Tibet by any name is a thrill for travelers
Tibet has been known by many different names over the centuries: Thubet, Thibet, Tubba and Tebet are just a few of the renderings. One scholar suggested the name derived from what Tibetans used to call Upper Tibet — Stod Bod — pronounced Teu Beu or To Bo.
Whatever the case, Tibetans always called their homeland Bo or Bod, referring to it in their poetry as Khang Yul, the Land of Snows, or Ngram-grog-chi, the Land of Deep Canyons.
Chinese have called it Xizang, or Western Treasure, which is the name that appears on all Chinese maps. The name Tibet is an alien invention.
Amaury de Riencourt describes Tibet as “the most gigantic fortress in the world … a natural fort of a million square miles, standing in the heart of Asia and dominating the entire continent.”
It’s a place of high plateaus, lofty peaks, and a huge number of lakes, most are shallow, all alkaline, and many of great size.
The highest lake in the world is found here: Hora Tso at 17,930 feet elevation. Compare this to Waterton, the highest lake in North America 4,200 feet, and Neuchatel, highest in Europe at 1,437 feet.
The world's highest town is here -- Wenchuan, sitting at a breathtaking 16,732 feet.
A Sino-French expedition found the earth’s crust under the plateau is double the thickness found elsewhere around the globe – 50 miles thick as opposed to 20 miles.
The plateau started to rise 60 million years ago and reached its present height 2 million years ago. This was about the time of the earliest hominid found in China
All major rivers of Asia originate on the Tibetan plateau. The Indus, Sutlej, Ganges and Brahmaputra rise near Mount Kailash and flow towards the west.
The Salween in central Tibet, the Mekong in north Tibet and the Yangtze and Yellow rivers all flow towards the east.
The Brahmaputra, literally “son of Buddha” is called Yarlung Tsangpo by Tibetans and is Tibet’s largest river, joining with the Nyang River at Xigatse. Near the border with Assam the river surges through the world’s deepest gorge (9,800 feet) — 28 miles long — serving to isolate Tibet from its southern neighbor.
Tibet has three regions: Kham, Amdo and U Tsang. The best religion is said to comes from U Tsang, best men from Kham and best horses from Amdo.
Central Asia has the most continental climate in the world. Temperature swings between day and night often exceed 80 degrees F. There is little rainfall – seven inches a year on average.
Major crops are barley, wheat, black peas; also maize, beans, buckwheat, mustard and hemp. Willows and poplar are common, as are apricot, peach, apple, pear, and walnut trees. Strawberries, rhubarb and mushrooms are abundant.
Tibet boasts a great variety of wildlife: tiger, leopard, black bear, red bear, monkey. Wolf, fox, marmot, hare, wild dog, wild pig, wild goat, deer, musk deer, antelope, wild yak, wild ass, lynx, rock snake, otter and porcupine are also found here.
Lammergeyers soar in the thin air. Crows are everywhere. They are large, the size of a chicken, like the crows in the High Arctic. Magpie, parrot, owl, eagle, vulture, wild red duck, wild cock, partridge, white goose, woodpecker, swallow, blackbird, lark, sandpiper, cuckoo, stork, pigeon, dove, waterfowl are all native to the region.
Domestic animals include yaks and dzo, as the cross between a female yak and a bull is called. The dzo are excellent for plowing.
Tibet is known for wool and cloth, rugs, furs, drugs, musk, salt and silver. It is rich in lithium, lead, antimony, and other rare metals. It also has abundant gold-bearing sands.
Every spring as many as 100,000 people head off into the hills, gold pans in hand to try their luck. For religious reasons nuggets are left untouched; only gold dust is collected.