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Tibet (Tibetan: བོད་Wylie: bod, pronounced [pʰø̀ʔ]; Chinese: 西藏pinyin: Xī Zàng) is a plateau region in Asia and a disputed territory, north of the Himalayas. It is home to the indigenous Tibetan people, and to some other ethnic groups such as Monpas and Lhobas, and is inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4,900 metres (16,000 ft). It is sometimes referred to as the roof of the world.[1]

During Tibet's history, it has existed as a region of separate sovereign areas, a single independent entity[2] and as a vassal under Chinese suzerainty or sovereignty. Tibet was first unified under King Songtsän Gampo in the 7th century. At various times from the 1640s until 1950s, a government nominally headed by the Dalai Lamas, a line of spiritual political leaders, ruled a large portion of the Tibetan region. During some of this period, the Tibetan administration was subordinate to the Chinese empire of the Qing Dynasty.

Cultural/historical Tibet (highlighted) depicted with various competing territorial claims.
VerdeColor.png Solid yellow.svg  Tibet Autonomous Region within the People's Republic of China
Red.svg Solid orange.svg Solid yellow.svg  Historic Tibet as claimed by Tibetan exile groups
Solid lightblue.png Solid orange.svg VerdeColor.png Solid yellow.svg  Tibetan areas as designated by the People's Republic of China
VerdeColor.png  Chinese-controlled areas claimed by India as part of Aksai Chin
Solid lightblue.png  Indian administrated areas claimed by China as part of Tibet
Solid blue.svg  Other areas historically within Tibetan cultural sphere

In 1913 the 13th Dalai Lama expelled Qing's representatives and troops from what is now the Tibet Autonomous Region.[3] While the expulsion was seen as an assertion of Tibetan autonomy,[4] Tibet's proclaimed independence was not accepted by the government of China, nor did Tibet receive foreign diplomatic recognition[5] and in 1945 China's sovereignty over Tibet was not questioned by the United Nations.[6]

Following a decisive invasion and battle at Chamdo in 1950, the Communist Party of China gained control of the region of Kham to the West of the Upper Yangtze River. The next year the 14th Dalai Lama and his government signed the Seventeen Point Agreement. In 1959, he together with a group of Tibetan leaders and followers fled to India and set up the Government of Tibet in Exile in Dharamshala. Beijing and the Government-in-exile disagree over when Tibet became a part of China, and whether the incorporation into China of Tibet is legitimate according to international law[7]. Since what constitutes Tibet is a matter of much debate (see map, right), neither its size nor population are simple matters of fact, due to various entities claiming differing areas as part of "Tibet".



Himalayas, on the southern rim of the Tibetan plateau.

"Tibet" names and definitions are linguistically and politically loaded language.

The modern Standard Tibetan endonym (or autonym) Bod བོད་ means "Tibet" or "Tibetan Plateau", although it originally meant the central region "Ü-Tsang". The standard pronunciation of Bod, [pʰø̀ʔ], is transcribed Bhö or Phö. Some scholars believe the first written reference to Bod "Tibet" was the ancient "Bautai" people recorded in the (ca. 1st century) Periplus of the Erythraean Sea and (ca. 2nd century) Geographia.[8]

The two Standard Mandarin exonyms for "Tibet" are classical Tǔbō or Tǔfān 吐蕃 and modern Xīzàng 西藏 (which now specifies the "Tibet Autonomous Region"). Tubo or Tufan "ancient name for Tibet" was first transliterated into Chinese characters as 土番 in the 7th-century (Li Tai) and as 吐蕃 in the 10th-century (Book of Tang describing 608–609 emissaries from Tibetan King Namri Songtsen to Emperor Yang of Sui). In the Middle Chinese spoken during that period, Tǔbō or Tǔfān are reconstructed (by Bernhard Karlgren) as T'uopuâ and T'uop'i̭wɐn. Xizang 西藏 was coined during the Qing Dynasty period of the Jiaqing Emperor (r. 1796–1820). The People's Republic of China government equates Xīzàng with the Xīzàng Zìzhìqū 西藏自治区 "Tibet Autonomous Region".

The English word Tibet or Thibet dates back to the 18th century [9]. While historical linguists generally agree that "Tibet" names in European languages are loanwords from Arabic Tibat or Tobatt, they disagree over the original etymology. Many sources propose Tibetan Stod-bod (pronounced tö-bhöt) "Upper Tibet",[10] some suggest Turkic Töbäd "The Heights" (plural of töbän),[11] and a few favor Chinese Tǔbō or Tǔfān.[12]


The Tibetan language is generally classified as a Tibeto-Burman language of the Sino-Tibetan language family although the boundaries between 'Tibetan' and certain other Himalayan languages can be unclear. According to Matthew Kapstein:

From the perspective of historical linguistics, Tibetan most closely resembles Burmese among the major languages of Asia. Grouping these two together with other apparently related languages spoken in the Himalayan lands, as well as in the highlands of Southeast Asia and the Sino-Tibetan frontier regions, linguists have generally concluded that there exists a Tibeto-Burman family of languages. More controversial is the theory that the Tibeto-Burman family is itself part of a larger language family, called Sino-Tibetan, and that through it Tibetan and Burmese are distant cousins of Chinese.[13]

The language is spoken in numerous regional dialects which, although sometimes mutually intelligible, generally cannot be understood by the speakers of the different oral forms of Tibetan. It is employed throughout the Tibetan plateau and Bhutan and is also spoken in parts of Nepal and northern India, such as Sikkim. In general, the dialects of central Tibet (including Lhasa), Kham, Amdo and some smaller nearby areas are considered Tibetan dialects. Other forms, particularly Dzongkha, Sikkimese, Sherpa, and Ladakhi, are considered by their speakers, largely for political reasons, to be separate languages. However, if the latter group of Tibetan-type languages are included in the calculation then 'greater Tibetan' is spoken by approximately 6 million people across the Tibetan Plateau. Tibetan is also spoken by approximately 150,000 exile speakers who have fled from modern-day Tibet to India and other countries.

A Tibetan woman in Lhasa

Although spoken Tibetan varies according to the region, the written language, based on Classical Tibetan, is consistent throughout. This is probably due to the long-standing influence of the Tibetan empire, whose rule embraced (and extended at times far beyond) the present Tibetan linguistic area, which runs from northern Pakistan in the west to Yunnan and Sichuan in the east, and from north of the Kokonor lake (Qinghai) south as far as Bhutan. The Tibetan language has its own script which it shares with Ladakhi and Dzongkha, and which is derived from the ancient Indian Brāhmī script.[14]


Tibet in 820.
Tibet in 1734. Royaume de Thibet ("Kingdom of Tibet") in la Chine, la Tartarie Chinoise, et le Thibet ("China, Chinese Tartary, and Tibet") on a 1734 map by Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville, based on earlier Jesuit maps.
Tibet in 1892 during the Qing Dynasty.

The general history of Tibet begins with the rule of Songtsän Gampo (604–650 CE) who united parts of the Yarlung River Valley and founded the Tibetan Empire. He also brought in many reforms and Tibetan power spread rapidly creating a large and powerful empire. In 640 he married Princess Wencheng, the niece of the powerful Chinese emperor Taizong of Tang China.

Under the next few Tibetan kings, Buddhism became established as the state religion and Tibetan power increased even further over large areas of Central Asia, while major inroads were made into Chinese territory, even reaching the Tang's capital Chang'an (modern Xi'an) in late 763.[15] However, the Tibetan occupation of Chang'an only lasted for fifteen days, after which they were defeated by Tang and its ally, the Turkic Uyghur Khaganate.

Nanzhao (in Yunnan and neighbouring regions) remained under Tibetan control from 750 to 794, when they turned on their Tibetan overlords and helped the Chinese inflict a serious defeat on the Tibetans.[16]

In 747, the hold of Tibet was loosened by the campaign of general Gao Xianzhi, who tried to re-open the direct communications between Central Asia and Kashmir. By 750 the Tibetans had lost almost all of their central Asian possessions to the Chinese. However, after Gao Xianzhi's defeat by the Arabs and Qarluqs at the Battle of Talas (751), Chinese influence decreased rapidly and Tibetan influence resumed. In 821/822 CE Tibet and China signed a peace treaty. A bilingual account of this treaty, including details of the borders between the two countries, is inscribed on a stone pillar which stands outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.[17] Tibet continued as a Central Asian empire until the mid-9th century.

13th, 14th and 15th centuries

Mongolian prince Khuden conquered Tibet in the 1240s and made the Sakya Pandita the Mongolian viceroy for Central Tibet, though the eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo remained under direct Mongol rule.[18] When Kublai Khan founded the Yuan Dynasty in 1271, Tibet became a part of it.

Between 1346 and 1354, Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen toppled the Sakya and founded the Phagmodrupa dynasty. The following 80 years saw the founding of the Gelugpa school (also known as Yellow Hats) by the disciples of Tsongkhapa Lobsang Dragpa, and the founding of the important Ganden, Drepung, and Sera monasteries near Lhasa.

16th and 17th centuries

In 1578, Altan Khan of the Tümed Mongols gave Sonam Gyatso, a high lama of the Gelugpa school, the name Dalai Lama; Dalai being the Mongolian translation of the Tibetan name Gyatso, or "Ocean".[19]

The first Europeans to arrive in Tibet were the Portuguese missionaries António de Andrade and Manuel Marques in 1624. They were welcomed by the King and Queen of Guge, and were allowed to build a church and to introduce Christian belief. The king of Guge eagerly accepted Christianity as an offsetting religious influence to dilute the thriving Gelugpa and to counterbalance his potential rivals and consolidate his position. All missionaries were expelled in 1745.[20][21][22][23]

In the 1630s, Tibet became entangled in power struggles between the rising Manchu and various Mongol and Oirat factions. Güshi Khan of the Khoshud became the overlord over Tibet, and acted as a "Protector of the Yellow Church"[24]. Güshi helped the fifth Dalai Lama establish himself as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet and destroyed any potential rivals.

18th century

Flag of Tibet that was introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912 and outlawed by the People's Republic of China in 1959.
Flag of Tibet between 1920 and 1925.

The Qing Dynasty put Amdo under their control in 1724, and incorporated eastern Kham into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728.[25] The Qing government sent a resident commissioner, called an Amban, to Lhasa. In 1751, Emperor Qianlong installed the Dalai Lama as both the spiritual leader and political leader of Tibet leading the government, namely Kashag.[26]

The 18th century saw some contact with Jesuits and Capuchins from Europe, and in 1774 a Scottish nobleman, George Bogle, came to Shigatse to investigate trade for the British East India Company.[27]

19th century

However, by the 19th century the situation of foreigners in Tibet grew more tenuous. The British Empire was encroaching from northern India into the Himalayas, the Emirate of Afghanistan and the Russian Empire were expanding into Central Asia and each power became suspicious of the others' intentions in Tibet. Sándor Kőrösi Csoma, the Hungarian scientist spent 20 years in British India (4 years in Ladakh) trying to visit Tibet. He created the first Tibetan-English dictionary.

In 1865, the British began secretly mapping Tibet. Trained Indian surveyor-spies disguised as pilgrims or traders counted their strides on their travels across Tibet and took readings at night.[citation needed]

20th century

In 1904, a British expedition to Tibet under the command of Colonel Francis Younghusband, accompanied by a large military escort, invaded Tibet and reached Lhasa. The British were spurred in part by a fear that Russia was extending its power into Tibet, and partly by hope that negotiations with the Dalai Lama would be more effective than with Chinese representatives.[28] But on his way to Lhasa, Younghusband slaughtered many Tibetan troops in Gyangzê who tried to stop the British advance.

When the mission reached Lhasa, Younghusband imposed a treaty which was subsequently repudiated, and was succeeded by a 1906 treaty[29] signed between Britain and China.

In 1910, the Qing government sent a military expedition of its own to establish direct Chinese rule and deposed the Dalai Lama in an imperial edict. The Dalai Lama once again fled, this time to British India, in February 1910.

Independence proclaimed

{{Main|Tibet (1912–1950)}

The 13th Dalai Lama returned to Tibet from India in July 1912 (after the fall of the Qing dynasty), and expelled the Amban and all Chinese troops.[30] In 1913, the Dalai Lama issued a proclamation that stated that the relationship between the Chinese emperor and Tibet "had been that of patron and priest and had not been based on the subordination of one to the other."[31] "We are a small, religious, and independent nation," the proclamation continued.[31] For the next thirty-six years, Tibet enjoyed de facto independence while China endured its Warlord era, civil war, and World War II. However, no country, including China, has ever recognised Tibet as an independent country.[32](Please read Tibet sovereignty debate)

Tibet under the People's Republic of China

Sera Monastery, Lhasa, Tibet (2006)

With the invasion of Tibet in 1950 and the subsequent Seventeen Point Agreement, the PRC asserted control over Tibet.

Chinese sources generally claim progress towards a prosperous and free society in Tibet, with its pillars being economic development, legal advancement, and peasant emancipation. These claims, however, have been refuted by the Tibet Government-in-Exile and some indigenous Tibetans, who claim of genocide in Tibet from the Chinese government, comparing it to Nazi Germany.[33] The official doctrine of the PRC classifies Tibetans as one of its 56 recognized ethnic groups and part of the greater Zhonghua Minzu or multi-ethnic Chinese nation. Warren Smith, an independent scholar and a broadcaster with the Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia,[34][35][36] whose work began to focus on Tibetan history and politics after spending five months in Tibet in 1982, portrays the Chinese as "chauvinists" who believe they are superior to Tibetans, and claims that the Chinese Communist Party uses torture, coercion and starvation to control the Tibetan population.[37]


Tibet is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the world's highest region.
Snow mountains in Tibet

Traditionally, Western (European and American) sources have regarded Tibet as being in Central Asia, though today's maps show a trend toward considering all of modern China, including Tibet, to be part of East Asia.[38][39][40][41][42][43][44]. Some academic institutions also include Tibet in their South Asia studies programs.[45][46][47][48][49][50][51][52][53] Tibet is west of China proper, and within China, Tibet is regarded as part of 西部 (Xībù), a term usually translated by Chinese media as "the Western section", meaning "Western China".

Tibet has some of the world's tallest mountains, with several of them making the top ten list. Mount Everest, at 8,848 metres (29,029 ft), is the highest mountain on earth, located on the border with Nepal. Several major rivers have their source in the Tibetan Plateau (mostly in present-day Qinghai Province). These include Yangtze, Yellow River, Indus River, Mekong, Ganges, Salween and the Yarlung Zangbo River (Brahmaputra River)[54]. The Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, along the Yarlung Zangbo River, is among the deepest and longest canyons in the world.

The Indus and Brahmaputra rivers originate from a lake (Tib: Tso Mapham) in Western Tibet, near Mount Kailash. The mountain is a holy pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Tibetans. The Hindus consider the mountain to be the abode of Lord Shiva. The Tibetan name for Mt. Kailash is Khang Rinpoche. Tibet has numerous high-altitude lakes referred to in Tibetan as tso or co. These include Qinghai Lake, Lake Manasarovar, Namtso, Pangong Tso, Yamdrok Lake, Siling Co, Lhamo La-tso, Lumajangdong Co, Lake Puma Yumco, Lake Paiku, Lake Rakshastal, Dagze Co and Dong Co. The Qinghai Lake (Koko Nor) is the largest lake in the People's Republic of China.

The atmosphere is severely dry nine months of the year, and average annual snowfall is only 18 inches, due to the rain shadow effect whereby mountain ranges prevent moisture from the ocean from reaching the plateaus. Western passes receive small amounts of fresh snow each year but remain traversable all year round. Low temperatures are prevalent throughout these western regions, where bleak desolation is unrelieved by any vegetation beyond the size of low bushes, and where wind sweeps unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. The Indian monsoon exerts some influence on eastern Tibet. Northern Tibet is subject to high temperatures in the summer and intense cold in the winter.

Cultural Tibet consists of several regions. These include Amdo (A mdo) in the northeast, which is under the administration as part of the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan. Kham (Khams) in the southeast, is divided among western Sichuan, northern Yunnan, southern Qinghai and the eastern part of the Tibet Autonomous Region. Ü-Tsang (dBus gTsang) (Ü in the center, Tsang in the center-west, and Ngari (mNga' ris) in the far west) covered the central and western portion of Tibet Autonomous Region. The distribution of Amdo and eastern Kham into surrounding provinces was initiated by the Yongzheng Emperor during the 18th century and has been continuously maintained by successive Chinese governments.[55]

The current effective eastern part of the boundary between China and India is the McMahon Line. South of the McMahon Line between China and India, the region popularly known in China as South Tibet, is claimed by People's Republic of China and the Republic of China as part of the Tibet Autonomous Region. It is currently administered by India as the majority part of the state of Arunachal Pradesh. Tibet Government in Lhasa altered its position on the McMahon Line in late 1947 when the local Tibetan government wrote a note presented to the newly independent Indian Ministry of External Affairs laying claims to the Tawang (inhabited by mostly ethnic Tibetans) south of the McMahon Line.[56] However, the current Tibet government in exile which was founded in 1959, does not include any area south of the McMahon line in their official claim of the territory of Tibet.[57] It also accepts the McMahon Line as the official border between southeastern Tibet and India.[58]

Tibetan cultural influences extend to the neighboring states of Bhutan, Nepal, regions of India such as Sikkim, Ladakh, Lahaul, and Spiti, and adjacent provinces of China where Tibetan Buddhism is the predominant religion.

Cities, towns and villages

Looking across the square at Jokhang temple, Lhasa

There are over 800 settlements in Tibet. Lhasa is Tibet's traditional capital and the capital of Tibet Autonomous Region. It contains two world heritage sites - the Potala Palace and Norbulingka, which were the residences of the Dalai Lama. Lhasa contains a number of significant temples and monasteries, including Jokhang and Ramoche Temple.

Shigatse is the second largest city in Tibet, west of Lhasa. Gyantse and Chamdo are also amongst the largest.

Other cities in cultural Tibet include, Nagchu, Nyingchi, Nedong, Barkam, Sakya, Gartse, Pelbar, Lhatse, and Tingri; in Sichuan, Kangding (Dartsedo); in Qinghai, Jyekundo or Yushu, Machen, and Golmud. There is also a large Tibetan settlement in South India near Kushalanagara. India created this settlement for Tibetan refugees who had fled to India.


The Tibetan yak is an integral part of Tibetan life.

The Tibetan economy is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, the primary occupation of the Tibetan Plateau is raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, dzo, and horses. The main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, and assorted fruits and vegetables. Tibet is ranked the lowest among China’s 31 provinces,[59] on the Human Development Index according to UN Development Programme data.[60] In recent years, due to increased interest in Tibetan Buddhism, tourism has become an increasingly important sector, and is actively promoted by the authorities.[61] Tourism brings in the most income from the sale of handicrafts. These include Tibetan hats, jewelry (silver and gold), wooden items, clothing, quilts, fabrics, Tibetan rugs and carpets. The Central government exempts Tibet from all taxation and provides 90% of Tibet's government expenditures.[62][63][64][65]

Pastoral nomads camping near Namtso in 2005. Approximately 40% of the ethnic Tibetan population is nomadic or semi-nomadic.[66]

The Qingzang railway linking the region to Qinghai in China proper was opened in 2006.[67] The Chinese government claims that the line will promote the development of impoverished Tibet.[68] Opponents argue the railway will harm Tibet.[69][70][71]

In January 2007, the Chinese government issued a report outlining the discovery of a large mineral deposit under the Tibetan Plateau.[72] The deposit has an estimated value of $128 billion and may double Chinese reserves of zinc, copper, and lead. The Chinese government sees this as a way to alleviate the nation's dependence on foreign mineral imports for its growing economy. However, critics worry that mining these vast resources will harm Tibet's fragile ecosystem and undermine Tibetan culture.[72]

On January 15, 2009, China announced the construction of Tibet’s first expressway, a 37.9-kilometre stretch of road in southwestern Lhasa. The project will cost 1.55 billion yuan ($227 million).[73]

From January 18-20, 2010 a national conference on Tibet and areas inhabited by Tibetans in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai was held in China and a substantial plan to improve development of the areas was announced. The conference was attended by Chinese President Hu Jintao, Wu Bangguo, Wen Jiabao, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, He Guoqiang and Zhou Yongkang signaling the commitment of senior Chinese leaders to development of Tibet and ethnic Tibetan areas. The plan calls for improvement of rural Tibetan income to national standards by 2020 and free education for all rural Tibetan children. China has invested 310 billion yuan (about 45.6 billion U.S. dollars) in Tibet since 2001. "Tibet's GDP was expected to reach 43.7 billion yuan in 2009, up 170 percent from that in 2000 and posting an annual growth of 12.3 percent over the past nine years."[74] Outside observers credited increased interest in Tibet to concern over Tibetan nationalism which resulted in ethnic unrest in 2008[citation needed]. The Chinese blame the unrest on "the separatist forces led by the Dalai clique", the Tibetans on "the suppression of traditional Buddhist practice and over the influx of ethnic Han migrants to Tibetan areas".[75]


See also Tibet since 1950 and Tibetan diaspora
Ethnolinguistic Groups of Tibetan language, 1967 (See entire map, which includes a key)
Ethnic Tibetan autonomous entities set up by the People's Republic of China. Opponents to the PRC dispute the actual level of autonomy.

Historically, the population of Tibet consisted of primarily ethnic Tibetans and some other ethnic groups. According to tradition the original ancestors of the Tibetan people, as represented by the six red bands in the Tibetan flag, are: the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra. Other traditional ethnic groups with significant population or with the majority of the ethnic group reside in Tibet (excluding disputed area with India) include Bai people, Blang, Bonan, Dongxiang, Han, Hui Chinese, Lhoba, Lisu people, Miao, Mongols, Monguor (Tu people), Menba (Monpa), Mosuo, Nakhi, Qiang, Nu people, Pumi, Salar, and Yi people.

The issue of the proportion of the Han Chinese population in Tibet is a politically sensitive one and is disputed. The Central Tibetan Administration, an exile group, says that the PRC has actively swamped Tibet with Han Chinese migrants in order to alter Tibet's demographic makeup.[76]

Human rights

In Tibet since 1950 human rights have become a contentious issue. According to the website of the non-governmental organization "Save Tibet", the Tibetan people are denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights to self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement and expression.[77] Elliot Sperling, an Associate Professor of Tibetan Studies at Indiana University, in a statement to Human Rights Watch, introduced his new book that graphically detailed the exile of Tibetans today and the role human rights violations played in forcing many Tibetans to leave their homeland.[78]

According to the Chinese government, the human rights situation in Tibet has been greatly improved; the communist party especially emphasised its claimed emancipation of millions of serfs and slaves in Tibet in late 1950s.[79]

Amnesty International has stated that political prisoners are often tortured, sometimes fatally. Unofficial sources report that since 1987, at least 41 Tibetans throughout Tibet are recorded as having died as a result of torture in prisons or shortly after release.

Author Thomas Laird claims that there is no evidence to support China's claim that Tibet is autonomous,[80] as all local legislation is subject to approval of the central government in Beijing.

