Ancient tribe Tibetans
The estimated five to six million Tibetan people live on a vast high plateau, a high desert surrounded by wastelands, cold plains and the highest mountain range on Earth, the Himalayas.
Seen from a cultural perspective, Tibet is much larger than the "Autonomous Region of Tibet" in China. This Greater Tibet includes Bhutan, Sikkim, North Nepal, and parts of Kashmir and North India. Large parts of the Chinese provinces of Ganzu, Qinghia, Zichuan, and Yunnan are ethnically Tibetan as well. Groups that have been influenced by Tibetan culture, who speak many dialects, also contribute to the complexity of the Tibetan world. In China, Mandarin has become a language of commerce for many Tibetans.
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The geographic position and the political isolation allowed Tibetans to retain an almost medieval way of life up into the middle of the 20th century. Their culture arose in the relatively fruitful southern region of the plateau, where farming barley was possible, while in the high north, the nomads who lived in black tents raised livestock, primarily the ever-present yak. In the seventh century, Buddhism arrived from China, followed soon by Buddhist missionaries from northern China. Religious and secular institutions melded into each other and penetrated all aspects of life. Finally, the country maintained 6,000 monasteries, and at least one son from every family became a monk.
Although Tibetan Buddhism has numerous branches, the Gelukpa Sect has dominated since the seventeenth century, when the fifth Dalai Lama reached the peak of the theocracy. On a Buddhist foundation, they developed a philosophy that was open to the world, a quest for knowledge and wisdom that has, largely, been continued to the present day. Tibet's de facto independence lasted from 1912 to 1950, and ended when China occupied the country and forced the Dalai Lama and 80,000 of his followers into exile in northern India in 1959. Repression of religion and the destruction of monasteries followed, and a constant stream of Chinese emigrants has confronted the Tibetans with foreign cultural influences.
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