Tibet under Qing rule

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Tibet and Qing Empire
Qing dynasty and Tibet.jpg
Approximate map of Tibet and Qing Empire
 • TypeTheocracy headed by Dalai Lama under Qing protectorate[1][2]
• Tibet national border established at Dri River
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Dzungar Khanate

Tibet under Qing rule[3][4] refers to the Qing dynasty's relationship with Tibet from 1720 to 1912.[5][6][7] During this period, Qing China regarded Tibet as a vassal state.[8] Tibet regarded itself an independent nation with only a "priest and patron" relationship with the Qing Dynasty, as established in 1653.[9][10][11][12] Scholars such as Melvyn Goldstein have considered Tibet to be a Qing protectorate.[13][1]

Before the Qing, the Tibetan Empire controlled a large area of modern Asia, including regions of China,[14] when Tibetan Buddhism under Padmasambhava and the Nyingma school was established. After the empire's decline, regions of the empire evolved into autonomous polities, some under the later ascendant schools of the Kagyu and the Sakya. The Nyingmas remained non-political. Then, the Güshri Khan of Khoshut Khanate reunified Tibet in 1642 under the spiritual and temporal authority of the 5th Dalai Lama of the Gelug school.

Tibet's Ganden Phodrang governmental body and its standing army was established.[15] In 1653, the Dalai Lama travelled on a state visit to the Qing court, and was received in Beijing and "recognized as the spiritual authority of the Qing Empire".[14] The Dzungar Khanate invaded Tibet in 1717, and were subsequently expelled by Qing in 1720. The Qing emperors then appointed imperial residents known as ambans to Tibet, most of them ethnic Manchus that reported to the Lifan Yuan, a Qing government body that oversaw the empire's frontier.[16][17] During the Qing era, Tibet retained its political autonomy. About half of the Tibetan lands were exempted from Lhasa's administrative rule and annexed into neighboring Chinese provinces, although most were only nominally subordinated to Beijing.[18]

By the 1860s, Qing "rule" in Tibet had become more theory than fact, given the weight of Qing's domestic and foreign-relations burdens.[19] In 1890, the Qing and Britain signed the Anglo-Chinese Convention Relating to Sikkim and Tibet, which Tibet disregarded since it was for "Lhasa alone to negotiate with foreign powers on Tibet's behalf".[11] The British concluded in 1903 that Chinese suzerainty over Tibet was a "constitutional fiction",[20] and proceeded to invade Tibet in 1903–04. The Qing began taking steps to reassert control,[21] then invaded Lhasa in 1910. In the 1907 Anglo-Russian Convention, Britain and Russia recognized the Qing as suzerain of Tibet and pledged to abstain from Tibetan affairs, thus fixing the suzerainty status in an international document.[22] After the Qing dynasty was overthrown during the Xinhai revolution of 1911, the amban delivered a letter of surrender to the 13th Dalai Lama in the summer of 1912.[11] The Dalai Lama expelled the amban and Chinese military from Tibet, then all Chinese people, after reasserting Tibet's independence on 13 February 1913.[23]

Priest relationship[edit]

Güshi Khan of the Khoshut in 1641 overthrew the prince of Tsang and helped reunite the regions of Tibet under the 5th Dalai Lama as the highest spiritual and political authority in Tibet.[24] A governing body known as the Ganden Phodrang was established, while Güshi Khan remained personally devoted to the Dalai Lama.[25]

In 1653, the Dalai Lama travelled to Beijing on a state visit, and was received as an equal to the Qing Emperor. At that time, the Dalai Lama was "recognized as the spiritual authority of the Qing Empire",[26] and the "priest" relationship with Qing began. The time of the 5th Dalai Lama, also known of as "the Great Fifth", was a period of rich cultural development.

Decades earlier, Hongtaiji, the founder of the Qing dynasty, had insulted the Mongols for believing in Tibetan Buddhism.[27]

With Güshi Khan, who founded the Khoshut Khanate as a largely uninvolved overlord, the 5th Dalai Lama conducted foreign policy independently of the Qing, on the basis of his spiritual authority amongst the Mongolians. He acted as a mediator between Mongol tribes, and between the Mongols and the Qing Kangxi Emperor. The Dalai Lama would assign territories to Mongol tribes, and these decisions were routinely confirmed by the Emperor.

