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Tibet

 May 16 , 2019 11:28:48   

Tibet is a plateau region in Asia, north-east of the Himalayas, in the People's Republic of China. It is the traditional homeland of the Tibetan people as well as some other ethnic groups such as Monpas, Qiang, and Lhobas, and is now also inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft).

Tibet emerged in the 7th century as a unified empire, but it soon divided into a variety of territories. The bulk of western and central Tibet (Ü-Tsang) were often at least nominally unified under a series of Tibetan governments in Lhasa, Shigatse, or nearby locations; these governments were at various times under Mongol and Chinese overlordship. The eastern regions of Kham and Amdo often maintained a more decentralized indigenous political structure, being divided among a number of small principalities and tribal groups, while also often falling more directly under Chinese rule; most of this area was eventually incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. The current borders of Tibet were generally established in the 18th century. Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, Qing soldiers were disarmed and escorted out of Tibet Area (Ü-Tsang). The region declared its independence in 1913. Later Lhasa took control of the western part of Xikang Province. The region maintained its autonomy until 1951 when, following the Invasion of Tibet, Tibet became unified into the People's Republic of China (PRC), and the previous Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a failed uprising. Today, the PRC governs western and central Tibet as the Tibet Autonomous Region while eastern areas are mostly within Sichuan and Qinghai provinces. There are tensions regarding Tibet's political status and dissident groups which are active in exile. Tibetans in Tibet have been arrested or tortured. The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture, though tourism has become a growing industry in Tibet in recent decades. The dominant religion in Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism, in addition there is Bön which was the indigenous religion of Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century CE (Bön is now similar to Tibetan Buddhism) though there are also Muslim and Christian minorities. Tibetan Buddhism is a primary influence on the art, music, and festivals of the region. Tibetan architecture reflects Chinese and Indian influences. Staple foods in Tibet are roasted barley, yak meat, and butter tea.

The Tibetan name for their land, Bod བོད་, means "Tibet" or "Tibetan Plateau", although it originally meant the central region around Lhasa, now known in Tibetan as Ü. The Standard Tibetan pronunciation of Bod, [pʰøʔ˨˧˨], is transcribed Bhö in Tournadre Phonetic Transcription, Bö in the THDL system, and Poi in Tibetan Pinyin. Some scholars believe the first written reference to Bod "Tibet" was the ancient Bautai people recorded in the Egyptian Greek works Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (1st century CE) and Geographia (Ptolemy, 2nd century CE), itself from the Sanskrit form Bhauṭṭa of the Indian geographical tradition.

The modern Mandarin exonym for the ethnic Tibetan region is Zangqu (Chinese: 藏区; pinyin: Zàngqū), which derives by metonymy from the Tsang region around Shigatse, plus a prefix meaning "western". Tibetan people, language, and culture regardless of where they are from are referred to as Zang (Chinese: 藏; pinyin: Zàng), although the geographical term Xīzàng is often limited to the Tibet Autonomous Region. The term Xīzàng was coined during the Qing Dynasty in the reign of the Jiaqing Emperor (1796–1820).

Linguists generally classify the Tibetan language as a Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan language family although the boundaries between 'Tibetan' and certain other Himalayan languages can be unclear. According to Matthew Kapstein:

From the perspective of historical linguistics, Tibetan most closely resembles Burmese among the major languages of Asia. Grouping these two together with other apparently related languages spoken in the Himalayan lands, as well as in the highlands of Southeast Asia and the Sino-Tibetan frontier regions, linguists have generally concluded that there exists a Tibeto-Burman family of languages. More controversial is the theory that the Tibeto-Burman family is itself part of a larger language family, called Sino-Tibetan, and that through it Tibetan and Burmese are distant cousins of Chinese.

The language has numerous regional dialects which are generally not mutually intelligible. It is employed throughout the Tibetan plateau and Bhutan and is also spoken in parts of Nepal and northern India, such as Sikkim. In general, the dialects of central Tibet (including Lhasa), Kham, Amdo and some smaller nearby areas are considered Tibetan dialects. Other forms, particularly Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa, and Ladakhi, are considered by their speakers, largely for political reasons, to be separate languages. However, if the latter group of Tibetan-type languages are included in the calculation then 'greater Tibetan' is spoken by approximately 6 million people across the Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan is also spoken by approximately 150,000 exile speakers who have fled from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries.

Although spoken Tibetan varies according to the region, the written language, based on Classical Tibetan, is consistent throughout. This is probably due to the long-standing influence of the Tibetan empire, whose rule embraced (and extended at times far beyond) the present Tibetan linguistic area, which runs from northern Pakistan in the west to Yunnan and Sichuan in the east, and from north of Qinghai Lake south as far as Bhutan. The Tibetan language has its own script which it shares with Ladakhi and Dzongkha, and which is derived from the ancient Indian Brāhmī script.

Starting in 2001, the local deaf sign languages of Tibet were standardized, and Tibetan Sign Language is now being promoted across the country.


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