Pro Tibet demonstrators in the fountains of Trafalgar Square, London during the 2008 Olympic Rally

The Tibetan government-in-exile claims that China does not allow independent human rights organisations into Tibet, and foreign delegations invited to Tibet are denied independent access to meet with Tibetans.[81][82] The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that more than 11,000 monks and nuns have been expelled from Tibet since 1996 for opposing "patriotic re-education" sessions conducted at monasteries and nunneries under the "Strike Hard" campaign.[83]

Thomas Laird also claims that China continues to encourage the transfer of Chinese settlers into Tibet.[84] Transnational Radical Party claims this threatens the survival of the Tibetan racial, cultural and national identity.[85]

The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy claims that unemployment among Tibetans is high. It also considers the taxation system to be arbitrary, which further exacerbates the conditions of poverty for Tibetans in rural areas.[86]

The Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament has around 100 MEPs as members.



Tibetan Buddhism

Religion is extremely important to the Tibetans and has a strong influence over all aspects of lives. Bön is the ancient religion of Tibet, but has been almost eclipsed by Tibetan Buddhism, a distinctive form of Mahayana and Vajrayana, which was introduced into Tibet from the Sanskrit Buddhist tradition of northern India.[87] Tibetan Buddhism is practiced not only in Tibet but also in Mongolia, parts of northern India, the Buryat Republic, the Tuva Republic, and in the Republic of Kalmykia and some other parts of China besides Tibet. During China's Cultural Revolution, nearly all Tibet's monasteries were ransacked and destroyed by the Red Guards.[88][89][90] A few monasteries have begun to rebuild since the 1980s (with limited support from the Chinese government) and greater religious freedom has been granted – although it is still limited. Monks returned to monasteries across Tibet and monastic education resumed even though the number of monks imposed is strictly limited.[88][91][92]

Tibetan Buddhism has four main traditions (the suffix pa is comparable to "er" in English):

  • Gelug(pa), Way of Virtue, also known casually as Yellow Hat, whose spiritual head is the Ganden Tripa and whose temporal head is the Dalai Lama. Successive Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet from the mid-17th to mid-20th centuries. This order was founded in the 14th to 15th century by Je Tsongkhapa, based on the foundations of the Kadampa tradition. Tsongkhapa was renowned for both his scholasticism and his virtue. The Dalai Lama belongs to the Gelugpa school, and is regarded as the embodiment of the Bodhisattva of Compassion[93].
  • Kagyu(pa), Oral Lineage. This contains one major subsect and one minor subsect. The first, the Dagpo Kagyu, encompasses those Kagyu schools that trace back to Gampopa. In turn, the Dagpo Kagyu consists of four major sub-sects: the Karma Kagyu, headed by a Karmapa, the Tsalpa Kagyu, the Barom Kagyu, and Pagtru Kagyu. The once-obscure Shangpa Kagyu, which was famously represented by the 20th century teacher Kalu Rinpoche, traces its history back to the Indian master Niguma, sister of Kagyu lineage holder Naropa. This is an oral tradition which is very much concerned with the experiential dimension of meditation. Its most famous exponent was Milarepa, an eleventh century mystic.
  • Sakya(pa), Grey Earth, headed by the Sakya Trizin, founded by Khon Konchog Gyalpo, a disciple of the great translator Drokmi Lotsawa. Sakya Pandita 1182–1251CE was the great grandson of Khon Konchog Gyalpo. This school emphasizes scholarship.


Muslims have been living in Tibet since as early as the eighth or ninth century. In Tibetan cities, there are small communities of Muslims, known as Kachee (Kache), who trace their origin to immigrants from three main regions: Kashmir (Kachee Yul in ancient Tibetan), Ladakh and the Central Asian Turkic countries. Islamic influence in Tibet also came from Persia. After 1959 a group of Tibetan Muslims made a case for Indian nationality based on their historic roots to Kashmir and the Indian government declared all Tibetan Muslims Indian citizens later on that year.[94] Other Muslim ethnic groups who have long inhabited Tibet include Hui, Salar, Dongxiang and Bonan. There is also a well established Chinese Muslim community (gya kachee), which traces its ancestry back to the Hui ethnic group of China.


The first Christians to reach Tibet were undoubtedly Nestorians of whom various remains and inscriptions have been found in Tibet and they were also present at the imperial camp of Möngke Khan at Shira Ordo where they debated in 1256 with Karma Pakshi (1204/6-83), head of the Karma Kagyu order.[95][96]

Roman Catholic Jesuits and Capuchins arrived from Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Some scholars believe Portuguese missionaries Jesuit Father Antonio de Andrade and Brother Manuel Marques first reached the kingdom of Gelu in western Tibet in 1624 and was welcomed by the royal family who allowed them to build a church later on.[97][98] By 1627, there were about a hundred local converts in the Guge kingdom.[99] Later on, Christianity was introduced to Rudok, Ladakh and Tsang and was welcomed by the ruler of the Tsang kingdom, where Andrade and his fellows established a Jesuit outpost at Shigatse in 1626.[100] Some sources suggest the First Jesuit missionary is Johann Grueber who, circa 1656, crossed Tibet from Sining to Lhasa (where he spent a month), before heading on to Nepal.[101] He was followed by others who actually built a church in Lhasa. These included the Jesuit Father Ippolito Desideri, 1716–1721, and various Capuchins in 1707–1711, 1716–1733 and 1741–1745,[102] Christianity was used by some Tibetan monarchs and their courts and the Karmapa sect lamas to counterbalance the influence of the Gelugpa sect in the seventeenth century until in 1745 when all the missionaries were expelled at the lama's insistence.[21][103][104][105][106][107]

In 1877, the Protestant James Cameron from the China Inland Mission walked from Chongqing to Batang in Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan Provnice, and "brought the Gospel to the Tibetan people." Beginning in the 20th century, in Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan, a large number of Lisu people and some Yi and Nu people converted to Christianity. Famous earlier missionaries include James O. Fraser, Alfred James Broomhall and Isobel Kuhn of the China Inland Mission, among others who were active in this area.[108][109]

Tibetan art

A thangka painting in Sikkim

Tibetan representations of art are intrinsically bound with Tibetan Buddhism and commonly depict deities or variations of Buddha in various forms from bronze Buddhist statues and shrines, to highly colorful thangka paintings and mandalas.


Tibetan architecture contains Oriental and Indian influences, and reflects a deeply Buddhist approach. The Buddhist wheel, along with two dragons, can be seen on nearly every Gompa in Tibet. The design of the Tibetan Chörtens can vary, from roundish walls in Kham to squarish, four-sided walls in Ladakh.

The most distinctive feature of Tibetan architecture is that many of the houses and monasteries are built on elevated, sunny sites facing the south, and are often made out of a mixture of rocks, wood, cement and earth. Little fuel is available for heat or lighting, so flat roofs are built to conserve heat, and multiple windows are constructed to let in sunlight. Walls are usually sloped inwards at 10 degrees as a precaution against the frequent earthquakes in this mountainous area.

Standing at 117 meters in height and 360 meters in width, the Potala Palace is the most important example of Tibetan architecture. Formerly the residence of the Dalai Lama, it contains over one thousand rooms within thirteen stories, and houses portraits of the past Dalai Lamas and statues of the Buddha. It is divided between the outer White Palace, which serves as the administrative quarters, and the inner Red Quarters, which houses the assembly hall of the Lamas, chapels, 10,000 shrines, and a vast library of Buddhist scriptures.


Boudhanath, Nepal. 1973

The music of Tibet reflects the cultural heritage of the trans-Himalayan region, centered in Tibet but also known wherever ethnic Tibetan groups are found in India, Bhutan, Nepal and further abroad. First and foremost Tibetan music is religious music, reflecting the profound influence of Tibetan Buddhism on the culture.

Tibetan music often involves chanting in Tibetan or Sanskrit, as an integral part of the religion. These chants are complex, often recitations of sacred texts or in celebration of various festivals. Yang chanting, performed without metrical timing, is accompanied by resonant drums and low, sustained syllables. Other styles include those unique to the various schools of Tibetan Buddhism, such as the classical music of the popular Gelugpa school, and the romantic music of the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Kagyupa schools.[110]

Nangma dance music is especially popular in the karaoke bars of the urban center of Tibet, Lhasa. Another form of popular music is the classical gar style, which is performed at rituals and ceremonies. Lu are a type of songs that feature glottal vibrations and high pitches. There are also epic bards who sing of Tibet's national hero Gesar.


Tibetan sand mandala

Tibet has various festivals which commonly are performed to worship the Buddha throughout the year. Losar is the Tibetan New Year Festival. Preparations for the festive event are manifested by special offerings to family shrine deities, painted doors with religious symbols, and other painstaking jobs done to prepare for the event. Tibetans eat Guthuk (barley crumb food with filling) on New Year's Eve with their families. The Monlam Prayer Festival follows it in the first month of the Tibetan calendar, falling on the fourth up to the eleventh day of the first Tibetan month. which involves many Tibetans dancing and participating in sports events and sharing picnics. The event was established in 1049 by Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama's order.


The Potala Palace, former residence of the Dalai Lamas, is a World Heritage Site, as is Norbulingka, former summer residence of the Dalai Lama.

Since 2002, Tibetans in exile have allowed a Miss Tibet beauty contest in spite of concerns that this event is considered a Western influence. The beauty contest is condemned by the Tibetan government in exile.


The most important crop in Tibet is barley, and dough made from barley flour called tsampa, is the staple food of Tibet. This is either rolled into noodles or made into steamed dumplings called momos. Meat dishes are likely to be yak, goat, or mutton, often dried, or cooked into a spicy stew with potatoes. Mustard seed is cultivated in Tibet, and therefore features heavily in its cuisine. Yak yoghurt, butter and cheese are frequently eaten, and well-prepared yoghurt is considered something of a prestige item. Butter tea is very popular to drink.

Tibet in popular culture

In recent years there have been a number of films produced about Tibet, most notably Hollywood films such as Seven Years in Tibet, starring Brad Pitt, and Kundun, a biography of the 14th Dalai Lama, directed by Martin Scorsese. Other films include Samsara, The Cup and the 1999 Himalaya, a French-American produced film with a Tibetan cast set in Nepal and Tibet. In 2005, exile Tibetan filmmaker Tenzing Sonam and his partner Ritu Sarin made Dreaming Lhasa, the first internationally recognized feature film to come out of the diaspora to explore the contemporary reality of Tibet.

Kekexili: Mountain Patrol, is a film about Tibetans protecting the Tibetan antelope from poachers. It won numerous awards at home and abroad.[111]

See also


  1. ^ e.g.Dieter Glogowski: Tibet, Escape from the Roof of the World
    or Hopkirk 1983
    or Tibet. Tourism Watch Alec le Sueurs:Running a Hotel on the Roof of the World – Five years in Tibet
    or Spiegel OnlineTibet by Rail. By train on the roof of the world.
  2. ^ Beckwith 1987, pp. 11–36
  3. ^ Shakya 1999, pg. 5
    Kapstein (2006), p. 171.
    Goldstein 1997, pg. 30
  4. ^ "We are a small, religious, and independent nation." "Proclamation Issued by His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIII (1913)"
  5. ^ Contemporary Tibet: Politics, Development, and Society in a Disputed Region by Barry Sautman and June Teufel Dreyer, New York: M.E.Sharpe (2006),p3
    Clark, Gregory, "In fear of China", 1969, saying: ' Tibet, although enjoying independence at certain periods of its history, had never been recognised by any single foreign power as an independent state. The closest it has ever come to such recognition was the British formula of 1943: suzerainty, combined with autonomy and the right to enter into diplomatic relations. '
    Grunfeld, A. Tom, "The Making of Modern Tibet", Appendix B; Independence: Third-party views. p258
  6. ^ [The_world_in_1945 ]
  7. ^ Tibet is rightfully an independent state.
  8. ^ Beckwith 1987), pg. 7
  9. ^ The word "Tibet" was used in the context of the first British mission to this country under George Bogle in 1774. See Clements R. Markham (ede.): Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet and the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, reprinted by Manjushri Publishing House, New Delhi, 1971 (first published in 1876)
  10. ^ G. W. S. Friedrichsen, R. W. Burchfield, and C.T. Onions. (1966). The Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Oxford University Press, p. 922.
  11. ^ Behr, Wolfgang, (1994). "Stephan V. Beyer The Classical Tibetan Language (book review)", Oriens 34, pp. 558–559
  12. ^ Partridge, Eric, Origins: A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English, New York, 1966, p. 719.
  13. ^ Kapstein 2006, pg. 19
  14. ^ Kapstein 2006, pg. 22
  15. ^ Beckwith 1987, pg. 146
  16. ^ Marks, Thomas A. (1978). "Nanchao and Tibet in South-western China and Central Asia." The Tibet Journal. Vol. 3, No. 4. Winter 1978, pp. 13–16.
  17. ^ 'A Corpus of Early Tibetan Inscriptions. H. E. Richardson. Royal Asiatic Society (1985), pp. 106–43. ISBN 0-94759300/4.
  18. ^ Laird 2006, pp. 112–113
  19. ^ Laird 2006, pp. 142–143
  20. ^ Lettera del P. Antonio de Andrade. Giov de Oliveira. Alano Dos Anjos al Provinciale di Goa, 29 Agosto, 1627; Maclagan, The Jesuits and The Great Mogul, pp. 347–348.
  21. ^ a b When Christianity and Lamaism Met: The Changing Fortunes of Early Western Missionaries in Tibet by Lin Hsiao-ting of Stanford University
  22. ^ "BBC News Country Profiles Timeline: Tibet". 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2009-03-05. 
  23. ^ Stein 1972, pg. 83
  24. ^ Rene Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, New Brunswick 1970, p. 522.
  25. ^ Wang Jiawei, "The Historical Status of China's Tibet", 2000, pp. 162–6.
  26. ^ Wang Jiawei, "The Historical Status of China's Tibet", 2000, pp. 170–3.
  27. ^ Teltscher 2006, pg. 57
  28. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 154–6
  29. ^ Convention Between Great Britain and China
  30. ^ Shakya 1999, pg. 5
  31. ^ a b "Proclamation Issued by H.H. The Dalai Lama XIII"
  32. ^ Tibet during the Republic of China (1912–1949)
  33. ^ Powers 2004, pp. 11–12
  34. ^ Warren Smith's profile on Guardian
  35. ^ "Source Material for the Study of Tibet". Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  36. ^ "The Tibet Journal – Winter 2003, v. XXVIII no. 4". Retrieved 2009-02-24. 
  37. ^ Powers 2004, pp. 23–24
  38. ^ "plateaus". 
  39. ^ "East Asia Region". 
  40. ^ "UNESCO Collection of History of Civilizations of Central Asia Volume IV". Retrieved 2009-02-19. 
  41. ^ Shakabpa, Tsepon; Victor C. Falkenheim and Turrell V. Wylie. "Tibet". Britannica Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  42. ^ Illustrated Atlas of the World (1986) Rand McNally & Company. ISBN 528-83190-9 pp. 164–5
  43. ^ Atlas of World History (1998) HarperCollins. ISBN 0-7230-1025-0 pg. 39
  44. ^ Hopkirk 1983, pg. 1
  45. ^ Center for South Asia Studies: University of California, Berkeley
  46. ^ Center for South Asia Outreach UW-Madison
  47. ^ Center for South Asian Studies
  48. ^ this sources admits in certain contexts that Tibet and Afghanistan are South Asian
  49. ^ Tibetan and Afghan flag shown
  50. ^ [1]
  51. ^ Rutgers, SAS South Asian Studies: – Home
  52. ^ South Asian Studies at Emory
  53. ^
  54. ^ Circle of Blue, 8 May 2008 China, Tibet, and the strategic power of water
  55. ^ Petech, L., China and Tibet in the Early XVIIIth Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet, p51 & p98
  56. ^ Lamb, Alastair, The McMahon line: a study in the relations between India, China and Tibet, 1904 to 1914, London, 1966, p580
  57. ^ Map of Tibet from website of CTA
  58. ^ "The McMahon Line is the international boundary" said Tashi Wangdi, the Representative of the Dalai Lama.Interview with Tashi Wangdi, David Shankbone, Wikinews, November 14, 2007.
  59. ^ Globalization To Tibet
  60. ^ Tibet Environmental Watch – Development
  61. ^ "China TIBET Tourism Bureau". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  62. ^ Grunfeld 1996, pg. 224
  63. ^ Xu Mingxu, "Intrugues and Devoutness", Brampton, p134, ISBN 1-896745-95-4
  64. ^ The 14th Dalai Lama affirmed that Tibetans have never paid tax to Beijing, see Donnet, Pierre-Antoine, "Tibet mort ou vif", 1994, p104 [Taiwan edition], ISBN 957-13-1040-9
  65. ^ "Tibet's economy depends on Beijing". NPR News. 2002-08-26. Retrieved 2006-02-24. 
  66. ^ In pictures: Tibetan nomads. BBC News.
  67. ^ "China opens world's highest railway". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 2005-07-01. Retrieved 2006-07-01. 
  68. ^ "China completes railway to Tibet". BBC News. 2005-10-15. Retrieved 2006-07-04. 
  69. ^ "Deemed a road to ruin, Tibetans say Beijing rail-way poses latest threat to minority culture". Boston Globe. 2002-08-26. Retrieved 2006-07-04. 
  70. ^ "Tibet Environmental Watch: The Qinghai-Tibet Railway and The Second Invasion of Tibet". Retrieved 2009-03-07. 
  71. ^ "Dalai Lama Urges 'Wait And See' On Tibet Railway". Deutsche Presse Agentur. 2006-06-30. Retrieved 2006-07-04. 
  72. ^ a b "Valuable mineral deposits found along Tibet railroad route". Reuters. 2007-01-25. Retrieved 2007-11-05. 
  73. ^ Peng, James (January 16, 2009). "China Says ‘Sabotage’ by Dalai Lama Supporters Set Back Tibet". Retrieved 2009-02-07. 
  74. ^ "China to achieve leapfrog development, lasting stability in Tibet"
  75. ^ "China to Seek ‘Stability’ in Tibet via Development" article by Edward Wong in The New York Times January 23, 2010
  76. ^
  77. ^ See also the downloadable book: A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China's Crackdown in Tibet:
  78. ^ Human Rights Violations in Tibet, Statement by Elliot Sperling, June 2000
  79. ^ Tibet to set "Serf Liberation Day"
  80. ^ Laird 2006, pp. 352–357
  81. ^ Human Rights in Tibet at a glance
  82. ^ Reporters sans frontières – China
  83. ^ Tibet: Tightening of Control [TCHRD – Publications – 1999]
  84. ^ Laird 2006, pp. 357–358
  85. ^ Untitled Document
  86. ^ Violation of Subsistence Rights [TCHRD – Publications – 1999 – Tibet: Tightening of Control]
  87. ^ Conze, Edward (1993). A Short History of Buddhism. Oneworld. ISBN 1851680667. 
  88. ^ a b Tibetan monks: A controlled life. BBC News. March 20, 2008.
  89. ^ Tibet During the Cultural Revolution Pictures from a Tibetan People's Liberation Army's officer
  90. ^ The last of the Tibetans Los Angeles Times. March 26, 2008.
  91. ^ TIBET'S BUDDHIST MONKS ENDURE TO REBUILD A PART OF THE PAST New York Times Published: June 14, 1987.
  92. ^ Laird 2006, pp. 351, 352
  93. ^ Avalokitesvara, Chenrezig
  94. ^ Masood Butt, 'Muslims of Tibet', The Office of Tibet, January/February 1994
  95. ^ Kapstein 2006, pp. 31, 71, 113
  96. ^ Stein 1972, pp. 36, 77–78
  97. ^ Graham Sanderg, The Exploration of Tibet: History and Particulars (Delhi: Cosmo Publications, 1973), pp. 23–26; Thomas Holdich, Tibet, The Mysterious (London: Alston Rivers Ltd., 1906), p. 70.
  98. ^ Sir Edward Maclagan, The Jesuits and The Great Mogul (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1932), pp. 344–345.
  99. ^ Lettera del P. Alano Dos Anjos al Provinciale di Goa, 10 Novembre 1627, quoted from Wu Kunming, Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi (Beijing: Zhongguo Zangxue chubanshe, 1992), p. 163.
  100. ^ Extensively using Italian and Portuguese archival materials, Wu's work gives a detailed account of Cacella's activities in Tsang. See Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, esp. chapter 5.
  101. ^ Narratives of the Mission of George Bogle to Tibet, and of the Journey of Thomas Manning to Lhasa, pp. 295–302. Clements R. Markham. (1876). Reprint Cosmo Publications, New Delhi. 1989.
  102. ^ Stein 1972, p. 85
  103. ^ "BBC News Country Profiles Timeline: Tibet". 2009-11-05. Retrieved 2009-03-11. 
  104. ^ Lettera del P. Antonio de Andrade. Giovanni de Oliveira. Alano Dos Anjos al Provinciale di Goa, 29 Agosto, 1627, quoted from Wu, Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, p. 196; Maclagan, The Jesuits and The Great Mogul, pp. 347–348.
  105. ^ Cornelius Wessels, Early Jesuit Travellers in Central Asia, 1603–1721 (The Hague: Nijhoff, 1924), pp. 80–85.
  106. ^ Maclagan, The Jesuits and The Great Mogul, pp. 349–352; Filippo de Filippi ed., An Account of Tibet, pp. 13–17.
  107. ^ Relação da Missão do Reino de Uçangue Cabeça dos do Potente, Escrita pello P. João Cabral da Comp. de Jesu. fol. 1, quoted from Wu, Zaoqi Chuanjiaoshi jin Zang Huodongshi, pp. 294–297; Wang Yonghong, "Luelun Tianzhujiao zai Xizang di Zaoqi Huodong", Xizang Yanjiu, 1989, No. 3, pp. 62–63.
  108. ^ "Yunnan Province of China Government Web". Retrieved 2008–02–15. 
  109. ^ Kapstein 2006, pp. 31, 206
  110. ^ Crossley-Holland, Peter. (1976). "The Ritual Music of Tibet." The Tibet Journal. Vol. 1, Nos. 3 & 4, Autumn 1976, pp. 47-53.
  111. ^ "Mountain Patrol, a film from National Geographic World Films". Retrieved 2009-02-25. 


