Tibet has a rich history of independence, religion, subservience, and foreign intervention. But in the present day, should it be independent?
|Tibetan Empire at its greatest extent|
Tibet is now a part of the People's Republic of China, and it is known as the Autonomous region of Tibet. Tibet has a government in exile, which is technically led by the 14th Dalai Lama. This made the government in exile a theocratic republic. But later, the Dalai Lama gave up his political power, making him a purely spiritual leader.
The Tibetan Empire was founded in the 7th Century AD, ranging from Bengal and Burma in the South to Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in the West. From Mongolia in the North to the Eastern parts of China Proper.
It encompassed the 11 modern countries of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, China, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan.
The Empire was believed to have been created when Namri Songsten took control of the Yarlung Valley area.
On the other hand, Namri Songsten was able to extend his control to Central Tibet. He gained control of the lands around Lhasa right before his assassination in 618 by a rebellion that failed (and was crushed by his son).
Songtsän Gampo was the next "emperor" of Tibet. He was a great leader for Tibet. In the 620's, he defeated the Sumpa (people in north-eastern Tibet).
He is widely accredited to taking Zhang Zhung, and conquered multiple Qiang tribes. He then threatened Songzhou with 100,000 to 200,000 soldiers. After a campaign against China, he demanded a Chinese princess to marry.
Songtsän Gampo is accredited with creating the Tibetan language. He sent his minister Thonmi Sambhota to India in order to devise a language. This eventually led to the first Tibetan literature, translations, and a constitution. Songtsän Gampo moved the capital from Yarlung Valley to Lhasa. He was quite the warmonger, taking much territory for Tibet, but he still introduced Buddhism to Tibet by building multiple Buddhist temples. Nonetheless, when he died in 650 A.D., the Tang attacked and occupied Lhasa. According to Tibetan records, they left after experiencing harsh resistance.
Under the rule of Mangsong Mangtsän, Khotan was defeated by the Tibetans between 665-670, and a long string of conflicts ensued with the Chinese Tang Dynasty. In the spring of 670, Tibet attacked the remaining Chinese territories in the western Tarim Basin. With troops from Khotan they conquered Aksu, upon which the Chinese abandoned the region, ending two decades of Chinese control.
He married Thrimalö, who would become "regent" after Mangsong's death. The emperor died in the winter of 676–677, and Zhangzhung revolts occurred thereafter. In the same year the emperor's son Tridu Songtsen was born.
Emperor Tridu Songtsän ruled in the shadow of his powerful mother Thrimalö on the one hand and the influential Gar clan on the other hand. Gar Thridringtsändrö defeated the Chinese in battle in 696, and sued for peace. 2 years later, in 698 emperor Tridu Songtsän invited the Gar clan (over 2000 people) to a hunting party and had them executed. Gar Thridringtsändrö then committed suicide, and his troops joined the Chinese. The emperor died while he was invading Mywa (a place with Miao people).
King Tride Tsuktsän was born in 704. Upon the death of Tridu Songtsen, his mother Thrimalö ruled as regent for the infant Gyältsugru. Gyältsugru was officially enthroned with the royal name Tride Tsuktsän in 712, the year that dowager empress Thrimalö died. By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the Chinese. In 753, even the kingdom of "Little Balur" (modern Gilgit) was captured by the Chinese. However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the Caliphate and Qarluqs at the Battle of Talas (751), Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence began to increase again. In 755 Tride Tsuktsän was killed by the ministers Lang and ‘Bal. They were then killed by the army.
In 755 China had been greatly weakened by the An Lushan Rebellion, which would last until 763. In contrast, Trisong Detsän's reign was characterized by the reassertion of Tibetan influence in Central Asia. Early in his reign regions to the West of Tibet paid homage to the Tibetan court. From that time onward the Tibetans pressed into the territory of the Tang emperors, reaching the Chinese capital Chang'an (modern Xian) in late 763. Tibetan troops occupied Chang'an for fifteen days and installed a puppet emperor while Emperor Daizong was in Luoyang. The year of his death is disputed - it is believed to be either 797 or 804.
