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FACTFILE: From Superpower to Province

June 20, 2008

By Jukka O. Miettinen
Helsingin Sanomat (Finland)
June 18, 2008

Tibet lies on a high plateau in the Himalayas known as "The Roof of
the World", which has the largest mountain range and the highest
snow-capped peaks in the world. Politically, Tibet is part of the
People's Republic of China (PRC).

The political history of Tibet began in the centuries following the
beginning of the Christian Era, when the influence came mainly from
Eastern India.

Tibetan Buddhism became established as the state religion in the 7th
century, and at the same time, Tibet's written language took its final form.

At around the same time, Tibetan power increased even further into
the Chinese territory, and in late 763, Tibetan troops occupied the
Chinese capital Chang'an (the modern-day Xian) for 15 days, while
Nanzhao (now Yunnan) remained under Tibetan control from 750 to 794.

For almost a century, Tibet was the leading state in its cultural area.

In the 9th century, the Mongols broke the Tibetan superpower, which
was divided into kingdoms. In 1246, they were annexed to the Mongol Empire.

At the end of the 13th century, Tibet became a part of the Yuan
Dynasty that ruled China, Mongolia, and some adjacent territories
from 1271 to 1368, while Tibetan Buddhism flourished.

In 1578, the institution of the Dalai Lama was established by the
Mongols who had adopted Buddhism.

The Mongol rule was followed by Manchu emperors who conquered Tibet in 1720.

The Manchu influence did not last for very long, and in the 19th
century Tibet became a pawn in the international superpower game. In
1904, the British invaded Tibet.

The dissolution of the Manchu Empire led to a proclamation
reaffirming Tibet's independence in 1911.

In 1950-1951, the People's Liberation Army of the PRC conquered the
country, initially allowing it to maintain its central
administration. However, when the situation became critical in 1959,
the incumbent Dalai Lama escaped to India.

The subsequent anti-religion campaigns saw the destruction of
monasteries and cultural treasures already at the end of the 1950s.
In the period from 1966 to 1976, the Cultural Revolution brought
damage to Tibet and across the entire People's Republic of China.

At the beginning of the 1980s Tibet was opened up to tourism.

In 1989, the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, living in exile in
Dharamsala, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 13.6.2008
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