What is a good, authoritative source on the history of Tibet?

What is a good, authoritative source on the history of Tibet?

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I'd like to know more about this topic as people often discuss it with me. What is a good book for me to read to gain a better understanding of Tibetan history?

Using my elite Amazon search skills, I discovered Tibet: A History by Sam van Schaik, which looks like what you want.

Personally, I'm a fan of reading literature and/or biographies, as I find concrete stories give me a better handle on the more abstract cultural or political issues covered in a regular history. Sardathrion's books look interesting, as does Tibetan Diary by Geoff Childs.

Two frogs, a thousand years apart

A while ago I wrote about a Tibetan spellbook, a grimoire if you like, dating back to the ninth or tenth century. This compendium of spells is written in a tiny hand on long leaves of paper that have been stitched in the middle, creating a makeshift booklet. Across the front, the owner has written his name in big letters. Clearly this was a compendium of rituals that was owned and used by this person, and from his name, we can tell that he was a Buddhist monk. Probably, he made some kind of a living from performing these rituals for local people. Some might be shocked that a Buddhist monk would stoop to such things — and that was the subject of a discussion on one Buddhist forum that picked up on this post. But if you’ve read any anthropological or archeological studies of Buddhist communities, you probably wouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve been reading Charles Rambles’ recent book, The Navel of the Demoness, an anthropological study of a Himalayan village in Nepal where local rituals and Buddhism exist side by side. One passage in particular reminded me of that old grimoire from Dunhuang. It was this:

The last, and perhaps most interesting, of the rites performed by Tshognam for Te is the annual rain-making ceremony. Tantric techniques for controlling the weather are nothing unusual in the Tibetan tradition: weather-makers were even employed by the Lhasa government to ensure rain at appropriate times and to keep hail off vulnerable sites. The technique used by the senior lama of Tshognam, however, does not belong to the usual Tibetan repertoire but was assimilated by his grandfather, “Doctor Dandy,” from the “outsiders’ religion” (Tib. phyi pa’i chos) — specifically, from Hinduism: he learned it, it is said, from a mendicant Indian pilgrim. The ritual is performed in the summer, with the intention of ensuring that the pastures are well watered and that the snow-melt that irrigates the buckwheat crop is supplemented with rain. The procedure, briefly, is as follows. Two hollow wax models of frogs are made. Through a hole in the back, the frogs are filled with various ingredients, including the excrement of a black dog and magical formulae written on slips of paper, and the holes are sealed with a wax lid. One of the frogs is stuffed into the mouth of one of the springs to the east of Te, and the other is burned at a three-way crossroads. The principle of this method is apparently to pollute the subterranean serpent-spirits and the sky gods, and induce them to wash away the contagion by producing water from the earth and the heavens.

Now compare this ritual with one from the Dunhuang grimoire:

This is the ritual method for people under the influence of a powerful naga or in conflict with with nagas, who have aches and swellings, or are crippled:

Take one handful of the ground barley flour and make it into the shape of a frog. In a cavity made with a bamboo stick, mix up an ointment of various ingredients and apply it to wherever the ache is. Meditate on your own yidam. From the direction of the west, Hayagrīva-Varuna appears with his entourage. Led by black emanations, he sits on a throne. Holding a water lasso, he tames the nagas and plagues. Then all sicknesses are drawn forth and destroyed by frog emanations. Visualise this and augment it with: “om ba du na ‘dza/ ba ga bhan a tra/ sa man ti/ to ba bha ye sva’ ha’/ hri ha hum”

Lift up the frog, and if a golden liquid emerges from under it, you will definitely recover. If it is merely moist, then you will recover before too long. If there is only meat with gluey flour, you will be purified by the end of your illness. It is not necessary to do the ritual again. If there is only gluey flour, separate it and do the ritual again. Having picked up the frog, place it in front of a spring, and make offerings to it with incense.

These two rituals, separated by at least a thousand years, strike me as intriguingly similar. Of course, the purposes of the two rituals are different. The modern one is for controlling the weather, and the ancient one for curing aches and swellings. But both of those things, the weather and certain personal ailments, have traditionally been considered the domain of the nagas (the Indian subterranean water deities assimilated to the Tibetan klu). And both rituals are for subduing the nagas.

In Ramble’s account, the lama’s grandfather Doctor Dandy is thought to have borrowed the rite from the Hindus. This seems to be supported by an article written in 1893 by L.A. Waddell, who observed frog rituals being performed to bring the rain in Nepal. On the other hand, our Dunhuang grimoire shows that there was a Buddhist precedent for the frog ritual. Yet this precedent itself is clearly borrowed from Indian religion, as it centres on the god Varuna, lord of the water element and closely connected with the nagas in Indian mythology.

In any case, the continuity of ritual practice is quite striking. In some tradition, somewhere, this particular ritual of making a model of a frog, filling it with various ingredients, and placing it at the mouth of the spring (a relatively complex sequence of activities), continued without much change for over a thousand years.

Cathy Cantwell and Robert Mayer. 2008. Early Tibetan Documents on Phur pa from Dunhuang. Vienna: OAW. (See p.201–2 for a description of IOL Tib J 401.)

Charles Ramble. 2008. The Navel of the Demoness: Tibetan Buddhism and Civil Religion in Highland Nepal. New York: Oxford University Press. (The passage above is on p.174.)

L.A. Waddell. 1893. “Frog Worship Amongst the Newars.” Indian Antiquary 22.

Tibetan Text
IOL Tib J 401, 3r-2v:
[3r] myi la klu gnyan gdon te klu rdzings te na ba dang/ skrangs pa dang/ ‘jas ‘grum dang/ phye bo la cho ga bgyi ba’i thabs nI/ bag phye las phul thag pa gcig byas te/ sbal pa’i gzugs gcig byas te/ steng smyug ma khor stong mtshon sna tshogs kyis kha bsku zhing/ thug btod de/ nad pa gar na ba’i steng du des klan la/ bdag yi dam gi lhar bsgom mo/ nub phyogs kyi ngos nas lha ha ya ‘gri ba/ ba ru na ‘khor dang bcas pa/ sbrul nag pos bskris pa’I khri la bzhugs te// [2v] chu’i zhags pa thogs pas/ klu dang gnyan ‘dul nas/ sprul pa’i sbal pas/ -na- nas thams cad phyung zhing bzhi ba+s par dmyigs pa cher btang nas/ /oM ba du na ‘dza/ ba ga bhan a tra/ sa man tI/ to ba bha ye sva’ ha’/ hri ha huM zhes byas nas/ sbal pa bteg ste/ ‘og nas chu ser byung na mod la ‘tsho/ gzher tsam mchis na/ rIng por myi thogs par ‘tsho// sha dang bag phye pa yod na/ du ‘byar pa bzhin cho ga bskyar dogs pa yin no// sbal pa ni blangs nas/ chu myig gi dngor bzhag nas/ spos dang pog dkar pos mchod do//

PS: If you look at media sites online, you’ll find a number of stories about “frog wedding” rituals performed in India to bring rain in times of drought. Here’s one from the LA Times, for example.

The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages

This is a groundbreaking book about a topic so important yet obscure it's hard not to be to blown away by it. The Tibetan Empire is something that few books cover or at best give it a passing thought. Yet this empire controlled huge swathes of Central Asia and a bit of China during the 7th century while leaving cultural legacies to this day. It's also nice that the renowned scholar Christopher Beckwith guides us through this complex era of Asian history. There are a few strengths and weaknesses this book has but I'll make a simplistic list to name them.

The Good.
1. The only book devoted to the subject and it's written in a authoritative style.
2. Appendices which succintly give more detailed information on certain subjects touched upon in the book.
3. Maps and extensive notes. This is useful especially considering the vast number of locations and events mentioned.
4. Glossary and a handy list of Frankish, Byzantine, Arab, Tibetan, Turkic, and Chinese Rulers.
5. A bibliography essay and a rich list of cited works.

Now the bad things.
1. Written in a very dry, technical and at times tiresome style. I'm no stranger to academic writing but this is just overboard. It is very boring. I only recommend this to scholars or students. General readers may struggle and not benefit much from this book.
2. Outdated in some aspects. Most noticable is the bibliography though some of the author's conclusions are a little dated as well.
3. Most notes and the book in general focus heavily in linguistic matters. This can be distracting or of little use to some.