After a short reign, Muné Tsenpo was supposedly poisoned on the orders of his mother. After his death, Mutik Tsenpo was next in line to the throne. However, he had been apparently banished to Lhodak Kharchu near the Bhutanese border for murdering a senior minister. The youngest brother, Tride Songtsän, was definitely ruling by 804 CE.
Under Tride Songtsän there was a protracted war with the Abbasid Caliphate. It appears that Tibetans captured a number of Caliphate troops and pressed them into service on the eastern frontier in 801. Tibetans were active as far west as Samarkand and Kabul. Caliphate forces began to gain the upper hand, and the Tibetan governor of Kabul submitted to the Caliphate and became a Muslim about 812 or 815. The Caliphate then struck east from Kashmir, but were held off by the Tibetans. In the meantime, the Uyghur Khaganate attacked Tibet from the northeast. Strife between the Uyghurs and Tibetans continued for some time.
Tritsu Detsen is important to Tibetan Buddhists as one of the three Dharma Kings who brought Buddhism to Tibet. He was a generous supporter of Buddhism and invited many craftsmen, scholars and translators from neighbouring countries. Finally, a treaty established a 20 year truce between the Tang and Tibet. Nonetheless, Detsen was apparently murdered by two pro-Bön (a religion) ministers who then placed his anti-Buddhist brother, Langdarma, on the throne.
The reign of Langdarma, was plagued by external troubles. The Uyghur state to the north collapsed under pressure from the Kyrgyz in 840, and many displaced people fled to Tibet. Langdarma himself was assassinated, apparently by a Buddhist hermit, in 842. The Tibetan Empire then collapsed when multiple people wanted to become emperor (a succession crisis). The assassination left two possible heirs, Yumtän and Ösung, to fight for the throne, leading to a civil war. The civil war is known as the beginning of the Era of Fragmentation.
The successors of Osung controlled the region of Ngari, while the successors of Yumtän controlled Ü region. The decentralized empire was then split up when numerous peasant rebellions created new kingdoms and warlords. The Era of Fragmentation is depicted as a low point in the development of Tibetan Buddhism, with the Buddhist monastic order facing persecution and exile.
|Displays Tibet before and during Mongol rule.|
Dark red are parts that were under
both Tibetan and Mongol rule.
Red is parts only under Mongol Rule.
The Yuan Dynasty (Mongols) invaded Tibet in 1240 with an small army. Led by a Buddhist general, the army only burned one Buddhist monastery - the monastery of Rwa-sgreng. They withdrew in 1241 to prepare for the succession of Ogedai Khan, but returned in 1244. They invited a Tibetan lama, Sakya Pandita, to Godan's camp, where he agreed to capitulate Tibet, after the Mongols threatened a full-scale invasion of the region.
Between 1346 and 1354, the Yuan dynasty was weakening from uprisings in the main Chinese provinces. As the Yuan dynasty declined, in Tibet, Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen toppled the Mongol puppets and founded the Phagmodrupa dynasty, the rulers of which belonged to the Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism. Nonetheless, by the late 16th century, the Mongols were successful armed protectors of the Gelug Dalai Lama, after increasing their presence in the Amdo region.
The next couple of centuries are highly disputed in history.
For example, the Yuan was recognized as the successor state of the Ming. This much is known. But here's the problem - people argue that Tibet is or is not independent based on its history with China - which makes things so much more complicated.
While most people concur that Tibet was de facto independent under the Ming, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People's Republic of China digress. They claim that the Ming implemented a policy of managing Tibet according to conventions and customs, granting titles and setting up administrative organs over Tibet. Apparently, the Ming Dynasty's Ü-Tsang Commanding Office governed most areas of Tibet. It also states that while the Ming abolished the policy council set up by the Mongol Yuan to manage local affairs in Tibet and the Mongol system of Imperial Tutors to govern religious affairs, the Ming adopted a policy of bestowing titles upon religious leaders who had submitted to the Ming Dynasty. For example, an edict of the Hongwu Emperor in 1373 appointed the Tibetan leader Choskunskyabs as the General of the mNgav-ris Military and Civil Wanhu Office.
