A Travellerspoint blog

Arrival in Lhasa

over the Himalayas Nepal to Tibet


View Himalayas on PetersF's travel map.

September 28th Lhasa, Tibet

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Having been given our visas and VERY strict instructions not to lose it, along with our “spending money” for the guide, we set off to the airport. We were prepared for our flight this time and had pre-filled all the details of our flight, visas etc, so we went straight through. Last time we went to the second check into the non air-con halls too early, so this time we stayed in the main more pleasant hall! It wasn’t long before we boarded, in glorious sun, so we knew we’d have great Himalaya views. We weren’t wrong! The chart is the larger mountains on our way to Lhasa. Those in italics I have already discussed under Bhutan, so the only difference was seeing their north face, rather than their south face. Still great views for us.
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from left- North faces of Ngozumpa Kang II 7743m (very white rounded one), Lobuche Ost (lower, directly in front Gyanchung), Gyanchung Kang 7952m (top point), Pumo Ri 7161m, Ama Dablam 6856m, Nuptse, Everest, Lhotse, Lhotse Shar, Shartse, Peak 41, Baruntse, Kangchungtse, Makalu

Mahālangār Himal (महलंगुर हिमाल) is a section of the Himalayas in northeast Nepal/ south-central Tibet extending east from the pass Nangpa La between Rolwaling Himal and Cho Oyu to the Arun River. It includes Mount Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Cho Oyu, four of Earth‘s six highest peaks. On the Tibetan side it is drained by the Rongbuk and Kangsung Glaciers and on the Nepali side by Barun, Ngojumba/ Khumbu Glaciers and others. All are tributaries to the Koshi River via Arun River on the north and east or Dudh Kosi on the south.
Mahalangur Himal can be divided into three subsections:
- Makālu (मकालु) nearest the Arun River and along the Nepal-China border including Makalu 8463m, Chomo Lonzo 7790m south of the Kama valley in Tibet, Kangchungtse/Makalu II 7678m, Peak 7199 and 10 others over 6000 metres.
- Barun (बरुण) inside Nepal and south of Makālu section. It includes Chamlang 7319m, Chamlang East 7235m, Peak 7316, Baruntse 7129m, Ama Dablam 6812m and 17 others over 6000 metres.
- Khumbu (खुम्बु) along the border west of Makalu section, including the Everest massif: Everest 8848m, Lhotse 8516m, Nuptse 7855m, Changtse 7580m. West of Everest are Pumori 7161m and Cho Oyu 8201m plus 20 others over 7000 m and 36 over 6000 m.
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North side: Makalu, Lhotse, Everest, Gyachung Kang and Cho Oyu from Tibet
The Rongbuk Glacier is located in the Himalaya of southern Tibet. Two large tributary glaciers, the East Rongbuk Glacier and the West Rongbuk Glacier, flow in to the main Rongbuk Glacier. It flows north and forms the Rongbuk Valley north of Mount Everest. The famous Rongbuk Monastery is located at the northern end of the Rongbuk valley. Mount Everest is the source of the Rongbuk Glacier and East Rongbuk Glacier. The Kangshung Glacier is one of the three main glaciers of Everest, and is in the Tibet side. Kangshung Glacier’s accumulation areas lie on the three main faces of Everest. Kangshung Glacier is located on the eastern side of the world’s highest mountain in the district of Shigatse in Tibet. The shared eastern face of Everest and Lhotse is called the Kangshung Face. Here, the Kangshunga Glacier is fed and then becomes the Kama Chu river to flow through the Kama valley towards the east.
ccb62330-bbb7-11eb-a7d6-83b6fc0932e8.png South of the glacier and east of Lhotse lie Pethangtse (6738m), and the massif of Makalu (8463m) with its neighbouring peaks of Makalu II (7678m aka Kangshungtse) and Chomo Lonzo (7818 m), whose imposing north face hides the view of the main Makalu summit from Tibet.

Siguang Ri is a mountain in the Mahalangur Himalayas of Tibet. At an elevation of 7,308 m it is the 83rd highest peak on Earth, located approx 6 km NNE of Cho Oyu. Siguang Ri has two significant subpeaks: Siguang Ri Shar (6998m, Prominence 398m), Siguang Ri Northwest (6840m, Prominence 340m).
Lingtren, 6,749 m is a mountain in the Mahalangur Himal area of Himalaya, 8 km in a direct line from Everest on the border between Nepal and Tibet. A mountain nearby to the west was originally named Lingtrennup but is now more commonly called Xi Lingchain. A long chain of mountains extends generally north of west from Everest whose west ridge descends to the col of Lho La (6,026 m) before rising to Khumbutse (6,665 m). The ridge drops to an unnamed col at 6,204 m, then ascends to Lingtren from where it continues to another unnamed col at 6,126 m and then to Pumori (7,165 m).
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Lingtren
Bounded on the north by this chain of mountains is the Western Cwm in Nepal down which the Khumbu Glacier descends to the northwest over the Icefall before it turns sharply southwest. Lingtren lies at the apex of this right-angled bend. North of the mountain chain in Tibet the West Rongbuk Glacier flows east to join the main Rongbuk Glacier. Near Lingtren, the Khumbu glacier is at about 5,400 m whereas the West Rongbuk glacier is at about 6,000 m. The summit elevation is be 6,714 or 6,674 m. Lingtren's prominence is 593 m above its key col, which is between it and its nearest higher neighbour Pumori. The peak now known as Lingtren is actually part of a complex formation extending to the north into the West Rongbuk Glacier. The northern section, at the junction of the west and main Rongbuk glaciers, is now generally called Guangming Peak, elevation 6,533 m. The name "Lingtren" now only refers to the highest summit immediately to the north of Khumbu Glacier. There is another peak jutting into the West Rongbuk glacier but further to the west named "Lingtrennup" (West Lingtren) [nickname "Island Peak" because of its isolated location] elevation 6,396 m, now generally called Xi Lingchain.

Khartaphu (Kardapu) is a mountain in the Himalayas at the head of the Kharta valley. At 7,213 m above sea level, it is the 102nd highest mountain in the world. The peak is located in Tibet about 7 km northeast of Mount Everest. Khartaphu has a moderately significant subpeak, Khartaphu West, also known as Xiangdong, 2.6 km west of Khartaphu (main) with an elevation of 7,018 m and a prominence of 158 m.