To sum it all up, this book covers what few do and contributes enormously to Central Asian, Chinese and Tibetan history (especially early Tibet.) However, this book is a difficult and rather dull read. The title is much more exciting than the actual book. I wouldn't really recommend this to general readers as this is very specific and technical in nature. I do consider this a essential book though that every scholar or student should read to get a grasp of this obscure yet influential era of Tibetan expansionism and it's legacy.

Top critical review

A serious student with a certain background in Tibetan and Chinese history may find this book useful -- perhaps even indispensible. For everyone else, it may prove impenetrable. The two maps are almost totally worthless, and the text assumes a basic familiarity with place names and non-Tibetan figures that is inconsistent with a general survey. My background is in the Near East and Central Asia where Beckwith referred to place names in those areas, I understood him well, but when discussing Tibet or China, I did not.

The same is true of facts concerning contemporary empires. The Abassid revolution, for example, is mentioned only in passing, without any kind of discussion on its effect on Tibet and Central Asia. Obviously an in-depth discussion of the Abbassids is not necessarily appropriate for a monograph on Tibet, but Beckwith's greatest strength (his focus on Tibet's neighbors to explain events in Tibet) makes it a virtual necessity for this book.

This book is a political and military history. If you want details on Tibetan religion, culture, or literature, you will not find them here. Rather, we have a catalogue of battles, a desciption of waxing and waning influence in the Central Asian power struggles. I concede I may be asking the impossible -- not being a specialist, I don't know if such information even exists. Of course, Beckwith could have so stated.

The book starts and ends abruptly. The formation of the empire is disposed of with a few paragraphs. The disintigration of the empire is noted simply, with no discussion whatsoever of the decline that led to it, or the reasons that the once-mighty empire was irrevocably broken.

The book contains what should have been a helpful table of contemporary rulers. But the Tibetan names used in the text are not always the same as those used in the table, making it confusing and practically worthless for the non-specialist. And the Tibetan succession cannot easily be pieced together from the text alone because of the huge gaps in the narrative where the author focuses on other nations, such as Turgis campaigns against the T'ang.

In a sense, this is not a history of Tibet itself, so much as a history of all the major powers in Central Asia and their relationships with one another during the time period in which Tibet constituted an imperial power. That is useful as far as it goes, of course, but leaves Tibet itself almost as unknown at the end of the book as at the beginning.

I would recommend this book to specialists, except that specialists probably do not need it. I cannot recommend it to non-specialists, because of the many problems with it.

What is a good, authoritative source on the history of Tibet? - History

Opening Question
What gives the Bible so much influence in people’s lives so many years after it was written? Isn’t it outdated, and obsolete due to the progression of science and human reason?

This week’s lesson takes on several at-times conflicting human values, but all of which influence both the writing of the Bible, and our own interpretive lens:

The lesson, however, doesn’t do a great job showing how/why the Bible is such an authoritative source for our theology.

Can you think of places in the Bible where each of these is brought up or exemplified?

The lesson points to Mark 7:1-13. This challenging passage must first be seen in context: the Pharisees asked Jesus why he doesn’t follow the “tradition of the elder.” This does not mean Torah (or O.T. Law), but the oral interpretation of the Rabbis which was memorized and considered “inspired” commentary on the law. It was later codified as law itself in the Talmud and Mishna several centuries after Christ. Rabbis would argue over correct interpretation or application of the law, and respected Rabbis’ words carried the day. Jewish Yeshiva students today learn Torah, but words of the Rabbis are often just as important!

It’s important to note that nowhere in this passage are the Levitical/Deuteronomic dietary codes specifically called into question the context is over purity rituals where unwashed hands defiled food, due most likely to association with/touching common items. Jesus declares all food clean, yes, but certain animals in Judaism were never “food” in the first place.

After reading Mark 7, what is the essential problem Jesus has with the “tradition of the elders?” How can we prevent ourselves from adopting traditions that violate God’s will?

I’ve known people who have had dreams that they believed were from God, or claimed to have hear God speak to them directly some saw “signs” of God in events around them and they drew spiritual conclusions from what they assumed was divine providence. Their experiences were powerful shapers of their beliefs and even courses of action. In the secular world, human experience often becomes the standard of judging what is normative. Take resurrection of the dead for example. Because we don’t experience it, the secular mind assumes it is a product of people’s imagination or ancient myths, not reality. Yet Christian faith rests on it being a reality.

Modern science is founded on the premise that what we experience through our primary senses is the foundation of all reality. If I can duplicate a sensory experience, it becomes testable, and then normative and accepted as truth. The scientific method has incredible value for building knowledge and understanding the world around us, but it is limited to what is in the physical world, and cannot address issues of what should be, of ethics, philosophy, or even subjective human experience, let alone metaphysical realities like God’s existence, resurrection from the dead, and salvation/sanctification.

To what degree should the Bible be a test of our experiences, and where do its limits end?

This word is used frequently in modern sociological and political conversations. It often describes traditional ways of being human that distinguish one person or group from others. Sadly, it’s often politicized and weaponized as well. All humans share some aspects of culture—all must eat to survive, and thus the procurement of sustenance and water is foundational. But ethical and moral norms, social interaction, procreativity, education, religion, and a myriad of other human aspects may differ.

Every person who reads the Bible brings their own worldview and values to the text. While modern sociologists state that all cultures are equal in their own right, this position is challenged by the ethics of Judeo-Christianity. Biblical cultures varied from our own, yet the mistakes and successes of Jewish characters are frequently understandable across cultures. God’s word and prophets often challenged aspects of their own culture, calling them to ethics higher than that of the nations around them to which they were often drawn. The Bible challenges aspects of culture: what we eat and wear, what laws and actions should govern society, where we put our money and time, how we view and practice sexuality, and what our life-priorities should be.

How can our cultural bias or lens affect our interpretation of God’s Word? What if I fail to understand the culture of the Bible—can I still understand and interpret it correctly?

A person cannot function without the use of reason. The challenge is to know the role of reason, discernment, and distinguishing of spirits when it comes to spiritual things, and the Bible especially. Isaiah 1:18 reminds us that God wants us to reason with Him, to consider and ponder. Paul is often pictured in Acts as meeting with Jews and “reasoning” from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah, using convincing proofs and philosophical logic and arguments.

But can reason be applied to critiquing the Bible as a text? Can we use our own standards to judge what aspects of the Bible are worth taking seriously and which are not, which are believable and which are only symbolic, myth, legend, or hyperbole? If my reason tells me that resurrection doesn’t happen today, do I then dismiss Christ’s resurrection as a fable, or just a spiritual symbol? Human reason and science have too many limits to reject other possibilities.

How much of my reason is affected by sin? What is the line between using reason to understand and apply the Bible’s teachings or narrative case-studies to daily life, and using reason to undermine the Bible?

Closing Comments
This lesson ultimately does little to answer why or in what way, scripture is the source or basis for our theology (the title of the week’s lesson). However, if we could posit a conclusion, it might be that because the Biblical text has found fertile soil in the human heart throughout the millennia, it has proved itself over time to effect change in the lives of people. It became authoritative, practically speaking, because the first hearers of the text found it relevant to their lives and relationship with God. It consistently directs people to God and His law, His salvation and forgiveness, and earth’s future. Thus, becomes an authoritative guide to our spiritual lives.


In 1949, seeing that the Communists were gaining control of China, the Kashag expelled all Chinese connected with the Chinese government, over the protests of both the Kuomintang and the Communists. [3] Tibet was its own de facto country before 1951 (The referenced article was retrieved due to the lack of reliability). [4] but both the Republic of China (ROC) and the People's Republic of China (PRC) have maintained China's claim to sovereignty over Tibet. Many people [ who? ] felt that Tibet should not be part of China because they were constantly under attack in different ways rather often.

