Tibet is located on the highest plateau in the world. Most of the Himalayan mountain range lies within Tibet, including Mount Everest, on the border with Nepal. The nation historically consisted of the regions of Amdo in Northeast, Kham in East, U in Central Tibet, and Tsang in the West. Several major rivers have their sources in the plateau including the Yangtze, Yellow River, Indus, Mekong, Brahmaputra, and Ganges.
Tibet is one of the world's last ancient civilizations, with a highly developed classical religion, postal system, government, system of medicine, styles of dress, spoken language, written script, poetry, and specialized forms of painting and music. Tibetan language, unlike Chinese, is alphabetical rather than pictorial, and nationwide there are numerous regional dialects. Tibet's laws, as an independent nation, were completely unrelated to those of any other country, and were first implemented in 7th century AD under the Tibetan religious king Songtsen Gampo - who also sent scholars to India to study and master Sanskrit, and then translate Buddhist texts and some of the Indian literature into Tibetan. Over a period of seven hundred years, religion and literature migrated into Tibet in this way - a monumental undertaking, the likes of which has never been accomplished by any other civilization.
Over time, as Buddhism flourished in Tibet, the laws also became closely intertwined with religious beliefs. It was then that the Dalai Lama began ruling the nation successively, as the relationship with China remained religiously oriented; China was patron to Tibet's religious kings and lamas. Tibetans called their relationship "priest-patron."
All of Tibet's rich traditions flourished freely in this land of prosperity, breathtaking beauty, and peace. This great civilization was centered around the core value of true humanity, and within this perspective was an incomparable sense of compassion for all beings.
Tibet's rich folk music tradition was passed down orally, and remained virtually unknown to the rest of the world for centuries. Today it serves as essentially the repository of the Tibetan culture itself. The music represents centuries of cultural heritage, and what Tibetans call a history that is "longer than the river. " The songs are the only form of Tibetan culture originating directly from Tibetans themselves.
Singing and dancing came so naturally to all Tibetans, that the saying arose that "Anyone with a mouth can sing, and with legs can dance." This gave rise to an extensive collection of folk songs that span the entire Tibetan plateau. Each valley has it's own particular style of singing and dancing, as well as costumes; this makes the musical heritage as diverse as it is prolific. But no matter where in Tibet the songs originate, and no matter what song you find yourself singing, each song resonates with the essential Tibetan element of compassion.
A veritable blueprint of all the aspects of Tibetan lifestyle and beliefs reaching far into the nation's ancient past, this music heritage recounts the people's views on the creation of the universe, the value of compassion, the importance of living in harmony with each other, the beauty of the land, respect for one's parents, and the joys of being in love - just to name a few.
While most Tibetan folk songs could be sung anytime or anywhere, songs were routinely sung while working in the field shepherding, sowing and harvesting crops, gathering to spend time with friends and family, and celebrating special occasions such as weddings, religious festivals, or yearly holidays like Tibetan New Year.
When China invaded Tibet using military force in 1949, Tibetan culture was flourishing. China's Chairman Mao Tse Tung set out to bring Tibet into the Communist fold and thereafter destroyed thousands of monasteries, killed over a million Tibetans, and began repopulating Tibet with Han Chinese. As a highly developed esoteric and classical culture, more efficiently equipped with monastics and scholars than soldiers, the Tibetans were hard pressed to fight off Chinese aggressors. Their eventual defeat marked the end of Tibet's sovereignty as a nation, and it was renamed by China as the Tibet Autonomous Region.
In the 1960's, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution inside Tibet, culture was considered one of the "three poisons." Chinese Communist policy was to destroy what remained of Tibetan culture before the Chinese invasion, and to replace it with Communist propaganda. The function of music under Mao's rule was to align Tibetan mentality with the Communist ideology, and remove the traces within the Tibetan mind of their old way of life. Many Tibetans were killed or punished for practicing Tibetan music during this time.
