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Land and People
Almost completely surrounded by mountain ranges (including the Himalayas in the south and the Kunlun in the north), Tibet is largely a plateau averaging c.16,000 ft (4,880 m) in height. Many of the mightiest rivers of E Asia, especially the Chang (Yangtze), the Mekong, and the Thanlwin, rise in Tibet; the most important is the navigable Yarlung Zangbo (the Brahmaputra), which follows an easterly course through S Tibet. North of the Yarlung Zangbo are many salt lakes, the largest being Nam Co (Tengri Nor) in the east.
The indigenous inhabitants are of Mongolian stock and speak a Tibeto-Burman language. There are also substantial numbers of Han and other Chinese, especially in E Tibet and in urban areas; the number of non-Tibetans has increased significantly since 1990. Before the unsuccessful revolt of 1959 (see History), many city dwellers were Tibetan Buddhist monks, who may have comprised as much as one sixth of the country's male population. The chief figures of Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama (or Tashi Lama, for the lamastery at Tashi Lumpo), were at least the nominal heads of the Tibetan government. In general, the former administration was equally divided between lamas and the feudal aristocracy.
Tibet is a land of scant rainfall and a short growing season, and the only extensive agricultural region is the Yarlung Zangbo valley, where barley, wheat, potatoes, millet, and turnips are grown. In this valley as well are nearly all the large cities, including Lhasa, Xigazê (Shigatse), and Gyangzê (Gyangtse). Most other areas of Tibet are suited only for grazing; yaks, which can withstand the intense cold, are the principal domestic animals, and there are also large herds of goats and sheep. Much of the population traditionally was engaged in a pastoral life, but the advances made by irrigation and the growing of forage crops combined with Chinese attempts to spur economic development and relocate Tibetans into new housing developments have reduced nomadism and also increased the urban population. In addition to vast salt reserves, Tibet has large deposits of gold, copper, and radioactive ores.
Traditionally, goods for trade, particularly foreign trade, were carried by pack trains (yaks, mules, and horses) across the windswept plateau and over difficult mountain passes. In exchange for hides, wool, and salt there were imports of tea and silk from China and of manufactured goods from India. Motor roads now connect Lhasa with Qamdo (Chamdo) in E Tibet and with Xigazê and Gyangzê in the Yarlung Zangbo area and link Gar (Gartok) in W Tibet to the northern regions. A major highway runs from Tibet to Chengdu, in Sichuan prov., providing a link to the great Chinese cities in the east; Tibet is also connected by highway with Xinjiang and Qinghai in W China. A rail link to Qinghai prov. was opened in 2006.
Tibet and China
In 1906 and 1907, Britain recognized China's suzerainty over Tibet. However, the Tibetans were able, with the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty in China, to expel (1912) the Chinese in Tibet and reassert their independence. At a conference (1913–14) of British, Tibetans, and Chinese at Shimla, India, Tibet was tentatively confirmed under Chinese suzerainty and divided into an inner Tibet, to be incorporated into China, and an outer autonomous Tibet. The Shimla agreement was, however, never ratified by the Chinese, who continued to claim all of Tibet as a “special territory.” After the death (1933) of the 13th Dalai Lama, Tibet gradually drifted back into the Chinese orbit. The 14th Dalai Lama, who was born in China, was installed in 1939–40 and assumed full powers (1950) after a ten-year regency.
The succession of the 10th Panchen Lama, with rival candidates supported by Tibet and China, was one of the excuses for the Chinese invasion (Oct., 1950) of Tibet. By a Tibetan-Chinese agreement (May, 1951), Tibet became a “national autonomous region” of China under the traditional rule of the Dalai Lama, but under the actual control of a Chinese Communist commission. The Communist government introduced far-reaching land reforms and sharply curtailed the power of the monastic orders. After 1956 scattered uprisings occurred throughout the country, but a full-scale revolt broke out in Mar., 1959, prompted in part by fears for the personal safety of the Dalai Lama. The Chinese suppressed the rebellion, but the Dalai Lama was able to escape to India, where he eventually established headquarters in exile.
The Panchen Lama, who had accepted Chinese sponsorship, acceded to the spiritual leadership of Tibet. The Chinese adopted brutal repressive measures, provoking charges from the Dalai Lama of genocide. Landholdings were seized, the lamaseries were virtually emptied, and thousands of monks were forced to find other work. The Panchen Lama was deposed in 1964 after making statements supporting the Dalai Lama; he was replaced by a secular Tibetan leader. In 1962, China launched attacks along the Indian-Tibetan border to consolidate territories it claimed had been wrongly given to India by the British McMahon Commission in 1914. Following a cease-fire, Chinese troops withdrew behind the disputed line in the east but continued to occupy part of Ladakh in Kashmir. Some border areas are still in dispute.
