Tibet with temple in the forefront and mountains in the background

Tibet: A Spiritual Paradise and Empire

Tibet is a region in East Asia that spans the Tibetan Plateau wide 2.5 million km2. The traditional land of the Tibetan people and other ethnic groups such as Monpa, Tamang, Qiang, Sherpa, and the Lhoba people is now inhabited by large numbers of Han Chinese and Hui people. Tibet is the highest point on earth, with an average height of 4,380 feet (14,000 ft).  Located in the Himalayas, the highest point in Tibet is Mount Everest, the highest mountain on Earth, rising 8,848 feet (29,029 ft) above sea level.


The Tibetan Empire emerged in the 7th century, but with the fall of the empire the region was soon divided into various territories. The western and central  Tibetan masses (U-Tsang) were usually associated at least by name under a series of Tibetan governments in Lhasa, Shigatse, or nearby areas. The eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo used to maintain a lowly traditional political structure, divided between a few nobles and ethnic groups, while also often falling directly under Chinese rule after the Chamdo war; most of this area was eventually incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. Current Tibetan borders are generally established in the 18th century.

Following the Xinhai Revolution against the Qing dynasty in 1912, armed Qing troops were evacuated from the Tibet Area (U-Tsang). The region then declared its independence in 1913 without the recognition of the next Chinese government of the Republic. Later, Lhasa took over the western part of Xikang, China. The region maintained its independence until 1951 when following the Chamdo War. Tibet was annexed by the People’s Republic of China, and the former Tibetan government was dissolved in 1959 after a failed protest. Today, China controls Tibet in the west and central region such as the Tibet Autonomous Region while the eastern areas are now racially independent states in Sichuan, Qinghai and other neighboring provinces. There is disagreement over the political situation in Tibet and the opposition parties operating in exile. Tibetan activists in Tibet were reportedly arrested or tortured.

The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture, although tourism has become a growing industry in recent decades. The dominant religion in Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism; in addition there is Bon, similar to Tibetan Buddhism, and there are also Tibetan Muslims and minority Christians. Tibetan Buddhism is a major influence in the arts, music, and regional festivals. Tibetan architecture reflects Chinese and Indian influences. The main food in Tibet is grilled barley, yak meat and butter tea.

Early history and Tibetan Empire

People lived on the Tibetan Plains at least 21,000 years ago. This figure has been replaced by about 3,000 BP by Neolithic immigrants from northern China, but there is a further genetic continuity between the Paleolithic inhabitants and modern-day Tibetans.

The earliest books on Tibetan history point to Zhang Zhung’s culture as people migrating from the Amdo region to the Guge region now west of Tibet. Zhang Zhung is considered the first religious home in Bön.  In the 1st century BCE, a neighboring empire sprang up in the Yarlung region, and the king of Yarlung, Drigum Tsenpo, tried to remove Zhang Zhung’s influence by expelling Zhang Bön’s priests from Yarlung.  He was assassinated and Zhang Zhung continued to rule the region until it was discovered by Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Before Songtsen Gampo, Tibetan kings were more mythical than reality, and there is not enough evidence to prove their existence.


The history of Tibetan history begins with the reign of Songtsen Gampo (604-650 CE), which included parts of the Yarlung River Valley and established the Tibetan Empire. He brought about many changes, and the Tibetan power spread rapidly, forming a vast and powerful empire. It is traditionally thought that his first wife was the Princess of Nepal, Brikuti, and that he played a major role in the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the nephew of Chinese King Taizong of Tang China.

Under a few Tibetan emperors, Buddhism was established as the dominant religion and power in the Tibetan empire flourished in large parts of Central Asia, while greater penetration took place in China, reaching the capital of Tang Chang’an  in late 763. However, the Tibetan occupation at Chaneng lasted 15 days, after which they were defeated by Tang and his counterpart, Turkic Uyghur Khaganate. The kingdom of Nanzhao (in Yunnan and neighboring provinces) remained under Tibetan rule from 750 to 794, when they opened up to their Tibetan rulers and helped the Chinese to inflict severe persecution on the Tibetans.

credit: wikipedia

In 747, the capture of Tibet was liberated by a campaign by General Gao Xianzhi, who tried to reopen direct links between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750, Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the Chinese. However, after the defeat of Gao Xianzhi by the Arabs and the Qarluqs of the Battle of Talas (751) and the subsequent civil war known as the An Lushan Rebellion (755), Chinese influence declined rapidly and the Tibetan influence began again.

At its peak in the 780s to 790 the Tibetan Empire reached its highest glory when it ruled and controlled the region from modern-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan.

Yuan dynasty

The Mongol Empire, through the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs, or Xuanzheng Yuan, ruled Tibet through a high-level administrative department. One of the department’s objectives was to elect dpon-chen (‘chief executive officer’), who was usually appointed by the Lama and confirmed by the Mongol governor in Beijing. Sakya lama retained independence, acting as a political authority in the region, and dpon-chen controlled administrative and military power. The Mongol rule of Tibet remained different from the major provinces of China, but the region existed under the rule of the Yuan dynasty. If the Sakya lama once clashed with dpon-chen, dpon-chen had the authority to send Chinese troops to the region.

Is Tibet still facing social issues?

