Total population
India: 2,661 (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
 China :  India : Ladakh
Changthang language
Mainly Buddhism (89%)[1]
Minority Islam (10%) and Hinduism (1%)[1]
Related ethnic groups
Baltis, Ladakhis, Purigpa, and other Tibetan People

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, India. A smaller number resides in the western regions of the Tibet Autonomous Region and were partially relocated for the establishment of the Changtang Nature Reserve. By 1989, there were half a million nomads living in the Changtang area.[2]

Changpa of the Tibet Autonomous Region

The homeland of the Changpa is a high altitude plateau known as the Changtang, which forms a portion of western and northern Tibet extending to southeastern Ladakh, and Changpa means "northerners" in Tibetan.[3] 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.[4]

Most of the Tibetan Changtang is now protected by means of nature reserves consisting of the Chang Tang 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 were established, there has been a welcome increase in the number of endangered species. The protected areas stretch across parts of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Xinjiang and Qinghai in China.[2]

The Changpa of Ladakh are high-altitude pastoralists, raising mainly yaks and goats. Among the Ladakh Changpa, those who are still nomadic are known as Phalpa and they take their herds from 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.[5]

Only a small part of Changthang crosses the border into Ladakh, in the Indian union territory 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 Ladakh would migrate with their herds into Tibet, but with the Chinese takeover of Tibet, this route has been closed.[3]

As of 2001, the Changpa are classified as a Scheduled Tribe under the Indian government's reservation program of affirmative action.[6]

Changpa and their goats

For many Changpa, rearing of animals and consuming and selling their produce (milk and its products, hair and meat) is their only means of livelihood.[7]

The Changpa rear the highly pedigreed and prized Changra goats (Capra hircus) that yield the rare Pashmina (Cashmere) fibre. The Changra goats are not raised for their meat but for their fibre (pashm). The pashmina fibre (Pashm in Persian) is the finest fibre of all goat hair.[7]


A documentary, Riding Solo to the Top of the World, was directed by Gaurav Jani. Another documentary, The Nomadic Night, depicting the life of the Changpa, was directed by Marianne Chaud.[8]


  1. ^ a b c "ST-14 Scheduled Tribe Population By Religious Community". Census of India Website. Office of the Registrar General & Census Commissioner, India. Retrieved 31 May 2021.
  2. ^ a b Goldstein, Melvyn & Beal, Cynthia (1991). Nomads of Western Tibet. Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California Press. p. 60. ISBN 0-520-07211-1.
  3. ^ a b Rizvi, Janet (1999). Trans-Himalayan Caravans. Oxford University Press. p. 301. ISBN 0-19-564855-2.
  4. ^ "Changtang Plateau". Tibet Travel and Tours - Tibet Vista. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  5. ^ Rizvi, B.R (2003). "Champa". In K.N Pandita; S.D.S Charak & B.R Rizvi (eds.). People of India Jammu and Kashmir. People of India. Vol. XXV. New Delhi: Manohar. pp. 182–184. ISBN 8173041180.
  6. ^ "List of Scheduled Tribes". Census of India: Government of India. 7 March 2007. Archived from the original on 5 June 2010. Retrieved 27 November 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Changpa People of Ladakh, India". Atlas Of Humanity. Retrieved 6 March 2022.
  8. ^ Jani, Gaurav (1 November 2006), Riding Solo to the Top of the World (Documentary), Dirt Track Productions, retrieved 6 March 2022