Houses constructed with earth, stone and wood in Lhasa, Xigaze, Changdu and in their surrounding villages, looking like a castle, are colloquially called “castle” by the local people. This kind of house is the most representative ones in Tibet. Castle-like houses are often stone-wood structure of primitive simplicity, looking dignified and stable. The inward-sloping walls also provide extra stability in case of tremors. Even the walls built closely next to hillside remain vertical for stability. Such kind of houses is usually two to three stories high with circular corridor built inside. Castle-like house is not only good for taking shelter from the wind and cold, but also for defense.
Most residential buildings are made of wood, earth and stone, with an adobe wall as thick as 40 to 50 centimeters, or stone wall as thick as 50 to 80 centimeters. And the roofs are flat and covered with Aga earth. This kind of house will be warm in winter and cool in summer, suited for the climate on the plateau.
Presenting hada is a kind of very common courtesy. Hada is a long piece of silk used as a greeting gift. It is also common when people visit senior people, worship Buddha statues, and bid farewell to guests.
Presenting hada is to show purity, loyalty, faithfulness and respect to the receivers.
It is said that only after people present hada in a monastery, can they pay homage to the Buddha statues. They are free to visit the different halls. Before departure, they will leave a hada beside their seats to indicate that even though they have left, but their hearts are still there.
Hada is made of raw silk or silk and it is loosely weaved. Hadas have different kinds of auspicious patterns, such as lotus, bottle, umbrellas and conch. The material of hada varies in quality. But people don’t care much about it only if hada can expresses good wishes.
On the roads to Lhasa, from time to time you can see Buddhists prostrating. They begin their journey from their home and keep on prostrating all the way to Lhasa. They wear hand pads (protective appliance on their hands), kneepads, and a protective leather upper outer garment. With dusts on their faces, with the innumerable hardships, slowly they move forward by prostrating for every three steps, for months, or for years, toward the holy city – Lhasa.
The prostrator follows these procedures: first, stand straight upright, chant the six-character truth meaning “merciful Buddha”, put the palms together, raise the hands up over the head, and take a step forward; second, lower the hands down in front of the face, take another step forward; third, lower the hands down to the chest, separate both hands, stretch them out with the palms down, kneel down to the ground, then prostrate with the forehead knocking the ground slightly. Stand up again and repeat the whole procedure.
Another way is to walk around the monastery on clockwise and prostrate. Starting from the front gate of the monastery, Buddhists also prostrate once for every three steps, chanting the six-character truth and some Buddhism scriptures.
Prostrating is related to the Lamaism and it has much to do with the Chinese custom of kowtow. Kowtow was a kind of daily etiquette in the feudal society in China.
Making Small Pagoda
Making small pagoda is a religious custom in Tibet. People firstly make a clay impression of a pagoda and bake it. The result is a pottery pagoda. The pagoda is of cone shape, and different sizes. Inside the pagoda, there are a small piece of paper written with spell, and a small amount of highland barley. The small pagoda, usually placed around a big pagoda or a statue, is used as the sacrifice to the Buddha. In Aba district, Tibetan people pray for a bumper harvest year by putting small pagodas at the side of a road, a village or burying them in the farming land in the hope that they will
kill harmful insects.
Walking Around a Pagoda
Pagodas are very important symbols of Buddhism. Buddhism scriptures are placed inside the pagodas and statues of Buddha are carved on the exterior. Buddhists regard pagodas highly. Whenever they see a pagoda, they will walk around it once on clockwise chanting the six-character truth, fingering their beads and praying for peace. Some people will walk around it several times. Some will place offerings in front of the pagoda.
Turning Prayer Wheel
Tibetan people believe in Lamaism. The believers must recite or chant Buddhism scriptures very often. For illiterate people, what they can do is to turn prayer wheels, with scriptures inside. Turning the prayer wheel is equivalent to chanting some scriptures and it has become routine work for Tibetan people. A lot of Tibetans keep portable prayer wheels at home. Prayer wheels are of different sizes and quality. But there is one thing in common, that is they all have scriptures inside. Followers of Yellow sect turn the wheel clockwise, while followers of Black sect turn it anticlockwise.
