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10 Awe-Inspiring Facts about Ancient Tibet

Tibet, a area nestled within the coronary heart of the Himalayas, is a spot of unbelievable magnificence, spirituality and cultural heritage. Known for its hovering mountain peaks, vibrant prayer flags and wealthy tapestry of Buddhist traditions, Tibet is a spot like no different. Its distinctive mix of historical and trendy tradition, coupled with its awe-inspiring pure magnificence, has captured the hearts and imaginations of vacationers for hundreds of years. From the bustling markets of Lhasa to the tranquil monasteries of the excessive Himalayas, Tibet is a spot that conjures up marvel and reverence in all who go to.

1. Tibet Has Been Inhabited for Over 21,000 Years

Tibet’s historical historical past is richer than one would possibly assume. There is archaeological proof that people have lived on the Tibetan plateau for over 21,000 years and it’s believed the earliest inhabitants had been almost definitely nomadic hunter-gatherers who tailored to the tough altitude atmosphere of the plateau.

Then, round 3000 years in the past the primary Tibetan civilization emerged, the Zhang Zhung tradition . Zhang Zhung was situated in what’s now western Tibet. They had been identified for his or her comparatively superior metallurgy, agriculture and textiles in addition to their fascinating perception system, the Bon faith. 

The Zhang Zhung are talked about steadily in historical texts as Tibet’s authentic rulers, however it has solely been within the final twenty years that archaeologists have been allowed to check the areas as soon as dominated by these wonderful folks. Eventually, the Zhang Zhung had been absorbed into the Tibetan Empire, which emerged throughout the seventh century AD.

2. The Tibetan Empire Was One of the Most Powerful in Asia

The Tibetan Empire was one of the highly effective and influential empires ever to be seen in Asia and its rule prolonged over components of China, Nepal, India and Central Asia. The empire was based by Songsten Gampo who continues to be regarded to this present day as one in every of Tibet’s greatest-ever rulers.

During his reign, he unified numerous warring tribes and expanded Tibetan territory via each conquest and diplomacy. It was additionally he who launched Buddhism to Tibet, which grew to become a serious ingredient of Tibetan tradition and identification for the remainder of its existence. 

One of probably the most fascinating points of the Tibetan Empire was its distinctive mix of indigenous Tibetan tradition, Buddhism and influences introduced in from the lands it had conquered. This empire fostered the event of a definite Tibetan identification and this era noticed the expansion of Tibetan literature, artwork and structure in addition to the evolution of Tibetan Buddhism

This is to not say all the things was idyllic inside the empire. It confronted periodic uprisings and rebellions and was repeatedly invaded by neighboring states. It additionally confronted near-constant inside conflicts amongst its ruling class over who ought to rule.

Interior of famous Buddhist Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet, created by King Songsten Gampo who founded the Tibetan Empire. (tynrud / Adobe Stock)

Interior of well-known Buddhist Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet, created by King Songsten Gampo who based the Tibetan Empire. ( tynrud / Adobe Stock)

3. Tibet Had a Religion Before Buddhism

Today Tibet is mostly related to Buddhism and rightly so, the nation is the location of main pilgrimages and is chock filled with Buddhist shrines and monuments. However, lengthy earlier than Buddhism was dropped at Tibet there was one other fascinating faith practiced there, the Bon faith.

Not a lot is understood about the Bon faith’s origins however it’s believed up to now again to round 3000 BC and was initially related to the indigenous folks of Tibet. Today the unique type of Bon is typically known as Black Bon and it included components of animism (the assumption that all the things is related and all the things has a soul), divination and shamanism.

When Buddhism got here to (*10*)Tibet within the seventh century AD the Bon faith went beneath huge adjustments. For a time, the 2 religions existed peacefully facet by facet however over time Bon was progressively assimilated into Tibetan Buddhism.

This isn’t to say Bon doesn’t exist at the moment. There are nonetheless these inside Tibet who apply Bon and preserve its distinctive practices and beliefs exterior of Buddhism. These practices embrace using prayer flags, providing bowls, ritual objects and the efficiency of historical shaman rituals and ceremonies. 

The Bon faith left an indelible mark on the tradition of Tibet and its identification. Its symbols and practices might be discovered inside Tibetan artwork, music, and literature and it can’t be denied that its teachings left a mark on Tibetan philosophy and spirituality. 

