.. Their marriage system is mainly monogamous. Tibetans do not have surnames, their names consist of four or two syllables mainly adopted meanings from Buddhism. Festivals in Tibet are numerous, the grandest being the Tibetan New Year, (Lhosar) followed closely by "Wangkor" Festival and horse races.

Science and Culture

Along with the development of the Tibetan history, Tibetans have created a unique science and culture of their own, amongst some of the most important formations of the whole of Chinese culture. The vast range of magnificent historical documents cultural relics, and  literature presently in existence speak volumes of the wisdom of the Tibetans. Great scriptures such as "Kagyur" (Translation of the Commandments) "Tengyur" (Translation of Commentaries), "Four Tibetan Medical Tantras", The Happy Feast of Sages", Biography to Bhuton" and the "Biography of Milarepa" have all been translated into many languages. Tibet is also known as the Sea of the Songs and Dances; folk songs and daces of various styles, witnessed especially during the 'Shoton" Festival in August each year.
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