Religious Rituals in the New Year
Among many festivals, Tibetan people put much stress on the celebration of New Year’s Day by the Tibetan Calendar. Every year on 29th of the last month, the ritual of “expelling ghosts” will be performed.
On this day, people prepare a very special dinner called “Gutu”. For dinner people usually eat congee of barley or soup of Zanba. The special dinner “Gutu” consists of nine foodstuffs, barley flakes, peas, dough ball soup, radish and etc.
This is a religious ritual popular in the northern part of Aba Prefecture. People make use of the ritual to pray for happiness and peace. In the last day of a year by Tibetan calendar, monasteries hold a meeting of dharma. Some lamas wear ancient costumes and masks, disguising themselves as ghosts. In groups they come out to the square center and dance to the accompaniment of drums, conch and cymbals. While they dance, they cry out in the hope of driving ghosts away.
Tibetan Costume: Carrier of Culture
Something different: one-sleeved shirt
Long-sleeved, broad robes worn loosely with a diagonal cut and women’s aprons welted with colorful stripes may be the general idea people have about Tibetan clothing.
Tibetan clothing mainly consists of a robe and a shirt. The Tibetan robe is broad and appears longer on the left than the right side since it is often fastened near the right armpit. Robes are also secured with two red, blue, or green cloth belts.
The weather in northern Tibet is bitterly cold. Local herdsmen wear a fur-lined robe all year round, which doubles as a quilt at night. During the day, people go sleeveless (or wear only the left sleeve), tying the remaining sleeve(s) around the waist. Today, the wearing just the left sleeve while exposing the right shoulder is immediately identified as typical Tibetan style.
Lavish or practical?
The Tibetan fur-lined robe is very bulky and large enough to accommodate a five- or six-year-old child in winter. It has no pockets and is fastened at the waist, offering plenty of room around the ribcage area to store daily necessities.
Clothes worn by herdsmen in pastures are distinct due to their decorative welts. They are also hemmed in black velveteen, corduroy, or woolen cloth at the front and lower edges, and cuffs; women wear aprons decorated with colorful cloth stripes. The vista of herdsmen — roaming about under the blue skies, white clouds, green grass, snowy mountains, with their sheep and cattle — is a sight more beautiful than any landscape painting .
Tibetan farmers, who live in the warm and damp climate of southern Tibet, make their clothes from tweed — a kind of hand-woven woolen cloth. Both men and women wear clothes that button up to the right. Men’s clothing is hemmed with a colorful cloth or silk at the collar, cuffs, front, and lower edges. Other than during the cold winters, women’s outerwear is sleeveless. The length of a Tibetan robe generally exceeds the wearer’s height and, when worn, the waist is lifted up and fastened with a belt.
The weather in Lhasa and Shannan Prefecture is even warmer and damper. Here, men mainly wear double-layered robes and women dress in close-fitting robes and long-sleeved shirts, with brightly decorated aprons at the waist.
The apron is a favorite item of clothing among Tibetan women. According to Tibetan custom, aprons are privileged garments reserved for married women and single girls do not generally wear them. Gonggar County in the Jiedexiu area of Shannan Prefecture has produced aprons for some 500 years.
Tibetan people regard accessories as symbols of wealth and beauty. No matter how poor a family may be, they will purchase jewelry to boost their confidence in the company of others. Today, personal accessories worn by a wealthy Tibetan may be worth tens of thousands to over one million yuan(approximately US$ 0.156 million).
Festivals provide the best opportunity to observe and enjoy Tibetan clothing. Nagqu Town in northern Tibet holds a horse race every year, where Tibetans gather dressed in their bestgarments. Riders usually wear robes of azure, dark blue or pale green, with red knickerbockers, or blue or black sports trousers, and boots. Male spectators wear long fur-lined robes in black, blue, or yellow, hung with finely decorated Tibetan knives, flints, snuff bottle s and silver coins at the waist. Women wear hats with hems that match the hems on all of their other garments down to the boots. They wear gold, silver and copper decorations in their long braids, large earrings and necklaces, and strings of metal coins around their waists that jingle in the breeze.