  • 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' (1987) Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-02469-3
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (1989) University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06140-8
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (1997) University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21951-1
  • Grunfeld, Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. ISBN 1-56324-713-5.
  • Hopkirk, Peter. Trespassers on the Roof of the World: The Secret Exploration of Tibet (1983) J. P. Tarcher. ISBN 0-87477-257-5
  • Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetans (2006) Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 978-0-631-22574-4
  • Laird, Thomas. The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama (2006) Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1827-5
  • Mullin, Glenn H.The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnations (2001) Clear Light Publishers. ISBN 1-57416-092-3
  • Powers, John. History as Propaganda: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China (2004) Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-517426-7
  • Richardson, Hugh E. Tibet and its History Second Edition, Revised and Updated (1984) Shambhala. ISBN 0-87773-376-7
  • Shakya, Tsering. The Dragon In The Land Of Snows (1999) Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7
  • Stein, R. Tibetan Civilization (1972) Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0901-7
  • Teltscher, Kate. The High Road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the First British Expedition to Tibet (2006) Bloomsbury UK. ISBN 0-7475-8484-2

Further reading

  • Allen, Charles (2004). Duel in the Snows: The True Story of the Younghusband Mission to Lhasa. London: John Murray. ISBN 0-7195-5427-6.
  • Bell, Charles (1924). Tibet: Past & Present. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  • Dowman, Keith (1988). The Power-Places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide. Routledge & Kegan Paul. London, ISBN 0-7102-1370-0. New York, ISBN 0-14-019118-6.
  • Feigon, Lee. (1998). Demystifying Tibet: unlocking the secrets of the land of the snows. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee. ISBN 1-56663-196-3. 1996 hardback, ISBN 1-56663-089-4
  • Gyatso, Palden (1997). The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk. Grove Press. NY, NY. ISBN 0-8021-3574-9
  • Human Rights in China: China, Minority Exclusion, Marginalization and Rising Tensions, London, Minority Rights Group International, 2007
  • McKay, Alex (1997). Tibet and the British Raj: The Frontier Cadre 1904–1947. London: Curzon. ISBN 0-7007-0627-5.
  • Norbu, Thubten Jigme; Turnbull, Colin (1968). Tibet: Its History, Religion and People. Reprint: Penguin Books (1987).
  • Pachen, Ani; Donnely, Adelaide (2000). Sorrow Mountain: The Journey of a Tibetan Warrior Nun. Kodansha America, Inc. ISBN 1-56836-294-3.
  • Petech, Luciano (1997). China and Tibet in the Early XVIIIth Century: History of the Establishment of Chinese Protectorate in Tibet. T'oung Pao Monographies, Brill Academic Publishers, ISBN 90-04-03442-0.
  • Rabgey, Tashi; Sharlho, Tseten Wangchuk (2004) (PDF). Sino-Tibetan Dialogue in the Post-Mao Era: Lessons and Prospects. Washington: East-West Center. ISBN 1932728228. 
  • Samuel, Geoffrey (1993). Civilized Shamans: Buddhism in Tibetan Societies. Smithsonian ISBN 1-56098-231-4.
  • Schell, Orville (2000). Virtual Tibet: Searching for Shangri-La from the Himalayas to Hollywood. Henry Holt. ISBN 0-8050-4381-0.
  • Smith, Warren W. (1996). History of Tibet: Nationalism and Self-determination. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. ISBN 0813331552. 
  • Smith, Warren W. (2004) (PDF). China's Policy on Tibetan Autonomy – EWC Working Papers No. 2. Washington: East-West Center. 
  • Smith, Warren W. (2008). China's Tibet?: Autonomy or Assimilation. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. ISBN 9780742539891. 
  • Sperling, Elliot (2004) (PDF). The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics. Washington: East-West Center. ISBN 1932728139.  – (online version)
  • Thurman, Robert (2002). Robert Thurman on Tibet. DVD. ASIN B00005Y722.
  • Wilby, Sorrel (1988). Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1,900-mile (3,060 km) Trek Across the Rooftop of the World. Contemporary Books. ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.
  • Wilson, Brandon (2004). Yak Butter Blues: A Tibetan Trek of Faith. Pilgrim's Tales. ISBN 0-9770536-6-0, ISBN 0-9770536-7-9. (second edition 2005)
  • Wang Jiawei (2000). The Historical Status of China's Tibet. ISBN-7-80113-304-8.
  • Tibet wasn't always ours, says Chinese scholar by Venkatesan Vembu, Daily News & Analysis, 22 February 2007

External links

2009 happenings
  • [2] 50 years from 1959
2008 Documentary
Against PRC rule and policies in Tibet
PRC sites on PRC rule and policies in Tibet

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

Tibet (Classical Tibetan: Bod; (བོད་), Lhasa dialect: Pö; Chinese: 西藏, Xīzàng) is an autonomous region of China.

Entering Tibet you feel as though you've entered an entirely different world. The traditional Tibetan culture, though diluted recently by government-sponsored migrations of Han Chinese, remains strong.

Qamdo, Chamdo, Chab mdo or Changdu?

Any place in Tibet can be spelled at least four different ways. Tibetan Pinyin (Qamdo) combines Tibetan pronunciation with Chinese pinyin spelling: it's used on signs, tickets and such, and being the most useful for the traveller it's what Wikitravel uses too. Tournadre (Chamdo) uses more Western spelling, but is not often seen in Tibet itself. Scholars like Wylie (Chab mdo), which copies Tibetan writing precisely but makes pronouncing near-impossible (eg. Bka' rgyud is read "Kagyu"). Finally, any place in Tibet has a Chinese name (昌都), which can be read as Chinese (Changdu).

There are seven prefectures in the Tibet Autonomous Region:

This article covers the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). There are also Tibetan autonomous prefectures and or counties located in Qinghai, southwest Gansu, western Sichuan and northwest Yunnan, covered in the articles on those provinces. These areas are culturally, historically and linguistically Tibetan to various degrees; there was once a Tibetan Kingdom considerably larger than the autonomous region's current borders.

See List of Chinese provinces and regions for an explanation of the terms "autonomous region" and "autonomous prefecture" if required.


Tibet spans the world's largest and, with average heights of over 4,000 m, also the world's highest plateau. Consequently, Tibet is often referred to as the "Roof of the World". Parts of the region are so remote they remain uninhabited to this day.


In the mid-7th century, Songtsan Gampo established the unified Tubo Dynasty, and married two princesses, one from China and one from India. Tibet and Tang China fought repeatedly for control over the Silk Road during this time. Although the country was unified, it was seldom peaceful and between the 9th century and the mid-17th century it was often embroiled in turmoil. This period finally drew to a close when the Dalai Lama invited a tribe of Mongols to intervene. They gained military control of the region, but decided to stay, with the leader declaring himself king. However, the Dalai Lama actually administered the country.

In the early 18th century, Tibet was again in turmoil, and seeking to replicate the success of the earlier means of restoring peace, the Dalai Lama invited another tribe of Mongols to take control. However, the emperor of Qing China was unhappy with this arrangement, and ordered an invasion. The Mongols were expelled, and the Chinese and Tibetans began a special relationship which was maintained until the end of the Qing dynasty.

The British invaded Tibet in 1904, while the Qing emperor carved out states from areas under Tibetan control. With the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911, Tibet declared independence from China under the authority of the 13th Dalai Lama and remained an isolated nation for over thirty years.

After the retreat of the Nationalists to Taiwan in 1949, the Communists turned their attention towards Tibet. In 1950, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet and in 1951 signed The Seventeen Point Agreement that annexed Tibet into China, offering Tibet — on paper — full autonomous status for governance, religion and local affairs. The newly established Communist Chinese Government even installed the current Dalai-Lama as the vice-secretary of the Chinese Communist Party in the early 1950s.

Communist reforms and the heavy-handed approach of the People's Liberation Army lead to tension with the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan followers. Following an unsuccessful CIA-sponsored revolt in 1959, the Dalai Lama and many of his followers went into exile in India, setting up a government in exile in Dharamsala. Tibet's isolated location did not protect it from the terror of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), and an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans were killed or imprisoned at the hands of the Red Guards, and its rich cultural heritage as well as much of Chinese culture lay in ruins due to the chaotic Cultural Revolution movement.

Since Deng Xiaoping took control in Beijing, the situation in Tibet has calmed considerably, though it still remains tense. Instead of pure brute force, Chinese tactics have switched to assimilation, with Han-Chinese migrants flooding into Tibet. However, slowly, monasteries are being rebuilt and a semblance to normality is returning to the region. Despite this, Tibet still suffers from Independence-related civil unrest, most notably in 1987, 1989 and most recently in 2008.

  • Peter Aufschnaiter's Eight Years in Tibet by Peter Aufschnaiter and Martin Brauen ISBN 9789745240124
  • Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han by Hannü: Tibet through the Tibetans with a Han traveller ISBN 9789889799939
  • Tears Of Blood: A Cry for Tibet by Mary Craig ISBN 978-1582431024
The Om mani padme hum mantra in Tibetan
The Om mani padme hum mantra in Tibetan
See also: Tibetan phrasebook

The main language of Tibet is Tibetan; which comes in many varying dialects, but many Tibetans speak or understand some Mandarin except the nomadic tribes in the Far East Tibet. Tibetan is closely related to Burmese and much more distantly to Chinese. Depending on the dialect of Tibetan spoken, it may be tonal or non-tonal. In the cities people speak Chinese fluently; in the villages it may not be understood at all. Han Chinese people, on the other hand, normally don't know any Tibetan at all. Signs in Tibet, including street signs, are at least bilingual - in Chinese and in Tibetan - plus a major local language when there is one.

Although this makes Chinese a more useful language for travelers in many ways, you should remember that language can be political in this charged environment. If you speak in Chinese to Tibetans you are associating yourself with the Chinese, the presence of whom is often resented among the ethnic Tibetan population, as evidenced by the widespread rioting throughout the region in the run-up to the Olympic Games. That said, many Tibetans seem to view Chinese as a useful lingua franca and a few Tibetan pleasantries is enough to befriend Tibetans. Tibetans from different regions converse in Chinese since Tibetan dialects vary so much that they are not immediately mutually understandable. If you speak Tibetan to Chinese police you'll raise suspicions that you may be in Tibet to support Tibetan Independence.

Having said that Tibetan is an extremely difficult language to learn and most foreigners who claim to know Tibetan can hardly get by. Tibetan is only taught in school until the 8th grade. Therefore, when it comes to writing, even the Tibetans themselves have difficulties and many are in fact illiterate.

Get in

Tourism to Tibet is strictly controlled by the Chinese government, and restrictions were further ratcheted up after the riots before the 2008 Olympics. As of 2009, the previous "backpacker" tours, which included the permit and a couple of nights stay in Lhasa is no longer an option and all travelers must stay with an organized trip the entire time they are in Tibet.

All foreign visitors to Tibet need one or more permits. The basic one is the Tibet Tourism Bureau (TTB) permit, which can be issued to you by Chinese travel agencies that handle trips to Tibet, or (if overseas and arriving via Nepal) by the Chinese embassy in Kathmandu on proof of purchasing a package tour (there is no way around this). If you buy an expensive package tour, the TTB permit will only cost you US$6, but if you just want train/plane tickets (which, as of 2009, no longer seems to be possible), the travel agency will inflate their cut accordingly and you'll need to fork out up to US$50-70. For land crossings (including the train), you'll get a physical permit that will be checked; for plane tickets, the permit may just be an annotation on your ticket record.

Some parts of Tibet also require an Aliens' Travel Permit (ATP), which is issued by the Public Security Bureau (PSB) in major Tibetan cities like Lhasa, Xigatse and Ali. The list of regions that require ATPs changes constantly, so enquire locally. Lhasa's PSB has a poor reputation, while Xigatse and Ali are said to issue permits without any unnecessary difficulties. If your papers are in order, the permit can be issued in several hours for Y100.

Finally, some remote areas also require a military permit. These are only available in Lhasa, where processing takes several days, and are only granted for an appropriate reason.

See also Overland to Tibet and Tibetan journeys.

By plane

You can fly to Lhasa and also Nyingchi but flying in from a much lower altitude city puts you at high risk of altitude sickness because of the quick transition. If you are in Sichuan or nearby (and aren't satisfied visiting the many ethnically Tibetan areas to the east of the Tibetan Autonomous Region) flying from Chengdu is the easiest option.

A flight from Chengdu to Lhasa plus all the necessary paperwork will cost around 2000 yuan, and can be arranged through most large hostels or travel agents.

An alternate route is to follow the Yunnan tourist trail to Zhongdian and fly from there to Lhasa. If you spend a few days each in Kunming (2000 m), Dali (2400 m), Lijiang and Zhongdian (3200 m) to acclimatise, you should be able to fly to Lhasa (3650 m) with little risk,

By train

The Qinghai-Tibet (Qingzang) Railway from Golmud to Lhasa started operating in July 2006. The journey all the way from Beijing takes just under 48 hours, costing 389 yuan in the cheapest hard seat class and 1262 yuan for a soft sleeper. Direct trains to Lhasa originate in Beijing, Xining, Lanzhou, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chongqing and Chengdu. For a mid-range sleeper from Chengdu with 6 bunks in each room, they are 692 yuan. Be warned that these trains are not for the faint-hearted and the less adventurous type: they do not have Western-styled toilets and bunks are relatively cramped. The main advantage for this mode of transportation is the fact that you could slowly adapt to high altitude conditions instead of a sudden shift if you were to take a plane.

If you're not up to rubbing shoulders with the hoi polloi, Tangula [1] runs roughly weekly luxury trains (Apr-Dec only) from Beijing to Lhasa and back. The 4-day journey costs US$5,500 (twin sharing), including all meals, drinks and excursions. However, as of January 2010, the Tangula still has no official launch date and are not accepting reservations until Summer 2011, due to economic hardships.

By road

There are four roads into Tibet, roughly corresponding to the cardinal directions:

North: The road from Golmud (Ch:Ge'ermu) is the easiest legal land route at present. The landscape is beautiful but difficult to appreciate after the long rough ride.

It's possible to travel this way by hitch-hiking on trucks if you are well prepared (camping equipment, food and water for a day). Expect to spend a few days. There are police checkpoints on the way but the only one that is a problem is the one 30 km or so out of Golmud. If you walk around it and a few km beyond you should be able to get a ride without too much of a problem. There are plenty of places to eat on the way but be prepared to get stuck in the middle of nowhere. There are also are places to sleep ranging from truck stop brothels to comfortable hotels, however these should be avoided as you're likely to get picked up by the police.

East: There is no legal way to travel this road (except as part of an expensive organised tour; see Overland to Tibet) and the security is tighter than from the north. Travellers do get through this way, but for people who are obviously not northeast Asians it's difficult.

West: From Kashgar (Ch:Kashi) much of the way is technically off limits. However there is a steady stream of hardy travelers coming this way, usually hitching rides on trucks. The road is totally unpaved for over a thousand kilometers with villages and water few and far between. The main advantages of this way is that it passes by Mount Kailash and through a beautiful, very remote region inhabited by nomads. You should be very well prepared to travel this way and take everything you would need for independent trekking: camping equipment suitable for freezing temperatures even in summer, a good tent and at least a few days of food (there are a few truck-stop places on the way but not always when you want them). Expect the trip to take two weeks or more. From Kashgar it's much farther to go to Lhasa via Urumqi and Golmud but the better transport (trains and good paved highways) make it no more time consuming to travel this way. There are many interesting things for the tourist to see on the way and it is worth considering traveling this way instead of via Mount Kailash.

South: From Nepal the international border makes any sort of breaking of the rules impossible, so the only option is to book a tour with a travel agent in Kathmandu. In addition, as of 2007, you need a group visa for China itself to cross the border into Tibet, so don't bother applying before you get to Kathmandu. The drive from Kathmandu to Lhasa takes five days and is very rough, but pretty.

Southeast: After 44 years of closure, the Nathu La pass to Sikkim, India — a part of the historic Silk Road — opened again in July 2006. At time of writing, the border is not yet open to foreign tourists, but this is expected to change some time in the future and there are plans for a Gangtok-Lhasa bus service.

Get around


Central Tibet has an OK public bus network, although the strict need for a travel permit when taking a bus (the driver/conductor will want to see it) limits the usefulness of buses.


Jeep tours are a popular way of getting around Tibet, while not cheap, the tour operator will sort out all the necessary paperwork, and they offer you a reasonable chance of sticking to a schedule.

Your driver will likely be an indiginous Tibetan who can speak Chinese. He'll get to eat and sleep for free wherever you go (he'll often be treated like a king), and he'll often need to stop for a smoke or a pee by certain vendors on the road. 4500 RMB will get a jeep that can seat 4 people and luggage comfortably for 4 or 5 days.

Be very precise with your itinerary and very careful with payment. Every stop, monastery and lake you wish to visit, etc should be written on the itinerary. Payment should never be made in advance. Many foreigners, especially pro-Tibetan ones, are so trusting of Tibetan drivers that they hand over their money in advance but never get to see their drivers again. These drivers operate in rings and will approach their targets in hostels and speak against the Chinese government to gain support and sympathy from tourists who then lower their guard, and have their trip ruined. Some such stranded tourists, already identified as easy targets, will then be approached by a second Tibetan driver in the ring, and the same scam happens one more time.


Hitchhiking can be a good way to get around the country for someone who is flexible and has a lot of time. It can, however, mean you end up getting stuck without a lift for days. In the west of the country this probably means hanging around truck stops, as the distances are far too long to walk, and finding water would be a major problem. Trucks often break down though and it can take a long time before the journey continues. Hitchhiking in general is not free and a small fee is expected. In central and eastern Tibet, there's more water and villages, and so walking becomes a more reasonable option. In short, hitching may or may not get you to your destination any quicker, but at least it offers a change of scenery.

Hitchhiking from Lhasa to Mount Everest

A few travelers choose to ignore the travel permit requirement and continue to travel south of Shigatse which is the limit for traveling without a permit. This is very adventurous but can be done if the traveler is willing, in a worse case scenario, to risk imprisonment. It is a good advise to check with foreigners who live in Lhasa to point out the location of road check points and get tips on safety. Take enough food (snacks) and cigarettes (for truck drivers) and only go on this trip after you have adjusted to the high altitude.

From Lhasa to Shigatse you can take a public bus. A travel permit is not required for buying a bus ticket. Have an overnight in Shigatse. It is impossible to buy a ticket at the ticket counter (in Shigatse) without a travel permit, but sometimes it works fine to show up before the bus leaves and buy the ticket in the bus. Keep a low profile while seated in the bus. Before departure the conductor checks the ticket. Hand him over the fare money plus a little tip. The bus might leave, only to stop again a few minutes later around the corner. It might happen that the official from the ticket counter who refused to sell tickets without permit shows up with your ticket in hands and wishes you a happy journey. Immediately outside Shigatse are the first check posts. Usually a very young Chinese official enters the bus. Keep a low profile or smile at him. If he asks something, just show him the tickets.

After this checkpost the journey continues on dirt roads with occasional stops at small stone huts which serve Tibetan food or noodles. You find a room with restaurant in small inns, usually there is one in every bigger village, but don't expect any luxury. Many times the only shower facility consists of a bucket of water.

Further south there are no public buses one can use, but truckdrivers can be asked to get a ride. A fee is usually negotiated before the ride. Truckdrivers won't take a traveler through checkpoints. It is wise to walk or hitch to a checkpoint, then walk around it, out of sight of the officials and try to get another ride from the other side. Sometimes a ride on a local transport, e.g. tractor up to the checkpoint can be arranged.

Around Mount Everest is a huge Everest National Park. Park tickets have to be bought before arriving at the National Park Checkpoint. Towards Everest there are hardly any local transports and no trucks, but numerous jeeps coming from Nepal all go to Mount Everest. Tourists usually pay a high price for this tour and are very reluctant to take on a free guest. The driver and tourist guide might refuse to take you in without a travel permit. Some gift money to the Tibetan driver plus a bold lie to the mostly Chinese tourguide might work. Once the jeep stops at the National Park Checkpoint, all passengers have to leave the car and pass through the checkpoint where car documents, park tickets and passport with travel permits are checked. If you have already traveled that far without a travel permit, the moment of surprise might add to your luck and the young Chinese officials might let you pass. Again keep a low profile, have a big smile and some money which changes hands might work. If not, be prepared for a long walk around of the check post.

From there it is a direct way to Mount Everest over stunning 5500 meter passes. When you arrive at the tiny monastery which serves as a very simple hotel and restaurant be prepared for a wonderful sight of Mount Everest at sunrise - if you are lucky. Everest can be shrouded in clouds for many weeks. Only continue to the base camp when you have adjusted to the high altitude. If you want to continue from Base Camp 1 to Camp 2, paying some fee is unavoidable.

Getting back from Mount Everest to Lhasa usually is less of a hassle. When stopped tell that you are heading to Lhasa. Sometimes you might be lucky and find a ride in a tourbus which returns empty to Lhasa having unloaded the tourists at the Nepalese border.

If you decide to hitchhike to Mount Kailash be prepared for an even harder journey. Villages are more remote and it is a long journey sometimes taking up to 2 or 3 weeks to Kashkar.


There are a surprising number of tourists traveling Tibet by bicycle, both foreigners and Chinese. The roads vary from rough dirt tracks to good quality paved roads. There are restaurants, truck stops and shops scattered around often enough so that you don't need to carry more than a day's worth of food (with the important exception of the west of the country). The roads are often well graded, being built for overloaded trucks. 26 inch wheels would be preferable as 700 cc are almost unknown in China. Good mountain bikes are available in large cities of China or in Lhasa. Golmud is not a good place to get a bicycle (assuming you want it to get you past the check point 30 km outside of town). Cyclists have reported that distances cited in the Lonely Planet guidebooks can be quite inaccurate so be very well-prepared.


Good road maps of Tibet are common in China, but only in Chinese. These are of limited use even for people literate in Chinese as the Chinese names are very different from the ones used by the Tibetans. They are useful for reading road signs, even for people with low literacy in Chinese.

The Star publications map is probably the best. Amnye Machen Institute[2] publishes an excellent map of similar scale and detail but with the Tibetan names, with a version written in Latin script and one in the Tibetan. It makes a useful companion. has a free downloadable set of maps covering much of Tibet with detail almost good enough to use for independent trekking.

  • The Potala Palace, the home of successive Dalai Lamas is in Lhasa
  • The Jokhang Temple in Lhasa was built in 647 AD by Songtsen Gampo and is one of the holiest sites in Tibet.
  • The Barkhor Street in Lhasa is a street of traditional Tibetan buildings that encompasses the Jokhang Temple.
  • The 'Summer Palace of the Dalai Lama is located in Lhasa, about 1km south of the Potala.
  • Samye Monastery - constructed in 779AD, Samye was the first Buddhist Monastery established in Tibet, and is located near Dranang, Shannan Prefecture, 150 km south-east of Lhasa.
  • Tashilhunpo Monastery, the traditional seat of the Panchen Lamas. It was constructed in 1447 and is located in Xigatse
  • The Rongbuk Monastery, one of the highest monasteries in the world, from which the view of the Mt. Everest is just amazing.


Much of Lhasa has been replaced by post-1950 Chinese developments with only a small quarter dating from pre-invasion times. This part is now under renovation to attract tourists. It is still worth to take a stroll through the old part of Lhasa and buy goods from Tibetan vendors, who sometimes come from remote provinces of Tibet. Watch the impressive bargaining for Shish stones but refrain from buying turquoise or coral items as most of them are synthetic or dyed. Nevertheless Tibetan vendors have a huge range of beautiful Tibetan articles and it pays out to buy directly from them instead of spending money in shopping malls which started to appear everywhere in the centre of Lhasa.

