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Cultural/historical Tibet (highlighted) depicted with various competing territorial claims.
Claimed by Tibetan exile groups.
Tibetan areas designated by PRC.
Tibet Autonomous Region (actual control).
Claimed by India as part of Aksai Chin.
Claimed by the PRC as part of TAR.
Other historically culturally-Tibetan areas.
Tibet (older spelling Thibet; Tibetan: བོད་, Bod, pronounced in Lhasa dialect; Chinese: 西藏, pinyin: Xīzàng or 藏区 Zàngqū [the two names are used with different connotations; see Name section below]) is a region in Central Asia and the home of the Tibetan people. With an average elevation of 4,900 m (16,000 ft), it is often called the 'Roof of the World'. All or most of historic Tibet (depending on definition) is currently a part of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

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Definitions - Contents

When the Government of Tibet in Exile refers to Tibet, they mean a large area that formed the cultural entity of Tibet for many centuries, consisting of the traditional provinces of Amdo, Kham (Khams), and Ü-Tsang (Dbus-gtsang), but excluding areas outside the PRC like Arunachal Pradesh (or South Tibet), Sikkim, Bhutan, and Ladakh that have also formed part of the Tibetan cultural sphere.When the PRC refers to Tibet, it means the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR): a province-level entity which, according to the territorial claims of the PRC, includes Arunachal Pradesh (presently under the administration of India); Sikkim, Bhutan, and Ladakh may also considered to be parts of cultural Greater Tibet in addition to Amdo, Kham, and Ü-Tsang. The TAR covers the Dalai Lama's former domain consisting of Ü-Tsang and western Kham, while Amdo and eastern Kham are now found within the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Yunnan, and Sichuan.The difference in definition is a major sticking point in the dispute. The distribution of Amdo and eastern Kham into surrounding provinces was initiated by the Yongzheng Emperor during the 18th century and has been continuously maintained by successive Chinese governments. Tibetan exiles, in turn, consider the maintenance of this arrangement since the 18th century as part of a divide-and-rule policy.

Status - Contents

Flag of Tibet before 1950. This version was introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912. It continues to be used by the Government of Tibet in Exile, and as such is banned in the PRC as a symbol of separatism.
Flag of Tibet before 1950. This version was introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912. It continues to be used by the Government of Tibet in Exile, and as such is banned in the PRC as a symbol of separatism.
While Tibet was once an independent kingdom, the government of the People's Republic of China and the Government of Tibet in Exile disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether this incorporation into China is legitimate.Since 1959 the former government of Tibet, led by the 14th Dalai Lama, has maintained a government in exile at Dharamsala, in northern India. It claims sovereignty over Tibet, with borders defined as the entirety of what it terms "Historic Tibet", although it controlled only about half of that area before 1959. The Government of Tibet contends that Tibet to be a distinct nation independent before conquest by the Yuan Dynasty 700 years ago; between the fall of the Yuan Dynasty in 1368 and subjugation by the Qing Dynasty in 1720; and again between the fall of the Qing Dynasty in 1912 and incorporation into the PRC in 1951. Especially during the period from 1912 to 1951, Tibet possessed the requirements for sovereign statehood, and was explicitly recognized as a sovereign state by Mongolia and was treated as such by the British government, which signed several treaties with the Tibetan government. Moreover, even during the periods of nominal subjugation to the Chinese dynasties, Tibet was largely self-governing. As such, the Tibetan Government in Exile views current PRC rule in Tibet as colonial and illegitimate, motivated solely by the natural resources and strategic value of Tibet, and in gross violation of both Tibet's historical status as an independent country and the right of Tibetan people to self-determination. It also points to PRC's autocratic policies, divide-and-rule policies, and what it contends are assimilationist policies, and regard those as an example of ongoing Chinese imperialism aimed at destroying Tibet's distinct ethnic makeup, culture, and identity, thereby cementing it as an indivisible part of China.On the other hand, the PRC and Republic of China claim to rule Tibet legitimately, by claiming that Tibet has been an indivisible part of China de jure since the Yuan Dynasty 700 years ago, comparable to other states such as the Kingdom of Dali and the Tangut Empire that were also incorporated into the Middle Kingdom at the time and have remained in China ever since. The PRC contends that all subsequent Chinese governments ( Ming Dynasty, Qing Dynasty, Republic of China, and People's Republic of China) have succeeded the Yuan Dynasty in exercising de jure sovereignty and de facto power over Tibet. In particular, the PRC contends that during the period (1912-1951) held by Tibetan exiles to be the last period of Tibetan independence, China continued to maintain sovereignty over Tibet; no country gave Tibet diplomatic recognition; and Tibet itself acknowledged Chinese sovereignty by sending observer delegates to the Drafting Committee for a new constitution of the Republic of China in 1925; to the National Assembly of the Republic of China in 1931; to the fourth National Congress of the Kuomintang in 1931; to a National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1946; and to another National Assembly for drafting a new Chinese constitution in 1948. [1] Finally, the PRC considers all movements aimed at ending Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, including British attempts to establish control in the late 19th century and early 20th century, the CIA's backing of Tibetan insurgents during the 1950s and 1960s, and the Government of Tibet in Exile today, as one long campaign abetted by malicious Western imperialism aimed at destroying Chinese integrity and sovereignty, thereby weakening China's position in the world. The PRC also points to the autocratic and theocratic policies of the government of Tibet before 1959, its renunciation of Arunachal Pradesh which China regards as a part of Tibet occupied by India, and its association with India and other foreign countries, and as such claims the Government of Tibet in Exile has no moral legitimacy to govern Tibet.

