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Little is known of the ancient history of Tibet, the first dynasty having been founded by the Indian prince Rupati; but the historical period begins at the end of the sixth century A.D., when the first king, Luntsang, made inroads to India. Luntsang's son is the celebrated Srong-tsang Gam-po, one of the great champions of Buddhism; in 639 he married Bribtsun, daughter of Ançuvarman, sovereign of Nepal, and in 641 the princess of Wen ch'eng, daughter of the Chinese emperor T'ai- tsung. Under their influence, the Tibetan prince gave a great extension to Buddhism in his empire; he founded in 639 Lhasa, formerly Lha-Idam where for centuries his heirs governed the country with the title of gialbo in Tibetan, and of tsanp'o in Chinese. The Tibetans were the allies of the Khalif of Bagdad and they invaded the Chinese provinces of Yun-nan, Sze-ch'wan and Kan-su, as far as Ch'ang ngan, capital of the T'ang emperors. The two most ancient historical edicts have been found by Dr. L.A. Waddell upon a lofty pillar of victory which stands at the foot of Potala Hill, under the castles of the ancient kings, now incorporated in the palace of the dalai lama; they date between A.D. 730 and 763, are the earliest historical Tibetan documents hitherto discovered, and throw a sidelight on the ancient history and geography of China. The eighth century is the culminating point of Tibetan power, which was destroyed when the Uighurs became the masters of the whole country between Peit'ing and Aksu. 

During the eleventh century the priests of the Sakya Monastery began to be predominant in Tibet; they were called Hung Kiao, Red Church, on account of the colour of their garments and of their headgear. The laxness of their morals, the marriage of monks, and sorcery were the chief causes of the reform undertaken by Tsong K'apa or Je Rinpoch'e (b. at Amdo near Kuku-nor in 1358), founder of the Gelupa Sect, who adopted a yellow dress (hwang kiao), and obliged his followers to return to the religion of Buddha; he founded the monasteries of Gadan and of Sera, and died in 1418, having established the lamaist hierarchy. His successor, Gedundub, built the Monastery of Tashilumbo, which became in the seventeenth century the residence of the second lama, the panch'en rinpoch'é, which the first lama or Dalai Lama settled in 1641 to the west of Lhasa. The panch'en lama, Paldan-yeshes, died at Peking on the 27 Nov., 1780, during a visit to the Emperor of China. During the eighteenth century the Chinese Emperor, K'ien-lung, began to establish his supremacy over Tibet; already in 1725 two high Chinese commissioners had been appointed to control the temporal affairs of the country, and in the first moon of 1793 an imperial edict ordered that future Dalai Lamas were to be chosen from the names of children drawn from a "golden urn". 
 
Travellers in Tibet 

Marco Polo and Rubruk mention Tibet but did not visit it; the first European traveller who appears to have visited Lhasa is the Franciscan Odoric of Pordenone in the first half of the fourteenth century. It was but in 1624 that we have real information on this country in a letter of the Portuguese Jesuit, Antonio de Andrade, dated Agra, 8 Nov., 1624, relating the journey of this father to Lake Mansarovar and to Rudok; Andrade erroneously called the country he visited, Cathay. Two years later, two other Jesuits, Grueber and d'Orville, (1661) left Peking, and by the route of Si-ning reached Lhasa, where they resided two months; they returned to India via Nepal. Two other Jesuits, Desideri and Freyre, went (1715-16) from Leh to Lhasa, where the former lived until 1729, when he was obliged to leave on account of the intrigues of the Capuchins, who had founded a mission which lasted to 1760, when they were expelled by the Tibetans. One of these monks, Francesco Orazio della Penna di Billi, has written an account of Tibet. A most remarkable journey was made by the Dutchman Samuel Van de Putte (d. at Batavia, 27 Sept., 1745), who went from India to Peking via Lhasa, and returned by the same road. 

In 1774 Warren Hastings, Governor of Bengal, sent George Bogle to the Court of the panch'an lama; Captain Samuel Turner went on a visit in 1783 to the Court of the new panch'en lama; finally the Englishman Thomas Manning visited Lhasa in 1811. Next we come to the celebrated journey to Lhasa of the Lazarists Huc and Gabet in 1844. For many years afterwards the exploration of Tibet was carried on by "pundits" in the Indian Government service, especially by Nain Sing and the lama, Ugyen Gyatso. We must mention also among the travellers to Tibet the Russian, Prjevalsky (1880-85); the American, W.W. Rockhill (1888-89, 1891- 92), who went to the north-east of Tengri-nor, 110 miles west of Lhasa; the Frenchmen, Gabriel Bonvalot and Prince Henri d'Orléans with the Belgian missionary, De Deken (1889-90); Captain Hamilton Bower (1891-92); Miss A.R. Taylor (1892); the Frenchman, Dutreuil de Rhins (who was murdered, 5 June, 1894, at Tungbumdo by the red lamas), and his companion, Fernand Grenard (who escaped); Sir George K. Littledale (1895); Captain M.S. Wellby and Lieut. Malcolm (1896); Captain H.H.P. Deasy (1896); the celebrated Swedish explorer, Sven Hedin; and finally the Russian captain, P.K. Kozlov. 