There are some small cafes and bars run by young Chinese or Tibetan people which are very good hangouts and a fantastic meeting place for the few expats who live in Lhasa. They provide great information about Tibet.

A must are the small Tibetan restaurants who serve authentic Tibetan food. If you have never tried momos or gyantok, a definite must together with a cup of salted Tibetan butter tea.

Tibetan and Han Chinese people in general are wonderful and friendly people who always have a warm smile. Some speak a bit of English and are happy to have a chat with you.

For an authentic, fulfilling visit to Tibet, you must have a native Tibetan guide. Many of the Chinese guides are relocated from other areas of China and don't have a real understanding of the people or culture of Tibet that make the country so amazing.

Clockwise from top: tingmo steamed bread, thenthuk noodle soup, momos in soup and vegetable gravy, with condiments in center
Clockwise from top: tingmo steamed bread, thenthuk noodle soup, momos in soup and vegetable gravy, with condiments in center

The traditional Tibetan diet is largely limited to barley, meat (mutton or yak) and dairy products, with very few spices or vegetables, although brutally hot chili sauce is often served on the side. Even good Tibetan food is very monotonous with most Tibetan restaurants serving nothing other than thukpa (noodle soup) and tea. By comparison, Chinese restaurants in villages often put out some excellent food. Some travelers feel that Hui (ethnic Chinese Moslem) places are cleaner because of halal food laws; they can be recognised by the green flags and crescent moons (and because they do look cleaner).

Unfortunately there is not a single genuine Tibetan restaurant of high quality in Tibet, which can only be found in neighbouring provinces such as Sichuan. All Tibetan restaurants in Lhasa featured in guidebooks and frequented by non-Chinese tourists are westernized ones serving a few Tibetan dishes along with pizzas, spaghetti, pancakes, etc.

A selection of popular Tibetan fare:

  • Momos - dumplings filled with meat or vegetables, steamed or fried
  • Tingmo - bland, nearly tasteless steamed bread
  • Thukpa - a hearty noodle soup with veggies or meat
  • Thenthuk - thukpa with handmade noodles
  • Yak butter tea - salty tea churned with butter, a Tibetan staple and a rather acquired taste for most Westerners

While traveling be prepared for the bus to depart late or break down. Carry a snack on short trips and enough food for a few days or a week or more for longer journeys, such as to Mount Kailash. Instant noodles are convenient even if you don't have a camp stove. They can be eaten cold or softened with boiled water. Tsampa (roasted barley flour) is an ideal travel food because it's already cooked. Eat it mixed with tea, butter and salt, or as a high energy snack by mixing it with water, milk powder and sugar.


Tea houses are an important social venue in Tibet, and offer a chance to sit down and relax. The tea houses in the larger town and cities offer sweet tea, or salted; in the villages you may only have the option of salt tea. The line between a tea house and a restaurant is blurred and many also offer thukpa.

Tibetan butter tea (pöcha) is a must try, though it may not be a pleasant experience for all — even the Dalai Lama famously said that he's not a fan of the stuff! It is a salty mixture of black tea and Tibetan butter. Traditionally it is churned by hand with a thick rod in a long upright wooden container. However, when electricity came to the city in recent years, modernized Tibetans turn to use electric mixers to make their butter tea. The Tibetan butter is not rancid as commonly described, but has a cheesy taste and smell to it, close to blue cheese or Roquefort. Think of it as a cheese broth rather, that you will appreciate particularly after a long hike in cold weather.

An alternative to Tibetan butter tea is sweet tea which is more familiar to western palates. Sweet tea drinking was introduced only recently by merchants returning from India, first among well-off Tibetans, since sugar was a luxury on the Plateau, then when sugar became more available among the general public. Unlike Indians, Tibetan do not use spices (clove, cinnamon, cardamon) to flavor their tea.

Chang, or Tibetan beer made of barley, has a lighter flavor than a western-type, bottled beer, since they do not use bitter hops. Often home-brewed and with as many taste and strength variants as industrial beers. Beware of chang: the yeast is still alive in it, and will carry on fermenting and producing alcohol in the warm temperatures of your stomach! Usually no germ risk since yeast prevents bacteria proliferation.

Stay safe

Plan your route to manage altitude sickness; the main thing is to give your body enough time to acclimatize before going higher. Be prepared to adjust your plans, descend or spend a few extra days acclimatizing if it proves necessary.

When traveling in the countryside be prepared for the vehicle to break down and for bad weather. Carry a snack and some warm clothes.

Beware of the dogs. In the cities there are numerous stray dogs about and in the country side the villagers and nomads keep large guard dogs (usually chained up). A modest level of caution is enough to prevent you from being bitten, as the strays are normally more afraid of you than you of them. If guard dogs are unchained, keep them at bay by staying away from the house or tent they are protecting and pick up (or pretend to pick up) some stones. Much is made of the viciousness of the Tibetan dogs, but few travelers have problems with them. See also aggressive dogs.

Steer clear of political protests. They're rare, but suppressed brutally by the authorities, who do not look kindly on Western witnesses (especially those with cameras).

Get out

Generally speaking, it is easier getting out of Tibet than in.

It's easy to get travel permits in Xigatse and once you have one you are free to travel to Nepal by any form of transport you like.

  • Travelers to Tibet usual find Tibetans along with other inhabitants to be friendly. It is appreciated when you try and use the local Tibetan dialect when communicating with Tibetans. The further from Lhasa you travel, the more often Tibetan is used.
  • Avoid placing anyone at risk by discussing political matters or associating with other pro-Tibetan anti-Chinese foreigners / guides / agencies - this includes anything about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile. These topics are quite sensitive especially following the recent pro-independence demonstrations in Tibet, which cost more than two-hundred lives.
  • Religion is extremely important to the majority of Tibetans, and travelers should endeavor to respect their customs and beliefs. Always walk around Tibetan Buddhist religious sites or monastery in a clockwise direction, and when in a monastery do not wear a hat, smoke or touch frescoes. In addition, refrain from climbing onto statues, mani stones or other sacred objects.
  • Don't photograph people without permission, and be aware that some locations prohibit photography without a fee. Sky burial sites are obviously off-limits.
  • Tibetan Buddhism and its impact of Tibetan culture is a major draw for tourists. Be aware that funds used to pay entry fees at major religious sites will probably go into the coffers of the local Communist Party and its Chinese members. Funds donated directly to individual monks and nuns and left on altars will remain and be used to maintain and support the local religious infrastructure. Appreciate the work of the monasteries and those within and help support these great institutions with non-monetary donations and by attending the festivals and just spending a little time getting to know the monastic community.
  • Supporting the economy by purchasing from vendors is a great way to show your support for all inhabitants of Tibet and China. Pay a fair price while bargaining. Beware that some vendors may try to swindle tourists by selling at very high prices.
  • Try to eat more genuine Tibetan dishes. On the edge of the Plateau this becomes more difficult.
  • Antiques, family or religious items should not be purchased as this destroys the culture.
  • Help protect the Tibet for future generations of all Chinese citizens regardless of ethnicity by not purchasing products made from wild animals. Many items are made from endangered species. Remember to leave only footprints and take lots of photographs while visiting Tibet. Take the initiative and pack out trash and recyclables you see around while traveling outside of urban Tibet. The ecosystem in the Himalayas is very fragile due to the weather being so cold, so be careful of where you hike and try to keep erosion down.
  • Help to keep Tibetan culture alive. It is very important to use Tibetan resources such as hotels, restaurants, guides and souvenir stalls, as Tibetan culture is gradually being erroded. It is also important to benefit financially the Tibetans, who are rapidly becoming a disadvantaged minority in their own country. When visiting temples, monasteries or shrines you may wish to leave a donation, which will help their upkeep. It is best to leave it on the altar or give it directly to a monk or nun. This will ensure it stays in the temple. You may also wish to give a small donation to pilgrims from rural Tibet.
This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TIBET, or Thibet, a country of central Asia. It is the highest country in the world, comprising table-lands averaging over 16,500 ft. above the sea, the valleys being at to 17,400 ft., the peaks at to 24,600 ft.., and the passes at 16,000 to 19,000 ft. It is bounded on the N. by Turkestan, on the E. by China, on the W. by Kashmir and Ladak, and on the S. by India, Nepal and Bhutan. It has an area of over i,00n,000 sq. m., and an estimated population of about 3,000,000, being very sparsely inhabited.

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Table of contents

Origin of Name

The Tibetans call their country Bod, which (For the northern part, see China) Scale, 1:9.500.000 0 Railways Longitude East 85 of Greenwich word in colloquial pronunciation is aspirated into Bhod or Bhot, and in the modern Lhasa dialect is curtailed into Bho. Hence the country is known to Indians as Bhot, and the inhabitants as Bhot-ias. This territory came to be known to Europeans as " Tibet " evidently because the great plateau with its uplands bordering the frontiers of China, Mongolia and Kashmir, through which travellers communicated with this country, is called by the natives T o-bhot (written stod-bod) or " High Bod" or " Tibet," which designation in the loose orthography of travellers assumed a variety of forms. Thus in Chinese annals are found T'u-bat (5th century, A.D.), Tu-po-te, Tie-bu-te, T'u-bo-te (loth and firth centuries) and at the present day T'u-fan (fan, as Bushell shows, being the same. Chinese character which had formerly the sound of po); in Mongolian, Ti%bet, Tobot; in Arabic, Tubbet; Istakhri (c. 590), Tobbat; Rabbi Benjamin (1165), Thibet; J. de Plano Carpirti (1247), Thabet; Rubruquis (12J3), Marco Polo (1298), Tebet; Ibn Batuta (1340), Thabat; Ibn Haukal (976), Al Biruni (1020), Odoric of Pordenone (c. 1328), Orazio della Penna (1730), Tibet, which is the form now generally adopted. The inhabitants of Tibet call themselves Bod-pa (pronounced usually Bho-pa), or " people of Bod." Other Tibetan epithets for the country sometimes used by flowery native writers are " The Icy Land " (Gangs-c'an) and the " Country of the Red Faces " (Gdong-mar-gyi yul). The Chinese name for central Tibet is Wei-Ts'ang, which is a transcription of the Tibetan designation of the two, provinces V and Tsang (spelt dbus-gtsang) that constitute central Tibet. Among the Mongols, Tibetans are called Tangutu and the country Barontala or the " right side," in contradistinction to Dzontala or " left side," which was their own name for Mongolia itself.


Physically Tibet may be divided into two parts, the lake region in the west and north-west, and the river region, which spreads out on three sides of the former on the east, south, and west. The lake region extends from the Pangong t'so (t'so =lake) in Ladak, near the source of the Indus, to the sources of the Salween, the Mekong and the Yangtse. This region is called the Chang-t'ang (Byang tang) or " Northern Plateau " by the people of Tibet. It is some 700 m. broad, and covers an area about equal to that of France. From its great distance from the ocean it is extremely arid, and possesses no river outlet. The mountain ranges are spread out, rounded, disconnected, separated by flat valleys relatively of little depth. The country is dotted over with large and small lakes, generally salt or alkaline, and intersected by streams, and the soil is boggy and covered with tussocks of grass, thus resembling the Siberian tundra and the Pamirs. Its average altitude is over 16,000 ft., the northern portion of it being the highest. Salt and fresh-water lakes are intermingled. The lakes are generally without outlet, or have only a small effluent. The deposits consist of soda, potash, borax and common salt. This last is frequently found piled high and split into blocks apparently of artificial formation, but probably the result of the action of wind and intense cold. The loftiest lake so far as observed is Hospa t'so, near the Lingshi plain on the Kashmir frontier; its altitude is given as 17,930 ft. The lake region is noted for a vast number of hot springs, which are widely distributed between the Himalayas and 34° N., but are most numerous to the west of Tengri Nor (north-west of Lhasa). So intense is the cold in Tibet that these springs are sometimes represented by columns of ice, the nearly boiling water having frozen in the act of ejection. The southern portion, from Lake Pangong to Tengri Nor, is inhabited by pastoral tribes of Tibetans, and possesses a few hamlets, such as Ombo, Rudok and Senja jong. The river region comprises the upper courses of the Brahmaputra (Yaru Tsangpo), the Salween (? Gyama nyul chu), the Yangtsze (Dre chu), the Mekong (Nya-lung chu), and the Yellow River (Ma chu). Amidst the mountains there are many narrow valleys, partially cultivated from an altitude of 12,000 ft. downwards, with here and there fine forests covering the mountain sides. Villages of high stonebuilt houses are to be found wherever the valley bottoms open out enough to afford a little space for agriculture. The northern portion of Tibet is an arid and wind-swept desert; but in the southern portion the valleys of Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and the Brahmaputra are covered with good soil and groves of trees, well irrigated, and richly cultivated.

The valley of the Brahmaputra (q.v.), or Yaru Tsang-po or simply Tsang-po - the river has also various local names - is the great arterial valley of southern Tibet. On the south it is bounded by the Himalayas, on the north by a mountain-system still more vast. This mountain-system was only vaguely known, in fact its existence throughout its length was only suspected, until Sven Hedin, during his journeys in 1906-1908, crossed it at several points. He found the system to form the chief physiographical feature of southern Tibet, and stated it to be " on the whole the most massive range on the crust of the earth, its average height above the sealevel being greater than that of the Himalayas. Its peaks are 4000 to 5000 feet lower than Mount Everest, but its passes average 3000 feet higher than the Himalayan passes." Its extreme breadth is about 120 m. in the central part, its northern limit being marked by the chain of lakes running N.W. and S.E. between 30° and 33° N., beyond which the mountains of central Tibet are much lower. The system at no point narrows to a single range; generally there are three or four across its breadth. As a whole the system forms the watershed between rivers flowing to the Indian Ocean - the Indus and its tributaries, Brahmaputra and its tributaries, and Salweenand the streams flowing into the undrained salt lakes to the north. The principal ranges in the system are the Nien-chen-tang-la, called Kanchung-gangri in the west, the Targo-Gangri-Lapchung range, the very lofty Hlunpo-Gangri range, the Dingla range, &c. The whole system had been marked by inference on some maps before Hedin's discoveries, and named Gangri; Hedin proposed for it the name of Trans-Himalaya.

Geology and Mineral Wealth. - Little is known of the geological structure of the central regions of Tibet. The observations of Strachey, Godwin-Austen and of Griesbach and other members of the Geological Survey of India only extend to the southern edge or rim of the great plateau, where vast alluvial deposits in horizontal strata have been furrowed into deep ravines, while Russian explorers have but superficially examined the mountain regions of the north and north-east, and the British mission to Lhasa, in 1904 afforded observations merely along the trade-route to that city. The general structure of the trans-Himalayan chains appears to indicate that the main axis of upheaval of the whole vast mass of the Tibetan highlands is to be found on two approximately parallel lines, represented the one by the Kuen-lun and the other by a line which is more or less coincident with the watershed between India and the central lake region, extending from Lake Pangong to Tengri Nor, the plateau enclosed between the two being wrinkled by minor folds, of which the relative elevation is comparatively low, averaging from woo to 1500 ft. The strike of these folds is usually east and west and roughly parallel to the axes of elevation of the plateau. A remarkable economic feature is the almost universal distribution of gold throughout Tibet. The gold-digging is referred to in somewhat mythical terms by Herodotus. Every river which rises in Tibet washes down sands impregnated with gold, and it has been proved that this gold is not the product of intervening strata, but must have existed primarily in the crystalline rocks of the main axes of upheaval. In western Tibet the gold mines of Jalung have been worked since 1875. They have been visited by native explorers of the Indian Survey, who reported that much gold was produced and remitted twice a year under a Chinese guard to Peking. The Tibetan diggers collected together at the mines chiefly during the winter, when the frost assisted to bind the loose alluvial soil and render excavation easy. These mines are within 200 m. of the Ladak frontier, near the sources of the Indus, at an elevation which cannot be less than 15,000 ft. above sea-level. They are worked in crude desultory fashion and are sometimes abandoned owing to the exorbitant imposts levied on gold production by Chinese and Tibetan officials. Between the Ladak frontier and Lhasa the plateau region teems with evidences of abandoned mines. These mines are excavations in the alluvial soil, never more than from 20 to 30 ft. deep.

The researches of Prjevalsky demonstrate that gold is plentiful in northern and eastern Tibet. Here Tungus diggers were encountered who had extracted handfuls of gold in small nuggets from a stream bed at a depth which they stated to be no greater than 2 ft. Another scientific explorer, W. Mesny, has observed similar evidences of the existence of gold at comparatively shallow depths in Koko Nor region, and records that he has seen nuggets, " varying from the size of a pea to that of a hazel-nut," in eastern Tibet. The gold was almost pure and perfectly malleable. The Gork goldfields, which are visible from Koko Nor, are reported to have yielded to China considerable quantities of gold as lately as 1888. They are now deserted. Prjevalsky, indeed, predicts of northern Tibet that it will prove a " second California " in course of time. But little gold at present finds its way across the Tibetan passes to India; and the export to China has diminished of late years.

Iron is found in eastern Tibet in the form of pyrites, and is rudely smelted locally. Salt and borax exist in abundance in the western lake regions. The exportation of borax to India is only limited by the comparatively small demand. Lapis-lazuli and mercury are among the minor mineral products of the country.


The climate of Tibet varies so greatly over the enormous area and different altitudes of the country that no two travellers agree precisely in their records. Tibet is affected by the south-west monsoon, just as the Pamirs are affected, but in varying degrees according to geographical position. In western Tibet, bordering the Kashmir frontier, the climate differs little from that of Ladak. Intense dryness pervades the atmosphere during nine months of the year; but little snow falls, and the western passes are so little subject to intermittent falls of fresh snow as frequently to be traversable during the whole year round (see Ladakh). Low temperatures are prevalent throughout these western regions, whose bleak desolation is unrelieved by the existence of trees or vegetation of any size, and where the wind sweeps unchecked across vast expanses of arid plain. All the western region is but slightly affected by the monsoon. The central lake region, extending from the Kuen-lun to the Himalaya, is also characterized by extreme dryness in autumn, winter and spring, with an abundance of rain in summer, whilst the eastern mountain region, extending to China south of the Dang la (which, with an altitude of about 20,000 ft., stretches from 90° to 97° E. along the parallel of 33° N., and arrests the monsoon currents), is subject to much the same climatic influences as the eastern Himalaya. The southern slopes of the Dang la are deluged with rain, hail and snow throughout the year. Northern Tibet is an arid waste, subject to intense heat in summer and intense cold in winter. In March snow still lies deep in the Tsaidam passes, while Wellby found the heat oppressive in June at 16,000 ft. elevation on the plateau south of the Kuen-lun, and a temperate climate prevailing about the sources of the Dre chu (Yangtsze) in August.

All travellers testify to the perpetual wind currents from the west, which sweep across the salt bogs of Tsaidam (9500 ft.) and through the higher valleys of eastern Tibet. Wind is a prevailing feature throughout Tibet at certain seasons of the year, as it is in the Pamirs, in Turkestan, in western Afghanistan and in Persia. The climate of southern Tibet is, however, subject to considerable modifications from that of the northern and central regions, owing doubtless to its geographical connexion with northern India. Here, at an elevation of 15,000 ft., about the great Lake Dangra, we hear of well-built villages and of richly cultivated fields of barley, indicating a condition of climate analogous to that which prevails in the districts south of Lhasa, and in contrast to the sterility of the lake region generally and the nomadic character of its population. Modern travellers bear witness to a gradual progress of desiccation in the Tibetan uplands. Everywhere there are signs of the diminution of the lakes and the recession of the water line - a phenomenon that has also been observed in the Pamirs. There are still enormous glaciers about the head of the Brahmaputra, but the glacial epoch of the Chang-t'ang highlands has passed away, though comparatively recently.


Our knowledge of the flora of northern and central Tibet has been considerably increased by the collections of Prjevalsky, Wellby, Bower, Thorold, Littledale and the Lhasa Mission, and that of eastern Tibet by Rockhill. The former and other collections have been described in W. B. Hemsley's The Flora of Tibet or High Asia. Western and southern Tibetan flora were partially explored previously to the advent of these travellers. Professor Maximowicz concludes from an analysis of the Prjevalsky collection that the flora of Tibet is extremely ancient, and that it is chiefly composed of immigrants from the Himalaya and Mongolia. There is also a large percentage of endemic species. Chinese and European plants followed in the process of immigration. Those species which are distinctive of the eastern border ridges are found to reach the plateau, but do not spread westwards, so that a botanic separation or distinction is found to exist between the true plateau of Tibet in the west and the alpine tracts of the east. Thiselton-Dyer classes the flora of Tibet on the whole as belonging to the Arctic-Alpine section of the great northern division, but containing a purely endemic element. Two typical species are Lychnis apetala, which extends to Spitsbergen, and the well-known edelweiss. A single fern specimen obtained by Littledale (Polypodium hastatum) is indicative of eastern China. Of the forty or fifty genera obtained by Littledale in central Tibet a large proportion are British, including many of the most characteristic mountain forms. In the higher regions of northern and western Tibet the conditions under which vegetation exists are extreme. Here there are no trees, no shrubs, nor any plants above a foot high. Wellby says he saw nothing higher than an onion. The peculiar form of tussocky grass which prevails in the Pamirs is the characteristic feature of the Tibetan Chang-t'ang of the Tsaidam plains and of the bogs north-east of Lhasa. Of grasses indeed there are many forms, some peculiar to Tibet, but no trees or shrubs at any elevation higher than 15,000 ft., except in the Kharo Pass of central Tibet, where Waddell has recorded trees (? Hippophae sp.) about 20 ft. high at an elevation of 16,300 ft. A flowering plant (Saussurea tridactyla) was discovered by Bower at an elevation of 19,000 ft. In south-eastern Tibet, where Himalayan conditions of climate prevail, we have a completely different class of flora. Of the flora of Tibet Rockhill writes: " In the ` hot lands ' (Tsa-rong) in southern and south-eastern Tibet, extending even to Batang, peaches, apricots, apples, plums, grapes, water-melons, &c., and even pomegranates, are raised; most of Tibet only produces a few varieties of vegetables, such as potatoes, turnips, beans, cabbages, onions, &c. The principal cereals raised are barley and buckwheat, wheat in small quantities, and a little oats. A few localities in the extreme southern portions of the country, and around Lhasa possibly, are said to produce a non-glutinous variety of rice. A variety of mountain bamboo is found in southern and parts of eastern Tibet, and is much used for basket work. Tibet produces a large number of medicinal plants much prized by the medical profession in China and Mongolia, among others the Cordyceps sinensis, the Coptis teeta, Wall., and Pickorhiza kuwoa, Royle, &c. Rhubarb is also found in great quantities in eastern Tibet and Amdo; it is largely exported for European use, but does not appear to be used medicinally in the country. The trees most commonly found are the plane, poplar, maple, walnut, oak, the Cupressus funebris, and various varieties of the genera Pinus, Abies and Larix. Some valuable plants are obtained in the mountains of south and southwestern Tibet, yielding the excellent yellow and red colours used to dye the native cloths." Waddell gives a list of 164 species of plants collected by him at Lhasa, several being new species.