Name - Contents

In English
The English word Tibet, like the word for Tibet in most European languages, ultimately derives (via Arabic and Persian) from a Turkic word Töbän (pl. Töbäd) meaning "the heights". (Behr, W. Oriens 34 (1994): 557-564.) The Chinese word for the Tibetan Empire ( 7th— 11th centuries), 吐蕃 (tǔfān or tǔbō), may have the same origin.

In Tibetan
Tibetans call their homeland Bod (བོད་), pronounced in Lhasa dialect. It is first attested in the geography of Ptolemy as βαται (batai) and in Chinese texts as fa (Beckwith, C. U. of Indiana Diss. 1977). They refer to a fatherland, rather than a motherland, as does India.

In Chinese
The Chinese name for Tibet, 西藏 (Xīzàng), is a phonetic transliteration derived from Tsang (western Ü-Tsang) The name originated during the Qing Dynasty of China. It can be broken down into Xi 西 (literally "West"), and Zang 藏 (literally "Tibetan"). The term can be interpreted as either "Western Tibet", or "Tibet of/in the West".The government of the People's Republic of China equates Tibet with Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). As such, the name "Xizang" is equated with the TAR. In order to refer non-TAR Tibetan areas, or to all of cultural Tibet, the term 藏区 Zàngqū (literally, "ethnic Tibetan areas") is used. However, Chinese-language versions of pro-Tibetan independence websites, such as the Free Tibet Campaign, the Voice of Tibet, and Tibet Net use 西藏 ("Xizang"), not 藏区 ("Zangqu"), to mean historic Tibet.Some English-speakers reserve "Xizang", the Chinese word transliterated into English, for the TAR, to keep the concept distinct from that of historic Tibet. Some pro-independence advocates duplicate the situation into the Chinese language, and use 土伯特 or 图伯特, which are both phonetic transcriptions of the word "Tibet", to refer to historic Tibet, though this usage is rare.The character 藏 (zàng) has been used in transcriptions referring to Tsang as early as the Yuan Dynasty, if not earlier, though the modern term "Xizang" was devised in the 18th century. The Chinese character 藏 (Zàng) has also been generalized to refer to all of Tibet, including other concepts related to Tibet such as the Tibetan language (藏文, Zàngwén) and the Tibetan people (藏族, Zàngzú). The two characters of Xīzàng can literally mean "western storehouse", which some Tibetans find offensive. However, the offending character, "zàng", can also mean "treasure" or "Buddhist scripture". In addition, Chinese transliterations of non-Chinese names do not necessarily take into account the literal meanings of words; usually a positive or neutral connotation combined with phonetic similarity is enough for the transliteration to come into use.See also Transliteration into Chinese characters for other examples.