In 1965 the Tibetan Autonomous Region was formally established. The Cultural Revolution, with its antireligious orientation, was disastrous for highly religious Tibet. Religious practices were banned and over 4,000 monasteries were destroyed. Though the ban was lifted in 1976 and some Buddhist temples have again been in operation since the early 1980s, Tibetans continue to complain of widespread discrimination by the Chinese, and in more recent years the sometimes forcible relocation of Tibetans from traditional communities to new housing developments has contributed to dissatisfaction. Several protests in Tibet in the late 1980s and early 1990s were violently suppressed by the Communist government and martial law was imposed in 1989. Demonstrations against Chinese rule have nevertheless continued, and other countries have increasingly raised the issue of human-rights violations in Tibet and pressured the Chinese government to moderate their stance in the region. Religious tensions were again underscored in 1995 when China rejected the boy who was confirmed by the Dalai Lama as the new Panchen Lama and forced the selection of a different boy and in 2000 when the 14-year-old Karmapa lama fled Tibet for India. Significant new protests and riots erupted in Tibet and among Tibetans in neighboring provinces in 2008 and to a lesser degree in Tibet in 2012. In 2020, there were reports of the forced removal of as many as half a million rural Tibetan laborers into government factory training and indoctrination programs.
See N. Barber, From the Land of Lost Content: The Dalai Lama's Fight for Tibet (1970); J. MacGregor, Tibet: A Chronicle of Exploration (1970); R. A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization (tr., rev. ed. 1972); D. Snellgrove and H. Richardson, A Cultural History of Tibet (1980); T. W. Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History (1984); M. C. Van Praag, The Status of Tibet: History, Rights, and Prospects in International Law (1986); M. C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet (3 vol., 1989–2013); T. Shakya, The Dragon in the Land of Snows (1999); L. B. and S. Halper, Tibet: An Unfinished Story (2014); T. Woeser and W. Lixiong, Voices from Tibet (2014).
(in Tibetan, Bod), a land in Central Asia, in the Tibetan Highlands. Tibet is traditionally divided into the Dbus-Gtsang (central and western Tibet), A-mdo (northeastern Tibet), and Khams (eastern and southeastern Tibet) regions. Administratively, Tibet is divided between the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the neighboring provinces of the People’s Republic of China, where several autonomous districts and cantons have been formed.
In Tibet it is believed that various deities and demons produce dreams. Various Buddhist tantras (texts dealing with techniques and rituals, including meditative and sexual practices) agree auspicious dreams that come true indicate the approach of a tutelary (guardian) deity and success in the meditative process, whereas bad dreams indicate that both the deity and success are far away.
Among auspicious dreams, sunrise and the scattering of darkness indicates happiness with oneself and one’s country. Dreams of hearing tales of praise while surrounded by a group of servants bode well for moving upward in society. Among bad dreams, a house that caves in or is ruined by fire reveals fears for occupants of the house.
Buddhist tantras assert that a subtle energy passing up and down the central channel of the body generates the four states common to the Upanishadic tradition of waking, dream, deep sleep, and “the state beyond the first three.” The production of an artificial dream state, often called “purifying or exerting the dream,” is very common in the Buddhist tantras. Tantric manipulations of the dream state aim to mix the states of dream, deep sleep, and waking to attain the fourth state. These techniques are practiced especially by Tibetan lamas.
Lucid dreaming, which is the awareness of dreaming while in the dream state, is discussed in a number of ancient Tibetan Buddhist texts, and its teaching is one of the six yogas attributed to the Indian tantric Buddhist teacher Naropa. The teacher Marpa introduced the six yogas, including lucid dreaming, to Tibet in the eleventh century.
The six yogas of Naropa are (1) heat yoga, the creation of bodily heat through yogic practices; (2) the illusory body, in which yogic postures and visualizations show that all phenomena are like dreams and are void; (3) lucid dreaming; (4) the clear light, in which some practices are initiated during wakefulness or while dreaming to achieve the experience of clear light; (5) the death state; and (6) the consciousness transference, in which instructions are given to transfer one’s consciousness to divine realms or into a living or dead body.
Tibetan lamas do not consider lucid dreaming itself to be a form of meditation, but rather a means of accessing the dream state to learn the doctrine of illusion, to create buddhas to listen to, or to practice meditation in the dream. The ultimate aim of meditation is to achieve nirvana, the transcendence of one’s awareness of individuality and liberation from repeated rebirths (reincarnation).
Mystery Play (Elche)
The mystery play is performed from a raised platform in the sanctuary of the Church of La Merced. It is considered by many to be one of Spain's greatest religious dramatic survivals, and it is believed to date back to the early 13th century.
Valencia Tourist Office
Communitat Valenciana, Aptdo. de Correos 48
Burjassot, 46100 Spain
34-902-123-212; fax: 34-902-220-211
FestEur-1961, p. 141
FestWestEur-1958, p. 203
SpanFiestas-1968, p. 164
Mystery Play (Tibet)
It is performed on the last day of the year in the courtyards of Buddhist temples or monasteries and continues for two days. A group of priests in black miters is confronted by one group of demons after another, which they manage to exorcize. On the second day, a dough effigy representing the enemies of Tibet and Lamaism is dismembered and disemboweled. Pieces of the effigy are thrown to the audience, who eat them or keep them to use as talismans. The play is followed by a burnt offering and a procession.
See also Losar
Office of Tibet
Tibet House, 1 Culworth St.
London, NW8 7AF United Kingdom
44-20-7722-5378; fax: 44-20-7722-0362
DictFolkMyth-1984, p. 777 (c)