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People & Culture



The Tibetan tribal people occupy a vast high attitude and cold land. In general the land is not suitable for agriculture. The Tibetan tribal people make a living by raising animals and farming many small plots in the valleys. The land is sparsely populated. For the last 800 years, the Tibetan tribal people outside the Tibet Autonomous Region have been ruled loosely by the central governments of China . In Qing dynasty, the northern Tibet tribes was put under the direct rule of the Qing Governor of Tibet (Tzu Zang Da Chen or Amban). The land, which is 2/3 of the land of Tibet Autonomous Region , was conquered by the Tibet Government in 1914-1916 after the collapse of Qing dynasty in 1911.

The Tibetan Buddhism and Bonism are both influential in the western Tibet , the northern Tibet , the eastern Tibet , Qinghai and Sichuan Tibetan areas. There are Bonism monasteries, Bonism Tulkus/Living Buddhas in these areas. For instance, the Hor Kings were believers and protectors of Bonism. Labrang in Gansu and Ku-bum (Taer in Mongolian) in Qinghai are two important Ge-lug pa monasteries. Labrang Monastery owns five tribes, Ku-bum Monastery owns six tribes.

In the modern Tibet , some people wear the Western dresses as Han people do. Some Tibetan cadets wear the standard Chinese cadet's dresses. In the Tibet Autonomous Region, 95 percent of the populations are Tibetans, the rests are Hans, Moslems, Menbas, Lobas, Drungs, Xiaerbas and others. In this short article we will describe the traditional Tibetan dresses. A typical Tibetan clothes is made of sheepskin or wool. It is usually home-made by man. In the agriculture area the wool will be made `pulu' first. Then the `pulu' or sheepskin will be made into a gown with cloth or silk exterior cover called `qugba". In the grassland, sheepskin is common. A sheepskin will be sun baked and then cleaned. It will be soaked for a few days in the liquid of milk after butter is extracted. Then it is ready for men to tailor.

The Tibetan robes, which serve as blankets at night, are very long and are worn down to the knees with the extra length tucked and held up by a waistband or belt. The robe produces two large pockets, one in front and another at the back, for people to carry things, including baby. When it is hot in the daytime, Tibetans will undress the right arms to disperse heat. If it is even hotter, then one may undress both arms and tie the sleeves around the waist. For a good clothes, the collar and hem are made of special materials. For man, the collar is sometimes made of leopard belt, fox belt. For woman, the collar is made of red cloth or several strips of bright coloured cloths or corduroies. For hem, otter belt and silk will do. It is necessary to have belt to tie up the Tibetan dress. Usually the belt is made of red, yellow or light green (young female may use pink) silk.

The belt is well decorated. Man hangs flint box, needle box and Tibetan knife on it. Woman hangs copper or silver hook with butterfly and water lily designs. The belt is usually around the waist twice and then is tied behind with a knot. For a person in mourning of the dear ones, the knot is tied in front. It may snow in any day. To protect oneself, felt hat and felt clothes are necessary. The sleeves of felt clothes are longer than the finger tips which will allow a rider to grasp the whip warmly inside. There are many different hats in Tibet . Traditionally, Tibetans have `golden flowered hat', English felt hat, etc.. In the summer, people wear heavy woollen hat, in the spring, felt hat, in the winter, fox belt hat or kid belt hat.

The noble women use to wear a headpieces called `bazhug' which are decorated with pearl, coral and precious stones, and a chest ornament called `keu'. Now they are common. There are many different styles of shoes, `songba', `jialou' and `duozha'. The Tibetan shoes are open from rear and tied from rear. On the grassland, Tibetans like knee-high long boots. It is made of ox skin or `pulu'. It is popular for Tibetan women to wear aprons. There are two kinds of aprons: wide stripes ones and narrow stripes ones. The wide stripes one is with contrast, bright colours, as beautiful as rainbows. The narrow stripes one is with harmonic colours, elegant and graceful. For the big occasions, Tibetans, men and women alike, dress in purple or green satin gowns, maybe sleeveless, lined either with fur or fabric, all the more resplendent in the sunlight. The men wear their coiled braids high on the head, with red tassels dangling down to the ears.

The women wear ornaments of coral and turquoise in their hair, which, together with jewelry and trinkets worn on the chest and around the waist, jingle and tingle pleasantly as they move about. Their floor-sweeping gowns are bell-shaped and elegant. It is a custom for females to wear colourful aprons. Dressed in this fashion, the men appear spruce and smart. Their complexion, attire and bearing give them a statuesque quality. When they are standing in groups of three or four they appear to be clusters of stone sculpture. Tibetans seek beauty in everything while they themselves are a beauty that can hardly be surpassed. In the winter, beef and mutton are cut into long stripes to be air-dried in the circular ground caves or bins walled with stones or dungs. Dried beef and mutton keep better and longer, as the bacteria in them are killed during the drying process in deep winter. Dried meat also packs well. In the next year, the dried meat will be Bar-B-Qed or be eaten raw. Big chucks of fresh meat are boiled in a pot. Salt, ginger, spices are added.

The meat is served when it changes colour. People take the meat by hands and cut them with the carried knives. The breasts and spareribs are for the guests. The tails of white sheep are for the guests of honor. If a young man is treated with a tail of white sheep in his girl friend's house, it implies that he can hope. There are four different sausages in Tibet : blood, meat, flour and liver. Milk is drunk fresh or made yogurt, or is separated by churning into butter and curds. The Tibetan butter is home-made and can be further processed and refined into butter known elsewhere. Butter is used for food with `tsamba', tea etc., or for the fuel of lamp.

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