Tibet is located in southwest China. The ancestors of the Tibetan race who lived there struck up links with the Han in the Central Plains long before the Christian era. Later, over a long period of years, the numerous tribes scattered on the Tibet Plateau became unified to form the present Tibetan race. By the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the Tibetans and Hans had, through marriage between royal families and meetings leading to alliances, cemented political and kinship ties of unity and political friendship and formed close economic and cultural relations, laying a solid foundation for the ultimate founding of a unified nation. In Lhasa, the capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, the statue of the Tang Princess Wen Cheng, who married the Tubo tsampo, king of Tibet, in 641, is still enshrined and worshiped in the Potala Palace. The Tang-Tubo Alliance Monument marking the meeting for this purpose between Tang and Tubo erected in 823 still stands in the square in front of the Jokhang Monastery. The monument inscription reads in part, "The two sovereigns, uncle and nephew, having come to agreement that their territories be united as one, have signed this alliance of great peace to last for eternity! May God and humanity bear witness thereto so that it may be praised from generation to generation."
In the mid-13th century, Tibet was officially incorporated into the territory of China's Yuan Dynasty. Since then, although China experienced several dynastic changes, Tibet has remained under the jurisdiction of the central government of China.
Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
In the early 13th century, Genghis Khan, leader of the Mongols, established the Mongol Khanate in north China. In 1247 Sagya Pandit Gonggar Gyamcan, religious leader of Tibet, met the Mongol Prince Gotan at Liangzhou (present-day Wuwei of Gansu, China) and decided on terms for Tibetan submission to the Mongols, including presentation of map and census books, payment of tributes, and the acceptance of rule by appointed officials. The Tibetan work Sagya Genealogy written in 1629 includes Sagya Pandit's letter to the religious and secular leaders in the various parts of Tibet that they must pledge allegiance to the Mongols and accept the regional administrative system prescribed for Tibet. The regime of the Mongol Khanate changed its title to Yuan in 1271 and unified the whole of China in 1279, establishing a central government, which, following the Han (206 BC-220) and Tang dynasties, achieved great unification of various regions and races within the domain of China. Tibet became an administrative region directly under the administration of the central government of China's Yuan Dynasty.
The Yuan emperor established the Xuanzheng Yuan or Ministry for the Spread of Governance to directly handle important military and political affairs of the Tibet region. Choice of its members lay with the emperor and its reports were submitted directly to the monarch. Yuanshi, the chief minister having real authority in the Xuanzheng Yuan, was a post generally held concurrently by the right-hand prime minister of the central government who was in charge of the whole nation's governmental affairs.
In the Tibetan region, local military and administrative organs were set up under the name of the High Pacification Commissioner's Office, which was under the Xuanzheng Yuan. Under the jurisdiction of this office were 13 wanhu offices (myriarchies each in command of 10,000 households) and more qianhu offices (chiliarchies each in command of 1,000 households) handling civil administration. The names of these organizations and official posts were decided by the central government of the Yuan Dynasty. It also had troops stationed in Tibet. A royal prince and his descendents were stationed on the eastern border of Tibet at the head of an army. When Tibet was enmeshed in trouble, the prince could enter the area from nearby garrison to perform his duty of guarding the security of the border region. In 1290, when the head of a wanhu office rose in rebellion, the central government of the Yuan Dynasty dispatched the prince into Tibet at the head of his army to put it down.
The central government of the Yuan Dynasty sent officials into Tibet to set up post stations, whose size varied according to the local population, topography and resources. These post stations were linked up in a communication line extending from Tibet up to Dadu (present-day Beijing).
The central government of the Yuan Dynasty also dispatched officials into Tibet to conduct censuses, establish the number of corvee laborers in areas under various wanhu offices and decide the number of corvee laborers, provisions and animal transport the areas along the post route had to supply. Such censuses were conducted three times in Tibet, in 1268, 1287 and 1334. The Tibetan work History From the Han and Tibetan Sources records them in detail.
Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
In 1368 the Ming Dynasty replaced the Yuan Dynasty in China, and inherited the right to rule Tibet.
The central government of the Ming Dynasty retained most of the titles and ranks of official positions instituted during the Yuan Dynasty. In the central and eastern parts of present-day Tibet, the Dbus-Gtsang Itinerant High Commandery and the Mdo-khams Itinerant High Commandery were set up respectively. Equivalent to provincial-level military organs, they operated under the Shaanxi Itinerant High Commandery and, at the same time, handled civil administration. In Ngari in west Tibet, the E-Li-Si Army-Civilian Marshal Office was instituted. Leading officials of these organs were all appointed by the central government.
