"Shi De"

(Peace that brings happiness)

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Scenes in Tibet (1940s)

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Five Elements
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Amdo Stars Palgon
Boedpi Bumo Chung Chung
Call it Karma
Girl's ornament (Drolbe)
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Mysterious Tibet
Om Mani Pami
Songs and Stories of Tibet
The Rangzen song
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Wen Sermo

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Tibetan Nationality


Like Mongolia, Tibet was the center of a vast empire. Beginning in the seventh century, Tibetan armies moved north, east, and west from the area around the Yalu River in the region near present-day Lhasa. Within a few decades, they had conquered much of central Asia, including the important routes through Xinjiang used by China to trade with Western neighbors. In the eighth century the Tibetan Empire was the most feared political power in Asia. For a short period in 755, Tibetans even captured Chang'an, then the capital of China, chasing the Chinese emperor and his court from the city. Internal disputes eventually divided the Tibetan Empire, and the court's authority gave way to local leaders. However, there are lasting legacies of this imperial period.

Another lasting legacy of imperial Tibet is Buddhism. The first Tibetan emperors invited Buddhist monks from India and China to teach the religion to courtiers and aristocrats. The emperors also sent learned men to India and China to gather Buddhist scriptures and translate them into Tibetan. The teachings of Buddhism took firm root, quickly permeating Tibetan society. Buddhism came to flourish in Tibet as it had nowhere else. One difference in the Buddhism of Tibet is the importance of the lama, or teacher, with whose assistance the disciple will reach spiritual enlightenment. Therefore, Tibetan Buddhism is sometimes referred to as Lamaism.

Monasteries play a key role in Tibetan society. As centers of religion, they not only minister to the spiritual needs of their lay communities but also preserve and propagate religious and scholarly traditions. In the case of Tibet, with a written history of over thirteen thousand years and thousands of religious texts, the scholarly tradition is of great significance.

In recent times Tibet's people and their culture have gained increasing attention as they wrestle with the problem of finding a political space in the rapidly changing modern world.

Tibetan audiio files

Tibetan Flag

In the center stands a magnificent thickly snow clad mountain, which represents the great nation of Tibet, widely known as the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains.

Across the dark blue sky six red bands spread representing the original ancestors of the Tibetan people: the six tribes called Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra which in turn gave the [twelve] descendants. The combination of six red bands (for the tribes) and six dark blue bands for the sky represents the incessant enactment of the virtuous deeds of protection of the spiritual teachings and secular life by the black and red guardian protector deities with which Tibet has had connection for a very long time.

At the tip of the snow mountain, the sun with its rays brilliantly shining in all directions represents the equal enjoyment of freedom, spiritual and material happiness and prosperity by all beings in the land of Tibet.

On the slopes of the mountain there proudly stand a pair of snow lions blazing with the manes of fearlessness, which represent the country's victorious accomplishment of a unified spiritual and secular life.

The beautiful and radiant three coloured jewel held aloft represents the ever-present reverence respectfully held by the Tibetan people towards the Three Supreme Jewels (the Buddhist objects of refuge: Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).

The two colored swirling jewel held between the two lions represents the peoples' guarding and cherishing the self discipline of correct ethical behaviour, principally represented by the practices of the ten exalted virtues and the 16 humane modes of conduct.

Prayer Flags

Tibetan is spoken by about 1 1⁄2 million people in Tibet. Another 3 million speakers live in the Chinese provinces of Szechwan, Tsinghai, and Kansu. Additionally about one million people in Nepal speak Tibetan as a second language.

In Tibet there are three dialect groups, all closely related to one another and descended from the language of the empire's armies. The first is Central Tibetan, spoken around Lhasa. The second is Khams, spoken east of Lhasa in Sichuan, Yunnan, and in some parts of Qinghai. The third dialect group is Amdo, spoken north of Lhasa, in Qinghai, Sichuan, and Gansu provinces. Tibetan languages are also spoken in Nepal, Bhutan, and India. All of these linguistic varieties use the same written language, which is based on an alphabet invented in Tibet during the reign of Srong bstan Sgam po (627-650). Of the major languages of Asia, Tibetan has the most in common with Burmese. The two languages belong to the same branch of the Sino-Tibetan family. The Tibetan alphabet dates from the 7th century A.D. It is based on the Sanskrit, having been adapted by a Tibetan minister sent to study Sanskrit in Kashmir.

