Tibetan Etiquettes and Tibet Travel Taboos
Now, with the rapidly development of Tibetan tourism, Tibetan people are getting more used to the different behavior of tourists and being more tolerant. However, it will be still very helpful of knowing some Tibetan etiquettes and taboos so that you could show respect to Tibetan traditions and win the appreciation of them. The following are some unique local traditions and customs in Tibet, which you should know before you travel to Tibet.
Tibetan etiquettes or taboos in daily life:
►When Tibetan people welcome guests, they always let guests or superiors go first and never forget use polite words. For example, “la” is always added after a name for showing respect and friendliness;
►Please do not stamp thresholds when stepping into Tibetan tents or rooms;
►When sitting inside of a room on the floor, one should cross his legs as it’s quite impolite to let the sole of shoes or toes towards other people;
► When presenting a gift, one should bow and make sure his hands hold highly over the head;
► When making a toast or presenting a cup of tea, one should pass with two hands and fingers can not be close to the edge of the bowl;
►Please do not eat or drink noisily.
►When you see a yak or sheep wearing in red, yellow and green strips of cloth by chance, please do not derive or hurt it because it is a sacrifice for Tibetans worshiping deities;
►Eagles are holy birds in Tibet, so please do not shoot at them or try to hurt them in any means. Actually, killing is a very important taboo in Tibet, especially killing wild animals;
► Keep quiet on the top of mountains for loud noise will cause disasters like heavy snow, storms or hail;
► Women should not shake skirts in front of others. It is said that this kind of behavior will bring bad luck to others;
► Never touch the head of a Tibetan because the head is considered as a sacred part of the body;
►Please do not spit in front of others;
► Do not use paper printed with Tibetan characters to scrub anything.
► Do not watch a sky burial without permission. And do not take photos even if it is allowed;
► Some Tibetans still believe that photos can steal their souls so always ask for permission before taking pictures of them, otherwise it can be intrusive. In Barkhor, some Tibetans will ask you for money in return but it is also ok to give them a small gift.
►Walk clockwise around the Barkhor Street, especially during the rush hour of pilgrimage from 9 am to 6 pm
►Tibetan people stretch out tongues to show respect;
►Generally speaking, Tibetan people don't eat the meat of horses, donkeys and dogs. In some regions, even fish, chicken and eggs are forbidden.
Customs related to Religion:
♦ Address a senior lama with "Rinpoche" and a common lama with Geshe;
♦Please do not enter into a monastery without permission. Dress properly, not in shorts or sunglasses. Smoking and making noise are obviously not allowed inside of it. Please not to touch, walk over or sit on any Buddha statue and religious texts. Usually, taking photos of Buddha statues are not allowed in the majority of Tibetan monasteries. But in some monasteries (such as Tashilhunpo Monastery), tourists can take pictures after paying some money.
♦Walk clockwise around monasteries, pagodas, Mani piles or other religious structures. Prayer wheels should also be turned clockwise. It is considered profane to do otherwise.
♦ One should avoid stepping over a brazier or other holy items;
♦When you meet with a lama, the best etiquette is put the palms together, lower your head, do not shake or hug with him; if they are performing religious ceremonies, you ’d better stand there in silent or leave quietly.
How to present khata:
Tibetan girls presenting khada to volunteers of Shanghai Expo
Khata(hǎdá; 哈达 )made of silk is a traditional ceremonial scarf used in Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Usually it's white, blue and yellow, the most precious one in five colors is used to present to Buddha. Blue indicates sky; white is cloud; green is the river; yellow is the land; and red is the deity.
Tibetan khatas are usually white which symbolizes kindness of the giver. Presenting khada is a common but high etiquette in Tibet. They present khata for worshiping the Buddha, welcoming guests, asking for a favor or apology as well as in the wedding and funeral. Of course, presenting khada in different situations means different but is always full of purity, loyalty, respect and compassion.
Generally speaking, the giver holds the Khata with both arms stretched out evenly and bow a little. The receiver should accept it immediately with both hands and put it on around the neck, because it is improper to put it down. Meanwhile, there are some details you might be interest in. If presenting Khata to seniors, two arms should be raised up over the head; if presenting a Khata to people of the same age or younger, the giver can just tie the Khata to their necks directly.
Maybe, you will be curious why a Tibetan taking a khada with him when he goes out. Do you know why?
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