Verbal and Nonverbal Communication in Tibet Amy Bailey, Benjamin Capshaw, Jennifer Burns, Jennifer Claggett, Jordan Coby 3 March 2011
Understanding the History of Tibet By: Jennifer Burns Topics to Include: Geography, Tibetan Facts, History and Government (Wikipedia 2011) (Beebee 2010) Culture is a learned system of knowledge, behavior, attitudes, beliefs, values, and norms that is shared by a group of people and shaped from one generation to the next. (Pg. 150)
Geography of Tibet
Tibet is located on the continent of Asia.
It is bordered by India on the south and the west. Nepal and Bhuton border in the south. China in the north and east.
It sits on the highest plateau in the world, at an average elevation of 16,000 ft.
Culture and Communication: (Beebe 2010) You may not plan to travel the world but the world is traveling to you. (Pg. 149)
The overall climate is rather harsh, with thin air, insufficient oxygen, intense sunlight, and ultraviolet radiation.
Northern Tibet sits at an altitude of 14,764 feet and winter lasts about nine months and is dry and bitterly cold with an average temperature below zero. The best time to visit this region is during July and August, when visitors can enjoy fresh air, warm temperature, vast green grassland, as well as the snow-capped peaks.
Central Tibet is a holy land with many great Buddhist monasteries. The geothermal springs here are known for their remedial abilities to cure many skin diseases. The best time to visit is June through September.
The Southernmost area of Tibet’s lowest temperature reaches -34°C. It is the site where the hotspot of mountaineering exploration of the Himalayas is located.
Tibet is referred to as the “Roof of the Earth” because of it’s high elevation. (Wikipedia 2011)
Mt. Everest, the highest mountain on Earth is located on the border of Tibet and Nepal, sitting at an elevation of 29,029ft.
The capital of Tibet is Lhasa City.
Tibet is home to the Tibetan people, as well as a few other ethnic groups: Monpas, Lhobas, and Han and Hui people.
The official language of Tibet is both Mandarin and Standard Tibetan. Many Tibetans also speak Hindi, Bhutanese or Nepali. Tibetan is the language most used in daily interaction whereas Mandarin has become the language of commerce.
Tibet has long been an independent country with it’s own unique culture with it’s own spoken and written languages, system of government, currency, postal system, style of Buddhism, costume, and architecture.
Over 1500 lakes are sprinkled over Tibet, of which most are located on the northern plateau, making it the area in China with the highest lake density and earning it the reputation of being the 'Hometown of Lakes'.
The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture, though tourism has become a growing industry in Tibet in recent decades.
The currency of Tibet is Chinese Yuan Renminbi
The staple food of Tibetan is Tsampa (roasted barley flour), while the National Drink is salted butter tea.
The most famous animal belonging to Tibet is Yak, which provides manifold services
The Qinghai-Tibet Railway line, linking the region to Qinghai in China, is the world’s highest railway line.
There are two world Heritage sites located in Tibet, Potala Palace and Norbuligka, which were the former residences of the Dalai Lama.
Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely followed religion in Tibet.
The prime crop of Tibet is barley.
(Beebe 2010) Ethnocentrism is the attitude that our own cultural approaches are superior to those of other cultures. (p. 157)
Historical Facts, Dates and Events
Humans inhabited Tibet 21,000 years ago.
The history of a unified Tibet begins with the rule of Songtsan Gampo, who founded the Tibetan Empire.
In 1578, Altan Khan of the Tümed Mongols gave Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the Gelugpa school, the name Dalai Lama; Dalai being the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or "Ocean“ (Wikipedia 2011)
Tibet has been under the control of China since 1951
The Tibet Autonomous Region, which is commonly referred to as Tibet, is only a part of the historic country of Tibet, created by China for administrative purposes.
The current Dalai Lama is Tibet's political and spiritual leader, who fled from Tibet in 1959 and came to Dharamsala, India.
