Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Sky Burial

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Sky Burial

An Epic Love Story of Tibet

by Xue Xinran

Sky Burial by Xue Xinran X
Sky Burial by Xue Xinran
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  • First Published:
    Jul 2005, 220 pages
    Paperback:
    Jul 2006, 224 pages

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About Tibet
With an average elevation of 14-16,000 feet (sources differ), it's the highest nation on earth (by comparison, the highest mountain in the 48 contiguous states is Mt. Whitney at 14,494 feet)

Five of Asia's great rivers including the Indus, Mekong and Brahmaputra have their headwaters in Tibet.

Nearly half the world's population lives downstream from Tibet.

Tibet's unique ecosystem is home to many rare species including the snow leopard, blue sheep and Tibetan wild ass.

Tibet fully embraced Buddhism in the 8th century AD (many centuries after the philosophy/religion began around 500 BC).  Tibetan Buddhism has been a principal target of communist reforms since the China declared/re-declared (dependent on one's point of view) sovereignty over Tibet in the 1950s. By 1969, not a single practicing monk or nun remained in Tibet. Today, China's communist Party permits some practice of religion, but controls and severely restricts Tibet's monasteries and nunneries.

A sky burial is a traditional Tibetan funeral ritual in which the corpse is exposed to the open air to be eaten by sacred vultures. Follow these links for background information about the ritual of sky burial and an account of a sky burial.

This article was originally published in August 2005, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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