Cities - Contents

Lhasa is Tibet's traditional capital and the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. Other cities in Historic Tibet include Shigatse (Gzhis-ka-rtse), Gyantse (Rgyang-rtse), Chamdo (Qamdo)/(Chab-mdo), Nagchu (Nag-chu), Nyingchi (Nying-khri), Nedong (Sne-gdong), Dartsendo (Dar-btsen-mdo), Jyekundo (Skyes-rgu-mdo) or Yushu (Yul-shul), Golmud (Na-gor-mo), Barkam ('Bar-khams), Gartse (Dkar-mdzes), Lhatse (Lhar-tse), Machen (Rma-chen), Pelbar (Dpal-'bar), Sakya (Sa-skya) and Tingri (Ding-ri).

History - Contents

Little is known of Tibet before the 7th century, though the Tibetan language is generally considered to be a Tibeto-Burman language and related distantly to other Chinese.According to a legend in 14th century Mani Bka' 'bum, the Tibetans are descended from the union of a monkey and a rock ogress. The monkey was an incarnation of Avalokiteśvara (Spyan ras gzigs in Tibetan, pronounced Cenrezik), the Buddha of compassion, and the ogress an incarnation of Tara ('Grol ma in Tibetan, pronounced Drolma).Tibet was a strong empire between the 7th and 10th centuries. The distinctive form of Tibetan society, in which land was divided into three different types of holding—estates of noble families, freeheld lands and estates held by monasteries of particular Tibetan Buddhists sects—arose after the weakening of the Tibetan kings in the 10th century. This form of society was to continue into the 1950s, at which time more than 700,000 of the country's population of 1.25 million were serfs.
The Potala Palace in Lhasa
The Potala Palace in Lhasa
In the 13th century, Tibet was incorporated into the Mongol Empire, which was known in China as the Yuan Dynasty. The Yuan emperors, who were followers of Tibetan Buddhism, granted secular leadership of Tibet to the Sa-skya school of Tibetan Buddhism. There followed an interregnum period in which there were three secular dynasties. In the 16th century, Altan Khan of Tumet Mongolian tribe supported the Dalai Lama's religious lineage to be the dominant religion among Mongols and Tibetans.Up until the early 18th century, China's dynastic central government sent resident commissioner ( amban) to Lhasa. Tibetan factions rebelled in 1759 and killed the resident commissioners after the Qing decided to reduce the number of soldiers to about 100. Then, a Qing army entered and defeated the rebels and reinstalled the resident commissioner. The number of soldiers in Tibet was kept at about 2000. The defensive duties were partly helped out by a local force which was reorganized by the resident commissioner, and the Tibetan government continued to manage day-to-day affairs as before. The powers of the commissioner continued to wane through the end of the 19th century, coinciding with the declining power of the Qing empire.In 1904 A British diplomatic mission, accompanied by a large military escort, forced its way through to Lhasa. The head of the diplomatic mission was Colonel Francis Younghusband. The principal motivation for the British mission was a fear, which proved to be unfounded, that Russia was extending its footprint into Tibet and possibly even giving military aid to the Tibetan government. When the mission reached Lhasa, the Dalai Lama had already fled to Urga in Mongolia, but a treaty was signed by lay and ecclesasiastical officials of the Tibetan government, and by representatives of the three monasteries of Sera, Drepung, and Ganden. (Bell, 1924 p. 284; Allen, 2004, p. 282). The treaty made provisions for the frontier between Sikkim and Tibet to be respected, for freer trade between British and Tibetan subjects, and for an indemnity to be paid from the Tibetan Government to the British Government for its expenses in dispatching armed troops to Lhasa. It also made provision for a British trade agent to reside at the trade mart at Gyantse. The provisions of this 1904 treaty were confirmed in a 1906 treaty signed between Britain and China, in which the British also agreed "not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet." (Bell, 1924, p. 288). The position of British Trade Agent at Gyantse was occupied from 1904 up 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. (McKay, 1997, pp. 230-1).A Nepalese agency had also been established in Lhasa after the invasion of Tibet by the Gurkha government of Nepal in 1855 (Bell, 1924, pp. 46-7, 278-80).
Early 19th-century map of Lhasa.
Early 19th-century map of Lhasa.
The Anglo-Chinese Convention of 1906 recognized Chinese sovereignty over the region [Smith (1996), p. 162] and the Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907, without Beijing's acknowledgement, recognized the suzerainty of China over Thibet [Goldstein (1989), p. 830]. The Qing central government established direct rule over Tibet for the first time in 1910. The thirteenth Dalai Lama fled to British India in February 1910. In the same month, the Chinese Qing government issued a proclamation deposing the Dalai Lama and instigating the search for a new incarnation [Smith (1996), p. 175]. While in India the Dalai Lama became a close friend of the British Political Officer Charles Bell. The official position of the British Government was that they would not intervene between China and Tibet, and it would only recognize the de facto government of China within Tibet at this time [Bell (1924), p. 113]. In Bell's history of Tibet, he would write of this time that "the Tibetans were abandoned to Chinese aggression, an aggression for which the British Military Expedition to Lhasa and subsequent retreat [and consequent power vacuum within Tibet] were primarily responsible" [Bell (1924), p. 113]. In February of 1912 the Qing emperor abdicated and the new Chinese Republic was formed [Smith (1996), p. 181]. In April of 1912 the Chinese garrison of troops in Lhasa surrendered to the Tibetan authorities. The new Chinese Republican government wished to make the commander of the Chinese troops in Lhasa their new Tibetan representative, but the Tibetans were in favour of expelling all of the Chinese troops to China Proper. The Dalai Lama returned to Tibet from India in July 1912. By the end of 1912, the Chinese troops in Tibet had returned, via India, to China Proper [Smith (1996), p. 181]. In 1913, Tibet and Mongolia signed a treaty