Relations with China, Russia, and England 

By a separate article of the Che-fu Convention (13 Sept., 1876) it had been stipulated that the English Government might in the next year send a mission of exploration by way of Peking through Kan-su and Kuku-nor, or by way of Sze-ch'wan to Tibet, and thence to India. The Tsung-li-Yaman, having due regard to the circumstances, was, when the time arrived, to issue the necessary passports, and address letters to the high provincial authorities, and to the imperial resident in Tibet. The English did not take advantage of this article and countermanded the mission by Article 4 of the Convention signed at Peking, 24 July, 1886, regarding Burmah and Tibet. A convention with China was signed on 17 March, 1890, at Calcutta, settling the boundary frontiers between Sikkim and Tibet, and trade regulations were also signed in December, 1893. But the Tibetans occupied land inside the treaty boundary; on the other hand Russian activity in Tibet was causing great anxiety to the Indian government; Lord Curzon had attempted to open direct communication with the Dalai Lama; there were rumours of a Russo- Tibetan agreement. 

Notwithstanding Russia's protest, the Indian Government proposed sending a mission to Lhasa. Finally this mission was organized in July, 1903, with Major Francis E. Younghusband at its head; this first mission was turned into a second mission with Younghusband as a commissary and General James R.L. Macdonald as commander of the military escort. The English crossed the Jelep Pass (12 Dec., 1903), occupied Phari (19 Dec.), stormed Gyantse (12 April, 1904), and entered Lhasa on 3 August; the dalai lama was in flight. A treaty was signed on 7 September; the British troops left Lhasa and they were back in India on 25 October. The treaty was ratified by the Viceroy of India on 11 Nov., 1904); it included ten articles: The Government of Tibet engaged to respect the Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1890 and to recognize the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet; undertook to open forthwith trade-marts, to which all British and Tibetan subjects should have free right of access at Gyantse and Gastok as well as at Yatung; the roads to Gyantse and Gastok from the frontier were to be kept clear of all obstructions; an indemnity of £500,000 was to be paid to the British Government for the expense incurred in the despatch of armed troops to Lhasa; all forts and fortifications were to be razed and all armaments removed which might impede the course of free communication between the British frontiers and the towns of Gyantse and Lhasa. 

On 27 April, 1906, a convention was signed at Peking by Sir Ernest Mason Satow for Great Britain and by Tang Shao-yi for China, including six articles: the Lhasa Convention was confirmed; Great Britain engaged not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet; China also undertook not to permit any other foreign state to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet. Finally, in 1907, Russian and Great Britain also singed a convention: both parties engaged to respect the territorial integrity of Tibet and to abstain from all interference in its internal administration, not to send representatives to Lhasa, neither to seek nor to obtain, whether for themselves or for their subjects, any concessions for railways, roads, telegraphs, and mines, or other rights in Tibet. 

The Dalai Lama had fled to Urga, in Mongolia, which he left in the summer of 1907 to settle at the Kun Bum Monastery; afterwards, in 1908, he went to the celebrated pilgrimage of Shan-si, Wu tai Shan, whence he repaired to Peking. An audience was granted to him by the emperor and he was allowed to leave the Chinese capital on 21 Dec., 1908, and return to Lhasa, where he was not to stay long; a body of Chinese troops invaded Tibet, the Dalai Lama fled to Darjeeling, and the result of the policy of both Great Britain and Russia has been the virtual annexation of Tibet by China.

Recent History

Chinese rule became more oppressive under communism in the 1950s.  By the mid-1950s there was unrest in eastern Kham and Amdo, where land reform had been implemented in full. These rebellions eventually spread into western Kham and U-Tsang. In 1959 (at the time of the Great Leap Forward in China), the Chinese authorities overstepped the mark, treating the Dalai Lama, by now an adult, with open disrespect. In some parts of the country zealous Chinese Communists tried to establish rural communes, as was happening in China. These events triggered riots in Lhasa, and then a full-scale rebellion.

The Tibetan resistance movement began with isolated resistance to Chinese occupation in the late 1950s. Initially there was considerable success and with CIA aid much of southern Tibet fell into rebel hands, but in 1959 with the occupation of Lhasa resistance forces withdrew into 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. In 1969, on the eve of Kissinger's overtures to China, support was withdrawn and the Nepalese government dismantled the operation. 

The rebellion in Lhasa was soon crushed, and the Dalai Lama fled to India, although resistance continued in other parts of the country for several years. The Panchen Lama was set up as a figurehead in Lhasa and China took direct control of the Tibetan government. In 1965 the western part of historical Tibet became a Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. The monastic estates were broken up, the monasteries closed and secular education introduced. During the Cultural Revolution there was a campaign of organised vandalism against Tibet's Buddhist heritage, and tens of thousands of Tibetans escaped to India.

The government of Tibet is now in exile in India.  China has annexed all of Tibet.  Foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of Chinese rule in Tibet. All governments, however, recognise Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, and none has recognised the Dalai Lama's government in exile in India.

* Portions of this text are from the print edition of the public domain 1912 Catholic Encyclopedia.


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 


 
 

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