The fauna of Tibet has been by no means exhaustively investigated, especially the rodents and smaller species of animals. Among domesticated animals are to be found the horse, mule, donkey, cattle, sheep and goats, dogs, fowls and pigs, ducks and geese. Probably no country in the world, excepting perhaps inner Africa, so abounds in wild animals as the cold solitudes of the northern plateau. Here are to be found yak, wild asses (kyang), several varieties of deer, musk deer and Tibetan antelope (Pantholops); also wild sheep (the bharal of the Himalaya), Ovis hodgsoni and possibly Ovis poli, together with wild goats, bears (in large numbers in the north-eastern districts), leopards, otter, wolves, wild cats, foxes, marmots, squirrels, monkeys and wild dogs. To this list must be added the curious sloth-bear Aeluropus melanoleucus, a rare eastern species, and the so-called " unicorn " antelopes, the " takyin " (Budorcas taxicolor), also an eastern Indo-Malayan species. Birds are fairly numerous, and include many varieties of water-fowl, several of which (Anser indicus, the bar-headed goose, for instance) breed in Tibet, while others are only found as birds of passage. In eastern Tibet, on the Chinese border, varieties of the pheasant tribe abound, some of which are rare. Among them are the " white " pheasant, the Ceriornis temminckii, two kinds of eared pheasant and Anderson's pheasant. The Tibetan sand-grouse is peculiar to the country, and the snow-partridge (Lerva nivicola) and the snow-cock (Tetraogallus tibetanus) are occasionally met with in the uplands, while the ordinary partridge (Perdix hodgsoni) is common in the ravines on the plateau.


The Tibetan race, which probably belongs to the Turko-Mongol stock, is divided between the nomadic tentdwelling Tibetans of the lake region and transition zone between it and the river region, and the settled sedentary population of the valleys. The tent-dwelling Tibetans, called Dokpa or Drupa (spelt hbrog-pa), or " Steppe-dwellers," are generally of a more Mongolized type than the people of the lowlands. The males measure about 5 ft. 5 in., except in eastern Tibet, where 5 ft. 9 in. is a common stature; the females are appreciably less. The head is mesati-cephalic, verging on brachycephalic in the case of many of the Dokpa; the hair is black and somewhat wavy; the eyes are usually of a clear brown, in some cases even hazel; the cheek-bones are high, but not so high as with the Mongols; the nose is thick, sometimes depressed at the root, in other cases prominent, even aquiline, though the nostrils are broad. The teeth are strong but irregular; the ears, with tolerably large lobes, stand out from the head, but to a less degree than with the Mongols. The mouth is broad, the lips not full, and, among the people of the lower altitudes, decidedly thin. The beard is sparse, and, with the exception of the moustache, which is sometimes worn, especially in central Tibet, it is plucked out with tweezers. The shoulders are broad, the arms round; the legs are not well developed, the calf is especially small. The foot is somewhat small but broad, the hand coarse. The women are usually stouter than the men. The colour of the skin of the Tibetans is a light brown, sometimes so light as to show ruddy cheeks in children; where exposed to the weather it becomes a dark brown. Their voices are full, deep and powerful. They can endure exposure without much apparent inconvenience; and though the nature of the food they use is such that they cannot stand absolute privation for any considerable length of time, they can exist for long periods on starvation rations, if eked out with weak soup or buttered tea, which is drunk at frequent intervals. The sedentary population of Tibet has to a greater or less degree the same physical traits as the Dokpa, but as one approaches China, India or the border lands generally, one observes that the admixture of foreign blood has considerably modified the primitive type. Among the customs of the Tibetans, perhaps the most peculiar is polyandry, the brothers in a family having one wife in common. Monogamy, however, seems to be the rule among the pastoral tribes, and polygamy is not unknown in Tibet, especially in the eastern parts of the country. Their religion is described under Lamaism.

(L. A. W.; T. H. H.*) Language. - The language of Tibet bears no special name, it is merely known as " The Speech of Bod or Tibet," namely, Bod-skad (pronounced Bho-kd), while the vernacular is called P'al-skad or " vulgar speech," in contradistinction to the rje-sa or " polite respectful speech " of the educated classes, and the ch'os-skad or " book language," the literary style in which the scriptures and other classical works are written.

It is not a uniform speech, but comprises several dialects which have been classed by Jaeschke into three groups, namely (i) the central or the dialects of Lhasa and the central provinces of U and Tsang (including Spiti) which is the lingua franca of the whole country, (2) the western dialects of Ladak, Lahul, Baltistan and Purig, and (3) the eastern dialects of the province of Khams. In addition to these, however, are many sub-dialects of Tibetan spoken in the frontier Himalayan districts and states outside Tibet, namely, in Kunawar and Bashahr, Garhwal, Kumaon, Nepal including especially the Serpa and Murmi of eastern Nepal, Sikkim (where the dialect is called Danjong-ka), Bhutan (Lho-ka or Duk-ka.), all of which are affiliated to a central group of dialects. Farther east the Takpa of Tawang in the eastern Assam Himalayas appears to form a transition between the central and the Sifan group of dialects on the Chinese frontier, which includes the Minyak, Sungpan, Lifan and Tochu dialects. On the north bordering on Turkestan the dialect of the nomadic Hor-pa tribes is much mixed with Turkic ingredients. The number of speakers of Tibetan dialects is probably not far short of eight millions.

Linguistically, Tibetan is allied to the Burmese languages, and forms with the latter a family of the so-called Turano-Scythian stock called " Tibeto-Burman " (q.v.), the unity of which family was first recognized by Brian Hodgson in 1828, and indeed several of the dialects of Tibetan are still only known through the copious vocabularies collected by him. The little that was known of the Tibetan language before Hodgson's time was mainly derived from the writings of the Romish friars who resided for several years in Lhasa in the first half of the 18th century.' The first serious European student of Tibetan was Csoma de Koros (1784-1842), an indefatigable Hungarian, who devoted his life to the study of this language and the ancient Buddhist records enshrined in its unknown literature. For this purpose he resided like a monk for several years among the lamas at the monasteries of Zangla and Pukdal in Zanskar and latterly at Kanum in upper Bashahr, enjoying the assistance of learned lamas. His Tibetan-English Dictionary, and pioneer Tibetan Grammar, both published in 1834, opened to Europeans the way to acquire a knowledge of the Tibetan language as found in the ancient classics. 2 The next great advance in the study of the Tibetan language we owe to the labours of H. A. Jeaschke of the Moravian mission which was established in Ladak in 1857. This scholarly linguist, equipped with modern methods of scientific research, did not confine himself to the classical period like Csoma, but extended his ' The Capuchin friars who were settled in Lhasa for a quarter of a century from 1719 studied the language; two of them, Francisco Orazio della Penna, well known from his accurate description of Tibet, and Cassian di Macerata sent home materials which were utilized by the Augustine friar Aug. Ant. Georgi of Rimini (1711-1797) in his Alphabetum tibetanum (Rome, 1762, 4to), a ponderous and confused compilation, which may be still referred to, but with great caution. The Tibetan characters were drawn by Della Penna and engraved by Ant. Fontarita in 1738. In 1820 Abel Remusat published his Recherches sur les langues tartares, a chapter of which was devoted to Tibetan.

2 The first Tibetan dictionary for Europeans was a Dictionary of the Bhotanta or Bhutan Language, published at Serampur near Calcutta in 1828. It was, however, crude and unedited and contained many serious mistakes, having been taken from the MS. notes of an unknown Italian priest (now believed to be Father Juvenal of Agra, who had been stationed near the frontier of Bhutan), whose MS. was translated into English by Fr. Chr. G. Schroeter and published without supervision by any Tibetan scholar; and Csoma was unaware of its existence when compiling his dictionary. At St Petersburg J. J. Schmidt published his Grammatik der tibetischen Sprache in 1839 and his Tibetisch-deutsches Worterbuch in 1841, but neither of these works justified the great pretensions of the author, whose access to Mongolian sources had enabled him to enrich the results of his labours with a certain amount of information unknown to his predecessors. In France, P. E. Foucaux published in 1847 a translation from the Rgya tcher rol-pa, the Tibetan version of the Lalita Vistara, and in 1858 a Grammaire thibe'taine; while Ant. Schiefner had begun at St Petersburg in 1849 his series of translations and researches. His Tibetische Studien (1851-1868) is a valuable collection of documents and observations. In 1861 Lepsius published his paper Ueber chinesische and tibetische Lautverhdltnisse; and after 1864 Leon Feer brought out in Paris many translations of texts from Tibetan Buddhist literature. In 1828-1849 the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal published comparative vocabularies of spoken and written Tibetan by Brian H. Hodgson, and grammatical notices of Tibetan (according to Csoma's grammar).

investigations to the language as a whole, and provided Europeans for the first time with the means of making a practical study of modern Tibetan and the speech of the people His Tibetan-English Dictionary and Tibetan Grammar are models of scientific precision and important sources of our knowledge of the structure and development of the language, and the former is not superseded by Chandra Das's Dictionary.3 The language was first reduced to writing with the assistance of Indian Buddhist monks in the middle of the 7th century A. D. by Thonmi, a Tibetan layman. The letters, which are a form of the Indian Sanskrit characters of that period, follow the same arrangement as their Sanskritic prototype. The consonants, 30 in number, which are deemed to possess an inherent sound a, are the following: ka, k'a, ga, nga, ea, ca, ja, nya, ta, t'a, da, na, pa, p'a, ba, ma, tsa, ts'a, dza, wa, z'a, za, 'ha, ya, ra, la, s'a, sa, ha, a; the so-called Sanskrit cerebrals are represented by the letters ta, t'a, da, na, s'a, turned the other way. Ya, when combined as second consonant with k-, p -, m-, is written under the first letter. Ra, when combined as second letter with k-, t-, p -, is written under the first, and when combined with another consonant as first letter over the second. The vowels are a, i, u, e, o, which are not distinguished as long or short in writing, except in loan words transcribed from the Sanskrit, &c., though they are so in the vernaculars in the case of words altered by phonetic detrition. By means of agglutination, that is, by adding to the bases form-words as prefixes, suffixes or infixes, the Tibetan language has developed a considerable grammatical system and is now agglutinating rather than isolating. Agglomerations of consonants are often met with as initials, giving the appearance of telescoped words - an appearance which historical etymology often confirms. IVlany of these initial consonants are silent in the dialects of the central provinces, or have been resolved into a simpler one of another character. The language is much ruled by laws of euphony, which have been strictly formulated by native grammarians. Among the initials, five, viz. g, d, b, m, 'h, are regarded as prefixes, and are called so for all purposes, though they belong sometimes to the stern. As a rule none of these letters can be placed before any of the same organic class. Post-positions, pa or be and ma, are required by the noun (substantive or adjective) that is to be singled out; po or bo (masc.) and mo (fern.) are used for distinction of gender or for emphasis. The cases of nouns are indicated by suffixes, which vary their initials according to the final of the nouns. The plural is denoted when required by adding one of several words of plurality. When several words are connected in a sentence they seldom require more than one case element, and that comes last. There are personal, demonstrative, interrogative and reflexive pronouns, as well as an indefinite article, which is also the numeral for " one." The personal pronouns are replaced by various terms of respect when speaking to or before superiors, and there are many words besides which are only employed in ceremonial language.

Jaeschke from 1860 to 1867 made several important communications, chiefly with reference to the phonetics and the dialectical pronunciation, to the academies of Berlin and St Petersburg, and in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal. In 1868 at Kyelang he published by lithography A Short Practical Grammar of the Tibetan Language, with special reference to the spoken dialects, and the following year a Romanized Tibetan and English Dictionary. He also published in1871-1876at Gnadau in Prussia by the same process a Tibetan and German dictionary. Afterwards he prepared for the English Government a Tibetan-English Dictionary, with special reference to the prevailing dialects, in 1881. Dr H. Wenzel, one of his pupils, edited in 1883 from his MS. a Simplified Tibetan Grammar. Major Th. H. Lewin with the help of a Sikkimese lama compiled A Manual of Tibetan, or rather a series of colloquial phrases in the Sikkimese dialect, in 1879. In 1894 Mr Graham Sandberg compiled a useful Handbook of Colloquial Tibetan. Pere Desgodins in 1899 issued from Hong-Kong a large Tibeto-LatinFrench dictionary, Dictionnaire thibetain-latin francais. In 1890 Captain H. Ramsay published at Lahore his useful Practical Dictionary of Western Tibet. In 1902 was brought out at Calcutta Sarat Chandra Das's Tibetan English Dictionary with Sanskrit synonyms, a massive volume compiled with the aid of Tibetan lamas and edited by Graham Sandberg and the Moravian missionary A. W. Heyde. The Tibetan Manual by V. C. Henderson (1903) is a useful work, and so is the Manual of Colloquial Tibetan by C. A. Bell (Calcutta, 1905), which has full English-Tibetan vocabularies, graduated exercises and examples in the Lhasa dialect of to-day. An interesting and important analysis of many of the dialects and of the general structure of the language has been made by Dr G. A. Grierson, with the collaboration of Dr S. Konow, in his Linguistic Survey of India (1908). As regards native philology, the most ancient work extant is a grammar of the Tibetan tongue preserved in the Bstan-hgyur (mdo cxxiv.). This collection also contains other works of the same kind, dictionaries by later writers, translations of many Sanskrit works on grammar, vocabulary, &c., and bilingual dictionaries, Sanskrit and Tibetan. As separate publications there are several vocabularies of Chinese and Tibetan; Mongol and Tibetan; Chinese, Manchu, Mongol, Oelot, Tibetan and Turkish; Tibetan, Sanskrit, Manchu, Mongol and Chinese.

The verb, which is properly a kind of noun or participle, has no element of person, and denotes the conditions of tense and mood by an external and internal inflexion, or the addition of auxiliary verbs and suffixes when the stem is not susceptible of inflexion, so that instead of saying " I go," a Tibetan says " my going." The conditions which approximate most closely to our present, perfect, future and imperative are marked either by aspiration of the initial or by one of the five prefix consonants according to the rules of euphony, and the whole looks like a former system thrown into confusion and disorder by phonetic decay. As. to the internal vowel, a or e in the present tends to become o in the imperative, the e changing to a in the past and future; i and u are less liable to change. A final s is also occasionally added. Only a limited number of verbs are capable of four changes; some cannot assume more than three, some two, and many only one. This deficiency is made up by the addition of auxiliaries or suffixes. There are no numeral auxiliaries or segregatives used in counting, as in many languages of eastern Asia, though words expressive of a collective or integral are often used after the tens, sometimes after a smaller number. A good deal of new research on the grammar is to be found in Grierson's Linguistic Survey of India, part III., 1908. In scientific and astrological works, the numerals, as, in Sanskrit, are expressed by symbolical words. In the order of the sentence the substantive precedes the adjective and the verb stands last; the object and the adverb precede the verb, and the genitive precedes the noun on which it depends - this contrasts with the order in the isolating Chinese, where the order is subject, verb, object. An active or causal verb requires before it the instrumental instead of the nominative case, which goes only before a neuter or intransitive verb. The chief differences between the classical language of the Tibetan translators of the 9th century and the vernacular, as well as the language of native words, existed in vocabulary, phraseology and grammatical structure, and arose from the influence of the translated texts.

The Tibetan language, presenting such marked differences between its written and spoken forms, has a great interest for philologists, Philology. on account of its bearing on the history of the mono syllabic languages of eastern Asia, with their so-called " isolation " or absence of form-words and consequently of grammatical forms. Is the Tibetan a monosyllabic language passing to agglutination, or the reverse? The question has turned mainly upon the elucidation of the phenomenon of the silent letters, generally prefixed, which differentiate the spelling of many words from their pronunciation, in the central dialect or current speech of Lhasa. Remusat rather dubiously suggested, while Schmidt and Schiefner maintained, that the silent letters were a device of grammarians to distinguish in writing words which were not distinguished in speech. But this convenient opinion was not sufficient for a general explanation, being supported by only a few cases. Among these are - (a) the addition of silent letters to foreign words in analogy with older terms of the language (e.g. the Persian tadjik was transcribed staggzig or " tiger-leopard," because the foreign term left untouched would have been meaningless for Tibetan readers); (b) the addition for the sake of uniformity of prefixed letters to words etymologically deprived of them; (c) the probable addition of letters by the Buddhist teachers from India to Tibetan words in order to make them more similar to Sanskrit expressions (for instance rje- for " king," written in imitation of raja, though the original word was je or she, as is shown by cognate languages). On the other hand, while phonetically the above explanation was not inconsistent with such cases as rka dkah, bkah, bska, and nga, rnga, ngag, sngags, lnga, ngad and brtse, brdzun, dbyar, &c., where the italicized letters are pronounced in full and the others are left aside, it failed to explain other cases, such as dgra, mgron, spyod, snyan, sbrang, sbrul, bkra, k'ri, krad, k'rims, k'rus, &c., pronounced da, don, cod, or swod, cen, Bang, deu, ta, t'i, tad or teh, tim, tu, &c., and many others, where the spoken forms are obviously the alteration by wear and tear of sounds originally similar to the written forms. Csoma de Koros, who was acquainted with the somewhat archaic sounds of Ladak, was able to point to only a few letters as silent. Foucaux, in his Grammaire (1858), quoted a fragment from a native work on grammar several centuries old, in which the pronunciation of the supposed silent letters is carefully described. Since then the problem has been disentangled; and now minor points only remain to be cleared up. Jaeschke devoted special attention to the dialectical sounds, and showed in several papers and by the comparative table prefixed to his dictionary that in the western and eastern dialects these sounds correspond more or less closely to the written forms.

Jaeschke first noted the existence of tones in Tibetan, and these have been found by Professor Conrady to have developed on the Tones . same lines as in Chinese. Thus intransitive bases seem to have begun only with soft consonants, and it is doubtful whether the parent tongue possessed hard consonants at all; while transitive bases were formed by hardening of the initial consonants and at the same time pronouncing the words in a higher tone, and these two latter changes are supposed to have been indicated by a prefix to the base-word. Many of these old soft initial consonants which are now hardened in the modern dialects are preserved in classical Tibetan, i.e. in Tibetan of the 7th to the 9th century A.D. The old language seems to have pronounced prefixes extensively which in modern pronunciation in central Tibet are largely lost, whilst the soft initials have become aspirated or hardened and tones have developed, and in the west and east, where prefixes and soft initials have been preserved, there are no tones. Thus the valuable testimony of these dialects may be added to the evidence furnished by foreign transcriptions of Tibetan words, loan words in conterminous languages, and words of common descent in kindred tongues. And the whole shows plainly that the written forms of words which are not of later remodelling are really the representatives of the pronunciation of the language as it was spoken at the time of the transcription.

The concurrence of the evidence indicated above enables us to form the following outline of the evolution of Tibetan. In the 9th century, as shown by the bilingual Tibeto-Chinese edict at Lhasa, there was relatively little difference between the spoken and the written language. Soon afterwards, when the language was extended to the western valleys, many of the prefixed and most of the important consonants vanished from the spoken words. The ya-tag and ra-tag, or y and r subscript, and the s after vowels and consonants, were still in force. The next change took place in the central provinces; the ra-tags were altered into cerebral dentals, and the ya-tags became c. Later on the superscribed letters and finals d and s disappeared, except in the east and west. It was at this stage that the language spread in Lahul and Spiti, where the superscribed letters were silent, the d and g finals were hardly heard, and as, os, us were ai, oi, ui. The words introduced from Tibet into the border languages at that time differ greatly from those introduced at an earlier period. The other changes are more recent and restricted to the provinces of iJ and Tsang. The vowel sounds ai, oi, ui have become e, o, u; and a, o, u before the finals d and n are now et, o, ii. The mediae have become aspirate tenues with a low intonation, which also marks the words having a simple initial consonant; while the former aspirates and the complex initials simplified in speech are uttered with a high tone, or, as the Tibetans say, " with a woman's voice," shrill and rapidly. An inhabitant of Lhasa, for example, finds the distinction between s and z', or between s and z, not in the consonant, but in the tone, pronouncing s' and s with a high note and z' and z with a low one. The introduction of the important compensation of tones to balance phonetic losses had begun several centuries before, as appears from a Tibetan MS. (No. 462b St Petersburg) partly published by Jaeschke (Monatsber. Akad. Berl., 1867). A few instances will serve to illustrate what has been said. In the bilingual inscriptions, Tibetan and Chinese, set up at Lhasa in 822, and published by Bushell in 1880, we remark that the silent letters were pronounced: Tib. spudgyal, now pugyal, is rendered suh-pot-ye in Chinese symbols; khri, now t'i, is kieh-li; hbrong is puh-lung; snyan is sheh-njoh and su-njoh; srong is su-lun, su-lung and si-lung. These transcriptions show by their variety that they were made from the spoken and not from the written forms, and, considering the limited capacities of Chinese orthoepy, were the nearest attempt at rendering the Tibetan sounds. Spra or spreu (a monkey), now altered into deu at Lhasa, teu in Lahul, Spiti and Tsang, is still more recognizable in the Gyarung shepri and in the following degenerated forms - shreu in Ladak, streu-go in Khams and in cognate languages, soba in Limbu, saheu in Lepcha, simai in Tablung Naga, sibeh in Abor Miri, shibe in Sibsagar Miri, sarrha in Kol, sara in Kuri, &c. Grog-ma (ant), now altered into the spoken t'oma, is still kyoma in Bhutan, and, without the suffix, korok in Gyarung, k'oro- in Sokpa, k'orok, k'alek in Kiranti, &c. Grang-po- (cold), spoken t' ammo, is still grang-mo in Takpa, k'yam in Burmese, &c. A respectful word for " head " is ii, written dbu, which finds its cognates in Murmi thobo, Sibsagar Miri tub, &c. Bya (bird), spoken cha, is still pye in Gyarung. Brjod (to speak), pronounced jod, is cognate to the Burmese pyauhtso, the Garo brot, &c. The word for " cowries " is gron- in written, rum- in spoken Tibetan, and grwa in written Burmese; slop (to learn), spoken lop, is slop in Melam. " Moon " is zlava in written and dawa in spoken language, in which -va is a suffix; the word itself is zla-, cognate to the Mongol ssara, Sokpa sara, Gyarung t-sile, Vayu cholo, &c. The common spoken word for " head " is go, written mgo, to which the Manipuri moko and the Mishmi mkura are related. Sometimes the written forms correspond to double words which have disappeared. For instance, gye (eight), which is written brgyad and still spoken vrgyad in Balti in the west and Khams in the east, is gyod in Ladak, Lahul, Tsang and U. The same word does not appear elsewhere; but we find its two parts separately, such as Gurung pre, Murmi pre, Taksya phre and Takpa gyet, Serpa gye, Garo chet, &c. Rta (horse) is reduced to to in speech, but we find ri, rhyi, roh in Sokpa, Horpa, Tochu, Minyak, and td, tah, teh, t'ay in Lhopa, Serpa, Murmi, Kami, Takpa, &c., both with the same meaning. Such are the various pieces of evidence obtained from an endless number of instances. The cases referred to above do not, owing to the difference of the causes, yield to any explanation of this kind. And it must be admitted that there are also many cases, some of them caused by irregularities of writing, modification of spelling by decay, and by a probable use of prefixes still unascertained, which also resist explanation, though the account just given stands good whatever solution the question of prefixes may receive in future.


