There are many ways to interpret the definition of “Tibetan area”. If the “radiation area of Tibetan culture” is taken as the base point, then the entire Tibetan area can be said to be vast.
Because, in addition to the Tibetan Areas in China, such as: Tibet Autonomous Region, Yunnan Tibetan Region, Sichuan Tibetan Region, Gansu Tibetan Region, and Qinghai Tibetan Region, there are also Ladakh and the Southern Tibet
Furthermore than the above listed Tibetan regions, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim, and a part of Pakistan-controlled Kashmir (Jammu-Baltistan), as a region deeply radiated by Tibetan culture, should theoretically be considered as a part of Tibetan cultural region.
However, the “Tibetan area” described in this article refers to the area within the territory of the People’s Republic of China, that is, the Tibetan living area in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Yunnan Province, Sichuan Province, Qinghai Province, Gansu Province and other places.
According to the provincial administrative regions of modern China, there are Tibetan areas separately in Yunnan Province, in Sichuan Province, in Gansu Province, in Qinghai Province, and Tibet Autonomous Region on the Tibet plateau.
If to follow the traditional Tibetan culture, then there are three major Tibetan areas on the Tibet plateau that are “U-tsang”, “Khampa”, and “Amdo”.
also known as Dbus-Gtsang, refers to the Lhasa and Shigatse areas in Tibet
also known as Do Kham, refers to Chamdo in Tibet, Ganzi Prefecture in Sichuan, Yushu Prefecture in Qinghai, and Diqing Prefecture in Yunnan
also known as Do Me, refers to other Tibetan areas in Qinghai except Yushu, Gannan Prefecture in Gansu, and parts of Aba Prefecture in Sichuan
–Tibetan Regions, prefectures, counties —
Qinghai province (6 prefectures)
Sichuan province (2 prefectures)
Yunnan province (1 prefecture)
Gansu province (1 prefecture and 1 county)
And the whole Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibet Plateau Brief Biography
The appearance of the term “U-tsang” can be traced back to when the Yuan Dynasty (AD 1271-1368) unified Tibetan areas and supported the Sakya Pa of Tibetan Buddhism to establish local power. The Yuan Dynasty established a series of military and political institutions on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. By the mid-Yuan Dynasty, the entire Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was divided into “Do me” (i.e. Amdo area), “Do kham” (i.e. Kham area), “U-tsang & Ali region” (generally the entire territory of present-day Tibet, including three administrative regions of the “U” & “Tsang”, Ali and Ladakh.)
The emergence of this kind of division is the result of the game between the Tang Dynasty and Tubo kingdom. After the perishing of Tubo kingdom, its territory was divided by and fall into the hands of four kings mainly, whom were: Lhasa king, Ali king, Yaze king and Yarlungjua king, until the establishment of the Sakya regime when the Yuan dynasty unified the whole China.
It was at this time that in order to distinguish each tribe from each other, officials introduced the people to pass on, and slowly agreed to the conventions that there were three Tibetan areas (i.e. U-tsang, Khampa, Amdo).
After entering the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368-1644), the Tibetan area was divided into two administrative regions: one is U-tsang (which roughly includes the entire territory of present-day Tibet), and the other is Do Kham (including Tibetan areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces).
“Dbus-Gtsang Itinerant High Commandery” & “E-Li-Si Army-Civilian Marshal Office” were set separately in Ming dynasty to manage the jurisdiction of the three Pacification Marshall’s Office, such as “Dbus”, “Tsang” and “Mnga’ris skor gsum – The present Ali Region” in the Yuan dynasty
By the time of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911), the relationship between the Qing government and the Tibetan areas further deepened. The Qing Dynasty gradually learned that there were many differences in politics, society, and ethnicity in various areas of the Tibetan people. The names of the areas were different as well.
In the Qing Dynasty, the places where the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama lived were called “U-tsang” or “Dbus-tsang ” according to the Tibetan custom. Later, the term “U-tsang” evolved into “Tibet”.