Click here to read about
the Tibetan Language

Tibetan is an ancient nationality. According to historical records, early before the Qin and Han dynasties, the ancestors of the Tibetans gathered along the banks of the middle reach of the Brahmaputra. Due to the vast grasslands and lush pastures, sheep, goat and yak were easily fed and stock breeding gradually became their main economic support. They also engaged in agriculture and highland barley, a grain that is the material of zanba and ghee. Wheat, peas and canola are also planted.

Zanba, mutton and beef are the staple food of Tibetans. In some areas, rice and noodles are also a regular part of the diet. Tea with butter or milk, sour milk and cheese are the favorites of all Tibetans.

Tibetans have their own language and letters. The wide use of Tibetan language promotes the economic and cultural exchange between the Tibetan and their neighbors. Tibetans also have their own calendar. The exact date for the new year changes every year but its mostly around the months of February and March. The Tibetan New Year for 2004 was on February 21st. The period from the 10th century to 16th century was the golden age of Tibetan culture. Tibetan art has a dual character: on the one hand, it seems related to Indian art, with its artistic patterns and stress on deep red, blue and green; on the other, it is distinctively Tibetan, different from both the East and the West.

Herders of yaks, sheep, and goats and farmers of barley, peas, and tubers, the Tibetans sparsely inhabit a high, desolate region surrounded by mountains and barricaded on the east by the canyons of the Yangzi, Mekong, and Salween Rivers. The advent of Buddhism in the seventh century led to a theocratic state. Serfdom was abolished, government secularized, communes established and mechanized agriculture and other modernizations begun. Surface transportation is as yet rudimentary. They are part of the Sino-Tibetan Tibeto-Burman ethno linguistic group.


Tibetan Creation and Flood Myth

The English word "myth" comes from the Greek word "mythos" which means
word or story. Humans have used myths to describe or explain things that they couldn't have comprehended otherwise. Questions like:

why do the seasons change?

where did the first human beings come from?

or why does the sun travel across the sky?.

Myths served as the basis for rituals by which the ways of humanity and those of nature could be psychologically reconciled.

Myths are an important part of every society, including our own.
Without at least a basic understanding of a cultures myths it's impossible
to fully understand that culture because myths express a societies beliefs
and justify it's institutions, customs and values.

music of the Basum

Esoteric Buddhism

Tibetan Buddhism

Early Tibetan literature was
heavily influenced by Shamanism, Buddhism and Confucianism. The early literature, which began as an oral tradition, depicted a love of nature and man and held that man was a part of nature. Good was rewarded and evil was punished and values like loyalty to the King, filial piety, respect for one's elders, true friendship and chastity were emphasized.

Tibetan Music Collection Database

Tibetan Music


Dancers from Yushu Prefecture performing at the summer
Khampa festival, which attracts Tibetans from all over eastern Tibet.

Tibetan New Year (February or March)

It is the greatest festival in Tibet. In ancient times when the peach tree was in blossom, it was considered as the starting of a new year. Since the systematization of the Tibetan calendar in 1027 A.D., the first day of the first month became fixed as the new year. On the New Year's day, families unite " auspicious dipper" is offered and the auspicious words " tashi delek" are greeted.

Saga Dawa Festival (May or June)

It is the holiest in Tibet, there memorable occasions coincide on this day, Buddha's birth and Buddha's enlightenment. Almost every person within Lhasa join in circumambulating round the city and spend their late afternoon on picnic at " Dzongyab Lukhang" park at the foot of Potala.

Gyantse Horse Race & Archery (May or June)

Horse race and archery are generally popular in Tibet, and Gyantse enjoys prestige of being the earliest in history by starting in 1408. Contests in early times included horse race, archery, and shooting on gallop followed by a few days' entertainment or picnicing. Presently,ball games, track and field events, folk songs and dances, barter trade are in addition to the above.