In 1674, the Emperor asked the Dalai Lama to send Mongolian troops to help suppress Wu Sangui's Revolt of the Three Feudatories in Yunnan. The Dalai Lama refused to send troops, and advised Kangxi to resolve the conflict in Yunnan by dividing China with Wu Sangui. The Dalai Lama openly professed neutrality but he exchanged gifts and letters with Wu Sangui during the war further deepening the Qing's suspicions and angering them against the Dalai Lama.[28][29][30][31][32] This was apparently a turning point for the Emperor, who began to deal with the Mongols directly, rather than through the Dalai Lama.[33]

The Dalai Lama's Ganden Phodrang government formalized the frontier between Tibet and China in 1677, with Kham ascribed to Tibet's authority.[34]

The 5th Dalai Lama died in 1682. His regent, Desi Sangye Gyatso, concealed his death and continued to act in his name. In 1688, Galdan Boshugtu Khan of the Khoshut defeated the Khalkha Mongols and went on to battle Qing forces. This contributed to the loss of Tibet's role as mediator between the Mongols and the Emperor. Several Khalkha tribes formally submitted directly to Kangxi. Galdan retreated to Dzungaria. When Sangye Gyatso complained to Kangxi that he could not control the Mongols of Kokonor in 1693, Kangxi annexed Kokonor, giving it the name it bears today, Qinghai. He also annexed Tachienlu in eastern Kham at this time. When Kangxi finally destroyed Galdan in 1696, a Qing ruse involving the name of the Dalai Lama was involved; Galdan blamed the Dalai Lama for his ruin, still not aware of his death fourteen years earlier.[35]

Potala Palace painting of the 5th Dalai Lama meeting the Shunzhi Emperor in Beijing, 1653.

About this time, some Dzungars informed the Kangxi Emperor that the 5th Dalai Lama had long since died. He sent envoys to Lhasa to inquire. This prompted Sangye Gyatso to make Tsangyang Gyatso, the 6th Dalai Lama, public. He was enthroned in 1697.[36] Tsangyang Gyatso enjoyed a lifestyle that included drinking, the company of women, and writing poetry[14][37] In 1702, he refused to take the vows of a Buddhist monk. The regent, under pressure from the Emperor and Lhazang Khan of the Khoshut, resigned in 1703.[36] In 1705, Lhazang Khan used the sixth Dalai Lama's lifestyle as excuse to take control of Lhasa. The regent Sanggye Gyatso, who had allied himself with the Dzungar Khanate, was murdered, and the Dalai Lama was sent to Beijing. He died on the way, near Kokonor, ostensibly from illness but leaving lingering suspicions of foul play.

Lhazang Khan appointed a pretender Dalai Lama who was not accepted by the Gelugpa school. The Dalai Lama's incarnation Kelzang Gyatso, 7th Dalai Lama, was discovered near Kokonor. Three Gelug abbots of the Lhasa area[38] appealed to the Dzungar Khanate, which invaded Tibet in 1717, deposed Lhazang Khan's pretender to the position of Dalai Lama, and killed Lhazang Khan and his entire family.[39] The Dzungars then proceeded to loot, rape and kill throughout Lhasa and its environs. They also destroyed a small Chinese force in the Battle of the Salween River, which the Emperor had sent to clear traditional trade routes.[40]

Qing forces arrive in Tibet[edit]

Map showing wars between Qing Dynasty and Dzungar Khanate
Boundary pillar between Tibet and China at Bum La (Ningching Shan), west of Batang (Teichman, 1922)

In response to the Dzungar occupation of Tibet, a joint force of Tibetans and Chinese, sent by the Kangxi Emperor, responded. The Tibetan forces were under Polhanas (also spelled Polhaney) of central Tsang, and Kangchennas (also spelled Gangchenney), the governor of Western Tibet.[41][42] The Dzungars were expelled from Tibet in 1720. They brought Kelzang Gyatso with them from Kumbum to Lhasa and he was enthroned as the 7th Dalai Lama.[43][44]

