Introduction: What is a Tibetan name? How do we know that this city’s name is actually “Tibetan for Land of the Gods”?
Every place we know has a name. Some are so self-explanatory that they don’t require an introduction, like Paris, the city of laughter, or Barcelona, the city of blood. Yet there always seem to be a few surprises in this world—a locality with an unusual name that you can’t help but wonder about. For example, did you know that Paris, the city of laughter, is also the city of iron and ironworks (one of the largest in Europe), and that it was probably more important than ever in the French Revolution? Did you know that Barcelona, the city of blood, is also one of Spain’s busiest ports? And did you know that both cities have names that are very similar to their real-life counterparts? …We bet you didn’t! This is because there are different kinds of names, which can be either literal (meaning exactly what they say), etymological (derived from the origin of their name), or metaphorical (they sound similar to a certain thing in some way, like the Spanish cities we just mentioned).
Tibetan names can also be categorized this way. We’ll take today’s subject as an example: Lhasa. Is it just a coincidence that the city of Lhasa has such a striking name? Or is it possible that this city has just as literal an existence as Paris or Barcelona?
The answer is no, it is not. Lhasa is a place, but it’s also something more: It’s the name of a civilization, which flourished in Tibet from approximately 600 to 1200 AD (1).
What are the Different Names for Tibet?
There are a few different names that Tibetans use to refer to their country. The most common is Bod སྤྲུལ་, which is Tibetan for “Land of Snows”, or “Land of White Earth”. There’s also the older Tibetan name for Tibet, Bö འོ་ in tibetan, which means “Well [of] dharma”. Another name is TǍi ཆུ་, which is “Middle Land” of The Middle Way. There are also many other names for Tibet in various dialects as well.
There are a few different names that Tibetans use to refer to their country. The most common is Bod wo , which is Tibetan for “Land of Snows”, or “Land of White Earth”. There’s also the older Tibetan name for Tibet, Bö yin in tibetan, which means “Well [of] dharma”. Another name is TǍi gan , which is “Middle Land” of The Middle Way. There are also many other names for Tibet in various dialects as well.
The area now known as Tibet has been formally and informally known by many different names. The Tibetan name for Tibet is Bod སྤྲུལ་, which is Tibetan for “Land of Snows”, or “Land of White Earth”. (“Bod” སྤ means white, “Sprot” ས་ means snow, and “-lung” ྅ is a common suffix. So “Bö” འོ་ is a Tibetan name for Tibet.) This name is still used in the region of Kham, the eastern part of Tibet.
How to Find out Which Tibetans lived in which area?
Modern-day Tibet is a large country with many people. This used to be even more true in the past, when the size of Tibet was greater than it is today. As such, there are many Tibetan dialects that are spoken and written in different Tibetan areas throughout the country. There are also two groups of Tibetan people: Monpa and Khamba. The Monpa came from the eastern Tibetan regions, while the Khamba came from the western Tibetan regions. The Monpa are mainly found in Arunachal Pradesh, India, and parts of Nepal and China. They originally moved to these areas during the 8th century in order to escape oppression by Tibetans; later, they separated into two groups—one group stayed in Arunachal Pradesh and another group continued on to Bhutan. The Khamba came from the central Tibetan regions, and they live in the western parts of Nepal and northeastern parts of Darjeeling.
The Khambas consist of four groups: the Sherdukpen, Chonyi-Ngawang, Brokpa, and Tamangs. These groups were relatively isolated from one another until they were forced to unite by the Bhutanese government in 1961. At that time, their population was approximately 150,000. Today, the Khamba live primarily in the western parts of Nepal, Bhutan, and Darjeeling in India.
The Sherdukpen lived mostly in south Tibet. They are more numerous today than they were before the Chinese takeover of Tibet (1950s). The Chonyi-Ngawang live in the eastern regions of Arunachal Pradesh, India. The Brokpa are similar to their Sherdukpen cousins and live in the center and east of Arunachal Pradesh. The Tamangs are the most numerous of the Khamba and live in the eastern and western parts of Nepal.
The 5th Dalai Lama and His Difficult Life as a Buddhist Monk
The 5th Dalai Lama was born in Tsang in 1617, during the time of the Fifth Karmapa. The young incarnation was very curious and had many questions from an early age. His mother, who was pregnant at the time of his birth, died shortly after his birth. As such, he was brought up by Kunsang Dechen Gyalpo, his father’s uncle and a scholar who studied under Geshe Tashi Drakpa at Rongpo Monastery near Shigatse. He was a great spiritual teacher, inspiring both his own family and others to become interested in Buddhism and to take up the robes.
The young Dalai Lama was said to be a boy with few friends. Since his mother had died and his father was busy governing, he spent most of his time with adults. One of the friends he did have was Tsewang Lekpai Choekyi Gyaltsen, a monk who later became known as Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa II. The older boy and the Dalai Lama often studied and talked together, with Tsewang becoming the junior’s tutor when they were not preoccupied with hunting.