Changtang Chachen Horse Race Festival (10 August)

As the most important festival in North Tibet during the golden season on the grassland,thousand of herdsmen throng to Nakchu riding fine horses,and carrying the local products.They form as city of tens south of Nakchu town. There will be thrilling horse race, archery and demonstrations of horsemanship. Songs and dance troupes from all part of Tibet will add to the fun.

Shoton Festival ( August)

It is the opera festival and the greatest festivals in tibet.In ancient times pious folks went into mountain hermitages for penance, and on the last day of which yogourt was served for meal followed by entertainment of folk songs and daces. Since 7th century, opera performances were held for days in Norbu Lingka. Presently, opera contests and distribution of prizes are held for seven days.

Harvest Festival (September)

The farmers in Lhasa, Gyantse and Shannan to celebrating their summer harvest in this time. During that time, people enjoy with horse racing games, costume fashion show, songs and dance, archery and picnic etc.

Bathing Week (September)

It is believed when the sacred planet Venus appears in the sky, the water in the river becomes purest and cure deseases. During its appearance for one week in the sky, all the people in Tibet go into the river for bathing.

Kongpo Traditional Festival (November of December)

Long long ago,when Tibet was in danger of large scale invasion, the Kongpo people sent out an army to defend their homeland.It was in September and the soldiers worried that they might miss the New Year,highland barley wine and other good things.So people had the Tibetan New Year on 1st October ahead of time.To memorize those brave soldiers Kongpo people present three sacrifices an stay up at night from then on. And now it has become the Kongpo Festival for entertainment like Kongpo dancing, horse race, archery and shooting.

Tens of thousands of Tibetans and visitors flocked to
the Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, Tibet’s capital

Shoton Festival begins in Tibet

Musical traditions in Tibet


Music of Penam

Ache Lhamo

Lhamo, or Ache Lhamo (literally, "sister goddess") is a Tibetan folk opera. It is a combination of dances, chants and songs, with repertoire drawn from Buddhist stories and Tibetan folklore. Tibetan opera was founded in the 14th century by Thang Tong Gyalpo, a Lama and a bridge builder. Gyalpo and seven recruited girls organised the first performance to raise funds for building bridges, which would facilitate transportation in Tibet. The tradition continued, and lhamo is held on various festive occasions such as the Linka and Sho Dun festivals. In the Tibetan language, the opera is called Al-che-lha-mo, the actor lha-mo-ba and the script khrab-gzhung.


A legend that attests to the position of Lhokha in the annals of Tibetan history states that human beings are the creation of a union between a sacred monkey and women. According to archaeological findings and legends and ancient documents, people lived in this area up to four million years ago. A primitive civilization grew up in the Yarlung Valley and a field in the village of Sare near Tsetang Town, is said to be the first farming field in Tibet. The first king in Tibetan history, Nyatri Tsenpo, really a mere chief of the Yarlong tribe, began ruling over the Yarlung valley in the beginning of second century BC. He founded the Fan Kingdom and established a hereditary monarchy. During the reign of the ninth king, Budegong, agriculture flourished and he was able to mobilize the people to excavate canal, channelling water to irrigate the flatland. A formal forming system came into existence during the reign of Yixiulie, the eleventh king, when he devised standard measurement units for allocating farmland and counting livestock. Six palaces were built in the region between the rule of the ninth and fifteenth kings.


The Five Elements

Five Elements

Water has the properties of soaking and descending
Fire both heats and moves upward
Wood allows it form to be shaped into straight and curved pieces
Metal can be melted, molded and then hardened
Earth provides nourishment through sowing and reaping

Five Elements
Directions East South Center West North
Seasons Spring Summer Long Summer Fall Winter
Colors Blue Red Yellow White Black
Flavors Sour Bitter Sweet Acid Salt
Organs Liver Heart Spleen Lung Kidney
Sense Organs Eye Tougue Mouth Nose Ear

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Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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