According to legend, Tibetans originated from a union of a monkey and ogress. The monkey, who was an incarnation of Avalokitesvara, is believed to have been peaceful and contemplative, living alone in a cave practicing meditation. The ogress, however, was a creature of wild emotion and lust. She is described as strong-willed, stubborn, and driven by sexual desire. Thinking that she was alone, she cried over her lack of a suitor, and when the monkey heard her cries he was filled with compassion. He traveled to her, and their union produced six offspring, who were born without tails and could walk upright.
Today, the local Tibet people see themselves as descendants of these two progenitors, and believe that they have divided nature resulting from personalities of the monkey and the ogress. Their gentleness and compassion are traced back to the monkey, but their willfulness, and other negative personality traits derive from the ogress. This mythical event took place in a cave on Mt. Gonpo Ri, a ridge overlooking the historic Yarlung Valley.
Anthropologists believe that Tibet people may have descended from the Qiang, nomadic and pastoral people that lived on the steppes of northwestern China. Today, they still live in jungles and mountains of the east Tibet of Kham.
It is also likely that the Khampa are a result of early eastward migration of Tibetans who intermarried with some of the people that conquered including Qiang. This could account for some of the most distinctive physical features attributed to Khampa.
Nowadays, The Tibet people live not only in the central Tibet of TAR, but also in other areas of Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai, and Gansu provinces. They have their own local dialect and written script. Most Tibetan adhere to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, although some Tibetans believe in Islam.
Small tribal groups like the “Monpa” and “Lhoba,” who follow a combination of Tibet Buddhism and spirit worship, are found mainly in the southeastern regions of Tibet.