The Chinese Communist government led by Mao Zedong, which came to power in October, lost little time in asserting a new PRC presence in Tibet. The PRC has carried out different projects in Tibet but the people of Tibet seem to feel ignored politically and economically in the “Tibet Autonomous Region” and in the Tibetan portions of land in Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan. [5] In June 1950, the UK Government in the House of Commons stated that His Majesty's Government "have always been prepared to recognize Chinese suzerainty over Tibet, but only on the understanding that Tibet is regarded as autonomous." [6] On 7 October 1950, [7] The People's Liberation Army invaded the Tibetan area of Chamdo. The large number of units of the PLA quickly surrounded the outnumbered, largely pacifistic Tibetan forces. By October 19, 1950, five thousand Tibetan troops surrendered to the PRC. [7]

In 1951, representatives of Tibetan authority, with the Dalai Lama's authorization, [8] participated in negotiations with the PRC government in Beijing. This resulted in a Seventeen Point Agreement which established PRC's sovereignty over Tibet, and it thereby gave the PRC power to rule. [9] According to author Melvin Goldstein, the agreement was ratified in Lhasa a few months later. [10] According to the Tibetan government-in-exile, some members of the Tibetan Cabinet (Kashag), for example, Tibetan Prime Minister Lukhangwa, never accepted the agreement. [11] But the National Assembly of Tibet, "while recognizing the extenuating circumstances under which the delegates had to sign the 'agreement', asked the government to accept the 'agreement'. the Kashag told Zhang Jingwu that it would radio its acceptance of the 'agreement'." [12] Tibetan exile sources generally consider it invalid, as having been reluctantly or unwillingly signed under duress. [13] On the path that was leading him into exile in India, the 14th Dalai Lama arrived March 26, 1959 at Lhuntse Dzong where he repudiated the "17-point Agreement" as having been "thrust upon Tibetan Government and people by the threat of arms" [12] and reaffirmed his government as the only legitimate representative of Tibet. [14] [15] According to the Seventeen Point Agreement, the Tibetan area under the Dalai Lama's authority was supposed to be a highly autonomous area of China. From the beginning, it was obvious that incorporating Tibet into Communist PRC would bring two opposite social systems face-to-face. [16] In western Tibet, however, the Chinese Communists opted not to make social reform an immediate priority. On the contrary, from 1951 to 1959, traditional Tibetan society with its lords and manorial estates continued to function unchanged and were subsidized by the central government. [16] Despite the presence of twenty thousand PLA troops in Central Tibet, the Dalai Lama's government was permitted to maintain important symbols from its de facto independence period. [16] The first national census in all of the People's Republic of China was held in 1954, counting 2,770,000 ethnic Tibetans in China, including 1,270,000 in the Tibet Autonomous Region. [17] The Chinese built highways that reached Lhasa, and then extended them to the Indian, Nepalese and Pakistani borders.

Tibetan areas in Qinghai, known as Kham, which were outside the authority of the Dalai Lama's government, did not enjoy this same autonomy and had land redistribution implemented in full. Most lands were taken away from noblemen and monasteries and re-distributed to serfs. The Tibetan region of Eastern Kham, previously Xikang province, was incorporated into the province of Sichuan. Western Kham was put under the Chamdo Military Committee. In these areas, land reform was implemented. This involved communist agitators designating "landlords"—sometimes arbitrarily chosen—for public humiliation in so-called "struggle sessions", [18] torture, maiming, and even death. [19] [20] It was only after 1959 that China brought the same practices to Central Tibet. [21] [22]

By 1956 there was unrest in eastern Kham and Amdo, where land reform had been implemented in full. Rebellions erupted and eventually spread into western Kham and Ü-Tsang. In some parts of the country Chinese Communists tried to establish rural communes, as they were in the whole of China. [ citation needed ]

A rebellion against the Chinese occupation was led by noblemen and monasteries and broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June 1956. The insurrection, supported by the American CIA, [23] eventually spread to Lhasa.

The Tibetan resistance movement began with isolated resistance to PRC control in 1956. Initially there was considerable success and with CIA support and aid much of southern Tibet fell into Tibetan guerilla fighters hands. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. [24]

For many, their religious beliefs were not even left untouched by the communist influence. Those who practice Buddhism, as well as the Dalai Lama, were not safe from harm at this time. It came to the point where the Chinese government had caused a suppression of religion and in the end felt threatened by the Dalai Lama. What the Chinese government had thought to do was to kidnap and harm him. India ended up being the country that provided the safest land for the Tibetans and the Dalai Lama who wanted to practice Buddhism in peace and be safe at the same time.

In 1959, China's socialist land reforms and military crackdown on rebels in Kham and Amdo led to the 1959 Tibetan uprising. In an operation launched in the wake of the National Uprising of 10 March 1959 in Lhasa, 10,000 to 15,000 Tibetans were killed within three days. [25] Resistance spread throughout Tibet. Fearing capture of the Dalai Lama, unarmed Tibetans surrounded his residence, at which point the Dalai Lama fled [26] with the help of the CIA to India, because the people of Tibet wanted to take a stance and protect the man they all cherished, from the communist government . [27] [28] India ended up being the country that provided the safest land for the Tibetans and the Dali Lama who wanted to practice Buddhism in peace and be safe at the same time. On 28 March, [29] the Chinese set the Panchen Lama (who was virtually their prisoner [30] ) as a figurehead in Lhasa, claiming that he headed the legitimate Government of Tibet in the absence of the Dalai Lama, the traditional ruler of Tibet. [31] In 2009, Serfs Emancipation Day began as a holiday on 28 March in the Tibet Autonomous Region. The Chinese authorities claim that on this day in 1959, one million Tibetans (90% of the population) were freed from serfdom. [29] [32]

After this, resistance forces operated from Nepal. Operations continued from the semi-independent Kingdom of Mustang with a force of 2000 rebels many of them trained at Camp Hale near Leadville, Colorado, United States [33] Guerrilla warfare continued in other parts of the country for several years.

In 1969, on the eve of Kissinger's overtures to China, American support was withdrawn and the Nepalese government dismantled the operation. [ citation needed ]

1959 uprising Edit

Armed conflict between Tibetan rebels and the Chinese army (PLA) broke out in 1956 in the Kham and Amdo regions, which had been subjected to socialist reform. The guerrilla warfare later spread to other areas of Tibet.

In March 1959 a revolt erupted in Lhasa, which had been under the effective control of the Communist Party of China since the Seventeen Point Agreement in 1951. [34] On 12 March, protesters appeared in the streets of Lhasa declaring Tibet's independence. Within days, Tibetan troops prepared to secure an evacuation route for the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile during the uprising. Artillery shells landed near the Dalai Lama's Palace, [35] prompting the full force of the Uprising. Combat lasted only about two days, with Tibetan rebel forces being badly outnumbered and poorly armed. [36]

Reprisals for the 1959 Tibetan uprising involved the killing of 87,000 Tibetans by the Chinese count, according to a Radio Lhasa broadcast of 1 October 1960, although Tibetan exiles claim that 430,000 died during the Uprising and the subsequent 15 years of guerrilla warfare, which continued until the US withdrew support. [37]

Famine Edit

China suffered widespread famine between the years 1959 and 1961. The causes are disputed. Drought and poor weather played a part and the policies of the Great Leap Forward contributed to the famine, but the relative weights of each are in dispute. Estimates of deaths vary according to official government statistics, there were 15 million deaths. [38] Unofficial estimates by scholars have estimated the number of famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million. [39]

In May 1962, the Tenth Panchen Lama sent Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai a confidential report [40] [41] detailing the suffering of the Tibetan people, which became known as the 70,000 Character Petition. "In many parts of Tibet people have starved to death.. . . In some places, whole families have perished and the death rate is very high. This is very abnormal, horrible and grave. In the past Tibet lived in a dark barbaric feudalism but there was never such a shortage of food, especially after Buddhism had spread. In Tibet from 1959 to 1961, for two years almost all animal husbandry and farming stopped. The nomads have no grain to eat and the farmers have no meat, butter or salt," the report continued. [41] It was the opinion of the Panchen Lama that these deaths were a result of official policies, not of any natural disasters, which was the situation understood in Beijing by Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government. [42] The Panchen Lama also described the uniqueness of the famine that Tibet suffered from: "There was never such an event in the history of Tibet. People could not even imagine such horrible starvation in their dreams. In some areas if one person catches a cold, then it spreads to hundreds and large numbers simply die." [42] The destruction of most [ quantify ] of Tibet's more than 6,000 monasteries happened between 1959 and 1961. [43]

The 70,000 Character Petition was criticized by Barry Sautman from Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. According to Sautman, the 10th Panchen Lama is purported to have visited three counties before writing his report: the counties of Ping’an, Hualong and Xunhua, but his description of a famine concerns only Xunhua, his native region. All three counties are in Haidong Prefecture, a part of Qinghai province whose population is 90% non-Tibetan and does not belong to “cultural Tibet”. Exiled Tibetan writer Jamyang Norbu [44] accuses Sautman of downplaying PRC activities in Tibet and Xinjiang.

