Tibetan Peoples

Tibet - People and Culture
The Tibetan people are an ethnic group that is native to Tibet, which is mostly in the People's Republic of China. They number 5.4 million and are the 10th largest ethnic group in the country. Significant Tibetan minorities also live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan.
Tibetans speak the Tibetan language, which has many mutually unintelligible dialects. However, Tibetans explain their own origins by the marriage of the monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo. Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, though some observe the indigenous Bön and others are Muslims. Tibetan Buddhism influences Tibetan art, drama, and architecture, while the harsh geography of Tibet has produced an adaptive culture of Tibetan medicine and cuisine.

1. Language
The Tibetan language encompasses many dialects. Khampas have several Khams language dialects which may be unintelligible to Amdowas, and the Lhasa dialect may be unintelligible to both of those groups.

2. Physical adaptation to high altitudes
Areas in which concentrations of ethnic Tibetans live within China. The Tibet Paleolithic Project is studying the Stone Age colonization of the plateau, hoping to gain insight into human adaptability in general and the cultural strategies the Tibetans developed as they learned to survive in this harsh environment.
The ability of Tibetan's metabolism to function normally in the oxygen-deficient atmosphere at high altitudes - frequently above 4,400 meters' (14,400 ft), has often puzzled observers. Recent research shows that, although Tibetans living at high altitudes have no more oxygen in their blood than other people, they have 10 times more nitric oxide and double the forearm blood flow of low-altitude dwellers. Nitric oxide causes dilation of blood vessels allowing blood to flow more freely to the extremities and aids the release of oxygen to tissues. What is not yet known is whether the high levels of nitric oxide are due to a genetic mutation or whether people from lower altitudes would gradually adapt similarly after living for prolonged periods at high altitudes.

3. Origins
3.1 Genetics
A study of genomic variation suggests that the majority of the Tibetan gene pool may have diverged from the Han around 3,000 years ago. However, there are possibilities of much earlier human inhabitation of Tibet, and these early residents may have made contribution to the modern Tibetan gene pool. Further anthropological and genetic studies will be needed to clarify the history of human settlement in Tibet.
The romantic claim that American Navajo and Tibetans are related has not found support in genetic studies. Some light has been shed on their origins, however, by one genetic study in which it was indicated that Tibetan Y-chromosomes had multiple origins, one from Central Asia while the other from East Asia.
3.2 Traditional explanation
Tibetans traditionally explain their own origins as rooted in the marriage of the monkey Pha Trelgen Changchup Sempa and rock ogress Ma Drag Sinmo.[18] Tibetans who display compassion, moderation, intelligence, and wisdom are said to take after their fathers, while Tibetans who are "red-faced, fond of sinful pursuits, and very stubborn" are said to take after their mothers.

4. Religion
Most Tibetans generally observe Tibetan Buddhism or a collection of native traditions known as Bön (also absorbed into mainstream Tibetan Buddhism). There is also a minority Tibetan Muslim population.
Legend said that the 28th king of Tibet, Thothori Nyantsen, dreamed of a sacred treasure falling from heaven, which contained a Buddhist sutra, mantras, and religious objects. However, because the Tibetan script had not been invented, the text could not be translated in writing and no one initially knew what was written in it. Buddhism did not take root in Tibet until the reign of Shrongtsen Gampo, who married two Buddhist princesses, Bhrikuti and Wencheng. It then gained popularity when Padmasambhāva visited Tibet at the invitation of the 38th Tibetan king, Trisong Deutson.
Today, one can see Tibetans placing Mani stones prominently in public places. Tibetan lamas, both Buddhist and Bön, play a major role in the lives of the Tibetan people, conducting religious ceremonies and taking care of the monasteries. Pilgrims plant prayer flags over sacred grounds as a symbol of good luck.
The prayer wheel is a means of simulating chant of a mantra by physically revolving the object several times in a clockwise direction. It is widely seen among Tibetan people. In order not to desecrate religious artifacts such as Stupas, Mani stones, and Gompas, Tibetan Buddhists walk around them in a clockwise direction, although the reverse direction is true for Bön. Tibetan Buddhists chant the prayer "Om mani padme hum", while the practitioners of Bön chant "Om matri muye sale du".