In Tibet today, there is no freedom of speech or religion. The Dalai Lama, Tibetan political and religious leader, fled to India in 1959. He now lives among more than 100,000 Tibetan refugees and their exiled government. Recent events in Tibet have intensified the controversy over its legal status. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) says Tibet is an important part of China. The Tibetan government in exile emphasizes that Tibet is an independent country subject to illegal activities.

On the other hand, Today, China controls Tibet in the west and central region such as the Tibet Autonomous Region while the eastern parts are now racially independent states in Sichuan, Qinghai and other neighboring provinces. There is controversy over the political situation in Tibet and the opposition parties operating in exile.

Legal Status of Tibet

Recent events in Tibet have escalated the controversy over its legal status. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) says Tibet is an important part of China. The Tibetan government in exile emphasizes that Tibet is an independent country subject to illegal activities.


The question is more important for at least the two reasons. First, if, Tibet is under Chinese occupation, the transfer of legal status from Beijing to Chinese settlers to Tibet is a gross violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of human settlements into residential areas. Second, if Tibet is under Chinese ban, China’s illegal presence in the country is a legitimate international concern. If, on the other hand, Tibet is an important part of China, then these questions fall, as China claims, within its domestic authority. Human rights issues, including the right to self-determination and the right of the Tibetan people to retain their ownership and independence, are legitimate concerns of the international community no matter how legitimate Tibetans are.

The PRC does not claim to seek higher rights than Tibet because of its military conquests and Tibetan occupation following the conquest or occupation of the country at this time. Instead, it only supports Tibet in the notion that Tibet has been an important part of China for centuries.

The question of Tibet’s status is actually a legitimate question, even if it is of immediate political importance. The international situation should be determined by the intended legal objectives rather than the independent political ones. Therefore, whether a particular business is a state of international law depends on whether it has the necessary mechanisms of governance (location, population, autonomy, power to establish international relations), not whether the governments of other provinces recognize its status. Recognition can provide evidence that international governments are determined to treat business as an independent state, but they cannot create or destroy the country.


In many cases, such as the current one, it is necessary to examine the history of the country to determine its status. Such historical research should be based soundly on the historical sources of the country itself, rather than translating the content of official foreign sources, especially those claiming rights in the country in question. This may seem obvious to many. When we study French history we explore French sources rather than German or Russian sources. I make this point, however, it is because China’s claim to sovereignty over Tibet is based solely on China’s official legitimate history. Chinese sources have pointed out in many countries that the Chinese emperor has relations with them, not just Tibet, as servants of the emperor. When reading Tibetan history, Tibetan sources should be given primary importance; Foreign sources, including Chinese, should only be given a second weight.

Tibet from 1950 to Today

Tibet from 1950 to present

As it had more control over most of the Chinese continent after the Chinese Civil War, the People’s Republic of China invaded Tibet in 1950 and negotiated a 12-point treaty with the newly installed Dalai Lama government, securing the People’s Republic of China but granting independence. . Thereafter, during his exile, the 14th Dalai Lama rejected the agreement altogether, not repeating it over and over again. According to the CIA, the Chinese have used the Dalai Lama to control military training and military operations.

The Dalai Lama had a strong following as many Tibetans viewed him not only as a political leader but also as a religious leader. After the Dalai Lama government fled to Dharamsala, India, during the 1959 Tibetan uprising, he established an anti-deportation government. Subsequently, the Beijing Central People’s Government rescinded the agreement and began implementing social and political reforms. During the Great Leap Forward, between 200,000 and 1,000,000 Tibetan people may have died  and about 6,000 palaces were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution – most of Tibet’s historic buildings were destroyed. In 1962 China and India fought a short war on rival territories in Arunachal Pradesh / South Tibet and Aksai Chin. Although China won the war, Chinese troops retreated north of the McMahon Line, taking Arunachal Pradesh to India.

In 1980, Secretary-General and reformist Hu Yaobang visited Tibet and began a period of social, political, and economic freedom. At the end of the decade, however, before the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, monks at the Dropung and Sera palaces began to protest for independence. The government instituted reforms and launched an anti-segregation campaign. Human rights groups have criticized the Beijing and Lhasa governments’ perceptions of human rights in the region when they attacked separatist rallies in the monasteries and cities, most recently in the 2008 Tibetan conflict.

Tibetan Culture


Tibet developed a different culture because of its national and climatic conditions. Influenced by neighboring cultures from China, India, and Nepal, the remoteness of the Himalayan region and inaccessibility retained local influences, and revived the development of its distinctive culture. Tibetan Buddhism has had a profound influence on Tibetan culture since its introduction in the seventh century. Buddhist missionaries, mainly from India, Nepal, and China, introduced arts and culture from India and China. Art, literature, and music all contain elements of existing Buddhist beliefs, and Buddhism itself has adopted a distinct form of Tibet, influenced by Bön culture and other local beliefs.

Several astronomical works, astronomy, and medicine were translated from Sanskrit and Classical Chinese. Common cultural devices have come from China, among many other items and skills imported for the manufacture of butter, cheese, barley-beer, pottery, watermills and national beverage, butter tea.

Certain Tibetan and climatic conditions have encouraged reliance on pastoralism, as well as the development of diverse food sources from surrounding regions, which meet the needs of the human body at these high altitudes.

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