Surprisingly quickly we entered the Tibetan plateau. The Tibetan Plateau (བོད་ས་ ས་མཐོ་, bod sa mtho, known in China as Qinghai–Tibet/ Qing–Zang Plateau) or Himalayan Plateau, is a vast elevated plateau in Central/ East Asia, covering most of Tibet and Qinghai, China, part of Ladakh and Kashmir, India. It stretches 1,000 km north to south and 2,500 km east to west. With an average elevation exceeding 4,500 m, the Tibetan Plateau is sometimes called "the Roof of the World" because it stands over 4.8 km above sea level and is surrounded by imposing mountain ranges that harbour the world's two highest summits, Everest and K2, and is the world's highest and largest plateau, with an area of 2,500,000 sq km (5x the size of France). Sometimes termed the Third Pole, the Tibetan Plateau contains the headwaters of most of the streams in the region. Its tens of thousands of glaciers and other geographical and ecological features serve as a "water tower" storing water and maintaining flow. The Tibetan Plateau is surrounded by massive mountain ranges; to the south by the inner Himalayan range, to the north by the Kunlun Mountains, to the northeast by the Qilian Mountains, which separate the plateau from the Gobi Desert. To the east and southeast the plateau gives way to the forested gorges and ridges of mountainous headwaters of the Salween, Mekong, and Yangtze rivers. In the west the curve of the rugged Karakoram range embraces the plateau. The Indus River originates in the western Tibetan Plateau in Lake Manasarovar. The plateau is a high-altitude arid steppe interspersed with mountain ranges and large brackish lakes. Annual precipitation ranges from 100 to 300 mm, mainly as hail. The southern and eastern edges of the steppe have grasslands which support populations of nomadic herdsmen, although frost occurs for six months of the year. Permafrost occurs over extensive parts of the plateau. Proceeding to the north and northwest, the plateau becomes higher, colder and drier, until reaching the remote Changtang region where the average altitude exceeds 5,000 m and winter temperatures can drop to -40 °C. Changthang region (together with adjoining Kekexili region) is the third least populous area in the world after Antarctica and northern Greenland.
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The geological history of the Tibetan Plateau is closely related to that of the Himalayas. The Himalayas are among the youngest mountain ranges on the planet and consist mostly of uplifted sedimentary and metamorphic rock. Their formation is a result of a continental collision or orogeny along the convergent boundary between the Indo-Australian Plate and the Eurasian Plate. The collision began in the Upper Cretaceous period about 70 million years ago, when the north-moving Indo-Australian Plate, moving at about 15 cm per year, collided with the Eurasian Plate. About 50 million years ago, this fast moving Indo-Australian plate had completely closed the Tethys Ocean. The Indo- Australian plate continues to be driven horizontally below the Tibetan Plateau, which forces the plateau to move upwards; the plateau is still rising at a rate of approximately 5 mm per year. Much of the Tibetan Plateau is of relatively low relief. The cause of this is debated among geologists. Some argue that the Tibetan Plateau is an uplifted peneplain formed at low altitude, while others argue that the low relief stems from erosion and infill of topographic depressions that occurred at already high elevations. The Tibetan Plateau supports a variety of ecosystems, most of them classified as montane grasslands. While parts of the plateau feature an alpine tundra-like environment, other areas feature monsoon-influenced shrublands and forests. Species diversity is generally reduced on the plateau due to the elevation of low precipitation. The Tibetan Plateau hosts species of grey wolf, snow leopard, wild yak, wild donkey, cranes, vultures, hawks, geese, snakes, and water buffalo. One notable animal is the high-altitude jumping spider, that can live at over 6,500 m.
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Fauna and flora of the plateau
In the highlands live marmots, wolves, chiru (a kind of antelope) and wild yak. Dense forests mostly in eastern and southeastern Tibetan areas provide shelter for animals such as sunbird, vulture, giant panda, golden-haired monkey, black leaf monkey, bear and ermine. The forests also produce precious medicines such as bear's gallbladder, musk, pilose antler, caterpillar fungus, snow lotus and glossy ganoderma. Agkistrodon himalayanus is a venomous pitviper snake that lives as high 4,900 meters in the Himalayas. I’m glad we didn’t come across this animal! By 2,500 m there are conifers: mostly Himalayan fir and Bhutan pine. These trees have needles designed to shed snow and withstand cold temperatures. Sometimes you can see red pandas there. Above tree line is tundra-like vegetation, tussocky plants and buckhorn bushes and junipers. You find marmots and pikas that feed on grass and cushion plants and they in turn provide food for griffon vultures that soar in the thermals. Above 3,500 m much of the vegetation gives out except for harsh grasses that few animals other than yaks can feed on. In the winter there is usually snow. Throughout the year high winds blow at this elevation. With moisture alpine meadows can flourish up to an elevation of 6000m.
Among the endangered species found in Tibet are the snow leopard, ibex, musk deer, Tibetan antelope (chiru), Tibetan wild ass, black necked crane and wild yak. The burrhel (bharal, nawa na blue sheep) of the Himalayas is very closely related to both goat and sheep. They are tan, white and grey to camouflage in a rocky mountain landscape. Kiangs are the largest Asian wild asses. They live at elevations above 4000m, and have black manes and tan-white bodies. Their numbers were greatly reduced in the 1960s when Chinese soldiers shot them for sport and food. They, and Tibetan gazelles are increasingly having to share their habitats with livestock. The number of wild asses has grown to 200,000 in recent years and this is viewed as a modest conservation success story, although herders complain they are becoming a pest because they compete with the livestock for what is left of the grasslands. Rare white lipped deer, and macaques survive in the winter by eating insects and vegetation under the snow. Himalayan brown bears, closely related to the North American grizzly and Russian brown bear, are very rare, only a few dozen remain. Also known as Tibetan brown bears, they stand 2m tall and are found only in southern Tibet and the Chantang plateau. Large herds of wild yak, Tibetan antelope, wild donkeys and deer that were seen on the Tibetan plateau during an expedition along the Yangtze River in 1989, have largely been slaughtered by poachers for their meat and hides. Items from endangered animals for sale in Western China include wolf and snow leopard pelts, fox furs, bearskins, and carcasses of Imperial eagles. There are many wolves in Tibet. They are strong enough to bring down a yak but are elusive and rarely seen.
Marmots (aka chiwa or piya) are the most commonly seen animals in Tibet. These rodents live in burrows, behave like prairie dogs and make strange bird-like chirping noise when they are agitated. Marmots are called in Tibet Himalayan snow pigs. To catch them hunters simply wait around in the morning for them to emerge from their burrows so you can see where they live. Later the hunters return to the burrows light a fire and direct the smoke into the burrow. When the marmot escapes it is caught in a net. Himalayan mouse hares (chipi) pic, of the pika family are also often seen. They have been observed on high slopes of Mt. Everest. According to the Guinness Book of Records, they are the highest living animal.
The Tibetan blue bear (aka snow or horse bear) is a subspecies of the brown bear found in the eastern Tibetan plateau. In Tibetan it is known as Dom gyamuk. One of the rarest subspecies of bear in the world, the blue bear is rarely sighted in the wild. The blue bear is known in the west only through a small number of fur and bone samples. The blue bear is notable for having been suggested as a possible inspiration for sightings associated with the legend of the yeti. A 1960 expedition to search the yeti, led by Edmund Hillary, returned with two scraps of fur identified by locals as 'yeti fur' that were later identified as a blue bear. Tibetan blue bears have a yellow-brown or whitish cape across the shoulders. They are much feared in regions where they are found. The exact conservation status of the blue bear is unknown, due to limited information. The Gobi brown bear is sometimes classified as the same subspecies as the Tibetan blue bear based on morphological similarities, and the belief that the desert-dwelling Gobi bear is a relict population of the blue bear.