Sautman also stated that the claim that Tibet was the region most hit by China's famine of 1959–1962 is based not on statistics gathered in Tibetan areas, but on anonymous refugee reports lacking in numerical specificity. [45] Sautman's conclusions recently subjected to criticism. [46]

ICJ Human rights report Edit

Background Edit

Under the 1951 Seventeen Point Agreement the Central People's Government of the Chinese People's Republic gave a number of undertakings, among them: promises to maintain the existing political system of Tibet, to maintain the status and functions of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, to protect freedom of religion and the monasteries and to refrain from compulsion in the matter of reforms in Tibet. The ICJ found that these and other undertakings had been violated by the Chinese People's Republic, and that the Government of Tibet was entitled to repudiate the Agreement as it did on March 11, 1959. [47]

Occupation and genocide Edit

In 1960 the nongovernmental International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) gave a report titled Tibet and the Chinese People's Republic to the United Nations. The report was prepared by the ICJ's Legal Inquiry Committee, composed of eleven international lawyers from around the world. This report accused the Chinese of the crime of genocide in Tibet, after nine years of full occupation, six years before the devastation of the cultural revolution began. [47] The ICJ also documented accounts of massacres, tortures and killings, bombardment of monasteries, and extermination of whole nomad camps [25] Declassified Soviet archives provides data that Chinese communists, who received a great assistance in military equipment from the USSR, broadly used Soviet aircraft for bombing monasteries and other punitive operations in Tibet. [48]

The ICJ examined evidence relating to human rights within the structure of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as announced by the General Assembly of the United Nations. After taking into account the human, economic and social rights, they found that the Chinese communist authorities had violated Article 3, 5, 9, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 24, 25, 26 and 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Tibet. [47]

Cultural suppression Edit

In spite of claims by the Chinese that most of the damage to Tibet's institutions occurred subsequently during the Cultural Revolution (1966–1976), it is well established that the destruction of most of Tibet's more than 6,000 monasteries happened between 1959 and 1961. [43] During the mid-1960s, the monastic estates were broken up and secular education introduced. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards, which included Tibetan members, [49] inflicted a campaign of organized vandalism against cultural sites in the entire PRC, including Buddhist sites in Tibet. [50] According to at least one Chinese source, only a handful of the most important monasteries remained without major damage. [51]

Criticism of report Edit

According to various authors, the 1959 and 1960 ICJ reports date back to a time when that organization was funded by the CIA. A. Tom Grunfeld asserts that the United States took advantage of the Dalai Lama's leaving Tibet by prodding its clandestinely funded Cold War International Commission of Jurists to prepare propagandistic reports attacking China. [52] In his 1994 book The International Commission of Jurists, Global Advocates for Human Rights, [53] Howard B. Tolley Jr. explains how the ICJ was created and bankrolled by the CIA from 1952 to 1967 as an instrument of the Cold War without most ICJ officers and members knowing about it. [54] The connection between the CIA and the early ICJ is also mentioned by Dorothy Stein in her book People Who Count. Population and Politics, Women and Children, published in 1995. She accuses the Commission of growing out of a group created by American intelligence agents whose purpose was dissiminating anti-communist propaganda. [55] This contrasts with the official overview of the International Commission of Jurists, which is "dedicated to the primacy, coherence and implementation of international law and principles that advance human rights" and the "impartial, objective and authoritative legal approach to the protection and promotion of human rights through the rule of law" while providing "legal expertise at both the international and national levels to ensure that developments in international law adhere to human rights principles and that international standards are implemented at the national level." [56]

Establishment of TAR Edit

In 1965, the area that had been under the control of the Dalai Lama's government from 1951 to 1959 (Ü-Tsang and western Kham) was renamed the Tibet Autonomous Region or TAR. Autonomy provided that head of government would be an ethnic Tibetan however, the TAR head is always subordinate to the First Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Regional Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, who was not a Tibetan. [57] The role of ethnic Tibetans in the higher levels of the TAR Communist Party was very limited. [58]

Cultural revolution Edit

The Cultural Revolution launched in 1966 was a catastrophe for Tibet, as it was for the rest of the PRC. Large numbers of Tibetans died violent deaths due to it, and the number of intact monasteries in Tibet was reduced from thousands to less than ten. Tibetan resentment towards the Chinese deepened. [59] Tibetans participated in the destruction, but it is not clear how many of them actually embraced the Communist ideology and how many participated out of fear of becoming targets themselves. [60] Resistors against the Cultural Revolution included Thrinley Chodron, a nun from Nyemo, who led an armed rebellion that spread through eighteen xians (counties) of the TAR, targeting Chinese Party officials and Tibetan collaborators, that was ultimately suppressed by the PLA. Citing Tibetan Buddhist symbols which the rebels invoked, Shakya calls this 1969 revolt "a millenarian uprising, an insurgency characterized by a passionate desire to be rid of the oppressor." [61]

Demographic repercussions Edit

Warren W. Smith, a broadcaster of Radio Free Asia (which was established by the US government), extrapolated a death figure of 400,000 from his calculation of census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" people. [62] [63] The Central Tibetan Administration claimed that the number that have died of starvation, violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million. [64] According to Patrick French, the former director of the London-based Free Tibet Campaign and a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, the estimate is not reliable because the Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. French says this total was based on refugee interviews, but prevented outsider access to the data. French, who did gain access, found no names, but "the insertion of seemingly random figures into each section, and constant, unchecked duplication." [65] Furthermore, he found that of the 1.1 million dead listed, only 23,364 were female (implying that 1.07 million of the total Tibetan male population of 1.25 million had died). [65] Tibetologist Tom Grunfeld also finds that the figure is "without documentary evidence." [66] There were, however, many casualties, perhaps as many as 400,000. [67] Smith, calculating from census reports of Tibet, shows 144,000 to 160,000 "missing" from Tibet". [68] Courtois et al. forward a figure of 800,000 deaths and allege that as many as 10% of the Tibetan populace were interned, with few survivors. [69] Chinese demographers have estimated that 90,000 of the 300,000 "missing" Tibetans fled the region. [70] The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) denies this. Its official toll of deaths recorded for the whole of China for the years of the Great Leap Forward is 14 million, but scholars have estimated the number of the famine victims to be between 20 and 43 million. [71]

The Government of Tibet in Exile quotes an issue of People's Daily published in 1959 to claim that the Tibetan population has dropped significantly since 1959, counting the population of the Tibet Autonomous region but Qinghai, Gansu, and other regions inhabited by Tibetans, as the "Tibetan population". Compared as a whole to the 2000 numbers, the population in these regions has decreased, it says. [72] These findings are in conflict with a 1954 Chinese census report that counted ethnic Tibetans. [73] This is because in all of these provinces, Tibetans were not the only traditional ethnic group. This is held to be so especially in Qinghai, which has a historical mixture of different groups of ethnics. In 1949, Han Chinese made up 48.3% of the population, the rest of the ethnic groups make up 51.7% of the 1.5 million total population. [74] As of today, Han Chinese account for 54% of the total population of Qinghai, which is slightly higher than in 1949. Tibetans make up around 20% of the population of Qinghai. [ citation needed ] Detailed analysis of statistical data from Chinese and Tibetan emigrant sources revealed errors in estimates of Tibetan population by regions. Although it may contain errors, data from the Government of Tibet in Exile was found to be in better correspondence with the known facts than any other existing estimates. With respect to total population of the whole Tibet in 1953 and 1959, the Tibetan side appears to provide numbers that are too high, while the Chinese side provides numbers that are too low. [75]

