Tibet - At a glance


Prayer wheels Lhasa Tibet China by Phuong D Nguyen, Shutterstock
Tibetan prayer wheels for sale at a Lhasa market © Phuong D Nguyen, Shutterstock

Tibet at a glance

Location The landlocked region of the Tibetan plateau is the highest in Asia, with an average elevation of 4,600m; all major rivers in Asia are sourced in Tibet

Neighbouring countries India, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma – and China

Size/Area Ethnic Tibet: 2.3 million km²; Tibet Autonomous Region: 1.2 million km²

Climate Extreme, oscillating from freezing cold to searing heat; cool, high and dry

Status Nation under Communist occupation forces since Chinese invasion in 1950.

Population Ethnic Tibet: est. 6 million Tibetans and 7.5 million Han Chinese; Tibet Autonomous Region: 3 million Tibetans

Capital (and population) Lhasa, population estimated at 700,000 (Tibetan and Han Chinese)

Other main towns Shigatse, Gyantse, Tsedang, Bayi, Ali, Chamdo

Economy Agriculture (barley, wheat, millet and buckwheat) and animal husbandry; a key industry is craft production; major mineral reserves have been identified, including uranium. It is not known how much wealth is generated from mining in Tibet, but the figures could be very high. One official Chinese source cites the discovery of over 110 kinds of minerals in Tibet, conservatively estimated as being worth over US$120 billion. The real value could be ten times that amount. Mining will certainly become a significant part of economic exploitation of Tibet: most minerals are exported to mainland China.

GDP Accurate figures not known

Languages/Official language Tibetan; the official language is Mandarin

Religion Maoist-manipulated Tibetan Buddhism

Currency Chinese yuan renminbi (Y)

Exchange rate £1 = Y8.90; US$1 = Y6.28; €1 = Y7.77 (April, 2018)

Major airlines Air China (CA), China Southern Airlines (CZ), China Eastern Airlines (MU), Sichuan Airlines (3U) and Tibet Airlines (TV)

Principal airport Gongkar Airport, 60km from Lhasa

International telephone code +86 891 (Lhasa)

Time Tibet runs on Beijing time (GMT+8, PST+16)

Electrical voltage 220 volts, 50 hertz, with variety of plugs; erratic and unreliable

Weights and measures Standard metric

Flag Chinese flag – five yellow stars on blood-red background; the Tibetan snow lion flag is outlawed

National anthem Per Gyallu (outlawed in Tibet)

National sports Meditating (temples), horse racing (nomad summer festivals)

Public holidays Losar, Tibetan New Year – usually February; International Labour Day, 1–3 May; Chinese National Day, 1–3 October

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Tibet’s most impressive temples and pilgrimage sites

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