Tibet has been an important part of Chinese territory since ancient times, and the central government has always exercised effective jurisdiction over Tibet. The Tibetan people are an important member of the Chinese nation’s family. As early as the Paleolithic Age, Tibet had already had the footprints of Tibetan ancestors. About four or five thousand years ago, the scattered Tibetan ancestors who lived here gradually became unified, forming the initial stage of Tibetan society.
Tibet is neighboring to mighty Himalayan ranges with average altitudes range between 4,000m and 5,000m, numbers of world highest peaks including Mt. Everest are located, thus it deserves the name of roof of the world or third pole of the earth. Tibet takes up about a quarter of the Chinese territory, compared with 1/500th of its population. It is such a region with extreme living conditions and a low inhabited density due to its high altitude and cold weather, snow capped mountains, which can be seen throughout the plateau and most of the rivers in the Asian Subcontinent that are originated from these snowmelt.
The story of Tibet moved in the 7th century from colourful legend into the realm of history. The change was the result of two new arrivals – writing and Buddhism. Tibetan language appeared to have been the work of one man. Songtsen Gampo(松赞干布), a king of Tibet, had two wives from alliances with neighbouring powers. Songtsen Gampo, the most powerful and intelligent king of Tubo, conquered other tribes and founded the first dynasty of this land, Yarlung Dynasty (Tubo Kingdom). Songtsen Gampo also made great contributions to the region’s culture, economy, technology, religion, etc. by communicating with the outside world. The outstanding king of the Tubo Kingdom married two princesses of Nepal and of the Tang (618-907). The Princesses brought with them advanced technology, exotic culture, tea, silk and most important of all, peace and Buddhism.
The king built temples in his capital, Lhasa, to house his wives’ sacred treasures. This is the first visible foothold of Buddhism in Tibet. Early in the next century the Indian religion receives a further boost when Buddhists from central Asia flee to this remote region to escape the advance of the Muslims. But it was not until the second half of the 8th century that Tibetan kings actively promote Buddhism as their state cult.
Songtsen Gampo embraced the religion and the first transmission of Buddhism came to the snowy land. The king and the princesses built Jokhang Temple and Ramoche Temple to enshrine the holy statues of Sakyamuni. They also ordered the construction of the grand Potala Palace. The king’s successors followed the religion too and in 779 King Trisong Detsen set up Samye Monastery, the first Buddhist temple on this land. The great religious teacher, Padmasambhava was invited there and Buddhism was recognized as the state religion. The Buddhist influence spread as the expansion of the Tibetan empire continued. The indigenous Bon were not satisfied with the popularity that Buddhism held with the royal family. In 836, King Ralpachen was assassinated and Lang Darma , who believed in Bon and objected to Buddhism, was installed as King. Severe persecution against Buddhists ended the first Buddhism transmission. Lang Darma, in 842, was assassinated by a Buddhist and the collapse of the Yarlong Dynasty followed causing the decentralization of the region and a struggle for power for the next 400 years.
In the twelfth century, the Mongol Empire rose to power and expanded aggressively. Sakyapa, or the Stripe sect, was quite powerful among all the sects at that time. The Mongol Emperor negotiated with the abbot of Sakyapa and assisted him to become the ruler of the land. From then on, the region became an appendage of the Mongol Empire. Later, the Mongol Empire conquered the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and founded the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). In 1254, Kublai Khan(忽必烈) granted supreme authority over the snowy land to the leader of Sakyapa. Sakya Pandit was appointed to become the imperial preceptor and a high official in his court. The area was thus incorporated as one of the 13 provinces of China. At the end of the Yuan Dynasty, Sakyapa declined and was replaced by the Kagyu order, whose patron offered tribute to the imperial court and was conferred with titles and administrative authority.
After the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) was established, lamas were the supreme rulers in Tibet, which must receive titles from the emperors of the Ming Dynasty.
In 1644, Qing Dynasty replaced Ming Dynasty. In 1652, the Fifth Dalai Lama was summoned to Beijing, and in 1653 he was conferred with the title Dalai Lama and made religious leader of local Buddhism by Emperor Shunzhi (1643 – 1661). In 1727, the central government of the Qing Dynasty sent ministers there as a representative to supervise local administration. The boundary of Tibet and Sichuan, Yunnan, and Qinghai was then officially set. The Qing government promulgated Imperially Approved Ordinance for the More Efficient Governing of Tibet concerning many issues such as the duty of representative ministers, boundary military defense, finance, tax and the management of the temples, etc. in 1793. Since then, the major principles of the ordinance worked as the regulation for local regime and legislation for more than a century.
Republic of China
In 1911, the Qing Dynasty collapsed and the Republic of China was founded. The government of Republic of China practiced the sovereignty of the area just as the Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties did. The central government set Mongolia and Tibet affair office and commission to execute the administration of Tibet nationality, Mongolia nationality as well as other minorities.
People’s Republic of China
In 1949, the People’s Republic of China was founded. The PRC government adopted the policy of peace liberation and signed with local government the Seventeenth Point Treaty. Later in 1959, Chinese government carried out a democratic reform of abolishing feudal serf system so that hundreds of thousands of serfs and slaves were free and no longer forced to labor.
With a steady development of the next several years, the Tibet Autonomous Region was officially set up in September, 1965. Up to now, this splendid pure land has received numerous visitors from all over the world ever since it is opened to the outside world.
- Mongol Invasions of Tibet
- Prehistory and Neolithic Tibet
- Tibetan Empire
- Era of Fragmentation in Tibet
- Sino-Tibetan Relations
- Tibetan Independence
- Phagmodrupa Dynasty of Tibet
- Rinpungpa of Tibet
- Tsangpa of Tibet
- Ganden Phodrang of Tibet
- Dalai Lama of Tibet
- Qing Dynasty Conquest
- History of European Invasions
- History of British Invasions
- Mount Kailash Mystery
- Central Tibetan Administration
- People’s Republic of China
- History of Chinese expedition to Tibet