Shannan Culture

Shannan Culture introduces how many minorities in Shannan including the information of ethnic people, ethnic cuisine, rituals, folk culture, religions, festivals, customs and habits, Mengba wedding, etc. As one of the important destinations in the classical Tibet Travel, Shannan is the base camp of 14 ethnic minorities with Tibetans as its main body and a population of about 370,000. Shannan Culture is very colorful. When you come to the mysterious Shannan, it is easy to find Tibetan architecture everywhere and listen to the Tibetan language said by Tibetan people and feel the Tibet culture.

History of Shannan

Shannan is one of the birthplaces of ancient Tibetan civilization. Legend has it that the union of Hanuman(神猴) and Raksasi(罗刹女) has given birth to a land of Tibetans with a long history and splendid culture. About forty or fifty thousand years ago, there were Tibetan ancestors in the vicinity of Yalong River Valley. The ancestors lived with leaves as the clothing and the wild fruit for the food in Yalong River Valley where gathered in the cluster of birds and beasts. After a long period of time, they gradually learned how to make bows and arrows, stone tools and other tools, and learned to raise yak and other animals and plant crops such as barley. The land of Sedom in the vicinity of Sare Village is the first farmland in Tibet.

More about Shannan History

Religion Culture

The main ethnic group, namely, Tibetan people in Shannan believe in Tibetan Buddhism. Shannan has always been reputed as a religious holy place in Tibet. The main characteristics of religion culture  are numerous monasteries and unique mysterious monastery culture. Religious festivals are an important manifestation of monastery culture, including the Butter Lamp Festival and Lotus Lantern Festival. Monasteries are the best places to know Tibetan Buddhism culture in Shannan. For the detailed information, please refer to the following:

More about Monasteries and Temples in Shannan

Shannan Architecture Culture

Architecture in Shannan is a wonderful reflection of its culture. Shannan Architecture is influenced by its geography, climate, culture, Tibetan Buddhism, etc. In the pastoral area, the tent is generally used, and the tent is woven with the yak knitting wool and is decorated with the traditional pattern. The tent is not only beautiful designed, but also keeps out wind and rain, warm in winter and cool in summer, removed conveniently, deeply loved by the herdsmen. The house in the agricultural area is mostly civil structure, usually two layers, and the lower layer is provided with sundries, and the upper part is the living room, the kitchen, the bedroom and grain depot, and the herbage and the grain are aired on the balcony. This kind of house also has three and four layers.When you are in Shannan, you will see prayer flags on the roof of the houses in Shannan.

What's more, the feature of Shannan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south. The roof of Tibetan houses are flat so that it is easier to remove frequent snows. The flat roof is also built to conserve heat as little fuel is available for heat or lighting in Shannan. Each house has many windows for letting in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as precaution measures against frequent earthquakes in the mountainous area. The most scientifically and aesthetically valuable Shannan architecture is Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and palaces, such as Samye MonasteryYungbulakang Palace.

Shannan Cuisine Culture

Shannan, or Lhoka is located in a relatively sparse area and the climate is a little bit harsh. And the special food we are going to advise is the same as the traditional food in other area. In Tibetan people's daily life, tea, fresh milk, and yogurt are indispensable. A variety of cooked wheaten food and staple have been similar to those in any other areas in China, but residents here still keep the habit of having traditional buttered tea, pork, beef and mutton. Famous food and drinks in Shannan include Yak Meat, Zanba/Tsampa, Tibetan yogurt, Buttered Tea and Highland Barley Wine, etc.

Ethnic Festivals in Shannan

Most of the Tibetan festivals on the Tibet Plateau are deeply influenced by Buddhism or rich ancestral culture. During the festivals, all the people wear traditional costume and perform different traditional dances and ritual activities. Festival is the best way to experience the diverse culture and tradition of the local and their ethnic affinity.

Folk Culture

Folk Dance

Changguo Zhuowu Dance(昌果卓舞)

Changguo Zhuowu Dance, which has a history of more than 1,300 years, is a unique dance among many folk dances in Tibet. Its long history, exquisite craftsmanship and wonderful performance are well-known in the world and are well loved by the masses. Changguo Zhuowu Dance is mainly distributed in Changguo Township, Gongga County, Shannan District.

Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance(久河卓舞)

Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance, with a history of more than 1,300 years, is a folk dance that hates demons and prays for good fortune. It is known as the drum dance in Tibet. Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance, as one of the oldest traditional dances in the world is a special art in Tibetan traditional dance culture. For every major festival, the farmers and herdsmen in Shannan have the custom of dancing Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance. In February 2008, Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance was included in the Tibet Autonomous Region-level Intangible Cultural Heritage Project. In 2011, Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance “Auspicious Drum Rhyme(吉祥鼓韵)” performed at CCTV on Lantern Festival, which made hundreds of millions of viewers appreciate the elegance of this ancient dance.