Dalai Lama, along with over 100,000 Tibetans, established the Tibetan Government in Exile, which is a parliamentary form of government, with its base in Dharamshala, India. It is not recognized.
Barriers to Bridging Differences and Adapting to Others-(Beebe 2010) Our hopes for peace and prosperity among all of the world’s peoples are often dashed when we read of violent clashes between people of different religions, sexual orientations, and ethnicities. (p. 157)
(Wikipedia, 2011) (dalailamafilm.com)
Tibetans traditionally have merged politics and religion. Before China took control of Tibet, monasteries played major roles in administering. Tibet and the monasteries and their leaders often fought among one another for political dominance. The Tibetan government at that time was a theocracy controlled by lamas and monks from their monasteries. The bureaucracy was under the control of the Dalai Lama. It had a religious branch and a secular branch which collected taxes and provided government services. Local governments were run by village headmen and estate stewards. They collected taxes and settled disputes. Tibetan style government still prevails in remote areas of Tibet. (Hays 2008) The history of the Tibetan Government in Exile began in 1949, when China invaded Tibet. Until this point, Tibet was an independent entity. The Tibetan Government in Exile includes a full cabinet with officials who focus on issues like education, public service, religion, culture, health, finances, and security. The Central Tibetan Administration, is an advocacy group subordinate to the 14 th Dahlia Lama. The Dalai Lama is the exiled political and religious leader of Tibet. It’s goals are to rehabilitate Tibetan refuges and restore freedom and happiness in Tibet. It’s internal structure is government-like, however it claims that it is not designed to take power., and it will be dissolved "as soon as freedom is restored in Tibet" and a government is formed by Tibetans inside Tibet. (Hays 2008) The position of the CTA is that Tibet is a distinct nation with a long history of independence. The current policy of the Dalai Lama is that he does not seek full independence for Tibet, but would accept Tibet as a genuine autonomous region within the People's Republic of China.
Understanding the Culture of Tibet By: Jennifer Clagget Topics to Include: Understanding and Defining Culture, Tibetan Culture, Education, Nomadic Lifestyle. (Creenglish.com ,2008)
Understanding and Defining Culture
Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the customary beliefs, social forms and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group…the characteristic features of everyday existence, shared by people in a place or time.” (Merriam-Webster, 2011).
Culture is a term used to describe people’s whole way of life. It includes arts, beliefs, religion, customs, language, architecture, traditions, food, and clothing. According to the Blue Book of Communication, a key principle of adapting to others is to be ethical, honest and truthful and to observe the rights of others. (pg 148) From what we have learned about the people of Tibet, it is important to be ethical and honest. These principles are also evident in the practice of Buddhism.
Cultural values, “whatever a given group of people values or appreciates” (pg 153) are also important when understanding the people of Tibet. In the United States, we are surrounded by many different types of cultural values, most of which are very different than the values of the people of Tibet. In the US, the people of Tibet may experience culture shock because of the extreme differences; especially in regards to everyday religious practices.
It is also important to remember to try to adapt to others when communicating using the techniques outlined in the Blue Book, seek information, ask questions and actively listen to the answers provided, tolerate ambiguity, develop mindfulness, and become other oriented. (pgs 162-165) By becoming more aware of a person’s background, it will help develop your communication skills, both when you are the speaker and the receiver.
Evidence of Buddhism, the most prevalent religion in Tibet, can be seen in every element of Tibetan culture, from art to language to architecture. People of Tibet take their religion, beliefs and values very seriously.
"The greatest achievement is selflessness. The greatest worth is self-mastery. The greatest quality is seeking to serve others. The greatest precept is continual awareness. The greatest medicine is the emptiness of everything. The greatest action is not conforming with the worlds ways. The greatest magic is transmuting the passions. The greatest generosity is non-attachment. The greatest goodness is a peaceful mind. The greatest patience is humility. The greatest effort is not concerned with results. The greatest meditation is a mind that lets go. The greatest wisdom is seeing through appearances." Atisha. (gaia.com, 2010.)
