Tibet Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by blueskyjohn
  • Local Customs
    by blueskyjohn
  • Local Customs
    by blueskyjohn

Tibet Local Customs

  • Don't be Stupa, It's a Chorten!

    All throughout Tibet you will see these monuments called Stupa's or Chortens. I have always wondered what the difference was between the two and I am still wondering. I have asked Tibetan guides and they tell me they are the same. Stupa/Chortens contain relics, ashes of Buddhist monks or Buddhist scriptures. They are very religious monuments. Local...

    more
  • The Endless Knot

    The Endless Knot is one of the 8 auspicious symbols in Tibetan Buddhism. It can be found along with the other 7 symbols but you will see this symbol more than any other throughout cities and monastery's around the country.As you can see the endless not has no beginning or end. In Tibetan Buddhism it can symbolize many things for example, the...

    more
  • Green Tara

    Green Tara is one of the more popular deities in Tibetan culture. The Green Tara is said to be the Buddha of Compassion and Action. Those who call upon Green Tara, do so for relief from physical, emotional and spiritual suffering. To gain merit and call for assistance a practitioner will recite a mantra, "Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha."Green Tara can...

    more
  • Butter Lamps

    Every monastery has butter lamps. Usually lit and placed in front of deities as an offering, they are accompanied by 7 bowls of pure water. These are also offerings symbolizing various uses of water. The lamps are fueled by Yak butter. When pilgrims visit a monastery, they may bring along large packets of Yak butter, about 12-16 ounces. As they...

    more
  • Prayer Wheels

    There are two styles of prayer wheel. The stationary type that typically line the pathway of a Kora or entrance of a Monastery and the hand held type, carried by pilgrims. Both will contain prayers written on a long piece of paper/scrolls and placed within the cylinder. The cylinders are made of either metal or wood. The prayer wheels are always...

    more
  • Rules on drinking tea

    It is tradition, that when you are a guest in a Tibetan house and you are offered a cup of tea, accept it with two hands. Before your initial sip, dip your finger into the tea. You then would flick that finger three times to show respect for Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. After this you may take a sip. The host will then fill your cup again. After the...

    more
  • So that's how they're made!

    While walking the Tashilhunpo Kora, about only 5 minutes in, I came across a man carving mantras into large pieces of slate. I've always seen these when walking Kora's. They seem perfectly made as if done by a machine. Now I see the intricate work that goes into making these.I really didn't put it together until after I left Shigatse, but I wonder...

    more
  • Mani Stones

    Mani Stones are stones, usually some type of slate, with a carved Tibetan prayer on them. The prayers is typically "Om mani padme hum" which is a mantra or praise to "the jewel in the lotus." Mani stones can be found all along Kora's and most times will be piled up on top of each other at specific sacred sights. When approaching these piles of Mani...

    more
  • Prayer Flags!

    There is definitely no shortage of prayer flags in Tibet. Prayer flags typically have an order of 5 colored pieces of cloth with prayers printed on them. There is a specific color order that goes from blue, white, red, green and yellow. Prayer flags can be found just about everywhere. Mostly at passes through the mountains and along Kora's and...

    more
  • Prostrating

    Prostrating is a very common scene in Tibet, especially in front of temples, monasteries and religious sites. Prostrations are done at a minimum in a series of three. To do a prostration, place the palms of your hands together and raise them over your head, then lower to your neck area then your chest. While doing this, Tibetans will recite a...

    more
  • Tsampa

    Tsampa is one of the main foods for Tibetans. Tsampa is Barley flour. The tsampa is usually mixed with a small amount of butter to mold the tsampa together. You definitely don't want to but too much butter tea or it becomes more like a paste. They really just put enough in to loosely mold the flour. I had this served to me once in a monastery but I...

    more
  • Butter tea...an acquired taste

    Butter tea is a part of Tibetan's everyday life. They drink this all throughout the day. Butter tea is often commonly served to visitors of a Tibetan's house or in Monasteries. When drinking butter, your should take separate sips. Often your host will continue to refill you tea cup. This could be a little uncomfortable because of the taste of...

    more
  • Hey! Don't stick that thing out at me!

    I have had this happen to me on several occasions. Always it was when greeting an elderly person and never a younger Tibetan. Maybe a sign of the times and how traditions are being lost.I am referring to the act of sticking ones tongue out when meeting someone. In Tibet, this is a sign of respect. However, it was originally meant to show the person...

    more
  • Walk the Kora

    A "Kora" is typically a walk or trek around a Monastery, temple, stupa or any other sacred location. In Tibetan Buddhism, this circumambulation is done in a clockwise direction, always starting to the left. Unless you are at a Bon Monastery where you enter in a counter-clockwise direction.There are various ways people, usually pilgrims, walk the...

    more
  • The High Lamas of Tibet

    Dalai LamaTitled 'Ocean of Wisdom", the Dalai Lama is a high lama of the Gelugpa order (though not its official head!) and has historically been both the spiritual and the temporal, or secular, leader of Tibet. The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyantso, is the 14th to hold the title, though he has given up the temporal power over the Tibetan...