“Three major Tibetan areas”, this actually distinguishes the three Tibetan areas in terms of race and geography. This is what the Tibetan historical materials used to say: “Dharma U-tsang”, “Horse-land Amdo” and “Human of Khampa”. Due to the differences in geographical, environment and main production and life, the cultural customs of the different Tibetan areas are very different.
“U-tsang” is a combination of two geographical area on the Tibet plateau with names of “U” & “Tsang”, using local U-tsang dialect
The U-tsang area is centered on the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin, the Kailash Mountain and the Great Fault Zone at the southern foot of the Nyainqentanglha Mountain are used as the boundary between northern and southern Tibet.
The river valley and the basin alternate with an average elevation of about 4000 meters. The land resources are concentrated and the rainfall is abundant, which is suitable for the growth of crops.
The first Tibetan king “Nyatri Tsenpo (360 BC-329 BC)”, the first palace Yongbulakang, the first farmland, the first monastery of Samye, and the majestic Potala Palace… all were born in the Yarlung Zangbo River Basin. Therefore, this region can be regarded as the cradle of Tibetan culture, and the prosperity of the three treasures of Buddhism (Jokhang Temple, Tashilhunpo monastery, Tradruk Temple) made this area called the Dharma region.
“U-tsang” is the political, economic, religious and cultural center of Tibetan cultural area, it is also the birthplace of Buddhist teachings of all Tibetan areas. It has the most religious sacred sites and the most prosperous.
“U” – meaning “center” , generally ranges from Lhasa, Nagqu, Shannan and the western part of Nyingchi City (Nyingchi, Gongbujiangda, Milin, and Lang County); it is reagrded as “Front Tibet”, and the people in this area call themselves “Wei-ba”.
“Tsang” – meaning “river” , in the strict sense, it should specifically refer to the “Rear Tibet” that does not include the Ngari region. It ranges from the west of the Gangbala Mountain to the border of Nepal, which is roughly equivalent to the current Shigatse City ( Except for the small northern part). However, when it comes to the “Dharma U-tsang”, “Rear Tibet” and Ali region are usually treated as one large area; people in the region of “Rear Tibet” call themselves “Tsang-ba”.
Note: The “Front Tibet” and “Rear Tibet” are used often in Qing Dynasty, and Tibetan do not call it that way.
Human of Khampa
Kham traditionally mainly includes the Qamdo region in the Tibet Autonomous Region, the eastern Nagqu region, the eastern Nyingchi region, the Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai Province, the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan, and the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.
“Kham” means frontier, in other words, “Kham” was regarded as a remote place by the ancestors of Tibetan; “Pa” means people, “Khampa” means people from Kham, using Kham dialect.
The harsh natural environment allowed the Tibetans here not only to retain more national wildness, but also to shape a strong and bold character, and also cultivated their traditions and customs of going out of the mountains to do business.
Khampa culture is unique, with distinctive characteristics, and is an important part of Tibetan culture. One of which is the singing and dancing in Khampa area that are elegant, unrestrained and vigorous. Especially Yushu’s dance, which is vigorous and smooth. It is said that when Songtsen Gambo married Princess Wencheng, Yushu’s song and dance team was to welcomed Princess Wencheng when she arrived in Yushu;
The men of Khampa have three-dimensional facial features, burly stature, and brave anomaly; The women of Khampa have bright eyes and are very charming. Because of being brave and good at fighting, Khampa had been rich in knights and “japa” (robbers) since ancient times. And because Khampa is located in the junction of Chinese Han and Tibetan regions, it is convenient for business operation, therefore, among the great merchants in Tibetan areas, the Khampas are the most.
It is precisely because of the very characteristic Khampa people that Khampa gains the name of “Human of Khampa”.