Education in Tibet
Education level in Tibet is low for several reasons.
Many remote areas do not have schools and parents do not want to send their children to boarding schools.
Families can not afford to pay fees charged by the Chinese government
The laws of Tibet say that children do not have to attend school until the age of 9. (tchrd.org,2003.)
“ Instead of cultivating human and social development of the Tibetan children education has been the medium of inculcating loyalty to the Chinese Communist government in Beijing. Education in Tibet is designed to generate love for communism and the “motherland” and demands the denunciation of the Dalai Lama and his “clique” in the exile.” (tchrd.org,2003.)
“ The education given to Chinese children in Tibet is far superior to that available to Tibetans. Tibetan language and culture are treated as a handicap, and few Tibetans graduate to secondary school. Those that do face little choice of employment unless they speak fluent Chinese. Tibetans are sidelined in the Chinese language dominated workforce because of the lack of appropriate access to education, not enough schools and the sheer expense means many Tibetans do not attend schools” (freetibet.org,2007.)
There are about 2 million nomads on the Tibetan Plateau. ~25% of the population.
Nomadic herders are known as drokpa.
Nomadic families tend to be very poor, with a family typically earning between $100 and $300 a year. Money is earned by trading animals for grain or selling them or their meat for money.
Many nomads live in four-sided or eight-sided tents made from black yak hair or wool and held up with wooden poles.
Most nomads are only nomads in the summer. In the winter, they live in valleys in houses with wooden beams and earthen floors and pens or shelters for their animals. An increasing number have access to electricity. Some get electricity from small generators or solar panels.
Before a caravan before departing for the winter, a ritual with the gods using a shaman takes place and yak butter is placed on each yak with the understanding that gods like butter and will protect the animals to show their gratitude. Wives also dab butter on the heads of their husbands. This is believed to protect from rock slides, falls from cliffs, blizzards and other dangerous weather. (factsanddetails.com, 2008)
( factsanddetails.com, 2008)
Religion in Tibet By: Amy Bailey Topics to Include: Tibetan Buddhism, Tibetan Bön , Islam, Christianity (sherabchammaling.com, 2004)
Dates back to 7 th century AD, when Tibet was unified and the Tibetan language was created.
Buddhism banned under King Lang Darma, switched national religion to Bon.
Revival in 978, when Indian high priest Atisha (Dipankara Srijanana) came to develop it. New Buddhism that developed utilized features of Bon
Nyingmapa, meaning “old” in Tibetan, is oldest Tibetan Buddhist sect, known for wearing red robes.
Is also described as an ethical religion that emphasizes the treatment of others. “Buddhism teaches a similar value, One should seek for others the happiness one desires for oneself” (Beebe, 2010, p. 9).
Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama in Northern India in the sixth century BCE. Buddhists believe that there were countless Buddha before Siddhartha and that there will be many more after him. A Buddha is a human who has achieved enlightenment. (www.religioustolerance.org, 2010.)*
Buddhism is centered around the concepts of karma, dharma, and reincarnation.
Karma- the law of moral causation. It takes into account the sum total of an individual's actions of body, speech and mind, good, bad and neutral, taken in their current and previous lives.
Dharma- is about living a life that promises worldly joys and heavenly happiness. It refers to the teachings of Buddha, the path to enlightenment, and the fundamental principles that order the universe.
Reincarnation- the rebirth after death into a new body that is either a human, animal or supernatural being (www.religioustolerance.org, 2010.)*
* Research and bullet points provided by Jennifer Clagget (Religion, 2005)
Tibetan Stupa, and a diagram of the physical symbolism. (Religion, 2005)
Tibetan Bön and Islam
Brought into Tibet by Muslim Merchants in the early 7 th or 8 th century
Approximately 4000 Muslims in Tibet, majority of which are concentrated in Lhasa.