During the chaos and the imminent threat, the current 14th Dalai Lama, fled to India in 1959, where he has been the head of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile ever since. Thousands of Tibetans have escaped Tibet and followed Him into exile. Those living inside Tibet today have no real leader inside their own country, and no real freedom; and the incredibly rich and historical culture of Tibet is disappearing before our very eyes.
Now, with nomads being displaced by force into the cities, the completion of a railway between Tibet and China, and the subsequent influx of numerous Chinese settlers and shopkeepers, the tradition is disappearing ever more rapidly.
While it is no longer officially illegal to practice Tibetan culture, it is still frowned upon. It is rare to find Tibetan folk songs in the capital city of Lhasa, Tibet. The function they served in traditional Tibetan life, as it was before the Chinese invasion of 1949, has been uprooted. Young Tibetans now speak Chinese almost exclusively, and are attracted to modern music and culture.
Tibet still continues its predominantly peaceful struggle for cultural autonomy within the People's Republic of China, whose hatred for all reminders of Tibet has led them to refuse even to speak with the Dalai Lama himself on the issue. Despite the disappearance of Tibetan folk songs and traditional culture as a result of the Chinese occupation, most Tibetans still have a core belief in the value of Tibetan culture, and a willingness to fight for its survival. To this day, many Tibetans have been imprisoned, or even killed trying to obtain the right to artistic freedom inside Tibet. Tibet in Song is a testament to the courage of all those Tibetans who continue to fight for their culture.
Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts
The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA) is the premiere exile institute entrusted with the responsibility of preserving and promoting Tibet’s unique tradition of performing arts. On His arrival in India in 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama felt the need to take immediate steps to preserve the traditional performing arts before it was lost forever. Thus, TIPA was established in August 1959, four months after His arrival in India. TIPA is a vibrant and creative institute, based in Dharamsala, north India. The institute has 112 members, including artistes, instructors, administrative staff and craftsmen, all of whom live on the institute’s premises. The members work with a clear sense of direction towards the preservation of our ancient culture.
Tibetan Youth Congress
The Tibetan Youth Congress (TYC) is a worldwide organization of Tibetans united in our common struggle for the restoration of complete independence for the whole of Tibet, which includes the tradition three provinces of U-Tsang, Do-toe, and Do-med. An independent organization, with a written constitution and its own plans and programs, TYC has emerged as the largest and most active non-governmental organization of Tibetans in exile. It has more than 30,000 members worldwide.
GU CHU SUM
This is the organization of former Tibetan political prisoners. The Gu-Chu-Sum (9-10-3) Movement of Tibet was established in 1991 in Dharamsala, India, by ex-political prisoners of the Tibetan freedom movement. It was first organized by monks, nuns and lay people with a heartfelt wish to help Tibetans remaining in prisons in Tibet, and to provide support to ex-political prisoners who had journeyed to India to escape Chinese-occupied Tibet. Gu-Chu-Sum is endorsed by His Holiness The Dalai Lama, the Tibetan Government-In-Exile, and the Indian Government. All 430 members of Gu-Chu-Sum are former political prisoners.
Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy
TCHRD is a Tibetan NGO that investigates the human rights situation in Tibet and presents this information internationally in various forms. They also organize educational programs and promote the principles of democracy within the Tibetan community. They cover what is happening inside Tibet and try to make available as much information as possible from inside Tibet.
International Tibet Support Network
The International Tibet Support Network (ITSN) is a global coalition of Tibet-related non-governmental organisations. Its purpose is to maximise the effectiveness of the worldwide Tibet movement, which is dedicated to ending human rights violations in Tibet and to working actively to restore the Tibetan people's right under international law to determine their future political, economic, social, religious and Cultural status. ITSN pursues its goals by working to increase the capacity of individual Member Organisations, through the coordination of strategic campaigns and by increased cooperation among organizations, thereby strengthening the Tibet movement as a whole.