On June 20, 1959 in Mussoorie during a press conference, the Dalai Lama stated: "The ultimate Chinese aim with regard to Tibet, as far as I can make out, seems to attempt the extermination of religion and culture and even the absorption of the Tibetan race. Besides the civilian and military personnel already in Tibet, five million Chinese settlers have arrived in eastern and north-eastern Tso, in addition to which four million Chinese settlers are planned to be sent to U and Sung provinces of Central Tibet. Many Tibetans have been deported, thereby resulting in the complete absorption of these Tibetans as a race, which is being undertaken by the Chinese." [76]

Following Mao's death in 1976, Deng Xiaoping launched initiatives of rapprochement with the exiled Tibetan leaders, hoping to persuade them to come to live in China. Ren Rong, who was Communist Party Secretary in Tibet, thought that Tibetans in Tibet were happy under Chinese Communist rule and that they shared the Chinese Communist views of the pre-Communist Tibetan rulers as oppressive despots. "By 1979 most of the estimated 600,000 monks and nuns were dead, disappeared, or imprisoned, and the majority of Tibet's 6,000 monasteries had been destroyed." [77] So, when delegations from the Tibetan government in exile visited Tibet in 1979–80, Chinese officials expected to impress the Tibetan exiles with the progress that had occurred since 1950 and with the contentment of the Tibetan populace. Ren even organized meetings in Lhasa to urge Tibetans to restrain their animosity towards the coming representatives of an old, oppressive regime. The Chinese, then, were astonished and embarrassed at the massive, tearful expressions of devotion which Tibetans made to the visiting Tibetan exiles. Thousands of Tibetans cried, prostrated, offered scarves to the visitors, and strove for a chance to touch the Dalai Lama's brother. [78]

These events also prompted Party Secretary Hu Yaobang and Vice Premier Wan Li to visit Tibet, where they were dismayed by the conditions they found. Hu announced a reform program intended to improve economic standards for Tibetans and to foster some freedom for Tibetans to practice ethnic and cultural traditions. In some ways, this was a return from the hard line authoritarianism and assimilation policies of the 1960s to Mao's more ethnically accommodating policies of the 1950s, with the major difference that there would be no separate Tibetan government as there had been in the 1950s. [79] Hu ordered a change in policy, calling for the revitalization of Tibetan culture, religion, and language, the building of more universities and colleges in Tibet, and an increase in the number of ethnic Tibetans in the local government. [80] Concurrent liberalizations in economics and internal migration have also resulted in Tibet seeing more Han Chinese migrant workers, though the actual number of this floating population remains disputed.

New meetings between Chinese officials and exiled leaders took place in 1981–1984, but no agreements could be reached. [81]

In 1986–1987, the Tibetan government in exile in Dharamshala launched a new drive to win international support for their cause as a human rights issue. In response, the United States House of Representatives in June 1987 passed a resolution in support of Tibetan human rights. [82] Between September 1987 and March 1989, four major demonstrations occurred in Lhasa against Chinese rule. [83] American Tibetologist Melvyn Goldstein considered the riots to be spontaneous mass expressions of Tibetan resentment, sparked in part by hope that the United States would soon provide support or pressure enabling Tibet to become independent. [84] In 1987, the Panchen Lama delivered a speech estimating the number of prison deaths in Qinghai at approximately 5 percent of the total population in the area. [85] The United States passed a 1988–1989 Foreign Relations Act which expressed support for Tibetan human rights. [82] The riots ironically discredited Hu's more liberal Tibetan policies and brought about a return to hard-line policies Beijing even imposed martial law in Tibet in 1989. Emphasis on economic development brought increasing numbers of non-Tibetans to Lhasa, and the economy in Tibet became increasingly dominated by Han. Lhasa became a city where non-Tibetans equalled or outnumbered Tibetans. [86]

When the 10th Panchen Lama addressed the Tibet Autonomous Region Standing Committee Meeting of the National People's Congress in 1987, he detailed mass imprisonment and killings of Tibetans in Amdo (Qinghai): "there were between three to four thousand villages and towns, each having between three to four thousand families with four to five thousand people. From each town and village, about 800 to 1,000 people were imprisoned. Out of this, at least 300 to 400 people of them died in prison. In Golok area, many people were killed and their dead bodies were rolled down the hill into a big ditch. The soldiers told the family members and relatives of the dead people that they should all celebrate since the rebels had been wiped out. They were even forced to dance on the dead bodies. Soon after, they were also massacred with machine guns. They were all buried there" [87]


That depends upon which Tibet you are talking about. Is it the Tibet that the Chinese occupiers refer to as the Tibet Autonomous Region? Is it the larger ethnographic Tibet that share the same language? Or is it the larger still Tibet of yore that overlaps with four Chinese provinces and four other Himalayan kingdoms?

And while we're at it, was Tibet the spiritual paradise that Hollywood movies evoke before the Chinese liberation or occupation or whatever you believe it to be? Or was it a place of medieval suffering in which peasants were bound to overlords for life, as Beijing would like you to believe?

Sam Van Schaik, an English Tibetologist, does an admirable job of sorting out those questions in Tibet: A History , a newly published book that offers a fascinating narrative on the 1,400 year history of the kingdom at the top of the world. He notes that Tibetan history is replete with saintly traditions but it also was a violent and dangerous place, as well as a highly stratified society with an aristocratic minority and peasant and nomad majority. And of course the Dalai Lamas and priests living in the extraordinary latticework of monasteries and stupas .

Perhaps the biggest takeaway from Tibet: A History is that is has not been the isolated and unchanging place of our imagination, cut off from the rest of humanity by some of the world's high mountains. In fact, Van Schaik writes, Tibet was deeply involved with other cultures throughout much of its history, underwent enormous political and religious changes, but did not coalesce into anything resembling a national identity until the 20th century.

As has so often been the case with emerging kingdoms, the first man to lead Tibet -- Prince Songsten Gampo, a man whose father had semi-divine status -- united the region's once nomadic warring clans in the early 7th century and began looking outward for worlds to conquer. He also looked for cultures to assimilate.

"Though not without a culture of their own, the Tibetans were hungry for more. And so they learned from Nepal, India, China and Persia, adopting and combining elements from each to create a distinct culture of their own. Lhasa, the empire's capital, became the centre of these new developments."

It was early in the 8th century that the scales started to tip toward Buddhism.

It was an unlikely patron of Buddhism, Princess Jincheng, daughter of the emperor of the Chinese Tang dynasty and teenage bride of the even younger Tibetan tsenpo (emperor), who instigated the sea change that would replace clan mythologies and rituals and make that religion the defining influence of Tibetan culture.

Tibet thrived, and under the leadership of Emperor Trisong Detsen its fearsome armies soon captured the Chinese capital. Although Tibet held it only briefly, it gained control of the Silk Road and control of its lucrative trade. It would be nearly 1,000 years before China was to lord over Tibet again.

Despite brief flirtations with Islam and Christianity, Buddhism's hold on the kingdom strengthened in large part because Tibetans became convinced by missionaries of the efficacy of Buddha's teachings.

"As well as teaching that karma was the true agent of happiness and sorrow, the missionaries spoke of a state entirely beyond the cycle of rebirth . . . The worship of local deities never died out in Tibet, but Buddhism provided a significant alternative to this spirit world, a broader framework that was attractive to those who envisioned a new international role for the Tibetan empire."

By the middle of the 11th century, monasteries and monks were a common sight, but Tibetan society was again in a state of turmoil and conflicts were constantly breaking out between rival warlords. It was impossible for the heads of monasteries to avoid becoming involved in politics as they vied for patronage from the local nobility.

Then in 1240 a small Mongol army invaded and took over Tibet with little resistance.

The kingdom's new ruler was Kubilai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan and already a legend in his own time. The Mongols' primary contributions to Tibet were a reinstitution of central authority and levels of taxation never before seen Tibet in return gave their conquerers Tibetan Buddhism, which became the main religion of the Mongol court.

Mongol rule last for 114 years, the last decade of which was characterized by a drawn-out civil war, but by 1315 a political realist by the name of Jangchub Gyaltsen took over and received official recognition from the teetering Mongol empire in the form of the title Tai Situ, meaning "Great Tutor," which still survives today as the title of a high lama in the Karma Kagyu school.

