History of Tibet
The general history of
Tibet begins with the rule of Songtsän Gampo (604–50 CE) who united
parts of the Yarlung River Valley and ruled Tibet as a kingdom. He also
brought in many reforms and Tibetan power spread rapidly creating a
large and powerful empire. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the
niece of the powerful Chinese emperor Emperor Taizong of Tang China.
The Tibetans were allied
with the Arabs and eastern Turks. In 747, the hold of Tibet was loosened
by the campaign of general Gao Xianzhi, who tried to re-open the direct
communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750 the Tibetans had
lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the Chinese.
However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the Arabs and Qarluqs at the
Battle of Talas river (751), Chinese influence decreased rapidly and
Tibetan influence resumed. In 821/822 CE Tibet and China signed a
remarkable peace treaty. A bilingual account of this treaty including
details of the borders between the two countries are inscribed on a
stone pillar which stands outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa. Tibet
continued as a Central Asian empire until the mid-9th century.
Between 1346 and 1354, towards the end of the Yuan Dynasty, the House of Pagmodru toppled the Sakya. The following 80 years were a period of relative stability. They also saw the birth of the Gelugpa school (also known as Yellow Hats) by the disciples of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa, and the founding of the important Ganden, Drepung, and Sera monasteries near Lhasa. After the 1430s, the country entered another period of internal power struggles.
In 1578, Altan
Khan of the Tümed Mongols invited Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the
Gelugpa school. They met near Khökh Nuur, where Altan Khan first
referred to Sönam Gyatso as the Dalai Lama; Dalai being the Mongolian
translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or "Ocean".[
In 1705, Lobzang Khan of the Khoshud used the 6th Dalai Lama's refusal of the role of a monk (although the encumbant did not reject his political role as Dalai Lama) as an excuse to take control of Tibet. The regent was murdered, and the Dalai Lama sent to Beijing. He died on the way, also near Kokonor, ostensibly from illness. Lobzang Khan appointed a new Dalai Lama, who, however, was not accepted by the Gelugpa school.
A rival reincarnation was found in the region of Kokonor. The Dzungars invaded Tibet in 1717, deposed and killed a pretender to the position of Dalai Lama (who had been promoted by Lhabzang), which met with widespread approval. However, the Dzungars soon began to loot the holy places of Lhasa which brought a swift response from Emperor Kangxi in 1718, but his military expedition was annihilated by the Dzungars not far from Lhasa.
Emperor Kangxi finally expelled the Dzungars from Tibet in 1720 and the troops were hailed as liberators. They brought Kelzang Gyatso with them from Kumbum to Lhasa and he was installed as the Seventh Dalai Lama in 1721, though they did not make Tibet a province, allowed it to maintain its own officials and legal and administrative systems, and levied no taxes. However, the Manchu Qing put Amdo under their control in 1724, and incorporated eastern Kham into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728. The Qing government sent a resident commissioner, namely Amban, to Lhasa. In 1751, Emperor Qianlong installed the Dalai Lama as both the spiritual leader and political leader of Tibet leading the government, namely Kashag.
Tibet under Qing
While the ancient relations between Tibet and China are complicated, there can be no question regarding the subordination of Tibet to Manchu-ruled China following first decades of the 18th century. In 1788, Gurkha forces sent by Bahadur Shah, the Regent of Nepal, invaded Tibet, occupying a number of frontier districts. The young Panchen Lama fled to Lhasa and Qing Emperor Qianlong sent troops to Lhasa, upon which the Nepalese withdrew agreeing to pay a large annual sum. In 1791 the Nepalese Gurkhas invaded Tibet a second time, seizing Shigatse and destroyed, plundered, and desecrated the great Tashilhunpo Monastery. The Panchen Lama was forced to flee to Lhasa once again. Emperor Qianlong then sent an army of 17,000 men to Tibet. In 1793, with the assistance of Tibetan troops, they managed to drive the Nepalese troops to within about 30 km of Kathmandu.
The first Europeans to arrive in Tibet were Portuguese missionaries in 1624 and were welcomed by the Tibetans who allowed them to build a church. The 18th century brought more Jesuits and Capuchins from Europe who gradually met opposition from Tibetan lamas who finally expelled them from Tibet in 1745. However, at the time not all Europeans were banned from the country — in 1774 a Scottish nobleman, George Bogle, came to Shigatse to investigate trade for the British East India Company, introducing the first potatoes into Tibet.
