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David Snellgrove

They often wear a huge conical felt hat, whose shape varies according to the district they come from; sometimes its peak supports a kind of mortarboard from which dangles a thick woolen fringe. In order to prevent their hats being blown away, they attach them to their heads with the long braid I have just described, and which has to be unwound for the purpose.


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In their left ear they wear a heavy silver ring decorated with a huge ornament of either coral or turquoise. Their costume is not elaborate. It normally consists only of a chuba , a long capacious robe with wide, elongated sleeves which hang almost to the ground.

This is caught up at the waist by a woolen girdle, so that its skirts reach only to the knees and its upper folds form an enormous circular pocket round its wearer's chest. This is called the ampa , and in it are stowed a wide range of implements — an eating bowl, a bag of tsampa , and many other small necessities. Many chubas are made of wool, either the plain gray wool they spin in Sikang or the splendid, warm, soft stuff from Lhasa, dyed a rich dark red.

The nomads, on the other hand, generally wear a sheepskin chuba , hand-sewn and crudely tanned in butter, with the fleece on the inside. The town-dwelling Tibetans, prosperous merchants for the most part, supplement this garment with cotton or woolen drawers and a cotton or silk undershirt with long sleeves, but the nomads normally wear nothing at all underneath it, though in winter they sometimes put on sheepskin drawers.

The Tibetans hardly ever do their chubas up over their chests. The right shoulder and arm are almost always left free, and when they are on the march or at work the whole top part of the robe is allowed to slip down so that it is supported only by the belt. This leaves them naked above the waist and clad in a very odd-looking sort of skirt below it. They hardly feel the cold at all and in the depth of winter, heedless of frost or snow or wind, they trudge imperturbably along with their bosoms bared to the icy blast. Their feet, too, are bare inside their great high boots.

These have soft soles of raw, untanned leather; the loose-fitting leg of the boot, which may be red or black or green, has a sort of woolen garter around the top of it which is fastened to the leg above the knee with another, very brightly colored strip of woolen material. Pilgrim with prayer wheel, Tsurphu Monastery , Monk's robes in a gompa.

The Cuisine of Tibet is quite distinct from that of its neighbours. Tibetan crops must be able to grow at high altitudes, although a few areas in Tibet are low enough to grow such crops as rice, oranges, lemon and bananas.

Chinese Buddhism

Flour milled from roasted barley, called tsampa , is the staple food of Tibet. It is eaten mostly mixed with the national beverage, the butter tea. Butter tea perfectly fits the needs of the human body in these high altitudes as it contains butter protein and fat , milk protein, fat and calcium , salt and tea. Tibetan cuisine contains a wide variety of dishes.

The most famous are Momos Tibetan dumplings. Balep is Tibetan bread eaten for breakfast and lunch. There many other types of balep bread and fried pies. Thukpa is noodle soup. It consists of noodles of various shapes, vegetables, and meat in broth.

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Tibetan cuisine is traditionally served with bamboo chopsticks , in contrast to other Himalayan cuisines which are eaten by hand. Small soup bowls are also used by Tibetans, and the rich are known to have used bowls of gold and silver. Meat dishes are likely to be yak , goat , or mutton , often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Tibetans would never eat dogs and fish only in special cases as dogs are regarded as domestic animals and also guard dogs, and fishes are one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism.

Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features strongly in its cuisine. Yak yogurt , butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yogurt is considered something of a prestige item. In larger Tibetan towns and cities many restaurants nowadays serve Sichuan-style Chinese food. Western imports and fusion dishes, such as fried yak and chips, are also popular.

Nevertheless, many small restaurants serving traditional Tibetan dishes persist in both cities and the countryside. Jasmine tea and yak butter tea are drunk. Alcoholic beverages include:. Tibetans traditionally venerate their elders within their families. Tibetans used to practice polyandry widely. Harrer also mentions the practice of polygyny in one particular case: a man marrying "several daughters of a house in which there is no son and heir.