Gyaltsen instituted a less harsh legal code, ignored his largely powerless in-kingdom enemies and ushered in what is referred to as Tibet's Golden Age, a 228-year period of relative tranquility and freedom from invaders.

Van Shaik writes that it was an opportune time to consolidate Tibetan knowledge:

"The thousands of Buddhist scripture translated into Tibetan from Sanskrit were brought together in great canonical collections . . . [while] new books written by Tibetan scholars elegantly summarised the great panoply of Buddhist thought and came to define the specifically 'Tibetan' form of Buddhism. The authoritative texts for Tibetan medicine were written down in the form that is still used today."

The end of the Golden Age was marked by the coming of the first Dalai Lama.

Ranusi, which means "protected by goats milk" for the diet his parents fed him after all of their previous children had died in childbirth, had been recognized by Gelung lamas at age three as the rebirth of a recently deceased abbot. He took lay vows and was bestowed the religious name of Sonam Gyatso, or "Ocean of Merit."

Three Dalai Lamas succeeded him, but it initially appeared that there might not be a fifth because the powerful king of Tsang province, wary of the political potency of the role, banned the Gelung monks from appointing a new one. (The Chinese occupiers have gotten around this in the present century by naming their own successor to the 14th and present Dalai Lama. He is not recognized by most Tibetans and the international community.)

The monks defied the king and named a new Dalai Lama, but he immediately had to go into hiding and did not return to public view until Mongol troops swept back into Tibet in 1641 and overwhelmed the Tsang army.

The death of the fifth Dalai Lama was kept secret for years (in all likelihood so the immense Potala Palace, the greatest emblem of Tibet, could be finished ) and the sixth Dalai Lama -- a hard-drinking womanizer and writer of love songs -- was not enthroned until 1697.

The Dzungars, a Mongolian people, invaded Tibet in 1717 and a successor seventh Dalai Lama was installed in 1721 after the armies of Kangxi, the Chinese emperor, routed the Dzungars and Tibet was once again unified

By 1776, the year that American colonists declared their independence from England, British influence in South Asia extended to the foothills of the Himalayas. The East India Company, which had transformed India into the crown jewel of the British empire, knew that there is tantalizing new trade opportunities in Tibet, including gold, silver, musk and, because China had refused to enter into trade agreements, an indirect source of Chinese silk.

But repeated efforts by the British were rebuffed and it wasn't until the close of the 19th century that George Nathaniel Curzon, the viceroy of India, again turned Britain's attention to Tibet. This time the reason was not trade, but the perceived Russian threat to India. Afghanistan was already a useful buffer state and Curzon saw Tibet in the same role in the strategic rivalry immortalized in Kipling's Kim that became known as The Great Game.

For three years Curzon sent letters to the 13th Dalai Lama and for three years they were returned unopened. Curzon grew increasingly worried because of reports from his Indian spies, who were known as "pundits," that the Dalai Lama and the Czar Nicholas II were about to sign a bilateral alliance. That was far from the case, but the British press was aflame with reports to the contrary and Curzon contemplated a military advance.

In December of 1903, an expedition of 2,500 soldiers, mostly Gurkhas and Sikhs under the command of British officers, and some 10,000 porters slowly made their way into Tibet. The tiny Tibetan army was armed with only creaky matchlocks and the British encountered little resistance. The Dalai Lama had fled into Mongolia by the time they entered the gates of Lhasa.

The British occupation was short lived and the Dalai Lama returned in November 1904, ushering in a period of independence and reform that would last until the Communist government incorporated Tibet into the People's Republic of China in 1950 after negotiating an agreement with the government of the newly crowned 14th and present Dalai Lama.

After a rebellion was crushed in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India where he established a rival government-in-exile. Upwards of a million Tibetans died during the Great Leap Forward as political and social "reforms" were put into place, which is to say the suppression of Tibetan culture and religion, and the Chinese repeatedly put down separatist campaigns, most recently in 2008 on the eve of the Beijing Olympics.

Nevertheless, Tibetans --both in Tibet and in exile -- are perhaps more conscious of their cultural identities than ever. At the end of Tibet: A History , Van Shaik concludes that:

"What is striking here is the way that elements of Tibetan culture going back centuries . . . are being used to strengthen a sense of identity, of distinctness from Chinese culture. And in defining what it means to be Tibetan largely in contrast to what it means to be Chinese, [contemporary Tibetan] writers are attempting to transcend the old regional and religious identities determined by which part of Tibet one was born in or which religious school one supported.

"For some, independence from China is not a viable or even particularly desirable option. Others fear that, without independence, Tibet will simply disappear. What is Tibet? Surely the most important answers will be those put forward not by foreign historians or political theorists, but by Tibetans themselves."

Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of the Snows

This book by Lee Feigon was a not-too-detailed look at the highlights of Tibetan history in terms of its relations with the outside world and the misperceptions that have arisen. It is a useful introduction to the background of the current unrest in the region. The author focuses on two sources of misunderstanding: the Western view of Tibet as a mystical utopia, protected from the corruption of the modern world by its remoteness. The second view is that collectively held by the Chinese, who tend This book by Lee Feigon was a not-too-detailed look at the highlights of Tibetan history in terms of its relations with the outside world and the misperceptions that have arisen. It is a useful introduction to the background of the current unrest in the region. The author focuses on two sources of misunderstanding: the Western view of Tibet as a mystical utopia, protected from the corruption of the modern world by its remoteness. The second view is that collectively held by the Chinese, who tend to see Tibet as barbaric and in need of Chinese cultural tutelage.

For most Westerners, the current Dalai Lama - moderate, spiritual, compassionate, a lover of peace - is the face of Tibet. Feigon shows that Tibet was never simply a land of peaceful herders and monks. In its early history, it was an extensive, aggressive empire ruled by warrior-kings, stretching from Central Asia to the Bay of Bengal. Even after monarchy was replaced by theocratic rule, Feigon reveals that previous Dalai Lamas were often machiavellian figures whose palaces housed both meditation halls and torture chambers.

Tibet's relations with China have, if anything, been a bigger source of problems and mutual misperception. The current Chinese view of Tibet is that it is a backward land, inferior to China in every way. The Chinese rationalize their invasion and occupation of Tibet as a "liberation". It is true that the Chinese ended the Tibetan system of serfdom and have introduced amenities like electricity and improved medical care to Tibetan cities. The Dalai Lama himself says that China has introduced needed reforms. However, this has come at the price of coloniztion by Han Chinese, repression of Tibetan culture, destruction of religious foundations (particularly during the Cultural Revolution), and environmental depredation. The Chinese have clear-cut the ancient forests of eastern Tibet and used parts of the region as a dumping ground for nuclear waste.

The Chinese justify their treatment of Tibet through a very sinocentric take on history. The Chinese view is that Tibet has always been in the Chinese orbit, offering tribute to successive Chinese dynasties and seeking to emulate Chinese culture. Feigon points out that Chinese historians have traditionally referred to trade as "tribute" and argues that Tibet has always been culturally separate from China. Indeed, the native Tibetans and the Chinese who live there remain separate, unassimilated populations. Many Chinese officials assigned to Tibet see their stay there as a form of exile.

Far from being an historic satellite of China, Tibet was China's rival, sometimes trading, sometimes raiding and occupying wide swathes of the Middle Kingdom. Tibetan rulers often befriended powers at odds with China. During the 19th and 20th centuries, Tibet entered into an alliance with Tsarist Russia against China. For the British in India, an autonomous Tibet was a buffer state against both China and Russia. During the Cold War, the agents trained Tibetan agents torun missions against Communist China. Even today, the People's Republic fears that India or the United States will attempt to use Tibet as leverage against Chinese interests.

In his final chapter, Feigon discusses Tibetan uprisings against Chinese rule which took place in the 1980s and 1990s. This past unrest shows a pattern that is depressingly similar to the most recent uprisings: Chinese policy in Tibet sparks unrest, anti-Chinese violence ensues, people outside China voice concern, the Dalai Lama calls for peaceful dialogue, Chinese security forces shoot protestors, rewind and repeat.