However, by the 19th century the situation of foreigners in Tibet grew more tenuous. The British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Himalayas and Afghanistan and the Russian Empire of the tsars was expanding south into Central Asia and each power became suspicious of intent in Tibet. Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, the Hungarian scientist spent 20 years in British India (4 years in Ladakh) trying to visit Tibet. He created the first Tibetan-English dictionary.
By the 1850s Tibet had banned all foreigners from Tibet and shut its
borders to all outsiders.
The principal pretext for the British invasion was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its power into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the local Tibetan government. But on his way to Lhasa, Younghusband slaughtered many Tibetan troops in Gyangzê who tried to stop the British advance. When the mission reached Lhasa, the Dalai Lama had already fled to Urga in Mongolia, Younghusband found the option of returning to India empty-handed untenable, he proceeded to draft a treaty unilaterally, and have it signed in the Potala by the regent, Ganden Tri Rinpoche, and any other local officials he could gather together as an ad hoc government. The treaty made provisions for the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet to be respected, for free trade between British and Tibetan subjects, and for an indemnity to be paid from the Qing court to the British Government for its expenses in dispatching armed troops to Lhasa. The provisions of this 1904 treaty were confirmed in a 1906 treaty Anglo-Chinese Convention signed between Britain and China. The British, for a fee from the Qing court, also agreed "not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet", while China engaged "not to permit any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet".
The position of British Trade Agent at Gyangzê was occupied from 1904 until 1944. It was not until 1937, with the creation of the position of "Head of British Mission Lhasa", that a British officer had a permanent posting in Lhasa itself.
In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own to establish direct Chinese rule and deposed the Dalai Lama in an imperial edict. The Dalai Lama once again fled, this time to British India, in February 1910. The Dalai Lama returned to Tibet from India in July 1912, and by the end of the year the Chinese troops in Tibet had returned, via India, to China Proper.
Upon his return to Tibet in 1913, the Dalai Lama issued a proclamation that stated that relationship between the Chinese emperor and Tibet "had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other." "We are a small, religious, and independent nation," the proclamation stated.
In early 1913, Agvan Dorzhiev and two other Tibetan representatives signed a treaty between Tibet and Mongolia in Urga, proclaiming mutual recognition and their independence from China. The 13th Dalai Lama later told a British diplomat that he did not authorized Agvan Dorzhiev to conclude any treaties on behalf of Tibet.
In 1914, representatives of Tibet, Britain, and China negotiated a treaty concerning Tibet's status called the Simla Convention. The convention included a map delineating a boundary between Tibet and India later called the McMahon Line. It affirmed Chinese suzerainty and stated that Tibet was "part of Chinese territory". When the Chinese government refused to ratify, Tibet and Britain concluded the treaty as a bilateral agreement and attached a note denying China any priveleges under it.
The subsequent outbreak of World War I and the division of China into military cliques ruled by warlords caused the Western powers and the infighting factions within China to lose interest in Tibet, and the 13th Dalai Lama ruled undisturbed until his death in 1933. At that time, the government of Tibet controlled all of Ü-Tsang (Dbus-gtsang) and western Kham (Khams), somewhat larger than the Tibet Autonomous Region today. Eastern Kham, separated by the Yangtze River, was under the control of Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui.
In 1935 the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso was born in Amdo in eastern Tibet and was recognized as the latest reincarnation. He was taken to Lhasa in 1937 where he was later given an official ceremony in 1939. In 1944, during World War II, two Austrian mountaineers, Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter came to Lhasa, where Harrer became a tutor and friend to the young Dalai Lama giving him a sound knowledge of western culture and modern society, until he was forced to leave in 1959.
Supporters of the PRC have characterised the socio-economy of Tibet prior to Communism as 'feudal serfdom'. However, supporters of an independent Tibet objected to this assessment. For a discussion of the debate see Serfdom in Tibet controversy. For a description of the traditional social structure see Social classes of Tibet.
Tibet under The People's Republic of China
With the invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent Seventeen Point Agreement, the PRC asserted control over Tibet.
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, eventually spread to Lhasa. It was crushed by 1959. During this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed and the 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India.
Chinese sources claim rapid progress for prosperous, free, and happy Tibetans participating in democratic reforms, although nothing like a free and open election has ever occurred in Tibet under Chinese rule. Tibetans, on the other hand, write of Chinese genocide in Tibet, comparing the Chinese to the Nazis. Independent scholar Warren Smith, whose work became focused on Tibetan history and politics after spending five months in Tibet in 1982, portrays the Chinese as chauvinists who believe they are superior to the Tibetans, and claims that the Chinese use torture, coercion and starvation to control the Tibetans.
