China’s long History with Tibet

July 10, 2018

On October 7, 1950, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invaded Tibet. The PLA quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces, and on October 19, the five thousand Tibetan troops surrendered.

When you hear about China and Tibet, what are your first thoughts? I suspect most people in the United States and Europe only know about China’s alleged ‘brutal’ conquest of Tibet and think Tibetans lost their freedom. If that’s what they have been programed to think, they are wrong. If they think Tibet was never part of China before October 19, 1950, they are also wrong.

The October 1912 issue of National Geographic Magazine describes how the Imperial government in Beijing managed a difficult Tibet, and letters Sir Robert Hart wrote in the 19th century also mention Tibet as part of China.

China considered Tibet a vassal state or a tributary of the empire.  In fact, starting in the 13th century, Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasty troops occupied Lhasa. There was a political governor and the Dali Lama, the religious leader of Tibet. Both were selected for their positions by the Emperor of China. When a Dali Lama died, the list of replacements was sent to the Emperor in Beijing and he selected the new Dali Lama.

In 1890, a Convention between Great Britain and China was signed that offers more evidence that China’s emperor considered Tibet part of his realm and Great Britain agreed. Tibet is mentioned twenty-nine times in that treaty.

Tibet has never had a Democracy and will probably never have one. The following quotes show you what Tibet was like before 1950.


One error mentioned in this video is that “many” Tibetans live outside of Tibet. Only 1-percent of Tibetans live outside of Tibet and they represent the landowners and ruling class that fled when China returned to Tibet in 1950.

The October 1912 National Geographic Magazine, page 979, reported, “Lamaism is the state religion of Tibet and its power in the Hermit Country is tremendous. Religion dominated every phase of life. … For instance, in a family of four sons, at least two, generally three, of them must be Lamas. Property and family prestige also naturally go with the Lamas to the monastery in which they are inmates.

“Keeping the common people or laymen, in ignorance is another means of maintaining the power of the Lamas. Nearly all of the laymen (serfs) are illiterate. Lamas are the only people who are taught to read and write.”

Under theocratic Lamaism, there was no freedom of religion, no freedom of speech, and there were no elections.

It is a historical fact that a Tang Dynasty Emperor married his favorite daughter to Tibet’s king as a way to stop Tibetans from raiding into China, something that Tibetans had done for centuries. Tibetans were not always Buddhists. Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by a conquering Mongol king around the time of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty.

Then a reluctant Tibet was ruled over by the Yuan (Mongol), Ming (Han) and Qing (Manchu) Dynasties from 1277 to 1913, when Great Britain convinced Tibet to break from China at the same time the Qing Dynasty was collapsing.

Between 1913 and 1950, Tibet was ruled by a Dalai Lama and was an autocratic theocracy, not a democracy or a constitutional republic like the United States. In case you don’t know it, a theocracy is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god. In Tibet’s case, his holiness the Dalai Lama is considered a living “God-King”, and he isn’t a Christian, a Jew, or a Muslim.

Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.

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