Ethinic Minorities in Tibet

The Tibet Autonomous Region is one of the five autonomous areas in China at the provincial level where regional ethnic autonomy is exercised, as well as an ethnic autonomous area with Tibetans as the main local inhabitants. In the Tibet Autonomous Region there are a dozen other ethnic groups besides the Tibetans – Han, Hui, Moinba, Lhoba, Naxi, Nu, Drung and Deng and Sherpa which are not recognised by the government of People’s Republic of China. They have lived in the region for generations, and Moinba, Lhoba and Naxi ethnic townships have been established there. Tibetans are the dominant groups in Tibet, which accounts for over 90% of the whole population. In Tibetan language, the Tibetans call themselves “Boba” but differ from place to place. We have introduced the main ethnic groups in the following list, please keep reading. 

1. Tibetan Ethnic Minority

With a population of more than 5 million, Tibetan nationality mainly live in Tibet Autonomous Region in southeast China, and neighboring provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. The areas where Tibetans live in compact community are mostly highlands and mountainous country studded with snow-capped peaks, one rising higher than the other. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau rising about 4,000 meters above sea level is run through from west to east by the Qilian, Kunlun, Tanggula, Gangdise and Himalaya mountain ranges. The Hengduan Mountains, descending from north to south, runs across the western part of Sichuan and Yunnan provinces.

2. Deng Ethnic People

The Deng is an ethnic group that is not officially recognised by the government of People’s Republic of China. They are also known as the Dengba. The Deng are one of the smallest peoples inhabiting inside Chinese borders. They live in Tibet’s Zayu County and virgin forest areas between the Himalayas and the Hengduan Mountains at an elevation of 1000 meters. Currently, there are 9 Deng villages. They are divided at least in two groups: Darang and Geman, and they have their own spoken language, derived from the Tibeto-Burman language branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. one of the smallest peoples inhabiting inside Chinese borders. Isolated in the southeast border of Tibet, are divided at least in two groups: Darang and Geman, that the experts say are related with the Mishmi-Miju peoples living in Arunachal Pradesh province in India.

3. Lhoba Ethnic Minority

“Lhoba” simply means “southerners” in Tibetan, and refers to the approximately 3000 inhabitants in Mainling, Medog, Lhunze and Nangxian counties. Lhoba people are the smallest of the 56 ethnic groups in China and live in South-eastern Tibet. Most people designated as “Lhoba” within the modern-day Tibet Autonomous Region (“TAR”) actually refer to themselves via a diverse set of endonyms, speak different languages, and do not traditionally self-identify as a single entity. The two main tribal groups which fall under the designation “Lhoba” in the TAR are the Mishmi people, who speak the Idu Mishmi language, and the speakers of the Bokar dialect of Abo Tani, who are found in far greater numbers inside Arunachal Pradesh, a state of modern-day India claimed by China. Other groups identified by Chinese authorities as “Lhoba” include the Tagin people, who speak the Bangni-Tagin language.

4. Monpa Ethnic Minority

The Monpa people are spread across Arunachal Pradesh in India, Bhutan and Tibet. Considerably fewer Monpa still live in Tibet and are featured among the 56 ethnic groups recognized by the Chinese Government. There are around 25,000 Monpa living in Tibet(Cona County, Pelung in Bayi District, and Medog County). These places have a low altitude, especially Medog County, which has a tropical climate unlike the rest of Tibet. 

5. Sherpa Ethnic People

Sherpa is one of the major ethnic groups native to the most mountainous regions of Nepal, as well as certain areas of China, Bhutan, India, and the Himalayas. The term Sherpa derives from the Sherpa language words Shar (“east”) and Wa (“people”), which refer to their geographical origin in Tibet. The Sherpas, who are not officially recognised by the government of People’s Republic of China, lived deep in the mountains and were virtually isolated from the rest of the world until they became known as guides or porters to various Everest expeditions. Mount Everest introduced Sherpas to the world.