Tibet', or Thibet, a country in central Asia, called by the natives Bod or Bodyul, lying between China and India, and enclosed between the Kuen-Lun, Altyn Tagh, and Nanshan Mountains on the N., and the Himalayas on the S. Area, 700,000 sq. m., eight times the size of Great Britain. Tibet is the loftiest region of such extent on the globe; its tablelands, which vary in height from 17,000 to 10,000 feet, are loftiest in the west and north, whence they slope gradually to the south and east. Bonvalot certifies to the existence of volcanoes. The lowest lands in Tibet are the grooves in which the Indus runs westward and the Sanpo eastward to the points where they turn south through the Himalayas. The mountain-girdle which surrounds Tibet has kept it to the present day the country least known to geographers. Tibet is divided into provinces equal in extent to European states. Tsaidam, or Chaidam, in the NE., between the Nanshan and Altyn-tagh chains and the Kuen-Lun, includes the Koko-Nor lake. Katchi in the centre, just S. of the Kuen-Lun, contains the gold-fields of Thok-Jalung, one of the highest inhabited spots on the globe. East Nari, in the SW., includes Khorsum and Dokthol, an elevated Himalayan country in which the Indus and Sanpo take their rise, and contains Lake Manasarowar, 15,000 feet high, a sheet of water sacred alike to Tibetans and Hindus. West Nari, or Little Tibet, consists of Ladakh (q.v.) and Balti, now dependencies of Cashmere (q.v.) and the Indian Empire. Yu-tsang, the provinces of Yu and Tsang, occupying the valley of the Sanpo between the meridians of 87° and 92°, constitutes the most populous and important part of Tibet, and contains Lhassa, capital of Yu and of the whole country, and Shigatze, capital of Fsang. Kham, the province drained by the deep valley of the upper courses of the great rivers of China and Indo-China, is largely under the direct rule of China. The lake Tengri Nor, NW. of Lhassa, is 150 miles in circuit.
Tibet lies in the latitudes of Delhi, Cairo, Algiers, and Naples, but its inland position and elevation give it a cold, dry, and extreme climate. On the tablelands at an elevation of 14,000 feet the thermometer in May sinks to 7° F. below zero, and over the whole country an arctic winter prevails for five or six months. There is a very short but excessively hot summer, more especially in the valleys of the Indus and Sanpo. The northern and western tablelands are treeless, with steppes where innumerable herds of yaks, horses, asses, goats, antelopes, etc. pasture undisturbed by man. The southern tablelands supply food to the flocks and herds of a large nomad population. Agriculture is confined chiefly to the valleys of the Indus and Sanpo; and the irrigation and terrace cultivation necessary to secure even scanty crops are supposed to have sharpened the intelligence of the peasants and made them strong and laborious. The mineral products of Tibet include gold, silver, iron, copper, zinc, mercury, cobalt, borax, sulphur, etc. The Tibetans are good blacksmiths and cutlers; their chief industrial occupation, however, is the preparation of woollen cloth. They are active traders; and large caravans, in which yaks and sheep are the beasts of burden, are constantly traversing the country on their Avay to the great fairs in Tibet, and the entrepots of the surrounding countries. At one time there was a busy commerce with India, but after Tibet became a Chinese dependency the passes were jealously closed. The pop. is estimated at 6,000,000.
The Tibetans are a Mongolic race, much more closely allied to the Burmese than to the Chinese or Mongols proper, and are broad-shouldered and muscular. A few nomads, Mongol and Turkish tribes, camp on the northern steppes, and Chinese in large numbers have colonised the south-east. Polyandry, the husbands of one wife being generally brothers, is almost universal among the poor Tibetans; the rich are polygamists. Both systems check population. In Little Tibet, where monogamy has penetrated from the west, population increases rapidly. There exist in Tibet two religions: the Bon or Bon-Pa creed, which is a development of Mongol Shamanism, and is the native religion; and Lamaism, a form of Buddhism introduced from India. The Tibetan clergy are very numerous; monasteries are everywhere. Since 1720 Tibet has been, nominally at least, a dependency of China. Civil and religious government was retained practically by the Tibetan clergy; the Dalai Lama delegating the active duties of government to the de-sri or king, with four ministers. The non-observance by the Tibetans of this Anglo-Chinese convention of 1890 (opening a trade 'port'), and their refusal to meet commissioners, led to the mission of 1904 under Sir F. G. Younghusband. The mission soon became an expedition, which, after sharp fighting at Gyangtse and elsewhere, forced its way to Lhassa, where, the Dalai Lama having fled, a treaty was concluded in the famous Po-ta-la palace-monastery. The Tesho Lama or Bogdo Lama (of Shigatze) superseded the Dalai Lama (of Lhassa); trade facilities with British India were increased (three new marts being established), and Tibet bound itself not to enter into relations with any foreign power save by British assent. The Tibetan language is losing its monosyllabic character; its literature consists chiefly of translations from the Sanskrit, and of religious works.
See works by Hue (1852), Hodgson (1874), Mark-ham (1876), Rockhill (1891), Bonvalot (1892), Wellby (1898), Landor (1898), and, after the 1904 expedition, those by Candler, Landon, and Waddell on Lhassa (q.v.).