Renowned for their optimistic spirit and seemingly inexhaustible reserves of happiness, Tibetans have largely managed to maintain this reputation despite the incursions of the Chinese, and the consequent restraints imposed upon them. Much of this resilience is due to the fact that the vast majority of Tibetans are Buddhists -and have the serenity which derives from generations of people steeped in this faith.
Tibetans are the main inhabitants on the plateau but share their region with Menpa, Luopa, Han Chinese, Hui, Sherpa and a few Deng people.
The earliest Tibetans were barley farmers who created small settlements. Nomads also formed part of the original population and tended to herd yaks and sheep. Gradually larger settlements evolved, with some of the populations turning to craft work to make a living. Latterly more and more Tibetans have made the move into business and commerce.
Most Tibetans are devout Buddhists, a small minority still believing in the old Bon religion, which pre-dates Buddhism and follows the old rites such as sky burials. There are clusters of followers of the Islam and Catholic religions in Lhasa and Yanjing respectively.
Tibetans have their own language with many regional and sub-dialects, which are generally mutually intelligible. English is not commonly spoken in Lhasa. Of course, nowadays many Tibetans speak Mandarin, which is taught in schools and proficiency in Chinese is an essential for any Tibetan hoping to progress within the power structure.
The population of Tibet is around 2.7 million, 92 per cent of whom are native Tibetans. The average lifespan is 68, while the literacy level of the population is approximately 65 per cent.