At that time, a Qing protectorate in Tibet (described by Stein as "sufficiently mild and flexible to be accepted by the Tibetan government") was initiated with a garrison at Lhasa. The area of Kham east of the Dri River (Jinsha River—Upper Yangtze) was annexed to Sichuan in 1726-1727 through a treaty.[25][39][45] In 1721, the Qing expanded their protectorate in Lhasa with a council (the Kashag) of three Tibetan ministers, headed by Kangchennas. A Khalkha prince was made amban, the official representative of Qing in Tibet. Another Khalkha directed the military. The Dalai Lama's role at this time may have been purely symbolic in China's eyes, but it wasn't to the Dalai Lama nor to the Ganden Phodrang government[46] or the Tibetan people, who viewed the Qing as a "patron". The Dalai Lama was also still highly influential because of the Mongols' religious beliefs.[47]

The Qing came as patrons of the Khoshut, liberators of Tibet from the Dzungar, and supporters of the Dalai Lama Kelzang Gyatso, but when they tried to replace the Khoshut as rulers of Kokonor and Tibet, they earned the resentment of the Khoshut and also the Tibetans of Kokonor. Lobsang Danjin [fr], a grandson of Güshi Khan, led a rebellion in 1723, when 200,000 Tibetans and Mongols attacked Xining. Central Tibet did not support the rebellion.[citation needed] Polhanas is said to have blocked the rebels' retreat from Qing retaliation. The rebellion was brutally suppressed.[48]

Green Standard Army troops were garrisoned at multiple places such as Lhasa, Batang, Dartsendo, Lhari, Chamdo, and Litang, throughout the Dzungar war.[49] Green Standard troops and Manchu Bannermen were both part of the Qing force that fought in Tibet in the war against the Dzungars.[50] It was said that the Sichuan commander Yue Zhongqi (a descendant of Yue Fei) entered Lhasa first when the 2,000 Green Standard soldiers and 1,000 Manchu soldiers of the "Sichuan route" seized Lhasa.[51] According to Mark C. Elliott, after 1728 the Qing used Green Standard troops to man the garrison in Lhasa rather than Bannermen.[52] According to Evelyn S. Rawski, both Green Standard Army and Bannermen made up the Qing garrison in Tibet.[53] According to Sabine Dabringhaus, Green Standard Chinese soldiers numbering more than 1,300 were stationed by the Qing in Tibet to support the 3,000-strong Tibetan army.[54]


Following the end of the patronage of the Mongol Dzunghars, Tibet's priest and patron relationship with Qing China grew between the heads of states, 7th Dalai Lama and the Yongzheng Emperor, whom had succeeded to China's throne in 1722. In 1723, the Qing imperial garrison reduced their troops in Lhasa after the joint Tibetan and Qing forces defeated the Dzunghars.[55]

A year-long civil war began in 1727, which followed the murder of the Tibetan minister Kangchennas. The Kingdom of Ngari's Miwang Pholhane became victorious in 1728, after gathering an army and retaking Lhasa in July 1728. Some opposition was first said to have remained from the Lhasa nobility and their allies,[56] but later Pholhane was credited for reunifying Tibet after the civil war.[55]

The Qing had sent 400 troops which were not active during the unrest, and were resented by the population.[55] The Dalai Lama went to Lithang Monastery[57] in Kham. The Panchen Lama was offered temporal authority over central Tsang and western Ngari, but he refused the position.[55] Polhanas gained more popularity and authority, and his modernization program of the Ganden Phodrang's army remained in place through to the 1950s.

