Tibetan culture is developed a distinct culture due to its geographic and climatic conditions. While influenced by neighboring cultures from China, India, and Nepal, the Himalayan regions remoteness and inaccessibility have preserved distinct local influences, and stimulated the development of its distinct Tibetan culture.
Tibetan Buddhism has exerted a particularly strong influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the seventh century. Buddhist missionaries who came mainly from India, Nepal and China introduced arts and customs from India and China. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of the prevailing Buddhist beliefs, and Buddhism itself has adopted a unique form in Tibet, influenced by the Bon tradition and other local beliefs.
Several works on astronomy, astrology and medicine were translated from Sanskrit and Classical Chinese. The general appliances of civilization have come from China, among many things and skill imported were the making of butter, cheese, barley-beer, pottery, watermills and the national beverage, butter tea. Tibet’s specific geographic and climatic conditions have encouraged reliance on pastoralism, as well as the development of a different cuisine from surrounding regions, which fits the needs of the human body in these high altitudes.
The Tibetan language is spoken in a variety of dialects in all parts of the Tibetan-inhabited area which covers 1/2 Million square miles. Some of these dialects are tonal like the Chinese language, while others remain non-tonal. Historically Tibet was divided into three cultural provinces called U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo. Each one of these three provinces has developed its own distinct dialect of Tibetan. Most widely spoken is the Lhasa dialect, also called Standard Tibetan, which is spoken in Central Tibet and also in Exile by most Tibetans. In Kham the Kham Tibetan dialect is spoken and in Amdo the Amdo Tibetan dialect. The Tibetan dialects are subject to the Tibetic language which are part of the Tibeto-Burman language. Modern Tibetan derives from Classical Tibetan, which is the written norm, and from Old Tibetan. The official language of Bhutan, Dzongkha, is also closely related to Tibetan.
Tibetan culture is rugs making is an ancient art and craft in the tradition of Tibetan people. These rugs are primarily made from Tibetan highland sheep’s virgin wool. The Tibetan uses rugs for almost any domestic use from flooring to wall hanging to horse saddles. Traditionally the best rugs are from Gyantse, a city which is known for its rugs.
The process of making Tibetan rugs is unique in the sense that almost everything is done by hand. But with the introduction of modern technology, a few aspects of the rug making processes have been taken over by machine primarily because of cost, the disappearance of knowledge etc. Moreover, some new finishing touches are also made possible by machine.
Tibetan rugs are big business in not only Tibet, but also Nepal, where Tibetan immigrants brought with them their knowledge of rug making. Currently in Nepal the rug business is one of the largest industries in the country and there are many rug exporter.
Thangkas, a syncretic art of Chinese hanging scroll with Nepalese and Kashmiri painting, first survive from the eleventh century. Rectangular and intricately painted on cotton or linen, they are usually traditional compositions depicting deities, famous monks, and other religious, astrological, and theological subjects, and sometimes mandalas. To ensure that the image will not fade, the painting is framed in colorful silk brocades, and stored rolled up. The word thangka means “something to roll” and refers to the fact that thangkas can easily be rolled up for transportation.
Besides thangkas, Tibetan Buddhist wall painting can be found on temple walls as frescos and furniture and many other items have ornamental painting.
Tibetan architecture contains Chinese and Indian influences, and reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The prayer wheel, along with two deer or dragons, can be seen on nearly every temple in Tibet. The design of stupas can vary, from roundish walls in Kham to squarish, four-sided walls in Lakdakh.
The most unusual feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south, and are often made of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heat 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.
Tibetans tend to be conservative in their dress, and though some have taken to wearing Western clothes, traditional styles still abound. Women wear dark-colored wrap dresses over a blouse, and a colorfully striped, woven wool apron, called pangden signals that she is married. Men and women both wear long sleeves even in summer months.
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