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Tibetan Taboos

Tibet is a region influenced by the religious factors deeply. You should be more careful when you travel in Tibet. Before you go to Tibet, making clear about some Tibetan taboos is necessary.

Taboos on diet
  • Due to the religious factors, Tibetan people, especially the initiated Buddhists do not kill living things. Horse, dog and donkey meat are prohibited to be eaten in Tibet, while Tibetans eat beef and mutton without killing them. Some areas also do not eat fish, so please respect their diet habits.
  • During the dinner time, do not eat mouthful, do not chew your food and drink soup noisily.

Taboos on social courtesies
  • It is disrespectful take photos without their permission. Asking for permission before taking pictures of Tibetan people is a necessary procedure when in Tibet.
  • Presenting Hada (or Khatag) is traditional practice of respect and hospitality in Tibet, and will be appreciated by your host. If you are presenting a Hada to a statue or a high lama, raise the Hada above your shoulder and bow. When you receive a Hada, it is proper to accept with both your hands.
  • In the social occasions, respect the elder to let them go first is also the custom in Tibet. It is a respectful way to address somebody by adding “la” behind their name to. When greeting or seeing off a guest, smile at him while you bend your body forward and bend your knees.
  • If you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs, do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others.
  • Do not receive or give a gift with only a hand. While presenting the gift, you should bend your body forward and hold the gift higher than your head with both hands.
  • While offering tea, wine or cigarette, you should present them with two hands without your fingers touching the inside bowl.
  • When you are offered a cup of wine by the host, you should use your ring finger to dip a little of it. Then flick it in the air to express respects to the heaven, the earth and the ancestors before sipping the wine. The host will fill the cup, and you take a sip of the wine again. After the host fills your cup for the forth time, you have to bottom it up.

Taboos on behaviors
  • Do not clap your hand or spit behind Tibetans, it takes as the extremely disrespectful behavior.
  • Do not relive yourself beside theany cattle pens, horse stables, or sheepfolds
  • lDo not touch the heads and the hat of Tibetans
  • Do not use the paper with Tibetan characters to wipe anything
  • Do not step on threshold when entering the tent or house.
  • Do not through bones into fire
  • Do not sit at your will in the tent. Men should sit in the left while women on the right.
  • Do not visit the houses with a sigh in front of them. Signs use in this ways tell you there is someone ill or when a woman is giving birth to a baby. The signs may be a branch or a red cloth put in the door way.
  • Do not run after or hurt the eagles in Tibet. Eagle is regarded as the scared animal in this place. You should not disturb the sheep or cows with red, green or yellow cloth strips on because these animals are the Tibetan sacrifice to worship gods.
  • Do not enter the temples or monasteries without permission.

Taboos in visiting temples
  • When you enter into a temple in Tibet, you should not smoke, touch the Buddha statues, turn the Buddhism scriptures and toll the bell. Please to pick off your hats at the entrance to show your respects.
  • When you do sightseeing around the inside temple, you should not take any photos inside. Please go around them clockwise (not of the Bon). Women should not wear skits or shorts. Please keep quiet when you are inside the temple.
  • When meeting a lama, it is not appropriate to hug him or shake hands with him. It is proper to hold the two hands upright, palms together in front of the chest, and lower the head. It is not wise to talk with them on sensitive topics, such as marriage and the eating of meat. Do not whirl round the prayer wheels anticlockwise.

Taboos Related to Belief
  • Tibetan people believe that there are auspicious days and ominous days for everyone. In the ominous days, people can do nothing but stay at home pattering or go to worship the gods and Buddha to avoid the mischance.
  • The Tibetans believe that the end of each Dizhi (the 12 Terrestrial Branches, used in combination with ten Celestial Stems to designate years, months, days and hours) and the beginning of the following Terrestrial Branch in the Tibetan calendar is an ominous year. People should be more careful when they reach their ages of 13, 25, 37 and 49 and so on, which are believed to be one’s ominous years in their life.