“Amdo” is composed of the initials of Amnye Marchen Mountain and Dora Rangmo Mountain (Jishi Mountain).In Tubo kingdom’s literature, it is generally called “Do me” (translated as “Tuosima” in the Yuan Dynasty, meaning “the lower part of Do kham”)
It mainly includes the Guoluo Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Haixi Mongolian and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Haidong Prefecture and Huangnan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Qinghai, Gannan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and Tianzhu Tibetan Autonomous County in Gansu province, Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture (part) in Sichuan province, with the center in the area from Amnye Marchen Mountain to the Qinghai Lake. People here call themselves “Amdowa”. Using Amdo dialect.
Amdo is a place where many ethnic groups live together. It is closely related to the Chinese Han culture in the east and the Altai culture in the north. The ancestors of Tubo, Xiongnu, Tuyuhun, Mongolian, Tu, Hui, Salar, etc. have merged and communicated with each other, and gradually formed unique Amdo culture. It is not only the hometown of “Zongri Culture” and “Kayue Culture“, but also the center of all “Qiang” cultures in Chinese historical records.
Amdo has the history of the “Gusiluo culture”, the origin of the “Lower Road Diffusion” in the later period of Tibetan Buddhism, the birthplace of Master Tsongkhapa, known as the “Second Buddha”. There are also Labrang Monastery, one of the cultural centers of Amdo, and Repkong Art – the most popular art in this region.
Most people have a wrong understanding of Tibet, thinking that Tibet is dominated by nomadic life, but in fact U-tsang is a mixed economic model of farming and nomadism. The area of grassland that can be nomadic is not large at all; The topography of Kham is generally high mountains and valleys, the area of grassland is even smaller.
Unlike the landforms of U-tsang and Kham, there are large areas of grassland pastures in Amdo, which is wonderful for growing horses; It is precisely because the Amdo is rich in good horses. That’s why it is the “Horse-land Amdo”.
Tibet plateau has a long history and exotic landscape. Its beautiful ancient monasteries and unique tribe customs have attracted visitors worldwide.
It is the culture of the Neolithic Age in the upper reaches of the Yellow River. Named after the Zongri site in Tongde County, Qinghai Province; It is mainly distributed in the Hainan Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Qinghai Province, in the valleys of the plateau basins in the counties such as Xinghai, Tongde, Gonghe, Guinan and Guide, and it may also reach other areas in the upper reaches of the Yellow River.
It is the Bronze Age culture of Northwest China. It was named after it was discovered in Kayue Village, Huangzhong, Qinghai. The date is about 900 to 600 BC. It mainly distributed in the Huangshui river Basin along the Yellow River and its tributaries in Gansu Province
Also known as Qiang, Qiang Fang, Qiang Rong, Di Qiang, was an ancient tribe that lived in northwest China (in the area of Qinghai and Gansu today) during the Shang and Zhou Dynasties.
Here we refer to the Qiang as the “The Ancient Qiang”, this is to distinguish it from the modern Qiang people; Scholars still argue that the ancient Qiang people originated from primitive Chinese Han, Tibetan or primitive Indo-Europeans. They are the ancestors of Chinese Han, Tibetan, Qiang and Xiqiang in the Han Dynasty.
The ancient Qiang people are not the same as the Qiang people. In addition to the modern Qiang, the ancient Qiang is also one of the origins of the Yi, Hani, Lisu, and Lahu nationalities
Gusiluo (AD 997 – 1065)
He was a Tibetan king of Tsongkha regime, which was established in Qingtang (now Xining City, Qinghai Province). Some scholars think that it is neither a regime nor a dynasty, but a tribal alliance. In its prime, its territory reached Sandu Valley in the southeast (now Gangu County of Gansu province), Qi mountain in the north, Golog Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in the south, and Qinghai Lake in the west. This regime lasted for about 72 years, and it was destroyed by the Northern Song Dynasty in AD 1104.
Lower Road Diffusion
, In AD 1042, Venerable Atisha, a Buddhist master of Bangladesh, entered Tibet, and he promoted the Dharma, rebuilt the Sangha, and spread “Prasangika”. At the same time, Monks went to Amdo to learn and then diffusing to U-tsang region, which is known as “Lower Road Diffusion”;