5. Culture
Tibet is rich in culture. Tibetan festivals such as Losar, Shoton, Linka (festival), and the Bathing Festival are deeply rooted in indigenous religion and also contain foreign influences. Each person takes part in the Bathing Festival three times: at birth, at marriage, and at death. It is traditionally believed that people should not bathe casually, but only on the most important occasions.

6. Art
Tibetan art is deeply religious in nature, from the exquisitely detailed statues found in Gompas to wooden carvings and the intricate designs of the Thangka paintings. Tibetan art can be found in almost every object and every aspect of daily life.
Thangka paintings, a syncretism of Indian scroll-painting with Nepalese and Kashmiri painting, appeared in Tibet around the 8th century. Rectangular and painted on cotton or linen, they usually depict traditional motifs including religious, astrological, and theological subjects, and sometimes a Mandala. To ensure that the image will not fade, organic and mineral pigments are added, and the painting is framed in colorful silk brocades.

7.  Drama
The Tibetan folk opera, known as Ache lhamo, which literally means "sister goddess" or "celestial sister," is a combination of dances, chants and songs. The repertoire is drawn from Buddhist stories and Tibetan history.
Tibetan opera was founded in the fourteenth century by Thangthong Gyalpo, a lama and a bridge builder. Gyalpo, and seven girls he recruited, organized the first performance to raise funds for building bridges, which would facilitate transportation in Tibet. The tradition continued uninterrupted for nearly seven hundred years, and performances are held on various festive occasions such as the Lingka and Shoton festival. The performance is usually a drama, held on a barren stage that combines dances, chants, and songs. Colorful masks are sometimes worn to identify a character, with red symbolizing a king and yellow indicating deities and lamas. The performance starts with a stage purification and blessings. A narrator then sings a summary of the story, and the performance begins. Another ritual blessing is conducted at the end of the play. There are also many historical myths/epics written by high lamas about the reincarnation of a "chosen one" who will do great things.
8  Architecture
The most unusual feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south. They are commonly made of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heating or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area. Tibetan homes and buildings are white-washed on the outside, and beautifully decorated inside.

9. Medicine
Tibetan medicine is one of the oldest forms in the world. It utilizes up to two thousand types of plants, forty animal species, and fifty minerals. One of the key figures in its development was the renowned 8th century physician Yutok Yonten Gonpo, who produced the Four Medical Tantras integrating material from the medical traditions of Persia, India and China. The Tantras contained a total of 156 chapters in the form of Thangkas, which tell about the archaic Tibetan medicine and the essences of medicines in other places.

10. Cuisine
The Cuisine of Tibet reflects the rich heritage of the country and people's adaptation to high altitude and religious culinary restrictions. The most important crop is barley. Dough made from barley flour, called Tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet. This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called Momos. Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or mutton, often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item.

11.  Clothing   
Most Tibetans wear their hair long, although in recent times due to Chinese influence, some men do crop their hair short. The women plait their hair into two queues, the girls into a single queue.
Because of Tibet's cold weather, the men and women wear long thick dresses (chub). The men wear a shorter version with pants underneath. The style of the clothing varies between regions.

12. Literature
Tibet has national literature that has both religious, semi-spiritual and secular elements. While the religious texts are well-known, Tibet has the semi-spiritual Gesar Epic, which is the longest epic in the world and is enjoyed by people in Mongolia and Central Asia too. There are secular texts such as The Dispute Between Tea and Chang (Tibetan beer) and Khache Phalu's Advice.

13. Marriage customs
Polyandry is practiced in parts of Tibet. A typical arrangement is where a woman may marry male siblings. This is usually done to avoid division of property and provide financial security. However, monogamy is more common throughout Tibet. Marriages are sometimes arranged by the parents, if the son or daughter has not picked their own partner by a certain age.