Wednesday, December 3

Ethnic Groups of Tibet

(this is one of my three Tibet essays. i just find Tibet pretty interesting)

While taking this Tibetan culture class I have learned that they also include different ethnicities. Some well-known ethnic groups of Tibet are the Menba [门巴], Lhoba[洛巴]and the Deng people [登人], but there are more. They are classified with Tibet because they share some of the same religious beliefs, culture, land and even the language is similar in some ways.

First I’ll start with the Menba [门巴]. They have related themselves to Tibetans through politics, economics and marriage. They had ruled over the Menyu area, as their name implies. The population is about 8,928 people. On the Tibetan Plateau they can be found mostly in Moinyu in Southern Tibet’s Autonomous region, though some do live in other places. They have their own language that belongs to the Tibeto-Burman family, but no written script, so they use the Tibetan language. Though their main source of food was agriculture, most of them are alcoholics. Clothing is based off of the Tibetan Chugba. They wear red wool robes or coats and black yak hair caps, and leather boots, but sometimes trousers can be worn. The men will wear skull caps with tassels or fringes. The women wear a warm jacket over a long sleeveless chemise. They often carry knives and wear gloves and of course earrings. Because it is cold in the winter, the roofs of the houses are made out of bamboo matting. As I said the Menba usually live off of agriculture but they do hunt for food or use game as barter. All animals can be hunted besides men and tigers. On a special day, one specific boy using only a jawbone with the teeth in it can hunt tigers. They believe this will give the power of guidance by the ancestral tigers to the boy. They enjoy making handcrafts, animal husbandry (breeding animals) and forestry (planting to make natural resources). They specifically make woodcarvings, weavings and carpets. Tibetan Buddhism of the Gulugpa sect has been their religion, but some still believe in primitive sorcery such as Animism (the belief that everything has a soul) and Bon; believing that the spirit of the Tiger protects them. For Buddhism they place water offerings and butter lamps around a Buddha statue. The main treatment of the dead is sending them on their way down a river, known as water burial. Still, they also bury them, leave them to the wild and burn them, known as ground, exposure burial and cremation..

Second are the Lhoba [洛巴]. The population is about 3000 people. They are also located in the south, in Lhoyu in Southeastern Tibet and no written form of their own language, in the Tibetan-Myanmese family. Actually, only a few can speak and/or write the Tibetan language. They did try to keep records of the past by notching wood or tying knots, and of course, just telling stories. They had strong belief in the ancestors and the Tiger but a lot have converted to Lamaism. They have celebrations for peace and prosperity, make a lot of bamboo crafts, and the women are excellent at weaving coats and skirts. Clothing within this ethnic group varies upon the level of sub-groups, but the men will wear long sleeveless black wool vests and helmet like hats made of bearskin sometimes with bamboo woven in. They carry arrows, swords and other tools used for hunting. Women wear blouses and short sheep’s wool skirts. They carry around lots of ornaments because the amount of ornaments worn symbolizes their wealth. Neither of them wears shoes. They can wear these things year round because they have warm subtropical weather. While agriculture is the main part of their diet, they are heavy smokers and drinkers. Because they didn’t have much salt in their diets and had poor lifestyles, a lot of them got endemic goiter diseases allowing most of them to be born deaf or mute. So they were kind of forced to marry outsiders. Before, they were really bullied by Tibetans, being considered wild people, and so some were cast out to live in the mountains or forests and marrying a Tibetan was forbidden. Women have no status and so they don’t get to inherit anything.

Finally I’ll discuss the Deng people [登人]. Also referred to as wild monkey people, they have about 1300 people. They live in Zanyu County in the Ningchi prefecture mainly in the southeast part of Tibet’s Autonomous region. They live in 2 story houses and are very short. They have no written part of their language, which comes from the Tibetan Burmese family. They believe in ghosts, which is just the Animism religion again. Men regularly wrap their hair and wear silver earrings with a knife in their belt. Women normally wear necklaces and pearl earrings. They also don’t wear shoes. They lived mostly off of agriculture. Women were big smoker but now they prefer to sing or dance to pass time.

Being of a lower class, all of these ethnic groups had less satisfying lifestyles, but nowadays as with the rest of the world the people have schools at which children and adults can be taught. The houses are more modern as well as the farming systems. They have been able to truly start over by having new land to farm in and even though this is all after 1951, I’m glad that they could get the help that have gotten so far. I hope that some of these cultures can stay with us for a while longer and experience the new day and age with us.

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