China is a unified country made up of 56 ethnic groups, Tibetan included.
Early in the 7th century, the Tang Dynasty (618-907) was founded in
the Central Plains. It was a powerful and politically united regime
that initially established order over the shifting and chaotic situation
that had prevailed for more than 300 years in the Central Plains.
At the same time, the Tubo leader Songtsan Gambo brought together
more than 10 separate tribes, and established the Tubo Kingdom covering
a large part of what later became known as Tibet. He twice sent ministers
to the Tang Dynasty court requesting a member of the imperial family
be given to him in marriage, and in 641, Princess Wencheng, a member
of Emperor Taizong's family, was chosen for this role. During
the reign of Songtsan Gambo, political, economic and cultural relations
between the two nations became increasingly friendly and extensive.
This pattern of friendly relations was carried on during the next
200 years or more.
In 842, the Tubo Kingdom broke up, and rival groups of ministers,
members of the royal family and various tribes plunged into internecine
struggle that was to last in varying levels of intensity for the next
400 years. Reeling under the detrimental impact of such activities
on their economic and cultural development, people on the Tibetan
Plateau looked to the emergence of a formidable regime on the Central
Plains to someday come to their rescue. Those who could no longer
stand the bitterness fled to areas in present-day Gansu, Qinghai,
Sichuan and Yunnan Provinces.
Becoming Part of China in the Mid-13th Century
Early in the 13th century, the leader of the Mongolian people, Genghis
Khan, established the Mongol Khanate north of China. In 1247, Mongol
Prince Godan invited Pandit Gonggar Gyamcain, an eminent monk with
the Sagya Sect that greatly influenced Buddhist worship on the Tibetan
Plateau, to a meeting in Liangzhou (present-day Wuwei in Gansu Province).
Pandit Gonggar Gyamcain offered the submission of Tibet to the Mongol
Khanate and the acceptance of a defined local administrative system.
In return, the Sagya Sect was given political power in Tibet. In 1271,
the Mongolian conquerors took Yuan as the name of their dynasty. In
1279, they finally unified the whole of China. The newly united Central
Government continued control over Tibet, including it as a directly
governed administrative unit.
Considering the concrete characteristics of the given historical traditions,
the specific social situation, the natural environment, the nation
and the state of religion, the Yuan authorities adopted special measures
when dealing with the administration of Tibet that differed from the
policies applied to the other 10 administrative areas.
First, in 1270, Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan conferred the official title
of Imperial Tutor on Pagba, an eminent monk with the Sagya Sect. This
was the highest official post of a monk official in the Chinese history.
From then on, Imperial Tutor became a high-ranking official in the
Central Government directly appointed by the Emperor. He was in charge
of Buddhist affairs in the whole country, and local affairs in Tibet.
Second, in the early days of the founding of the Yuan Dynasty, the
Zongzhi Yuan was set up to deal with military, government and Buddhist
affairs nationwide. In 1288, it was renamed Xuanzheng Yuan. The Prime
Minister usually took the post of executive president of the Xuanzheng
Yuan concurrently, while a monk recommended by the Imperial Tutor
held the post of vice-president. This marked the first time in Chinese
history that a central agency was set up especially in charge of Tibetan
Third, Tibet was divided into different administrative areas, and
officials with different ranks were appointed to consolidate administrative
management, with the Imperial Tutor assuming overall responsibility.
Central Government Rule Over Tibet After the Yuan
Since Tibet was incorporated into the map of the Yuan Dynasty in the
mid-13th century, China had experienced the rise and fall of dynasties
and the resultant change in the central government. But this in no
way altered the Central Government's rule over Tibet.
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
In 1368, the Ming Dynasty replaced the Yuan Dynasty. The Ming abolished
the system of the Xuanzheng Yuan in dealing with Tibetan affairs,
as well as conferring the official title of Imperial Tutor on Tibetan
monks. But, the Ming rulers introduced a new system of granting official
titles to Tibetan monks. The highest-ranking monk official was called
Prince of Dharma, which was different from Imperial Tutor in the Yuan
Dynasty. He was not stationed in Beijing, had no rights to be in charge
of Buddhist affairs over the whole of China, and had no fixed manor.
This points up to the fact that the official post was honorary in
nature. These Princes of Dharma varied in rank, but they could not
exercise control over each other, nor could they engage in administrative
affairs, and they had to obey the Central Government.
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
In 1644, when the Qing Dynasty replaced the Ming, the Central Government
introduced a set of rules and regulations for rule over Tibet. As
these rules and regulations were legal in nature, they were very effective.
