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Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Culture/Customs
UPDATED: October 14, 2008 NO. 42 OCT. 16, 2008
Protection and Development of Tibetan Culture
Information Office of the State Council of the People's Republic of China
September 2008, Beijing


China is a unified multi-ethnic country. Tibet is an inseparable part of China, and the Tibetan ethnic group is an important member of the big family of the Chinese nation. The Tibetan ethnic group has a long history and a splendid culture. Tibetan culture is a lustrous pearl of Chinese culture as well as a precious part of world culture.

The Tibetans have been living on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau generation after generation. In a tough environment with unique natural conditions, they have demonstrated vitality and tenacity in pursuing a happy life. In their long history, the Tibetans have created a substantial, distinctive and diverse culture of their own through the understanding, adaptation, remaking and development of nature, society and themselves, and through cultural communication, integration and interaction with the people of the Han and other ethnic groups and peoples of southern and western Asia. Tibetan culture encompasses the indigenous spoken and written languages, philosophy, religion, medicine, astronomy and the calendar, music and dance, drama and folk performing arts, architecture, sculpture and painting, and arts and crafts. The Tibetan people have developed their culture by means of interaction and fusion with other cultures, especially that of the Han people. Over the centuries, Tibetan culture has remained a spiritual pillar for the Tibetan ethnic group.

Tibet had long been a society languishing under a system of feudal serfdom under theocratic rule, a society which was even darker than the European society of the Middle Ages, until the mid-20th century. Before 1959 the 14th Dalai Lama, as a leader of Tibetan Buddhism and also head of the Tibetan local government, monopolized both political and religious power. The serf owners, accounting for less than 5 percent of the total population of old Tibet, possessed all the means of production and cultural and educational resources in Tibet, monopolizing the material and cultural wealth of the region. The serfs and slaves, making up over 95 percent of the total population in old Tibet, suffered destitution, cruel oppression and exploitation, and possessed no means of production or personal freedom, not to mention access to culture and education. The long centuries of theocratic rule and feudal serfdom suffocated the vitality of Tibetan society and led to the decline of Tibetan culture.

The founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949 brought hope to the protection and development of Tibetan culture. Through the peaceful liberation in 1951 Tibet shook off imperialist invasion and trammels, ended its chronic isolation and stagnancy, and created the basic conditions for realizing progress and prosperity along with the rest of China. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central People's Government actively helped Tibet protect and recover its traditional culture, and develop its modern cultural, educational and health sectors, opening up a completely new chapter for the development of Tibetan culture. The Democratic Reform in 1959 abolished theocratic feudal serfdom, while ending the monopoly of the minority of nobility and senior monks over culture and education. The broad masses of serfs and slaves were politically, economically and mentally emancipated, and became the real masters in protecting, developing and enjoying Tibetan culture. The reform made Tibetan culture a people's culture, and inaugurated a promising future for its development.

Over the past half century, and especially since the adoption of the reform and opening-up policies in 1978, the Chinese Government has attached great importance to the protection and development of Tibetan culture. With great enthusiasm and a highly responsible attitude, and in accordance with the Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy, the Chinese Government has dedicated a large amount of manpower, materials and funds to the protection and promotion of fine traditional Tibetan culture, and vigorously developed modern scientific, educational and cultural undertakings in Tibet, bringing about unprecedented protection and development of Tibetan culture.

This white paper is published to give the international community a better understanding of the reality of the protection and development of Tibetan culture, citing facts to expose the lie about the "cultural genocide" in Tibet fabricated by the 14th Dalai Lama and his cohorts, exposing the deceptive nature of the "cultural autonomy of Tibet" they clamor for, and to further the protection and development of Tibetan culture.

I. Learning, Use and Development of the Spoken and Written Tibetan Languages

A member of the Han-Tibetan language family, Tibetan has been an important tool of communication for the people in Tibet over thousands of years, and an important symbol and carrier of Tibetan culture. It holds a special position among the diverse languages and cultures of the Chinese nation. For over a half century, the Chinese Government has attached great importance to guaranteeing the Tibetan people's right to learn and use the Tibetan language, both the spoken and written, and has made huge efforts in promoting the learning, use and development of it, registering major progress.

