Geography of Tibet


The defining element of Tibet is its extreme altitude - hovering above 4,000m.In this book,'Tibet' refers to the entire Tibetan plateau region within the confines of the PRC.Altitude has shaped everything in Tibet - from it is other-worldly landscape and majestic snowcaps to it's unique flora and fauna - and it's special people and culture,Yaks,for instance,are superbly adapted to thir high-altitude environment-and Tibetan nomad culture is entirely dependent upon them.

The Chinese and the Tibetans refer to the much larger area of Ethnic Tibet,encompassing the entire Tibetan plateau,and including the northeastern and eastern areas of Kham and Amdo.Ethnic Tibet or Greater Tibet covers a quarter of China's total area:Ethnic Tibet is roughly 2.3 million km,which is almost double the size of what is now called 'Tibet'(Xizang Province) by the Chines.In 1965,the Chinese created the Tibet Autonomous Region(TAR),having previously carved off much of Kham and Amdo and assimiled them into neighbouring Chinese provinces.Even so,the TAR is huge.With an area of 1.2 million km,the TAR is roughly the size of england,France,Germany and Austria put together,mcasuring 2,600km from west to ease,and 1,300km from north to suth.

Tibet within the people's Republic of China (PRC) starddles most of the geographical feature known as the Tibetan plateau.This is often rereeed to as the Third Pole,because outside of the Arctic and Antarctic regions,the Tibetan plateau holds the world's largest store of ice,snow and permafrost.

suprlatives abound when it comes to the subject of physical Tibet:the world's highest peaks and lakes - and the world's deepest gorges - are all located here.The landlocked region of Tibet borders India,Nepal,Bhutan,Burma - and China.Major rivers sourced on the Tibetan plateau are the Mekong,Yellow,Yangtse,Salween,lrrawaddy.Yarlung Tsangpo (source of the Brahmaputra),Indus,Sutlej and Karnali,On their wild journeys off the olateau,the rivers carve deep gorges.

The tail ends of these rivers feed the world's laargest deltas - prime rice-growing regions such as the Mekong Delta in Vietnam,the Irrawaddy Delta in Burma,and the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in Bangladesh.

In the south of Tibet,bordering Nepal,Iie the 8,000m-plus Himalayan giants of Everest,Lhotse,Makalu and Cho Oyu.The world's 14th-highest peak,Shishapangma,lies wholly within Tibet.The Himalaya - Tibet's natural mountain border for centuries - have the world's highest snowline,and some 37,000 glaciers.To the north of Tibet are the Kunlun Mountains,while to the west are the Pamirs and the Karakoram Range.

Most of the Tibetan plateau is over 4,000m high,It was formed millions of years ago by a collision of the Indian and Asian continental Plates.A glance at a satellite map will easily delineate this zone,and will show dramatic drop-offs from the edge of the plateau to forested areas.The northern sector of Tibet is the forbidding Changtang,an immensely rocky and arid desert where nomads roam,eking out a tough living.To the northeast,in Amdo,the landscape turns to lush green,with rich grasslands irrigated by the Yellow River.In Kham,semi-monsoonal conditions and lower elevations result in copious forest cover - one of China's greatest sources of timber.The Yarlung Tsangpo Rive,running from the far west of Tibet to the east,is responsible for the rich pockets of farmland in central Tibet - it's considered the cradle of Tibetan civilisation,with historic Tibetan settlements along the riverbanks.

Tibet is landlocked:though many Tibetans have not seen the ocean,the pristine turquoise lakes of the plateau are vast - to the eye,the larger ones form their own inland sea.There has been little development at these lakes - tibetans do not eat fish,and they regard a number of the lakes as sacred places.The largest lakes are Manasarover (west Tibet),namtso (north),Yamdrok Tso(central Tibet)and Kokonor(Amdo).

Tibet's extreme altitude makes it a special place for hardy high-alpine flora,with secrets yet to be revealed.This rare flora attracted the attention of early 20th-century British plant hunters,who discovered the himalayan blue poppy and many species of rhododendron (there are estimated to be over 400 in Tibet).Over 2,000 species of medicinal plants have been documented by the Tibetans themselves.Herbal remedies lie at the core of Tibetan medicinal practices.For a brief introduction to Tibet's unusual wildlife.

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