New Year banquet
Tibetan New Year is set according to the Tibetan calendar, and is usually around the same time or a couple weeks later than the Chinese New Year. The most important day on the Tibetan calendar, it is celebrated by Tibetans, Mongolians and Tibetan-related people with people tying prayer flags, cooking flour and butter on fires of smoldering evergreens, lighting lamps, making offerings, praying at shrines and monasteries, feasting on special dumplings, socializing, lighting purifying fires with fragrant smoke from juniper, artemisia and other herbs, gambling and drinking large quantities of chang. Celebrations often feature horse racing, lama dancing and offerings to Gods.
Usually celebrated in mid or late February, Losar begins on the day of a new moon that marks the first day of the first month on the Tibetan calendar. It is called Gyalpo Losar in Tibetan which means “King’s New Year”. People dress up in their best clothes, greet each other and go to the monasteries to receive blessings. The period of time differs from 5 to 7 days.
From the beginning of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar, Tibetans begin to prepare special delicacies for the Tibetan New Year. Drosu chemar, meaning “cereals container”, is a must for Tibetan New Year. In this container foods such as tsampa with the yak butter and roasted wheat seeds are placed. Tibetans dress in their best and cleanest clothes. Festivities last from the 1st day of the new year until the 15th day. The establishment of the Tibetan New Year has close connections with the use of the Tibetan calendar. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ]
The first month of Tibetan Calendar is filled with festivals. Celebrations take place almost every day. Losar is the most important one. Depending on a number of factors, Losar can fall as early as mid-January and as late as late March. Some years entire months are deleted from the Tibetan Year due to inauspicious alignments of planets and other factors.
Losar and the first Tibetan lunar month have many political associations. Edward Wong wrote in the New York Times, “The month of March is a delicate time in China-Tibet relations. The Dalai Lama fled to India in March 1959, after the Chinese Army quashed a Tibetan uprising in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, during the initial Chinese occupation there. There has been a history of Tibetans protesting Chinese rule on the anniversaries of the Dalai Lama’s flight, and one such protest by monks in 2008 in Lhasa, and the suppression of it by security forces, led to the widespread uprising that enveloped much of the Tibetan plateau that spring. Since then, the Chinese government has increased the presence of security forces across the plateau each March and has barred foreigners from traveling to many areas there during that month.”
Preparation for New Year begins a month in advance, when a special kind of barley is planted in little flower pots so that by the time New Year rolls around three-inch-high seedlings can be offered to Buddha. On New Year's Eve, a sorcerers dance is held to keep away nasty evil spirits; people put on new clothes and don grotesque masks; and boys go wild singing and dancing to music made by large drums and conch horns.
Tibetans start to prepare for the New Year in the twelfth Tibetan lunar month. Every household cultivates seedlings of highland barley, and presents them on a tea table before the niche for statues of Buddhas to wish a good harvest of grain in the coming New Year. In the middle ten days of the twelfth Tibetan lunar month, every household deep-fries puffed fritters made of butter and wheat flour. When the end of the year is coming, they prepare a food crops case which is filled with such food as Zanba, fried wheat grains and wild "gensing". Spikes of highland barley and two color flowery boards are inserted in it. They also prepare a color sheep head carved by butter. All these contain the meaning of celebrating the good harvest, and wishing good weather for the crops and flourishing of population and domestic animals. [Source: Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn]
Before Losar, Tibetans have many things to do: preparing traditional foods, decorating the streets and their own houses. They change old Tibetan mat and put up new New Year pictures. The last two days of the old year, called Gutor, people begin to prepare in earnest for the new year. People do serious house cleaning. The kitchen in particular is thoroughly cleaned because it is where the family prepares food and is considered the most important part of a house. Special new year dishes are prepared. One of the dishes is a soup served with small dumplings. The soup is made from meat, rice, sweet potatoes, wheat, yak cheese, peas, green peppers, vermicelli and radishes. On the second day of Gutar, religious ceremonies are performed. People visit the monastery to worship and donate money and gifts to the monks. Tibetans also set off firecrackers to get rid of evil spirits which is lurking around. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ]
In Lhasa, from the middle of the l2th Tibetan month, every family begins to fry a kind of doughnut made of butter and flour called 'karsai' in various shapes. They also prepare offerings for the deities, such as tsampa, barley grains, horse-beans, wild ginseng, barley ears, cockscomb flowers and the Sun & Moon tablets, all being placed in a multi-colored wooden container called Qemar. On the 28th or 29th day, households clean the family shrine and furniture, and even whitewash their courtyard walls. They also make auspicious markings with tsampa flour on the central wall of the cleaned kitchen, or on the floor in front of the gate.
