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Way of life of Tibetans

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There are 3 sorts of societies

- nomad : These are shepherds and caravan travelers. They breed flocks of sheep and herds of goats and yaks. They live on bartering exchanging butter, wool, milk and salt picked on the verges of lakes.
- sedentary : These are farmers who live in the South of the country and grow barley, buckwheat, small peas, potatoes, apple trees and apricot trees.
- monastic : One fourth of the men lived in monasteries before chinese invasion. In exile, it’s still the case.


Since chinese invasion, nomads and farmers had to become integrated into municipalities and work districts. The average income of Tibetans is the lowest of the whole China and one of the lowest in the world.
In the year 1998, according to chinese figures, the annual average income per inhabitant for Tibetans in rural areas from the independent part of Tibet, called “RAT”, was 1 158 yuans (US$144.75) though the average income in urban areas of the RAT, mainly occupied by Chinese, was 5 400 yuans yearly (US$ 675).
These figures must be compared to incomes in the whole China. The annual average income per inhabitant in the rural areas in China was 2 162 yuans (US$ 270.25) in 1998, nearly two times the one noticed in the “RAT” for the same time though the annual average income per inhabitant in urban areas in China was nearly 5 400 yuans (US$ 678.125) in 1998.


- Polyandry : It’s a custom taken by some tibetan populations mainly in Ladakh (in the North of India) which aimed to protect agricultural family proprieties. Several brothers could marry the same wife and several sisters could have the same husband in order to avoid dividing up the lands which would have ruined the family. This vital custom was abolished in 1941 but anyway it still exists and is tolerated by authorities.

  • Basic food :
    • tsampa : cooked barley flour to which can be added dried yak meat or small pieces of cheese (which is the rest of whey) which can be preserved 3 years ;
    • tea salted with rancid milk from the female of the yak : very well adapted to extreme climatic conditions ;
    • momos : traditional meal, a kind of raviolis with vegetables (and some meat on celebration days) steamed ;
    • tchang : a kind of beer made with fermented barley.
  • Tibetan medicine : based on the indian theory of humors (bile, breath, phlegm matching with anger, greed and laziness.
    A physical lack of balance is also a spiritual one.
    Taking one’ pulse is the main diagnosis.
    Medicine are made with plants and minerals in the shape of big pills, powder and balms.

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