Tibetan Geography and Culture
Tibet is the highest country in the world. It is located in central
Asia between India and China, and is sometimes called "The Land of
The Snows" because it is situated beyond the Himalayas, the tallest
mountain range in the world with the world's highest peak, Mt. Everest
. Tibet is on a high plateau surrounded by mountains, and is the size
of western Europe with an area of 859,600 square miles. Most of the
large rivers of Asia rise out of the glacial waters of Tibetan
highlands. The mountains receive most of the annual rainfall in
the summer; beyond the mountains, the climate is arid and rugged
with high winds. There are no trees at the 15,000' altitude, yet
in the southeast there are forests with conifers and other trees.
According to Tibetan legend, the Tibetan race descended from a monkey into which entered the "Compassionate Spirit," who mated with a she-devil and produced the first Tibetan offspring. Many years of alliance and conflict with other groups such as the Persians, Chinese, and Japanese led to a variety of rulers.
Tibet was unified under the Mongolian rule of Genghis
Khan. Mongols also conquered China, beginning the teacher-patron relationship between the Chinese emperor and the Tibetan religious leader (Lama), who gave spiritual guidance to the emperor in exchange for military and political support. Between the 14th and 19th centuries B.C. the rule of the Dalai Lama (a title meaning "great ocean of wisdom") competed against the rule sought by other powerful groups inside Tibet. Although it fought border wars with some outside groups, Tibet remained mostly an isolated country until it was annexed by Chinese Communists in 1951. During the 1950s, China reshaped Tibet's borders, annexing the northeastern half into neighboring Chinese provinces. The current Dalai Lama, who lived in the traditional seat of power in Lhasa, fled to India in 1959 after the Chinese army took control. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, many important cultural and religious sites were destroyed in Lhasa. Today, many Tibetans live as refugees outside of Tibet, including large populations in Nepal and in Dharamsala, India. With many Chinese living among the Tibetans who have remained,
traditional Tibetan culture is considerably less powerful. Tibetans live in a
small area called the "Tibetan Autonomous Region."