Tibet, the remote and mainly-Buddhist territory known as the "roof of the world", is governed as an autonomous region of China. Beijing claims a centuries-old sovereignty over the Himalayan region. But the allegiances of many Tibetans lie with the exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, seen by his followers as a living god, but by China as a separatist threat. Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties. China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces. In 1959, after a failed anti-Chinese uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled Tibet and set up a government in exile in India. Most of Tibet's monasteries were destroyed in the 1960s and 1970s during China's Cultural Revolution. Thousands of Tibetans are believed to have been killed during periods of repression and martial law.
Buddhism reached Tibet in the seventh century. The Dalai Lama, or Ocean of Wisdom, is the leading spiritual figure; the Panchen Lama is the second most important figure. Both are seen as the reincarnations of their predecessors. The selection of a Dalai Lama and a Panchen Lama has traditionally followed a strict process. But the Dalai Lama and Beijing are at odds over the 11th incarnation of the Panchen Lama, having identified different youngsters for the role. The Dalai Lama's choice, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has not been seen since his detention by the Chinese authorities in 1995. There have been intermittent and indirect contacts between China and the Dalai Lama. The exiled spiritual leader advocates a non-violent, negotiated solution to the Tibet problem and accepts the notion of real autonomy for Tibet under Chinese sovereignty. China has questioned his claims that he does not seek independence. China has also accused the Dalai Lama of inciting the dozens of self-immolations that since 2009 have taken place among Tibetans opposed to Chinese rule. He rejects this and has questioned the effectiveness of such protests. Tibet's economy depends largely on agriculture. Forests and grasslands occupy large parts of the country. The territory is rich in minerals, but poor transport links have limited their exploitation. Tourism is an important revenue earner.
A chronology of key events:-
- 7th-9th century:- Namri Songzen and descendants begin to unify Tibetan-inhabited areas and conquer neighbouring territories, in competition with China.
- 822:- Peace treaty with China delineates borders.
- 1244:- Mongols conquer Tibet. Tibet enjoys considerable autonomy under Yuan Dynasty.
- 1598:- Mongol Altan Khan makes high lama Sonam Gyatso first Dalai Lama.
- 1630s-1717:- Tibet involved in power struggles between Manchu and Mongol factions in China.
- 1624:- First European contact as Tibetans allow Portuguese missionaries to open church. Expelled at lama's insistence in 1745.
- 1850s:- Russian and British rivalry for control of Central Asia prompts Tibetan government to ban all foreigners and shut borders.
- 1865:- Britain starts discreetly mapping Tibet.
- 1907:- Britain and Russia acknowledge Chinese suzerainty over Tibet.
- 1912 April:- Chinese garrison surrenders to Tibetan authorities after Chinese Republic declared.
- 1912:- 13th Dalai Lama returns from India, Chinese troops leave.
- 1913:- Tibet reasserts independence after decades of rebuffing attempts by Britain and China to establish control.
- 1935:- The man who will later become the 14th Dalai Lama is born to a peasant family in a small village in north-eastern Tibet. Two years later, Buddhist officials declare him to be the reincarnation of the 13 previous Dalai Lamas.
- 1949:- Mao Zedong proclaims the founding of the People's Republic of China and threatens Tibet with "liberation".
- 1950:- China enforces a long-held claim to Tibet. The Dalai Lama, now aged 15, officially becomes head of state.
- 1963:- Foreign visitors are banned from Tibet.
- 1965:- Chinese government establishes Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR).
- 1971:- Foreign visitors are again allowed to enter the country.
- 1988:- China imposes martial law after riots break out.
- 1989:- The Dalai Lama is awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace.
- 1993:- Talks between China and the Dalai Lama break down.
- 2008 October:- The Dalai Lama says he has lost hope of reaching agreement with China about the future of Tibet. He suggests that his government-in-exile could now harden its position towards Beijing.
- 2009 March:- China marks flight of Dalai Lama with new "Serfs' Liberation Day" public holiday. China promotes its appointee as Panchen Lama, the second-highest-ranking Lama, as spokesman for Chinese rule in Tibet. Government reopens Tibet to tourists after a two-month closure ahead of the anniversary.
- 2011 March:- A Tibetan Buddhist monk burns himself to death in a Tibetan-populated part of Sichuan Province in China, becoming the first of 12 monks and nuns in 2011 to make this protest against Chinese rule over Tibet.
- 2011 November:- The Dalai Lama formally hands over his political responsibilities to Lobsang Sangay, a former Harvard academic. Before stepping down, the Dalai Lama questions the wisdom and effectiveness of self-immolation as a means of protesting against Chinese rule in Tibet.
- 2013 February:- The London-based Free Tibet group says further self-immolations bring to over 100 the number of those who have resorted to this method of protest since March 2011.
- 2013 June:- China denies allegations by rights activists that it has resettled two million Tibetans in "socialist villages".
Planning a tour to Tibet is an excitement in itself as the land is so different, unusual and mystical than the rest of the world. Tibet is an exotic place, a land of ancient Buddhist culture, centuries old monasteries and uniquely beautiful desert terrain. Tibet has remained a mysterious land until recent past, cut off from the rest of the world by the mighty Himalayas.
With our well designed Tibet tour packages, we will help you to experience the authentic Tibet with its fascinating Gompas, wandering nomads, ancient markets and amazing turquoise lakes. To travel to Tibet before modern changes take place is an exotic experience. Whether you are in a look for a cultural tour to Lhasa, an overland adventure to Everest base camp or trekking tours to its mountains and lakes, you will find here complete Tibet holidays.
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