Tibet History

Potala PalaceLegend tells the Tibetan history starts with a monkey and a siren. The monkey was sent by Avalokiteshvara (Chenrezi) for religious retreat on the high plateau. The siren managed to persuade him to marry her. Having the permission of Avalokiteshvara, they married and had 6 children. They were believed to be the ancestor of the Tibetan people. However, archeology and geology discovery makes ethnologists believe Tibetans are decedents of aborigines and nomadic Qiang tribes. According to archeological discovery, Tibetan history can be traced to 4,000 years ago.

However, the historic records show that not until the 7th century can Tibetans be recognized as a race of people. The rising Yarlung Dynasty (Tubo Kingdom) unified Tibet and became an aggressive power. Inter-court marriages were adopted to for political reason. Nepal and China married their princesses to Songtsen Gampo, the outstanding king of Tibetan people. The two princesses brought with them peace and also Buddhism which Tibetans fully converted to before long. Songtsen Gampo embraced the religion.

The first transmission of Buddhism came to the snow land. The king's successors followed the religion also and in 779 King Trisong Detsen, set up the first Buddhist temple in Tibet, Samye Monastery and Buddhism was recognized as state religion. Great religious teacher, Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet. The Buddhism influence spread as the expansion of the Tibetan empire continued. The indigenous Bon was not satisfied with the popularity of Buddhism in the royal family and fought back. In 836, King Ralpachen was assassinated and Lang Darma was installed king, who believed Bon and objected Buddhism. Severe persecution against Buddhists ended the first Buddhism transmission. Lang Darma, in 842, was assassinated also by a Buddhist and the Yarlong Dynasty collapsed and Tibet became decentralized principalities struggling for power.

In 1042, Atisa was invited to Tibet to launch the second Buddhism transmission and Buddhism gradually revived. And Buddhism divided into many sects and subsects, which rigorously debated with each other and sought among warring principalities for patronage for dominance. In the twelfth century, the Mongol Empire rose to power and expanded aggressively. Sakya lama, Sakya Pandit found patronage from the Mongols and offered Tibet's submission. In 1254, Kublai Khan granted supreme authority over Tibet to Sakya Pandit's nephew, the leader of Sakya order.

Sakya Pandit was appointed to become the imperial preceptor and a high official in his court. Tibet was thus incorporated as one 13 provinces of China! At the end of the Yuan Dynasty, Sakya order declined and was replaced by Kagyu order, whose patron offered tribute to the imperial court and was conferred with titles and authority to administrate. After the Ming Dynasty was established, Tibetan high lamas were summoned to the imperial court to receive titles and appointments.

In 1751, Mongol Alton Khan gave his submission to the Ming Dynasty and asked for the imperial permission to invite Sonam Gyatso, the third Dalai Lama to give him spiritual guide. In 1578, Alton Khan conferred Sonam Gyatso the title of Dalai Lama. In 1641, under the patronage of Qosot Gushri Khan, Gandan Podrang Dynasty took the reign and Gelugpa, the order of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, stepped into political arena. Soon the Manchurian Qing Dynasty came to power in China. In 1652, the fifth Dalai Lama was summoned to Beijing, and in 1653 he was reconferred with the title Dalai Lama and made religious leader of Tibet Buddhism by Emperor Shunzhi. Gushri Khan was given political and military authority. In 1682, the fifth Dalai Lama passed away and dispute arose in the identification of the sixth Dalai Lama. In 1709, Emperor Kangxi sent his imperial envoy to assist the local magistrate Lhabzang Khan, grandson of Gushri Khan. Panchen Lama was conferred with the title Panchen Erdeni in 1713.

Dzungar Mongols attacked Tibet in 1717, killed Lhabzang Khan, sacked monasteries and deposed of the sixth Dalai Lama. The Qing troops dispatched to Tibet escorted the newly installed seventh Dalai Lama and drove Dzungar out of Tibet. However, internal unrest happened again and Emperor sent his imperial troops to quench the turmoil and determined to reform the local administration. After series reform, the local administrative authority fell to Dalai Lama and the imperial representative official in Tibet, who were equal in status. Lot drawing process was introduced to avoid dispute in the identification of high lamas and their installation should be approved by the central government in 1793.

In 1904, British invaded Lhasa and the thirteenth Dalai Lama fled Qinghai. The weak Qing Dynasty could not protect Tibet from foreign invasion. In 1911, Manchurian dynasty collapsed and Republic of China was founded. The thirteenth Dalai Lama's title, deprived of by the Qing Dynasty in 1910, was restored by the Republic of China. In 1923, dispute occurred between the thirteen Dalai Lama and the ninth Panchen Lama. Panchen Lama fled Qinghai and died there in1937. Chinese Nationalist government successively approved the identification of reincarnations of the fourteenth Dalai Lama and the tenth Panchen Lama in 1940 and 1949.

In 1951, Tibet was peacefully liberated under the 17-point Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. Hundreds of thousands serfs were liberated from the yoke of serfdom.