proclaiming mutual recognition and their independence from China. In 1914, a treaty was negotiated in India by representatives of China, Tibet and Britain: the Simla Convention. During the convention, the British tried to divide Tibet into Inner and Outer Tibet. When negotiations broke down over the specific boundary between Inner and Outer, the British demanded instead to advance their line of control, enabling them to annex 90,000 square kilometers of traditional Tibetan territory in southern Tibet, which corresponds to most of the modern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, while recognizing Chinese suzerainty, but not sovereignty, over Tibet. Tibetan representatives secretly signed under British pressure; however, the representative of Chinese central government declared that the secretive annexation of territory was not acceptable. The boundary established in the convention, the McMahon Line, was considered by the British and later the independent Indian government to be the boundary; however, the Chinese view since then has been that since China, which claimed sovereignty over Tibet, did not sign the treaty, the treaty was meaningless, and the annexation and control of southern Tibet / Arunachal Pradesh by India is illegal. This paved the way to the Sino-Indian War of 1962 boundary dispute between China and India today.The subsequent outbreak of World War I and civil war in China caused the Western powers and the infighting factions of China proper to lose interest in Tibet, and the 13th Dalai Lama ruled undisturbed. At that time, the government of Tibet controlled all of Ü-Tsang (Dbus-gtsang) and western Kham (Khams), roughly coincident with the borders of Tibet Autonomous Region today. Eastern Kham, separated by the Yangtze River was under the control of Chinese warlord Liu Wenhui. The situation in Amdo ( Qinghai) was more complicated, with the Xining area controlled by ethnic Hui warlord Ma Bufang, who constantly strove to exert control over the rest of Amdo (Qinghai).Neither the Republic of China nor the People's Republic of China has ever renounced China's sovereignty over Tibet. In 1950, the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet, crushing the Tibetan army. In 1951, the Plan for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet, a treaty signed under Chinese pressure by representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama, provided for rule by a joint administration under representatives of the central government and the Tibetan government. Most of the population of Tibet at that time were farmers (referred to by Chinese propaganda as "serfs"), bound to land owned by lamas and the aristocracy. Any attempt at land reform or the redistribution of wealth would have proved unpopular with the established landowners. This agreement was initially put into effect in Tibet proper. However, Eastern Kham and Amdo were outside the administration of the government of Tibet, and were thus treated like any other Chinese province with land reform implemented in full. As a result, a rebellion broke out in Amdo and eastern Kham in June of 1956. The rebellion, supported by the American CIA, eventually spread to Lhasa. It was crushed by 1959. Tibetan exiles claim that during this campaign, tens of thousands of Tibetans were killed. The 14th Dalai Lama and other government principals fled to exile in India, but isolated resistance continued in Tibet until 1969 when CIA support was withdrawn.Although the Panchen Lama remained a virtual prisoner, the Chinese set him as a figurehead in Lhasa, claiming that he headed the legitimate Government of Tibet in the absence of the Dalai Lama, the traditional head of the Tibetan government. In 1965, the area that had been under the control of the Dalai Lama's government from the 1910s to 1959 (U-Tsang and western Kham) was set up as an Autonomous Region. The monastic estates were broken up and secular education introduced. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards, which included Tibetan members, inflicted a campaign of organized vandalism against cultural sites in the entire PRC, including Tibet's Buddhist heritage. Of the several thousand monasteries in Tibet, over 6000 were destroyed [2], only a handful remained without major damage, and thousands of Buddhist monks and nuns were killed or imprisoned.Since 1979, there has been economic reform, but no political reform, like the rest of the PRC. Some PRC policies in Tibet have been described as moderate, while others are judged to be more oppressive. Most religious freedoms have been officially restored, provided the lamas do not challenge PRC rule. Foreigners can visit most parts of Tibet, and it is claimed that the less savoury aspects of PRC rule are kept hidden from visitors.In 1989, the Panchen Lama died, and the Dalai Lama and the PRC recognised different reincarnations. While officially an atheist state, the People's Republic of China has affirmed its right to confirming high-level reincarnations, a tulku in the Tibetan tradition of Vajrayana Buddhism, citing a precedent set by the Qianlong Emperor of the Qing Dynasty (The PRC view is that Qianlong instituted a system of selecting the Panchen Lama, the Dalai Lama and other high lamas by means of a lottery which utilised a golden urn with names wrapped in barley balls[Goldstein (1989), p44, n13]; the view of Tibetan exiles is that the system was a suggestion made by Qianlong and was not a prerequisite for choosing the Panchen Lama). The Dalai Lama named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama but without confirmation by the vase lot, while the PRC named another child, Gyancain Norbu by the vase lot. Gyancain Norbu was raised in Beijing and has appeared occasionally on state media. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family have gone missing, into imprisonment according to Tibetan exiles, and under a hidden identity for protection and privacy according to the PRC. [3]The PRC continues to portray its rule over Tibet as an unalloyed improvement, and foreign governments continue to make occasional protests about aspects of PRC rule in Tibet. All governments, however, recognise PRC sovereignty over Tibet, and none has recognised the Dalai Lama's government in exile in India.

