Tibet is home for some of the oldest people groups in China, and has drawn spiritual seekers for centuries. Unfortunately, the truth of Jesus Christ has been kept out of the land for hundreds of years.
The Tibetans are one of the 55 minority people groups of Mainland China. According to the 2000 census, there are about 5.4 million Tibetans in China, with about half in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Tibetans are also found in the provinces of Sichuan, Qinghai, Gansu and Yunnan. They are called Zang inside China.
The Tibetans are Lamaist Buddhists. Buddhism began to be firmly established in Tibet around 620 AD, with the main Buddhist missionaries coming from India.
The king at that time believed in Buddhism and had monasteries built and Buddhist scriptures translated. Sharp and intense conflict arose between Buddhism and the aboriginal Bon religion. In its several-hundred-year struggle with the Bon religion, Buddhism finally prevailed.
However, it absorbed numerous doctrines, rites and divinities of the Bon, thus forming Tibetan Buddhism with evident local characteristics. Before the Cultural Revolution, Tibet had 2700 temples and monasteries and about 110,000 monks and nuns. Prior to that, Tibet was a theocracy where the officials and priests were treated as nobles.
From the age of five, boys in their thousands enter lamaseries to become monks and learn the Buddhist scriptures. The dalai lama, meaning Ocean of Wisdom, is the highest priest and god-king of Lamaistic Buddhism. Tibetans believe that when a dalai lama dies his soul is reborn in a newborn baby. Soon after the death of each dalai lama, the search begins to find his successor.
Christianity and Lamaism are diametrically opposed, so Tibet has strongly resisted Christianity for centuries. Some house churches have recently developed in several key Tibetan areas with the total number of Tibetan Christians in all three major dialect groups now numbering in the hundreds.
The Bible was translated into Tibetan script in 1948, but this specific dialect is now understood by very few Tibetans, so new works are in progress. Scripture portions and evangelistic materials ranging from written tracts to the Jesus film and other video and audio CDs are now being distributed.