History of Tibet

AP Photo/Ng Han Guan
A Chinese military officer visits the square near the Potala Palace in Lhasa, western China's Tibet
Province, July 28, 2007. Tibet's history is steeped in dispute.

Modern Political History of Tibet

In the popular consciousness, Tibet is a mystical, spiritually and culturally rich land of sublime natural beauty, beset with social unrest and political turmoil. And its exiled leader, the 14th Dalai Lama, is of the world’s most charismatic and influential social activists. Learn about the modern political history of Tibet, the debate surrounding Tibetan freedom and the future of Tibet.

History of Tibet

Tibet was once a great military power that “carved for itself a huge empire in Central Asia,” according to the Web site Friends of Tibet. Throughout its long history, Tibet has clashed with China several times, often violently. Learn more about the history of Tibet with the following sites.

Top Sites for the History of Tibet

Friends of Tibet is a New Zealand organization that provides lengthy account of events in Tibet’s history from 127 BCE until 1959, when the 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, was exiled from his homeland.

The Japan Times explains how the Chinese government, though it is officially atheist, has attempted to determine how Tibetan Buddhism is practiced, including how Tibetans choose their spiritual leaders.

BBC provides a timeline of significant events in the political history of Tibet. The chronology begins with the unification of Tibet in the 7th to 9th centuries, and traces a narrative through the birth of the 14th Dalai Lama and Chinese takeover of the 1950s. Nine events listed from 2007 to the present help readers understand contemporary Tibet, in addition to the conflict’s roots.
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Chinese Annexation of Tibet

In the early 1950s, China invaded Tibet, enforcing its claim to ownership of the region. The signing of the Seventeen-Point Agreement, the Chinese “liberation” of Tibet and the establishment of military and administrative headquarters in Tibet by the People’s Republic are controversial events that shaped the course of Tibet’s history over the second half of the 20th century. Learn more about the Chinese annexation of Tibet using the resources below.

Top Sites for the Chinese Annexation of Tibet

The Office of Tibet in London presents a white paper entitled, “Invasion and illegal annexation of Tibet: 1949-1951.” The piece discusses the conditions surrounding the Tibetan signing of the Seventeen-Point Agreement, a document affirming Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, as well as the events that transpired during China’s invasion.

The New York Times published an opinion piece in 2008 by Elliot Sperling, director of the Tibetan Studies program at Indiana University, in which he attempts to clarify the historical accuracy of Tibet’s assertion that it is, and always has been, an autonomous country, and China’s assertion that Tibet has been a Chinese province since it was conquered by the Mongols.

PBS Frontline’s “Dreams of Tibet” page presents links to a variety of documents discussing the impact of China in Tibet.
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Tibet Today

Protests surrounding the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games brought renewed attention to Tibet, and China’s human rights record there. In the months preceding the games, images of torch relays interrupted by protests, violent demonstrations on the streets of Lhasa and the Chinese military against a Himalayan backdrop made newspapers worldwide. Learn more about these protests, as well as where to find the latest news on events of Tibet today.

Top Sites for Tibet Today

The New York Times has a Tibet homepage on which readers will find the latest Times articles about the country, as well as highlights from the paper’s archive. In addition, the page hosts multimedia features, an overview of Tibet and a timeline of Tibetan protests.

The Guardian aggregates the latest news from Tibet. In addition to a list of the most recent Guardian headlines on the country, the Guardian offers useful links, Tibet-related blog posts, multimedia and interactive guides.

Phayul.com is a Tibet news site operated by Tibetans in exile. The site provides news, opinion and press releases, along with audio and video content, and discussion forums.

The China Internet Information Center is an “authorized government portal site to China … published under the auspices of the State Council Information Office and the China International Publishing Group in Beijing.” It can be searched for the latest information on Tibet, as presented by the People’s Republic of China.
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Free Tibet Movement

The Dalai Lama and advocates of Tibetan political sovereignty maintain that since the 1951 invasion of Tibet, the People’s Republic of China has been responsible for the deaths of 1.2 million Tibetans. Learn more about the free Tibet movement that has gained momentum and visibility in recent decades, aided in part by a popular concert series.

Top Sites for the Free Tibet Movement

Free Tibet campaigns “for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the fundamental human rights of Tibetans to be respected.” Visit the site for information on how to become involved, or for background on Tibet’s culture, economy, environment and politics, and the state of human rights in Tibet.

International Campaign for Tibet is the world’s largest NGO advocating for the freedom of Tibet. Its site hosts a variety of resources for understanding Tibet and Tibetan culture, learning about legislative advocacy, finding news reports from Tibet and participating in the campaign.
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The Future of Tibet

Activists advocate for Tibetan sovereignty, and the Chinese government argues that life for Tibetans has improved since the country’s period of self-rule. Is it possible to reconcile these different perspectives, and will the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people ever return to his homeland? Think tanks, political leaders and activists attempt to predict what’s in store for the future of Tibet.

Top Sites for Tibet’s Future

The Heritage Foundation hosted a discussion on the future of Tibet with a group of Asian scholars from several think tanks. A complete video file of the lecture is available at the Heritage Foundation Web site.

The Office of Tibet in London has a translation of “The Guidelines For Future Tibet’s Polity And Basic Features of Its Constitution,” which was written by the Dalai Lama in 1992.
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