But the next part is disputed. Because although this would have been true for the eastern Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham's "tribute-cum-trade" relations with the Ming, it was untrue if applied to the western Tibetan regions of Ü-Tsang and Ngari.
But regardless, we can look at the personal bias of these studies. The branches of the Chinese government are supposed to say that Tibet was historically a part of China - it legitimizes their rule. Likewise, pro-Tibetan scholars are expected to say that Tibet was independent to stop the legitimization Chinese rule of Tibet.
|The Qing Dynasty after |
the changes to Tibet.
The Qing Dynasty put Amdo under their control in 1724, and incorporated eastern Kham into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728.
In 1750 the Ambans and majority of the Han Chinese and Manchus living in Lhasa were killed in a riot, and Qing troops arrived quickly and suppressed the rebels in the next year. The Qing dynasty exerted military and administrative control of the region, but still granted it a degree of political autonomy. The Qing restored the Dalai Lama to the position of regional leader once more.
Nepal attempted to invade Tibet. This prompted yet another Qing reorganization of the Tibetan government, this time through a written plan called the "Twenty-Nine Regulations for Better Government in Tibet" after the Qing sent a large army. Tibet was dominated by the Manchus, but there was no attempt to make Tibet a Chinese province.
In 1841, a Sikh army led by General Zorawar Singh invaded western Tibet from Ladakh, starting the Sino-Sikh War. This event coincided with the Opium Wars against Britain. Both sides stopped the war with a status quo ante bellum.
Because the Qing Dynasty was weakening, its control over Tibet waned. Nonetheless, Tibetans kept the empire's symbolic authority.
In 1904, a British expedition to Tibet, spurred in part by a fear that Russia was extending its power into Tibet, invaded Tibet, hoping that negotiations with the 13th Dalai Lama would be more effective than with Chinese representatives. When the British-led invasion reached Tibet, an armed confrontation with the ethnic Tibetans resulted in the Massacre of Chumik Shenko. They forced a treaty on Tibet that made Tibet a British protectorate. The British government did not recognize the treaty, and to be friends with the Qing again, they canceled the treaty. Note this for later on - this is very important in our present-day world.
In 1910, right before the demise of the Qing Dynasty, the Qing sent Zhao Erfeng to Tibet as an administrator. He crushed the Tibetan lamas and monasteries after the 1905 Tibetan Rebellion in Yunnan in Sichuan at the siege of Chantreng. The lamas had revolted against the Qing by killing Christian missionaries, native Christian converts, and Chinese officials.
In 1911, Sichuan rebelled, so Zhao brought in troops from Wuchang. Nonetheless, Wuchang rebelled soon after the troops left, leading to the Xinhai Revolution and the end of the Qing Dynasty.
|The McMahon Line|
However, all of these legal documents created at the time are disputed. The People's Republic of China considers the Simla Accord to be an illegal document because it says that Tibet was not independent. The McMahon Line has been the reason for the 1962 Sino-Indian War because India claimed that the document gave them control of all of Kashmir (because they were the successor state of the British Raj).
After the Communist government kicked out the Republicans during the Chinese Civil War, Mao Zedong gave an order to invade Tibet to "liberate Tibet from the British".
Yes, this was their casus belli. Even though the British had given up India on August 15, 1947, Communist China decided that it was all because of the British that Tibet was a British colony.
So, Communist China was behind world events by 3 years. No biggie, right?
So in July 1949, in order to prevent a Communist invasion of Tibet, the Tibetan government expelled the Republican Chinese delegation. In November 1949, it sent a letter to the US State Department and a copy to Mao Zedong, and a separate letter to Great Britain, declaring its intent to defend itself "by all possible means" against PRC troop incursions into Tibet.
