Into Their World… The Central Tibetans of China

Photo source:


Tibetans commonly dress
in long robes and are
adorned with ornate

Nearly five million Central Tibetans live in an area of northern China often known as “the roof of the world.” It is called this because its average height is fourteen thousand feet and it contains many of the world’s highest mountains. Since before the time of Jesus’ birth, this people group has been seemingly cut off from the rest of the world. Poor infrastructure and a harsh climate have made travel to the Tibetans nearly impossible. Only recently has there been increased access to this people group.

The Tibetans make up one race, culture, language, religion and lifestyle. Primarily farmers and herdsmen of yak, goats and sheep, Tibetans are often hard to reach because of their nomadic lifestyle. Many families live in yak-skin tents in communes. Of the few Tibetans who do live in larger cities, many practice ancient crafts such as producing paper, fiber and wool weaving, metalwork and carving wood. Tibetans, both men and women, commonly dress in long robes and are adorned with ornate jewelry. They live on a simple diet of barley products, root crops, mutton, dairy products, tea and beer.

Although Buddhism is the official Tibetan religion, elements of Bon, a 2,200-year-old religion which incorporates black magic, the occult and reincarnation, are often included in the religious practice. The belief in gods, demons and ancestral spirits is widespread and each Tibetan carries a dharma (prayer wheel) that is thought to keep evil spirits away. Tibetans live in constant fear of their gods and continually strive to appease them with sacrifices and ritual chants. The quality of healthcare, housing, utilities and education is poor. Literacy stands at only thirty percent.

Tibetans are in dire need of both physical and spiritual help. Sharing the gospel with this people group is made difficult by many factors: their nomadic lifestyle, challenging transportation to their region and the outlawing of Christianity. Pray with us that these barriers will be overcome so that Tibetans will have the opportunity to hear about and know Christ.

For more information on the Central Tibetan of China, visit:

(Information compiled from

(Note: The website links above are intended to provide you with more information about this people group. Some of the links are to groups that are not religious in nature but who provide information and background that may be helpful in researching this people group. The content of each of the websites linked to is the sole responsibility of the linked-to organization. Views expressed on these websites do not necessarily reflect the opinions and beliefs of the staff or writers of Lausanne World Pulse or those of the Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, Institute of Strategic Evangelism, Evangelism and Missions Information Service or Intercultural Studies Department.)  

Laurie Fortunak Nichols is editorial coordinator of Lausanne World Pulse. She also serves as editorial coordinator for the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College and managing editor and book review editor of Evangelical Missions Quarterly (EMQ). She has edited a number of books, including the recent Extending God's Kingdom: Church Planting Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow, with A. Scott Moreau and Gary R. Corwin.