The religious literature, which is very considerable, is referred to under Lamaism. The non-religious literature of Tibet is not extensive, probably owing to the printing being in the hands of the priests. One of the most popular and widely circulated books is called The Hundred Thousand Songs of the Venerable Milaraspa. Their author Milaraspa (unless the work should be attributed to his disciples), often called Mila, was a Buddhist ascetic of the I ith century, who, during the intervals of meditation travelled through the southern part of middle Tibet as a mendicant friar, instructing the people by his improvisations in poetry and song, proselytizing, refuting and converting heretics, and working manifold miracles. His legends are not without wit and poetical merit. An equally popular book is the Love Songs of Ts'angs-dbyangs rgyamts'o, attributed to the dissipated young Dalai lama who was deposed in 1701 (see Lhasa). There are a number of poems written in an elevated style, also dramatic works chiefly of the character of mystery plays, and collections of fairy tales and fables. The Kesar Epic, which has been translated by A. H. Francke under the title of the Kesar Saga, is a widely known tale of a heroic warrior king of northern Asia named Kesar (believed by some to be a transcription of " Czar "), but it is not found as a printed book. Several collections of folk songs have also been published by A. Francke from Ladak. A long story book, called the Djiung yi (Sgrungs gyi gsungs ?), and regarded as the national epic in Kham, has been partly seen by Desgodins and Baber. It is in prose; but the dialogue, interspersed with songs, is metrical, and is much more extensive than the prose framework. Religious discussions and philosophical dissertations alternate with comic episodes. It includes three divisions - the Djiung ling, which describes the invasion of part of Tibet by the Djiung or Moso; the Hor ling, which recounts the conquest of the Hor (Turk tribes) by the Tibetans, and conveys much historical information in a tale of magic and marvel; and the Djia ling (Chinese division), which narrates a contest of unknown date between the Tibetans and the Chinese. This work has apparently never been published, and even the manuscripts of the three divisions cannot, says Baber, be obtained in a complete form. But. every Tibetan, or at least every native of Kham, who possesses any education, is able to recite or to chant passages of great length. Another Tibetan epic in Khaur, the Gyaldrung, praises Dagyolong, a famous warrior who subdued the savage men of Kham. Dramatic works exist, as also a version of the Ramayana in the first volume of the Bstodts'ogs of the Bstan-hgyur. Writing. - Writing was not introduced until the 7th century. Notched sticks (shing-chram) and knotted cords were in current use, but the latter contrivance is only faintly alluded to in the Tibetan records, while of the other there are numerous examples. No mention is anywhere made of a hieroglyphical writing, but on the eastern frontier the medicine-men or tomba of the Moso have a peculiar pictorial writing, which is known in Europe from two published MSS. (in Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc., 1885, vol. xvii.); though apparently now confined solely to purposes of witchcraft, it perhaps contains survivals of a former extensive system superseded by the alphabetic writing introduced from India. According to tradition - a tradition of which the ,details are still open to criticism - the alphabet was introduced from India by Tonmi, a lay Tibetan minister who was sent to India in 632 by King Srong-btsan to study the Sanskrit language and Buddhist literature. Tonmi introduced the modified Sanskritic " writing in thirty characters " (already detailed under Language and six of which do not exist in Sanskrit) in two styles - the " thick letters " or " letters with heads " (u-ch'en), now commonly used in printed books, and the half-cursive " cornered letters," so called from their less regular heads. The former are traditionally said to have been derived from the Landza character. The Landza of Nepal, however, is certainly not the origin of the Tibetan letter, but rather an ornamental development of the parent letter. The close resemblance of the Tibetan characters " with heads " to the Gupta inscriptions of Allahabad shows them to have been derived from the monumental writing of the period; and various arguments appear to show that the other Tibetan letters came from the same Indian character in the style in which it was used in common life. The Tibetan half-cursive was further developed into the more current " headless " (u-med) characters, of which there are several styles. The ancient manuscripts discovered by Dr M. Aurel Stein in Khotan seem to include very early, if not the earliest known, Tibetan documents. (L. A. W.; T. DE L.) Political Divisions. - Tibetans divide their country into five provinces: (i) Amdo, which comprises that part of the Chinese province of Kansuh which is inhabited by Tibetans, and Koko Nor region, extending southwards to the Yellow river and westwards as far as the Tsaidam. Amdo is inhabited in its eastern part by Tibetans, called Rongwa or " ravine-folk," who are agriculturists, and in the western by pastoral tribes, collectively called Panaka or the Three Panakas. (2) Khams or Khamdo, which includes all eastern Tibet between the Chinese, provinces of Szechuen and Yunnan, and the district of Lhorong jong, which forms the eastern border of the Lhasa-governed territory. This province is divided into the five Horba tribes, the eighteen Nyarong states in the valley of the upper Yalung, and the districts of Litang, Batang, Derge, Gartok Chiamdo and Draya. In Khamdo, but subject to the direct rule of Lhasa, are several small districts, the principal are Nyarong, Tsarong, and Mar Khams or " Lower Khamdo." Most of these districts are governed by deba or chiefs, while a few have kings or gyalpo, the most powerful of the latter being the king of Derge, famous for its inlaid metal and leather work, and of Chagla, or, as it is better known, Tachienlu, as it is called by the Chinese or the Dartsemdo of the Tibetans, the headquarters of the tea trade with China. Khamdo is under the direct rule of the Chinese provincial authorities of Szechuen. Some of its rulers send also tribute missions to Peking. For convenience of classification we may include in Khamdo a long strip of country extending along the northern border of the Lhasa territory of Lhorong jong and Larego as far as Tengri Nor, and bounded to the north by the Dang-la mountains, which is designated by Tibetans as Gyade or " the Chinese province." This strip of country has its: own native chiefs, but is' under the control of a high Manchu officer stationed at Lhasa, known colloquially as the " superintendent of savage tribes." (3) The third political division of Tibet is ZI (written Dbus), meaning " Central." It includes Lhasa and a large number of outlying districts in south-eastern Tibet, such as Po, Pemakoichen, Zayul. The pastoral or Dokpa tribes, north and north-east of Tengri Nor, are also under its rule. (4) The fourth division of Tibet, called Tsang, includes all south-west Tibet from the Lhasa or Central province to the Indian frontier as far as Lake Manasarowar. (5) The fifth division, called Ndri (Mngah-ris) by the Tibetans or Hundesh by the Indians, who call the inhabitants Huniyas, comprises the whole country around the sources and along the upper course of the Indus and the Sutlej, and also all north-western Tibet generally, as far as Ladak and the border of Kashmir. Tsang and Nari are under the rule of Lhasa, all the high civil and military authorities in these provinces holding their offices from it. These five provinces, however, do not include the elevated steppes of Tsaidam (extending between the Kuen-lun and the Altyn Tagh or Nan Shan ranges), inhabited by a mixed race of marauding people, Tunguts and Mongols. Yet Tsaidam is geographically but a northern extension of the great Tibetan plateau, and in most of its essential physical features it is more closely allied to the Chang-t'ang of the south than to the great sandy depressions of Chinese Turkestan or Mongolia on the north.


Though the whole of Tibet is under the suzerainty of China, the government of the country is divided into two distinct administrations, the one under the rule of the Dalai lama of Lhasa, the other under local kings or chiefs, and comprising a number of ecclesiastical fiefs. Both are directed and controlled by the high Chinese officials residing at Lhasa, Sining Fu; and the capital of the Chinese province of Szechuen. Northeastern Tibet or Amdo, and also a portion of Khamdo, are under the supervision of a high official (Manchu) residing at Sining Fu in Kansuh, whose title is Imperial Controller-General of Koko Nor. The native chiefs of the Panaka and other Tibetan tribes of this region are styled pdmbo (" official " or " headman ") by both the natives and the Chinese. The region under the supervision of the imperial controller includes all the countries north of the upper course of the Dre chu (Yangtsze-kiang). The people pay a small poll-tax to China, and are exempted from any other impost; they also pay a small tax in kind, sheep, butter, &c., to their chiefs. The province of Khamdo, including all eastern Tibet, is governed by local chiefs, styled gyalpo, " king," and deba, " chief," succession to the chieftainship being usually assured to the eldest son not a lama. Each chief appoints a certain number of civil and military officers to assist in the government of the country, and each village has its headman or bese, also an hereditary office. None of these officials receive salaries; they are only exempt from taxation, and some have grants of land made to them. The only tax paid to China is a so-called " horse-tax " of about 5d. for each family. Once in every five years the chiefs send a tribute mission to the capital of Szechuen, and once every ten years to Peking, but the tribute sent is purely nominal. The Chinese maintain a few small military posts with from six or eight to twenty men stationed in them; they are under the orders of a colonel residing at Tachienlu. There are also a few lama chiefs.

The part of Tibet under the rule of Lhasa, by far the largest and wealthiest, includes the central province of V, Tsang, Nari and a number of large outlying districts in southern and even in eastern Tibet. The central government of this part of the country is at Lhasa; the nominal head is the Dalai lama or grand lama. The Tashi lama or head of the monastery of Tashilhunpo near Shigatse is inferior to the Dalai lama in secular authority, of which, indeed, he has little - much less than formerly - but he is considered by some of his worshippers actually superior to him in religious rank. The person next in consideration to the two great lamas is the regent, who is an ecclesiastic appointed during the minority of each Dalai lama. Under him are four ministers of state (sha-pe or kalon), who divide among themselves, under the immediate supervision of the two imperial Chinese residents (or amban), the management of all secular affairs of the country. There is also a Tsong-du or National Assembly, divided into a greater assembly, including all government officials, and called together only to decide on matters of supreme importance, and a lesser assembly, consisting of certain high officials of Lhasa, noblemen, and delegates from the monasteries of Debung, Sera and Galdan, and fairly constantly in session. The Tsong-du discusses all matters of importance, especially relating to foreign policy, and its decisions are final. The army is under the command of the senior Chinese amban, a Tibetan generalissimo or mag-pon, and six Tibetan generals (dah-pon or de-pon). The military duties of the generals are slight, but their political status is high. Under the dah-pon are six rilpon or colonels, and a number of subordinate officers. The regular army consists (in theory) of 6000 men, on active service for three years, and at home on halfpay for three years. After the six years they pass into the reserve or militia (yulmag) . The taxes paid to the Lhasa government are mostly in kind, sheep, ponies, meal, butter, wool, native cloth, &c., and the coin paid is said to be about 130,000 ounces of silver a year. Chandra Das states that the crown revenues of Lhasa amount to about 2,000,000 rupees annually. All high Tibetan officials, whether ecclesiastics or laymen, are appointed subject to confirmation by the Chinese government. The administrative subdivisions of the Lhasa country, of which there are fifty-four, are called jong, or " prefecture," each of which is under the rule of two jong-pon, the one a lama, the other a layman. They collect all taxes, are responsible for the levy of troops, the courier service, corvees, &c., and exercise judicial functions, corresponding directly with Lhasa. There are 123 sub-prefectures under jong-nyer. Under them are village headmen or tso-piin, headmen or mi-pan, and elders or gyan-po. All are appointed for indefinite periods by the prefects.

Industries and Trade

The industries are confined to the manufacture of woollen cloth of various degrees of fineness and colour, and called truk, tirma and lawa, to that of small rugs, pottery of an inferior quality, utensils of copper and iron, some of which show considerable artistic skill in design, and to such other small trades as are necessary to supply the limited wants of the people. The best artisans are Nepalese and Chinese, the former being the best workers in metal and dyers.

The great trade routes are, first, that which, starting from Cheng-tu, the capital of the Chinese province of Szechuen, passes by way of Tachienlu or Dartsedo, Litang, Batang, Chiamdo, Larego, Lhasa, Gyantse, Shigatse, reaches the Nepalese Routes, &C. frontier at Nielam and goes thence to Katmandu. This route is called Gya-lam, " the China road " (or " high road "); the great bulk of Tibetan travel goes over it. Minor roads go from Sining Fu in the Chinese province of Kansuh via Tsaidam and the Tang la pass to Nagchuka and Lhasa. This road, called the Chang lam or " northern road," was much used by traders till the middle of the 19th century, when the Mahommedan rebellions in northwestern China practically closed it. Another road starts from Sung-pan in north-western Szechuen, and, by way of the sources of the Yellow River, joins the Gya-lam at Chiamdo; it is little used, as it passes through the country of the wild marauding .Golok. Still another route starts from Tachienlu, and by the valley of the Yalung and the Dze chu runs to Yekundo, and thence to Chiamdo. From this point it leads to Riwoche, and then through Gyade or Chinese province to Nagchuka and Lhasa. An important trade road starts from Likiang Fu in Yunnan, and by way of Chung-tien (Guiedam of the French missionaries) joins the Gyalam at Batang.

The most direct route from India to Lhasa, and that most frequented by the traders of Lhasa, is by the Chumbi Valley, and was followed by the British Mission. It crosses the Himalayas by the Tang Pass (15,200 ft.), and thence proceeds via Gyantse (13,200 ft.) and the Kharo Pass (16,500 ft.), Yamdok Lake (15,000) to the Tsang-po (12,100 ft.), and crossing the river winds up along the Kyi Chu, on which Lhasa stands, 33 m. from the Tsang-po. The total distance from Siliguri railway station is 357 m. From Katmandu, the capital of Nepal, a difficult mountain route runs by Kirong to the No la (16,600 ft.), descending from which pass it strikes the Tsangpo about midway between Lhasa and Lake Manasarowar. Farther west Tibet may be reached from Kumaon by one of a group of passes (of which the best known is the Milam) leading to Lake Manasarowar. The lake becomes a sort of obligatory point on all routes to Tibet which lie between Ladak and Nepal. The Shipki road from Simla, which strikes the Sutlej at Totling (where there is a bridge), leads up to Manasarowar, coinciding with the great high-road (Changlam) after passing Totling. The remarkable area of gold-mining industry which lies to the north-east of Gartok is reached by another route from Leh, which, crossing the Chang la close to Leh, passes by Rudok at the eastern extremity of Lake Pangong in a south-easterly direction, running north of the great mountain masses which crowd round the Indus sources. It continues through the central lake district to Tengri Nor and Lhasa. The principal trade with China is carried on over the Lhasa-Tachienlu road.

According to a summary furnished by Lieut.-Colonel Waddell (Lhasa and its Mysteries), the chief imports from China are silk, carpets, porcelain and tea-bricks. From Mongolia come leather, saddlery, sheep and horses, with coral, amber and small diamonds from European sources; from Kham perfumes, fruits, furs and inlaid metal saddlery; from Sikkim and Bhutan rice, musk, sugar-balls and tobacco; from Nepal broadcloth, indigo, brasswork, coral, pearls, sugar, spices, drugs and Indian manufactures; from Ladak saffron, dried fruits and articles from India. In the market at Lhasa opium sells for its weight in silver. The exports from Tibet are silver, gold, salt, wool, woollen cloth, rugs, furs, drugs, musk. By the Nepal, Kumaon and Ladak routes go borax, gold and ponies. Patna in Bengal is the chief market for the Nepal trade; Diwangiri and Udalguri for Assam, and Darjeeling and Kalimpong for Sikkim and Chumbi. One of the most universal articles of consumption in Tibet is the Chinese brick-tea, which even passes as currency. The tea imported from Szechuen is for the most part of very inferior quality, estimated at 35% tea-leaves and 65% twigs and other material. It is compressed into large bricks, and costs two-thirds of a penny per pound. Efforts have been made by the planters of the Duars to prepare Indian brick-tea for the Tibetan market, which is calculated to consume some 11,000,000 lb yearly.


It is curious that Tibet, though using coined money, seems never, strictly speaking, to have had a coinage of its own. Till nearly the end of the 18th century the coinage had for a long time been derived from Nepal. That valley prior to the Gurkha domination (1768) was under three native dynasties (at Bhatgaon, Patan and Katmandu), and these struck silver mohurs, as they were called, of the nominal value of half a rupee. The coins were at first not struck specially for Tibetan use, but were so afterwards. These latter bore (obverse) a Nepalese emblem surrounded by eight fleurons containing the eight sacred Buddhist jewels, and (reverse) an eight-petalled flower surrounded by eight fleurons containing the names of the eight jewels in Tibetan characters. Ingots of Chinese silver were sent from Lhasa with a small proportion of gold dust, and an equal weight in mohurs was returned, leaving to the Nepal rajahs, between gold dust and alloy, a good profit. The quality of these coins (weighing about 81 grains troy) was low, and at last deteriorated so much that the Tibetans deserted the Nepal mints. The Gurkhas, after becoming masters of Nepal, were anxious to renew the profitable traffic in coin, and in this view sent a deputation to Lhasa with a quantity of coin to be put in circulation. But the Gurkhas were mistrusted and their coin refused. A coinage was then issued (it would appear once only) in Tibet for domestic use, modelled on an old Kathmandu pattern and struck by Nepalese artists. The Gurkhas, however, in 1788 and following years continued to strike coins of progressively debased quality, which were rude imitations of the old Nepalese mintage, and to endeavour to force this currency on the Tibetans, eventually making the departure of the latter from old usage a pretext for war and invasion. This brought the intervention of the Chinese, who drove the Gurkhas out of Tibet (1792), and then began to strike silver coins for Lhasa use, bearing Chinese and Tibetan characters. For practical use these Tibeto-Chinese coins (of which 21 =1 rupee, and which are known as'naktang, i.e. nagskyang, " cash ") are cut into aliquot parts by the guidance of the figures on them. Large lumps of Chinese silver, stamped with the imperial seal, are also used. But of late years there has been an enormous influx of Anglo-Indian rupees, so that these have become practically the currency of the country, even to the frontier of China, and are now counted, instead of being valued as bullion. They are called Piling Lanka, (foreign coins), from the Hindi tank - a, a rupee.

Weights and Measures

The weights and measures in use are practically those of China; the dry measures, the most commonly employed, are the bre or bo of about four pints and the bchal of twenty bo; the capacity of the bo varies according to localities. The most commonly used measures of length are the span (mto), the cubit (kru), and the arm's-length or fathom (dompa). Exploration. - Tibet was long a terra incognita to Europeans. It is difficult of access on all sides, and everywhere difficult to traverse. Its great elevation causes the climate to be rather arctic than tropical, so that there is no gradual blending of the climates and physical conditions of India and Tibet, such as would tend to promote intercourse between the inhabitants of these neighbouring regions; on the contrary, there are sharp lines of demarcation, in a mountain barrier which is scalable at only a few points, and in the social aspects and conditions of life on either side. No great armies have ever crossed Tibet to invade India; even those of Jenghiz Khan took the circuitous route via Bokhara and Afghanistan, not the direct route from Mongolia across Tibet. Added to this was the religious exclusiveness of the Tibetans themselves. Thus it was no easy matter for the early European travellers to find their way into and explore Tibet. Friar Odoric of Pordenone is supposed to have reached Lhasa c. 1328, travelling from Cathay; but this visit is doubtful. On the strength of certain statements in the narrative of Fernao Mendes Pinto, some authorities hold that he may have visited Lhasa in the course of his journeys in the middle of the 16th century. The Jesuit Antonio Andrada, a native of Portugal (1580-1634), travelling from India, appears to have entered Tibet on the west, in the Manasarowar Lake region, and made his way across to Tangut and north-western China; in 1661 the Jesuit fathers Johann Grueber (an Austrian) and Albert D 'Orville (a Belgian) travelled from Peking via Tangut to Lhasa, and thence through Nepal to India. The extracts from Grueber's narrative, given by Athanasius Kircher in his China illustrate (Amsterdam, 1667), are accompanied by a good drawing of Potala. During the first half of the 18th century various Capuchin friars appear to have passed freely between Calcutta and Lhasa (1708) by way of Nepal. They even founded a mission in Lhasa, which, after failing at first, was more firmly established in 1715 and lasted till 1733.

In 1716 two Jesuits, P. Ipolito Desideri, of Pistoia, and P. Freyre, a Portuguese, reached Lhasa by way of Kashmir, Ladak, and the enormous journey from Ladak by the holy lakes and the valley of the Tsangpo. Desideri remained at Lhasa till April 1721, witnessing the capture of Lhasa successively by Dzungar and Chinese. Of the moderation of the latter, and their abstinence from all outrage or plunder, he speaks highly. His departure was due to controversies between the Jesuits and Capuchins at Rome, which caused an order to be issued for his retirement from Tibet. An interesting letter from him, dated the 10th of April, 1716, is printed in the Lettres edifiantes, rec. xv., and he left a large MS. volume of his observations. The next European visitor was Samuel Van de Putte, of Flushing, an LL.D. of Leiden, whose thirst for travel carried him through India to Lhasa (1730), where he is said to have resided a long time, to have acquired the language, and to have become intimate with some of the lamas. After travelling from Lhasa to Peking with a lama mission he returned, again by Lhasa, to India, and was an eyewitness of the sack of Delhi by Nadir Shah in 1737. Unhappily he ordered his papers to be burnt after his death, and the knowledge that such a traveller must have accumulated died with him. In 1745 the Capuchin mission finally collapsed after a revival had been attempted in 1741 by a party under Orazio della Penna, of which Cassiano Beligatti was chronicler. We possess some of the results collected by this mission in an excellent short treatise on Tibet by P. Orazio himself, as well as in the Alphabetum Tibetanum of the Augustine monk A. Georgi (Rome, 1762). Some fifty volumes, the relics of the mission library, were in 1847 recovered from Lhasa by Brian Hodgson, through the courtesy of the Dalai lama himself, and were transmitted as an offering to Pope Pius IX. The first Englishman to enter Tibet was George Bogle, a writer of the East India Company, in 1774, on an embassy from Warren Hastings to the Tashi lama of Shigatse. In 1783 Lieut. Samuel Turner was despatched on a mission similar to that of Bogle, and reached Shigatse. In1811-1812the first English visit to Lhasa occurred. The traveller was Thomas Manning, a Cambridge man of Caius College, who had been long devoted to Chinese studies, the " friend M." of Charles Lamb, from whom " Elia " professes to have got that translation of a Chinese MS. which furnished the dissertation on roast pig. After residing some years at Canton, Manning went to Calcutta, bent on reaching the interior of China through Tibet, since from the seaboard it was sealed. He actually did reach Lhasa, stayed there about five months, and had several interviews with the Dalai lama, but was compelled to return to India. He never published anything regarding his journey, and its occurrence was known to few, when his narrative was printed, through the zeal of Mr (afterwards Sir) C. Markham, in 1876. The account, though containing some passages of great interest, is disappointing. Manning was the only Englishman known to have reached the sacred city without the aid of an army. But the Abbe Huc states that William Moorcroft, an Englishman who made a journey into Tibet in the neighbourhood of Lake Manasarowar in 1812, and another into Kashgar in 1824, lived in Lhasa for twelve years disguised as a Mussulman. He was supposed to have died on the Afghan frontier in 1825 on his second journey; but if Huc's story is true he reached Lhasa in 1826, and did not leave it till 1838, being assassinated on his homeward journey, when maps and drawings were found on him, and his identity was for the first time suspected by the Tibetans. During the 19th century Europeans were systematically prevented from entering the country or speedily expelled if found in it. In1844-1846the French missionaries, Evariste Regis Huc and Joseph Gabet, made their way to Lhasa from China. They travelled from China the route followed by Grueber and by Van de Putte, via Siningfu, and reached Lhasa on the 29th of January 1846. On the 15th of March they were sent off under escort by the rugged road to Szechuen. Huc's book, Souvenirs d'un voyage, &c., is one of the most delightful books of travel. Huc was, indeed, not only without science, perhaps without accurate knowledge of any kind, but also without that geographical sense which sometimes enables a traveller to bring back valuable contributions to geographical knowledge though unable to make instrumental observations. He was, however, amazingly clever as a. narrator and sketcher of character. It was Ke-shen, a wellknown Chinese statesman, who was disgraced for making, peace with the English at Canton in 1841, and was then on a special deputation to Lhasa, who ostensibly expelled them. The Tibetan regent, with his enlightened and kindly spirit, is painted by Huc in most attractive colours, and Markham expressed the opinion that the native authorities were then willing to receive strangers, while the jealousy that excluded them was Chinese only. The brothers Henry and Richard Strachey visited Manasarowar Lake in 1846 and 1848 respectively. In 1866 the Abbe Desgodins travelled through portions of eastern Tibet and reached Chiamdo (in Kham), but was prevented from approaching any closer to Lhasa.