In 1993, a French explorer discovered a breed of domesticated horse in the remote Nangchen region of Tibet free of Arabian, Mongolian and Turkish horse blood, which is found in nearly every other horse in the world today. This Tibetan horse was raised by nomad horsemen in valleys so remote that the horses could not mix with other types of horses for thousands of years. As an adaptation to the high altitudes the Tibetan horse has an enormous heart and massive lungs. The animals are used for herding livestock and competing in horse races at important three-week festivals. Two years later the same man discovered a new breed of wild horse in the Riwoqe region of northeastern Tibet after his expedition was forced to change its route because of a snowstorm and pass through an isolated valley with unmapped forests. Similar to horses in Stone Age paintings in European caves, the Riwoqe/Riwoche horse is short and squat and looks more like a donkey than a horse. It stands about 1m tall and has tiny ears, small nostrils, a dark bristly main, a brown coat and black lines on its back and lower legs. Riwoqe horses live in a valley hemmed in by 5000m passes. Scientists suggest they may be members of a "relic population" isolated from other horses and able to keep unique archaic characteristics.
A herd of Tibet Red deer (shou), a species thought to have been extinct and not seen in the wild for 50 years, was rediscovered in a remote valley in southeast Tibet near where China, Bhutan and India meet. A relative of the North American elk, the Tibetan red deer stand about 1.5m at the shoulder and has distinctive five-point antlers and a white patch on its rump. The animals live in alpine meadows above 4,000 m, Many of the deer disappeared in the 1960s and 70s as a result of hunting. Later some Tibet red deer were rediscovered 75 miles east of Lhasa in a remote valley. There are plans to set up reserves for the deer.
The snow frog (Chinese forest frog) lives in the mountain, forests and swamps of Tibet. It is born in the spring and fall and hibernates in the winter. It is a very valuable frog to Tibetans because its meat is as delicate as chicken, and it is rich in protein and calcium with little fat. As the meat of the frog is sweet, cool, intoxicating and rich in moisture, it is regarded as an exotic dish in Tibet. The snow frog has been used in Tibetan medicine for hundreds of years as a treatment for pulmonary tuberculosis, impotence, improving vision and nutrition. The snow frog is a cold blooded creature whose temperature is never much higher than its environment. It has the ability to change its colour according to its habitat. Female snow frogs are usually larger than males.
The Bearded vulture, Eurasia's biggest raptor, has traditionally been regarded as a sacred bird in Tibet because it does not prey upon living animals, but feeds on dead animals or body. In a Tibetan sky burial, the corpse is offered to these vultures. It is believed that the vultures are Dakinis, the Tibetan equivalent of angels. In Tibetan, Dakini means "sky dancer". It is said Dakinis take the soul into the heavens, which is understood to be a windy place where souls await reincarnation into their next lives. The donation of human flesh to the vultures is considered virtuous because it saves the lives of small animals that the vultures might otherwise capture for food. Sakyamuni, one of the Buddhas, demonstrated this virtue. To save a pigeon, he once fed a hawk with his own flesh. Drepung Monastery in Lhasa is famous for its sky burial site and vultures. Vultures in Tibet are respected as nature's sweeper and protector. Every year, countless animals are killed by Tibet's harsh climate and lay on the snow, where they can potentially contaminate the water supply. The Himalayas and Tibet are the water sources of the rivers throughout the South and East Asia, like the Yellow, Yangtze and Ganges Rivers. Vultures do their part to keep human and animal remains from polluting drinking water sources. Wish humans could do their part better.
The Tibetan bunting (Emberiza koslowi) is one of the least-known birds on the planet. It has a black and white head and chestnut-coloured back. The bird's obscurity is due in large part to the remoteness of its habitat; the bunting's home range appears as a tiny splotch on the eastern edge of the Tibetan plateau. The bird lives in a region of rugged peaks and isolated valleys where four of Asia's largest rivers; Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong and Salween, tumble down snowcapped mountains before spreading across the continent. Tibetans call it the “dzi bead bird”because the stripes on its head resemble the agate amulets locals wear to ward off evil spirits.
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Remote valleys with turquoise lakes may hold all sorts of rare creatures
Many plants in Tibet have medicinal value. There are more than 1,000 wild plants used for medicine, 400 of which are medicinal herbs most often used. Particularly well known medicinal plants include Chinese caterpillar fungus, Fritillaria Thunbergii, Rhizoma Picrorhizae, rhubarb, Rhizoma Gastrodiae, pseudo-ginseng, Codonopsis Pilosula, Radix Gentiane Macrophyllae, Radix Salviae Miltiorrhizae, glossy ganoderma, and Caulis Spatholobi. In addition, there are over 200 known species of fungi, including famous edible fungi songrong, hedgehog hydnum, zhangzi fungus, mushrooms, black fungi, tremellas and yellow fungi. Fungi for medical use include tuckahoes, songganlan, stone-like omphalias.
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We were surprised how beautiful the plain was, with red, orange and even pink mountains and hills contrasting with small turquoise lakes and pools. As we headed down the valley (a relative term in Tibet) we saw the river come into view before landing. The entry was quicker than I had expected, but as bureaucratic as we’d thought- it was only because everyone had pre-done visas that it worked. And, no, no-one needed to see my ears! Though our fingerprints were used and Steve’s passport got the 1 in 10 (it looked like about that) extra check. Several more X-ray units (though surprisingly not for westerners) later, we got to the final front desk, proved we had a guide and were let out. Our guide (Drölma) and driver were Tibetan and very interesting and keen to chat about life in Tibet. We quickly learnt Tibetan for “hello/ how are you/ good morning (it doesn’t translate well, but has a feeling of well met/ fare you well/ blessing)“, which is Tashi Delek and they were always pleased when we used it. We drove down the new highway and into the recently completed tunnel through the mountain (which cut the journey by an hour), and through to drive along the river valley. A pretty drive surrounded by folded, bare hills, autumnal coloured trees along the river and open grasslands on the other side. A few black shaggy wild yak roamed through it all, with cranes and other water birds. As we got to Lhasa, we avoided the ugly new buildings (for the Han, as the Tibetans had no intention of moving out of the old Holy town) and drove past Potala Palace to arrive at our hotel, not the one we’d expected, but a somewhat over-the-top Chinese-pleasing gold and jewelled edifice, though still in traditional architecture, inside a small courtyard just 390 metres from Bharkhor Square. Lhasa Shangbala 拉萨香巴拉. Hotel, No.1 Danjielin Road, Lhasa 012314 is a 3 star hotel close to Barkhor, Shangbala means "Shangri-la" in the local Tibetan dialect. As with Bhutan and Nepal we were given a Khata (scarf) which is a good luck welcome. They were made of white silk and we elected to keep ours, but as we visited the various temples in Lhasa, we saw that many people chose to drape them on the idols for respect and good luck. Tibetan khatas are usually white, symbolising the pure heart of the giver, though it is quite common to find yellow-gold khata as well. Nepali and Bhutanese khatas often feature the ashtamangala (as ours did). Mongolian khatas are usually blue, symbolising the sky and are often tied to ovoos, stupas, special trees and rocks.