First, creating a legal administrative area of Tibet. According to
the legal division, the administrative area of Tibet bordered on Yunnan,
Sichuan, Qinghai and Xinjiang. The administrative area of Tibet (then,
also called U-Tsang) was equivalent to the current Tibet Autonomous
Second, deciding on Tibet's political and administrative management
systems, and the organizational form of local political power. The
Ordnance for the More Effective Governance of Tibet promulgated in
1793 by the Qing court and the Legal Code of the Qing Dynasty stipulated
that, in Tibet, the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni were in total
charge of religious affairs, with some responsibility for government
affairs, in the Lhasa and Xigaze areas respectively. They could not
exercise control over each other. But, the High Commissioners the
Qing court stationed in Tibet ruled the whole of Tibet.
Third, conferring official titles on the religious leaders in Tibet.
In 1653, the Central Government conferred on the 5th Dalai Lama the
official title of the Dalai Lama. In 1713, it conferred on the 5th
Panchen the official title of Panchen Erdeni. This created the system
whereby the Central Government enjoyed the power to approve succeeding
generations of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni.
Fourth, in order to prevent the religious leaders from seeking personal
gain by abusing their position and authority, or expanding their forces,
the Central Government, in 1793, introduced the new system of determining
the reincarnated soul boy of a deceased Living Buddha by drawing a
lot from the golden urn. This then became the only permissible system
for choosing a successor to the Dalai Lama, Panchen Erdeni or the
Grand Lama. Under the new system, names of soul boy candidates were
written on lots that were put into the gold urn. One lot was drawn
under the supervision of the High Commissioner, and the chosen one
was the designated soul boyÑthe successor to the Dalai Lama,
Panchen Erdeni or Grand Lama. The selected successor could not become
the legal heir until formally approved by the Central Government.
This became a key measure for the Central Government of the Qing Dynasty
to strengthen administrative management over religious affairs in
Tibet, and fully embodied the Central Government's sovereignty over
Republic of China (1912-1949)
China experienced great historic changes after the Revolution of 1911,
which brought down the Qing Dynasty and led to the founding of the
Republic of China in 1912. During the Republic of China, which brought
together the Han, Manchurian, Mongolian, Hui and Tibetan ethnic groups,
the central power changed hands frequently and Central Government's
policy witnessed many changes. However, policies related to Tibet
remained unchanged in terms of upholding national unity and maintaining
Chinese sovereignty over Tibet to safeguard territorial integrity.
First, maintaining state sovereignty over Tibet by enacting laws and
issuing official documents for its strengthened rule over Tibet. Article
3 of the General Outline of the Provisional Constitution of the Republic
of China, enacted under the auspices of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, Interim President,
stipulated that Tibet was one of the 22 provinces of the Republic
of China. This legalized the rule of the Government of the Republic
of China over Tibet. Stipulations concerning Tibet in the Constitution
of the Republic of China promulgated later all stressed that Tibet
is an inseparable part of Chinese territory, and the Central Government
of China exercised sovereignty in Tibet.
Second, establishing the Council for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs
and the Commission in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. The
Council for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs was set up in 1912 to operate
directly under the State Council in its capacity as a Central Government
organ to take charge of Tibetan and Mongolian affairs. It was renamed
the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs in 1914. In 1927,
the Republic of China moved its capital to Nanjing, now capital of
Jiangsu Province, and the Nanjing Government was founded. Before long,
the Nanjing Government announced the establishment of the Commission
in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. The Commission members
included people of great influence in the Mongolian and Tibetan areas,
such as the 9th Panchen Erdeni, the 13th Dalai Lama and Tibetan government
representatives stationed in Nanjing including Gongjor Zongnyi, Zhamgyia
Hutogtu and Master Xeirab Gyamco, a very famous Buddhist master who
served as Vice-Chairman of the Commission.
giving additional honorific titles to the Dalai Lama and the Panchen
Erdeni, and having representatives to preside over the reincarnation
and enthronement ceremonies for them. In the early days of the Republic
of China, the 13th Dalai Lama, who was deprived by the Qing Government
of his honorific title and left Tibet for India, managed to get in
touch with the Government of the Republic of China, and expressed
his wish to return to Tibet. On October 28, 1912, Interim President
Yuan Shi-kai announced the restoration of the honorific title of the
Dalai Lama. Before long, the 13th Dalai Lama returned home. To ease
internal contradictions between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni,
Yuan, on April 1, 1913, issued an order to give an additional honorific
title to the 9th Panchen Erdeni to honor what he had done to defend
the unification of the motherland.