Guthuk: Tibetan New Year’s Eve
Guthuk (Gutok of Gutu) is held right before Tibetan New Year, usually in February, on the 29th day of the 12th day of the 12th month of the Tibetan calendar. In English Gutok means “banishing the evil spirits festival”. The grand sorcerer’s dance is held in the Potala palace Monastery and similar activities are held in other places too. Monks with masks imitate demons and spirits, and walk around Jokhang temple. People sing, dance, light firecrackers and shout to bid farewell to the outgoing year and to welcome the coming New Year. In the evening, each family eats “Thuk pa” together. People light lamps, burn joss-sticks and set off more firecrackers. The atmosphere is bright and it is very lively. "Gu" means “nine” (for 29), and "thuk" means “Tuba”.
“Guthuk” is usually celebrated with a special dinner featuring a traditional Tibetan soup. Family members are seated according to their seniority. For dinner people usually eat congee of barley accompanied by special ritual. In one version of the ritual nine large dumplings—each of which contains a different item: a sugar cube, raw bean, a small piece of wood, wool string, piece of charcoal, folded paper, pebble, hot chili peppers, or cotton ball—are placed in the soup. The items predict the diners' New Year's fortune. Some symbolize luck and some symbolize different personalities. The dumplings are not eaten but discarded after their contents are revealed. When eating Guthuk Tibetan families discuss what they are eating and their luck for the New Year it is. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org, June 3, 2014 ]
After having Guthuk, families hold a ceremony to dispel ghost. People light firecrackers and torches made of straw, and yell “come out, come out” while running out of their houses to an intersection. They throw the torch and remained Guthuk at the intersection of their village so that all the devils in their house are dispelled and good fortune comes in the coming new year. At midnight, when everybody is already in bed, Qingke wine mixed with brown sugar is served with cheese to usher in the new year with sweet dreams.
Gutu: Tibetan New Year’s Eve Dinner
On this New Year’s eve—in some places on New Year’s Day— people prepare a very special dinner called "Gutu." The main food usually is barley soup made with nine foodstuffs that0 include barley flakes, peas, dough ball soup and radishes. To add some festivity to this scene, people choose symbolic items and stuff them into wheat paste balls. Some symbolize luck while others symbolize different personalities. The stuffed paste balls and dough balls are cooked together in a ceramic pot into a delicious soup. Before they eat the Gutu soup, everybody rubs some parts of his or her body with a wet paste ball uttering phrases such as "Ah, the sufferings, pains, and diseases all go away from me." Then they put the paste ball into the pot.[Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]
During the gut supper family members sit around the table, and eat the Gutu dumpling. The hostess distributes the soup for everyone with a cooking spoon and people check the dumplings in which usually small pebbles, wool (or something white), charcoal, or hot chilies—each with different meanings—have been placed. The ingredients that one finds hidden in one's dough ball are supposed to be a lighthearted comment on one's character. For example, if a person finds chilies in his dough, that means he is talkative or sharp-tongued. If white-colored ingredients such as salt or rice are hidden in the dough, it is regarded as a good sign. If someone finds coal in his dough, it has the same meaning as finding coal in the Christmas stocking; it means that one has a "black heart". If someone gets the dough wrapped with stone, it means he has a hard heart. Wool stands for soft heart. During eating, people laugh over who gets what in their dumplings. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ]
There are some variations of the above ritual. According to Chinatravel.com: When someone finds a food item which looks like the sun, moon, books, or statues in their bowls, everyone stops eating and raises their cups to toast the finder’s good luck and happiness. When someone has paste balls stuffed with sheep’s hair, stones, or dairy products in their bowls, people say that he should be as gentle as the sheep hair, as strong-willed as the stone, and as pure as milk. When someone has paste balls stuffed with salt, pepper, a porcelain piece, or charcoal, people say that he should not be lazy, unforgiving, nor cruel, and request him to sing a song as punishment. When a young girl has a paste ball stuffed with something resembling a naughty child, people laugh loudly and advise her to keep her purity. If someone is unlucky enough to have their paste ball stuffed with a thorny fruit called Simare, people tell him to get along well with others and he has to drink wine and imitate a barking dog as punishment. In the end, everyone pours their leftovers of the Gutu soup into a broken cooking pot and wish their bad luck away by saying: "take all the bad luck away and never return.” \=/
Tibetan New Year’s Eve Ghost-Expelling Ritual
After the Gutu dinner wards people go out to take part in a ceremony called expelling ghosts. People carrying big bowls of ghost-food are followed by large numbers of people holding torches and yelling at evil spirits to leave their houses. The parade arrive at a big campfire, where the bowls carrying ghost food are smashed and thrown into the fire.