The learning and use of the spoken and written Tibetan languages are guaranteed by law. The Constitution of the People's Republic of China and the Law on Ethnic Regional Autonomy both clearly prescribe that all ethnic minorities have the freedom to use and develop their own spoken and written languages. The Tibet Autonomous Region issued and implemented the Several Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan (Trial) in 1987 and the Detailed Rules for the Implementation of Several Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan (Trial) in 1988, specifying that equal importance is given to both Tibetan and Chinese in Tibet, with priority given to Tibetan. In 2002, the Tibet Autonomous Region revised the above provisions for trial implementation into the Provisions of the Tibet Autonomous Region on the Learning, Use and Development of Tibetan, providing a reliable legal guarantee in this respect. To promote this work, in 1988 the Language Steering Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up, later renamed the Language Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan language translation institutes have been established in all prefectures (cities) and counties. At present there are over 100 Tibetan language translation institutes and nearly 1,000 specialists in translation and relevant work in Tibet.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages have been widely learned and carried forward. In old Tibet, it was a privilege of the nobility and a few monks to learn the proper Tibetan language, whereas serfs and slaves, who accounted for 95 percent of the total population, had no right in this respect whatsoever. After the peaceful liberation of Tibet, the Central People's Government paid great attention to the learning and popularization of Tibetan, and made clear requirements for people who were to go to Tibet on learning, using and spreading Tibetan. In the 1950s it held short-term training courses on Tibetan, training courses for young people, social education courses, and training courses in agricultural technologies, finance and accounting, and movie-making technology in Qamdo, Lhasa, Xigaze and other places, encouraging, supporting and organizing people of all ethnic groups in Tibet to learn Tibetan as well as science and technology. After the Tibet Autonomous Region was set up in 1965, it was stipulated that schools of all kinds and at all levels must lay stress on the learning and use of Tibetan and strengthen work on the teaching of Tibetan. A bilingual teaching system was adopted in an all-round way in the educational sector of Tibet, with priority given to teaching in Tibetan. At present, Tibetan-Chinese teaching is adopted in all the farming and pastoral areas, and in some urban primary schools, with the major courses being taught in Tibetan. Tibetan-Chinese teaching is also adopted in high schools. Moreover, courses in the Tibetan language have been opened at Tibetan high schools in the inland areas of China. In the matriculation examinations for institutions of higher learning and secondary vocational schools, Tibetan is a subject of examination and the score is included in the total score. There are now 15,523 bilingual teachers and 10,927 Tibetan-language teachers in Tibet. Altogether, 181 textbooks, 122 reference books and 16 teaching programs covering 16 subjects from primary to senior high school have been compiled and translated in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetan has been unprecedentedly popularized at all schools in Tibet.

The spoken and written Tibetan languages are widely used. Since the establishment of the Tibet Autonomous Region in 1965, both Tibetan and Chinese have been used for resolutions, laws and regulations adopted by the people's congresses at all levels, and official documents and public notices of people's governments and subordinate departments at all levels. During judicial proceedings, Tibetan is used in hearing any case involving Tibetan people, and the written Tibetan language is used for legal papers. Both Tibetan and Chinese are used for official seals, credentials, forms, envelopes, letter paper, writing paper and signs of all entities; logos of government departments, factories and mines, schools, bus and train stations, airports, shops, hotels, restaurants, cinemas, tourist attractions, sports venues and libraries; as well as signs for streets and traffic.

Since its establishment, the Tibetan People's Radio (TPR) has persisted in making good Tibetan radio programs. It now has 42 programs broadcast in standard Tibetan, including 21 hours a day for news in Tibetan, and 18 hours a day in the Kamba dialect. The TPR's annual capacity for dubbing Tibetan TV programs increased from 1,200 hours in 1996 to 9,235 hours in 2007. The Tibet Television Station formally opened a Tibetan satellite TV channel in 1999. With 21 Tibetan programs, and films and TV dramas dubbed in Tibetan, it is very popular among people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. Starting from October 1, 2007, Tibet satellite TV broadcasts 24 hours a day. Films and TV dramas dubbed in Tibetan reached 500 hours (639 episodes) in 2007, including 564 copies of films and 35 programs. Every year 25 new films dubbed in Tibetan are shown in farming and pastoral areas.

Tibetan book, newspaper and periodical publication is developing rapidly. There are nine publishing houses in China that publish books in Tibetan, including China Tibetology Publishing House, Ethnic Publishing House, Tibet People's Publishing House and Tibetan Ancient Books Publishing House. They publish more than 1,000 titles in Tibetan every year. Many ancient Tibetan books previously kept in private libraries or with only one copy extant have been collated by experts, and then published and distributed. At present, there are 14 Tibetan periodicals and 10 Tibetan newspapers in Tibet. Over 20 periodicals in China have Tibetan-language versions. The Tibetan version of Tibet Daily was expanded in July 2002 from 28 pages to 36 pages, and its daily circulation now reaches 25,000 copies. Tibetan newspapers and periodicals, such as Tibetan Science and Technology, Tibetan Scientific and Technological Information and A Guide to Help You Get Rich, are very popular among the farmers and herdsmen thirsty for scientific and technological knowledge in order to learn more experiences and master good methods in a bid to improve their lives and welfare.

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