Two Qing ambassadors, or ambans, were also stationed in Lhasa, and the Qing troops garrisoned in Lhasa were reduced again in 1733, then stationed outside of Lhasa alongside the Ganden Phodrang's army.[55]

The Dalai Lama again returned to Lhasa in 1735. Pholhane resented the presence of the Qing,[55] and remained popular until his death in 1747.[56] Afterwards, his position passed to his son Gyurme Namgyal, who began taking direct action against Qing influence in Lhasa, including against the ambassadors and the garrisoned troops. In 1750, Namgyal was assassinated by the two Qing ambassadors, which led to a revolt in Lhasa during which both ambassadors were murdered by Pholhane's troops.[55] The ambassadors allegedly became convinced that Namgyal was going to lead a rebellion, so they assassinated him independently from Beijing's authority.[14]

The Dalai Lama stepped in and restored order in Lhasa, while it was thought that further uprisings would result in harsh retaliation from China.[14] The Qianlong Emperor (Yongzheng's successor) sent an additional 800 troops,[citation needed] who allegedly executed Gyurme Namgyal's family[citation needed] and seven members of a group that allegedly killed the ambassadors.[citation needed]

In other regions of Tibet, the Qing and Mongols decades-long battles for influence over Tibet occurred in the Do Kham region of Amdo in 1724, but no treaties for this region ceding land to China followed[58] the 1677 treaty between Tibet and China, in which all of Do Kham - included in the entire Tibetan Plateau - was ascribed to Tibet.[34][39] Tibet ceded an area of Kham east of the Dri River to China in 1725-1726,[34] which led to the temporary incorporation of this area into neighbouring Chinese provinces in 1728.[59] Territory east of the Dri River boundary was still governed by Tibetan chiefs.[60] A stone monument regarding this temporary 1725-1726 boundary between Tibet and China, agreed upon by Lhasa and Beijing, was placed atop a mountain, and survived into at least the 19th century.[61]

The Dri River border was used until 1865, after which the area east of the river was regained by Tibet, following the Qing army's defeat in 1849 by Nyarong's King Gompo Namgyal, which was followed by the Ganden Phodrang's army subsequent victory over Gompo Namgyal in 1865.[25][34][55]

In Lhasa, temporal power was reasserted by the Dalai Lama in 1750. But the Qing Emperor was said to have re-organized the Tibetan government again and appointed new ambans.[62] These ambans or commissioners were not only unable to take charge, they were also kept uninformed. This reduced the post of the Residential Commissioner in Tibet to name only".[59] The number of soldiers in Tibet was kept at about 2,000. The defensive duties were partly helped out by a local force which was reorganized by the amban, and the Tibetan government continued to manage day-to-day affairs as before. The Emperor reorganized the Kashag to have four Kalöns in it.[63] He also used Tibetan Buddhist iconography to try and bolster support among Tibetans, whereby six thangkas portrayed the Qing Emperor as Manjuśrī and China's Tibetan records of the time are said to have referred to him by that name.[39][64]

The 7th Dalai Lama died in 1757. Afterwards, an assembly of lamas decided to institute the office of regent, to be held by an incarnate lama "until the new Dalai Lama attained his majority and could assume his official duties". The Seventh Demo, Ngawang Jampel Delek Gyatso, was selected unanimously. The 8th Dalai Lama, Jamphel Gyatso, was born in 1758 in Tsang. The Panchen Lama helped in the identification process, while Jampal Gyatso was recognized in 1761, then brought to Lhasa for his enthronement, presided over by the Panchen Lama, in 1762.[65]


In 1779, the 6th Panchen Lama, fluent also in Hindi and Persian and well disposed to both Catholic missionaries in Tibet and East India Company agents in India,[citation needed] was invited to Peking for the celebration of the Emperor's 70th birthday.[66][67] The "priest and patron" relationship between Tibet and Qing China was underscored by the Emperor prostrating "to his spiritual father".[68][69] In the final stages of his visit, after instructing the Emperor, the Panchen Lama contracted smallpox and died in 1780 in Beijing.

The following year, the 8th Dalai Lama assumed political power in Tibet. Problems with a currency exchange rate with Nepal led in 1788 to Gorkha Kingdom invasions of Tibet, sent by Bahadur Shah, the Regent of Nepal. Again in 1791, Shigatse was occupied by the Gorkas as was the great Tashilhunpo Monastery, the seat of the Panchen Lamas which was sacked and destroyed.