Buddhism and costume culture
Tibetan people are devout Buddhists.Tibetan Buddhism not only affects people’s ideas and behavior but also influences their taste in dress and personal adornment. Since white symbolizes holiness in Buddhist culture Tibetans regard it as emblematic of purity and auspiciousness. Consequently, they like to wear white shirts or white-hemmed skirts in their daily lives. Tibetan people use red, yellow, orange, blue and dark green extensively for articles of personal adornment, which also reflects the Buddhist influence (Sakyamuni wore a yellow kasaya; Guru Rinpoche, a red hat; and Master Tsongkhapa, a yellow hat.) The beads and ga’u (amulet) worn by young men and women are also related to Buddhism. The ga’u is believed to bring its wearer safety and wealth.
Qinghai-Tibet Railway – A Symbol of the Future
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway, the world’s highest plateau railway, has stood safety and environmental tests while boosting regional economic growth.
The 1956-kilometer (1222.5 miles)railway link begins in Xining, capital city of Qinghai Province of China and goes to Lhasa, capital city of Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Work started on June 29, 2001. Up to March 25, 2006, investment in the project stood at 28.5 billion yuan (about US$3.6 billion) – 1.2 billion yuan (US$150 million) of which was spent on environmental protection projects.
The highest point on the line is 5,072 meters(16641 inches) above sea level. The railway covers 960-kilometers at an altitude of more than 4000 meters (13124 inches) and over 550 kilometers(343.75 miles) within the “frozen earth” area.
From 2006 to 2010, the rail link has transported more than 41 million passengers and 180 million tonnes of cargo.
According to the statistics of Tibet’s tourism bureau, Tibet received 6.8 million tourists in 2010, 3.8 times the 2005 figure. 42 percent of the tourists traveled by train.
By the end of 2015, Tibet expects to host 15 million tourists annually and post an annual tourism revenue of 18 billion yuan (2.8 billion U.S. dollars), he said.
To effectively protect the ecological environment was an extremely important part of the railway’s construction and is the focus of attention from both home and abroad. The Chinese authorities attached significant importance to this issue.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway passes through three national nature reserves including Hoh Xil, a major habitat for the critically-endangered Tibetan antelope.
Perched at an average altitude of 4,500 meters, Hoh Xil reserve contains the largest area of uninhabited land in China and is dubbed the country’s “last haven for wild animals. The population of the antelopes in the Hoh Xil region had increased from around 50,000 in 2006 to more than 60,000.
Origin of the title of ‘Dalai Lama’ and its related backgrounder
In the Ming dynasty, Tsongkapa’s success in the reformation enabled the Gelug to become the largest sect in Tibetan Buddhism. “Gelug” means that Buddhism believers should do good things and never do evil things. It is also called Huangjiao (the Yellow Sect) by the Han people because its followers always wear yellow hats.
The title of “Dalai” first came from the third Dalai Lama Soinam Gyamco. “Gyamco” means the Sea in the Tibetan language, which is contained in the name of Dalai Lama of later generations.
In 1577, the 38th year of the reign of Emperor Jiajing of the Ming dynasty, Soinam Gyamco, Tsongkapa’s third-generation disciple, came to Qinghai, by traveling thousands of miles from Tibet, to publicize the doctrine of the Gelug Sect. At that time, Mongolian noble Althan Khan, who ruled Qinghai, was a Buddhist who believed in Tibetan Buddhism the most. Hearing that Soinam Gyamco had arrived, he extended a rousing welcome to the dignitary and conferred him the title of “the Overseer of the Buddhist Faith Vajra-dhara Dalai Lama” to express appreciation of his wisdom and talents.
The title has multi-ethnic language characteristics. “The Overseer of the Buddhist Faith” is the Han language. “Vajra-dhara” in Sanskrit means the ultimate Primordial Buddha, or Adi Buddha, according to the cosmology of Tibetan Buddhism. “Dalai” in the Mongolian language means the sea, and “Lama” in Tibetan means Living Buddha. All the best words in multi-ethnic languages had been granted to Soinam Gyamco.
