The History of Tibet

Tibet emerged in the 7th century as a unified empire. But it soon divided into a variety of territories. The bulk of western and central Tibet was often at least nominally unified under a series of Tibetan governments located in Lhasa. These governments were at various times first under Mongol, then under Manchu overlordship.

In 1644 the Manchu established in Beijing the Qing dynasty. The eastern regions of Kham and Amdo often maintained a more decentralized indigenous political structure. They were divided among a number of small principalities and tribal groups, yet often fell more directly under Beijing’s rule. Most of this area was eventually incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Qinghai. The current borders of Tibet were generally established in the 18th century. 

Under the Qing dynasty, China did not interfere directly in local affairs. Between 1727 and 1911, the imperial presence in Lhasa consisted solely of a Residential Commissioner and a few logistical and military personnel. The local ruler was the Dalai Lama as the spiritual and political leader. The Tibetan peasants submitted solely to Tibetan masters – they recognized only the Dalai.

Following the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912, Qing soldiers were disarmed and escorted out of the Tibet Area. The region subsequently declared its independence in 1913, without recognition by the following Chinese Republican government. Later Lhasa took control of the western part of Xikang Province, China. The region maintained its autonomy until 1951 when, after the Invasion of Tibet, it became unified into the People's Republic of China. The previous Tibetan government was abolished in 1959 after a failed uprising.The 14th Dalai Lama fled to India. Shortly after he established the "Tibetan Government in Exile", known as the Central Tibetan Administration CTA. The position of the CTA is that Tibet is a distinct nation with a long history of independence. 

Today, the People's Republic of China governs western and central Tibet as the Tibet Autonomous Region; the eastern areas are now mostly ethnic autonomous prefectures within Sichuan, Qinghai and other neighbouring provinces.