The third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Chengzu (reigned 1403-1424) saw the advantage of combined Buddhist religious and political power in Tibet and rivalry between sects occupying different areas. So he conferred honorific titles on religious leaders in various parts of Tibet such as the "prince of Dharma," "prince" and "national master in Tantrism." Succession to such princeship needed the approval of the emperor, who would send an envoy to confer the official title on each new prince. Only then could the new prince assume his role. According to the stipulations of the Ming court, the prince had to dispatch his envoy or come in person to the capital to participate in the New Year's Day celebration each year and present his memorial of congratulation and tribute. The Ming court had detailed stipulations that limited the dates for presenting tributes, the number of personnel allowed in the capital, the route to be taken, and also provisions to be supplied by local authorities along the route. The tablets wishing longevity to the emperors before which the prayers had to prostrate themselves are still kept in some of the monasteries in Tibet.
The Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Lama are the two leading incarnation hierarchies of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The Gelug Sect rose during the Ming Dynasty, and the 3rd Dalai Lama was the abbot of one of the sect's monasteries. The central government of the Ming Dynasty showed him special favor by allowing him to pay tribute. In 1587 he was granted the title of Dorjichang or Vajradhara Dalai Lama.
Any official of the Tibetan local government who offended the law was punished by the central government.
Qing Dynasty (1644-1911)
When the Qing Dynasty replaced the Ming Dynasty in 1644, it further strengthened administration over Tibet. In 1653 and 1713, the Qing emperors granted honorific titles to the 5th Dalai Lama and the 5th Bainqen Lama, henceforth officially establishing the titles of the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni and their political and religious status in Tibet. The Dalai Lama ruled the bulk of areas from Lhasa while the Bainqen Erdeni ruled the remaining area of Tibet from Xigaze. In 1719, Qing government troops were sent into Tibet to dispel the Zungar forces which had been entrenched in Lhasa for three years, and set out to reform Tibet's administrative system. The Qing emperor made a young Living Buddha of the Xikang area the 7th Dalai Lama and had him escorted into Tibet, and appointed four Tibetan officials renowned for meritorious service "Galoins" to handle Tibet's political affairs. From 1727, High commissioners were stationed in Tibet to supervise local administration on behalf of the central authorities. Officials were also assigned about this time to survey and delimit the borders between Tibet (i.e. Xizang) and Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai.
In order to perfect Tibet's administrative organizations, the Qing Dynasty on many occasions enacted "regulations" to rectify and reform old systems and establish new ones. The Authorized Regulations for the Better Governing of Tibet, promulgated in 1793, had 29 articles. Their major purport was:
The Qing government holds the power to confirm the reincarnation of all deceased high Living Buddhas of Tibet including the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni. When the reincarnate boy has been found, his name will be written on a lot, which shall be put into a gold urn bestowed by the central government. The high commissioners will bring together appropriate high-ranking Living Buddhas to determine the authenticity of the reincarnate boy by drawing lots from the gold urn. (Both the gold urn and lots are still preserved in Lhasa.) The tonsure of the incarnate Living Buddha, his religious name, the choice of the master to initiate him into monkhood and his sutra instructor all have to be reported by the high commissioners to the imperial court for examination and approval. The central government will send high officials to supervise in person the installation ceremony for the new Dalai Lama and the new Bainqen Erdeni and also the ceremony for their taking over reins of government at coming of age.
The high commissioners will supervise the handling of Tibetan affairs on behalf of the central government, enjoying the equal standing with the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni. All the Galoins and those below them are subordinates.
The ranks and numbers of Tibetan civil and military officials, and procedures for their promotion and replacement are stipulated. The highest-Ranking Tibetan officials including four Galoins and six Deboins are to be appointed by the central government. The annual salaries of the Galoins and Deboins will be paid by the central government.
A regular army of 3,000 will be organized in Tibet. The regulations stipulate ranks and numbers of military officials, the source of troop pay and provisions, plus weaponry and places where troops are to be stationed. In addition, some 1,400 troops will be transferred from the interior to stations in various localities of Tibet. Both Tibetan and Han troops are put under the command of officers sent by the central government.
A mint will be set up in Tibet along the lines established by those in the interior to make official money for circulation. On the two sides of the silver coinage the words "Qianlong Treasure" will be cast in the Han Chinese and Tibetan.
The annual financial receipts and expenditures of the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni will be subject to checking by the high commissioners.
Tibet's taxation and corvee labor will be born by the whole society on an equal footing. Only those nobles and large monasteries who have made real contributions will enjoy preferential treatment and exemptions, but these must be examined and approved by the high commissioners and the Dalai Lama, who will issue them licences for this purpose.
Merchants from Nepal and Kashmir wanting to do business in Tibet must register. The registration book must be filed with the high commissioners for record. The appropriate officials will issue laissez-passers to them. Any foreigner applying to enter Lhasa must be examined for approval by the High Commissioner's Office. The high commissioners will issue laissez-passers to Tibetans who apply to go to Nepal or other places, and set the leaving and returning dates for them.
National boundary markers will be erected in a number of places where southwest Tibet borders on countries like India and Nepal. The high commissioners will make an annual tour in Tibet to inspect the defense arrangements of the troops stationed there and matters concerning border markers.
