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16:44 Dec 15 2008

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English>>Tibet Online>>Files with Tibetan Areas>>Nationalities
Ethnic Makeup
14:57, December 12, 2008  

Not surprisingly, the Tibet Autonomous Region, with 45 percent of the country's total ethnic Tibetan population, has the greatest concentration of ethnic Tibetans nationally. In addition to the Tibetans, other ethnic groups, including the Lhoba, Moinba, Han and Hui, and Deng and Xarba peoples are found there.

Tibetans are the principal inhabitants of Tibet. Their language belongs to the Tibetan sub-group of the Tibetan-Burmese group of the Sino-Tibetan language family. There are three main dialects: U-Tsang, Kham and Amdo. Most Tibetans work in agriculture and animal husbandry. Urban residents for the most part work in handicrafts, industry and commerce. Ethnic Tibetans follow Tibetan Buddhism. They are enthusiastic and open-minded and good at singing and dancing. The Tibetan songs are pleasant to the ears and are often accompanied by dance. Tibetans traditionally wear long-sleeved silk or cloth jackets which men top with loose robes and women with long sleeveless gowns which are tied at the waist with a sash. Married women frequently wear an apron with a multi-color design. Both women and men braid their hair and love wearing ornaments. Different areas have different clothing. The staple food is zanba (roasted qingke barley flour or pea meal); tea with butter or milk is the favorite of all Tibetans. They have a liking for qingke barley wine, beef and mutton, but do not eat horses. In ancient times Tibetans buried their dead in the ground but in modern times Tibetans practise celestial burial (in which the corpse is chopped to bits and exposed on a mountain face to be eaten by vultures and other birds of prey), cremation and water burial.


The Moinba have lived on the Tibet Plateau since ancient times. For the most part they are distributed in Moinyu region in the south, with some scattered in Medog, Nyingchi and Cona counties. Linguistically, the Moinba belong to the Moinba sub-group of the Tibetan-Myanmar group of the Sino-Tibetan language family. In terms of dialects, the language is complex. While there is no written language, most Moinba people can speak and write Tibetan. Their livelihood is based on agriculture, supplemented by animal husbandry, forestry, hunting and handicrafts. Both women and men dress in robes made of pulu (a woolen fabric). On their heads they wear a small brown-crowned, orange rimmed hat gaped in the front or a black felt cap. The women wear bracelets and earrings and other ornaments and men have a chopper hanging at their waists. Men and women alike enjoy drinking wine and dipping snuff. The Moinba diet is based on rice, corn, buckwheat and jizhaogu (glutinous highland millet). Most Moinba people adhere to Tibetan Buddhism; however, in some areas some people practise traditional shamanism. The dead are generally given water burial, but earth burial, celestial burial and cremation are also practiced.

The Lhoba people are mainly found in the Lhoyu region of southeastern Tibet, with some scattered in Mainling, Medog, Zayu, Lhunze and Nang counties. Their language also belongs to the Tibet-Burmese group of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Having no written language of their own, they normally use Tibetan for written communications. The Lhoba are an essentially agricultural people. They value the goods they weave from bamboo. Men favor a wool woven sleeveless jacket that extends to the waist and round, helmet-like hat trimmed with bear fur or rattan. Women wear a short, round-collared, narrow-sleeved jacket and a tight tubular skirt that extends a little below the knee. From knee to ankle, the leg is wrapped in cloth puttee. Com and jizhuagu, supplemented by rice and buckwheat, are staple foods.

Most of the Hui people living in Tibet today are descendants of the Hui who moved from Gansu, Shaanxi, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces during the Qing Dynasty; a minority came from Central Asia. Most live in cities and towns, notably Lhasa. Xigaze and Qamdo. The majority work in commerce, handicrafts or as butchers. They use Tibetan or Chinese in written communications and Urdu and Arabic in religious practice. They follow Islam and mosques are to be found in Lhasa and elsewhere.

The Deng people for the most part live in Zayu County, Nyingchi Prefecture. Linguistically, they also belong to the Tibetan-Myanmar group of the Sino-Tibetan language family. They have no written language, but keep records by notching wood, tying knots or arranging sticks or branches. Deng people believe in ghosts. They build two-story structures, themselves living above and housing cattle and poultry below. The women commonly wear long, drum-like silver earrings, a headdress covering the forehead, and around the neck a string of beads or silver jewelry. They wear silk skirts and go bare-footed. Men wear a black cloth wound about their heads and silver earrings. Up until the 1950s, the Deng people mostly lived deep in the mountain forests, surviving on slash-and-burn agriculture and hunting and gathering. More recently they have moved into terraced river valleys with the assistance of the government.

The Xarba people are concentrated in the area defined by Lixin in the Zam entry/exit port area and Chentang in Dinggye County. They are divided into four surnames and marriage within the same surname is taboo. They are Buddhists. Their homes are two-story wooden structures. Both men and women wear white woolen short-sleeved coats edged in black. Their melodious songs and elegant, restrained dancing are reminiscent of some folk dances of Nepal and Pakistan.

Beginning in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911 ), many Han people moved to Tibet. A portion have since been assimilated into the Tibetan ethnicity. Today, most Han people living in Tibet are technicians, laborers, teachers, health workers and cadres from other provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions.

By People's Daily Online

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