Tibet has a long and eventful history, and has been both independent and occupied at various stages of its colourful past. But either when independent or occupied, Tibet and the various Tibetan areas have always maintained a distinct and unique identity which has existed in many guises and which remains a unifying force for Tibetans today.
Key dates in Tibetan history
602 Namri Songtsen, lord of Yarlung, becomes the first king of Tibet. Namri Songtsen (also known as Namri Lontsen), united the Tibetan central states at the start of the 7th century.
620-49 Reign of King Songtsen Gampo; Tibet grows into an empire and Lhasa becomes the capital city.
821 China-Tibet Peace Treaty: "Tibetans shall be happy in Tibet and Chinese shall be happy in China". The peace treaty was an acknowledgement of stalemate between the two countries after 200 years of Sino-Tibetan conflict. The treaty stated that the Chinese recognized Tibetans as equals and Tibet as a separate state with its own inviolable territory. The treaty was engraved on a stone pillar in front of the Jokhang temple in Lhasa.
842 King Langdarma assassinated; Tibet fragments into several states and was not unified again for 400 years.
1261 Tibet reunited with the Grand Lama of Sakya as king.
1717 Dzungar Mongols invade Tibet.
1721 Qing emperor declares Tibet a tributary state; first Amban, the official Qing representative, is sent to Lhasa
1854-56 Nepal defeats Tibet; peace treaty requires Tibet to pay tribute.
1904 British troops under Colonel Younghusband enter Tibet and occupy Lhasa. The British feared that Russia would use Tibet as an invasion route to India and were worried that the Russians would take the place Mongols had once had as rulers of Tibet.
1910-12 A Qing army led by General Zhao Erfeng invades and occupies Tibet, causing the Dalai Lama and Tibetan government officials to flee.
1912 Last Qing emperor abdicates; Republic of China claims Mongolia and Tibet. In April the Chinese troops surrendered and were removed from Tibet by the end of the year and in July the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet. A presidential mandate on October 28th 1912 restoring the rank and title of the Dalai Lama whilst making it clear that Tibet was under Chinese authority.
1913 Dalai Lama proclaims Tibet independent; paper money and coins issued. Mongolia and Tibet conclude a treaty of mutual recognition. With both Britain and China making claims on Tibet a tripartite conference was held in October 1913 at Simila in India on Tibet’s status involving Tibet, China and Britain. It was here that Tibet claimed independence under the leadership of the Dalai Lama.
1914 Britain and Tibet agree to a treaty signed in Simla, establishing the status of the Indian-Tibetan border from Bhutan to Burma known as the McMahon Line. India still regards this as the official border today, but China does not as it does not recognize Tibet’s treaty with Britain.
1918 Tibetan army, led by British-trained officers, defeats Chinese army. Tibet and China sign a peace treaty; China refuses to ratify treaty.
1933 13th Dalai Lama dies; Reting Rimpoche selected as Tibetan regent.
1937 Britain publishes Simla Convention and begins enforcing McMahon Line.
1940 14th Dalai Lama is enthroned; Chinese delegation attends ceremony.
1943 Britain affirms that Tibet is "already self-governing and determined to retain [its] independence".
1947-49 Tibetan Trade Mission travels to India, Britain, U.S., and China; the mission is received by the British Prime Minister Attlee. However neither the US or Britain consented to recognize Tibet as an independent country.
1949 People's Republic of China is proclaimed by Chinese Communist Party.
1950 Radio Beijing announce: "The task of the People's Liberation Army for 1950 is to liberate Tibet." 40,000 Chinese troops invade Tibet in October, unprovoked and with no accepted legal basis for claims of sovereignty. Fifteen-year-old Tenzin Gyatso is given full powers to rule as the 14th Dalai Lama - the Tibetans' spiritual and temporal leader.
The Tibetan’s response was that they did not want to be ‘liberated’ and the government in Lhasa appealed to both Britain and India for assistance. The Government of India at that time could not afford to fight the Chinese in Tibet and Britain was sceptical that China could take Tibet by military force, and therefore advised Tibet not to provoke the Chinese by making any bold declarations of independence.
1951 China undertakes 17-Point Agreement to refrain from interfering with Tibet's government and society following negotiation by the Dalai Lama. The treaty was signed by the Tibetans on 23 May 1951. The Chinese promised not to "alter the existing political system in Tibet" and that "in matters relating to various reforms in Tibet there would be no compulsion on the part of the central authorities".
1953 Mao Zedong promises the Dalai Lama that the Chinese will leave Tibet once 'liberation' is complete.
1959 National Uprising - explosion of Tibetan resistance resulting in severe crackdown by the Chinese and widespread brutality. An estimated 430,000 Tibetans are killed (Chinese estimate: 87,000 killed). One hundred thousand Tibetans flee with Dalai Lama into exile in India.
On 10 March 1959, fearful that the Chinese intended to kidnap the Dalai Lama and take him to Beijing, 300,000 Tibetans surrounded the Norbulinka palace. Over the next days the Uprising grew. On 12 March 5,000 Tibetan women marched through the streets of Lhasa holding aloft banners demanding Tibetan independence.
1960 – 1962 340,000 Tibetan peasants and nomads die in Tibet's first recorded famines following the destabilisation of the economy after an influx of Chinese settlers and forced agricultural modernisation.
1965 Chinese formally inaugurate one of Tibet's three provinces as the 'Tibet Autonomous Region' (TAR).
1966 Thousands of Buddhist monasteries destroyed
Late 1970s The Dalai Lama starts to make political speeches abroad and international support for Tibet starts to grow.
1987 Tibetans begin a new era of protest. Police fire on a massive pro-independence demonstration in Lhasa.
1988 The Dalai Lama puts forward the 'Strasbourg proposal' in which he calls for genuine autonomy for Tibet rather than independence. Qiao Shi, China's security chief, visits Tibet and vows to "adopt a policy of merciless repression".
1989 Protests in Lhasa show that Tibetans are still willing to risk their lives and liberty to stand up against Chinese rule. The Chinese authorities respond with brutal force, and footage is recorded of troops beating monks. The Dalai Lama receives the Nobel Peace Prize.
1995 Six year-old Gendun Choekyi Nyima, recognised by the Dalai Lama as the 11th Panchen Lama, and his family disappear. China selects and enthrones another child. Gendun's location and safety remain unknown.
1996 China launches a patriotic re-education campaign, removing photos of the Dalai Lama from monasteries.
1999 The 40th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising marked by protest in Lhasa.
2005 Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's offered to hold talks with the 14th Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue, provided he drops the demand for independence.
2007 State Religious Affairs Bureau Order No. 5 makes it illegal for lamas to reincarnate without Chinese government approval. Dalai Lama awarded US Congressional Gold Medal.
2008 The biggest protests in Tibet since 1959 erupt, with over 100 separate incidents across the entire Tibetan plateau. The Chinese authorities react with brutal force against unarmed protesters, causing international outrage. China's Olympic torch is met by worldwide protests over Tibet, and Tibet supporters highlight the hypocrisy of China hosting the Olympics while killing innocent Tibetans.
2009 Fearing a repeat of the 2008 Tibetan uprising, Tibet is put under a state of de facto martial law, but this does not prevent over a thousand Tibetans protesting to mark 50 years of peaceful resistance to Chinese rule.
Top photo: Pedro Saraiva
Fifth photo down: Ryan Gauvin