Beginning in 1863 a number of native Indian explorers were sent by the government of India into Tibet, for the purpose of surveying. the country and collecting information The Secret- about its inhabitants. These men were specially Service trained at Dehra Dun in the work of surveying, and entered Tibet with a strong wooden box with a specially concealed secret drawer for holding observing instruments, .a prayer wheel with rolls of blank paper instead of prayers in the barrel on which observations might be noted, and lamaic rosaries by the beads of which each hundred paces might be counted. As may be imagined, they carried their lives in their hands in case of discovery. The best known of these men were Pundit Nain Singh, Pundit Krishna, originally known as A.-K. (from the first and last letters of his name transposed) and Ugyen Gyatso, or U.-G. Nain Singh reached Lhasa in the course of two remarkable journeys. In the first, after an ineffectual attempt by Nepal, he travelled by the Manasarowar Lake, and the road thence eastward, parallel to the course of the Tsangpo, reaching Lhasa on the 10th of January 1866, and leaving it on the 21st of April 1867. On the second journey (1874) he started from Ladak, crossing the vast and elevated plateau by the Tengri Nor and other great lakes, and again reaching Lhasa on the 18th of November. Nain Singh gave an account of his journeys, and of his residence there, which, though brief, is full of intelligence and interest. This enterprising and deserving man, on the completion of his journey in 1875, was rewarded by the Indian government with a pension and grant of land, and afterwards received the gold medal of the Royal Geographical Society and the Companionship of the Star of India. He died early in 1882.

In 1878 A.-K also revisited Lhasa, stayed a year, and afterwards continued into Tsaidam, not returning to India till 1882. Lama Ugyen Gyatso, a semi-Tibetan, who was originally a teacher of Tibetan in a Darjeeling school, was trained by the Indian Survey Department as a surveyor, and being deputed to take tribute from his monastery to Tashilhunpo, he secured permission in 1879 from the Tashilhunpo authorities for Sarat Chandra Das, Bengali schoolmaster at Darjeeling, to visit that monastery, where his name was entered as a student. This was the opportunity for a series of valuable exploratory journeys through the Tibetan provinces adjoining the Indian and Nepalese frontiers, which added greatly to our stock of information about Lhasa and the districts surrounding that city. In their first journey the travellers set out from Jongri in Sikkim, and traversing the north-east corner of Nepal, crossed into Tibet by the Chatang la, and travelled northwards to Shigatse and Tashilhunpo. They returned by much the same way to near Khamba jong, and re-entered Sikkim by the Donkya pass. The journey was fruitful of information and valuable for mapping. Ugyen Gyatso undertook another journey in 1883 to complete and extend his former surveys. Travelling by way of Khamba jong directly to Gyantse and Shigatse, he turned eastwards at the latter town, finished the survey of the Yamdok t'so, and crossed the Himalaya into the valley of the Lobratsangpo or Upper Manas river. At Shakhang jong he was arrested, and his true character discovered. He managed, nevertheless, to extricate himself, and turning north-eastwards he passed through Chetang, and reached Lhasa by way of Samye monastery. From this city he started for Darjeeling, which he reached on December 15th, 1883. Chandra Das made a second journey in 1881, with the intention of reaching Lhasa. He travelled by way of Tashilhunpo, lay dangerously ill for some time at Samding monastery, duly reached Lhasa, where he visited the Dalai Lama, but owing to small-pox in the city could remain there only a fortnight, though he made full use of this time. During a journey home occupying nearly half a year he collected much further valuable information. Sarat Chandra Das's reports of his two journeys were published by the Indian government, but for political reasons were until 1890 kept strictly confidential. In 1899 they were edited by the Royal Geographical Society and in 1902 published. They contain valuable information on the superstitions, ethnology and religion of Tibet. Chandra Das also brought back from his journeys a large number of interesting books in Tibetan and Sanskrit, the most valuable of which have been edited and published by him, some with the assistance of Ugyen Gyatso and other lamas.

The Russian explorer Prjevalsky, although he was not, strictly speaking, an explorer of Tibet, did much incidentally towards determining the conformation of its north-eastern and eastern mountain systems. His third journey Explorers. into Central Asian wilds, which lasted from March 1879 to October 1880, included the sources of the Hw: Ho, or Yellow river, till then unmapped and unknown. His fourth journey, between November 1883 and October 1885, covered much of northern Tibet, and established the true character of Tsaidam. It was when setting out in 1888 to make an attempt to reach Lhasa that he died.

After Prjevalsky's death, V. I. Roborovski, with several companions, explored the western ranges of the Kuen-lun, and crossed southwards into Tibet, tracing the course of the Kiria river to the north-western plains of the central plateau. The distinguishing feature of these explorations, led by Russian officers, is their high scientific value and the contributions they have offered to the botany, natural history, geology and meteorology of the regions under investigation in addition to the actual geographical data attained. The Kuen-lun is known in their writings as the Russian Range.

In 1888 Mr W. W. Rockhill, an American possessing the unique qualifications for Tibetan exploration of a profound knowledge of the language and history of the country, coupled W. W. - with the instincts and training of a scientific explorer, hill, - left the lamasery of Kumbum in north-western 1889, 1891- Kansuh with three Chinese servants and a small 1892' caravan, proceeded round the north shore of Koko Nor, crossed eastern Tsaidam, and explored some of the rivers and lakes directly south of that region. Leaving Barong Tsaidam, he travelled south by way of the sources of the Yellow river, till he reached the Dre chu (upper Yangtsze-kiang), which he crossed to the north of the important trading centre of Yekundo. From this point he followed the valley of the Dre chu till about lat. 30 31', when he passed into the basin of the Yalung river, traversed the Horba states and finally reached Tachienlu by the Gi la and the valley of the Darchu.

In 1891 Mr Rockhill, starting again from Kumbum with three Chinese, passed south of Koko Nor through the country of the pastoral Panaka Tibetans, and by a very difficult pass (Vahon jamkar la) entered again the basin of the Tsaidam. He then turned west, followed the base of the south Tsaidam range as far as the Naichi Gol, where he entered the southern mountainous region forming the northern borderland of Tibet. From this point the traveller followed a general south-westerly direction around the heads of all the feeders of the upper Dre chu, and thence into the lake region of northern central Tibet, crossing Bonvalot's route south of the Chi-chang t'so and that of Bower a few days farther south. Near the Namru t'so his farther progress south was arrested and he was compelled to take an easterly course. After making a long detour north, often crossing the roads previously travelled by Bonvalot and Bower, and passing by Riwoche, he came to Chiamdo and Tachienlu. The results of Mr Rockhill's two journeys were important and valuable.

Messrs A. D. Carey and A. Dalgleish in1885-1887made a protracted journey from Ladak, in the course of which they crossed the Aksai Chin, reached Khotan, entered the A, D. Carey Tarim basin, and subsequently made their way eastward and then southward across the Altyn Tagh and gleish,1885- other ranges to the Tsaidam region. Finally a great 1887. circuit was made to the north and west, across the Humboldt range, and by Hami, Urumchi, and Yarkand to Ladak again. Bonvalot, accompanied by Father Dedeken of the Belgian Catholic Mission aid Prince Henri d'Orleans, left Charkhlik, south-west of the Lob Nor, in November 1889, and taking a very nearly due southerly course, reached on the 13th of February 1890 the eastern end of the Tengri Nor. Then pushing on southwards, he crossed the Nienchen-tang-la and entered the Dam district near the Lhasa-Sining high road. Here the party was stopped by Tibetan authorities and forced to take the tea route through Chinese Tibet (Gyade) by way of Batasumdo, Chebotenchin, Riwoche, Chiamdo to Chiangka, near the upper Yangtse-kiang, whence they proceeded to Tachienlu by Batang and Litang. Bonvalot noted some extinct volcanoes in the northern Tibet desert.

Accompanied. by Dr W. G. Thorold, of the India Medical Service, and a native sub-surveyor, Captain Hamilton Bower, I.S.C., set out from Leh on the 1st of June 1891, and crossed the Lanak la and the Ladak frontier on the 3rd of July. From this point the party took a 1891-1892. general easterly direction past the Mangtza t'so, Horpa t'so, Charol t'so, and around the northern end of the Aru t'so, all important lakes, at an average altitude of about 16,50o ft. From the Aru t'so the travellers took a south-easterly direction across the great northern plateau or Changtang till they reached the south-east side of the Garing t'so, in about 31° 30 N. and 89° 10' E. At this point Bower was stopped by some of the headmen of the Tibetan pastoral tribes (here under the rule of Lhasa), and obliged to make a long circuit to the north well out of Lhasa territory, and then eastward - till he struck the road to Chiamdo through Gyade or Chinese Tibet. Crossing the Sining-Lhasa road a little south of the Dang la range, and about two days' journey north of Nagchuka, Captain Bower crossed the Su chu, and following a course parallel to the Giama-nu chu, he made his way to Riwoche and thence to Chiamdo, from which town he followed the Lhasa-Tachienlu high road to the latter town, which he reached on the 10th of February 1892. The results of Captain Bower's journey were all of first-class importance.

Miss Annie R. Taylor, an Englishwoman of the China Inland Mission, started from Tao-chow (Kansuh) in September 1892, Miss A. R. accompanied only by five Asiatics. Passing by the Taylor, famous lamasery of Labrang, south of the Yellow 1892. river, she crossed that river and traversed the southern part of the country inhabited by the predatory Tibetan tribes called Golok. Thence, after crossing the upper Yalung, which flows by the town of Kanze, she pursued her journey to the upper course of the Yangtse-kiang (Dre chu), crossing that river somewhere near where A.-K. had crossed it in 1881 and Rockhill in 1889, and then came to the town of Gye-Yekundo. From this point she seems to have followed the Chiamdo road to near that town, when she turned westwards and continued in that direction till she came on the high road from Lhasa to Sining Fu somewhere north of Nagchuka. Here, like all other European travellers who have tried to reach Lhasa from the north, she was stopped by the Lhasan authorities. She appears to have followed about the same route on her way back to China, for she again went to Yekundo and thence by the high road, followed previously by A.-K. and Rockhill, to Tachienlu in Sze-ch`uen, where she arrived on the 12th of April 1893.

In 1893 MM J. L. Dutreuil de Rhins and Fernand Grenard, both Frenchmen, left Cherchen, with Lhasa as their objective. After crossing the Kara muren davan in the Arka Tagh, they Dutreuil de entered the lake region of north Tibet and followed a Rhins and general southerly direction across low ranges of hills F., Grenard, 1893-1894. and by numerous small lakes till they arrived in 2° 30' N., where they changed direction to eastsouth-east, passing to the north of the Chargut and Zilling lakes. The travellers were able to push on as far as the north-eastern bank of the great Tengri Nor, which they reached on the 30th of November 1893. Here they were finally stopped by the Tibetans, and after a delay of six weeks passed in vain attempts to obtain permission to go to Lhasa, they were only allowed to proceed to Nagchuka on the Sining-Lhasa road, and to continue by the Gyade route to Yekundo, near the upper Dre chu, and thence to Sining in Kansuh. From Nagchuka the travellers followed a heretofore unexplored road through the Gyade country, crossing Rockhill's route in the Pere-Sangyi districts near Tashiling (their Tachi gomba). The road followed by them to Yekundo is called by Tibetans the upper road (gong lam), and had apparently been followed previously by Miss Taylor. Reaching Yekundo (or Giergundo) on the 21st of May 1894, the travellers started for the Koko Nor and Sining on the 1st of June; but the party was attacked near Tungbumdo (Tumbumdo of previous travellers), and Dutreuil de Rhins was killed on the 5th of June. M Grenard after a few days resumed his march, passed east of the Noring t'so, the eastern extremity of Tosu Nor, and thence by the south-east corner of Koko Nor to the town of Sining Fu in Kansuh. The results of this exploration were a large number of maps and a report of great scientific importance.

Mr Littledale, an Englishman, accompanied by his wife, left Khotan in the early part of 1895, and travelling thence to St George R.Cherchen, he turned southwards, and following up Littledale, the course of the Cherchen darya to a point near its 1895. source, he continued in that direction between 87° and 89° E. across the northern plateau of Tibet till he reached the Zilling (or Garing) t'so. Pursuing, amid great difficulties, his southerly course, he finally reached the western bank of Tengri Nor. Pushing rapidly on in the direction of Lhasa, when not over 50 m. away from the city (camp, 30° 12' 12" N.) he was finally stopped by the Lhasan authorities and obliged, in great part on account of the severe illness of Mrs Littledale, to give up the attempt to reach Sikkim, and to take a direct trail to Ladak. In the latter part of this remarkable journey Littledale's route lay parallel but to the south of the routes followed previously by Nain Sing, and more recently by Bower. Passing by Rudok, the party re-entered Ladak at the village of Shushal on the 27th of October 1895, and Leh on the 2nd of November. Mr Littledale surveyed about 1700 m. of country between Cherchen and Shushal, and brought back a valuable collection of plants, which, added to those collected by other travellers in this part of Tibet, enabled botanists considerably to extend their scanty knowledge of this region.

Accompanied by Lieut. N. Malcolm of the 93rd Highlanders, Captain Wellby, of the British army, left Leh on the 4th of May 1896. The travellers were compelled to enter Tibet by way of the Lighten t'so in 35° N. Sa ptai b, From this point they turned due east and continued, 1896. with the usual incidents experienced by all travellers in those regions - cold, storms, lack of food and of grass, loss of ponies and pack animals, &c. - until they reached the northern branch of the Dre chu, the Chumar. Passing into the valley of the Nomoron Gol, south of the Tsaidam, they made their way by Barong Tsaidam to Donkyr and Sining Fu by the high road along the northern shore of the Koko Nor.

Captain Deasy, of the British army, left Leh on the 27th of May 1896, and crossing the Lanak la, passed by the Mangtza t'so, north of the Horpa t'so, to Teshil kul. Thence he endeavoured to proceed due east, but was obliged H ptDeasy, by the nature of the country to turn south, crossing 1 8 9 6. Bower's route on the west side of the Aru t'so. He finally completed a valuable survey of an important part of western Tibet.

In 1898 a Dutch missionary in China named Rijnhart started with his wife from the vicinity of Koko Nor, with the intention of reaching Lhasa, but at the upper Mekong, to the east-north-east of the city, he was murdered, and 1898. his wife reached the Chinese province of Sze-ch`uen with great difficulty alone.

In 1896 Sven Hedin, a Swede (1865-), left Kopa, a point about too m. south of Cherchen, and after crossing the Arka Tagh took an easterly course between that range and the S ven Ifedln, western continuation of the Kokoshili range till he 896=1908. entered the valley of the most northerly feeders of the Dre chu, when he passed into the valley of the Naichi Gol and entered the Tsaidam. His careful observations concerning the meteorology of this region are of great value, and his surveys between Kopa and the' Naichi Gol were in a country not previously explored. During his second and more important journey in Central Asia (1899-1902), Sven Hedin left Charkhlik, on the edge of the Taklamakan desert, in May 1901, intending to cross Tibet in a diagonal direction to the sources of the Indus. He made crossings of the lofty Arka Tagh and other parallel ranges to the south (running east and west). On his final penetration southward, arriving within fourteen days of Lhasa, he left the bulk of his caravan and pushed rapidly on towards that city, but was stopped when about five days from it (Aug. 5, 1901). Rejoining his caravan he turned westward, and passing through the country previously traversed by Bower and Littledale he reached Leh on the 10th of December Igo 1. His careful and detailed maps, lake soundings, hydrographic, geological, meteorological and other investigations gave him the highest rank among modern explorers.

On a third journey (1906-1908) he travelled by way of Turkish Armenia, Persia, Baluchistan and India, and entered Tibet by way of the Aksai Chin. Proceeding south-east, or diagonally across the country, he traversed 840 m. of unknown country, investigating the lake Ngangon t'so or Ngantse t'so, which had hitherto been only hypothetically mapped, and marched thence over the watershed between this and the Tsangpo. This watershed was found to lie much farther north than had been supposed, and to consist of very lofty mountains, in complicated ranges, from which large tributaries descend to the Tsangpo (Brahmaputra). After a journey of half a year Hedin reached Shigatse; on leaving it he turned north again, intending to explore the large sacred lake Dangra-yumso, west of Ngantse t'so, but when within sight of it he was prevented by Tibetans from approaching it. He now followed a devious route to Lake Manasarowar, entering Nepal for a short distance from Tradum, discovering the main source of the Brahmaputra in a great mass of glaciers called Kubigangri, in the northernmost chain of the Himalaya. He next investigated the sources of the Sutlej, made hydrographic investigations of the Manasarowar lakes, with the neighbouring underground waterways, and proceeded thence to Gartok. He confirmed the existence, long suspected, of a lofty mountain chain extending right across the country from the lake Tengri Nor (i.e. about 90° E.) to the district north of'Gartok (about 81° E.). He returned to Ladak in 1908. He was created a K.C.I.E. in 1910.

In May 1900 Kozlov, in command of the Russian Geographical Society's expedition to Central Asia and Tibet, left Barong Tsaidam, and travelling southwards, came to the Dre Captain chu (his Ndu chu, or. Blue river), at about the P. K. Kozlov, same point as Rockhill in 1889. Assisted by the 1900-1901. old chief of Nyamtso, he crossed the river and reached Yekundo (his Jarku Lomba). One stage beyond this place he left the route followed by former travellers and pushed northwards to near the town of Chiamdo, where after a sharp fight with the natives he turned eastwards. The winter was passed in the valley of the Ra chu, a tributary of the Chiamdo chu (his Dza chu), and excursions were made as far as Derge droncher. In the spring of 1901 the expedition resumed its march eastwards around the Dre chu and the Ja chu (Yalung river), followed up the left bank of the latter and got back to Russian Lelu (Oring t'so) on the 30th of May 1901.

In 1903 Captain C. G. Rawling and Lieut. A. J. G. Hargreaves of the Somerset Light Infantry, starting from Leh as Captain C. a base, carried out careful survey work (their chief G. Rawling, object being to extend that of Captain Deasy) in the 1903. territory lying east of the British frontier, i.e. about 80° to 83° E., and 34° N.

The British armed mission of 1904 performed a brilliant feat of marching and reached Lhasa, whose mysteries were thus unveiled, but this exploit belongs to the section dealing with history, below. (T. H. H.*; L. A. W.; O. J. R. H.) History. - Previous to the 7th century A.D. there was no indigenous recorded history of the country, the people being steeped in barbarism and devoid of any written language. The little that is known of this prehistoric period is gathered from the legends and the more trustworthy sidelights of contemporary Chinese records.

From the 11th century B.C. the Chinese used to call by the name of Kiang (or Shepherds) the tribes (about 150 in number) of nomads and shepherds in Koko Nor and the north-east of present Tibet; but their knowledge continued to be confined to the border tribes until the sixth century of our era. In the annals of the T'ang dynasty it is said that the population of the country originated from the Bat-Kian or Fah Kiang; and, as the information collected in the first part of the notice concerning Tu-bat, afterwards Tu-ban, the modern Tu-fan, dates partly (as is proved by internal evidence) from a time anterior to the T'ang dynasty (A.D. 618), some degree of reliance may be placed on it. There we are told that Fanni, a scion of the southern Liang dynasty of the Tu-bat family (which flourished from 397 to 415 at Lian-chow in Kansuh), who had submitted to the northern Liang dynasty, fled in 433 with all his people from his governorship of Lin-sung (in Kan-chow) westwards across the Yellow river, and founded beyond Tsih-shih (" heapy stones ") a state amidst the Kiang tribes, with-a territory extending over a thousand li. By his mild and just rule he was soon enabled to establish his sway over an immense territory. His original state was apparently situated along the upper course of the Yalung river, an affluent of the. Kin-sha-kiang.

Through the exertions of Prinsep, Csoma de Koros, Emil Schlag intweit, Chandra Das, Rockhill, Huth, Waddell and others, we possess many copies of lists of kings, forming the dynasties of Tibet from the legendary beginnings between the 5th and 2nd century B.C. down to the end of the monarchy in 914. But the serious divergences which they show (except as to later times and in general outlines) make their unauthentic character plain. As one of the lists is accompanied by a commentary, it is the easiest to follow, and requires only to be supplemented here and there from the other lists and from the Chinese sources, translated by Bushell and Rockhill. The first king, Gnya-khri btsan-po, is said to have been the fifth son of King Prasenajit of Kosala, and was born with obliquely drawn eyes. He fled north of the Himalayas into the Bod country, where he was elected king by the twelve chiefs of the tribes of southern and central Tibet. He took up his residence in the Yarlung country south of Lhasa. This Yarlung, which borrowed its name from the Yalung of the state of Fanni Tu-bat, is a river which flows into the Yaro-tsangpo (Brahmaputra). The first king and his six successors are known as the seven celestial khri; the next series consists of six kings known as the earthly legs; and they were followed by eight terrestrial lde. This threefold succession is apparently an imitation or a debased form of the ancient legend of heavenly, earthly and human rulers, which was carried into Persia and China, and from the latter country into Japan and Tibet - the relative number of kings being altered in the last-named countries to suit local convenience and the small amount of truth which they contain. Whilst giving an Aryan descent to their first kings, the ancient Tibetans assigned to their princesses a divine origin, and called them lhamo, " goddess." The gynaecratic habits of the race are manifested in the names of all these kings, which were formed by a combination of those of their parents, the mother's generally preceding that of the father. The lde kings were followed by four rulers simply called btsan (" mighty ").

