In the “Contra Costa Times”, I read Tibetan leaders seek East Bay help by Doug Oakley, May 27, 2010. This was a politically correct news piece that was partially accurate because Oakley only shared part of the history between China and Tibet—the part that favors Tibet’s so-called government in exile, which represents about 1% of all Tibetans—the rest still live in China.
Oakley writes that, “Tibet was invaded by the Chinese army in 1950. After the Tibetan army was defeated, both sides signed a 17-point agreement in 1951 recognizing China’s sovereignty over Tibet.”
These facts were correct, but they did not tell the whole story.
Any historian who checks primary-source material that does exist outside of Communist China will discover that Tibet was ruled by three Chinese dynasties: The Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties from 1277 – 1911. Even after Sun Yat-Sen’s so-called Republic replaced the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Tibet was considered part of China.
Primary sources like the October 1912 issue of The National Geographic Magazine—with a piece written by a Chinese doctor who was sent to Tibet by China’s emperor in 1907— and more than fifty letters written by Sir Robert Hart during the 19th century support the fact that Tibet was part of China for more than six centuries prior to 1913 when the British Empire convinced Tibet to break free for political reasons. [Note: I have an original copy of that issue of NGM, and copies of Hart’s letters]
The so-called Tibetan government in exile says they are seeking autonomy within China. In fact, China does offer a form of autonomy to the 56 minorities that live in China, but this isn’t the level of autonomy that the Dalai Lama demands, which is a return to the old Tibetan ways described in that 1912 issue of National Geographic, which is unacceptable to China.
Tibet has never been a democracy or a republic. And the average life expectancy for Tibetans increased from 35 years in 1950 to over 65 years by the 2000s while China has ruled the region, and going to school is mandatory for children. Source for life expectancy facts: Tibet from the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
Between 1913 and 1950, life expectancy in Tibet did not improve during the few decades that the Dalai Lama ruled the region. In fact, little to nothing changed and most Tibetans were mostly illiterate serfs/slaves of wealthy and powerful landowners. In fact, every family had to send a son/s to become Tibetan Buddhist lamas. There was no choice and there was no educational system for children. The Tibetan people have more freedom of choice today—even under CCP leadership—than at any time in recorded history.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
His latest novel is the multiple-award winning Running with the Enemy.
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Why do we only hear one side of this? It’s important to hear both sides. Thank you. Gives me somethign to think about.
The information is out there but few people have time or are willing to take the time to dig for facts when the hunt for information can sometimes stretch into weeks. Even media reporters don’t have the time to do that because they usually face a daily deadline before the next new story is assigned. And then there is always a risk of bias even if the reporter doesn’t mean to be biased.
Hi i was just wondering what’s the source(s) that says Tibet was under Ming rule. i know Mongolian warlords were still present after the yuan dynasty but i thought Tibet just became a satellite state if not a tributary state but never fully annex until the Qing.
From my primary sources (Robert Hart’s letters and that October 1912 National Geographic Magazine), I read that the Ming Emperor who drove out the Mongols sent a Ming army to Tibet because that was the last stronghold of the Yuan Dynasty after they were driven out of China by the Han who ruled the Ming Dynasty. After the Ming army drove the Yuan Dynasty’s Mongol army out of Tibet, the Ming Emperor left a garrison there to make sure the Mongols would not return.
But I want to make this clear, China has never been totally ruled by a central authority. Like the United States, the central government does not exercise total control over the provinces/states, and it has been China’s practice for millennia to allow recognized minorities–today that number is 56 and includes about 100 million people in China—that were conquered and/or joined the empire to have some autonomy over their regions but not total independent rule.
For example, while traveling from province to province in China with my wife, I asked her why the taxi drivers in Shanghai were so honest compared to the taxi drivers in Xian who often cheated us at every turn——we eventually rented a car and driver who was very honest and hated the dishonesty of taxi drivers in Xian.
My wife explained that the honesty or dishonesty of the people mirrored the honesty or dishonesty of the provincial government and each province was different depending on the governor and the people he/she appointed to run that province.
And over the centuries, like a person’s lungs, China has expanded and contracted. If we were to compare China’s last three dynasties in size, it is obvious that Tibet was considered part of China by all three dynasties.
Yuan Dynasty——who ruled over Tibet ——covered 1.4 million square kilometers (540,543 square miles).
The Ming Dynasty ruled over 6.5 million Square kilometers (2.51 million square miles). Because the Ming Dynasty eventually was almost five times the size of the Yuan, do you think they let Tibet go and still managed to expand?
The Qing Dynasty ruled over 14.7 million square kilometers (5.68 million square miles) but the Qing Dynasty also expanded into Southeast Asia and fought wars in Vietnam and Burma including Manchuria and other territories beyond the Great Wall.
The question should be, what level of autonomy did each dynasty [or emperor] give to Tibet, and let’s not forget how Buddhism spread to Tibet. That’s another interesting fact that adds to the argument against the Tibet separatists.
The Tibetans, who had long been divided among many warring clans, were united under the rule of king, Srong-tsangam-p [in the 7th century]. His success in uniting the Tibetans brought him and Tibet newfound prestige in Asia. As a result, he was able to wed both a Chinese and a Nepalese princess. His Chinese [the daughter of the Chinese emperor at the time—she’s mentioned in the National Geographic piece] and Nepalese queens were both Buddhists and before long the kind also became interested in Buddhism.