We had already sensibly taken a Diamox and felt OK, so we went for a pleasant stroll down to Barkhor and around the pedestrian streets surrounding it. We managed to find an ATM and got some money so we could browse the shops. As Lhasa was implausibly 3 hours ahead of Kathmandu despite being in the same time zone (done so they were on Beijing time, though inconvenient) the evening came quickly. After a brief rest at the hotel we set off to a restaurant we’d spotted earlier, the pleasant looking Tibetan Family Kitchen, for dinner. Up 3 flights of stairs at the side of the building (almost in an alley) we emerged on the top floor of a traditional Tibetan house, with a view of Jokhang Temple’s roof. Tibetan Family Kitchen was founded by an enthusiastic Amdo Tibetan couple in 2013. Namdon and Lumbum used to be guides in Lhasa, but in 2012 there were no tour groups and they became jobless. With the help of Namdom’s sister, they decided to open a home-style restaurant, as both of them are great at making local Tibetan food and have experience working with foreign guests. For Tibetan home-style cooking in the middle of Lhasa this is the place. There is no pretense in this little establishment, only tasty food and friendly hosts. The basic menu offers the best of Tibetan food (mainly Amdo style) prepared with only the freshest meat and vegetables. The food was excellent; yak stew for Steve and wild funghi for me. The family, including grandma, children and others, ate with us, while the cook sang as she made the dishes. Great place!
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Yak butter lamps in Bharkhor Square, Lhasa; Shangri-La Hotel at night

