Battle of Chamdo

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Battle of Chamdo
Part of incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China
Date6–19 October 1950
LocationChamdo, Tibet
Result PRC victory
Incorporation of Tibet into the PRC
Tibet Tibet  People's Republic of China
Commanders and leaders
Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme (POW)[1]
Lhalu Tsewang Dorje[2]
Liu Bocheng
Zhang Guohua
Fan Ming
Tibetan Army: 8,500[3] People's Liberation Army: 40,000[4][5]
Casualties and losses

180 killed or wounded[6][7][8]
~2,700 captured

3,341 killed, wounded, surrendered, captured, or defected (Chinese estimate)[2]
114 killed or wounded[6]

The Battle of Chamdo (Chinese: 昌都战役) occurred from 6 through 19 October 1950.[9][10] It was a military campaign by the People's Republic of China (PRC) against a de facto independent Tibet in Chamdo after months of failed negotiations.[11] The campaign aimed to not to invade Tibet per se but to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and to exert pressure to get Tibetan representatives to agree to negotiations in Beijing and sign terms recognizing China's sovereignty over Tibet.[12] The campaign resulted in the capture of Chamdo and further negotiations between the PRC and Tibetan representatives that eventually resulted in the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China.


On 7 March 1950, a Tibetan government delegation arrived in Kalimpong to open a dialogue with the newly declared PRC and aimed to secure assurances that the PRC would respect Tibet's territorial integrity, among other things. The dialogue was delayed by a debate between the Tibetan, Indian, Britain and the PRC delegation over the location of the talks.

The Tibetan delegation eventually met with the PRC’s ambassador General Yuan Zhongxian in Delhi on 16 September 1950. Yuan communicated a three-point proposal that Tibet be regarded as part of China, that China be responsible for Tibet’s defense, and that China was responsible for Tibet’s trade and foreign relations. Acceptance would lead to peaceful "liberation", or otherwise war. The Tibetans undertook to maintain the relationship between China and Tibet as one of preceptor and patron, and their head delegate, Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, on 19 September, recommended cooperation (but with some stipulations about implementation).

Chinese troops need not be stationed in Tibet, it was argued, since it was under no threat, and if attacked by India or Nepal could appeal to China for military assistance. While Lhasa deliberated, Chinese troops advanced into eastern Tibet on 7 October 1950, crossing the de facto border[13] across 5 places. The purpose was to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and exert enough pressure to send negotiators to Beijing to sign terms for a peaceful incorporation of Tibet.[12]

On 21 October, Lhasa instructed its delegation to leave immediately for Beijing for consultations with the Communist government, and to accept the first provision if the status of the Dalai Lama could be guaranteed, while rejecting the other two conditions. It later rescinded even acceptance of the first demand, after a divination before the Six-Armed Mahākāla deities indicated that the three points could not be accepted, since Tibet would fall under foreign domination.[14][15][16]

Invasion of Kham region[edit]

In January 1950, the communists officially proposed to aid the Pandatsang brothers in exchange for them to stay on the sidelines during the 'liberation of Tibet'. The Pandatsang brothers[who?] decided not to cooperate with the communists, and instead sent George Patterson to India to seek help.[17] Pandatsang Rapga, leader of the pro Kuomintang Tibet Improvement Party offered the governor of Chamdo, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, some Khampa fighters in exchange for the Tibetan government recognizing the independence of Kham. Ngabo refused the offer.

After the defeat of the Tibetan Army in Chamdo, Rapga started mediating in negotiations between the PLA and the Tibetans.

Rapga and Topgay engaged in negotiations with the Chinese during their assault on Chamdo. The Kham people were known historically for their fierceness and warlike nature. Their natural reaction was to oppose and fight foreign domination arising from newly formed Communist China. However, with serious lack of weapons, the Kham were soon overwhelmed by numerically superior PLA forces. Despite being defeated at Chamdo, Kham fighters continued their opposition to the foreign invading forces. Local warlords soon became united under a common objective and hence resulted in the formation of Chushi Gangdruk with the assistance from CIA.[18]

The Kham Tibetans and Lhasa Tibetans held each other in mutual contempt and dislike, with the Kham in some cases hating Lhasa rule even more than Chinese rule, which was why the Kham people did little to resist Chinese forces as they entered Kham and subsequently took over the entire Tibet.[19] The Qinghai (Amdo) Tibetans view the Tibetans of Central Tibet (Tibet proper, ruled by the Dalai Lamas from Lhasa) as distinct and different from themselves, and even take pride in the fact that they were not ruled by Lhasa ever since the collapse of the Tibetan Empire.[20]

Invasion of Chamdo[edit]

After months of failed negotiations,[11] attempts by Tibet to secure foreign support and assistance,[21] and the troop buildups by the PRC[22] and Tibet[23], the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October 1950.[24] Two PLA units quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces and captured the border town of Chamdo by 19 October, by which time 114 PLA[6] soldiers and 180 Tibetan[6][7][8] soldiers had been killed or wounded. Writing in 1962, Zhang Guohua claimed "over 5,700 enemy men were destroyed" and "more than 3,000" peacefully surrendered.[25] Active hostilities were limited to a border area controlled by the Government of Tibet northeast of the Gyamo Ngul Chu River and east of the 96th meridian.[26] After capturing Chamdo, the PLA ceased hostilities[7][27] and sent a captured commander, Ngabo, to Lhasa to reiterate terms of negotiation, and waited for Tibetan representatives to respond through delegates to Beijing.[28]

