Located between Central, East and South Asia, and in the west of China, Tibet Autonomous Region covers a total surface area of 1.222.000 square kilometres and it is home to more than 13 million inhabitants.
Tibet is bordered by the provinces of Xinjiang and Qinghai to the north, Sichuan to the east, Yunnan and Burma to the south-east, India, Bhutan and Nepal to the south and west.
It lies on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is a vast elevated palteau in Central Asia, surrounded by massive mountain ranges: the inner Himalayan range to the south, the Kunlun Range to the north, the Qilian Range to the north-east.
Thanks to its altitude averaging over 4,950 metres above the sea, with peaks at 6,000 to 7,500 metres (including Mount Everest) it is nicknamed “the roof of the world”.
The Tibetan Plateau can be physically divided into five general regions:
the northern plain, almost uninhabited;
the southern belt on the Tsangpo River, fertile valleys and centre of agriculture;
western Tibet, a mountainous and arid area;
the southeast, with subtropical forests and higher rainfalls;
the northeast, which presents grasslands dotted with mountains, famous for its herding.
Traditionally the settlement of people was determined by the area and by three main occupations: herding, farming and monkhood. Peasants lived in single dwellings and villages, nomads lived in tents, following their herds through seasonal migration, while monks lived in monasteries.
Farmers’ main crops were buckwheat, barley, potatoes, radishes, peas and mustard; nomads raised yaks, sheep, goats and cattle. Nomads and farmers would meet at annual markets to exchange produce and other goods; whereas bigger urban centres had daily markets where all sorts of things could be found.
Other traditional activities, in small-scale productions or individual household, included flour milling, canvas painting, rope braiding,textiles, tanning, metalwork, paper making and carpentry.
From the 50s many industries have been established in the Tibet Autonomous Region, but the primary occupation is still livestock raising, followed by subsistence agriculture. In recent years the tertiary and the tourism industries have developed significantly.