Tibet came under the rule of the Qing dynasty of China in 1720 after Chinese forces successfully expelled the forces of the Dzungar Khanate. [17] Tibet would remain under Qing rule until 1912. [18] The succeeding Republic of China claimed inheritance of all territories held by the Qing dynasty, including Tibet. [19] This claim was provided for in the Imperial Edict of the Abdication of the Qing Emperor signed by the Empress Dowager Longyu on behalf of the six-year-old Xuantong Emperor: "[. ] the continued territorial integrity of the lands of the five races, Manchu, Han, Mongol, Hui, and Tibetan into one great Republic of China" ([. ] 仍合滿、漢、蒙、回、藏五族完全領土,為一大中華民國 ). [20] [21] [22] The Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China adopted in 1912 specifically established frontier regions of the new republic, including Tibet, as integral parts of the state. [23]

In 1913, shortly after the British expedition to Tibet in 1904, the creation of the position of British Trade Agent at Gyantse and the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, most of the area comprising the present-day Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) (Ü-Tsang and western Kham) became a de facto autonomous or independent polity, independent from the rest of the Republic of China [24] [25] with the rest of the present day TAR coming under Tibetan government control by 1917. [26] Some border areas with high ethnic Tibetan populations (Amdo and Eastern Kham) remained under the Chinese Nationalist Party (Kuomintang) or local warlord control. [27]

The TAR region is also known as "Political Tibet", while all areas with a high ethnic Tibetan population are collectively known as "Ethnic Tibet". Political Tibet refers to the polity ruled continuously by Tibetan governments since earliest times until 1951, whereas ethnic Tibet refers to regions north and east where Tibetans historically predominated but where, down to modern times, Tibetan jurisdiction was irregular and limited to just certain areas. [28]

At the time, Political Tibet obtained de facto independence, its socio-economic and political systems resembled Medieval Europe. [29] Attempts by the 13th Dalai Lama between 1913 and 1933 to enlarge and modernize the Tibetan military had eventually failed, largely due to opposition from powerful aristocrats and monks. [30] [31] The Tibetan government had little contact with other governments of the world during its period of de facto independence, [31] with some exceptions notably India, the United Kingdom, and the United States. [32] [33] This left Tibet diplomatically isolated and cut off to the point where it could not make its positions on issues well known to the international community. [34]

In July 1949, in order to prevent Chinese Communist Party-sponsored agitation in political Tibet, the Tibetan government expelled the (Nationalist) Chinese delegation in Lhasa. [35] In November 1949, it sent a letter to the U.S. State Department and a copy to Mao Zedong, and a separate letter to the British government, declaring its intent to defend itself "by all possible means" against PRC troop incursions into Tibet. [36]

In the preceding three decades, the conservative Tibetan government had consciously de-emphasized its military and refrained from modernizing. [37] Hasty attempts at modernization and enlarging the military began in 1949, [38] but proved mostly unsuccessful on both counts. [39] It was too late to raise and train an effective army. [ why? ] [40] India provided some small arms aid and military training. [41] However, the People's Liberation Army was much larger, better trained, better led, better equipped, and more experienced than the Tibetan Army. [42] [43] [44]

In 1950, the 14th Dalai Lama was 15 years old and had not attained his majority, so Regent Taktra was the acting head of the Tibetan Government. [45] The period of the Dalai Lama's minority is traditionally one of instability and division, and the division and instability were made more intense by the recent Reting conspiracy [46] and a 1947 regency dispute. [33]

Both the PRC and their predecessors the Kuomintang (ROC) had always maintained that Tibet was a part of China. [44] The PRC also proclaimed an ideological motivation to "liberate" the Tibetans from a theocratic feudal system. [47] In September 1949, shortly before the proclamation of the People's Republic of China, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) made it a top priority to incorporate Tibet, Taiwan, Hainan Island, and the Pescadores Islands into the PRC, [48] [49] peacefully or by force. [50] Because Tibet was unlikely to voluntarily give up its de facto independence, Mao in December 1949 ordered that preparations be made to march into Tibet at Qamdo (Chamdo), in order to induce the Tibetan Government to negotiate. [50] The PRC had over a million men under arms [50] and had extensive combat experience from the recently concluded Chinese Civil War. [ citation needed ]

Talks between Tibet and China were mediated with the governments of Britain and India. On 7 March 1950, a Tibetan delegation arrived in Kalimpong, India, to open a dialogue with the newly declared People's Republic of China and to secure assurances that the Chinese would respect Tibetan "territorial integrity", among other things. The onset of talks was delayed by debate between the Tibetan, Indian, British, and Chinese delegations about the location of the talks. Tibet favored Singapore or Hong Kong (not Beijing at the time romanized as Peking) Britain favored India (not Hong Kong or Singapore) and India and the Chinese favored Beijing. [ citation needed ] The Tibetan delegation did eventually meet with the PRC's ambassador General Yuan Zhongxian in Delhi on 16 September 1950. Yuan communicated a 3-point proposal that Tibet be regarded as part of China, that China be responsible for Tibet's defense, and that China be responsible for Tibet's trade and foreign relations. Acceptance would lead to peaceful Chinese sovereignty, or otherwise war. The Tibetans undertook to maintain the relationship between China and Tibet as one of priest-patron:

"Tibet will remain independent as it is at present, and we will continue to have very close 'priest-patron' relations with China. Also, there is no need to liberate Tibet from imperialism, since there are no British, American or Guomindang imperialists in Tibet, and Tibet is ruled and protected by the Dalai Lama (not any foreign power)" – Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa [51] : 46

They and their head delegate Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, on 19 September, recommended cooperation, with some stipulations about implementation. Chinese troops need not be stationed in Tibet. It was argued that Tibet was under no threat, and if attacked by India or Nepal, could appeal to China for military assistance. While Lhasa deliberated, on 7 October 1950, Chinese troops advanced into eastern Tibet, crossing the border at 5 places. [52] The purpose was not to invade Tibet per se but to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and thus exert powerful pressure to send negotiators to Beijing to sign terms for a handover of Tibet. [53] On 21 October, Lhasa instructed its delegation to leave immediately for Beijing for consultations with the Communist government, and to accept the first provision, if the status of the Dalai Lama could be guaranteed, while rejecting the other two conditions. It later rescinded even acceptance of the first demand, after a divination before the Six-Armed Mahākāla deities indicated that the three points could not be accepted, since Tibet would fall under foreign domination. [54] [55] [56]

After months of failed negotiations, [57] attempts by Tibet to secure foreign support and assistance, [58] PRC and Tibetan troop buildups, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October 1950. [59] [60] Two PLA units quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces and captured the border town of Chamdo by 19 October, by which time 114 PLA [61] soldiers and 180 Tibetan [61] [62] [63] soldiers had been killed or wounded. Writing in 1962, Zhang Guohua claimed "over 5,700 enemy men were destroyed" and "more than 3,000" peacefully surrendered. [64] Active hostilities were limited to a border area northeast of the Gyamo Ngul Chu River and east of the 96th meridian. [65] After capturing Chamdo, the PLA broke off hostilities, [62] [66] sent a captured commander, Ngabo, to Lhasa to reiterate terms of negotiation, and waited for Tibetan representatives to respond through delegates to Beijing. [67]


Tibet is on a high plateau—the Plateau of Tibet—surrounded by enormous mountain masses. The relatively level northern part of the plateau is called the Qiangtang it extends more than 800 miles (1,300 km) from west to east at an average elevation of 16,500 feet (5,000 metres) above sea level. The Qiangtang is dotted with brackish lakes, the largest being Lakes Siling (Seling) and Nam (Namu). There are, however, no river systems there. In the east the Qiangtang begins to descend in elevation. The mountain ranges in southeastern Tibet cut across the land from north to south, creating meridional barriers to travel and communication. In central and western Tibet the ranges run from northwest to southeast, with deep or shallow valleys forming innumerable furrows.

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant. With lucidity, breadth, and meticulousness, Chernow finds the threads that bind Grant's disparate stories together, shedding new light on the man whom Walt Whitman described as "nothing heroic. and yet the greatest hero."