Tibetan cuisine reflects the landscape of mountains and plateaus with influences from India and Nepal. It is known for its noodles, goat, yak, mutton, dumplings, cheese (often yak or goat), butter, yoghurt (from animals adapted to the Tibetan climate) and soups. Vegetarianism has been debated by religious practitioners since the 11th century, but is not prevalent due to the difficulty of growing vegetables, and cultural traditions promoting consumption of meat. Crops are those adapted to grow at high altitudes, although a few areas are low enough to grow rice, oranges, bananas and lemons. The most important crop is barley. Flour milled from roasted barley, called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet, as well as Sha Pha-ley (meat and cabbage in bread). Balep is Tibetan bread eaten for breakfast and lunch. Various types of balep bread and fried pies are consumed. Thukpa is a dinner staple consisting of vegetables, meat and noodles of various shapes in broth. Tibetan cuisine is traditionally served with bamboo chopsticks, in contrast to other Himalayan cuisines, which are eaten by hand. Mustard seeds are cultivated and feature heavily in its cuisine. In larger Tibetan towns and cities, many restaurants now serve Sichuan-style Han Chinese and Western fusion dishes, such as fried yak and chips. Nevertheless, many small restaurants serving traditional Tibetan dishes persist. Tibetans use pots, pans, cans, steamer pots and boxes made from various materials. Tibetan women carry large wooden containers, which can hold up to 25l, to fetch water once a day. Returning to the house, they pour the water into built-in copper cans that hold more than 100l. Cooking pots made from iron or brass are used on the stove. Traditionally, pans were rarely used, but are becoming increasingly popular. Wooden boxes are used to store tsampa, butter and cheese. Tibetans use elaborately woven baskets with matching lids to store dried fruits, rice and sugar. When travelling, they use the baskets to store dried meat and cheese. In Southern Tibet, mortars are indispensable for crushing chilis. Tibetan dinnerware is traditionally wood, but sometimes lacquered clay is used, a handicraft passed down the generations. Those who could afford to do so purchased high-quality porcelain bowls. Similarly, chopsticks were made by the family or imported from the forested south. The nobility used ivory chopsticks with silver ornaments. Spoons are indispensable for most dishes. Poor people and children wore them around their necks to allow constant and easy access. Tibetans use small soup bowls. Teacups are sometimes carried in the fold of the Chuba, a traditional coat. Wooden teacups made from dzabija wood are considered especially fine (and expensive). They have a smooth surface, impressive grain pattern and a balanced form that is comfortable to hold. Lavish teacups often have a layer of silver inside, intended to make them easier to clean. The nobility and high lamas used stands and tops intricately ornamented with mythological motifs. The tops are used to preserve the scent of the tea. The most precious cups are made from white jade. The silversmiths from Derge are known for their exquisite tea sets. Teapots are typically made from wood or clay, or if rich from ornamented metals such as copper or brass. The Dongmo is a tea-mixing cylinder used for making Tibetan butter tea. It usually has a volume of around 4 l and is made from wood ornamented with brass. A whisk is placed in a hole on the top of the Dongmo and with 15-20 vertical movements, the butter tea emulsifies. Tibetan monks are self-sufficient. They cook for themselves and raise money by praying for farmers and nomads or by performing rituals for the well being of families. In monastery kitchens, large pots are used to make soups. During breaks in religious studies, the monks are served tea and soup. Novice monks walk through the rows and pour tea from richly decorated teapots.
Tibetan cuisine is known for its use of noodles (laping pic 1 below cold mung bean noodles), goat, yak, dumplings (momos- pic 2 upper), cheese (yak or goat), butter (from animals adapted to the Tibetan climate) and soups (thenthuk, pic 2 lower, noodle soup). Tibetan cuisine is distinct from its neighbours. Tibetan crops must be able grow at the high altitudes, as few areas in Tibet are low enough to grow rice, oranges, bananas, and lemons. As few crops grow at high altitudes, much Tibetan food are imported, such as tea, rice and others. The most important crop is barley. Flour milled from roasted barley, called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet, eaten mostly mixed with the national beverage Butter tea. Meat dishes are yak, goat, mutton, often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Many Tibetans do not eat fish partly because fish are one of the 8 Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism. All items in italics we ate whilst in Tibet.
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! Chebureki – deep-fried turnover with a filling of ground meat and onions
! Cheser Mog – rice, with melted yak butter, brown sugar, raisins and salt
! Chexo – rice and yogurt
! Chetang Goiche – strips of dough fried with rapeseed oil, topped with brown sugar
! De-Thuk – yak or sheep soup with rice, different Tibetan cheeses and droma, a type of Tibetan root and Dre-si – sweet dish of rice cooked in unsalted butter mixed with raisins, droma (gourd shaped root found in Tibet), dates and nuts, served only on Losar (Tibetan new year).
! Drokpa Katsa – stewed tripe, with curry, fennel, and salt
! Gundain – pastry made from barley grain, yeast (fermented into a light barley beer), with tsampa, dry curd cheese, wild ginseng, and brown sugar, served during Tibetan New Year (Losar).
! Gyabrag – pancake made with barley flour, yak butter, dry cheese curds and sugar
! Guthuk – noodle soup eaten two days before Losar, the Tibetan New Year
! Gyaho –a chafing dish in Han Chinese style; a hot pot of vermicelli, kombu, mushrooms, meatballs, bamboo sprouts and salt. It is generally eaten by senior monks during important ceremonies.
! Gyatog – noodles, like those of the Han variety, made with eggs, flour and bone soup
! Gyurma – yak/sheep blood sausage. Rice or roasted barley flour added as filler.
! Khapse – biscuit traditionally prepared during Tibetan/Sherpa New Year (pic 3 above)
! Khapsey – deep fried biscuits for celebrations such as Losar or weddings
! Laping – a spicy cold mung bean noodle dish in Tibetan and Nepalese cuisine
! Lowa Khatsa – made of pieces of fried animal lung and spices
! Lunggoi Katsa – stewed sheep's head with curry, fennel and salt
! Masan – pastry made with tsampa, dry curd cheese, yak butter, brown sugar, water
! Momo – a South Asian dumpling native to Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim
! Shoogoi Momo – mashed potato with dough, shaped into balls, minced meat filling with bread crumbs
! Papza Mogu – red dough shaped in balls with melted butter, brown sugar, dry curd cheese, sweet-sour taste
! Qoiri – mutton chop stew, with flour, shredded wheat, chillies, dry curd cheese, water, salt
! Samkham Papleg – a dough fried in yak butter or rapeseed oil
! Sokham Bexe – fried dough with butter and minced meat
! Sepen – hot sauce with chillies as the primary ingredient and other spices depending on the recipe
! Sergem – made from milk once the butter is extracted. It is then put in a vessel and heated and when it is about to boil, sour liquid chakeu is added to separate the sergem from the milk
! Sha Phaley – bread stuffed with seasoned beef and cabbage
! Sha Shingbee – a stir-fry dish of sliced mutton with green beans
! Shab Tra – stir-fried meat tossed with celery, carrots and fresh green chili
! Sweet sour spicy veg soup-like veg curry served with tingmo steamed bread
! Tsampa – roasted barley flour, it is a staple food
! Thukpa – noodle soup that originated in eastern Tibet. Thupka is a generic Tibetan word for any soup or stew combined with noodles (pic 4 above)
! Tsam-thuk – yak/sheep soup and tsampa (roasted barley flour) Tibetan cheese
! Tu – cheesecake, made with yak butter, brown sugar and water, made into a pastry
! Thue – delicacy made with dri cheese (hard cheeses), brown sugar (porang) and unsalted sweet cream butter
! Xab Pagri – patty, usually baked dough, stuffed with meat paste
! Xabbatog – dough stuffed with shredded turnips and dry curd cheese and cooked with bone soup
! Yak butter – butter made from the milk of the domesticated yak (Bos grunniens), a staple food and trade item for herding communities in Central Asia/ Tibetan Plateau.
! Yurla – wheat pastry with butter, common in Nyainrong County in north Tibet
! Droma Mogu – wild ginseng with melted yak butter and sugar
! Droma sho – wild ginseng with yogurt
! Balep – bannock quick bread
! Balep korkun – round and flat bread consumed mainly in central Tibet
! Tingmo – a steamed bread (pic 5)
! Cheese:
Chhurpi – 2 varieties of chhurpi, a soft variety (consumed as a side dish with rice) and a hard variety (chewed like a betel nut)
Chura kampo –from curds left over from boiling buttermilk
Chura loenpa – soft cheese, similar to cottage cheese, from curds of boiled buttermilk
Shosha – pungent cheese, staple food from animals suited to the climate such as yak and goat
Chhurpi
! Ara – an alcoholic beverage made from rice, maize, millet, or wheat, either fermented or distilled.
! Butter tea – a drink of the people in the Himalayan regions of Nepal, Bhutan, India and, most famously, Tibet. Traditionally made from tea leaves, yak butter, water, and salt
! Chhaang – a traditional Tibetan and Nepalese beer
! Raksi – a traditional distilled alcoholic beverage in Tibet/Nepal often made at home
Tea houses are an important social venue in Tibet. They offer sweet tea, or traditional salted. The line between tea house and restaurant is blurred and many also offer thukpa. Tibetan butter tea (pöcha) is a must try, though even the Dalai Lama said that he's not a fan! It is a salty mixture of black tea and Tibetan butter. Traditionally it is churned by hand with a thick rod in a long upright wooden container. An alternative to Tibetan butter tea is sweet tea, introduced by merchants returning from India, first among well-off Tibetans, since sugar was a luxury on the Plateau. Unlike Indians, Tibetan do not use spices (clove, cinnamon, cardamom) to flavor their tea. Chang, or Tibetan beer made of barley, has a lighter flavour than western bottled beer, since they do not use bitter hops. Often home-brewed and with as many taste and strength variants as industrial beers.

