Written by Harry Wilson
Welcome to the third part of our introductory series to the ethnic minority groups of China. Today we take a closer look at neighbouring Tibet and the wonderful culture of this underappreciated land. If you plan on visiting Tibet in the near future, this blogpost will serve as a guide for all things you might need before your trip, as well as an insight into some of the incredible cultural phenomena you will get to experience first-hand!
Before you head to Tibet, make sure to get your visa! Tibet Entry Permits are required to enter the country if you are a non-Chinese citizen. You don’t want to get off to the wrong start on your trip. Probably the most important thing to know is that it is a good idea to get into good physical shape before your trip, as the average altitude is around 4500 meters (14700 feet) above sea level, so there’s a chance you may suffer from altitude sickness. Despite the sub-freezing temperatures, many Tibetans go barefoot!!! Interestingly, the boiling temperature of water is so low at this altitude, that boiling water from a pot would not burn human skin!
Due to the average altitude of the country and its many plateau’s, Tibet has been referred to by many as “the roof of the world”, with its incredible vistas from the top of Mount Everest.
Tibet is also home to the world’s highest plateau. The 37000 glaciers that accompany it provide water to more than HALF OF ASIA, which if you think about it, is truly incredible for a nation of its size and socio-economic position in the world. Tibet has many incredible views, including Namtso (Lake Nam), which is commonly referred to as “Heavenly Lake” in European literature, as well as the Potala Palace. The efforts required to deal with the altitude in Tibet will all be made worthwhile by the breathtaking (not that you need anymore breath to be taken away haha) views and cultural experiences!
In the image above you get a chance to take a first look at the Potala Palace, formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Tibetan uprising. Today, it is used as a museum and one of several World Heritage Sites in the country. The palace contains over 1000 rooms, 10000 shrines and around 200000 statues. If that doesn’t show you how much religion means to this country, then nothing will.
A lot of jobs in Tibet are religion-related, as religion is a daily, if not hourly practice. Some jobs including carving stones with Buddhist scriptures, woodblock scripture painting and Thangka painting, a traditional form of Tibetan Buddhist painting, are an extremely important part of Tibetan culture. Tibetans spend years mastering these arts and can spend months or even years on a single piece. The carvings and paintings will often contain scriptures or the story of the Buddha in meticulous detail.
Merit is of vital importance to Tibetan Buddhists and can be gained through participating in a variety of activities. Tibetans spend much of their time praying, spinning prayer wheels (as seen above) and hanging prayer flags. All these activities earn them merit. It is also important for them to send their sons to monasteries, participate in pilgrimages, do good deeds and present gifts to lamas in order to further increase their merit.
Still not convinced of the beauty of Tibet – take a look at this wonderful short video produced by the incredible team at National Geographic which gives great insight into the magnificent structure, the Potala Palace:
Want to learn more about Tibet, its culture and inhabitants? Take a look at this extended documentary on the area:
Finally, if you were interested in the Thangka discussed in this blogpost, here is some more information including a link to our website where you can find out more! Thangka are Tibetan Buddhist paintings on cotton or silk and normally depict a Buddhist deity, scene or mandala. They are usually kept unframed and rolled up when not on display, and when treated and kept correctly they can last in incredibly long time. If your interest has been aroused and you would like to see some authentic Thangka, please visit our website – https://www.interactchina.com/thangka-painting
About Interact China
“A Social Enterprise in E-commerce Promoting Oriental Aesthetic Worldwide!”
Aileen & Norman co-founded Interact China in 2004 with specialization in fine Oriental Aesthetic products handmade by ethnic minorities & Han Chinese. Having direct partnerships with artisans, designers, craft masters and tailors, along with 13 years of solid experience in e-commerce via InteractChina.com, we are well positioned to bridge talented artisans in the East with the rest of the world, and directly bring you finely selected products that are of good quality and aesthetic taste.
So far we carry 3000+ goods covering Ladies Fashion via ChineseFashionStyle.com, Kungfu Fashion, Home Furnishings, Babies & Kids, Painting Arts, Textile Arts, Carving Arts, Tribal Jewelry Art, Wall Masks and Musical Instruments. Our team speak English, French, German, Spanish and Italian, and serve customers worldwide with passion and hearts.
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