Dolka with her baby © Alison Wright

Tibetan Culture

Traditional Tibetan dress depends on social class and occupation. Laymen and priests may wear gowns made of goat hair or sheepskin, but the priest's gown is worn to the ankle while others may come to the knee. Women from upper classes display head dresses of pearls, turquoise, and coral on a wooden frame, while herdswomen plait their hair with tied colored stones. Their head and body dresses may contain coins, rings, earrings, and necklaces. Women often wear a charm box necklace with a deity image or talisman written insode. Tibetan families choose marriage partners for men and women. Monogamy, polygamy, and polyandry can be found among Tibetans. Women control family finances. Many of the secular schools for Tibetans that once existed have been replaced by Chinese-based schools, and Tibetan language and culture are oppressed. Traditional education was held mostly in monasteries, and many families would encourage at least one child to become a monk or nun. Today, many Tibetans do not attend school except for the few studying Tibetan medicine or Tibetan studies. Rituals for the dead include cremation and sky burial.

Dawa with Photograph of the Dalai Lama © Alison Wright

Tibetan Religion

The animistic belief system known as Bon dominated Tibetan spirituality before Buddhism. Bon belief was rooted in the idea that everything has a spirit, from people to homes to parts of nature. Buddhism entered Tibet from Kashmir and Nepal in the 4th century. In the 7th century it became the court religion. Bon and Buddhism shaped Tibetan Buddhism. Religion is central to daily life for Tibetans. They use prayer wheels and prayer flags to communicate with gods; the family shrine is core to Tibetan family life.

[More information about Buddhism]

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