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Geographically, Tibet can be divided into three major parts, the east, north and south. The eastern part is forest region, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. Virgin forests run the entire breadth and length of this part of Tibet. The northern part is open grassland, where nomads and yak and sheep dwell. This part occupies approximately half of Tibet. The southern and central part is agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet's land area with all major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and Tsetang. it is considered the cultural centre of Tibet. Tibet spreads over 1,200,000 square kilometres.

Facts

Official Name: Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
Capital: Lhasa.
Population: 3 million.
Languages: Tibetan and Mandarin and many dialects.
Predominant Religion: Buddhist.
Time Zone: 8 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (+8 GMT). Daylight Saving Time is not observed.
Voltage Requirements: 220 volts.
Telephone Codes: 86.
Although the Tibetan climate is not as harsh as many people imagine, be prepared for sudden drops of temperature at night, particularly in Western Tibet.

The best time of year to be in Tibet is between May and early November, after which temperatures start to plummet. However, in May and June there is a wind factor to consider, and dust storms are not unusual. These are not pleasant if you're hitching or trekking but usually come in squalls and can be seen coming.

Lhasa and Shigatse experience very mild weather between May and November although July and August can be rainy. These two months usually see around half of Tibet's annual rainfall.
Little is known of the beginnings of the Tibetan people. They originated from the nomadic, warlike tribes known as the Qiang. The Yarlung kings unified much of central Tibet and extended it into central Asia, northern India and Pakistan. It was through conquest that Buddhism made its appearance in the kingdom, although bloodthirsty theological disputes weakened its support and clerical monastic Buddhism experienced a 150-year hiatus, coinciding with the collapse of the Tibetan empire in 842.

By 907, China had recovered almost all the territory it had lost to the Tibetans, and the two states had little contact until Genghis Khan's arrival in 1239. The Mongols were impressed enough by the by-now resurgent Tibetan Buddhism that they made it the state religion of the Mongol Empire in East Asia. The collapse of the Mongol empire ended the relationship a century later.

The Tibetan people are a very religious people. Bon is the oldest religion in Tibet, often seen as the original religion of Tibet. The origin of bon-religion isn't much known of. Bon and the Buddhism are very closely connected to each other. There are still many Tibetans who believe in Bon.

Tibet Buddhism, started in the Yarlung valley where the first civilization started in Tibet. Tibetan legends say that the first Tibetan Buddhist sculptures fell on the roof of Yumbulakhang in the third century. In those days there were a lot of conquests.

The 33th king of Tibet Songtsen Gampo was keen in conquering his neighbours. His armies ranged from northern India to the Tang Dynasty in China. In order to maintain peace with Tibetan king, Nepal and China offered their princess as brides to the king. China offered Princess Wen Cheng and Nepal offered Princess Bhrikuti and together with the queens Buddhism was introduced.

Following are the list of places to visit in Tibet.

Drepung Monastery

Drepung Monastery, the largest and richest monastery in Tibet, was founded in 1416 by a disciple of Tsong Khapa. Drepung, which means rice heap in Tibetan, lies 8 kilometers west of Mt. Gambo Utse. The monastery covers a floor space of more than 200 thousand square meters. At its peak, it had a registration of more than 10,000 thousand monks. Many high and learned lamas had studied here.

The Main Assembly Hall (known as Tshomchen) covers 4,500 sq. meters and is supported by 183 pillars in the center of the monastery. It is the best known, most powerful tschomen of all the monasteries in Tibet. Gilded Buddha and Sakyamuni are enshrined and worshipped in this hall where the Iron Bar Lama, assistant to the the chief of the tshomchen, would take over administrative power of Lhasa during the Great Prayer Festival.

Barkhor Street

Barkhor Street, a circular street at the center of Old Lhasa, is the oldest street in traditional city of Tibet. It is a place where Tibetan culture, economy, religion and arts assemble and is a must to visit while being in Lhasa. Buddhist pilgrims walk or progress by body-lengths along the street clockwise every day into deep night.