The Tibetan calendar is the lunisolar calendar , that is, the Tibetan year is composed of either 12 or 13 lunar months , each beginning and ending with a new moon. A thirteenth month is added approximately every three years, so that an average Tibetan year is equal to the solar year. The months have no names, but are referred to by their numbers except the fourth month which is called the saka dawa, celebrating the birth and enlightenment of Buddha.

The Tibetan New Year celebration is Losar. Each year is associated with an animal and an element. The animals alternate in the following order:.

Each element is associated with two consecutive years, first in its male aspect, then in its female aspect. The sex may be omitted, as it can be inferred from the animal.

[Tibetan Program]Myths of Tibetan Folk Literature

The element-animal designations recur in cycles of 60 years, starting with a female Fire- Rabbit year. These big cycles are numbered. The first cycle started in Therefore, roughly corresponds to the female Wood- Rooster year of the 17th cycle, and corresponds to a male Earth- Rat year of the same cycle. The days of the week are named for celestial bodies. A Khata is a traditional ceremonial scarf given in Tibet. It symbolizes goodwill, auspiciousness and compassion.

It is usually made of silk , and the color is generally white to symbolise the pure heart of the giver. It would be regarded impolite, even rude, to offer a dirty Khata. The khata is a highly versatile gift. It can be presented at any festive occasions to a host or at weddings , funerals , births , graduations , arrivals and departure of guests etc. The Tibetans commonly give a kind acknowledgment of "Tashi Delek" meaning good luck at the time of presenting. A gift traditionally given at the time of a new birth is that of an ibex figurine, as described below by August Hermann Francke.

He gave me one of those figures, which are made of flour and butter, and told me that it was a custom in Tibet and Ladakh, to make presents of "flour-ibex" on the occasion of the birth of a child. This is quite interesting information. I had often wondered why there were so many rock carvings of ibex at places connected with the pre-Buddhist religion of Ladakh.

Now it appears probable that they are thank offerings after the birth of children. As I have tried to show in my previous article, people used to go to the pre-Buddhist places of worship, in particular, to pray to be blessed with children. The music of Tibet reflects the cultural heritage of the trans-Himalayan region, centered in Tibet but also known wherever ethnic Tibetan groups are found in India , Bhutan , Nepal and further abroad.

First and foremost Tibetan music is religious music , reflecting the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the culture. Tibetan music often involves chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals.

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Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Other styles include those unique to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the classical music of the popular Gelug school and the romantic music of the Nyingma , Sakya and Kagyu schools. This organization specialized in the lhamo , an operatic style, before branching out into other styles, including dance music like toeshey and nangma.


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  • Nangma is especially popular in the karaoke bars of the urban center of Tibet, Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the classical gar style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. Lu are a type of songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches which are typically sung by nomads. There are also epic bards who sing of Tibet's national hero, Gesar. Tibetans are well represented in Chinese popular culture. Tibetan singers are particularly known for their strong vocal abilities, which many attribute to the high altitudes of the Tibetan Plateau.

    In , he starred in Sherwood Hu 's Prince of the Himalayas , an adaptation of Shakespeare 's Hamlet , set in ancient Tibet and featuring an all-Tibetan cast. Tibetan music has influenced certain styles of Western music, such as new-age. Philip Glass , Henry Eichheim and other composers are known for Tibetan elements in their music. The first Western fusion with Tibetan music was Tibetan Bells in The soundtrack to Kundun , by Glass, has also popularized Tibetan music in the West.

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    Foreign styles of popular music have also had a major impact within Tibet. Indian ghazal and filmi are very popular, as is rock and roll , an American style which has produced Tibetan performers like Rangzen Shonu.

    Gaoyuan Hong in particular has introduced elements of Tibetan language rapping into their singles. The Tibetan folk opera known as Ache Lhamo " sister goddess", is a combination of dances, chants and songs. The repertoire is drawn from Buddhist stories and Tibetan history. Lhamo was founded in the fourteenth century by the Thang Tong Gyalpo , a lama and important historical civil engineer. Gyalpo and seven recruited girls organized the first performance to raise funds for building bridges that would facilitate transportation in Tibet. The tradition continued, and lhamo is held on various festive occasions such as the Linka and Shoton festivals.