Evaluation of PRC rule
Tibetan exiles generally say that the number that have died in the Great Leap Forward, of violence, or other unnatural causes since 1950 is approximately 1.2 million, which the Chinese Communist Party denies. According to Patrick French, a supporter of the Tibetan cause who was able to view the data and calculations, the estimate is not reliable because the Tibetans were not able to process the data well enough to produce a credible total. There were, however, many casualties, perhaps as many as 400,000. This figure is extrapolated from a calculation Warren W. Smith made from census reports of Tibet which show 200,000 "missing" from Tibet. Even The Black Book of Communism expresses doubt at the 1.2 million figure, but does note that according to Chinese census the total population of ethnic Tibetans in the PRC was 2.8 million in 1953, but only 2.5 million in 1964. It puts forward a figure of 800,000 deaths and alleges that as many as 10% of Tibetans were interned, with few survivors. Chinese demographers have estimated that 90,000 of the 300,000 "missing" Tibetans fled the region. [4] (P.24)The government of Tibet in Exile also says that millions of Han immigrants to the TAR are diluting the Tibetans both culturally and through socio-economic displacement, since Tibetans in urban areas are becoming increasingly marginalized compared to the Han immigrants. 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. It is also reported that when Hu Yaobang, the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, visited Lhasa in 1980 he was unhappy when he found out the region was behind neighbouring provinces. Reforms were instituted, and since then the central government's policy in Tibet has granted most religious freedoms. But monks and nuns are still sometimes imprisoned [5], and many Tibetans (mostly monks and nuns) continue to flee Tibet yearly. At the same time, many Tibetans view projects that the PRC claims to benefit Tibet, such as the China Western Development economic plan or the Qinghai-Tibet Railroad, as politically-motivated actions to consolidate central control over Tibet by facilitating militarization and Han migration while benefiting few Tibetans; they also view the money funneled into cultural restoration projects as being aimed at attracting foreign tourists. They also say that there is still preferential treatment awarded to Han in the labor market as opposed to Tibetans.The government of the PRC says that the population of Tibet in 1737 was about 8 million, and that due to the backward rule of the local theocracy, there was rapid decrease in the next two hundred years and the population in 1959 was only about 1.19 million. Today, the population of Greater Tibet is 7.3 million, of which 5 million is ethnic Tibetan, according to the 2000 census. The increase is viewed as the result of the abolishment of the theocracy and introduction of a modern, higher standard of living. Based on the census numbers, the PRC also rejects claims that the Tibetans are being swamped by Han Chinese; instead the PRC says that the border for Greater Tibet drawn by the government of Tibet in Exile is so large that it incorporates regions such as Xining that are not traditionally Tibetan in the first place, hence exaggerating the number of non-Tibetans.The government of the PRC also rejects claims that the lives of Tibetans have deteriorated, pointing to rights enjoyed by the Tibetan language in education and in courts and says that the lives of Tibetans have been improved immensely compared to the Dalai Lama's rule before 1950. Benefits that are commonly quoted include: the GDP of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) today is 30 times that before 1950; TAR has 22,500 km of highways, as opposed to 0 in 1950; all secular education in TAR was created after the revolution; TAR now has 25 scientific research institutes as opposed to 0 in 1950; infant mortality has dropped from 43% in 1950 to 0.661% in 2000; life expectancy has risen from 35.5 years in 1950 to 67 in 2000; the collection and publishing of the traditional Epic of King Gesar, which is the longest epic poem in the world and had only been handed down orally before; allocation of 300 million Renminbi since the 1980s to the maintenance and protection of Tibetan monasteries [6]. The Cultural Revolution and the cultural damage it wrought upon the entire PRC is generally condemned as a nationwide catastrophe, whose main instigators (in the PRC's view, the Gang of Four) have been brought to justice and whose reoccurrence is unthinkable in an increasingly modernized China. The China Western Development plan is viewed by the PRC as a massive, benevolent, and patriotic undertaking by the eastern coast to help the western parts of China, including Tibet, catch up in prosperity and living standards. The government of Tibet in Exile claims that many such large-scale infrastructure projects benefit the Chinese military and Han Chinese settlers in Tibet, that money would be better spent on education and healthcare, and that in any case the Chinese government should not be making development decisions since the key issue is the self-determination and wishes of the Tibetan people.