Tibetan Muslims have native characteristics of Tibetans, wearing Tibetan costumes with a white veil/cap on their head, in church they recite first in Arabic and then in the Tibetan language, as well as keeping Tibetan dining habits and lodging styles.
There are currently four mosques in Tibet, two in Lhasa city, one in Shigatse City, and another in Chenngguan town of Chamdo County.
Exempted from many things in Tibet such as vegetarian meals on Buddha’s birthday which is mandatory for Tibetan Buddhists, which is not exempted for those who follow Bön.
All the things in nature, including sky, earth, sun, moon, lightning, thunder, animals, and plants have spirits themselves and are worthy of worshipping.
Earlier followers only indulged in the activities of divination, prayer, ghost-exorcising, sacrifice, and others, sometimes by using supernatural magic.
Bon can be divided into three sects, namely Brdol Bön, Vkhyr Bön and Bsgyur Bön.
A very ethical religion, Bön emphasizes moral principles in every aspect of life, including communication.
Tibet’s first Catholic church was built in 1626, but was promptly destroyed four years later by Tibetan Buddhists.
Until 1741 only 26 Tibetans, servants and missionaries, were persuaded to receive the Baptism of Catholicism.
In 1921, a church was built in Lhasa City.
Catholics in Tibet number over 740 now, over 600 of which are locals.
While keeping their own beliefs, they also have similar living styles to Tibetans, including using a Tibetan translation edition of the Bible and wear Tibetan costumes, having a European name given by the priest, and receiving a burial according to the Catholic teachings.
Tibetan Catholics recognize the Tibetan New Year as the beginning of a year, while still celebrating Christmas day. The Church is mixed Catholic and Tibetan architectural style, and traditional Tibetan offerings of Khatag can be seen in front of the picture of the Virgin Mary. The current priest of the Yanjing Catholic Church is a local Tibetan.
Gender Roles and Nonverbal Communication By: Ben Capshaw Topics to Include: Marriage, Family, Interpersonal Relations, Tibetan Social Norms, Family Hierarchy ( http://www.hkreporter.com/talks/thread-882795-1-1.html , 2010)
Interpersonal Relations, Social Norms, and Marriage
Men stretch arms out, with palms up, and bow to each other as a symbol of respect)
When greeting an unrelated elder, one must nod their head, while sticking out the tongue.
Women are significantly less educated then men. A highly educated woman is considered insubordinate.
Daughters of the family are allowed to leave the home only by marriage, and only if the father is lavishly compensated.
Society is dominated by males
Women are expected to be subordinate
When married, wife has specific purposes
Divorce is only granted for men
If female cannot produce a son to carry on the family name,
If female has persistent health issues (that can be passed on to children)
If female gossips (potential to smear the families reputation)
The Family Unit and Hierarchy
The oldest living male in the family has ultimate authority among all members. The chain of command is distributed by the age of the male family members. Females are given authority by age, after the last male. The oldest female has authority underneath the youngest male family member.
Multiple generations on family compound.
All male family members have authority over females, including son/mother relationships
Entire families can be prosecuted for a crime committed by a family member.
The family men inherit and monopolizes the property and dwellings.
Tibetan Clothing with emphasis on nonverbal communication By: Darin Auvil Topics to Include: Nonverbal Communication Defined, Location, Etiquette, Jewelry and Adornments (Xiaosui, 2011)
Defining Nonverbal Communication
Nonverbal communication defined: “communication other than written or spoken language that creates meaning for someone”
Symbols can be gestures or visual images that represent thoughts, concepts, objects or experiences, or they can be representative of the body, like posture or facial expression, how we dress and accessorize with the use of clothing and jewelry; all of which can be perceived to express ideas, attitudes, and feelings
“ Northerners who live in a much colder climate also live a much more nomadic, simplistic and prosperous lifestyle as herdsman, than their Southern counterparts. Their clothes are mad of silk and furred robes and are decorated colorful cloth stripes” (Eastbay, 2010).