History overview
Lhasa rose to prominence as an administrative centre in the 7th c AD when king Songtsen Gampo (618-49) moved his capital from Yarlung valley to Lhasa and built a palace on the site now occupied by the Potala. It was at this time that the temples of Ramoche and the Jokhang were founded to house the priceless Buddha statues brought to Tibet as the dowries of his Chinese and Nepali wives. With the breakup of the Yarlung empire 250 years later, Tibet’s centre of power shifted to Sakya, Nedong (Ü) and Shiatse (Tsang). No longer the capital, Lhasa languished in the backwaters of Tibetan history until the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-82) defeated the Shigatse kings with Mongol support. The 5th Dalai Lama moved his capital to Lhasa and started construction on his Potala palace, on the ruins of Songtsen Gampo’s 7th century palace. Lhasa has remained Tibet’s capital since 1642 and most of its historic sites date from this 2nd stage of the city’s development. Photos of the city before Oct 1950 reveal a small town nestled at the foot of the Potala, with a second cluster of residences surrounding the Jokhang, housing a population of c25,000. Today there are 500,000 and Han Chinese outnumber Tibetans. Lhasa has doubled in size, with the Tibetan quarter an isolated enclave at the east 4% of the city. Shöl, the village at the foot of the Potala, has long disappeared and the front of the palace has been turned into a Tiānānmén style public square complete with a 35m tall monument to the ‘liberation’ of Tibet.
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Amazing flower display inside the Jokhang courtyard