Thanks to the support of the mighty Mongolian Khan, the newly-established Gelug Sect was able to stand firm in Tibet. Then the titles of “the first and the second Dalai Lama” were given to the former generations.
In 1653, the 10th year of the reign of the Emperor Shunzhi of the Qing dynasty, the 5th Dalai Lama, who had reached Beijing in the previous year, was granted an honorific title plus a golden certificate of appointment and a golden seal of authority by the Qing imperial court. For the first time the Dalai Lama had the administrative power as authorized by the central government. As a result, the Dalai Lama became a principal leader of theocracy in Tibet, which integrated administrative and religious powers.
Having been imperially acknowledged and granted the authority over Tibet since then, almost all the Dalai Lamas of later generations, except for the 14th Dalai Lama, were patriotic, loyal to the central government of China, and devoted to safeguarding the national unity. What people could not understand is that now that every Dalai Lama was the reincarnation of the late Living Buddha, why the patriotic quality wasn’t passed to the 14th?
Dalai Lama – Not so Zen by Maxime Vivas
A French writer’s book put on sale recently has disclosed another side, including opportunism and tricks, of the Dalai Lama deified by some Western politicians and armchair pundits.
Maxime Vivas’s new book “Not So ‘Zen’: The Hidden Side Of The Dalai Lama” hit the shelves of bookstores and online retailers Thursday, days after the Dalai Lama himself held a three-day public conference in the southern French city Toulouse.
Facts and views in the 130-page French-language book refute the long-time self-beatification of the Dalai Lama.
“Based on the word of the Dalai Lama in his transcribed memoirs and also in his speeches during his trips abroad, Maxime Vivas highlights opportunism, omissions, tricks, and lies of a man and his kingdom,” the publisher Max Milo Editions said in a press kit.
“In a plea for secularism, the author raises the question of what would be a ‘Free Tibet’ led by a recalcitrant prophet in front of science and freedom of worship,” the publisher said, while presenting a briefing of a feudal system decades ago under the Dalai Lama and the free primary education system in today’s Tibet that is significantly bringing down the illiteracy rate.
“The trend in France is mostly to edit mass books praising the Dalai Lama. Writing against the Dalai Lama or breaking his image is akin to smearing the portraits of Nelson Mandela or Mahatma Gandhi, the idols which we can’t touch,” Vivas said.
Confusion-and-curiosity-driven, Vivas conducted a truth-seeking trip to Tibet in the summer of 2010 with several other French journalists.
He found there is a modern Tibet prospering with free prayers in temples and monasteries and even on the streets, and Tibetan-written signs are everywhere.
“What I saw in Tibet is not like what I read from the French press and books,” he said.
To clarify the contradiction of the real Tibet he witnessed and the one in the Dalai Lama’s propaganda and most Western reports, Vivas read numerous documents, including studies of French parliamentarians, and researched opinions from various angles.
“This book is not based on documentation of the opponents of the Dalai Lama, not documentation of the Chinese authorities,” he said. “But the information I have drawn from speeches, lectures, interviews and memoirs of the Dalai Lama, and also with his followers …”
The book with the Dalai Lama’s photo on the cover is now on the bookshelves of Fnac, the largest retailer of cultural and electronic products in France, and in the book category of U.S.-based Amazon.com, the world’s largest online retailer.
There have been many comments about the book on the Internet.
Some pointed out the double status of the Dalai Lama mixing political with religious faces.
“However the truth is, he is not actually the person he appears to be. His actions have not always been in accordance with his message of peace, tolerance and compassion…” a netizen named “Caz Namyaw” commented.
The book also has drawn attention from the French media including TV5, bfm radio and France info, among others.
Showing footage of a regional TV channel’s interview on the book, Vivas pointed out several illogical arguments posed by some French media, which he said questioned him on the basis of prejudgment rather than the content of his book.
Vivas also said he didn’t believe in the Dalai Lama’s March announcement of handing over political power because he since met U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in July.