About Tibet

Photo by (C) Silvia Vernetto .

Tibet is a magical place, which inspired the imagination of generations. Patrick French, the author of an excellent book "Tibet Tibet", published in 2004 said that "Tibet is outside of time ane geography". We have all heard these names: Shangri-La, "The Lost Horizon", Kingom of Snows, the Land of the Snow Lion.

What is it really like? When preparing for the trek I found it so fascinating that I had to split the information into several pages and put a special menu at the top of this page.

Other pages will give you the basics about geography and a short course in Tibetan history, while this page will tell you about...

Amazing Facts About Tibet you never knew...

Cars: Before the Second World War there wrere only 2 cars in the whole of Tibet. (Registration TIBET I belonged to XIII Dalai Lama).

Eyeballs: In 1934 a reformer politician Lungshar Dorje Tsegyal was accused of plotting to kill his opponents with black magic, as ‘evil scriptures’ have been found in his shoes. He was sentenced to removal of his eyeballs through squeezing them out of his scull with yak bones. The sentence was carried out.

Foreigners: Until the 1980s Tibet was closed to foreigners. The first western woman ever entered Lhasa in 1924 disguised as a beggar. She was Alexandra Savid Neel.

Football: Was introduced by the British after 1904. Has been banned by the conservative forces 20 years later.

Monasteries: There were over 6000 monasteries in the 1930s, less than 70 survived after the ‘democratic reform’ by the Chinese. The holy scriptures from the monasteries were used as a fertiliser on the fields. In the nineties many shrines were rebuilt from the rubble.

Monks and nuns: Buddhist monks take up 250 vows, nuns (called ani) 360. They usually remain celibate, but can marry if they wish.

Tongue: The Tibetans clap their hands as a sign of disapproval (boooo!) and stick their tongues out as a signe of approval and welcome. This completely buffled the British soldiers marching into Lhasa in 1904, when they were grreted by clapping crowds

Language: The Tibetan written language is nearly 1300 years old and has changed little since its invention. It is besed on alphabet and not the ideograms and belongs to an Indo-European family, derived from the Ranjana script of Northern India. Internet Explorer V.6 is capable of displaying it! See the sample below:

Sky burials: Traditionally Tibetans do not bury their dead – their bodies and left high in the mountains for the vultures. To make their job easier they are usually chopped into smaller pieces.

Reincarnation: Like all Buddhists the Tibetans believe in reincarnation of the spirit but while a normal person may be reincarnated as an animal or an insect, some prominent lamas are reincarnated as other lamas. These prestigious reincarnations are called TULKU.

Lamas: The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama are the two most important spiritual leaders of Tibet. Read more on the History and Religion pages.

Shangri-La: the popular term meaning 'the land of eternal happines' was coined in 1933 by James Hilton, an author of a novel “The Lost Horizon” set in Tibet.

Red more about: Geography History Buddhism

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Fragment of a sand Mandala