But is wasn’t easy for Buddhism to get a foothold in Tibet. Some Tibetans regarded Buddhism as a foreign religion and were opposed to it. Even in the eighth century many powerful people in Tibet opposed Buddhism and put pressure on the king to expel any influence of this religion out of Tibet.
It would take almost a thousand years for Buddhism to become a dominant religion in Tibet but resistance would continue until the 18th century when the Manchus intervened to end the long period of political division in Tibet by appointing the Dalai Lama as the ruler of Tibet. The Dalai Lama was a creation of a Qing Chinese Emperor.
Therefore, the position of a Dalai Lama ruling over Tibet was instituted by the Manchu Emperor who ruled China.
All Tibet had as a Buddhist state ruled by a Dalai Lama was different levels of autonomy until it broke away from China due to pressure from the British Empire at the same time that the Qing Dynasty was collapsing and China was thrown into Civil War and then sucked into World War II after Japan invaded.
I know that one of the arguments made by Tibetan separatists in exile in India is that the Yuan and Qing were not Han Chinese so they do not count.
That’s faulty logic. Under that logic, when the United States was conquering the native American Indian tribes [including the state of Hawaii] and forcing the survivors on reservations where these tribes have some self-rule and autonomy through mostly elected tribal councils with federal over site through the FBI, what happens when the US government is ruled by a political party that did not rule the United States when those treaties were signed. If a Democratic Congress and President ruled America when a tribe was defeated does that mean the treaty with that tribe is void when a Republican President and Congress rules the country? I don’t think so.
It is well known that both the Mongol and Manchu emperors adopted the Chinese culture and way of ruling China when they ruled during those two dynasties. The Yung and Qing Dynasties did not rule China as Hitler or the Japanese Emperor ruled the nations they conquered during World War II. Instead, the Mongols and the Manchu’s who ruled over China adopted Chinese cultural and political methods of ruling the country leaving the Han empirical bureaucracy mostly in place without changing the structural organization of China. Of course, that didn’t stop the majority Han from resenting these minorities that ruled over China and wanting to gain back the leadership of China.
It is disingenuous and misleading of the Tibetan separatists operating out of India to claim that they lost their freedom when freedom as it is known in the West today has never existed in Tibet’s history. Tibet has never had a democratically elected government ever. But then again, all is fair in love and war and that includes spreading lies to gain your agenda and achieve your goals.
This leads me to one last question: What are the real goals of the 1% of Tibetans——who were mostly the landowners who ruled over Tibet and the 99% of Tibetans who were illiterate serfs [the same as slaves to the powerful landowners] for centuries———that now live in India in exile claiming falsely that they are the legitimate democratically elected government of Tibet?
I’m sorry but no matter how i look at it, the yuan dynasty looks much bigger than the ming dynasty even at their largest. So can you explain why you depicted yuan dynasty smaller than ming.
Also im wondering what political or social solutions do you have for the current situation between tibetan in exiles and beijing.
You may be thinking of the full size of the Mongol Empire, the largest empire in history. But Kublai Khan had a falling out with his brother Ariiqboke and ended up in a civil war over control of the empire. Then there were clashes with cousin Berke, the ruler of the Golden Horde in the northwestern part of the empire. Berke would make alliances with the Egyptian Mamluks and offer his support to Ariqboke. These divisions continued for some time dividing the empire. The Mongol Empire and the Yuan Dynasty that Kublai Khan ruled from Peking [known as Beijing today] were separate not one.
Here is a map that compares the Yuan Dynasty with the Mongol Empire and modern China and it shows that Tibet was split between the Mongol Empire and the Yuan Dynasty. It would be difficult to argue that Tibet ruled itself during this era.
And here is a comparison of the Ming Dynasty with the Yuan Dynasty at their peak size showing the Ming ruled over 6,500,000 square kilometers compared to 1,400,000 for the Yuan Dynasty at its peak.
And this link will take you to a comparison of the Ming with the Qing Dynasty at their peak size. It shows that the Qing was 14,700,000 square kilometers compared to 6,500,000 for the Ming.
Those areas that belonged to the Mongol Empire were different administrative areas than the Yuan Dynasty that Kublai Khan ruled as China’s Emperor from Peking, and Kublai didn’t rule over the entire Mongol Empire. It was divided and falling apart with civil wars between factions.
Thank you for an educational post about this topic. There’s been a terrific amount of misinformation.
You are welcome. I have learned that politics linked to political/religious agendas should seldom be taken at face value. All one has to do is compare the Democrats and the Republican parties in the United States to discover how misleading politics can be when driven by political and or religious agendas. And when private-sector profits become part of that agenda, the lies only grow larger. For example, the campaign to discredit the causes of global warming. If we follow the trail back to the source, it usually leads to people like the Koch brothers who own a large segment of the oil industry in the United States and are financial supporters of almost all the conservative think tanks that are spreading misinformation about global warning to plant doubts in the public’s thoughts.
If you haven’t visited Fact Check.org, you might want to drop by and see how misleading both sides are. I kept score of the lies and misinformation during the last Presidential election and the GOP lied about twice as much as the Democrats but both sides lie and misrepresent the truth to win.
I wonder who would win elections if one side stuck to the truth in an attempt to battle the lies of the other side. Maybe to survive, they have no choice but to lie.