Qamdo Ethnic Culture

Qamdo was called “Kang” or “Kemu(客木)” in ancient times. In the Tang Dynasty, Qamdo was part of the Tubo Kingdom. After the Ming and Qing dynasties, it was called the khams-gter region. The former Tibetan government called it the “Dokangmu(朵康木)” region, and now it is a prefecture-level city belonging to the Tibet Autonomous region. Located in the east of Tibet, Qamdo is located at the throat of the border between Tibet and Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan. It is also the necessary place for the Sichuan-Tibet highway and the Yunnan-Tibet highway. In ancient time, Qamdo was the important stop of Tea Horse Route and famed as the ‘Pearl of Tibet’ due to its pivot position on Tibetan commerce and trade.

Ethnic Groups

From the perspective of the ethnic composition of the population in Qamdo, Tibetans accounts for more than 95% of the total population, is the main ethnic group. In addition, there are also Han, Naxi, Dong, Miao, Li, Bai, Tujia, Yao, Buyi and other ethnic groups.

Historical Culture

Kang-pa culture 

Qamdo area is the cradle of Kang-pa culture and the Tibetan people here is called ‘Kang-pa people’. Due to territorial and social communication reason, Qamdo received Yellow River culture from Qinghai and Gansu ProvinceBa-Shu culture from Sichuan and Chongqing, and the multi-ethnic-minority culture from Yunnan and gradually affects its own culture. The language, costume, religion, custom and residence of Kang-pa culture are distinctive and profound with special charm and strong religious color.

Traditional Costume

The traditional costume of Kang-pa people in Qamdo is mainly skirt robe. The skirt robe is made from homemade Tibetan wool and sheepskin, and in winter Tibetan people wear leather robes. Kang-pa men with waist knife, bodyguard box and other items, appear strong and brave. The clothes of Kang-pa women are also famous for their grace and splendor. Kang-pa women all have headdress, chest, back, waist and other ornaments, which are often handed down from generation to generation, such as necklaces and headwear made of nine eyes stones, agate, emerald, and red coral, as well as various kinds of ornaments made of turquoise, beewax stone and sterling silver. These ornaments are worth hundreds of thousands yuan even millions yuan, and become a symbol of their family wealth.


Qamdo housing is divided into agricultural and pastoral areas. 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.

Folk Culture

Kang-pa men in Qamdo are famous for their wild and bold character. The culture and art, as well as folk customs here are not only primitive and unique, but also colorful and full of mystery. Qamdo folk literature, with a variety of types and rich content, has distinct local characteristics. In terms of variety, there are folk songs, stories, proverbs, riddles, etc.

1. Rerba Art热巴艺术

Famous Rerba art widely spreads in Qamdo folk, there are Rerba timbrel, Rerba string, Rerba acrobatics, and so on, among them Dengqen Rerba and Markam string dance are the most famous. Rerba dance is a comprehensive performing art of talking, singing, dancing and acrobatic Qigong, originated from Qiongbu of Dengqen County in Qamdo, so Dengqen has the reputation of “hometown of Rerba “.

2. Zhuo Dance卓舞

Except for Rerba acrobatics, Zhuo dance(commonly known as pot chuang) is very popular in Qamdo. When festivals, regardless of urban and rural, people get together and dance, this kind of popular song and dance can be seen everywhere.

3. Talking and Singing “Epic of King Gesar” 说唱《格萨尔王传》

Qamdo is also the main region where the famous Tibetan epic, the Epic of King Gesar, was originated and spread. There are many famous talking and singing artists and masters of art. Talking and Singing “Epic of King Gesar” is one of the favorite cultural activities for the masses of farmers and herdsmen in Qamdo. On the vast land of Qamdo, there are ruins and legends related to King Gesar.

4. Painting and Carving Art

There are many schools of painting and carving art, each has its own characteristics. For Thangka painting art, Qamdo’s “Gaxue Gazhi(嘎学噶志)” school is the most famous; For clay sculpture art, Banbar, Zhagyab and Gonjo in Qamdo are most outstanding; For stone carving art, Zhagyab, Markam and Jomda in Qamdo are amazing; Woodcut board of Bolo Township in Jomda County is well-known in Tibet, Jomda is worthy of the name of the “hometown of woodcut.” The works of art created by these local folk artists are not only the manifestation of Kang-pa culture, but also the treasures of Tibetan culture and art.

Custom Culture

1. Ethnic Festivals

Tibetan Festivals are traditionally based on lunar calendar. Most of the Tibetan festivals on the Tibetan plateaus 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. Ethnic festivals in Qamdo mainly include Tibetan New Year, Zhongque Festival and Horse Ricing Festival, etc. Festivals and Activities in Qamdo

2. Funeral Custom

From the funeral customs of Qamdo city, there are main nine kinds of funeral, including pagoda burial, cremation, sky burial, water burial, inhumation, secondary burial, wall burial, multi-burial and snow burial. 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 Qamdo; Water burial belongs to a lower level of burial for children, orphans, widowed mothers and those with lower economic conditions; In Qamdo, it is very rare to use the inhumation, and the burial is generally reserved for those who have died from serious infectious diseases and for those who have died from cruel causes.

3. Etiquette 

A. Offering Hada is one of the most common manners of Tibetan minority. Wedding and funeral, folk festivals, visits to elders, Buddha worship, welcome guests and other occasions, usually offer Hada. Hada is a raw silk product, the length is different, offering Hada is to show purity, sincerity and loyalty.

B. Kowtow is a devout worship ceremony among believers in areas where Tibetan Buddhism prevails.

C. When visiting Tibetan family, the host will toast, generally highland barley wine. Tea is a daily ritual. 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.

D. Tibetans attach great importance to gifts, any celebration must give gifts. Generally speaking, no gift without return, and the number of gifts are often doubled, otherwise it is petty and impolite.