Tibetan Opera

Through the efforts of ancient folk artists and intellectuals, people created the Tibetan opera art. Generally people regard Shigatse as the birthplace of Tibetan opera, and Tang Dongjiebu as the ancestor of Tibetan opera. Tang Dongjiebu came from Shigatse, he developed Tibetan art by using folk and religious art. The Fifth Dalai Lama advocated the Tibetan Opera Festival and promoted the exchange and development of Tibetan opera. There various kinds of performances, such as totem mask dance, white mask artistic performances, and jumping God art and so on.

Menba Wedding

 Monba people live in the southeastern part of Tibet, it is a place called "door corner". Menyu is located in the southern slope of the eastern section of the Himalayas, which has mild climate, lush green trees, shed waterfalls, rivers and lakes and flowers throughout all the year. It is a spring city. When Menba people hold wedding, the man not only sent a special hand, but also hold the welcoming ceremony three times to meet the bride and the guests. This is the distinctive speciality "power Qiangsong" , that is "three course wine to meet bride." If the "three wine" are successfully passed, the wedding is expected to be successful. They also have the custom of changing clothes, drink the "East Qiang" wine and sing the "Auspicious Song".

Funeral Customs

In Shannan, there are main five kinds of funeral, including pagoda burial, cremation, sky burial, water burial, inhumation. The pagoda burial is the most formal method of burial. In general, only a more prestigious living Buddha and the master of the live Buddha are to be buried in this way only after they pass away. The cremation also belongs to a high-etiquette burial custom, only the living Buddha of the temple and Eminent monk can be buried in this way. The general secular man also has the situation of cremation, which is to be decided according to the result of the divination. Sky burial is one of the most selected funeral rites among the folk in Shannan. However, there are fewer bald eagles in Shannan. The sky burial may not be held in some areas of Shannan. Therefore, the water burial is the common burial method. The inhumation burial is generally reserved for those who have died from serious infectious diseases and for those who have died from cruel causes.

Important Etiquette

  • Offering Hada is one of the most formal manner for Tibetan people. In some occasions, such as wedding and funeral, folk festivals, visiting elders, Buddha worship, welcoming guests, etc. Tibetan people usually offer Hada. Offering Hada is to show purity, sincerity and loyalty.
  • Kowtow is a devout worship ceremony among believers in areas where Tibetan Buddhism prevails.
  • When visiting Tibetan family, the host will toast, generally highland barley wine. Guests enter the house to sit down, housewives or their offspring will pour buttered tea, but guests do not have to take it on their own until the host hold it for you.

Traditional Costume

The national dress of Tibetan people is the skirt robe, a long-sleeved loose coat worn by both men and women. The men wear a shorter version with pants underneath. The skirt robe is often made over-sized to accommodate the Tibetan way of living. When tied around the waist by a belt or sash, the upper part of a skirt robe turns into a huge pocket for carrying things, from personal items to small livestock and even a baby. When it is hot in the daytime, Tibetans undress the right arms to disperse heat. If it is even hotter, then one may undress both arms and tie the sleeves around the waist. The garments of the Tibetan costume can be made of brocade, silk, embroidered silk, satin, jacquard, leather, animal skin, wool and cotton.

Ethnic Groups in Shannan

Shannan, also known as Lhoka in Tibet, is a long-standing prefecture-city located in southeast Tibet. It literally means the south of mountain. Shannan gets its name from its location, which is in the south side of Gangdise Mountains and Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains. It is bounded by Lhasa to North, Nyingchi to east, Shigatse on west and border with India and Bhutan on the south internationally, covering a long boundary line of 600 km. With a total area of ​​79,700 square kilometers, it has jurisdiction over 12 counties. It is home to 14 ethnic groups with Tibetans as its main body and a population of about 370,000, including Han, Hui, Monba, Lhoba.

Traditional Ethnic Village in Shannan

The traditional ethnic villages usually have the well-preserved ethnic traditions, so they can be best choice for your Culture Tours in Shannan. Traveling to the traditional ethnic villages, you can explore the most authentic ethnic traditions which can't be seen anywhere else. The traditional ethnic villages in Shannan are listed below for your reference.

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Intangible Cultural Heritages and Its Inheritors in Shannan

Rich and diverse ethnic culture is the source of the intangible cultural heritages in Shannan, such as Changguo Zhuowu Dance(昌果卓舞) and Jiuhe Zhuowu Dance(久河卓舞).

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Culture Tours Including Shannan