Yumbu Lhakang is seen on the top of a hill of Yarlung Valley near Tsetang, about 200 kilometers, from Lhasa, Tibet, far west of China. The castle-like palace was built by Nyatri Tsanpo, the first Tibetan king, in the 2nd century B.C. The palace plays an important role in the origin of Tibetan history and culture. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
INDEPTH: THE DALAI LAMA|
CBC News Online | April 16, 2004
Tibet is an autonomous region in southwest China with a population of 2.3 million people. The capital of Tibet is Lhasa. Surrounded by mountain ranges, including the Himalayas and the Kunlun, Tibet is mostly a plateau from which the Yangtze, the Mekong and the Thanlwin rivers rise.
The indigenous inhabitants are primarily of Mongolian stock and speak Tibeto-Burman. India, China and Central Asia had ancient trade routes through Tibet.
Pastoral life is still prevalent in Tibet, but the nomadic lifestyle is decreasing as economic development by the Chinese is bringing people into urban centres.
Since 1990, the number of non-Tibetan residents has risen. Until 1959, when there was an unsuccessful revolt, many of the urban dwellers were Buddhist monks. The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama were the nominal heads of the Tibetan government. Before autonomous rule, the administration was divided between the lamas and the feudal aristocracy.
During the T'ang dynasty China establishes trade relations with Tibet. Frequent wars of conquest.
Scholar Padmasambhava creates Tibetan Buddhism from the Mahayana Buddhism, which was practiced in the Tibet kingdom.
Indian Buddhists come to Tibet to flee Muslim invasion.
Tibet falls under Mongolian influence, which lasts until 18th century.
Ch'ing dynasty replaces Mongol role in Tibet. China claims control over Tibet, although it is often nominal only.
Gurkhas from Nepal invade Tibet.
Gurkha war with Tibet
Britain obtains a trading post at Yadong.
British Military expedition lead by Sir Francis Younghusband enforces granting of trade posts at Yadong, Gyangze and Gar.
Britain recognizes China's control over Tibet.
With the overthrow of the Ch'ing dynasty in China, Tibet expels the Chinese and reasserts independence.
Britain, Tibet and China hold conferences in India and tentatively work out an agreement under which China maintains control over Tibet and the region is divided into an inner Tibet to be incorporated in China and an outer autonomous Tibet. China, however, doe not ratify the agreement, and continues to claim all of Tibet as a "special territory."
Chinese People's Liberation Army invades Tibet. One of the justications is the succession of the 10th Panchen Lama with rival candidates supported by Tibet and China.
Tibet becomes a "national autonomous region" under the traditional rule of the Dalai Lama, but actual control is by the Chinese Communist Commission in a Tibetan-Chinese agreement.
Scattered uprisings begin throughout Tibet.
Tibetans launch an armed separatist revolt. Thousands die battling Chinese troops as the rebellion is suppressed. The Dalai Lama flees to India with 80,000 followers, establishing a "government-in-exile."
China launches attack along Tibet-India border to reclaim territories it says were wrongly given to India by Britain.
The Panchen Lama, who had accepted Chinese sponsorship, is deposed and replaced by a secular leader after making statements supporting the Dalai Lama.
Tibetan Autonomous Region formally established.
Cultural Revolution begins in China. Red Guards enter the Tibetan capital of Lhasa in a campaign designed to stamp out the so-called "Four Olds": "old customs, old habits, old culture and old thinking." Religious practices are banned and more than 4,000 monasteries are destroyed.
Religious ban is lifted.
Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi visits Beijing, signaling a thaw in relations as New Delhi relaxes its support for complete independence of Tibet.
China imposes martial law. Tibet's "government-in-exile" disbands to make way for greater democracy. Elections scheduled for 1991 with set five-year terms for elected representatives.
Li Peng visits India, marking the first visit of a Chinese premier in 31 years. India detains 500 Tibetan protesters. China agrees to hold talks with exiled Tibetan leaders.
High-level Tibetan exiles go to China to hold "open-minded" talks with Beijing.
