Government and History
The first Tibetan king, Nyatri Tsenpo, descended from heaven on a sky
cord, according to the legend. It is said that he landed near Tsetang in the
Yarlung Valley. He ascended back up the cord again at the end of his life. This
tradition continued until the sixth king was slain by a mortal, and now Tibetan
kings have to live and die upon the earth.
Songtsen Gampo molded Tibet into a powerful empire. Songtsen married the Nepalese princess Bhrikuti and the Chinese princess Wencheng to seal alliances with Nepal and China. Both brides were Buddhists, and their faith converted the king. Songtsen is best known as the one who made Tibet a Buddhist state. Songtsen Gampo moved the capital to Lhasa.
Langdarma , who was completely against Buddhism, took the throne as the forty-second Yarlung king. Langdarma practically destroyed Buddhism in Tibet by demolishing monasteries and burning books. The end of the Yarlung reign ended when monks assassinated Langdarma in 842.
Different aspects of Buddhism were focused on by communities of monks, which led to the formation of different orders or sects of Buddhism. Like the 'Red Hats' and the 'Yellow Hats'.
Tibet came together again when the Mongols of the north swept through central Asia and invaded western China and northern Tibet. Genghis Khan and his grandson Godan Khan led this invasion. In 1247, Godan Khan invited the abbot of the Sakya Monastery, Sakya Pandita, to meet with him. Sakya moved Godan so that he made the monk viceroy, or the king's representative, over Tibet. With so much political power in the hands of the Sakyapa lamas, however, other religious sects began to get jealous.
In 1368, the Chinese overthrew the Mongols. The Mongol empire split into different groups. This was the end of the relationship between China's Mongol rulers and Tibet's lamas.
The third abbot of the Drepung Monastery, Sonam Gyatso, was a great master of the Gelukpa sect. Kublai Khan's great grandson, Altan Khan, converted to Buddhism because of Sonam's influence. Altan also gave him the title of Dalai Lama, which means "Ocean of Wisdom."
Gushri Khan invaded Tibet in 1642 and conquered Tsang. The fifth Dalai Lama was his ally and is honoured as the greatest leader in Tibet's history. His name is Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso. His nickname was the Great Fifth. The Great Fifth made Lhasa the capital again and he expanded Potala Palace and turned it into his palace and fortress. He set up a system of government that withheld until 1959.
The sixth Dalai Lama was a weak leader, which made Tibet an easy target for invasion by both the Mongols and the Manchus, who were superpowers in Asia at the time.
Great Britain began to take interest in Tibet for trade matters. The thirteen Dalai Lama fled to the safety of Mongolia at only twenty-seven years old. The Dalai Lama came back to Tibet in 1907, where Britain and Tibet now discussed open trade relations.
Thupten Gyatso, the thirteenth Dalai Lama, became Tibet's greatest reformer since the Great Fifth. The past proved Tibet could not defend itself very well. The Dalai Lama organized an army with the help of Great Britain. This army had modern weapons and modern training. Telegraph lines were strung, a hydroelectric plant was built near Lhasa, and an English school was founded in Gyantse. Even some Tibetan students were sent to England to study. Now came governmental reform. The Dalai Lama made it so serfs could own their own land. He also changed taxation laws so that the common Tibetan would have a chance to prosper.
In 1913, the British organized the Simla Conference in the hopes of arranging an agreement that told the exact relationship between China and Tibet. China refused to sign.
The thirteenth Dalai Lama died in 1933. The modernisation did not have enough time to set its roots. Transportation and communication were primitive and the Chinese were still a constant problem.
In 1949, the Nationalist Chinese government was overthrown by Mao Zedong and his Chinese Communist Party. Mao's People's Liberation Army began an invasion into Tibet in October 1950. At the age of sixteen, the fourteenth Dalai Lama began his reign. The United Nations gave Tibet no help, so the Tibetans had no choice but to give up to China and agree to the "liberation." The Tibetans were forced to pledge loyalty to the Chinese Communist system or they were tortured.
The Dalai Lama disguised himself as a soldier and escaped the palace in the middle of the night. He fled through India with his family and supporters and Khampa tribesmen as escorts and guides.
A mass exodus began after the uprising at Lhasa. Tibetans tried to escape through the mountains, but Chinese guards were stationed at mountain passes and many were killed in flight. Many froze or starved as they tried to leave.
Religious practice was banned.
China claimed that the invasion was justified because Tibetan land was already theirs. The International Commission of Jurists declared Tibet an independent nation and condemned China's invasion. When this went before the United Nations, a mild resolution was passed calling for human rights in Tibet.
In 1966, a Cultural Revolution was imposed on Tibet by Mao Zedong. The Chinese mission was to destroy Tibet's culture and force Tibetans to take on the Chinese customs. The Dalai Lama was declared an "enemy of the people".
Many people were shot in public as examples to everyone else. Villages were destroyed and people were crucified or hung. Women and young girls were sterilised forcibly and pregnant women had to have abortions and even infants that were killed through lethal injections.
Tibet was ruined. Hardly anything was left. Over 1.2 million people have died since the Chinese take-over.
Some of the Tibetans' religious freedom was given back in 1985.
Pro-independence riots exploded yet again in March 1989, which was the thirteenth anniversary of the Lhasa uprising. Only sixteen protesters were killed, but the many nuns and monks who participated were later brutally tortured. Lhasa was then put under martial law, and almost two thousand people were executed in the following year. Because of his commitment to peace and non-violence, the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1989. China did not agree with the prize committee and claimed they were trying to meddle in Chinese affairs. The Dalai Lama tried to make a compromise in 1990 and in 1993 with China, but China still refused.