The Development of Tibetan Culture (2000)

(June 2000)


  I. The Spoken and Written Tibetan Language Is Widely Studied and Used, and Being Developed

  II. Cultural Relics and Ancient Books and Records Are Well Preserved and Utilized

  III. Folk Customs and Freedom of Religious Belief Are Respected and Protected

  IV. Culture and Art Are Being Inherited and Developed in an All-Round Way

  V. Tibetan Studies Are Flourishing, and Tibetan Medicine and Pharmacology Have Taken On a New Lease of Life

  VI. Popular Education Makes a Historic Leap

  VII. The News and Publishing, Broadcasting, Film and Television Industries Are Developing Rapidly





  China is a united multi-ethnic country. As a member of the big family of the Chinese nation, the Tibetan people have created and developed their brilliant and distinctive culture during a long history of continuous exchanges and contacts with other ethnic groups, all of whom have assimilated and promoted each other's cultures. Tibetan culture has all along been a dazzling pearl in the treasure-house of Chinese culture as well as that of the world as a whole.

  The gradual merger of the Tubo culture of the Yalong Valley in the middle part of the basin of the Yarlung Zangbo River, and the ancient Shang-Shung culture of the western part of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau formed the native Tibetan culture. In the period of the reign of Songtsen Gampo in the seventh century, Buddhism was introduced to the Tubo people from the Central Plain of China, India and Nepal, and gradually developed into Tibetan Buddhism with its distinctive characteristics. At the same time, the Indian and Nepalese cultures of South Asia, the Persian and Arabic cultures of West Asia and especially the Han Chinese culture of the Central Plain had considerable influence on the development of Tibetan culture. In the long process of Tibetan cultural development, Tibetan architecture art and the plastic arts such as sculpture, painting, decoration and handicrafts, as well as music, dance, drama, spoken and written language, literature in written form, folk literature, Tibetan medicine and pharmacology, astronomy and the calendar all reached very high levels.

  Tibet later became a local regime practicing a system of feudal serfdom under a theocracy, and ruled by a few upper-class monks and nobles. This ensured that Tibetan Buddhist culture gained the dominant position in Tibetan culture for a long period of time, until the Democratic Reform was carried out in 1959. Throughout this period, a handful of upper-class lamas and aristocrats monopolized the means of production, culture and education. Cultural and artistic pursuits were regarded as their exclusive amusements, while the serfs and slaves, who constituted 95 percent of the Tibetan population, lived in extreme poverty and were not guaranteed even the basic right of subsistence, let alone the right to enjoy culture and education. The long reign of feudal serfdom under theocracy not only severely fettered the growth of the productive forces in Tibet, but also resulted in a hermetically sealed and moribund traditional Tibetan culture, including cultural relics, historic sites and sites for Buddhist worship. As for modern science, technology, culture and education, they did not get any chance to develop at all.

  After the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, the Central People's Government attached great importance to the protection and development of the fine aspects of traditional Tibetan culture. The "Seventeen-Article Agreement" on measures for the peaceful liberation of Tibet signed by the Central People's Government and the local government of Tibet in 1951 clearly stipulates: "In accordance with the actual conditions of Tibet, the spoken and written Tibetan language and school education will be progressively developed." In 1959, with the support of the Central Government, Tibet carried out the Democratic Reform to abolish the feudal serf system and liberate the million serfs and slaves, and implemented the ethnic regional autonomy system there step by step. This marked the advent of a brand-new era in the social and cultural development of Tibet, and ended the monopoly exercised over Tibetan culture by the few upper-class feudal lamas and aristocrats, making it the common legacy for all the people of Tibet to inherit and carry on.

  In accordance with the provisions of the Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Central People's Government and the People's Government of the Tibet Autonomous Region have made great efforts in the past 40-plus years to promote the social and economic development of Tibet, to satisfy the Tibetan people's increasing needs for rich material and cultural lives. At the same time, they have devoted large amounts of human, financial and material resources to protecting and carrying forward the fine aspects of traditional Tibetan culture, as well as initiating and developing modern science, culture and education by employing legal, economic and administrative means. As a result, considerable achievements attracting worldwide attention have been attained. All the people in Tibet, as masters of the new era, jointly carry on, develop and enjoy the traditional Tibetan culture, and jointly create modern civilized life and culture, bringing unprecedented prosperity and development to Tibetan culture.