The ritual of expelling ghosts is performed differently in different places. Generally, a man will light a torch, carry it to every room, and shout "get out, get out." Finally he throws the torch away on a crossroad nearby. In some locations, it is quite complicated and performed after the special Gutu dinner. One man carrying the broken pot with ghosts in it precedes others who hold torches high and shout, "get out, get out, ghost."[Source: Chinatravel.com chinatravel.com \=/]
The procession of people march towards a crossroad and the man leaves the broken pot there. Then they march back towards home and sing the praises for the gate:
Gate is a golden gate.
White cloth is cloud.
Stone threshold looks beautiful.
Wooden gate looks bright.
Auspicious gate faces east.
Sunshine and moonlight fall in,
With fortune and happiness.
Fortune and happiness fill the house,
Driving the ghosts away,
Driving the bad luck away.
Clean and clear we come back.
Open the golden gate. \=/
After this, the gate is opened. A bonfire is lit near the doorsill in the sitting room. Everyone then jumps over a fire. Then, someone in the room will splash water over everyone who has just finished jumping. After these special activities, the ritual of expelling ghosts comes to an end. \=/
Three Days of Losar
On the first day of the new year, women dress in colorful pulus and go to a well and bring back "auspicious water" for the family to wash with and the animals to drink. This ritual betokens good weather for the coming year. On the second day people visit each other and greet each other with "Happy New Year" greetings. Closer friends exchange hadas, white silk strips that express respect. During this time and boys and girls like to do a special dance with the boys hoisting the girls up onto their shoulders.
Tibetans get up every early on the New Year's Day, take a bath, dress in new clothes, and make some offerings on the household shrines to start the family praying ceremony. The offerings include images of animals and demons made from a kind of dough called Torma. In the ceremony everyone is seated according to age, and the most senior person carries the food crops case. Everyone takes several grains from the case and tosses them to the air. Then everyone takes a little grain and puts it into their mouth. The seniors wish everybody "Zhaxidele" (good luck) in turn, and the younger generations wish them "Zhaxidelepengsongcuo" (good luck and complete beneficence) in return. After the rite is finished, family members eat oatmeal Tuba and wild "ginseng" mixed with butter, and propose toasts to one another with blessings. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ; Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, kepu.net.cn ~]
During the day, the family members gather together for a reunion dinner and give gifts to each other. The dinner usually consists of cake called Kapse and an alcoholic drink called chang, a kind of barely beer that is often freshly made that day. According to Tibetan customs, people are not allowed to sweep the floor at the first day of the Tibetan lunar New Year; they can't say any unlucky words, and they can't pay visits to other houses. Relatives and good friends begin to pay New Year calls to one another from the second day of Tibetan New Year. ~
In Lhasa, before dawn on New Year's Day, housewives go to the riverside to fetch "lucky water" to cook breakfast. After having breakfast, the family members, all dressed up, solemnly waiti for the dawn, when they will begin to worship the deities and greet and toast each other.