“ Southerners on the other hand live a much harder life than their Northern neighbors, toiling the land. As farmers reaping the fruits of their labor, their clothes are much less ornate and light weight due to the type of work and warmer and more humid climate” (Eastbay, 2010).
(China Tibet Information Center, 2011) (Tibet Daily, 2011)
Demonstrates respect or a rite of passage
Strips of cloth in women’s hair
Gold and silver ornaments
Jewelry to indicate religion and marital status
“ heavenly head” hair style
Adornments indicate social status
Spur the attraction of a suitor, for single women
Wealth that may be brought into a marriage
Blue book of communication states “jewelry, tattoos, piercings, makeup, cologne, eyeglasses and so on can be displays of culture” (Beebe, 2010, p. 95).
Tibetan Rituals By: Jordan Coby Topics to Include: Buddhist Death Rituals, Lunar Calendar, Buddha Ceremonies, Prayer Flag and Wind Horse Monk performing rituals (tibetanlivingcommunities.org, 2009)
Buddhist Death Rituals
Buddhism death rituals include the belief that there will be life after death, death can be seen as a rebirth
Three forms of burial: cremation, water burial, and sky burial
“ Sky Burial”: technically not a burial, a process in which the remains of the dead are fed to vultures
Custom is known as jhator
Takes place at dawn in a specific location
Relative’s are not allowed to view this ritual
On a flat rock, monks and rogyapas (“body breakers”) ritually cut the corpse into small pieces and flay the body in order to expose tissue
The bones and flesh are beat against the rocks to create a pulp
This pulp is mixed with barley flour, tea, butter, and milk, the mixture is left for the vultures
The human bone is used to make costumes that will be used in religious ceremonies to allay the fear of death
The ritual use of bones connects the world of living to the world of dead, this reinforces the Buddhist concept of the clynical nature of existence
Calculates the dates for ceremonies, very important for keeping the time
the moon is where all the importance is put
on a 29.5 day synodic cycle, the moon rises at different times each day, makes it difficult sometimes
Every 30 months a month may be added to keep on track with seasons
Very complex to calculate the calendar, students often learn this from masters
Specific days are given special significance, whether good or bad
Most important date of Tibetan year is Saga Dawa, this is the anniversary of Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and passing away.
Leaf from a Tibetan lunar calendar, written in Mongolia in the second half of the 19th century with hand written Tibetan script and painted images of a dog and a boar (carters.com.au, 2011)
Daily ceremonies take place in temples
Other ceremonies do not necessarily take place in a temple
Throughout the year these rituals are performed for things such as propitiate deities, to precipitate rain, to avert hailstorms, diseases, and death, to ensure good harvests, to exorcise demons and evil spirits, and of course to destroy the passions of the mind and, ultimately, the ego
Each ceremony features weapons and these weapons have special significance
They retrieved the weapons from a battlefield or from cremation grounds
The weapons represent images of destruction, slaughter, sacrifice
The weapons were wrestled from hand of evil and turned against ultimate root of evil
Prayer Flag and Wind Horse
Prayer Flag , decorates monasteries, houses, and even mountain passes
Blessings printed on them that get spread throughout the world by the wind
Five main colors include, blue for sky, red for fire, white with clouds, green with water, and yellow with earth
The Wind Horse is a mythical creature from pre Buddhist times
Combines the speed of the wind and strength of the horse to carry prayers from earth to heavens
Most prevalent symbol used on prayer flags, an ancient design
Open Ended Questions:
In what ways does the Tibetan government differ from the U.S.A’s government?
Buddhism has influenced the Tibetan culture in many ways. What effects do you think Buddhism has played in our culture?
Tibetan clothing is unique in the sense that it can communicate social status, marital status, wealth, age, and even geographical location. In what ways might clothing in the United States communicate similar things?
(About Tibet, 2008) A website dedicated to making Tibet an independent country. Retrieved From: http://www.freetibet.org/about
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