The Dalai Lama threatens to end the Tibetan fight for independence because of violent pro-democracy activists in Lhasa.
The Dalai Lama holds a rare news conference to say he is fighting for political autonomy and not complete independence for Tibet, saying there are seven million Chinese and only six million Tibetans in the region.
Mobs burn Tibetan office in Dharamsala India, alleging that a Tibetan stabbed an Indian youth to death. Tibetan activists ask Indian government for protection.
Indian police detain 50 Tibetan exiles during Chinese President Jiang Zemin's visit.
Tibetan activist Thupten Ngodup dies after setting himself on fire in protest against police efforts to stop a hunger strike. The event signals a growing restlessness among Tibetans.
India indicates it would welcome talks between the Dalai Lama and authorities in Beijing.
The Dalai Lama says he is open to talks with China "without any precondition, anytime, anywhere."
Tibetan youth activists burn flags after invading the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi. China criticizes India for not stopping them.
Beijing designates Tibet an "inseparable part of China" and will open the doors to the Dalai Lama provided he drops his demands for independence for Tibet.
In front of a crowd of 1,000 in Los Angeles the Dalai Lama predicts China will soften its grip on Tibet in a few years.
During a visit to Britain, which was marked by pro-Tibetan independence protests, Chinese President Jiang Zemin rejects demands for China to change its policies on Tibet and on human rights.
The Dalai Lama stresses the need for good relations with Beijing and announces he is not seeking independence from China.
Dalai Lama says self-rule would satisfy Tibetans but also accuses the Chinese of cultural genocide.
The third ranked Tibetan lama flees China in a week-long trek across the Himalayas to India to meet with the Dalai Lama.
The name Dalai Lama means "Ocean of Wisdom".
In the fourteenth century Tsong-kha-pa led a reform movement in Tibetan
Buddhism and eventually founded a group of Buddhist monks known as the Yellow Hat or Gelupga order. In 1438, he founded a monastery at Tashilhundpo. His successor moved the order to Drepung, near the capital, Lhasa.
The third leader of the Gelupga order was a Mongol, Bsod-nams-rgya-mtsho, who
converted to Buddhism. He was head of the order from 1543 to 1588. The Mongol ruler, Altan Khan, bestowed on him the title Dalai Lama. Dalai means both "ocean" and "all-embracing" and "lama" means teacher, the combination of words
creates the idea of a teacher who embraces all wisdom. The title was given posthumanously to the first two leaders of the order, making Bsod-nams-rgya-mtsho the third.
The fourth Dalai Lama was also Mongol, the grandson of Altan Khan.
The fifth Dalai Lama who ruled from 1617 to 1682, extended the temporal
power of the order across Tibet and built the large palace overlooking
Lhasa, the Potala, which is was a symbol of the country - and after the
Chinese occupation, as symbol of Tibetan nationalism.
It was during the reign of the fourth Dalai Lama that the holder of the
office became known not only as the reincarnation of previous Dalai
Lamas but also of a bodhisattva, an enlightened being, known for
Throughout the eighteenth century, Tibet was caught in power struggles
between China and the Mongols, a fight that China eventually won, and
which ended with Tibet as a Chinese protectorate.
The 13th Dalai Lama, Thypten Gyatso tried to modernize Tibet during his
reign, from 1875 to 1933, sending students out of the country for
education and raising the overall standards in the monasteries.
Finding a Dalai Lama
When a Dalai Lama dies, a successor is usually found through signs and
In the case of the present Dalai Lama, the Regent of Tibet went to a
sacred lake southeast of Lhasa in 1935 and there saw a vision of a
monastery with a green and gold roof and turquoise tiles. A mission set
out, in disguise, to find the monastery, where the new Dalai Lama would
be found. Near the monastery a small boy recognized a rosary from the
previous Dalai Lama. The boy was also able to correctly guess the names
of the two monks in the mission. That and other tests confirmed for the
mission that the boy was the reincarnation of the previous Dalai Lama
The monk's conclusion was later confirmed by the Nechung Oracle, where
the medium in a dance trance communicates with the god Pehar, one of the
deities that protects the Dalai Lama.