On the second day, people visit friends and relatives. At the night, Tibetans twirl burning torches in their homes to drive away evil spirits. The third day of the Tibetan New Year is for visiting local monasteries, where Tibetans make offerings. On the third say in Lhasa, people flock to Bumpari Hill in the eastern suburbs and Chakpori hill in the western suburbs to burn cypress and juniper branches, erect prayer flag masts and hang multi-colored prayer flags while praying for the mountain and river god's blessing.
Tibetan New Year Religious Practices
Losar is a festive and sacred three-day celebration in which Tibetans engage in rites to purify and renew the spirit and pay tribute to the Buddhist ideals of wisdom and compassion. Positive and negative actions taken during the holiday are believed to influence events in the coming year. At some temples in Qinghai Province authorities allow people to carry out complex ceremonies wearing ornate, embroidered costumes and unfurl a giant image of Buddha on a hillside.
During Losar people hold ancient ceremonies which represent the struggle between good and evil. Lamas chant and pass fire torches through the crowds. People perform the dance of the deer and reenact battles between the king and his ministers, and people cheer the coming of new year by dancing, singing, and merrymaking.Monks in costumes attend a religious ceremony, known as "Da Gui" or "beating ghost", at monasteries to expel evil spirits from the monastery.
Some lamas go caves and mediate the entire 14 day period from the new moon of the New Year until the full moon. The caves are sometimes above cliffs at an elevation of 16,000 feet and can be reached only following dizzying trails and climbing ladders and yak-hair ropes. Pilgrims often crawl underneath stacks of sacred texts in an effort to absorb the wisdom of the scriptures without reading them. Pilgrims ascend ridges and peaks to string prayer flags and tend fires made with fragrant herbs.
During the first 15 days of the New Year many Tibetan families commission monks and nuns to recite sacred texts to bring prosperity to their households. During the same period, in monasteries, lamas chant ancient Buddhist invocations from 10:00am to 10:00pm. In Lhasa, pilgrims throw incense into an offering burner in front of the Jokhang, Tibet's most sacred temple. Pilgrims prostrate themselves after every two steps as they follow a prescribed circle around the old city.
On the 15th day of the first moon, all major monasteries hold religious rites and all families light up butter lamps when night falls. It is also the occasion for lamas in the Ta'er (Ghumbum) monastery in Qinghai and the Jokhang monastery in Lhasa to display their exquisite and beautifully decorated butter carvings.
Tibetan welcoming group
Tibetan New Year Dances
During the New Year dance, monks dress as sorcerers in black hats and fancy robes and dance and make offerings to get rid of negative forces like greed, aggression and ignorance. The dance climaxes with an exorcism---the stabbing of a dough effigy of a demon, representing the dispelling of negativity from the last year. Between the dances dramatic skits are performed, often by lay people.
The performances are held in the courtyard of temples and the temple itself serves as a dressing room. Musicians and monks chant and play horns, drums, cymbals and conch shells as the dancers circle the courtyard and perform stamps, steps and hops known as “half-thunderbolt” movements that are expected to be performed smoothly and gracefully . The dancers prepare for the dance by spiritually identifying with the deity they portray. As they dance they must execute the correct movements, recite mantras and focus their thoughts on the deity.
Ian Baker wrote in National Geographic, "black-hatted monks spun on the soles of their yak-hide boots...As cymbals clashed and horns droned, the masked dancers danced to dispel the accumulated negativity of the past 12 months. Pressed against the walls of the courtyard pilgrims in fur-lined robes and richly-colored brocades witnessed this turbulent drama...As the sun disappeared behind a rock ridge, the ceremony concluded with a burning of a menacing effigy, freeing the days ahead from bondage to the past."