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Rites of Spring probes the origins, impact, and aftermath of WWI, from the premiere of Stravinsky's ballet The Rite of Spring in 1913 to the death of Hitler in 1945. Recognizing that The Great War was the psychological turning point for modernism as a whole, Eksteins examines the lives of ordinary people, works of modern literature, and pivotal historical events to redefine the way we look at our past and toward our future.

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The gripping stories of ordinary Germans who lived through World War II, the Holocaust, and Cold War partition - but also recovery, reunification, and rehabilitation. Broken Lives is a gripping account of the twentieth century as seen through the eyes of ordinary Germans who came of age under Hitler and whose lives were scarred and sometimes destroyed by what they saw and did.

In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: "She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her." Based on new and extensive research, Sonia Purnell has for the first time uncovered the full secret life of Virginia Hall - an astounding and inspiring story of heroism, spycraft, resistance, and personal triumph over shocking adversity. A Woman of No Importance is the breathtaking story of how one woman's fierce persistence helped win the war.

Ancient Greece first coined the concept of "democracy", yet almost every major ancient Greek thinker-from Plato and Aristotle onwards was ambivalent towards or even hostile to democracy in any form. The explanation for this is quite simple: the elite perceived majority power as tantamount to a dictatorship of the proletariat. Cartledge sheds light on the variety of democratic practices in the classical world as well as on their similarities to and dissimilarities from modern democratic forms, from the American and French revolutions to contemporary political thought.

An unprecedented examination of how news stories, editorials and photographs in the American press, and the journalists responsible for them, profoundly changed the nation's thinking about civil rights in the South during the 1950s and '60s.

We think of Churchill as a hero who saved civilization from the evils of Nazism and warned of the grave crimes of Soviet communism, but Roberts's masterwork reveals that he has as much to teach us about the challenges leaders face today - and the fundamental values of courage, tenacity, leadership and moral conviction.

A history of the brutal struggle for the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. Renowned historian Thomas Asbridge covers the years 1095 to 1291 in this account of one of the most fascinating periods in history. From Richard the Lionheart to the mighty Saladin, from the emperors of Byzantium to the Knights Templar, Asbridge's book is a magnificent epic of Holy War between the Christian and Islamic worlds, full of adventure, intrigue, and sweeping grandeur.

When black settlers Keziah and Charles Grier started clearing their frontier land in 1818, they couldn't know that they were part of the nation's earliest struggle for equality. But within a few years, the Griers would become early Underground Railroad conductors, joining with fellow pioneers and other allies to confront the growing tyranny of bondage and injustice. The Bone and Sinew of the Land tells the Griers' story and the stories of many others like them: the lost history of the nation's first Great Migration.

Nashville, August 1920. Thirty-five states have approved the Nineteenth Amendment, granting women the right to vote one last state - Tennessee - is needed for women's voting rights to be the law of the land. Following a handful of remarkable women who led their respective forces into battle, The Woman's Hour is the gripping story of how America's women won their own freedom, and the opening campaign in the great twentieth-century battles for civil rights.

As a young man Frederick Douglass escaped from slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. He was fortunate to have been taught to read by his slave owner mistress, and he would go on to become one of the major literary figures of his time. In this biography, David Blight has drawn on new information held in a private collection that few other historian have consulted, as well as recently discovered issues of Douglass's newspapers. Blight's biography tells the fascinating story of Douglass's two marriages and his complex extended family.

The liberation of Europe and the destruction of the Third Reich is a story of miscalculation and incomparable courage, of calamity and enduring triumph. In this first volume of the Liberation Trilogy, Rick Atkinson focuses on 1942 and 1943, showing how central the great drama that unfolded in North Africa was to the ultimate victory of the Allied powers and to America's understanding of itself.

Guy Burgess was the most important, complex and fascinating of 'The Cambridge Spies'. Burgess rose through academia, the BBC, the Foreign Office, MI5 and MI6, gaining access to thousands of highly sensitive secret documents which he passed to his Russian handlers. In this first full biography, Andrew Lownie shows us how even Burgess's chaotic personal life of drunken philandering did nothing to stop his penetration and betrayal of the British Intelligence Service.

Contrary to what so many Americans learn in school, the pre-Columbian Indians were not sparsely settled in a pristine wilderness rather, there were huge numbers of Indians who actively molded and influenced the land around them. Indeed, Indians were not living lightly on the land but were landscaping and manipulating their world in ways that we are only now beginning to understand. Challenging and surprising, this a transformative new look at a rich and fascinating world we only thought we knew.

Appeasement is a groundbreaking history of the disastrous years of indecision, failed diplomacy and parliamentary infighting that enabled Hitler's domination of Europe. Drawing on deep archival research and sources not previously seen by historians, Tim Bouverie has created an unforgettable portrait of the ministers, aristocrats, and amateur diplomats who, through their actions and inaction, shaped their country's policy and determined the fate of Europe.

Starting as a Republican motto before becoming a hugely influential isolationist slogan during World War I, America First was always closely linked with authoritarianism and white supremacy. The American dream, meanwhile, initially represented a broad vision of equality. Churchwell traces these notions through the 1920s boom, the Depression, and the rise of fascism, laying bare the persistent appeal of demagoguery in America and showing us how it was resisted.

This history of modern Iran is not a survey in the conventional sense but an ambitious exploration of the story of a nation. It offers a revealing look at how events, people, and institutions are shaped by currents that sometimes reach back hundreds of years. The book covers the complex history of the diverse societies and economies of Iran against the background of dynastic changes, revolutions, civil wars, foreign occupation, and the rise of the Islamic Republic.

Illuminating America's political and economic relationship with the environment from the age of the conquistadors to the present, Davis demonstrates how the Gulf's fruitful ecosystems and exceptional beauty empowered a growing nation. Filled with vivid, untold stories from the sportfish that launched Gulfside vacationing and Hollywood's role in the country's first offshore oil wells.

Mary Beard narrates the history of Rome spanning nearly a thousand years of history and examines not just how we think of ancient Rome but challenges the comfortable historical perspectives that have existed for centuries. With its nuanced attention to class, democratic struggles, and the lives of entire groups of people omitted from the historical narrative for centuries, SPQR will to shape our view of Roman history for decades to come.

Embracing Defeat is the fullest and most important history of the more than six years of American occupation, which affected every level of Japanese society, often in ways neither side could anticipate. Dower gives us the rich and turbulent interplay between West and East, the victor and the vanquished, in a way never before attempted, from top-level manipulations concerning the fate of Emperor Hirohito to the hopes and fears of men and women in every walk of life.

America's distinguished historian presents, in a book of breathtaking excitement, drama, and narrative force, the stirring story of the year of America's birth, 1776, interweaving, on both sides of the Atlantic, the actions and decisions that led Great Britain to undertake a war against her rebellious colonial subjects and that placed America's survival in the hands of George Washington.

Patrick Radden Keefe's mesmerizing book uses a 1972 murder case as a starting point for the tale of a society wracked by a violent guerrilla war. From radical and impetuous I.R.A. terrorists such as Dolours Price, who, when she was barely out of her teens, was already planting bombs in London and targeting informers for execution, to the ferocious I.R.A. mastermind known as The Dark, to the spy games and dirty schemes of the British Army - Say Nothing conjures a world of passion, betrayal, vengeance, and anguish.

Covering Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as lesser-known but hugely significant scientists who influence our every day, Rachel Swaby's vibrant profiles span centuries of courageous thinkers and illustrate how each one's ideas developed, from their first moment of scientific engagement through the research and discovery for which they're best known.

Ian Kershaw's Hitler is the definitive biography of the Nazi leader, tracing the story of how a bitter, failed art student from an obscure corner of Austria rose to unparalleled power, destroying the lives of millions and bringing the world to the brink of Armageddon.

The Mandan Indians were the iconic Plains people whose teeming, busy towns on the upper Missouri River were for centuries at the center of the North American universe. We know of them mostly because Lewis and Clark spent the winter of 1804-1805 with them, but why don't we know more? In this extraordinary book, Fenn retrieves their history by piecing together important new discoveries in archaeology, anthropology, geology, climatology, epidemiology, and nutritional science. Her original interpretation of these diverse research findings offers us a new perspective.

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