In the early 1920s the Tsumba (the people of the Tsum) declared their land a Shyakya; a specially designated area in which animal sacrifice is entirely forbidden. Seven rules were agreed upon to help protect the local ecology for future generations. Attempting to promote a harmonious existence within their environment, the Tsumba have quietly lead by example, upholding their self–governed environmental rules.
Around ninety percent of the population of Tsum are of Tibetan origin, they speak a unique language that is mostly Tibetan combined with parts of their local dialect. Throughout Tibetan communities the Tsum Valley is known as ‘Beyul Kyimolung’. A Beyul is a sacred land of refuge that possess a wealth of natural beauty, which according to the local lore was established by the Buddhist priest Guru Rinpoche in the 8th century. While these areas hold great significance within the Buddhist faith the idea of a Beyul could perhaps be seen as an early form of environmental stewardship. Where early leaders recognised the importance of the natural world and promoted the idea of protecting our environment in order to sustain life — and not only that of its human inhabitants.
The Tsumba believe that the source of their self proclaimed happiness is a result of their cohesive community, simple lifestyle and their abundant natural resources. In order for people to sustain their way of life there is plenty of land to farm, water to drink and individual communities are small, the majority of which rely on subsistence agriculture.
Generally there is little interest in making more money than one needs to live by, as such economic disparity appears to be somewhat minimal. Perhaps most importantly is the social cohesion found within Tsum. Almost all Tsumba have grown up with one another and consequently their connection feels like that of an extended family. This bond reaffirms the strong sense of cultural identity within the Tsumba.
The continuation of their environmental values over the last century is deserving of great acclaim. Tsum is a place in which the door is always open, where kindness and hospitality is provided generously, in a land of remarkable natural beauty surpassed only by its proud custodians.
SEVEN SHYAKYA RULES AND REGULATIONS: (i) No hunting of any wild animals. (ii) No trapping of any wild animals. (iii) No honey hunting. (iv) No selling of domestic animals for slaughter. (v) No killing of animal calves. (vi) No transport of any animals. (vii) No fires in the pasture land or forest.