Home > Tibet Travel Tips

Tibetan Taboos

Taboos on diet

Tibetan people, especially the initiated Buddhists do not kill living things. They don't kill cows or sheep although they eat beef and mutton. Tibetan people do not take horse, dog and donkey meat and also do not eat fish in some areas, so please respect their diet habits.Generally, Tibetans do not eat fish, shrimps, chickens and eggs. But the diet habits have already changed a lot in the recent years with tourists' coming into Tibet.At dinner, do not eat mouthful. Do not chew your food noisily. Drink soup without noises.


Taboos on social courtesies

Let the guests or the elder people go first when you walk together with them.

When you talk, use honorific expressions.

When you address somebody, please add "la" behind the name to express respects.

When greeting or seeing off a guest, smile at him while you bend your body forward and bend your knees.

If you are asked to sit down, please cross your legs, do not stretch your legs forward and face your sole to others.

Do not gaze around casually.

You should accept the gift with both hands. While presenting the gift, you should bend your body forward and hold the gift higher than your head with both hands.

While offering tea, wine or cigarette, you should offer them by both hands and do not tough the inside of the bowl with any of your fingers.

When the host presents you a cup of wine, you should dip your ring finger in the wine and flick the wine in the air three times to express your respects to the heaven, the earth and the ancestors before sipping the wine. The host will fill the cup, and you take a sip of the wine again. After the host fills your cup for the forth time, you have to bottom it up.When the host presents you a cup of ghee tea, you should wait until the host holds the cup with both hands to you and take the tea.Do not accept things or give things to others with one hand. When the host fills the cup, you should lower the cup a little with both hands to show respect.


Taboos on behaviors

Do not spit or clap your palms behind Tibetan people.Seeing any dagobas, monasteries or Mani piles, please go around them clockwise (not of the Bon).
Do not cross any musical instruments used in the Buddhist mass.
Do not cross any fire-pans.Do not relieve yourself near any cattle pens, horse stables, or sheepfolds.
Do not throw any bones into fire.
Do not touch other's head by hand.Do not use paper with Tibetan characters as tissue or wipe off mess with the paper.
Do not step on threshold when entering the tent or house.
Do not spit in front of the Tibetan people.


In the tent, men sit on the left side, and women on the right side.When there is someone ill or when a woman is giving birth to a baby, Tibetans will make a sign in front of their houses. Some people light a fire in front of their houses. Some place a branch or a red cloth tag in the doorway. Do not enter the house if you see the sign.Tibetan people believe that there are auspicious days and ominous days for everyone. In the ominous days, people can do nothing but stay at home pattering or go to worship the gods and Buddha to avoid the mischance. The Tibetans believe that the end of each Dizhi (the 12 Terrestrial Branches, used in combination with ten Celestial Stems to designate years, months, days and hours) and the beginning of the following Terrestrial Branch in the Tibetan calendar is an ominous year. People should be more careful when they reach their ages of 13, 25, 37 and 49 and so on, which are believed to be one's ominous years in their life.On the outskirts, you could not drive or disturb the sheep or cows with red, green or yellow cloth strips on because these animals are the Tibetan sacrifice to worship gods. Eagles are the sacred birds in the eyes of the Tibetan people. You should not drive them away or injure them.


Taboos related to belief

DO not whirl round the prayer wheels anticlockwise.

Do not enter the monastery without permission. No smoke in monasteries. Also it is banned to touch the statue of Buddha and religious articles and scan the sutra books, toll the bells or beat the drums.

Do not touch any amulets or the prayer beads that the Lama wears. Be quiet when you are in the monastery, and sit erect.
Do not take the seat of the Living Buddha.
Do not make noise, hunt or kill any animals near the monastery.
Do not make a racket when you arrive at a mountain (rackets at the quiet mountaintop are believed possible to cause sudden storm or hailstones).


Other Taboos

1. Do not watch a sky burial without permission. If it is allowed, do not take photos.
2. People should keep quiet on the top of mountains. It is believed that loud noise will result in heavy snow, storms or hail.
3. Women should not shake their skirts in front of others. It will bring bad luck to other people.
4. Yaks and sheep roaming freely with red, yellow, or green strips of cloth may be sacrifices to deities. Do not do any harm to them. Eagles are holy birds in Tibet, so do not shoot at them.
5. Never touch the head of another person.
6. It is impolite to spit in front of or behind others. Clapping hands behind others is also considered impolite.
7. Do not use paper printed with Tibetan language to scrub anything.
8. After the death of a person, relatives must not dance or sing to ensure that the soul of the deceased can arrive quietly in heaven.

Relevant Updated