Tibetan Buddhism, as in most other parts of Tibetan culture, is the center of Tibetan celebration with Festivals.

These people celebrated the harsh ordeals each Tibetan must face, such as fierce weather conditions and heavy labor. They would pray for Buddha to bless them.

Tibet has 20 or 30 big and small traditional festivals a year. During the festivals, friends get together. Both men and women sing songs and perform dances and vie to demonstrate their artistic abilities.

These festivals have a long history and most are connected with religion. As the time goes, these festivals have a tendency towards folk customs and pleasure.

For China - Tibet, we arrange these for you as part of the service for all tours including the fixed departures, but we begin the paperwork one month before the tour, so send us your details early.

We need a copy of the details page of your passport. Most convenient is a scan saved as a JPEG file of around 100kb size. If you book less than one month in advance there is an additional $25 fee.

Of course one of the most famous and stunning items you could buy as a gift or souvenir is the thangka, a religious image made either by painting, embroidery or sometimes even sewn with pearls. The pearl thangka is the most desirable of all. While Tibetan costumes are gorgeous, they can be inconvenient to take home as most of them are made from woollen cloth and are bulky. However, you might consider buying colourful aprons, fur hats or caps to take home, they can make unique decorations for your rooms.

Other items include wooden bowls, jade, prayer wheels, prayer flags, Buddha figures, conch-shell trumpets, rosaries, amulets, carpets, tapestries, Tibetan boots and beads, fur hats, horse bells, bridles, copper teapots, stunning inlaid knives, gold and silver wares and of course the fabulous turquoise jewellery! One tip is that, if you buy a knife and you are flying out, then be careful though to post your knife as you cannot take these items on a plane or as consigned goods. You will also come across bookstores with books on Tibetan history, culture and travel, including maps and postcards.

Make sure to visit the incredible Barkhor, the famous commercial centre of Lhasa. There are all the items mentioned about and you can also find fabulous Tibetan food here. A great tip is that it’s good to go shopping on Barkhor Street in the morning or evening, because Tibetan people highly value their first and last customers of the day.

Tears of Blood - a cry for Tibet, by Mary Craig, is a riveting and distressing account of the Tibetan experience since the Chinese takeover.

Tibet, Tibet, by Patrick French, is an amazing personal history of Tibet a must read for everyone going to Tibet!
John Avedon's In Exile from the Land of Snows is largely an account of the Tibetan community in Dharamsala, but is an excellent and informative read.

For those with an academic bent, look out for Civilised Shamans - Buddhism in Tibetan Societies by Geoffrey Samuel, a fascinating anthropological investigation into the nature of Tibetan Buddhism and its relationship with the indigenous Bön faith.

Keith Dowman's new The Sacred Life of Tibet builds on his earlier The Power Places of Central Tibet and provides an excellent insight into how Tibetans see the spiritual landscape of their land.

The enduring myth of Shangri-la owes much to James Hilton's 1937 classic novel Lost Horizon, which tells the story of a group of Westerners who crash-land into an earthly paradise somewhere in remotest Tibet.

One unusual book that might be worth checking out is Invading Tibet, a novel by Mark Frutkin based on the story of Edmund Chandler, the journalist who accompanied Younghusband's British invasion of Tibet in 1904.

Another illuminating glimpse of the Tibetan experience is provided by Freedom in Exile - the autobiography of the Dalai Lama. With great humility the Dalai Lama outlines his personal philosophy, his hope to be reunited with his homeland and the story of his life.

In Seven Years in Tibet Austrian mountain climber Heinrich Harrer tells the story of his escape from a prisoner-of-war camp via the Himalaya, and his subsequent friendship with the Dalai Lama in Tibet before the Chinese invasion.

Peter Hopkirk's Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet, details the pre- and post-invasion history of Tibet.

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