Welcome in Tibet (西藏)
Official Tibet is a Chinese province, called the TAR (Tibetan Autonomous Region – 西藏自治區). To enter that part of the country every tourist needs a specific entrance permit form the government with the specified travel destinations and hotels in.
We did not apply for that permit, so we are not allowed to enter the TAR-region. Nonetheless, the Tibetan influence is not limited to that part of the country. The Tibetan plateau of the Himalaya stretches into the provinces SìChuān (四川), GānSù (甘肅) and QīngHăi (青烸). According to the Tibetans all these parts are connected in the traditional country of Tibet. It are these provinces we’ll travel through to get an impression of the rich and old Tibetan Culture.
Their spiritual leader is the Dalai Lama (Ocean of Wisdom).
The feeling along the route is more Tibetan as Chinese, however the Chinese government is working hard to build here new towns in the whole area, officially to improve the life quality of the Tibetans, by building roads, hospitals, schools,… We guess to replace the Tibetans by Han Chinese people and control the area more close, to avoid riots such as the one in 2008.
The Dalai Lama keeps fighting his peaceful war for a more autonomous region… A war for which he received the Nobel Price of peace back in 2010, to the great frustration of the Chinese government. It placed the cause of Tibet high on the world attention, while they want to keep it silenced all the way… The Chinese wait silently till he dies to replace him with a more Chinese approved one.
The TAR is at this moment closed down every year around february – march, because of the political troubles in the area back in 2008.
The roots of these political problems go back to 1950, when the PLA (Public Liberation Army – the communist party of Mao ZeDong) invaded Tibet and ‘liberated’ over one million of Tibetans. The full-blown Tibetan revolt in 1959 resulted in the exodus of the Dalai Lama and 80000 of his brightest followers into Dharamsala, India, from where they still ‘reign’ Tibet. At the same time the Chinese’s destroyed many monasteries and shrines, restricted the religious expression and put a continuous military presence in the region during these years. This still insults and angers many Tibetans.
This political climate results in very strict and severe travel restrictions for foreigners (or aliens like they call us many times). Most of the Chinese people don’t have a clue about that rule. Every time when we state that we are not allowed into Tibet, they ask an explanation. The ambitious construction and transportation projects change the area quickly. The original Tibetan culture is harder to find nowadays, even in the surrounding regions…
Tibet has a specific culture… Monasteries, prayer wheels and stupa galore, plenty of yak herds and nomads with yurts camping everywhere on the high-altitude grasslands.
Because of the mixture with the original Bön religion, the Buddhist culture here has a unique shape and form. Especially the prayer flags, pilgrimage circuits and sacred landscapes.