Geography - Contents

Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region.
Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region.
Tibet has beautiful mountainous terrain.
Tibet has beautiful mountainous terrain.
Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region. Most of the Himalaya mountain range lies within Tibet. Its most famous peak, Mount Everest, is on Nepal's border with Tibet.The atmosphere is severely dry nine months of the year. Western passes receive small amounts of fresh snow each year but remain traversable year round. Low temperatures are prevalent throughout these western regions, where bleak desolation is unrelieved by any vegetation beyond the size of low bushes, and where wind sweeps unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. The Indian monsoon exerts some influence on eastern Tibet. Northern Tibet is subject to high temperatures in summer and intense cold in winter.Historic Tibet consists of several regions:
  • Amdo (a'mdo) in the northeast, incorporated by China into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.
  • Kham (khams) in the east, part of Sichuan, northern Yunnan and part of Qinghai.
    • Western Kham, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region
  • U (dbus), in the center, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region
  • Tsang (gtsang) in the west, part of the Tibetan Autonomous Region
Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring states of Bhutan, Nepal, adjacent regions of India such as Sikkim and Ladakh, and adjacent provinces of China where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion. South Tibet, now is controlled by India as Arunachal Pradesh, is a region where the majority of residents are Tibetan.[ citation needed]Several major rivers have their source in the Tibetan Plateau (mostly in present-day Qinghai Province), including:
  • Yangtze
  • Huang He (Yellow River)
  • Indus River
  • Mekong
  • Brahmaputra
  • Ganges

Economy - Contents

The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, livestock raising is the primary occupation. In recent years, tourism has become an increasingly important sector, and is actively promoted by the authorities. The Qingzang Railway is being built to link the region with China proper.