I. The Spoken and Written Tibetan Language Is Widely Studied and Used, and Being Developed

  The Tibet Autonomous Region is an area where Tibetan people live in concentrated communities, constituting more than 95 percent of the population of the region. In Tibet, the spoken and written Tibetan language is universally used. In accordance with the stipulations of the Constitution and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Tibet Autonomous Region has paid great attention to maintaining and safeguarding the Tibetan people's right to study, use and develop their spoken and written language. It promulgated and implemented Some Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Study, Use and Development of the Spoken and Written Tibetan Language (Draft) and the Rules for the Implementation of "Some Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Study, Use and Development of the Spoken and Written Tibetan Language (Draft)" in 1987 and 1988, respectively. These two laws put the work related to the study, use and development of the spoken and written Tibetan language on a legal track. The governments at all levels in Tibet have implemented the provisions on protecting and developing the spoken and written Tibetan language according to law, safeguarding the Tibetan people's right to study and use their native language, and making the language develop continuously together with the development of politics, economy and culture.

  The spoken and written Tibetan language is widely used in every aspect of social life in Tibet. Since the Democratic Reform in 1959, the Tibetan and Han Chinese languages have been used for all the resolutions, laws and regulations adopted by the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region, and the official documents and proclamations issued by the governments at all levels or their departments in Tibet. In judicial proceedings, the spoken and written Tibetan language is used in trying cases and in the relevant legal documents if the litigant participants are Tibetans. Both the Tibetan and Han Chinese languages are used for all work units' official seals, certificates, forms, stationery, and signs, and signboards of institutions, factories, mines, schools, railway stations, airports, stores and shops, hotels, cinemas, theaters and gymnasiums, street and road signs, and traffic signs.

  At present, the radio and TV stations in the Tibet Autonomous Region broadcast in the Tibetan language for over 20 hours per day. On October 1, 1999, The Tibet Television started its satellite broadcasting channel, which broadcast telefilms and other programs in the Tibetan language every day. The cinema is oriented toward grassroots and farming and pastoral areas, guaranteeing that at least 25 movies newly dubbed into the Tibetan language are shown in the various places in Tibet every year. Meanwhile, the publication of Tibetan books, magazines and newspapers has made rapid progress. Since 1989 alone, 441 titles of books have been published in the Tibetan language, of which many have won domestic or international awards. There are altogether 14 magazines and 10 newspapers published in the Tibetan language in Tibet. The Tibetan edition of the Tibet Daily is published every day, with a large number of articles and news dispatches written or edited in the Tibetan language directly. The newspaper has said good-bye to sort typesetting by investing a considerable sum of money to establish Tibetan computer editing and typesetting systems. Both Tibet Science and Technology News and Tibet Scientific and Technological Information have their Tibetan-language editions, which are very popular among the farmers and herdsmen. All the art troupes in Tibet create programs and perform in the Tibetan language.

  The study of the Tibetan language is protected by law. Educational institutions in the Tibet Autonomous Region universally practice a bilingual educational system whereby teaching is done principally in the Tibetan language. Furthermore, the teaching and reference materials for all the courses from primary school to senior high school have been edited in or translated into the Tibetan language.

  As the times progress and society advances, the Tibetan language develops in tandem, with its vocabulary and grammar continuously enriched. Much headway has been made in the normalization of technical terms and standardization of information technology in the Tibetan language. The encoded Tibetan language has been formally recognized by the Chinese state and international standards, and the promotion of the Tibetan language as an Internet communication tool is proceeding apace.


II. Cultural Relics and Ancient Books and Records Are Well Preserved and Utilized

  In old Tibet, cultural relic protection was virtually nonexistent. But since the Democratic Reform, the Central People's Government has attached great importance to the protection of cultural relics in Tibet. As early as in June 1959, the Tibet Cultural Relics, Historical Sites, Documents and Archives Management Committee was established to collect and protect a large number of cultural relics, archives, and ancient books and records. At the same time, the Central People's Government assigned work teams to Lhasa, Xigaze and Shannan to conduct on-the-spot investigations of major cultural relics. A total of nine historical sites were listed among the first batch of important cultural relic sites under state-level protection by the State Council in 1961, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Ganden Monastery, Tibetan King's Tomb, Mount Dzong (Dzongri) Anti-British Monument in Gyangze County, and the Guge Kingdom ruins. Even in such a special period as the "Cultural Revolution" (1966-1976), Premier Zhou Enlai gave instructions personally that special measures be taken to protect major cultural relics like the Potala Palace from destruction. After the "Cultural Revolution," the Central People's Government took prompt measures to repair and protect a lot of historical relics, investing more than 300 million yuan to repair and open 1,400-od