Prehistory
Archaeology shows humans passed through Tibet at the time India was first inhabited, 500,000 years ago. Modern humans first inhabited the Tibetan Plateau c21,000 years ago. This population was largely replaced c3000 BC by Neolithic immigrants from northern China, but there is some genetic continuity between the Palaeolithic inhabitants and modern Tibetans. Megalithic monuments dot the Tibetan Plateau and may have been used in ancestor worship. Prehistoric Iron Age hill forts and burial complexes have recently been found on the Tibetan Plateau but the remote high altitude locations makes research difficult. During the mid-Holocene, Neolithic settlers from northern China migrated to Tibet, possibly a mix of the Yangshao and Majiayao culture. Archaeological evidence suggests the spread of the Sino-Tibetan proto-language was caused by the westward expansion of Yangshao culture, intermingling with Majiayao culture, which expanded west into the Himalayas. The neolithic cultures of Kashmir, northern Sikkim, Chamdo, Bhutan are the result of this migration into the Tibetan Plateau.
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The Jokhang Temple at night

Tibetan texts identify the Zhang Zhung as a people who migrated from the Amdo region in western Tibet. Zhang Zhung is considered to be the original home of the Bön religion. By the 1st century BC, a neighbouring kingdom arose in the Yarlung Valley, and King Drigum Tsenpo, attempted to expel the Zhang's Bön priests from Yarlung. He was assassinated and Zhang Zhung continued its dominance until annexed by Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Zhangzhung (c500 BC- AD 625) or Shangshung was an ancient culture and kingdom of western/ northwestern Tibet, which pre-dates Tibetan Buddhism. Zhangzhung culture is associated with the Bon religion, which in turn influenced the philosophies and practices of Tibetan Buddhism. Zhangzhung people are mentioned frequently in ancient Tibetan texts as the original rulers of central/ western Tibet. Only in the last two decades have archaeologists been given access to areas once ruled by the Zhangzhung.
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A tentative match is proposed between the Zhangzhung and an Iron Age culture discovered on the Changtang plateau in north west Tibet. Recent archaeological work on the Chang Tang plateau has found evidence of an Iron Age culture notable for the following characteristics:
• system of hilltop stone forts/ citadels, likely a defense against steppe tribes of Central Asia eg Scythians
• burial complexes with vertical tombstones, occasionally in large arrays, inc 10,000 graves in 1 location
• stone temples in mountains adjacent to plains, windowless rooms, corbelled stone roofs, round walls
• evidence of a stratified social structure, indicated by royal/ princely tombs
• petroglyphs which shows the culture was a warrior horse culture
These characteristics more closely match the Iron Age cultures of Europe and the Asian steppes than those of India or East Asia, suggesting a cultural influence from the west. According to Annals of Lake Manasarowar (Lake Manasarovar), the Zhang Zhung civilization consisted of 18 kingdoms in west/ northwest Tibet. The Zhang Zhung culture centered on sacred Mt Kailash and extended west to Scythia and present- day Ladakh/ Baltistan, southwest to Jalandhar, south to Kingdom of Mustang (Nepal), east to central Tibet, and north across the vast Chang Tang plateau and Taklamakan Desert to Shanshan. Tradition has it that Zhang Zhung consisted "of 3 different regions: sGob-ba, outer (Western Tibet); Phug-pa, inner (sTag-gzig (Tazig) [often identified with Bactria]); and Bar-ba, middle (rGya-mkhar bar-chod, a place not yet identified)." While it is uncertain whether Zhang Zhung was really so large, it was an independent kingdom that covered the whole of Western Tibet. The capital city of Zhang Zhung was called Khyunglung "Silver Palace of Garuda", southwest of Mt Kailash (Mt Ti-se), identified with palaces found in the upper Sutlej Valley. The Zhang Zhung built a towering fort, Chugtso Dropo, on the shores of sacred Lake Dangra, from which they exerted military power over the surrounding district in central Tibet. Ancient texts describing the Zhang Zhung kingdom claim the Sutlej valley was Shambhala (Land of Happiness: poss "Shangri La").
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There is some confusion as to whether the Central Tibetan kingdom of Yarlung conquered Zhangzhung during the reign of Songtsen Gampo (605/ 617–649) or of Trisong Detsen (755-797/ 804). The records of the Tang Annals place these events in the reign of Songtsen Gampo saying in 634, Yangtong (Zhang Zhung) and various Qiang tribes, "submitted to him." Following this he united with the country of Yangtong to defeat the 'Azha or Tuyuhun, and conquered 2 more tribes of Qiang before threatening Songzhou with an army of more than 200,000 men. He then sent an envoy with gifts of gold and silk to the Chinese emperor to ask for a Chinese princess in marriage and, when refused, attacked Songzhou until the emperor granted his request. Early Tibetan accounts say that the Tibetan king and King of Zhangzhung married each other's sisters in a political alliance. However, the Tibetan wife of the King of the Zhangzhung complained of poor treatment by the king's principal wife. War ensued, and through the treachery of the Tibetan princess, King Ligmikya of Zhangzhung, while on his way to Sum-ba was ambushed and killed by King Srongtsen Gampo. As a consequence, the Zhangzhung kingdom was annexed to Bod (Central Tibet) and a new kingdom born of the unification of Zhangzhung and Bod was known as Bod rGyal-khab c645 AD. Zhang Zhung revolted soon after the death of King Mangsong Mangtsen/ Trimang Löntsän (r. 650–677), the son of Songtsen Gampo, but was brought back under Tibetan control. Bon(po) tradition claims that it was founded by a Buddha-like figure named Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche, to whom are ascribed teachings similar to those ascribed to Buddha.
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Detail of wall panel showing Tibetan history.
Bonpos claiim that Tonpa Shenrab Miwoche lived some 18,000 years ago, and visited Tibet from the land of Tagzig Olmo Lung Ring, or Shambhala. Bonpos suggest that Lord Shenrab Miwoche's teachings were partly responsible for the development of the Vedic religion eg. Mount Kailash, which is the centre of Zhang Zhung culture, is a most sacred mountain to Hindus. In AD 108, the Kiang or Tibetans, who lived a nomadic life west and south of the Koko- nor, attacked the Chinese posts of Gansu. Liang Kin, at the price of some fierce fighting, held them off. Similar incursions by Chinese general Duan Gong were repelled in AD 168/9.

Flora along the Yarlung
Cavea is a low perennial herbaceous plant in the daisy family and Cavea tanguensis is the only species assigned to this genus. It has a rosette of leathery leaves, and stems 25 cm high, topped by bowl-shaped flowers. The name in Chinese is 听菊 (ting ju). It grows high in the mountains of Tibet and Bhutan. Originally Cavea was placed with the Inuleae, but in 1977 it was removed because the morphology of the pollen was too different. Recent genetic analysis suggests it could be best assigned to the Gymnarrhenoideae even though its morphological features are different. It is now accepted the Pertyoideae subfamily is sister to a clade that has as its basal member the Gymnarrhenoideae, and consists of the Asteroideae, Corymbioideae and Cichorioideae. Cavea grows on gravelly substrate near glaciers and streams at altitudes 4000-5100 m. Leaves are used on wounds, and to suppress fever. In traditional Tibetan medicine, it is known as ming-chen-nag-po. Spenceria ramalana is the lone species in the plant genus Spenceria, known by two varieties. S. ramalana grows 18–32 cm. tall, and has yellow flowers. The Chinese, ma ti huang 马体黄, means "yellow horseshoe’. It is native to Tibet, Bhutan and China (Sichuan/ Yunnan) where it inhabits limestone soil on montane slopes and meadows (elev.
3000–5000m). Both varieties of S. ramalana have been used locally in traditional folk medicine.
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cavea, Spenceria ramalana, Roscoea tibetica, Cypripedium tibeticum
Roscoea tibetica is a perennial herbaceous plant native to the mountains of Tibet, Sichuan and Yunnan. The species formerly included plants in Bhutan, but these are separated into a new species, Roscoea bhutanica. Most members of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae), to which it
belongs, are tropical, but R. tibetica, like other species of Roscoea, grows in much colder mountainous regions. It dies back each year to a short vertical rhizome, to which are attached the tuberous roots. When growth begins again, "pseudostems" are produced: structures which resemble stems but are actually formed from the tightly wrapped bases (sheaths) of its leaves. R. tibetica is one of the smaller members of the genus; plants are 5–15 cm tall. In 2000, plants from areas south and west of the Brahmaputra River were separated into a new species, R. bhutanica. The Zingiberaceae family is mainly tropical in distribution. The unusual mountainous distribution of Roscoea may have evolved relatively recently as a response to the uplift taking place in the region in the last 50 million years or so due to the collision of the Indian and Asian tectonic plates. Roscoea divides into a Himalayan clade and a Chinese clade, corresponding to a geographical separation, their main distributions being divided by the Brahmaputra as it flows south at the end of the Himalayan mountain chain. The two species are superficially similar, both small with a tight group of basal leaves, but while R. bhutanica develops leaves in two opposite rows, R. tibetica retains a rosette of leaves. Roscoea is found in pine forests, scrub and alpine meadows, at heights of 2,400–3,800 m. Cypripedium tibeticum is an orchid native to Bhutan, Sikkim, Gansu, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Tibet.