Demographics - Contents

Ethnolinguistic Groups of Tibet, 1967 (See entire map, which includes a key)
Ethnolinguistic Groups of Tibet, 1967 ( See entire map, which includes a key)
Ethnic Tibetan autonomous entities set up by the People's Republic of China. Opponents to the PRC dispute the actual level of autonomy.
Ethnic Tibetan autonomous entities set up by the People's Republic of China. Opponents to the PRC dispute the actual level of autonomy.
Historically, the population of Tibet consisted of primarily ethnic Tibetans. Other ethnic groups in Tibet include Menba (Monpa), Lhoba, Mongols and Hui. According to tradition the original ancestors of the Tibetan people, as represented by the six red bands in the Tibetan flag, are: the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra.The issue of the proportion of the Han Chinese population in Tibet is a politically sensitive one. Between the 1960s and 1980s, many prisoners (over 1 million, according to Harry Wu) were sent to laogai camps in Amdo ( Qinghai), where they were then employed locally after release. Since the 1980s, increasing economic liberalization and internal mobility has also resulted in the influx of many Han Chinese into Tibet for work or settlement, though the actual number of this floating population remains disputed. The Government of Tibet in Exile gives the number of non-Tibetans in Tibet as 7.5 million (as opposed to 6 million Tibetans), and considers this the result of an active policy of demographically swamping the Tibetan people and further diminishing any chances of Tibetan political independence, and as such, to be in violation of the Geneva Convention of 1946 that prohibits settlement by occupying powers. The Government of Tibet in Exile questions all statistics given by the PRC government, since they do not include members of the People's Liberation Army garrisoned in Tibet, or the large floating population of unregistered migrants. The Qingzang Railway ( Xining to Lhasa) is also a major concern, as it is believed to further facilitate the influx of migrants.However, the PRC government does not view itself as an occupying power and has vehemently denied allegations of demographic swamping. The PRC also does not recognize Greater Tibet as claimed by the government of Tibet in Exile, saying that the idea was engineered by foreign imperialists as a plot to divide China amongst themselves, and that those areas outside the TAR were not controlled by the Tibetan government before 1959 in the first place, having been administered instead by other surrounding provinces for centuries. [7] The PRC gives the number of Tibetans in Tibet Autonomous Region as 2.4 million, as opposed to 190,000 non-Tibetans, and the number of Tibetans in all Tibetan autonomous entities combined (slightly smaller than the Greater Tibet claimed by exiled Tibetans) as 5.0 million, as opposed to 2.3 million non-Tibetans. In the TAR itself, much of the Han population is to be found in Lhasa. Population control policies like the one-child policy only apply to Han Chinese, not to minorities such as Tibetans. Jampa Phuntsok, chairman of the TAR, has also said that the central government has no policy of migration into Tibet due to its harsh high-altitude conditions, that the 6% Han in the TAR is a very fluid group mainly doing business or working, and that there is no immigration problem. [8]
Major ethnic groups in Greater Tibet by region, 2000 census
Total Tibetans Han Chinese others
Tibet Autonomous Region: 2616329 2427168 92.8% 158570 6.1% 30591 1.2%
- Lhasa PLC 474499 387124 81.6% 80584 17.0% 6791 1.4%
- Chamdo Prefecture 586152 563831 96.2% 19673 3.4% 2648 0.5%
- Lhokha Prefecture 318106 305709 96.1% 10968 3.4% 1429 0.4%
- Shigatse Prefecture 634962 618270 97.4% 12500 2.0% 4192 0.7%
- Nagchu Prefecture 366710 357673 97.5% 7510 2.0% 1527 0.4%
- Ngari Prefecture 77253 73111 94.6% 3543 4.6% 599 0.8%
- Nyingtri Prefecture 158647 121450 76.6% 23792 15.0% 13405 8.4%
Qinghai Province: 4822963 1086592 22.5% 2606050 54.0% 1130321 23.4%
- Xining PLC 1849713 96091 5.2% 1375013 74.3% 378609 20.5%
- Haidong Prefecture 1391565 128025 9.2% 783893 56.3% 479647 34.5%
- Haibei AP 258922 62520 24.1% 94841 36.6% 101561 39.2%
- Huangnan AP 214642 142360 66.3% 16194 7.5% 56088 26.1%
- Hainan AP 375426 235663 62.8% 105337 28.1% 34426 9.2%
- Golog AP 137940 126395 91.6% 9096 6.6% 2449 1.8%
- Gyêgu AP 262661 255167 97.1% 5970 2.3% 1524 0.6%
- Haixi AP 332094 40371 12.2% 215706 65.0% 76017 22.9%
Tibetan areas in Sichuan province
- Aba AP 847468 455238 53.7% 209270 24.7% 182960 21.6%
- Garzê AP 897239 703168 78.4% 163648 18.2% 30423 3.4%
- Muli AC 124462 60679 48.8% 27199 21.9% 36584 29.4%
Tibetan areas in Yunnan province
- Dêqên AP 353518 117099 33.1% 57928 16.4% 178491 50.5%
Tibetan areas in Gansu province
- Gannan AP 640106 329278 51.4% 267260 41.8% 43568 6.8%
- Tianzhu AC 221347 66125 29.9% 139190 62.9% 16032 7.2%
Total for Greater Tibet:
With Xining and Haidong 10523432 5245347 49.8% 3629115 34.5% 1648970 15.7%
Without Xining and Haidong 7282154 5021231 69.0% 1470209 20.2% 790714 10.9%
This table includes all Tibetan autonomous entities in the People's Republic of China, plus Xining PLC and Haidong P. The latter two are included to complete the figures for Qinghai province, and also because they are claimed as parts of Greater Tibet by the Government of Tibet in exile.
P = Prefecture; AP = Autonomous prefecture; PLC = Prefecture-level city; AC = Autonomous county
Excludes members of the People's Liberation Army in active service.
Source: Department of Population, Social, Science and Technology Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics of China (国家统计局人口和社会科技统计司) and Department of Economic Development of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China (国家民族事务委员会经济发展司), eds. Tabulation on Nationalities of 2000 Population Census of China (《2000年人口普查中国民族人口资料》). 2 vols. Beijing: Nationalities Publishing House (民族出版社), 2003. ( ISBN 7105054255)

