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
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
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
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
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
established the Tibetan Government, as it still stands
government is called Ganden Phodrang, which translates to
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
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