4. Genghis Khan Invaded Tibet

Tibet has been attacked and invaded by its neighbors numerous occasions all through historical past. In the thirteenth century the Mongols, led by the notorious Genghis Khan , had been busy invading and conquering nice swathes of Asia. This included chunks of China, Central Asia and the Middle East. In 1240, the Mongols set their sights on Tibet, shortly capturing its capital, Lhasa.

Surprisingly, the Mongol invasion wasn’t a horrible factor. Prior to it, Tibet had been divided into a number of small kingdoms with no actual centralized authority. The Mongols introduced a brand new stage of political group to the world and established a system of presidency that was primarily based on their mannequin.

It was additionally a remarkably peaceable course of. At the time of the invasion, Tibet’s non secular chief was Sakya Pandita, a excessive lama of the Sakya faculty of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a smart and revered chief who was in a position to negotiate a peace settlement with the Mongols that allowed Tibet to maintain a stunning diploma of autonomy.

This settlement was often called the Mongol-Tibetan Treaty of 1244. It acknowledged the authority of the Sakya lama and the Tibetan authorities and allowed them to manage Tibet beneath the Mongol’s watchful gaze. It additionally made Tibet exempt from taxation and navy conscription. Genghis Khan was remarkably forward-thinking when it got here to non secular freedom and the Tibetans had been allowed to proceed practising Buddhism freely. 

During Mongol rule, Tibetan tradition and artwork flourished. With the soundness and assist the Mongols supplied many vital Buddhist monasteries, such because the Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse, had been constructed. 

This isn’t to say there weren’t some challenges. The Mongols could possibly be brutally merciless when the necessity arose, and regardless of what the treaty stated, they’d a behavior of meddling in Tibetan affairs. This led to tensions between completely different factions inside Tibet, and there have been periodic uprisings and rebellions towards the overseas invaders’ guidelines.

Buddhist monks at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. (Prof. Mortel / CC BY 2.0)

Buddhist monks at Tashilhunpo Monastery in Shigatse. (Prof. Mortel / CC BY 2.0 )

5. The Fifth Dalai Lama Establish a Long-lasting Theocratic Government

In 1642 the fifth Dalai Lama , Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, got here to energy following a serious interval of political instability and battle in Tibet. Gyatso was the pinnacle of the Gelub faculty of Buddhism and after managing to unify the area beneath his management, he established a authorities primarily based on Buddhist ideas and which was guided by his faculty.

His new authorities was a theocratic one, which means there was no separation between authorities and faith. It was organized by a hierarchy of non secular and secular officers with the Dalai Lama on the high as each Tibet’s non secular chief and political head of state. The authorities was chargeable for all the things from the administration of justice, to the gathering of taxes and the supply of public providers. 

The advantages of this new authorities had been that Tibetan society grew to become extra unified, sharing a way of identity-based on Buddhism and loyalty to the Dalai Lama . This led to the event of Tibetan tradition and the creation of vital new artistic endeavors, literature, and music.

However, there have been challenges. The authorities was usually criticized for being corrupt and inefficient. This usually led to uprisings and rebellions towards Tibet’s theocratic rulers. The authorities’s reliance on non secular authority additionally left it weak to exterior influences, particularly the affect of the Chinese authorities. 

This type of authorities lasted from 1642 till 1950 when the Chinese authorities took management of the area. Tibet’s theocratic authorities was dissolved, and the Dalai Lama fled to India, establishing a authorities in exile. Since then there was an ongoing debate about the function of faith in Tibetan society.

6. The Ancient Silk Road Passed Through Tibet

For these unfamiliar with it, the Silk Road was a community of vital commerce routes that related China with the Mediterranean world. It was instrumental in selling cultural and financial alternate between the East and West and being situated alongside it got here with main advantages.

The Silk Road handed via Tibet and helped to determine the world as a key location for commerce and cultural interplay. Merchants traveled alongside the Silk Road with invaluable items like silk, tea and spices. While doing so that they carried with them concepts, religions, and expertise. Along the best way, they established buying and selling posts cities, and settlements that helped form Tibet’s historical past and tradition. 

Tibetan bloodletting chart.  (Wellcome Collection / CC BY 4.0)

Tibetan bloodletting chart.  (Wellcome Collection / CC BY 4.0 )

7. Tibet Has its Own Ancient Medical System Dating Back Over 2,000 Years

It’s maybe not all that stunning {that a} nation as related to spiritualism as Tibet has its historical medical system, Sowo Rigpa. This is a holistic system of drugs primarily based on the precept of balancing the physique’s energies.

