Customs and Taboos

By: Song Shuhong, Tibet from all Angles
Updated: June 04, 2018

Tibetan people have their unique customs and taboos.   


One example is a taboo against eating donkey and horse meat, and especially dog meat. Any utensil found to have contained such mea would never be used again. They think such meat is unclean, and to eat it is sinful and will prevent them from going to heaven after death. People in some areas also do not eat fish. Herdsmen revere horses, reflecting the totem worship customs of primitive religion. They regard the horse as a symbol of the Road God; therefore, they never consume anything related to it.   


On the first day of the new year under the Tibetan calendar, people do not sweep the floor, eat stuffed food, cry, curse, fight or say ominous words, or they will lose all chances to enjoy an auspicious year. During the period of celebration, people do not borrow anything from others, worrying that they will suffer poverty throughout the year as a result.   


The biggest taboo of Tibetan ethnic group is killing. Herdsmen think that killing is undesirable brutal behavior and strongly oppose the hunting of wild animals.   


Another taboo is to spit or to clap hands behind someone. Women cannot shake their skirts in front of others, which is regarded as a symbol of wishing misfortunes on them. Walkers must pass monasteries, Mani heaps, pagodas and other religion facilities walking in a clockwise direction to avoid sin. There are many taboos including stepping over musical instruments and fire pans; rotating a prayer wheel anticlockwise; touching the top of another person’s head; speaking while climbing over the high mountain peak, which will result in wind, snow and hail; throwing bones into the fire, which will attract ghosts; whistling at home for the same reason; receiving guests when a family member has become ill; taking out the trash at night; taking white things out of home after dark, which will cause loss of wealth; preparing for a happy occasion, singing and dancing in the 49 days after a relative dies, which will prevent the dead from going to heaven quietly.