The Central Tibetan Administration states that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other indirect causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million, which the Chinese Communist Party denies. The Chinese Communist Party(CCP)'s 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. According to Patrick French, the estimate of 1.2 million in Tibet is not reliable because Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. There were, however, many casualties, with a figure of 400,000 extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" from Tibet.
The following Cultural Revolution and the damage it wrought upon Tibet and, indeed, the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe. In the PRC government's view, the main instigators were the Gang of Four, who have since been brought to justice. Large numbers of Tibetans died violent deaths due to the Cultural Revolution, and the number of intact monasteries in Tibet was reduced from thousands, to less than ten. Tibetan resentment towards the Chinese deepened. Tibetans participated in the destruction, but it is not clear how many of them actually embraced Chinese ideology, and how many participated out of fear of becoming targets themselves.
Projects that the PRC government claims to have benefited Tibet as part of the China Western Development economic plan, such as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, have roused fears of facilitating military mobilisation and Han migration. There is still ethnic imbalance in appointments and promotions to the civil and judicial services in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, with disproportionately few ethnic Tibetans appointed to these posts.
The PRC government claims that its rule over Tibet is an unalloyed improvement, and that the China Western Development plan is a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the wealthier eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards. But foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of CCP rule in Tibet because of frequent reports of human rights violation in Tibet by groups such as Human Rights Watch. The government of the PRC maintains that the Tibetan Government did almost nothing to improve the Tibetans' material and political standard of life during its rule from 1913–59, and that they opposed any reforms proposed by the Chinese government. According to the Chinese government, this is the reason for the tension that grew between some central government officials and the local Tibetan government in 1959.
The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, and states that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to self rule before 1950. Belying these claims, some 3,000 Tibetans brave hardship and danger to flee into exile every year.
These claims are, however, disputed by many Tibetans. In 1989, the Panchen Lama,finally allowed to return to Shigatse, addressed a crowd of 30,000 and described what he saw as the suffering of Tibet and the harm being done to his country in the name of socialist reform under the rule of the PRC in terms reminiscent of the petition he had presented to Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai in 1962.
In 1995 the Dalai Lama named 6 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama without Chinese approval, while the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu in conflict. Gyancain Norbu was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally on state media. The PRC-selected Panchen Lama is rejected by exiled Tibetans and anti-China groups who commonly refer to him as the "Panchen Zuma" (literally "fake Panchen Lama"). Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have gone missing — believed by some to be imprisoned by China — and under a hidden identity for protection and privacy according to the PRC. The Dalai Lama has stated his willingness to negotiate with the PRC government for genuine autonomy, but according to the government in exile and Tibetan independence groups, most Tibetans still call for full Tibetan independence. The Dalai Lama sees the millions of government-imported Han immigrants and preferential socioeconomic policies, as presenting an urgent threat to the Tibetan nation and culture. Tibetan exile groups say that despite recent attempts to restore the appearance of original Tibetan culture to attract tourism, the traditional Tibetan way of life is now irrevocably changed. Tashi Wangdi, the Representative of the Dalai Lama, stated in an interview that China's Western China Development program "is providing facilities for the resettlement of Han Chinese in Tibet."
In 2001 representatives of Tibet succeeded in gaining accreditation at a United Nations-sponsored meeting of non-governmental organizations. On August 29 Jampal Chosang, the head of the Tibetan coalition, stated that China had introduced "a new form of apartheid" in Tibet because "Tibetan culture, religion, and national identity are considered a threat" to China.
In 2005, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he dropped the demand for independence. The Dalai Lama said in an interview with the South China Morning Post "We are willing to be part of the People's Republic of China, to have it govern and guarantee to preserve our Tibetan culture, spirituality and our environment." This statement was seen as a renewed diplomatic initiative by the Tibetan government-in-exile. He had already said he would accept Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but insisted on real autonomy over its religious and cultural life. The Tibetan government-in-exile called on the Chinese government to respond. The move was unpopular with many Tibetans.
In January 2007 the Dalai Lama, in an interview on a private television channel, said, "what we demand from the Chinese authority is more autonomy for Tibetans to protect their culture." He added that he had told the Tibetan people not to think in terms of history and to accept Tibet as a part of China.
Talks between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese
government began again in May 2008 and again in July, but with little
results. The two sides agreed to meet again in October.
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