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With such a deep history, it would be impossible to cover everything in this one article but we will point out some of the high and low points to help paint a better picture of Tibet.  When it comes to Asian countries and their history, Tibet probably has them all beat.  As recent as 1949, the Chinese Communist invaded this magnificent country, which resulted in more than one millions people dying, over 6,000 monasteries being destroyed, and thousands of Tibetan people being tortured and imprisoned all because of their religious and/or political belief.  Because of this invasion, the Dalai Lama, which is the country’s spiritual and political leader, fled in 1959, escaping to neighboring India where the Tibetan Government in Exile in Dharamsala was founded. 

Today, approximately 150,000 refuges live in exile, being placed around the globe.  Some live in India, some in Canada, among other countries, with 5,000 estimated to be living in the United States.  The Tibetan people, regardless of where they live, continue to follow the Buddhist principles, working against violence and fighting for freedom.  At one time, the country of Tibet was free.  Interestingly, the Chinese government lays claim that they have always controlled a part of Tibet but there is vast historical documentation to prove otherwise.  Tibet as an independent state had a respected and sovereign government.  The country thrived and in fact, before 1951, this government had signed treaties with various foreign countries to include Nepal, Great Britain, and Mongolia. 

However, to go back in time, Tibet had created a huge empire in Central Asia.  About 500 years prior to Buddha Sakyamuni coming to the world, which was around 1063 BC, a figure called Lord Shenrab Miwo had reformed the primitive ways of the Shen race.  In fact, Miwo was the individual responsible for founding the Tibetan Bon religion.  From 629 to 49 BC, King Songsten Gampo was on the throne.  At this time, Tibet developed into a powerful military presence and Gampo strongly promoted Buddhism.  Then from 755 to 97, King Trisong Detsen took over reign, a time when the Tibetan Empire was at its best.  The arms invaded several other Central Asian countries in addition to China.  Then in 763, the Chinese capital at Ch’ang-an, which is today known as Xian, was seized by the Tibetans.  The Emperor fled, allowing the Tibetans to appoint a new Emperor. 

From 815 to 36 and under the reign of King Ralpachen, the Tibetan armies had many successes.  Shortly after, China and Tibet signed a peace treaty.  You can see inscriptions of this text today in three places – outside the Chinese Emperor’s palace gate in Xian, on the Tibetan-China border at Mount Guru Meru, and finally, just before the main gate of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa.  Sadly, the king’s brother, Tri Wudum Tsen, took over the throne and at that time, tried to reinstate Bon and persecute Buddhists.  He was assassinated by a Buddhist monk, which divided the kingdom between his two sons.  This caused many of the warring princes, generals, and lords to fight for power of the Tibetan Empire, throwing Tibet into a dark period that lasted from 842 to 1247. 

While the dark period was occurring, Konchog Gyalpo founded the Sakya monastery in 1073.  Tantric traditions were formulated and great scholars such as Drogme and Marpa created the Sakya sect.  This group of lamas became very powerful from 1254 to 1350.  Although Mongols invaded Tibet along with other countries, Prince Godan, who was the ruling Khan had converted to Buddhism and the invading force stopped.  Other Khan’s converted to Buddhism as well but when Kublai Khan was killed in 1925, the Sakya priests’ influence began to decline.  With this, Central Tibet landed in the hands of the Governor of Nedong in 1358.  For the next 86 years, 11 lamas ruled Tibet although there were 20 in all. 

By 1642, the fifth Dalai Lama by the name of Ngawang Lozang Gyatso took over both spiritual and political authority in Tibet.  He established the Tibetan Government, as it still stands today.  This government is called Ganden Phodrang, which translates to “Victorious Everywhere.”  He next demanded the Chinese to recognize his sovereignty and because he was accepted as an independent sovereign, a pathway was built over the city wall, allowing him to enter Peking without having to go through a gate. 

In addition to being seen as an independent sovereign, he was also considered as the Divinity on Earth.  He used his powerful influence to bring the Mongols to acknowledgement that the Chinese Emperor’s ways were the right way.  The result was a good relationship being built between Tibet, China, and Mongolia.  During his reign, a time of interest and instability followed.  As an example, the first Dalai Lama had been dead for 15 years, a secret kept by the prime minister Desi Sangye Gyatso, which would allow him to stop any interference in the construction of the Potala Palace by the Manchus, another entity in China that had become quite powerful. 

The eighth Dalai Lama was just 26 when he reigned.  Since the Manchu army had come into Tibet in 1792 and become quite harmful, the Dalai Lama went to Ch’ien Lung, the Manchu Emperor, asking for temporary assistance.  Because of this request, Lung sent a golden urn from Peking, declaring that future reincarnations of the Dalai Lama and any other important Lamas would be determined simply by putting names of candidates into the urn and then extracting a name at random while in the presence of a Manchu Resident.  However, the Tibetans did not follow this rule and the thirteenth Dalai Lama, who was just 19, came about by his own choice, stopping Lung’s process.  During this same time, Tibet had been invaded on several occasions and the Manchu Resident meddled in many of the Tibetan affairs but even so, the country remained sovereign. 

Additionally, in 1856, a treaty was signed between two countries, without any reference to China, which further supported the sovereignty of Tibet.  Then in 1876, the Dalai Lama was directly responsible for helping Tibet to reassert its sovereignty as it pertained to international affairs.  When this period ended, Great Britain had established tight links with the Chinese government, being persuaded by China to exercise its rights over Tibet.  Therefore, on September 13, 1876, the Sino-British Chefoo Convention was held whereby Great Britain was granted the right to send an exploration mission into Tibet.  However, the Tibetans refused to allow this so the mission was aborted.  Then in July of 1886 and March of 1890, two other agreements were signed, the Peking Convention and Calcutta Convention respectfully, both repudiated by Tibet.  Because of this, the Tibetan government decided they wanted nothing to do with Great Britain that was obviously going over them to deal directly with China. 

Around 1900, Tibet and Russia had developed contact and through letters and gifts presented from the Dalai Lama with the Russian Czar, the British were fearful about any involvement Russia had with Tibet.  The British government felt that interest they had in Tibet was at stake, which resulted in Tibet being invaded by the British expeditionary force in August of 1904.  Then in September of that same year, Tibet and Great Britain signed a treaty.  By 1913, a bilateral treaty was signed between Mongolia and Tibet, stating that they were both free countries, separate from China.  Although the years in which the thirteenth Dalai Lama reigned, many good things came about.  Some of these included the formal declaration and independence of Tibet and the introduction of measures to make Tibet a modernized country.  Sadly, he died in December 1933. 

It has now been a long time since the Chinese occupied Tibet and the destruction of this unique culture prohibited.  Even though China has spent literally millions of dollars to build a sound infrastructure in Tibet, today, in some parts, it looks more like a military base with thousands of troops and police all over urban centers.  Unfortunately, studies show that the Chinese government continues to commit serious human rights abuses against the country of Tibet and its people.  The United States government has worked hard to help improve conditions but in reality, things in Tibet have only become worse.


 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road
 
Dragon & Phoenix ~ Silk Embroidery
Silk Embroidery
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes
 
 

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