I didn’t know very much about Tibet so I decided to learn more. Tibet has a tricky situation in terms of governance. China considers Tibet an autonomous region or a Chinese province, but there is also a government in exile headed by the Dalai Lama.
Tibet’s geography is a big part of this governance dispute. The Himalayas mountains fall on the Northern side of Tibet and the country also borders India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar (Burma). It’s located high above sea level, averaging more than 4,000 feet, which also gives it a birds’ eye view of the region, useful for military operations.
Why does China want Tibet?
The region serves as a buffer zone between China on one side and India, Nepal, and Bangladesh on the other. The Himalayan mountain range provides an added level of security as well as a military advantage. Tibet also serves as a crucial water source for China and possesses a significant mining industry. from Slate
Here’s a video for kids that explains Tibet’s current situation.
Is Tibet A Country?
Tibet has always had a deep connection to the Buddhist religion which was introduced via India and China in the year 600s AD. Most ethnic Tibetans practice Buddhism but Bon, an Indigenous religion also exists and was the religion in the region before Buddhism.
Bon is associated with rituals that honor local spirits and ensure the well-being of the dead in the afterlife. This feels very similar to Japan’s Obon festival and I believe its origins harken back to Japanese influences. Bon is practiced by Tibetans, though it is a minority religion in Tibet.
What is Buddhism? Here’s a video for kids that explains the fourth largest world religion.
Buddhism Explained Simply
Buddhism and the Dalai Lama figure in many of the children’s books that I found featuring Tibet. Folktales also abound. I’d love to grow this list. Do you know any children’s books about Tibet or set in Tibet? Thanks for leaving a comment with your recommendation!
Children’s Books about Tibet
Teatime Around the World by Denyse Waissbluth illustrated by Chelsea O’Byrne
Po cha, or butter tea, is tradtional in Tibet. A brick of dark tea is simmered in water. Later, milk, yak-milk butter, and salt are added. The mixture is churned until it’s thick like creamy soup, then sipped from a wooden bowl.
Learn about the pleasures of teatime around the world. Tibet is featured along with its accompaniment, yak butter. In Tibet, tea is both refreshing as a beverage and sustaining as a meal! [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Yeti and the Jolly Yama: A Tale of Friendship by Lama Surya Das, illustrated by Vivian Mineker
Tibet is the home of the Abominable Snowman, also known as the Yeti, and in this tale, the lama, a cave-dwelling religious leader, teaches us about the power of compassion and kindness. He serves the Yeti hot buttered tea (see Teatime Around the World) and dried yak cheese. The Yeti learned to trust the Yama, and they worked together happily preparing dinners together. This relationship gave the Yeti a warm and loving heart. And the lesson is one of acceptance, generosity, and patience. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
All the Way to Lhasa: A Tale from Tibet by Barbara Helen Berger
Based on an oral story, this folktale encourages children to never give up. A boy and his yak make the long and perilous journey up the Himalayan Mountains to the holy city of Lhasa. A wise old woman tells them that they can it by nightfall. But earlier, she told a man on a swift horse that they would not reach their destination that night. This is a Tibetan version of the tortoise and the hare. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Seed of Compassion: Lessons from the Life and Teachings of His Holiness the Dalai Lama by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, illustrated by Bao Luu
When His Holiness the Dalai Lama was a child, he planted seeds including barley, buckwheat, and potatoes, but his mother also planted in him the seed of compassion. At age four, he was identified as the Dalai Lama and trained as a monk. His learning included compassion because it was his duty to make the world a more compassionate place. Still with the playfulness that he exhibited as a child, His Holiness the Dalai Lama spreads a message of happiness through compassion. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Dalai Lama by Demi
Since the 1500s, the Buddhist leader in Tibet has been the Dalai Lama, who is worshipped by people as the bodily form of the Buddhist saint of compassion, Chenrezig. Each Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of all the previous ones.
Learn about the history of the Dalai Lama, and, in particular, the 14th and the current one. Demi’s beautiful illustrations tell his story. Demi’s story includes Communist China’s invasion of Tibet and its devastating consequences including the Dalai Lama’s exile to India. In 1989, the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize and he continues to work for peace. [picture book, ages 6 and up]
The Mountains of Tibet by Mordicai Gerstein
The Buddha taught about reincarnation, the idea that after we die we are likely to be reborn in this world and face the same kind of suffering as in the past life. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist is to find enlightenment (Nirvana) which places us beyond endless reincarnation and suffering. Some Buddhists understand the idea in a poetic way, and not a literal one. from Kiddle
This story reflects the Buddhist belief in reincarnation and is based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead. A young boy wants to see the world and grows up to be a woodcutter in Tibet. He lives a happy life with a wife and kids and then he dies, never having left his valley in Tibet. In this new realm, he is offered a choice to become anything he chooses anywhere in the universe. As he weighs all the many options, he chooses something familiar yet different. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Tibetan Tales for Little Buddhas by Naomi C. Rose
Three folk tales are presented in this illustrated book that reflects Buddhist teachings: Yeshi’s Luck, Jomo and the Dakini Queen, and Chunda’s Wisdom Quest. The Dalai Lama says in the book’s forward that these are folk stories once told in Tibet. Yeshi’s Luck will be familiar to those who read Zen Shorts. I refer to this as the Good Luck/Bad Luck story. Jomo and the Daikini Queen is a kind of Buddhist Cinderella story. Finally, Chunda’s Wisdom Quest is another Yeti tale of compassion. [bilingual Tibetan picture book, for ages 7 and up]
Tibetan Tales from the Top of the world by Naomi C. Rose
This second collection of Tibetan stories has three more: Prince Jampa’s Surprise, Sonam, and the Stolen Cow, and Tashi’s Gold. Prince Jampa’s Surprise is a story about bias. Sonam and the Stolen Cow teaches owning up to past mistakes. Tashi’s Gold warns against greed. [bilingual Tibetan picture book, for ages 7 and up]
Favorite Children’s Stories from China and Tibet by Lotta Carswell Hume, illustrated by Lo Koon-chiu
I love this series by Tuttle Publishing that takes folk stories from different countries and presents them with beautiful illustrations in an authentic way. Some of these stories will be familiar such as the Chinese Cinderella story, reputedly to be the original one that preceded the European versions that we know today. You will also find animal trickster tales as well as the Tibetan creation story. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Love and Wisdom for You to Read with Your Child to Enchant, Enlighten and Inspire by Dharmachari Nagaraja
This is part of a trilogy of Buddhist folk tales for children that takes ancient stories and retells them in a modern way. It’s not my favorite series as I prefer the original stories such as the ones in Favorite Children’s Stories from China and Tibet. I also don’t love the illustrations in this series. However, if you run of out Tibetan stories and your children clamor for more, this would be a good bet. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
The Calm Buddha at Bedtime: Tales of Wisdom, Compassion, and Mindfulness to Read with Your Child by Dharmachari Nagaraja
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