All foreign affairs involving Tibet will be left completely in the hands of the high commissioners. No Galoin is allowed to maintain correspondence with the outside, and all letters and alms received by the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni from the outside must be submitted to the high commissioners for censorship and decision concerning a reply.
Criminal punishment will be reported to the high commissioners for examination and approval.
Between 1727, when the high commissionership was first established, and 1911, the year the Qing Dynasty was overthrown, the central government of the Qing Dynasty stationed more than 100 high commissioners in Tibet.
Republic of China (1912-49)
In the autumn of 1911, revolution took place in China's interior, overthrowing the 270-year-old rule of the Qing Dynasty and establishing the Republic of China.
Upon its founding, the Republic of China declared itself a unified republic of the Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui, Tibetan and other races. In his inauguration statement on January 1, 1912, Sun Yat-sen, the provisional first president of the Republic of China, declared to the whole world: "The foundation of the country lies in the people, and the unification of lands inhabited by the Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui and Tibetan people into one country means the unification of the Han, Manchu, Mongol, Hui and Tibetan races. It is called national unification." The five-color flag used as the national flag at that time represented the unification of the five main races. In March the Nanjing-based provisional senate of the Republic of China promulgated the republic's first constitution, the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China, in which it was clearly stipulated that Tibet was a part of the territory of the Republic of China.
In order to form the first parliament of the Republic of China, the Beijing government promulgated on August 10, 1912 the Organic Law of the Parliament of the Republic of China and the law on elections for members of parliament. These statutes specified the methods for Tibetans to participate in elections, and the right of elected parliamentary members to have a direct say in government affairs. When the Chinese Kuomintang formed the national government in 1927 in Nanjing and held the national assembly in 1931, both the 13th Dalai Lama and the 9th Bainqen Erdeni sent representatives to participate. Article I of the General Outline of the Constitution for the Political Tutelage Period of the Republic of China, formulated during the assembly, stipulated that Tibet belonged to the territories of the Republic of China. The Tibetan local government and the Bainqen's administrative body, Kampus Assembly, also sent representatives to the national assembly in 1946 called by the Nanjing national government.
As in the previous Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, the central government of the Republic of China exercised jurisdiction over Tibet. The Bureau of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs (renamed Mongolian and Tibetan Council in May 1914) was established by the central government in 1912 to replace the Qing Dynasty's Department in Charge of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. The bureau was responsible for Tibetan local affairs. The central government also appointed a representative to Tibet to carry out the responsibilities of the high commissioners stationed in Tibet by the Qing Dynasty. After the Nanjing national government was set up, a Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs was established in 1929 to handle the administrative affairs of the Tibetans, Mongolians and other ethnic minorities. In April 1940 the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs opened an office in Lhasa as the permanent mission of the central government in Tibet.
Traditionally, the Dalai Lama, the Bainqen Erdeni and other high Living Buddhas had to be recognized and appointed by the central government in order to secure their political and religious legal status in Tibet. Despite the fact that incessant foreign aggression and civil wars weakened the central government of the Republic of China, it continued to grant honorific titles to the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni. On many occasions the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni expressed their support for national unification and for the central government. In 1919, the 13th Dalai Lama told a delegation sent by the Beijing central government, "It is not my true intention to be on intimate terms with the British.... I swear to be loyal to our own country and jointly work for the happiness of the five races." In his later years (in 1930), he said, "My greatest wish is for the real peace and unification of China." "Since it is all Chinese territory, why distinguish between you and us?" He further elaborated, "The British truly intend to tempt me, but I know that our sovereignty must not be lost." He also publicly expressed his determination "not to affiliate with the British nor forsake the central government" (Liu Manqing: A Mission to Xikang and Tibet). The 9th Bainqen noted in his will, "The great plan I have promoted all my life is the support of the central government, the spread of Buddhism, the promotion of the unity of the five nationalities and the guarantee of national prosperity."
The death of the 13th Dalai Lama in December 1933 was reported to the central government by the Tibetan local government in the traditional manner. The national government sent a special envoy to Tibet for the memorial ceremony. It also approved the Living Buddha Razheng as the regent to assume the duties and power of the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan local government also followed the age-old system in reporting to the central government all the procedures that should be followed in search for the reincarnation of the late 13th Dalai Lama. The present 14th Dalai Lama was born in Qinghai Province. Originally named Lhamo Toinzhub, he was selected as one of the incarnate boys at the age of 2. After receiving a report submitted by the Tibetan local government in 1939, the central government ordered the Qinghai authorities to send troops to escort him to Lhasa. After an inspection tour in Lhasa by Wu Zhongxin, chief of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, in 1940, Chiang Kai-shek, then head of the central government, approved Tibetan Regent Razheng's request to waive the lot-drawing convention, and the chairman of the national government issued an official decree conferring the title of the 14th Dalai Lama on Lhamo Toinzhub.
Excerpts from Tibet -- Its Ownership And Human Rights Situation published by Information Office of the State Council of The People's Republic of China