The archeological findings show that people were living in Tibet for at least 7000 year. As we are not aware of migration into Tibet (before the last decade’s massive immigration of Chinese) it is reasonable to believe that today’s Tibetans are descendants of this ancient culture.
A major power in Asia ca. 650 – 842 AC
It is not until the early 600’s that Tibet is united as one kingdom. A strong military organization makes Tibetans able to conquer a great kingdom that includes Central Asia, the Himalayas and western China. At the same time Buddhism was introduced in Tibet, with the north-Indian alphabet that Tibetans use to this day.
For almost two hundred years Tibet is an Asian superpower, but the introduction of Buddhism trigger controversy. In 842 the Tibetan king is assassinated and the kingdom falls apart.
New independence as a monastery ruled state
From the 11th century on, it’s the Buddhist monasteries that dominate Tibet. In contrast to China, Tibet escaped to be conquered by the Mongols, who from the middle of the 13th century ruled the world’s biggest kingdom. After the fall of the Mongol Dynasty in China in 1368, Tibet continued to be a fully independent nation.
In 1642 Tibet was united into a centralized state with the Dalai Lama as head. The Dalai Lama was at the same time the most important leader in one of the Buddhist monastic tradition. Tibet became a state where the monasteries dominated both politics and economics.
Isolation and loss of independence
Internal conflict among Tibetans in the 18th century made it possible for the Chinese emperor to send an army to Tibet several times and finally placing a garrison in Lhasa. Tibetans were never under Chinese administration and taxation. At the same time Tibetans feared the British Empire in India and tried to protect themselves by closing the country for all contact with Europeans.
Towards the end of the 19th century this policy brought Tibetans in conflict with the British and in 1904 they invaded Tibet, fought their way to Lhasa and forced a treaty to secure the British interests in Tibet.
Dependence interlude 1912 – 1951
In 1912, the Chinese Empire has been abolished and the republic established. Tibetans declared themselves independent. Until 1951 Tibet was in practice an independent state, but because the Tibetan government (in particular due to pressure from the major monasteries) continued its isolation policy, the state has not joined any international organization.
Tibet searched for support partly with the British in India, partly in China. The Chinese didn’t accept Tibet as independent state and attacked eastern Tibet several times, but were repulsed by the Tibetans.
During this time, Tibet had its own army, its own monetary system and flag, their own stamps and diplomatic relations with neighboring countries. During (bez „the”) World War II Tibet was strictly neutral, unlike China, which was at war with Japan.
In 1949, the Chinese People’s Republic has been established and in 1950 Tibet was attacked by the People’s Liberation Army. Neither India nor the U.S. wanted to get involved in Tibet and the country was occupied by China. In May 1951, a Tibetan delegation in Beijing was forced to sign an agreement (17-point agreement) according to which Tibet gave up its sovereignty.
Rebellion and repression 1951-1980
From 1956 on an extensive armed rebellion grew up in eastern Tibet. In 1959 it spread to Lhasa and the Dalai Lama escaped to India, followed by tens of thousands of Tibetans. The uprising in Lhasa was crushed by the Chinese army, but the resistance continued in many places and a major new rebellion broke out in 1969. It was also beaten down, while Tibetans were organized in communes.
In the years during the Cultural Revolution, almost all the monasteries, historic buildings, art objects and books were systematically destroyed. Together with the widespread famine and countless executions, this led to loss of life of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.
In 1965 the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) was created with Lhasa as capital. The eastern part of Tibet was incorporated into neighboring Chinese provinces (Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan).
Liberalization and resistance
At the end of the 1970’s, the Chinese leadership in Beijing decided that the Tibetans should get back certain freedoms and from early 1980’s Tibet was open to tourists.
Since the large demonstrations in Lhasa in the autumn of 1987, the situation in the country has been tense, marked by frequent large and small demonstrations, arrests and surveillance and growing national sentiment.
In the 1980’s the opposition has been non-violent and has been inspired by the universal ideals of democracy and human rights.