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CHAPTER 2

TIBET: Enduring Spirit, Exploited Land


The Geography of the Land of Snows

(Excerpts) Though much of Tibet matches the imagined foreboding landscape, especially in winter, visitors are often astonished to find lush forests teeming with birds, rolling meadows carpeted with wildflowers, and vast plains waving with iridescent fields of barley, mustard, and alpine grass. In the past the wildlife was so abundant that these areas were likened to the plains in Africa where large herds of animals roamed. It is no wonder that a land approximately one and a half times the size of Alaska, with a varied array of ecological niches, would possess such diversity (see photos, pp. 35, 39)

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Traditionally, the Tibetans were very protective of their forests and no trees were felled unless essential for building. Herbs and medicinal plants were gathered and used as part of both Tibetan and Chinese medicine. There were always enough herb-producing plants in Tibet to allow for natural replenishment. Whatever riches were underneath the soil were left as part of nature's grand design; it is not the Tibetan way to dig for riches under the soil. Tibetans were thankful to the earth for what it provided them above the ground.


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