Tibetans


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Tibetans

 

(self-designation, Pöba), a people; the native population of Tibet. Almost all Tibetans live in China (in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and the provinces of Kansu, Tsinghai, Szechwan, and Yunnan); some, however, live in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. In addition to the above self-designation, the name Amdoba is used in Tsinghai, and the names Kambe and khampa are used in Szechwan and neighboring areas of Tibet. The Tibetans number approximately 4.5 million (1975, estimate). They speak regional dialects of the Tibetan language. Their main religion is Lamaism, a northern manifestation of Buddhism; it has several sects, the most important of which is the Gelugpa, or Yellow Hat, sect.

Tibetans can be grouped by occupation into settled mountain farmers (more than one-half the population), whose main crops are barley, wheat, and rice; seminomadic farmers and herdsmen; and nomadic herdsmen. The main livestock animals are the yak, horse, sheep, and goat. Certain trades, such as pottery, weaving, and metalworking, are well developed. Small industrial enterprises first appeared in the mid–20th century. The settled Tibetans live primarily in stone houses, the lower storey being for livestock and the upper for people. Those living in the eastern highlands live in clay houses, and those in the northeast, in wooden houses. The nomads live in woolen tents.

The main food of the Tibetans, known as rtsam-pa, is made with brick tea, butter, salt, and barley flour. Meat and dairy products are the main foods of the herdsmen. The traditional clothing of men and women is the shuba, a long coat with a high collar and long sleeves; the coat is made of cloth for summer wear and sheepskin for winter wear. Until the early 1960’s, Tibetan society was divided into two classes, the feudal lords, who constituted 5 percent of the population, and the peasants. Class distinctions were less pronounced among the herdsmen. Both polyandry and polygyny were practiced.

REFERENCES

Narody Vostochnoi Azii. Moscow-Leningrad, 1965.
Reshetov, A. M., and A. G. Iakovlev. “K voprosu o sotsial’no-ekonomicheskikh otnosheniiakh u tibettsev v pervoi polovine XX v.” In Sotsial’naia istoriia narodov Azii. Moscow, 1975.
Snellgrove, D. L., and H. E. Richardson. A Cultural History of Tibet. London, 1968.

A. M. RESHETOV

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