See Festival Dances, Music and Dance, Tibetan Culture
Local Losar Celebrations
During the Losar festivities, Lhasa is overflowing with people singing and dancing and exploding of firecrackers. The festival atmosphere in other regions is similar to that of Lhasa, however, there are some variations in scheduling and events. For example, in the Tsang region centered in Shigatse, people worship the God of Land and the guarding deities on the second day of the new year and they burn cypress and juniper branches and set poles of prayer flags on the flat roofs of their houses to worship the deities on the third day. In Amdo region, people climb to mountaintops to burn cypress and juniper branches for deities on the New Year's Day and then visit the elderly in their villages and give them New Year's greetings. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ]
In the Gongbo area, New Year begins on the first day of the tenth Tibetan lunar month. On New Year's Eve, before having dinner, people let a dog as a foreteller' eat first. What it eats hints at what is in store for the family in the coming year. If the dog eats ghee or grated cheese, this signifies a blossom pasture, if it eats tsampa or cake, it predicts a good crop harvest; but if it eats meat, it is a very unlucky sign, meaning that death or pestilence may occur in the family. Curiously, the dog seems to understand the wish of the family, and eats little meat. Afterwards, the family begins their New Year's dinner. They try to eat as much as possible, because otherwise they believe they are carried away by ghosts. In the early morning of the New Year's Day they eat only barley flake gruel, which has long been a laughing matter for the people of other areas. The legendary explanation for the utterly different New Year's month of Gongbo region is as follows: In order to encourage the Gongbo men to focus themselves to resist an invading enemy, the Gongbo king decided to celebrate the New Year Festival quite ahead of time. This practice has been passed down to today.
Other regions also celebrate New Year on a different date. For instance, the Tibetan people living in the pastoral area of the northwestern Sichuan celebrate the festival according to the Han lunar New Year's days. The Tibetan people living in Jiarong, the rural area of Aba prefecture in northwestern Sichuan celebrate it on the 13th day of the l0th or 11th Han lunar month and call it the Tsampa New Year's.
The Tibetan people living in Baima, the steep mountain valley areas ranging from northern Sichuan to southern Gansu, celebrate New year it on the l5th day of the first Han lunar month, calling it the Torch Festival, while the Tibetan people living in Mianning area in southeastern Sichuan celebrate New Year in the middle of the 6th Han lunar month, also calling it the Torch Festival.
Horse races are held in Lhasa on the third day of Tibetan New Year. About 10,000 people show up to two dozen equestrian events including horse riding archery, horse riding shooting, and picking up bowls and white silk karda while riding. There are also performances like dancing on horrseback and making pyramid while riding on a horse. Watching the horse races is said to bring good luck. Chloe Xin of Tibetravel.org wrote: “ [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org, June 3, 2014 ]
Tibetan New Year Qiema Boxes
Tibetan people have the custom of making a "Qiema" box (“Five-Cereal Container”, richly-carved colorful wooden box) ) during Tibetan New Year, expressing the wish of good harvest, good luck and a better life in the coming year. Qiema boxes are made of wood and filled with colorful barley kernels, butter sculptures and tsampa (a type of bread mixed with ghee). [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org, June 3, 2014 ]
To make a Qiema box, one put into each side of a two-tier rectangular wooden box: barley kernels and tsampa, with Qingke spikes and butter sculptures (beautiful molded flowers covered in ghee). In the middle, colorful flowers and highland barley spikes are stuck as decorations. The Qiema box with many carvings is also painted beautifully using colored ghee, usually featuring figures which represent longevity and harmony. Barley kernels are a token of good luck; and tsampa symbolizes health and a bountiful harvests for the new year.
When Tibetan New Year is approaching, households are busy making Qiema boxes. Some people purchase them at markets. During New Year, a Qiema box is placed on a Tibetan cabinet in each Tibetan family house. When a guest comes to the Qiema he pick up several ears of wheat and some tsampa, and throws them in the air three times to worship God, before sampling some of the tsampa. The Qiema box is not only a kind of offerings, it is also a kind of gift in Tibet. During Tibetan New Year, Tibetan people exchange Qiema boxes with friends and neighbors, expressing the best wishes.
Tibetan New Year Prayer Flag Trees and Valences
Tibetan people use colorful valances (short pieces of cloth) to decorate the doors and windows of their houses. The colorful valances dance with wind and make the building more attractive. Replacing valances is a on Tibetan New Year’s Eve custom. On Tibetan New Year eve, Tibetans clean up their houses, change door and window valances, set up brand-new prayer flags on the roof and paint patterns symbolizing eternity and good luck on the gates with lime. Replacing window and door valances implies good luck. If a family does not replace the valance, it means the family is confronting with misfortune. Before Tibetan New Year you can find many vendors selling valances. Piles of colorful valances can be seen on the floor. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org]
With the approach of the Tibetan New Year, prayer flag trees become one of the best sellers in markets. Usually, we can see colorful prayer flags everywhere in Tibet, but during Tibetan New Year, prayer flag trees replace the prayer flags on hilltops. For Tibetan families, the prayer flags in five colors are believed to bring peace, compassion, wisdom, and strength. Sewing the multicolored prayer flags onto tree branches makes a prayer flag tree. Tibetans pray for good harvests and good luck in the coming year by sticking the new prayer flag trees onto the roofs to replace the old ones as the Tibetan New Year comes every year.
