People & Culture of Tibet

People of Tibet

The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet. They number an estimate of 6.5 million. Significant Tibetan minorities also live outside of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in China, and in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Tibetans speak the Tibetic languages, many varieties of which are mutually unintelligible. They belong to the Tibeto-Burman languages. The traditional, or mythological, explanation of the Tibetan people’s origin is that they are the descendants of the human Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo. Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, though some observe the indigenous Bön religion. Tibetan Buddhism influences Tibetan art, drama, and architecture, while the harsh geography of Tibet has produced an adaptive culture of Tibetan medicine and cuisine.

Culture of Tibet

Tibetan culture developed under the influence of a number of factors. Contact with neighboring countries and cultures- including Nepal, India, and China–have influenced the development of Tibetan culture, but the Himalayan region’s remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences. Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the 7th century. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of the prevailing Buddhist beliefs, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form in Tibet, influenced by the Bön tradition and other local beliefs. 

Tibet’s specific geographic and climatic conditions–its altitude, short growing season, and cold weather–have encouraged reliance on pastoralism, as well as the development of a different cuisine from surrounding regions.