Originated less than four million years ago, the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau are considered the youngest ones in the world.
The Greater Tibet has three distinct geographical regions. Chang Tang, which is also known as the northern Plateau, is the largest natural region. It covers about half of Tibet's total surface area and is delineated in the west by the Karakoram range. With unfavourable climate, most part of this region is never visited by humans.
The outer plateau is the second main geographical region of Tibet. With the Himalayas forming the southern boundary, the area the most populous part of Tibet and contains almost all the major human settlements.
Tibet borders with Sichuan, Yuannan, Qinghai and Xinjiang; to the south contiguous to India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma, and bounded by Kashmir on the west.
The Potala Palace is one of the major tourist attractions in Lhasa. Situated about 3,756.5 meters above sea level, the palace covers an area of over 360,000 square meters. The 13-storey palace is 117 meters high. The walls of the Palace are over one meter in thickness, the thickest sections being five meters. They are painted with huge colorful murals, which make it beautiful and lively.
The magnificent Potala Palace is made of wood and stone. All the walls are of granite, and all the roofs and windows are made of wood. The overhanging eaves, the upturned roof corners, and the gilded brass tiles and gilded pillars inscribed with Buddhist scriptures, bottles, and makara fish as well as the gold-winged birds decorating the roof ridges contribute much to the beauty of the hip-and-gable roofs.
The stone-and-wood-structured Potala Palace consists of over 1000 rooms, seminary, chanting hal1, temples, various chambers for worshipping Buddha and chambers housing the stupas of several Dalai Lamas, which are covered with gold 1eaf and studded with jewels. In the rooms, there are tens of thousands of Buddha figures. Different in sizes and complex in designs, the figures look vivid and lovely.
The history of Tibet can be traced thousands of years back. But the written history only dates back to the 7th century when Songtsan Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king, sent his minister Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit who on his return invented the present Tibetan script based on Sanskrit.
It snows only once or twice in a year in Tibet. Due to perpetual bright sunshine, it is not at all cold during the daytime even in the coldest of the winter. Tibet is so sunny that it produces a year-round sunshine with over 3,000 hours a year.
Geographically, Tibet can be divided into three major parts: east, north and south. The eastern part is covered by forests, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. The northern part has open grassland, where nomads and yak and sheep dwell. This part occupies approximately half of Tibet. The southern and central part is agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet's land area. This is the region where all major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse ad Tsetang are situated. Covering 1,200,000 kilometres, Tibet has more than 1,890,000. The region is administratively divided into one municipality and six prefectures. The municipality is Lhasa, while the six prefectures are Shigatse, Ngari, Lhaoka, Chamdo, Nakchu and Nyingtri.
The area has milder temperature and climate. The Shigatse and the Lhasa valleys are rich in bio-diversity. Lhasa has pleasant climate with nearly all its rainfall occurring in the summer. For most of the year the weather is sunny and dry, mild during the day from April to October, and not unbearably cold in winter.
Buddhism is the main religion adopted by the Tibetans. By Buddha, they understand 'the enlightened one'.
Buddha's followers formed open communities of monks and nuns, who lived disciplined lives and sought wisdom, their prime virtue. For 500 years, while Buddhism spread throughout India, all teaching was oral.
Buddhist doctrines and scriptures prevail in Tibet, where Buddhism was promoted by the kings. The faith almost vanished with the end of the monarchy in the ninth century. When it arose again, Tibet's decentralized conditions allowed Buddhism to split into some 20 sects.
The following five became the most important:
Nyingmapa : The ancient ones, began around 750 AD with Padmasambhava. It absorbed the bon faith and produced the Tibetan book of the dead.
Kahdampa: Began around 1060 ad with the teachers of Marpa and Milarepa. Most typically Tibetan, it stressed yoga as the way to seek enlightenment.
Kagyupa : Began around 1060 ad with the teachers of Marpa and Milarepa. Most typically Tibetan, it stressed yoga as the way to seek enlightenment.
Sakyupa: It arose in 1073 ad at Sakya monastery, which later governed Tibet. It was worldly and practical in outlook, less concerned with metaphysics.
Gelugpa: The virtuous ones or yellow hats, began with Tsong Khapa in 1407 AD. It absorbed Kahdampa and carried on Atisha's tradition. It dominated Tibet after the 17th century, leaving other sects to play a minor role.