History of Tibet
Sep 8, 2006
|The Tibetan people are lovely and proud with a wonderful story to tell, so I thought Ide take some time to give a very brief, casual and opinionated history lesson.
Tibetans today originated from nomadic- warlike tribes known as the Qiang in the Yarlung Valley a long time ago right. They wern't so peaceful back then and extended their territory and influence across central Asia eventually running into Chinese provinces. After a hundred or so years fighting with them- China and Tibet finally chilled out and signed a treaty- actually carved it in stone in three different places. Only one remains today, here in Lhasa and basically reads 'There shall be no warfare, no hostile invasions and no seizure of territory between the country of China and the country of Tibet'. All sounded good on paper.
When Gengis Khan crossed the great wall with his buddies from Mongolia and raised all sorts of hell cross China the eventually stumbled onto Tibet. Impressed with this peaceful nation and its ideas on religion and reincarnation, Tibetan Buddhism bacame the state religion of the Mongol empire and it was them who coined the phrase Dalai Lama 'Ocean of wisdom'. The ties between the two nations were becomming tight and in fact the 4th Dalai Lama was a young Mongolian. Eventually some Tibetans began to perceive Mongol intervention as a threat rather than support. Some conflicting ideas on power and politics insued and before you knew it the Dalai Lama (from Mongolia) gets poisened. Well that really pissed em off. Eventually they marched on Lhasa- murdered the 6th Lama and tried to instill another one of their own.
Meanwhile China was just sittin back laughing and waiting, when it eventually came to the rescue of Tibet in 1720- welcomed with open arms as liberators they declared Tibet a 'protectorate' of China. They brought over a couple of representatives and a gang of troops and got the ball rolling to communist takeover 250 years later.
During Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution the take over of Tibet was called a liberation but more accurately was an ethnic clensing, killing over a million Tibetans and destroying nearly every historical and religious structure in their wake.
On Oct 7th 1950, 1 year after communist takeover of China, 30,000 troops attacked Tibet. Its appeal to the U.N. was equally innefective as its 4000 troops and its 15 year old leader. Indeed El Salvador was the only country who motioned to condemn China. When the Dalai Lama refused to sign papers handing over his soverign nation to communist China- they just forged his signiture back in Beijing.
After the initial shock of Chinese occupation settled, suppressed tensions eventually mounted to protest-uprising and revolt that eventually escalated in the Tibetan New Year in 1950 (when the Dalai Lama returned from exile in India on an invitation from the Chinese government) Well that turned out to be a kidnapping coup and loyal Tibetans surrounded the Potala Palace swearing to protect him with their lives- and they did, over 10,000 of them were killed, while a few snuck him back over to India....on foot, where he resides today in Dharmasala.
Tryin to create a new socialist society, Mao's henchmen set about turning Tibet around. Monks were required to discard their robes while their monastaries were being destroyed and their scriptures burned. They even made em change age-old farming practices- substituting their staple barley to grow rice. A move thats credited with 70,000 Tibetan deaths from mass starvation.
In the mid 1980's came the emergence of Chinese policy of massive Han-Immigration into Tibet- offering incentives like higher salaries and interest free loans to help modernize this place. You can now arrive into Tibet on foot, bus, train and plane, sure there is some red tape to go through, but its getting easier every year. There are European fashion stores lining the streets, drum and base music thumpin until late night, and construction of a 35 ton bronze statue of Mao in the works.
For sure Lhasa is not what it used to be- and while some veteran travelers tell me I should have seen it in its prime 20 years ago, its still very meangingful for me to be here today and in fact is one of my favorite places in all the world...so far! John