    more
  • Tibetan Phrasebook

    Hello - Tashi delekGood morning - Nga to delek (also used for good afternoon and good evening)Goodbye - Kha leh phe (if you are the one leaving) or Kha leh shu (if you are the one staying)Sorry - Gawn daThank you - Tujay chayDon't mention it - Shu goyak yaw maray (responding when someone has thanked you)Help! - Rog nang da!

    more
  • Tibet History: Songtsen Gampo

    King Songtsen Gampo is probably the most prominent figure in the Tibetan history, who is responsible, among other things, for the construction of the Potala Palace in the 7th century AD. The king has united Tibet and made Lhasa its capital (a move from Lalong). He is also believed to be an incarnation of Chenresing, or Avalokiteshvara (much as the...

    more
  • Monasteries and the Cultural Revolution

    One of the things you constantly hear in Tibet is 'The monastery was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and subsequently restored' - this was the case for even the more famous temples and monasteries (like the Jokhang). In the 70s, when the Chinese government made an offer to the Dalai Lama to return, an investigative mission was set up to...

    more
  • Interior Photography in Tibetan...

    While some Tibetan buildings prohibit interior photography (most notably, Potala, Norbulingka, and Jokhang), the others are quite happy to permit you to take pictures inside provided you pay the specified fee. The fees are usually per chapel and can range from 10RMB (some of the chapels in the Sakya monastery) to 150RMB (more famous chapels of the...

    more
  • Schools of Tibetan Buddhism - Overview

    There are 4 main schools of Tibetan Buddhism: - Nyingma: the oldest of the four schools, based on the Buddhist scriptures translated from Sanscrit into Tibetan (the process which has also led to the creation of the Tibetan script)- Karma Kagyu: headed by the Karmapas, who over the centuries have been the spiritual advisors to the Chinese emperors....

    more
  • Attitudes to Dalai Lama

    Westerners are typically recommended not to carry pictures or books by Dalai Lama - any display of these is illegal in Tibet and will not be looked upon kindly by the Chinese authorities. The same applies to pictures of the original 11th Panchen Lama. In line with the prohibition, you will not see any of their pictures on the walls. For example,...

    more
  • Mining in Tibet

    Tibet’s lands have precious mines but as they believe that the soil has a soul and mining disturbs it. So, Tibetan people don’t do mining and now lots of foreign companies have mines in Tibet. You’ll see women with huge turquoises (I mean HUGE!) on their hair, gem decorated statues… I think they are all found on the ground, taken by waters...

    more
  • Door curtains

    What is the exact definition of this stuff? Tibetan architecture has colorful decorations. Generally the wooden parts around the doors and windows were painted in black and decorated with all the colors of nature. Bright and powerful sun, strong winds and dust can give severe damage to decorations. I think this is why they use curtain-like fabrics...

    more
  • Geomantic Temples of Tibet

    Geomancy is an occult art, a method of divination. I cannot relate it to geomantic temples after reading all, but they are somehow related. The story goes until the arrival of princess Wen Cheng. Her country, China was divided into 4 zones and described as a supine turtle. Tibet was described as a supine ogress, Sinmo. Sinmo is a rock ogress and...

    more
  • Local handcraft: Apron/Skirt

    Women usually wear an apron-like skirt over their outfit. It is a colorful fabric. One of our friends in the group bought two of them and somehow managed to wear it like a skirt, on in front, the other on back. An old Tibetan man got angry and shouted her. Then we learned that wearing that skirt means “I am married”. Two skirts had been understood...

    more
  • Bön religion

    Bon religion is the oldest local belief in Tibet. Now there are 100,000 followers, Bönpos, in Tibet. They are living in hard to reach parts of country. The original Bön religion is dated older than 16,000 BC. In 16,000 BC, Yungdrung Bön founded. Now, under the New Bön name, a sect is accepted by 14th Dalai Lama as a sect of Tibetan...

    more
  • "New" Chinese customs

    Chinese is probably not that friendly on the street. However, they get completely changed when they travel. At dinner, they become extremely friendly to talk, drink and even invite you for the meal. They also become very talkative to introduce where they come from and what are the famous things in their city.

    more
  • Visiting monasteries and temples

    If you are visiting a monastery or temple always keep in mind to circumambulate the buildings and shrines clockwise.Don't smokeDon't take pictures without permission. In most monasteries you will need to pay.Don't wear shorts and take off your hat when going inside.

    more
  • Prayer flags

    Wherever you go in Tibet, you will find colourful prayer flags in monasteries, on the roofs of Tibetan houses, on mountain passes, sacred lakes and holy peaks. They are placed outside, mostly hanging on ropes, where the wind can carry their prayers. Prayer flags are printed with sacred symbols and mantras. They are said to bring happiness, long...

    more
  • clothing

    Tibetan people still wear traditional clothing. The national dress is the chuba, a long sleeved sheepskin cloak. It is tied around the waist with a sash and often worn off of the shoulder. Most women wear a long dress topped with a colourful striped apron. They also wear a lot of jewelery, it shows their wealth. Woman from the northeastern and...

