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Changpa nomad
Changpa shepherd girl
Changpa nomadic family, Tibet

The Changpa or Champa are a semi-nomadic Tibetan people found mainly in the Changtang in Ladakh and in Jammu and Kashmir. A smaller number resided in the western regions of the Tibet Autonomous Region until they suffered forced relocation by China.

Changpa of the Tibet Autonomous Region[edit]

The homeland of the Changpa is a high altitude plateau known as the Changtang, which forms a portion of western and northern Tibet extending into southeastern Ladakh, and Changpa means "northerners" in Tibetan.[1] Unlike many other nomadic groups in Tibet, the Changpa are not under pressure from settled farmers as the vast majority of land they inhabit is too inhospitable for farming.

Most of the Tibetan Changtang is now protected nature reserves consisting of the Changtang Nature Reserve, the second-largest nature reserve in the world, and four new adjoining smaller reserves totalling 496,000 km2. (191,507 sq. miles) of connected Nature Reserves, which represents an area almost as large as Spain, and bigger than 197 countries. Since the reserves have been established there has been a welcome increase in the numbers of endangered species. The protected areas stretch across parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Xinjiang and Qinghai in China[2]

Changpa of Jammu and Kashmir[edit]

The Changpa of Ladakh are high altitude pastoralists, raising mainly yaks and goats. Among the Lasakh Changpa, those who are still nomadic are known as Phalpa, and they take their herds from in the Hanley Valley to the village of Lato. Hanley is home to six isolated settlements, where the sedentary Changpa, the Fangpa reside. Despite their different lifestyles, both these groups intermarry. The Changpa speak Changskhat, a dialect of Tibetan, and practice Tibetan Buddhism.[3]

Only a small part of Changthang crosses the border into Ladakh, in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It is, however, on a historically important route for travelers journeying from Ladakh to Lhasa, and now has many different characteristics due to being part of India. Historically, the Changpa of the Lasakh would migrate with their herds into Tibet, but with Chinese occupation of Tibet, this route has been closed.[4]

As of 2001, the Changpa were classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of affirmative action.[5]


A documentary Riding Solo to the Top of the World was made by Gaurav Jani.


  1. ^ Rizvi, Janet (1999). Trans-Himalayan Caravans. Oxford University Press. pp. 301. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.Rizvi, Janet (1999)
  2. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn; Beal, Cynthia (1990). Nomads of Western Tibet. Cerkeley, CA, USA: University of California Press. pp. 60. ISBN 0-520-07211-1.
  3. ^ Champa by B.R Rizvi in People of India Jammu and Kashmir Volume XXV edited by K.N Pandita, S.D.S Charak and B.R Rizvi pages 182 to 184 Manohar ISBN 8173041180
  4. ^ Rizvi, Janet (1999). Trans-Himalayan Caravans. Oxford University Press. pp. 301. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.
  5. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Retrieved 27 November 2012.