Tibet is located at the apex of Central, Eastern and South Asian cultures, in close proximity to China, India and Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Ladakh, Lahaul, Spiti and Assam. The high plateau of Tibet, situated at altitude ranging from 3600 m to 5200 m, is surrounded by the mountain ranges of the Himalayas. The widespread steppes and massive snow-covered areas form Tibet’s unique geophysical characteristic. Tibet covers an area of 2.5 million square kilometers, which is equivalent to seven times the area of the Federal Republic of Germany. The populations of Tibet and Lhasa are both too little. Generally, we maintain there are 6 million Tibetans. The area of 2.5 million square kilometers is for the entire Tibet, including Kham and Amdo. According to 2000 census, Lhasa has 474,499 people of which more than 80% are Tibetan.
While the moderate climate allows for cultivation in the lower lands, the high mountainous regions of the northwest are mostly inhabited by nomads. Tibet is the source of headwaters of major rivers of Asia including the Karnali, Sutlej, Brahmaputra, Mekong and Indus, many of which meander majestically through the Himalayas.
Cultures and knowledges from neighboring nations had, over the centuries, deeply impacted the cultural, religious and artistic landscape of Tibet. And Tibet’s cultural influences in turn had reached the Mongolian and the Chinese imperial courts and seeped into the the common folk cultures.
The Tibetan society has been strongly influenced by Buddhism since its arrival. Buddhism reached Tibet relatively late in the 7th Century, after it had spread to other Asian countries, and found a firm niche in the hearts of the Tibetan people, growing with the original traditions of Bon religion. Consequently, a Buddhism with unique Tibetan characteristics developed which continued to influence the structure of society including official bodies. Tibet’s nearly 6000 monasteries used to be the centres of education, arts, handicrafts and politics and were also storehouse for valuable art treasures, and extensive libraries.
In recent years, Tibet has increasingly come to the focus Western attention. The warm-hearted attitude of the Tibetan people, their deep spirituality and fascinating culture may have contributed to this growing interest but the recent turbulence that spread throughout Tibet may also have been contributing factor.