Culture - Contents

Large Snow Lions guard the entrance to the Potala Palace
Large Snow Lions guard the entrance to the Potala Palace
Tibet is the traditional center of Tibetan Buddhism, a distinctive form of Vajrayana, which is also related to the Shingon Buddhist tradition in Japan. Tibetan Buddhism is not only practiced in Tibet; it is also the prevalent religion in Mongolia and largely practiced by the Buryat people of Southern Siberia. Tibet is also home to the original spiritual tradition called Bön (also spelled Bon). Various dialects of the Tibetan language are spoken across the country. Tibetan is written in Tibetan script.In Tibetan cities, there are also small communities of Muslims, known as Kachee (Kache), who trace their origin to immigrants from three main regions: Kashmir (Kachee Yul in ancient Tibetan), Ladakh and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from Persia. After the invasion of Tibet in 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that year. [9] There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community (gya kachee), which traces its ancestry back to the Hui ethnic group of China. It is said that Muslim migrants from Kashmir and Ladakh first entered Tibet around the 12th century. Marriages and social interaction gradually led to an increase in the population until a sizable community grew up around Lhasa.The Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lamas, is a World Heritage Site, as is Norbulingka, former summer residence of the Dalai Lama. The PRC government has planned to invest 179.3 million Renminbi in the renovation and restoration of the Potala Palace and 67.4 million Renminbi in the Norbulingka, starting from 2002.During the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, zealous Red Guards destroyed or vandalised most historically significant sites in Tibet, as a part of a broader campaign waged across China to destroy pre-Revolution cultural artifacts.

Further reading & media - Contents

  • Dowman, Keith (1988). The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, ISBN 0710213700. New York, ISBN 0140191186.
  • Pachen, Ani; Donnely, Adelaide (2000). Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun. Kodansha America, Inc. ISBN 1568362943.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C.; with the help of Gelek Rimpche. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers (1993), ISBN 8121505828. University of California (1991), ISBN 0520075900.
  • Grunfield, Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. ISBN 1563247135.
  • Schell, Orville (2000). Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood. Henry Holt. ISBN 0805043810.
  • Thurman, Robert (2002). Robert Thurman on Tibet. DVD. ASIN B00005Y722.
  • Wilby, Sorrel (1988). Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1900-Mile Trek Across the Rooftop of the World. Contemporary Books. ISBN 0809246082.
  • Wilson, Brandon (2004). Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith. Heliographica. An Imprint of Pilgrim's Tales. ISBN 1933037237, ISBN 1933037245.
  • Norbu, Thubten Jigme; Turnbull, Colin (1968). Tibet: Its History, Religion and People. Reprint: Penguin Books (1987).
  • Stein, R. A. (1962). Tibetan Civilization. First published in French; English translation by J. E. Stapelton Driver. Reprint: Stanford University Press (with minor revisions from 1977 Faber & Faber edition), 1995. ISBN 0804708061.
  • Samuel, Geoffrey (1993). Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies. Smithsonian ISBN 1560982314.
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