The system’s roots might be traced again to the traditional medical practices of India and China, however its practitioners have developed their distinctive theories and quirks over time. Tibetan drugs attracts on a variety of sources such because the teachings of the Buddha, Tibet’s historical Bon faith, and the medical information of Tibet’s indigenous peoples.

Tibetan drugs teaches that the human physique is a microcosm of the universe and that every one points of the universe are interconnected (a key ingredient of the Bon faith). A practitioner of Tibetan drugs seeks to determine any imbalances within the physique and thoughts and seeks to revive concord by treating the reason for these imbalances. 

The system consists of a variety of therapies together with natural cures, eating regimen and way of life suggestions alongside acupuncture and meditation. Diagnostic processes are complicated and embrace inspecting the affected person’s pulse, urine, and different bodily fluids.

While our scientifically-minded readers is likely to be prepared to put in writing this all off, the World Health Organization acknowledges Tibetan drugs as a legitimate type of complementary and different drugs. In current years there was rising curiosity within the system amongst Western medical professionals. 

8. The Gyantse Kumbum Displays 100,000 Images of Buddhas

One of Tibet’s most spectacular monuments (which is saying one thing) is the Gyantse Kumbum. Located within the city of Gyantse, it was constructed within the fifteenth century and is a three-story round constructing that rises to a top of 35 meters (115 ft).

The constructing is magnificent and adorned with 100,000 pictures of Buddhas, bodhisattvas and different non secular figures. Its inside comprises 77 chapels, every with its personal assortment of paintings, statues and different non secular artifacts. 

The Gyantse Kumbum is one of ancient Tibet’s most impressive monuments. (Pav-Pro Photography / Adobe Stock)

The Gyantse Kumbum is one in every of historical Tibet’s most spectacular monuments. ( Pav-Pro Photography / Adobe Stock)

9. The Tibetan Mastiff is Fiercely Loyal

Here’s one for canine lovers. The Tibetan Mastiff, a robust and protecting canine breed has been used for hundreds of years to protect properties, monasteries and livestock. The canine is among the largest breeds on this planet and is understood for its loyalty and braveness. Males usually weigh as much as round 150 kilos (68kg).

The breed has a thick coat that helps it survive Tibet’s harsh, freezing local weather. Despite its giant measurement and protecting nature, the canine will also be extremely light and affectionate with these it is aware of. This all makes it a preferred companion for individuals who have the house and dedication to take care of such an imposing breed. 

10. The Tibetan Flag is Banned in China

Modern Tibet is marred by politics and the mere point out of its identify might be controversial in some circles. The Tibetan flag is a logo of Tibetan nationwide identification and sovereignty and incorporates a snow lion, a standard Tibetan image of power and fearlessness, and two crossed Vajirias, a Buddhist ritual object that represents the indestructibility of diamonds.

Unsurprisingly, this stuff have made it unpopular in China. Possession of the flag can land you with a heavy high-quality and even jail time. The Chinese authorities sees the flag as a logo of separation and a menace to nationwide unity. This hasn’t stopped many Tibetans from flying it, doing so at nice threat to their private security and freedom. The flag stays an vital image of Tibetan nationwide identification and resistance. 

The use of the Tibetan flag can be dangerous in China. (Anna / CC BY 2.0)

The use of the Tibetan flag might be harmful in China. (Anna / CC BY 2.0 )

The Awe-Inspiring History of Tibet

Tibet is a very distinctive and interesting area with a wealthy cultural heritage, unbelievable pure magnificence and deep non secular significance. Whether you’re a traveler looking for journey, a non secular seeker on a pilgrimage or just somebody who’s curious about this intriguing a part of the world, Tibet has one thing to supply everybody. 

Its traditions, artwork, music and meals are all an vital a part of the area’s cultural identification and supply a window into the historical past and every day lifetime of its folks. By exploring Tibet, we will broaden our horizons, deepen our understanding of the world and achieve a larger appreciation for the numerous various and exquisite cultures that make our planet so distinctive.

Top picture: Representational picture of a Buddhist monastery in Tibet. Source: matiplanas / Adobe Stock

By Robbie Mitchell


Beckwith. C. 1987. The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power amongst Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese throughout the Early Middle Ages . Princeton University Press.

Stein. R.A. 1972. Tibetan Civilization . Stanford University Press.

The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. 16 February 2023. “History of Tibet” in Encyclopedia Britannica . Available at:

Walter. M. L. 2009. Buddhism and Empire the Political and Religious Culture of Early Tibet . Brill.


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