Tibetan Sacred Lands: Where Nature and Culture Meet In ... - Library


Tibetan Sacred Lands: Where Nature and Culture Meet In ... - Library


Tibetan Sacred Lands:

Where Nature and Culture Meet

In the Mountains of Southwest China

What's Tibetan Sacred Land?

In addition to being the harbor of the

richest biodiversity of all temperate forest

regions in the world, the Mountains of

Southwest China Hotspot is also famous for

its rich culture. Nearly 80 percent of the

hotspot is inhabited by Tibetans. Like Tibetan

people elsewhere, they hold cultural

perspectives and strong Buddhist beliefs

that respect life and nature. In tradition,

every Tibetan village and monastery has its

designated sacred sites-nearby mountains,

forests, lakes and rivers. For example, in

Ganzi Prefecture of western Sichuan, there

are over 2,000 such sacred natural sites,

which provide critical refuge for wildlife by

preserving and sustaining habitats. These

are the places where wildlife can still be

easily seen today. Living in such ecologically

sensitive areas and the practice of

protecting sacred sites has provided the

residents a wealth of indigenous knowledge

on sustainable land use and resource

management, which is still in function in

many places despite strong influences from

outside the region. Some sacred mountains

even survived the large-scale commercial

logging of the last century and remained

old-growth forests.

This non-material value system presents

unique opportunities for biodiversity

conservation in the hotspot and is especially

important in promoting sustainable

development and livelihoods, not only to

local Tibetan communities but also to the

rest of Chinese society.


The traditionally harmonious relationship

between human and nature has been eroded

by rapid economic development and external

influences, especially in the last few

decades. For example, building roads

through remote areas has caused habitat

destruction and has attracted investment

into poorly planned tourism development,

which further disturbs the ecosystem and

stimulates wildlife consumption. Lifestyle

change brought about by the outside tourists

also has had a gradual but profound

influence on the Tibetan culture. For example,

in Tibetan communities, the use of tiger and

leopard skins for clothing and the unsustainable

harvest of wildlife for commercial

trade have been increasing.

What We Do

The goal of the project is to conserve the

unique biodiversity of the Mountains of

Southwest China Hotspot by revitalizing

resource management systems in the

traditional Tibetan sacred lands, and

encouraging the associated sustainable

lifestyle to the Chinese society. The project

involves mapping of sacred sites, assessing

their biodiversity values, documenting and

gathering indigenous knowledge, reviving

Tibetan cultural and traditional practices of

sacred lands management, and promoting

the legal recognition of sacred lands

management as a community-based land

management and protection mechanism.

The project will also look at the possibility of

providing incentives, such as ecotourism

opportunities, to local communities. Our

long-term goal is to achieve a broader

recognition that Tibetan sacred lands in

Southwest China have been functioning as

a form of community protected area and

biodiversity corridor to effectively preserve

wildlife. Information extracted from this

project on values and lifestyle choices would

be educational to Chinese society and other

nations alike.

In addition, CI has been actively working

to secure more funding to support the

sacred land initiative. Organizations CI

China has approached for funding include

the US Department of State, USAID, Blue

Moon Fund, Bridge Fund, foreign embassies

in Beijing and other private donors.

Our Partners

CI-China has been actively seeking partners,

particularly those who can implement

projects on the ground, many of whom are

local grassroots Tibetan NGOs. CI-China has

built partnerships with key Tibetan groups

in the southwest region to explore means of

collaboration. These groups include

Kawagebo Cultural Society in Deqin

Prefecture, Yunnan, Snowland Great Rivers

Environment Protection Association based

in Yushu Prefecture, Qinghai Province, and

Green Khampa, which was just established

with support from CI-China, in Ganzi

Prefecture, Sichuan Province. Although they

are just getting started as the first Tibetan

environmental NGOs, they have

demonstrated enormous potential to make

a big difference in the region. CI-China has

assisted them in designing projects and

securing funding from Critical Ecosystem

Partnership Fund (CEPF). In the mean time,

we also collaborate the organizations that

have been established in this region, such

as The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the World

Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), and The Center

for Biodiversity and Indigenous Knowledge

(CBIK). On the government side, CI-China

works with Forestry Departments in Yunnan,

Sichuan and Tibet, as well as various

government agencies at the prefecture and

county level.

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