With the Buddha’s on the Top of the World…
Tibet in brief
Since 1950 Tibet is an autonomous province of the Republic of China. This mysterious, fascinating and mystical country it is known worldwide, even for the’ interest of several international figure as the Dalai Lama, head of state of Tibet from Dharamsala, India, that control the Tibetan government in exile.
Best time to go to Tibet
The immense plateau of Tibet, the “roof of the world”, goes beyond the political boundaries of the Chinese autonomous region of the same Tibet (Xizang), since it also includes much of the neighbour Qinghai Province which lies to the east. This area has a fairly uniform climate: cold but dry and windy in winter, and mild or cool in summer, with significant variations between night and day because of the strong sunshine at high altitude. The north is a bit ‘colder than the south, but the temperatures vary with altitude; the only significant difference between the different areas is that the eastern part is affected by the summer monsoon, for which it receives a bit ‘of rains (sometimes also abundant) in summer. The same Lhasa, the capital, is located in the eastern part of the province, while the entire west-central part of Tibet is virtually uninhabited and desert. If during the winter Tibet is not the coldest part of China, it is in the other seasons due to the high altitude.
The best time to visit Tibet is summer: for Lhasa and the east you may prefer May and September to avoid the bulk of the summer rains, but to vist places located at higher altitudes, and the west that is drier, you may prefer the period from June to August to reduce the risk of cold nights (which over 4,000 meters are inevitable). During spring and autumn the climate in Tibet is variable, it can be very cold with frost and short snowfalls especially in the colder hours, while the day may be mild and sunny. Who bears the cold can choose between the seasons to enjoy the clear sky that allow a magnificent view over the Himalayas mountains.
General Information about Tibet
Size: 1,223,599 km²
Total population: 2,700,000
Official language: Tibetan
Other languages spoken: Chinese
Ethnic origin: Mainly Tibetans. Other ethnic groups include the Monpa, Lhoba, Mongols and Hui. After the Chinese annexation of Tibet, the predominant ethnic group is that of the Han Chinese.
Form of State: Autonomous Region of the PRC.
Tibet, because of political choices and the old Buddhist monastic tradition and also for the particular territory, is a region with little industry. Its economy is therefore dominated on subsistence farming (rice, barley, wheat, fruit) and breeding (of yak, horses, goats, sheep). The yak in particular is a major source of livelihood for rural families as it is used as a driving force for the work in the fields, for milk and dairy products and finally for meat. From subsoil, rich in mineral resources, are extracted instead coal, uranium, gold and precious stones.
The last few years Tibet have led to an opening tourism, almost exclusively internal, also promoted by the Chinese authorities. The railway line opened in 2006, providing transportation from Lhasa to the Chinese city of Golmud in Qinghai. This will perhaps help the Tibetan economy, currently in a situation of relative uncertainty and poverty.
The history of Tibet
In 1716 with the arrival of the Jesuit Ippolito Desideri in Lhasa, began the first contacts with the West. In 1774 the first British mission comes into Tibet, followed by Nepalese invasion, that is stopped with the help of Chinese troops called in aid by the Tibetans. In 1904, a military expedition of UK troops invaded Tibet coming up in Lhasa and forced the Dalai Lama to flee to Mongolia. In 1910 troops of the Chinese empire occupy the eastern part of Tibet conquering Lhasa. Only in 1912 the Dalai Lama resumed full power in Tibet without any foreign influence. In 1933 the death of the thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tensing Gyatso becomes the XIV Dalai Lama. At only 18 years of age in 1940, the current Dalai Lama, were entrusted with the powers of spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhist community. In a prophetic vision of a Dalai Lama of the past story, “When the iron bird will fly, the red man will come and bring the destruction.”
In 1949, Mao Tsedong in Beijing, proclaimed the founding of the People’s Republic of China. In 1950 the Dalai Lama fled into exile in Sikkim, but soon returned to Lhasa for the reassuring statements of the Chinese not to interfere in Tibet. China throughout history had always considered Tibet part of the Empire, and so in 1951 came the invasion of the Chinese army in Tibet and Lhasa at the request of representatives of the Tibetan government. Chinese authorities initially did not interfere in the internal politics of the country, leaving the Tibetan government to exercise its power but later the situation deteriorates. After riots against the Chinese authorities by the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama decided to flee. Subsequently they fled the country, the feudal elite and the monks, fearing the air of revolution that was blowing from China. The only ones who remained in the country were the poor.
In 1964 China formally declares Tibet “Autonomous Province of Tibet” China. Following a very dark period in the recent history of China beat down on Tibet. The Cultural Revolution in the years 1966-76 brought students and extremists, agitated by the regime, to condemn all forms of opinion different from theirs monasteries, temples and other form of art were destroyed. The Dalai Lama will not return to Tibet; the situation of the community in exile, the various appeals, conferences and secret meetings, did not lead to anything. In January 2000, fleeing from Tibet also the fourteen Karmapa Lama, the second spiritual leader of the Tibetans, walking through the Himalayas to meet the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala in India. About 2,500 Tibetans leave their homeland every year.
Tibet & Religion
The indigenous religion of the country is known as Bon, a religion where magic has considerable importance; interaction with this teaching shamanistic derives the particular nature of Tibetan Buddhism.
Mahayana Buddhism, the Tibetan form often called Lamaism, penetrated deep into the country. Until 1950 Tibet was guardian of the rich cultural tradition of the teachings of Buddhism, Mahayana and Vajrayana (Tantric); the Dalai Lama, considered an incarnation of the Buddha of Compassion, was the political and spiritual leader of the country.
Visa for Tibet
Bearing in mind that Tibet is a province of China, to enter the country you need a valid passport with a few blank page and the Chinese visa. If you are travelling with an organized tour agency will request a group visa. The Chinese authorities discourage independent travellers and are reluctant to provide information by phone. In this regard it is recommended that, in requiring a visa, not to say that you want to visit Tibet, but more generally, you want to go to China. Generally the visa is obtainable in about one week.
In addition to enter Tibet is also required a special permit (ATP, Alien Travel Permit).
For some periods of the year the Chinese authorities close the entry into Tibet so it’s good to request in advance the trip to Tibet: verify that at that time the borders are open.
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