• Oct 2, 2012

Rebuilding in the Bay: Holding on to Heritage

by Maddie Gaw

Tibetans began arriving in the United States, and the Bay Area specifically, as early as the 1960s. This first wave followed the 1959 Tibetan Uprising against Chinese occupation, which began when China invaded Tibet in 1950. U.S. Tibetan communities really began to develop after Congress granted one thousand visas for Tibetan exiles and their families living in India in 1992. Today, around 2,000 Tibetans live in the Bay Area, many having immigrated from Nepal and India. The most significant portion of Bay Area Tibetans live in the East Bay, particularly in Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond and El Cerrito.

Many Tibetan organizations in the Bay Area focus on preserving language, culture, and religion and sharing this knowledge with the younger members of the community who were born in the States. Many also spread awareness about Tibet and Tibetan culture to non-Tibetans.

Here is just a snapshot of the many local Tibetan organizations and businesses in the Bay Area:



Tibetan Association of Northern California (TANC)
5200 Huntington Avenue, Suite 200
Richmond, CA 94804


“The mission of TANC is to preserve the Tibetan culture and to promote self-rule in Tibet. To this end, TANC seeks to raise awareness about Tibet in the United States and to support the development of Tibetan social, cultural and artistic traditions in Northern California.” Programs include the Tibetan Community Center of Northern California, the Tibetan School in Berkeley—which offers classes in Tibetan language, music and dance—their Health Promotion Program and Community Health Hotline. They are also provide information about locally owned businesses and human rights events and campaigns.


Bay Area Friends of Tibet
1310 Fillmore Street, Suite 401
San Francisco, CA 94115


“The mission of the Bay Area Friends of Tibet is to study, promote interest in, and actively preserve Tibetan culture in all its aspects; to educate the general public in matters pertaining to Tibet and the Tibetan people; and to provide assistance to Tibetans.” Major projects include facilitating the immigration of Tibetans to the Bay Area and providing assistance, raising awareness about local and international political actions related to Tibet, and funding different cultural and social projects for the Tibetan community in the Bay Area and at large.


Chaksam-pa, Tibetan Dance & Opera Company
6615 Schmidt Lane, #14
El Cerrito, CA 94530


“Chaksam-pa is dedicated to preserving the unique and threatened traditions of Tibet through recordings, performances and training” (experiencela.com). The small company is made up of performers who were trained at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala, India. In 2011, Chaksam-pa presented the first performance of a full-length Tibetan Opera in the United States.


Tibetan Buddhism

Gyuto Foundation
6401 Bernhard Avenue
Richmond, CA 94805


The Gyuto Foundation is an active Tibetan monastery and learning center with regular meditation classes open to all. It also offers discussion classes for Tibetan youths and other services and assistance for the local Tibetan community.


Dharma Publishing
35788 Hauser Bridge Road
Cazadero, CA 95421


Dharma Publishing reproduces sacred Tibetan texts and art, offers online classes in Dharma, meditation and yoga, and its proceeds go towards the free distribution of Tibetan Buddhist texts to monasteries, monks and nuns around the world. Their storefront next to the Dharma College in downtown Berkeley sells books, art, and meditation materials.

YoWangdu Tibetan Culture

YoWangdu’s three major products and services are the Tibetan Home Cooking eBook and video series, an online intro course to Tibetan Buddhism, and a Tibetan travel service.


Café Tibet
2010 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94704


An authentic Tibetan restaurant, their signature dish is their Combination Momo Plate, momos being a uniquely crafted Tibetan dumpling.


Momo Masala
2505 Hearst Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709


A Tibetan and Indian fusion restaurant, named after two signature elements of these respective cuisines.


Tibet Moon
47 Broadway Boulevard
Fairfax, CA 94930


Sells fine Tibetan handicrafts, including singing bowls, meditation items and more.