Overview of Tibet
Brief Introduction of Tibet
Tibet (Xizang), known as the 'Roof of the World', has become a dream destination for climbers, adventurers and regular tourists from all over the world. Visitors are guaranteed to enjoy the enthralling year-round snow mountains, mysterious religions, exotic customs and spectacular inhabitants of Tibet.
The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), short for 'Zang', is located in the southwest of China. The region extends along the borders of the Xinjiang, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces to the north and east and the five foreign countries of Burma, India, Bhutan, Sikkim and Nepal to the south and west. Tibet covers an area of over 120 square kilometers , making it the second largest region in China after the Xinjiang Province. However, due to adverse conditions, this broad land is only inhabited by 2.6 million people, giving it the smallest density of population of all the provincial administrative regions in China. Tibetans constitute over 90% of the population and spread across Tibet. Other nationalities like Han, Hui, Mongol, Menpa also inhabit the entire Tibet, but are mainly found in Lhasa, Shigatse and other cities.
Geography of Tibet
The physiognomy of Tibet is very complicated and varied. In the north lies a high plateau surrounded by Mount Nyainqentanglha, Karakoram Mountains and Gangdise, while the huge Himalayas range extends through the south. In the east lies another smaller continuous mountain range, Mt. Hengduan, which separates Tibet from inner China. Various landscapes composed of basins, plains, canyons, valleys, lakes, rivers and glaciers form in the low areas of Tibet. Tibet is the headstream of many large rivers such as China's Yangtze, Yellow River, Yarlung Tsangpo River (Brahmaputra), Jinsha River, Nu River (Salween) and Lancang River (Mekong) and India's Indus and Ganges. Over 1,500 lakes are sprinkled over Tibet, of which most are located on the northern plateau, making it the area in China with the highest lake density and earning it the reputation of being the 'Hometown of Lakes'. The Karuola Glacier is also a natural wonder that has conquered the hearts of many tourists.
Climate and Resources
Located at an average altitude of over 4,000 m. (13,123 ft.), Tibet has a cold and dry plateau climate in most areas, with the exception of some regions in the south and east. The peculiar landscape and climate have gestated immense natural resources in this expansive land. Tibet is the kingdom of plants and is home to complete virgin forests of spruces, firs, pines, cypresses and valuable herbs of snowdrops, fritillaries, tuckahoes and muskiness. It is also the paradisical habitat of thousands of rare wild animals, such as lesser pandas, antelopes, yaks, black-neck cranes, white-lipped deer, etc. Tibet is also abundant in resources such as minerals, terrestrial heat, water energy, wind and solar energy. Yangpachen is the first research base for terrestrial heat energy in China. It is no exaggeration to claim that Tibet is a land of vast treasures.
History and Attractions
Tibet has a recorded history of about 1,300 years, but its original inhabitants appeared as early as in the Paleolithic Age. Traditionally, Tibetans not only inhabit in Tibet , but also disperse over other provinces of Qinghai , Sichuan , Gansu and Yunnan among others. Most commonly believed that the Tibetans can be divided into three regions with different dialects, namely U-Tsang , Kham and Amdo . U-Tsang covers most areas of Tibet now, including Lhasa , Shigatse, Shannan, Nyingchi, Ngari and part of Chamdo. Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama manage the Usang and Tsang respectively. Generally Usang has its centre at Lhasa and includes Shannan, Nyingchi, part of Chamdo and their circumjacent areas while Tsang points to the whole regions of Shigatse and has its centre at Tashilhunpo Monastery. Kham refers to the east Chamdo region of Tibet and other Tibetan Autonomous Prefectures of Garze ( Sichuan ), Deqen (Yunnan) and Yushu (Qinghai). And Amdo refers to Nakchu of Tibet and other large Tibetan areas of Qingahai , Gansu and Sichuan .
Lhasa, as the capital of Tibet, is showcased in its dense cultural and spiritual atmosphere. It is usually the first window through which travelers discover Tibet. The grand Potala Palace on the Red Hill, the Jokhang Temple, the three greatest monasteries of Gelugpa - Drepung, Ganden and Sera, and the Tibetan Museum are always popular tourist destinations. Shigatse, the second largest city of Tibet, features the most complete natural sceneries. In this region lift Mt. Everest, the highest peak in the world, and other 4 peaks above 8,000 m. (26,247 ft.) as well as 38 peaks above 7,000 m. (22,966 ft.), earning it the laudatory title of 'The Third Pole of the World' and with a magnetic effect on mountaineers. The natural reserve here is also to the habitat of many rare plants and wild animals. Other popular tourist sites include Zhangmu Town, which is a noisy port bordering Nepal, and the Tashilhunpo Monastery, which is the throne of Panchen Lama.
Shannan, the cradle of the ancient civilization of Tibet, is the place of origin of the Tibetan legendary ancestors--a Raksasi and a monkey. The first temple of Tibet, Samye Monastery , Graveyard of Tibetan Kings, sacred Yamdrok Yumtso Lake and Lhamo Lhatso Lake, attract a continuous stream of visitors who come to appreciate or pay tribute. Nyingchi, located in the low southeast of Tibet, is a beautiful region with a mild climate. The natural sceneries include the Great Canyon of the Yarlung Tsangpo River, Bayi Town, Huge Cypress Nature Reserve, Mt. Bon-ri and its fascinating cliff sculptures. Ngari, known as 'Roof of the Roof of the World', features Mt. Kailash and Lake Manasarovar, also known as the sacred mountain and the holy lake, which are prime destinations for pilgrims of Bon, Buddhism and Hindus. Nakchu, situated in the amazing northern plateau, is the seedbed of the early cultures of ancient Shengshong Kingdom and Bon. The traditional Kham Region Chamdo is located in the east rich land and boasts Karub Ruins of Neolithic Age, some monasteries, mountains, lakes, hot springs and other natural wonders.
Tibetans and Their Cultures
The Tibetans are very unique and versatile people. Most of them believe in Tibetan Buddhism and worship and circumambulate around temples, shrines and other holy places. Based on their beliefs and knowledge, they have created brilliant arts and crafts like Tibetan Thangka, murals, sculptures, Tibetan knives, Tibetan carpets, costumes, their own opera, calendar, medicine, language and other unique local cultures and customs. The Barkhor Street in Lhasa is a bazaar to sell all kinds of these handicrafts. The fancily dressed Tibetans are also extremely hospitable. They are eager to present Khatag, propose a toast by their festive chang and Yak Butter Tea and perform their adept singing and dancing to greet the guests, making it a really enjoyable experience to approach them.
Traveling to 'Roof of the World' is no longer just a dream. Going by road is the most common and convenient way of traveling there. With their center in Lhasa, the road line networks of Sichuan-Tibet Highway, Qinghai-Tibet Highway, Yunnan-Tibet Highway, Xinjiang-Tibet Highway and Sino-Nepal Highway connect all these neighbors with each other. It has also become possible to reach Tibet by railway or airplane. The Qinghai-Tibet Railway has built the highest railway in the world, and the Lhasa Gonggar Airport has opened airlines to Beijing, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xian, Xining, Guangzhou, Kunming, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chamdo, Nepal as well as other domestic and international routes.