After confiscating their weapons, the PLA soldiers gave the prisoners lectures on socialism and a small amount of money, before allowing them to return to their homes. According to the Dalai Lama, the PLA did not attack civilians.[29]


Tibetan prisoners of war were generally well treated. The PLA sent released prisoners (among them Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, a captured Tibetan governor) to Lhasa. Chinese broadcasts promised that if Tibet was "peacefully liberated", the Tibetan elites could keep their positions and power.[30] The Government of Tibet then sent representatives to Beijing to negotiate. The Seventeen Point Agreement was eventually signed between the Chinese and the Tibetans.

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Mackerras, Colin. Yorke, Amanda. The Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China. [1991]. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38755-8. p.100.
  2. ^ a b Goldstein, Melvyn C. (1991). A history of modern Tibet, 1913-1951, the demise of the lamaist state. University of California Press. p. 639. 
  3. ^ Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, 14th Dalai Lama, London: Little, Brown and Co, 1990 ISBN 0-349-10462-X
  4. ^ Laird 2006 p.301.
  5. ^ Shakya 1999, p.43
  6. ^ a b c d Jiawei Wang et Nima Gyaincain, The historical Status of China's Tibet, China Intercontinental Press, 1997, p.209 (see also The Local Government of Tibet Refused Peace Talks and the PLA Was Forced to Fight the Qamdo Battle, "The Qamdo battle thus came to a victorious end on 24 October, with 114 PLA soldiers and 180 Tibetan troops killed or wounded."
  7. ^ a b c Shakya 1999, p.45. Shakya also quotes PRC sources reporting 5738 enemy troops "liquidated" and over 5700 "destroyed". Shakya does not provide an estimate of PRC casualties.
  8. ^ a b Feigon 1996, p.144.
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ NOTE: The exiled Tibetan government in India calls The battle the "...invasion of Tibet by the People's Liberation Army of China," see Tibet: Proving Truth From Facts. The Status of Tibet: "At the time of its invasion by troops of the People's Liberation Army of China in 1949, Tibet was an independent state in fact and by law."
  11. ^ a b Shakya 1999 pp.28–32
  12. ^ a b Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, vol.2, pp.48–9.
  13. ^ Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, University of California Press, 2009, Vol.2,p.48.
  14. ^ Shakya 1999 pp.27–32 (entire paragraph).
  15. ^ W. D. Shakabpa,One hundred thousand moons, BRILL, 2010 trans. Derek F. Maher, Vol.1, pp.916–917, and ch.20 pp.928–942, esp.pp.928–33.
  16. ^ Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, Vol.2, ibid.pp.41–57.
  17. ^ Lezlee Brown Halper; Stefan A. Halper (2014). Tibet: An Unfinished Story. Oxford University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-19-936836-5. 
  18. ^ Knaus, John Kenneth (2008). Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival. PublicAffairs. p. 71. ISBN 078672403X. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  19. ^ Arpi, Claude. "The Karma of Tibet" (PDF). pp. 97–98. Archived from the original (PDF) on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 24 April 2014. 
  20. ^ Goodman, David S. G. (2004). "Qinghai and the Emergence of the West: Nationalities, Communal Interaction and National Integration" (PDF). The China Quarterly. Cambridge University Press for the School of Oriental and African Studies. University of London, UK.: 385. ISSN 0305-7410. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  21. ^ Shakya 1999 p.12,20,21
  22. ^ Feigon 1996 p.142. Shakya 1999 p.37.
  23. ^ Sam van Schaik, Tibet. A History, Yale University Press, 2013, p. 2009: "So when Ngapo arrived in Chamdo in 1950, he was in a pessimistic mood. Still, he had his orders and reinforcements were arriving from Lhasa. Tibet would fight."
  24. ^ Shakya 1999 p.32 (6 Oct). Goldstein 1997 p.45 (7 Oct).
  25. ^ Survey of China Mainland Press, no. 2854 p.5,6
  26. ^ Shakya 1999 map p.xiv
  27. ^ Goldstein 1997 p.45
  28. ^ Shakya 1999 p.49
  29. ^ Laird 2006 p.305.
  30. ^ Laird, 2006 p.306.


  • Feigon, Lee. Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of Snows (1996) Ivan R. Dee Inc. ISBN 1-56663-089-4
  • Ford, Robert. Wind Between The Worlds The extraordinary first-person account of a Westerner's life in Tibet as an official of the Dalai Lama (1957) David Mckay Co., Inc.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 1: 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (1989) University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06140-8
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm Before the Storm 1951–1955 (2007) University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-24941-7.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (1997) University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21254-1
  • Grunfeld, A. Tom. The Making of Modern Tibet (1996) East Gate Book. ISBN 978-1-56324-713-2
  • Knaus, Robert Kenneth. Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (1999) PublicAffairs . ISBN 978-1-891620-18-8
  • Laird, Thomas. The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama (2006) Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1827-5
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  • Robert W. Ford Captured in Tibet, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-19-581570-2

Coordinates: 31°08′14″N 97°10′39″E / 31.1372°N 97.1775°E / 31.1372; 97.1775