December 1933, when the 13th Dalai Lama died, the local government
of Tibet submitted a report to the Central Government in accordance
with historical precedence. The Central Government granted the late
master the additional honorific title of Master in Defense of the
Country and sent Huang Musong, Chairman of the Commission for Mongolian
and Tibetan Affairs, to Tibet to mourn his demise. In 1938, under
the auspices of Regent Razheng, Lhamo Toinzhub in Qinghai was found
and determined as the soul boy of the late 13th Dalai Lama in accordance
with the religious rituals and historical precedence. In 1940, Wu
Zhongxin, Chairman of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs,
went to Tibet, in his capacity as Central Government representative,
to preside over the ceremony enthroning the 14th Dalai Lama. When
the 9th Panchen Erdeni passed away in Qinghai on his way back to Tibet
in December 1937, the Nationalist Government granted him the honorific
title of Master. And in 1938, the Central Government sent Dai Chuanxian,
President of the Examination Yuan, to Garze to mourn the demise of
the 9th Panchen Erdeni. In early 1949, the Nationalist Government
sent its envoy to announce that Guanbo Cidain was the 10th Panchen
Erdeni, and he attended celebrations held in the Tar Monastery in
Qinghai. In August, Guan Jiyu, Chairman of the Commission for Mongolian
and Tibetan Affairs, was sent by the Nationalist Government to preside
over the enthronement ceremony.
Fourth, bringing in upper-class monks and lay people to participate
in State management. During the period of the Republic of China, whenever
the National Assembly met, there would be Tibetan delegates who participated.
For example, from November 15 to December 25, 1946, when the National
Assembly met in Nanjing to work on the Constitution of the Republic
of China, 17 delegates including Tudain Sangpi and Jijigmei came from
People's Republic of China (founded in 1949)
The People's Republic of China was founded in 1949. Given the historical
conditions and the reality in Tibet, the Central People's Government
decided to adopt a policy for the peaceful liberation of Tibet. The
14th Dalai Lama sent people to New Delhi on January 27, 1951, to ask
the ambassador of the Chinese Embassy there to bring his letter to
the Central People's Government, which expressed his willingness to
hold peace talks with the Central People's Government. On February
28, the 14th Dalai Lama sent a group of Tibetan delegates headed by
Ngapoi Ngawang Jigmei to Beijing for the purpose. On May 23, 1951,
representatives from the Central People's Government and the local
government of Tibet signed the Agreement on Measures for the Peaceful
Liberation of Tibet (known as the 17-Article Agreement). The 14th
Dalai Lama sent a cable to Chairman Mao Zedong, saying: "The
local government of Tibet and the Tibetan monks and lay people unanimously
support?the agreement for the peaceful liberation of Tibet, "and,
under the leadership of Chairman Mao and the Central People's Government,
will actively assist the PLA troops as they enter and are garrisoned
in Tibet to consolidate the national defense, drive the imperialist
forces out of Tibet, and protect the unification of the territory
of the motherland."
The 10th Panchen Erdeni also telegraphed Chairman Mao, expressing
his acceptance of the 17-Article Agreement and his resolution to uphold
the unity of the motherland's sovereignty.
In 1954, the 14th Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Erdeni came to Beijing
to participate in the First Session of the First National People's
Congress (NPC) of the People's Republic of China. During this conference,
the 14th Dalai Lama was elected as Vice-Chairman of the NPC Standing
Committee, and the 10th Panchen Erdeni, member of the NPC Standing
In 1956, the Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous
Region was set up with the 14th Dalai Lama as its chairman.
In March 1959, the majority of the Galoon officials of the local government
of Tibet joined hands with the reactionary clique of the upper social
strata to launch an armed rebellion with the aim of tearing Tibet
away from the motherland and defending the feudal serf system. The
Central People's Government ordered the PLA troops in Tibet to resolutely
quell the rebellion. On March 28 of the same year, Zhou Enlai, Premier
of the State Council, released an order dissolving the local government
of Tibet and declaring that its functions and authority would be vested
in the Preparatory Committee for the Founding of the Tibet Autonomous
At this same time, the Central People's Government, responding to
the will of the Tibetan people, implemented the Democratic Reform
and abolished the feudal serf system. As a result, a million serfs
and slaves in Tibet stood up and came into their own, instead of being
treated as the private property of serf-owners that could be traded,
transferred or used to pay off a debt in kind or by labor.
The Tibet Autonomous Region was formally founded in September 1965.