Peoples of Tibet
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The Tibetan people (Tibetan: བོད་པ་ , བོ་ པ་ Wylie: bod pa, bö pa) are an ethnic group native to Tibet. Tibetans speak Tibetic languages, many varieties of which are mutually unintelligible, which belongs to the Tibeto-Burman language group. 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. It is thought that most of the Tibeto-Burman speakers in Southwest China, including Tibetans, are direct descendants from the ancient Qiang people (see Mongolia). Most Tibetans practice Tibetan Buddhism, although some observe the indigenous Bön religion and there is a small Muslim minority. Tibetan Buddhism influences Tibetan art, drama, and architecture, while the harsh geography of Tibet has produced an adaptive culture of Tibetan medicine and cuisine. The Tibetic languages are a cluster of mutually unintelligible Sino-Tibetan languages spoken by approximately 8 million people, primarily Tibetan, living across a wide area of eastern Central Asia bordering the Indian subcontinent, including the Tibetan Plateau and Baltistan, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan the northern Indian subcontinent. Classical Tibetan is a major regional literary language, particularly for its use in Buddhist literature.
The Central Tibetan language (the dialects of Ü-Tsang, including Lhasa), Khams Tibetan, and Amdo Tibetan are generally considered to be dialects of a single language, especially since they all share the same literary language, while Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa and Ladakhi are considered separate languages. Although some of the Qiang people of Khan are classified by China as ethnic Tibetans, the Qiangic languages are not Tibetic, but rather from their own branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Many Tibetans wear their hair long, although in recent times more men are cropping their hair short. The women braid their hair into multiple tiny braids called “The-Ba”, or jus put their hair up in a braid or pony-tail in more rural areas. Some men and women wear long thick dresses (chuba) in more traditional and rural regions. The men wear a shorter version with trousers below. The style of clothing varies between regions. Nomads often wear thick sheepskin versions. In more urban places like Lhasa, people dress in modern clothes and restrict the traditional chuba to festivals such as Losar.

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Tibetan Names
Originally, Tibetans didn’t have family names, only second names which usually consisted of four words, such as Zha Xi Duo Jie. As a matriarchal society, Tibetans were given names consisting of one word of their mother’s, for instance, if the mother is Da Lao Ga Mu, then the son could be Da Chi. However, family names started to appear with the coming of social classes. High class people used their family’s name as their own first name and thus, family names appeared. Later, Songtsen Gampo established his kingdom in Tibet and gave lands/ territories to his men, who began to add their lands’ names before their names as their first names, so did their future generations for those lands and territories are hereditary. As Buddhism grew in Tibet since the 7th century, the Tibetan people began to ask for a name from the Living Buddha. Some rich people often take their children to the Living Buddha with some presents and ask for a name for their children. And the Living Buddha shall say some blessing words to the child and then give him a name after a small ceremony. If one wants to be a Lama, he is given a new religious name and his old name is not be used any longer. For example, if the Living Buddha’s name is Jiang Bai Ping Cuo, then the religious name he gives to the ordinary Lamas can be Jiang Bai Duo Ji or Jiang Bai Wang Dui. Many Tibetans still have no family names and they usually give their children names embodying their own wishes or blessings towards them. Besides, the Tibetan names can be something on the earth, or the date of one’s birthday. Today, most of The Tibetan names still consist of four words, but for convenience are usually shortened to two words, the first 2 or the last 2, or the 1st and 3rd, but never the 2nd and 4th. Some Tibetan names only consist of two words or even one word only, for example Ga. Our guide, Drölma (Tara), was given her name by her High Lama, a common request in Tibet. She also had a Chinese (Han) name given to her, which she rarely used.
In Tibet, it is common to meet Tibetan women wearing Tibetan head ornaments. The fine and spectacular Tibetan head ornaments are usually made of high quality silver, animal bones, coral, and turquoise. These Tibetan ornaments are beautiful things born with the magic power of this holy land at the roof of the world. The materials are very common in Tibet, and in rough exterior, but contain exquisite connotations. Tiny patterns, engraving, and mosaics form Tibetan jewellery, also has strong and thick antique and original rustic flavours. Tibetan headdress is varied with different regions, ages and marriage. For example, unmarried Tibetan girls like a single plait, the root of the braid was binded with a red hair string, which was called "Xia Jiu" in Tibetan Language. The only difference is that Tibetan girls weaved their braids in a triangular and set it on the head, so it look more beautiful, generous and elegant. While married women are double-braided, and without hair support, and the length of the red strings are longer than that of their hair plait, women set their two crossed circular braids in the head from the back of their heads, that looked dignified, generous and mature. Regardless of age, all pastoral women have several small braids on their head, just like Uygur girls, they bind these small braids into two and decorated them with red and green hair strings, also bunch corals, pearls, turquoise, etc.
Tibetan costumes are varied in different areas. The most common one is the Tibetan robe which features a big garment front and wide sleeves. In farming areas, the robe is usually made of pulu (a woolen fabric in Tibet), woolen cloth, silks and satins and cotton; while in grazing areas, the robe is often made of leather, and sometimes pulu, too. The Tibetan robes are rimmed with pulu, silk or other leather laces at the collar, cuff, front edge and lower hem. The women farmers wear sleeveless robe in summer. The Tibetan robes are very long, which need to be pulled up at the waist and tied with band. If it is hot, the wearer can bare his/her right arm or both arms (sometimes, it is said that they do like this for the convenience of working in the field.). At night, the two sleeves will be taken off and the robe can be used as bedclothes. Within the robe people usually wear shirts. In general, men’s shirts are white, yellow or brown, while women’s are diversified. Around the waist women like to put a colorful bangdian apron. The long sleeves are commonly tied together. But in big gathering or parties, they will let the sleeves fly, just like a beautiful butterfly. Tibetan hats are also in various forms. Both men and women wear woollen or pleuche hat, and herdsmen also like hats made of fox skin. Tibetans like wearing thigh boots, with the sole made from yak leather and the bootleg embroidered with all kinds of designs and colours. Their ornaments are usually golden and silver wares as well as jewelry made of amber, agate, jadeite, pearl and ivory. The well-known women headdress are called “bazhu” and “baguo”. The women decorate their hair with golden, silver or jade wares and their body with “gawu”, a kind of Buddhist box. Besides, they wear earrings, necklace, bracelet and finger rings. At each festival, they will dress themselves up and show a unique charm. Men like to carry sword and wear earrings and bracelets.
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Posted by PetersF 07:37 Archived in China Tagged tibet lhasa

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