    more
  • Yak butter lamps

    You will find yak butter lamps in every tibetan temple filling the air with a typical smell. The yak butter for the lamps is given by the pilgrims as offerings.

    more
  • Water boiler

    If you are wondering with those big mirrors are used for that you will see everywhere outside on courtyards or in front of houses, they are used to collect sunlight to head water for tea.

    more
  • Best time to visit

    In my opinion the best time to visit Tibet weatherwise is at the end of September - beginning of October. The raining season, starting April and at its worst during July and August, has come to an end. The days are still sunny and warm (up to 20°C) and the nights are not too cold yet.Take into account that during the raining season roads can be...

    more
  • Seeing Potala without joining a tour

    We went to the Potala at 11:30am and was told today's tickets were already sold out, but recommended us to stand in line for tomorrow's ticket. So we did. The ticket window opened around noon and the line moved along quickly. After our passport were checked, we were given a sheet of paper indicating the right to enter Potala Palace the next day....

    more
  • Yaks

    Yes there really are Yaks everywhere.There are wild herds on the mountain passes and domesticated herds on farms. the domesticated ones often have prayer flags attached to them -weird.I rode one up to a monastery and it was a very sturdy beast (believe me it had to be!) and very calm natured (altho the Yak handler said they could be quite dangerous...

    more
  • Chanting Monks

    We came across chanting monks both at the Samye and Drepung monasteries. It was very calming and hypnotic.You should be repectful and keep your distance when they are doing this and don't use a flash when taking a photo. Infact taking a video clip has a much better effect as you get the sound too.You can buy CDs with monks chanting in the markets...

    more
  • Debating Monks

    You can see the debating monks at the Sera Monastery.They were featured in Michael Palin's Himalaya series.Every day at 3oc for 2 hours the monks go out into the courtyard to debate. Who knows what they were debating as they were speaking Tibetan but sometimes it got very heated. If the monks get excitable with all this heated debate they slap...

    more
  • Yak Butter

    You will come across Yaks and Yak butter wherever you go. They burn it in candles in some monasteries (altho they are converting to candle wax as apparantly its cheaper) or they serve it as Yak butter tea (which everyone warned me about and I managed to avoid).In Shigatze there was even a Yak Butter shop. Next door was a store selling only...

    more
  • Put the kettle on

    You see these solar kettles all over Tibet. An ingenious idea. A kettle can boil in 15 mins (quite quick because water boils at a lower temperature at altitude apparantly).Having stuck my hand under the kettle I can report it was very hot indeed!

    more
  • Say hello in Tibetan

    Say hello is Tibetan, they will love you for it!Don't know how its spelt but its pronounced Tassi DelekFor the Chinese Hawkers who give you the "you buy this one dollar "routine say:"Xie xie (Shay shay) wo bu yao" it means thanks, I don't want it. Works every time!

    more
  • Drying cow dung for firewood

    The lack of firewood in this waste land of the Himalaya makes people creative. They collect the cow dung, put it into handy portions (dinner plate size) and let it dry on walls/house walls. Nothing else but recycling. Using the rare natural resources carefully!

    more
  • Different areas of Tibet

    In different regions of Tibet, Shannan or Changtang, rural or pastoral areas, eastern or western Tibet, the customs are varied. As a Tibetan saying goes: "Different lamas teach in different ways; different inhabitants have different sayings and different nature cultivates different folkways". The nomadic herders living on the highly-elevated,...

    more
  • Using the enrgy of the sun

    Another way to save natural resources and to overcome the lack of firewood is using sunenergy by collectingmirrors to heat up the teawater for example. Clever!

    more
  • Floor layers

    Gangs of workers toil together to lay a concrete floor on the roof. Stone is ground to a fine powder and mixed with water, elm tree resin and rape seed oil. They use a flat piece of wood attached to a long pole, which they stamp on the ground in tune to singing. They work in alternative groups so as not to tire themselves out too much. The sound...

    more
  • Greenhouses

    Up until four years ago all vegetables where imported to Tibet. In the last few years, many greenhouses have been built, and now Tibetans can enjoy fresh vegetables all the year round. I must say, all the vegetables we were served, were of very good quality.

    more

Tibet Hotels

See all 66 Hotels in Tibet
  • Lhasa Hotel

    I would recommend a stay at The Lhasa hotel we did for 4 nights The beds were firm like most beds in...

    more
  • Gyantse Hotel

    The hotel's official rating is ***, which did mean it was pretty basic - and so it was (it would not...

    more
  • House of Shambhala

    I love House of Shambhala since the moment I stepped in. It is exactly what I had on mind. Rustic,...

    more

Top Tibet Hotels

Lhasa Hotels
512 Reviews - 1369 Photos
Gyangze Hotels
68 Reviews - 294 Photos
Zetang Hotels
13 Reviews - 57 Photos

Instant Answers: Tibet

Get an instant answer from local experts and frequent travelers

96 travelers online now

Comments

Tibet Local Customs

blueskyjohn's Profile Photo

Tibet has many customs.  However the most important to remember would be those used when visiting Monasteries. When entering a Buddhist monastery, enter and walk to the left.  The same...

Map of Tibet