Tibetans are probably descendants from the variety of monadic tribes who migrated from the north and settled to sedentary cultivation of Tibet’s river valleys. A more visible ethnic group is the Hui Muslims. Two thirds of Tibetans belong to the relatively well known Kham and Amdo speaking Tibetans. However, fully one third of the Tibetans in this region do not speak Kham or Amdo as a first language. Linguistic research in the 1980's and 1990's has shown that these ethnic groups speak separate but related languages. These languages are entirely different from the Tibetan language.
Now there are 41 races in Tibet, including Tibetan, Menpa, Luopa, Han Chinese, Hui, Sherpa, Deng, etc., and most inhabitants live in the southern and eastern areas. Tibetans are the main inhabitants in this plateau. According to the census conducted in 2000, there is a total population of 2,626,300 in Tibet. The number of Tibetans is 2,427,200, that is, 92.2 percent of the total population. Since the Chinese Family Planning Program is not carried out among the peoples (except the Han Chinese) in Tibet, the population keeps growing. Till the end of 2003, its population has amounted to 2,701,700, among which are 2,507,200 Tibetans, 92.8 percent of the total population.
Tibetans are optimistic and forthright people, adept in singing and dancing. The language they speak belongs to the Sino-Tibetan phylum, and people in U, Tsang, Kham, Chamdo and Amdo speak different dialects. Generally, most farmers live in small villages and earn their living by farming, and the nomads live by herding yaks and sheep. Tibetans in cities are mainly engaged in producing handicrafts, industry and business. Most Tibetans are devout Buddhists. The old Bon, Islam and Catholicism also have a few followers respectively.
Besides Tibetans, Menpa, Luopa, Sherpa, and Deng are also the main aborigines in Tibet. Most of the Menpa people inhabit in the south of Tibet. They mainly earn their living by farming, with a few engaged in stock raising, hunting and handicraft industry. A special feature of Menpa is that every adult male carries a broadsword beside his waist. All the males and females of Menpa like alcohol and snuff. The Luopa people mainly live in the southeast of Tibet. Most of them live by farming. The Luopa people are very skillful. Their handworks plaited with bamboo are exquisite. Both of the two races only have oral language, no written one. Most of them believe in their own aboriginal religion, with a few as Buddhists. Though monogamous marriage is the main marriage form, polygamy still exists. In the past, they had behindhand economy and medical treatment due to the poor transportation of their regions. Now the state is rapidly improving under the support of government.
The Sherpa people mainly live in Dingkye and Nyalam of Shigatse . Sherpa means oriental in Tibetan. Most of the Sherpa people are Buddhists and engaged in farming and boarder trade. Compared with other races, Deng has a relatively smaller population. The Deng people mainly live in Dyayul, southeast of Tibet. They believe in ghost, not god. The Deng people have their own language, but neither Sherpa nor Deng has written language. The Deng people keep a record of events by knotting ropes or making marks on wood.
Han Chinese is the second largest population in Tibet. Most of them are cadres and technicians dispatched to Tibet to help its development. Most of the Hui People now living in Tibet are those who immigrated there from other provinces during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), mainly engaged in business, handicraft industry and butchering. Other races in Tibet, such as Naxi, Nu, etc., mainly live in cities, with a small population respectively.
Tibetan is the main language of Tibet, especially in the rural areas, with various dialects spoken as well. It is considered to be a subfamily of the Sino-Tibetan language.Tibetans has their own language, which is known as “bod-yig” in the Tibetan-inhabited areas with the meaning of “Tibetan language”. Tibetan language belongs to the Tibetan-Burman branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family.
According to geographical divisions, it has three major local dialects: Weizang, Kang and Amdo. The first two dialects have their own tones in pronunciation while the latter don’t. Created in the early 7th century, the Tibetan language, a phonetic system of writing, was based on the writing system of the ancient Sanskrit language of India. Tibetan language consists of thirty consonant, four vowels, five inverted letters (for the renting of foreign words) and the punctuations. Sentences are written from right to the left.
With two major written scripts namely the regular script and the cursive hand, Tibetan language is widely used in all areas inhabited by Tibetans. In 641 AD, Songtsen Gampo, a king in southern Tibet, married Wen chen Konjo of the Tang dynasty, which gave a boost to the development of the Tibetan culture. From the 10th century to the 16th century, the Tibetan culture developed dramatically.
Throughout the centuries, the Tibetans bring to us not only the two well-known Buddhist master pieces, the Bka-gyur, and the Bstan-gyur, but also other great works on cadences, literature, philosophy, history, geography, arithmetic, calendar, medicine and so on.