A good day after New year’s Day is carefully selected to replace prayer flag trees. On that day, all family members dress in their best clothes up and prepare some festival food and offerings, then climb up to the top of their house to replace the prayer flag tree. The colors of the prayer flags must be arranged in sequence of blue, white, red, green and yellow from the top down because different colors stands for different things, the blue for sky, white for clouds, red for flame, green for water and yellow for soil. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org, June 3, 2014 ]
Gtsang New Year: Farmers’ New Year
Tibetan people in Shigatse called Gtsang Tibetans who have a custom to celebrate New Year’s Day for four times each year: the New Year’s Day in the Gregorian calendar, Chinese Spring Festival, Tibetan New Year and Gtsang New Year or Farmers’ New Year. But they take the Gtsang New Year most importantly, and celebrate it most joyously, with Horse Racing, Archery Show and other activities. [Source: Chloe Xin, Tibetravel.org tibettravel.org ]
The Gtsang New Year is held generally at the beginning of the first month according to the Gregorian calendar. It’s the end of the whole year’s hard work, when crops have been harvested and farmers are sharing the happiest moment. Gtsang New Year in Tibetan calendar is deduced from the Buddhism calendar, it’s also an old festival based on the husbandry activities. Activities during the festival are closely related to the husbandry. Therefore, it is also called Farmers’ New Year. With lives of peasants becoming better off, people celebrate this festival more and more ceremoniously.
On the New Year Day, housewives can have a good rest in the day after a whole year’s hard work, meanwhile all the housework would be done by men and women would dress to the nines accepting their husband and children’s greeting, regards and services. All the housewives receive presents, Hada, and highland barley wine from their families. In the morning, a fiesta activity would be held in the hope of better harvest of crops and the safety of both man and livestock in the coming year. All the family members take the firewood of coal and kind of cattle excrement firewood, climbing to the top of the house to hold the morning fiesta to pray in an undertone for the future harvest, safety and happiness. Later, people clear up the threshing ground and spread some highland barley, wheat, peas, rapeseeds, and buckwheat on it. They stand on the top floor of the house and sincerely wait for the birds to eat the crops. If birds like eating a certain kind of crop, the crop is indicated to be a bumper crop. On the contrary, people would not have a good harvest for the crops birds seldom eat. If birds like to eat all kinds of crops, people welcome a great harvesting year. They believe that birds are the holy spirits sent from the heaven, they can predict if people can reap the harvest or not.
On the second day of the Gtsang New Year, people fetch the slim willow branches and sew them on ribbons and prayer flags. Usually, one piece of player flag is different from another in colors, and different colors have different signs according to the farmers. On the top of the branches, people sew on blue prayer flags which presents the blue sky; and lower, the white prayer flags standing for pure clouds are sew on; the third layer, red prayer flags means fire and the fourth, green means water. On the last layer, yellow prayer flags present the earth.
Image Sources: Purdue University, China National Tourist Office, Nolls China website http://www.paulnoll.com/China/index.html , Johomap, Tibetan Government in Exile
Text Sources: 1) Encyclopedia of World Cultures: Russia and Eurasia/ China , edited by Paul Friedrich and Norma Diamond (C.K.Hall & Company, 1994); 2) Liu Jun, Museum of Nationalities, Central University for Nationalities, Science of China, China virtual museums, Computer Network Information Center of Chinese Academy of Sciences, kepu.net.cn ~; 3) Ethnic China ethnic-china.com *\; 4) Chinatravel.com \=/; 5) China.org, the Chinese government news site china.org | New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Chinese government, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
Last updated July 2015