Starting from 1919, Tibet had de-emphasized its military. They thought, "Well, why do we need this?" Instead, 85% of their budget went to education. Don't you wish modern countries were like that? No war, just peace?
On March 7, a Tibetan delegation arrived in Kalimpong to open a dialogue with the newly declared PRC and to secure assurances that the PRC would respect Tibetan "territorial integrity", among other things.
"Tibet will remain independent as it is at present, and we will continue to have very close 'priest-patron' relations with China. Also, there is no need to liberate Tibet from imperialism, since there are no British, American or Guomindang imperialists in Tibet, and Tibet is ruled and protected by the Dalai Lama (not any foreign power)" - Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa
After months of failed negotiation, Communist China commenced its invasion of Tibet. The People's Liberation Army defeated the Tibetan Army at the Battle of Champa. According to the 14th Dalai Lama, the PLA (People's Liberation Army) was well behaved and generally did not attack civilians.
Tibetan negotiators were sent to Beijing. They were not allowed to communicate with their government, and although they did not have the authority to sign documents, they agreed to the Communist Chinese demands. The PRC stated it would allow Tibet to reform at its own pace and in its own way, keep internal affairs self-governing and allow religious freedom, it would also have to agree to be part of China.
Tibet therefore has a government in exile.
China has been condemned for the many human rights abuses that have occurred under Chinese governance.
What do you think? Should Tibet be independent? Comment below!
Here are some enlightening quotes on the situation in Tibet:
"Whatever the Dalai Lama is doing, no matter in what name, is aimed at seeking independence of Tibet." - Padma Choling, chairman of the Standing Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Regional People's Congress.
" Since the age of 16, His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been working for Tibet and made the world know about Tibet and Tibetans." - Tibetan Prime Minister Losang Sangay.
"It's a very rare occasion, especially after he devolved his political power to the elected leader, to hear him and see him in the parliamentary building. I didn't want to miss this opportunity. Hence, I came all the way from Bangalore to be a part of this," - B. Tsering, a Tibetan parliamentarian-in- exile.
"On Feb. 27, 2009, three days into the Tibetan New Year, a 24-year-old monk in his crimson and yellow robe emerged from the confines of the Kirti Monastery into the streets of Ngawa, in a the Tibetan area of southwestern China. There, in the shadow of a 98-foot-tall monument to the gods of longevity, the man burst into flames — thus sparking the first of many self-immolations that spread across the Tibetan regions of China." - Tsering Woeser, a reporter for the New York Times.
"On March 10, 1959, hundreds rose up against the occupation, demonstrating outside the Dalai Lama's residence in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, until their rally was brutally quashed by the army. The Dalai Lama, then the political leader as well as the Tibetan spiritual leader, fled on foot over the snow-covered Himalayas to India." - Ashwini Bhatia, a reporter for ABC News.Bibliography:
- Tibet Situation : Critical - Full Documentary. Perf. Jason Lansdell. JsanDJ001, 2013. Youtube.
- Beckwith, Christopher I. The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia: A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs, and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1987. Print.
- Hanrahan, Clare. Tibet. Detroit: Greenhaven, 2009. Print.
- "Tibetan Official Slams Obama-Dalai Lama Meeting." Peopledaily.com.cn. People's Daily Online, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
- Yangchen, Phuntsok. "Tibetan PM Declares 2014 as His Holiness the Dalai Lama Year - Www.phayul.com." Phayul.com. Phayul, 11 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
- "Dalai Lama Asks Followers to Preserve Tibet's Cultural Heritage." Http://aninews.in. Aninews, 12 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
- Woeser, Tsering. "Tibet’s Enduring Defiance." The New York Times. The New York Times, 02 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.
- Press, Ashwini Bhatia Associated. "Leader-in-Exile: Youths Lead Tibet Freedom Fight."ABC News. ABC News Network, 10 Mar. 2014. Web. 12 Mar. 2014.