Colorful Culture of Tibet

Tibetan People

The people of Tibet are strong and adaptable due to the harsh environment in which they live, but they are also extremely warm and hospitable. They are always quick to invite a visitor to Tibet into their home and serve them homemade food, and the famous Tibetan butter tea.

Food

Food, just like Tibetan culture and people has a very distinct character. Tibetan food is not only sustenance but also helps Tibetan people survive the harsh climates. Their food keeps them warm, gives them energy, helps them with the high altitude, and gives them nutrients essential to the harsh climate. Due to the high altitude of Tibet, water boils at 90 degrees making cooking with water impossible, so Tibetan food has become very specialized. The Tibetan diet consists mostly of meat, milk and other high protein foods.

Tsampa: is a staple found at every Tibetan meal. It is a dough made with roasted barley flour and yak butter. There are two basic ways to prepare and eat Tsampa. One is to make dough with Tibetan buttered tea. The other is to make porridge with beef or mutton, and vegetables. The Tsampa dough served with buttered tea is salty, while the porridge is often served with sugar.

Buttered tea: is another staple of Tibetan cuisine. Tibetans drink butter tea because it warms them up. Buttered tea is quite salty. Some people think it tastes more like soup broth than tea.

Beef and Mutton: Tibetans live on beef, mutton and milk products. Beef and mutton contain high heat energy which is helpful in fighting the cold. Many Tibetans often eat raw meats. Tibetan noodles: are usually served in a simple vegetable or meat broth. Momos: are the favorite foods of most visitors to Tibet. They are dumplings made with either meat or vegetables.

Tibetan Dances

Nearly Every Tibetan can sing and dance. Dancing is an integral part of every Tibetan's life. Tibetan people sing and dance for nearly every event: weddings, funerals, gatherings, and just for fun. There are many different styles of dance. Each area of Tibet has its own distinct style.

The Guoxie (village) dance is a group dance popular in rural Tibet. This dance is usually performed on the open ground from sunrise to sunset. It consists of men and women dancing together in a circle.

Guozhuang (singing and dancing) dance is popular in eastern Tibet. It consists of two parts, singing, and dancing. It is an agile and vigorous dance. Men and women stand in two separate circles and sing in rotation while swaying and stamping their feet. The tempo, in the beginning, is slow and as the song progresses the tempo speeds up. They performers conclude their singing by shouting "Ya!"

Xie dance is accompanied by a stringed instrument. At festivals and outings, men and women dance the Xie face to face in two lines. They are usually directed by one person at the head of their formation who plays a stringed instrument. The participants sing to each other to express their feelings. This dance is graceful and natural characterized by slow steps.

Qamo (sorcerer's) dance is a religious dance. It came to Tibet along with the introduction of Buddhism. It is used to subdue evil spirits in monasteries. Originally the Qamo dance was a mime dance where participants wore ceremonial masks. A traditional livestock sacrificing ceremony was held. Since the killing of livestock goes against Buddhist doctrine, livestock is no longer killed. Drawings are now substituted. At the end of the dance, the performers take an effigy of Duoma (the leading demon), made of butter and tsampa into the wilderness to burn it, which will drive away evil and bring good fortune in the coming year.

Clothing

Tibetan clothing has a strong connection with the people, and the climate of "roof of the world". The Tibetan's clothing reflects the history, beliefs, and character of the local people.

Each area of Tibet has its own distinct style of clothing. The clothes are influenced by religion and the environment. Tibetan clothing consists of a robe and shirt. The Tibetan robe worn by men is broad and is normally fastened under the right arm, while the women's are slightly narrower with or without sleeves. The robes often fastened with two cloth belts. The shirts are also fastened on the right. Men typically wear white shirts with high collars, while women wear various colors with turndown collars.

In northern Tibet, where the weather is bitterly cold, herdsmen wear a fur-lined robe years round. Their robe also doubles as their quilt at night. Since the day and night temperatures vary greatly, during the day they usually do not put their arms in their sleeves, but rather tie the sleeves around their waist wearing their robe as a kind of skirt. Their fur-lined robes are very bulky and have no pockets, but being fastened at the waist it gives the wearer plenty of room inside to carry daily necessities or even their children inside.

In pastoral areas, the clothing worn by herdsmen is distinctive for their decorations. Their clothing is usually hemmed in black cloth at the front and lower edges and cuffs. Women wear aprons decorated with colorful cloth stripes.

In the south of Tibet where the weather is warm and damp, the clothing is made from hand-woven woolen cloth. Both men and women button their clothing on the right. Men's clothing is hemmed in colorful cloth, or with silk, while women normally wearing sleeveless robes.

In Lhasa, where the weather is warmer and damper many men wear double-layered robes, and women dress in close-fitting robes and long-sleeved shirts, with brightly decorated aprons.

The apron is one of Tibetan women's favorite clothing articles. According to Tibetan customs, the aprons are only worn by married women. It is a privilege that young girls look forward too.

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