Then occurs a break in the lineal descent, and the king next in order (c. 461) may be the Tatar Fanni Tu-bat, but most probably his son and successor. His name was Lha-tho thori gnyan-tsan, otherwise Gnyan-tsan of Lha-tho thori, according to the custom usual in Tibet of calling great personages after the name of their birthplace. Lha-tho means " heaps of stones," and therefore appears to be a translation of Tsih-shih, " heapy stones," the country mentioned in connexion with the foundation of a state by Fanni Tu-bat. It was during his reign that the first Buddhist objects are reputed to have reached Tibet, probably from Nepal. Little is said of his three immediate successors. The fourth was gNam-ri srong btsan, who died in 630. During his reign the Tibetans obtained their first knowledge of arithmetic and medicine from China; the prosperity and pastoral wealth of the country were so great that " the king built his palace with cement moistened with the milk of the cow and the yak." To the same king is attributed the discovery of the inexhaustible salt mine called Chang-gitsa'wa (Byang-gi-tsa'wa =" northern salt "), which still supplies the greater portion of Tibet. The reign of his illustrious son, Srong tsan gam-po, opened up a new era; he introduced Buddhism and the art of writing from India, and was the founder (in 639) of Lha-ldan, afterwards Lha-sa. He was greatly helped in his proselytism by his two wives, one a Nepal princess, daughter of King Jyoti varma, the other an imperial daughter of China; afterwards, they being childless, he took two more princesses from the Ru-yong (= "left corner " o) and Man (general appellative for the nations between Tibet and the Indian plains) countries. As a conqueror he extended his sway from the still unsubdued Kiang tribes of the north to Ladak in the west, and in the south he carried his power through Nepal to the Indian side of the Himalayas. How far southward this dominion at first extended is not known; but in 703 Nepal and the country of the Brahmans rebelled, and the Tibetan king, the third successor of Srong tsan gam-po, was killed while attempting to restore his power. It is rather curious that nothing is said of this Tibetan rule in India, except in the Chinese annals, where it is mentioned until the end of the monarchy in the 10th century, as extending over Bengal to the sea - the Bay of Bengal being called the Tibetan Sea. J. R. Logan has found ethnological and linguistic evidence of this domination, which was left unnoticed in the Indian histories. Mang-srong mang tsan, the second son and successor of Srong tsan gam-po, continuing the conquests of his father, subdued the Tukuhun Tatars around the Koko-Nor in 663, and attacked the Chinese; after some adverse fortune the latter took their revenge and penetrated as far as Lhasa, where they burnt the royal palace (Yumbu-lagang). Khri lde gtsug-brtan-mesag-ts'oms, the grandson of Mang-srong and second in succession from him, promoted the spread of Buddhism and obtained for his son, Jangts'a Lhapon, who was famous for the beauty of his person, the hand of the accomplished princess Kyimshang, daughter, otherwise kung-chu, of the Chinese emperor Juy- (? Tai) tsung. But the lady arrived after the death of her betrothed, and after long hesitation became the bride of the father. She gave birth in 730 to Khri srong lde tsan, in the Buddhist annals the most illustrious monarch of his country, because of the strenuous efforts he made in favour of that religion during his reign of fortysix years (743-789). His son and successor Muni tsan-po, being .determined to raise all his subjects to the same level, enacted that there should be no distinction between poor and rich, humble and great. He compelled the wealthy to share their riches with the indigent and helpless and to make them their equals in respect of all the comforts and conditions of life. He repeated this experiment three times; but each time he found that they all returned to their former condition, the rich becoming still richer and the poor still poorer. The sages attributed this curious phenomenon to the good and evil acts of their former lives. Nothing of importance occurred during the following reigns, until that of Ralpachen, who won glory by his care for the translations of the Buddhist scriptures which he caused to be completed, or rewritten more accurately when required. In this reign a severe struggle took place with China, peace being concluded in 821 at Ch'ang-ngan and ratified at Lhasa the following year by the erection of bilingual tablets, which still exist. Ralpachen was assassinated by the partisans of Lang-dharma and the country fell into disorder. Lang-dharma instituted a violent persecution of Buddhism; but he was soon assassinated in his turn and the kingdom divided into a western and an eastern part by his two sons. The partition did not, however, prevent internecine wars. The history for some time now becomes rather intricate and requires some attention. Pal K'or tsan, the second western king, after a reign of thirteen years, died leaving two sons, Thi Tashi Tsegpa-pal and Thi Kyida Nyimagon. The latter went to Nari (Mngari) and founded the .capital Purang; he left three sons, of whom the eldest declared himself king of Mang-yul, the second seized Purang, and the youngest, Detsud-gan, became king of the province of Shang-shung (the modern Gughe). The revival of Buddhism began with the two sons of the last-named, the elder of whom became a monk. The younger, Khorre, inherited his father's throne, and was followed in his authority by twenty successors. Tashi Tsegpa also had three sons - Palde, Hodde and Kyide. The descendants of the first made themselves masters of Gung-t'ang, Lugyalwa, Chyipa, Lhatse, Langlung and Tsakor, where they severally ruled as petty chiefs. The descendants of Kyide spread themselves over the Mu, Jang, Tanag, Yarulag and Gyaltse districts, where they also ruled .as petty princes. Hodde left four sons - Phabdese, Thide, Thichung and Gnagpa. The first and fourth became masters of Tsangrong, the second, took possession of Amdo and Tsongkha, the third became king of U (or the central Lhassan province), and removed the capital to Yarlung, south of Lhasa. He was followed on his throne from son to son by eleven successors. History is silent as to the fate of the eastern king, the other son of Lang-dharma, and his successors, but the geographical names of the chieftainships enumerated above make it clear that the western kingdom had 'extended its power to the east. Chronology is deficient for all that period. While the dynasty of Khorre in Shang-shung and that of Thich'ung in U were running, another authority, destined to become the superior of both, had arisen in Tibet. Khorre left his throne to his son Lhade, who was himself succeeded by his three sons, the youngest of whom invited the celebrated Indian Buddhist, Atisha, to leave his monastery Vikramashila for Tibet, where he settled in the great lamaserai of Thoding in Nari. Besides religious books and teachings, he introduced in 1026 the method of computing time by cycles of sixty years, " obtained from the Indian province of Shambala." He was the first of the several chief priests whose authority became paramount in the country. The kings of U greatly patronized them, as for instance in the case of the celebrated Sakya Pandita by the seventh of these kings. Pandita, at the special request of Kuyuk, the successor of Ogdai, paid a visit to his court in 1246-1248. Five years afterwards Kublai Khan conquered all the east of Tibet; and, after he had ascended the throne of China, the Mongol emperor invited to his court Phagspa Lodoi Gyaltshan, the nephew of the same Pandita. He remained twelve years with the emperor, and at his request framed for the Mongol language an alphabet imitated from the Tibetan, which, however, did not prove satisfactory, and disappeared after eightyfive years without having been very largely used. In return for his services, Kublai invested Phagspa with sovereign power over (1) Tibet proper, comprising the thirteen districts of U and Tsang, (2) Khalil and (3) Amdo. From this time the Sakya-pa lamas became the universal rulers of Tibet, and remained so, at least nominally, under twenty-one successive lamas during seventy years (1270-1340). Their name was derived from the Sakya monastery, which was their cradle and abode, and their authority for temporal matters was exercised by specially appointed regents. When the power of the Sakya began to wane, that of the rival monasteries of Digung, Phagdub and Tshal increased largely, and their respective influence and authority overbalanced that of the successors of Phagspa. It was at this troubled epoch that Chyang Chub Gyaltshan, better known as Phagmodu from the name of his native town, appeared on the scene. He subdued Tibet proper and Kham, for the continued possession of which he was, however, compelled to fight for several years; but he succeeded in the long run, and with the approval of the court of Peking established a dynasty which furnished twelve rulers in succession. When the Mongol dynasty of China passed away, the Mings confirmed and enlarged the dominion of the Tibetan rulers, recognizing at the same time the chief lamas of the eight principal monasteries of the country. Peace and prosperity gradually weakened the benign rule of the kings of this dynasty, and during the reign of the last but one internecine war was rife between the chiefs and nobles of U and Tsang. This state of things, occurring just as the last rulers of the Ming dynasty of China were struggling against the encroachments of the Manchus, their future successors, favoured the interference of a Khoshot Mongol prince, Tengir To, called in the Tibetan sources king of Koko Nor. The Mongols were interested in the religion of the lamas, especially since 1576, when Altan, khakan of the Tumeds, and his cousin summoned the chief lama of the most important monastery to visit him. This lama was Sodnam rGyamtso, the third successor of Gedundub, the founder of the Tashilhunpo monastery in 1447, who had been elected to the more important abbotship of Galdan near Lhasa, and was thus the first of the great, afterwards Dalai, lamas. The immediate successor of Gedundub, who ruled from 1475 to 1541, had appointed a special officer styled depa to control the civil administration of the country. To Sodnam rGyamtso the Mongol khans gave the title of Vajra Dalai Lama in 1576, and this is the first use of the widely known title of Dalai Lama. During the minority of the fifth (really the third) Dalai Lama, when the Mongol king Tengir To, under the pretext of supporting the religion, intervened in the affairs of the country, the Pan-ch'en Lo-sang Ch'o-kyi Gyal-ts'ang lama obtained the withdrawal of the invaders by the payment of a heavy war indemnity, and then applied for help to the first Manchu emperor of China, who had just ascended the throne. This step enraged the Mongols, and caused the advance of Gushri Khan, son and successor of Tengir To, who invaded Tibet, dethroned all the petty princes, including the king of Tsang, and, after having subjugated the whole of the country, made the fifth Dalai lama supreme monarch of all Tibet, in 1645. The Chinese government in 1653 confirmed the Dalai Lama in his authority, and he paid a visit to the emperor at Peking. The Mongol Khoshotes in 1706 and the Sungars in 1717 interfered again in the succession of the Dalai lama, but the Chinese army finally conquered the country in 1720, and the present system of government was established. It is probable that the isolation of Tibet was inspired originally by the Chinese, with the idea of creating a buffer state against European aggression from this direction.

In1872-1873some attempt was made by Indian officials to open up trade with Tibet; further attempts followed in 1884, and in 1886 a mission was .organized to proceed to Lhasa. The Chinese, however, although they had at first granted a passport to this mission, later objected to its advance, and it was abandoned. The Tibetans assumed this to show England's weakness; they invaded Sikkim, and in 1888 it was necessary to send a force under General Graham to expel them. In 1890 a treaty was concluded, and trade regulations under this treaty in 1893; but the negotiations were carried on with the Chinese authorities, and the lamas, considering themselves to have received insufficient recognition, repudiated them and offered further insults. A new development presently appeared in the situation. A lama, a Mongolian Buriat by birth and a Russian subject, whose Russianized name was Dorjiev, had come to Lhasa about 1880. When subsequently visiting Russia, he appears to have drawn the attention of the authorities towards Tibet as a field for their statecraft, and he established himself as the unofficial representative of Russia in Lhasa. He obtained a commanding influence over the Dalai Lama, impressed upon him the dangers which threatened Tibet from England, and suggested the desirability of securing Russian protection and even the possibility of converting the tsar and his empire to Buddhism. The Dalai Lama assented, and was even prepared to visit St Petersburg, but was checked by the Tsong-du (assembly). He therefore sent a representative of high rank, who had audience of the tsar, and returned with proposals for a treaty and for the residence of a Russian royal prince in Lhasa in order to promote friendly relations. But both the Chinese authorities in Lhasa and the Tsong-du were averse from any such proceedings. The Dalai Lama, inspired by Dorjiev, now took steps to bring on a crisis by provoking England. He felt sure of Russian support. Russian arms had been imported into Lhasa. It was suspected, although denied, that a treaty was in draft under which Russia should assume the suzerainty of Tibet. A further encroachment on British territory in Sikkim was made by Tibetans, and various other slights were offered.

The viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, now decided that strong action was necessary; but the home government at first assented only to the despatch of Colonel (afterwards Sir) F. E. Younghusband with a small escort to negotiate at Khambajong, to the north of the Sikkim frontier. The mission arrived at this point on the 7th of July 1903, and here it remained till the filth of December. No responsible Tibetan representatives appeared, and such negotiations as were carried on were abortive. On the 3rd of October, therefore, the British government authorized the occupation of the Chumbi valley, and an advance to Gyantse in Tibet and military preparations, with the difficult attendant problem of transport, were undertaken. Colonel Younghusband again accompanied the mission, and the troops were commanded by General Ronald Macdonald. The Jelep pass was crossed and the entry into Tibet effected on the 12th of December. British An advance was made to Tuna, where part of the Armed 1904. expedition wintered. A further advance being made sion, 1904. P g on the 31st of March 1904, the first hostile encounter took place at Guru, when the Tibetans (the aggressors) were defeated. With some further fighting en route the expedition reached and occupied Gyantse on the 12th of April; here some of the British forces were subsequently beleaguered, and the most serious fighting took place. In fact the advance to Lhasa, resumed after the storming of the Gyantse Jong (fort) on the" 6th of July, met with comparatively little opposition, and the capital was reached on the 3rd of August. The Dalai Lama had fled with Dorjiev. Partly on this account, and in spite of the attempts of the Chinese authorities to bring about a settlement, there was some delay owing to the attitude of the lamas, but finally a treaty of peace was concluded on the 7th of September. The principal provisions were - the Sikkim frontier violated by the Tibetans was to be respected; marts were to be established for British trade at Gyantse, Gartok and Yatung; Tibet was to pay an indemnity of L. 00,000 (subsequently reduced to one-third of this sum); and no foreign power was to receive any concession in Tibet, territorial or mercantile, or to concern itself with the government of the country. The expedition left Lhasa on the 23rd of September and reached India again at the close of the following month. The treaty was slightly modified later in matters of detail, while the adhesion of China to the treaty was secured by an agreement of the 27th of April 1906.

The Anglo-Russian convention of 1907 determined the following conditions with respect to Tibet - the recognition of the suzerain rights of China and the territorial and administrative integrity of the country; that no official representative at Lhasa should be appointed either by England or by Russia, and that no concessions for railways, mines, &c., should be sought by either power. An annex to the convention provided that, except by arrangement between England and Russia, no scientific expedition should be allowed to enter the country for three years.

In January 1908 the final instalment of the Tibetan indemnity was paid to Great Britain, and the Chumbi valley was evacuated. The Dalai Lama was now summoned to Peking, where he obtained the imperial authority to resume his administration in place of the provisional governors appointed as a result of the British mission. He retained in office the high officials then appointed, and pardoned all Tibetans who had assisted the mission. But in 1909 Chinese troops were sent to operate on the Sze-ch`uen frontier against certain insurgent lamas, whom they handled severely. When the Dalai Lama attempted to give orders that they should cease, the Chinese amban in Lhasa disputed his authority, and summoned the Chinese troops to enter the city. They did so, and the Dalai Lama fled to India in February 1910, staying at Darjeeling. Chinese troops followed him to the frontier, and he was deposed by imperial decree. The British government, in view of the apparent intention of China to establish effective suzerainty in Tibet, drew the attention of the government at Peking to the necessity of strictly observing its treaty obligations, and especially pointing out that the integrity of the frontier states of Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim must be respected. To the Dalai Lama, who had attempted to obtain British intervention at Peking, it was made clear that he personally had no claim to this, as the British government could only recognize the de facto government in Tibet.


- Besides the records of the earlier explorers, the following works may be consulted: Clements Markham, Tibet (Bogle and Manning, London, 1879); W. W. Rockhill, The Land of the Lamas (London, 1891); Diary of a Journey through Mongolia and Tibet (Washington 1895); Geographical Journal, vol. iii.; " Tibet from Chinese Sources," Journ. Roy. Asiatic Soc. (1891); Notes on the Ethnology of Tibet (Washington, 1895); Chandra Das, Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet (London, 1899); G. Bonvalot, De Paris au Tonkin a travers le Tibet inconnu (Paris, 1892); H. Bower, Geog. Journal, vol. i.; Diary of a Journey across Tibet (Calcutta, 1893); Miss A. R. Taylor, National Review (September 1893) Geog. Journal, vol. iii.; Dutrueil de Rhins and F. Grenard, Mission scientifique dans la haute Asie (Paris, 1897) St G. Littledale, Roy. Geog. Journal, vol. vii.; M. S. Wellby, Geog. Journal, vol. xii.; Through Unknown Tibet (London, 1898); H. H. P. Deasy, Geog. Journal (August 1900); Sven Hedin, Through Asia (London, 1898); Geog. Journal (April 1902 and April 1909); Central Asia and Tibet (London, 1903); Adventures in Tibet (London, 1904); Trans-Himalaya (London, 1909); S. C. Rijnhart, With the Tibetans in Tent and Temple (London, 1901); Delmar Morgan, Geog. Journal, vol. ii.; L. A. Waddell, The Buddhism of Tibet, or Lamaism (London, 18 95); " The Falls of the Tsangpo," Geog. Journal (1894); Lhasa and its Mysteries (London, 1905); Sir R. Strachey, Geog. Journ. (Feb., March and April 1900); N. M. Prjevalsky, " Notes on Gold-washing," Proceedings of Roy. Geog. Soc., vol. vii.; " Journeys and Discoveries," ibid., vols. x., xi., xii., &c.; Roborovski, " Journeys and Discoveries," Proceedings of Roy. Geog. Soc., vols., xii. and xiii.; A. von Rosthorn, " Notes on Tea Trade between China and Tibet," Geog. Journ., vol. vi.; General Walker, " Four Years' Journeys by A. K.," Proceedings of Roy. Geog. Soc. (Feb. 1885); P. K. Kozlov, " The Russian Tibet Expedition, 1899-1901," Geog. Journ. (May 1902); " Through Eastern Tibet and Kam," ibid. vol. xxxi. (1908); W. B. Hemsley, " The Flora of Tibet or High Asia," Linnean Soc. Journ. (1902), vol. xxxv.; Graham Sandberg, Exploration of Tibet (Calcutta, 1904); Tibet and the Tibetans (London, 1906); F. Grenard, Tibet: the Country and its Inhabitants (London, 1904); C. G. Rawling, The Great Plateau (London, 1905); E. Candler, The Unveiling of Lhasa (London, 1905); P. Landon, Lhasa (London, 1905); W. Filchner, Das Kloster Kumbun in Tibet (Berlin, 1906); Official Reports, &c., of the British Mission; Blue-Book (ed. 5240) on Anglo-Tibetan relations (September 1904-May 1910) (London, 1910).

(T. DE L.; L. A. W.; O. J. R. H.)

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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See also Tíbet



Definition 1&2.
Definition 3.


  • enPR: tĭ-bĕt', tə-bĕt', IPA: /tɪˈbet/, /təˈbet/, SAMPA: /tI"bet/, /t@"bet/

Proper noun


  1. A plateau region in Central Asia, where the Tibetan people traditionally live, encompassing what is now Tibet Autonomous Region (also called Xizang), most of Qinghai, the western half of Sichuan, a small part of Yunnan and a small part of Gansu in the Peoples Republic of China, and also the country of Bhutan, and the Indian regions of Sikkim and Ladakh.
  2. A independent kingdom formerly existed in Central Asia where Tibet Autonomous region is.
  3. A common shorthand name for Tibet Autonomous Region, previously mostly coterminous with the independent portion of Tibet until 1950.

Usage notes

In Tibetan, བོད (Bod) properly refers to the entire plateau region that is translated to English as Tibet or Tibet Plateau, of which Tibet Autonomous Region (Hanzi: 西藏自治区, Pinyin: Xizang Zizhiqu) only forms one part. In international media, Tibet is often used as the shorthand name for Tibet Autonomous Region entity. In modern Chinese of the People's Republic of China, 西藏 Xizang refers to Tibet Autonomous Region (including P.R.C.-claimed Arunachal Pradesh in India), but is named after Tibetan དབུས་གཙང (Dbus-gtsang or Ü-Tsang), one of the traditional provinces of Tibet that includes the capital Lhasa. Today in the complex politics surrounding Tibet, the use of Tibet for the entire plateau can be offensive to Chinese people particularly in the People's Republic of China, while the use of Tibet exclusively for Tibet Autonomous Region can be offensive to Tibetan people. Additionally, when the term Tibet Plateau is used consistently instead of Tibet to refer to བོད (Bod), it can also be considered insensitive to Tibetan people.


  • Xizang Autonomous Region (for definition #2)



Proper noun

Tibet m.

  1. Tibet


Proper noun


  1. Tibet


Proper noun

Tibet m.

  1. Tibet


Proper noun

Tibet m.

  1. Tibet

Derived terms


Proper noun

Tibet n.

  1. Tibet


Proper noun

Tibet m.

  1. Tibet

Derived terms


  • Anagrams of beitt
  • bitte


Proper noun


  1. Tibet


Proper noun

Tibet n.

  1. Tibet


Proper noun

Tibet m.

  1. Tibet

See also

Simple English

Map of Tibet (in red) and China

Tibet, also called The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Xizang Autonomous Region ((Tibetan: བོད་ ; Wylie: Bod-rang-skyong-ljongs; Simplified Chinese: 西藏自治区; Traditional Chinese: 西藏自治區; Pinyin: Xīzàng Zìzhìqū, literally: "western depository" coming from the Chinese name for Ü-Tsang (simplified Chinese: 卫藏; traditional Chinese: 衛藏; pinyin: Wèizàng)), is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It's capital region is Lhasa.

Tibet's religion is Buddhism. Their traditions make it a place of fascination to other countries. The local monks are sometimes said to have special, superhuman abilities.[1] Whether or not this is true, the writings of Tibetan monks are sometimes shared with outsiders, and are lauded for their insight. The Tibetan Book of the Dead contains rituals for the dead and dying, similar to the Catholic Last Rites rituals.[2]

The religious leader of Tibet's Buddhists is called the Dalai Lama. He was the ruler of Tibet before he was forced to leave the country when the Chinese army took over. The Dalai Lama presently lives in exile in India, but often visits other countries.


Tibet becomes part of China

Tibet was independent until the 1950s (although no countries recognised it).[3] Officially Tibet was part of China since the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty.

Influence outside Tibet

Tibetan culture also influences other regions nearby, such as Nepal, Bhutan, parts of eastern Kashmir and some regions in India, most notably Sikkim, Uttaranchal and Tawang . China claims part of the Indian province of Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet.


There has been some protests in Tibet since China took control in the 1950s.[4] Most of them have been because of social or economic problems. Some of them have been because there are people who believe Tibet should not be a part of China. A railway line, the Qingzang railway, has been built, linking China to Lhasa. Also, rising prices of food, and difficult access to higher education have angered many people.[5] The railway line also raised fears about more migration.[6] This situation has led to some violence against people from outside Tibet. Some of this violence occurs outside Tibet.[7] When it comes to assigning government posts in Tibet, more Chinese seem to be assigned, and less Tibetans.[8] The Chinese Government claims that if Tibet would be released (become independent again), its economy would suffer.

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