During the first incursion, the Qing Manchu amban in Lhasa spirited away to safety both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama,[verification needed] but otherwise made no attempt to defend the country, though urgent dispatches to Beijing warned that alien powers had designs on the region, and threatened Qing Manchu interests.[70] At that time, the Tibetan and Qing armies found that the Nepalese forces had melted away, and no fighting was necessary. After the second Gorka incursion in 1791, another force of Manchus and Mongols joined by a strong contingents of Tibetan soldiers (10,000 of 13,000) supplied by local chieftains, repelled the invasion and pursued the Gorkhas to the Kathmandu Valley. Nepal conceded defeat and returned all the treasure they had plundered.[66][71]

The Qianlong emperor was disappointed with the results of his 1751 decree and the performance of the ambans. Another decree followed, contained in the "Twenty-Nine Article Imperial Ordinance of 1793". It was designed to enhance the ambans' status, and ordered them to control border inspections, and serve as conduits through which the Dalai Lama and his cabinet were to communicate.

According to Warren Smith, the 29-article decree's directives were either never fully implemented, or quickly discarded, as the Qing were more interested in a symbolic gesture of authority than actual sovereignty. The relationship between Qing and Tibet was one between states, or between an empire and a semi-autonomous state.[72] The 29-article decree attempted to elevate ambans above the Kashag and above the regents in regards to Tibetan political affairs. The decree attempted to prohibit the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama from petitioning the Chinese Emperor directly whereas petitions were decreed to pass through the ambans. The ambans were to take control of Tibetan frontier defense and foreign affairs. Tibetan authorities' foreign correspondence, even with the Mongols of Kokonor (present-day Qinghai), were to be approved by the ambans, whom were decreed as commanders of the Qing garrison, and the Tibetan army whose strength was set at 3000 men. Trade was also decreed as restricted and travel documents were to be issued by the ambans. The ambans were to review all judicial decisions. The Tibetan currency, which had been the source of trouble with Nepal, was to be taken under Beijing's supervision.[73]

Lungtok Gyatso, the 9th Dalai Lama (1805-1815), with Tibetan lamas and monks, and Qing ambans in attendance, around 1808.

The same 29-article decree attempted to institute a golden urn system[74] which undermined the traditional Tibetan method of locating, recognizing and enthroning incarnate lamas, especially both of the incarnate Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, by means of a lottery administered by the ambans in Lhasa.

While the 8th Dalai Lama had already been recognized and enthroned, the Qing wanted to control future recognition processes of incarnate lamas for political reasons, because the Gelug school of the Dalai Lamas was the official religion of the Qing court.[75] Another political purpose of the Qing court was to have the Mongol grand-lama Qubilγan found in Tibet rather than from the descendants of Genghis Khan.[76]

Traditional Tibetan processes used to locate, confirm and enthrone the Dalai Lamas depends on confirmations from multiple persons using a variety of methods.[77] Without adherence to safeguards and multiple confirmations, the decreed lottery system uses names of "candidates" written on folded slips of paper which are placed in a container called a "golden urn" (Mongol altan bumba; Tibetan gser bum:Chinese jīnpíng:金瓶), then withdrawn.[78][79]

Despite this attempt to further control Tibet's secular and spiritual independence, the Qing urn was politely ignored while traditional recognition processes continued unchanged,[80] and as such, the golden urn lottery system was not evidence of Qing China's control over, or sovereignity of, Tibet:

After the golden urn lottery system was decreed but not actually used, the next four Dalai Lamas died either before or soon after reaching the age when political authority was conferred. Several historians have suggested the Qing poisoned the Dalai Lamas[11] after the Qing's 29-article decree. The 13th Dalai Lama Tupten Gyatso (1876-1933) was recognized and enthroned using only traditional Tibetan methods, not by the lottery system,[11] and survived his youth to receive the Qing China letter of surrender in 1912.

19th century[edit]

In 1837, a minor Kham chieftain Gompo Namgyal, of Nyarong, began expanding his control regionally and launched offensives against the Hor States, Chiefdom of Lithang, Kingdom of Derge, the Kingdom of Chakla and Chiefdom of Bathang.[34][25] Qing China sent troops in against Namgyal which were defeated in 1849,[88] and additional troops were not dispatched. Qing military posts were present along the historic trading route between Beijing and Lhasa, but "did not have any authority over the native chiefs".[25] By 1862, Namgyal blocked trade routes from China to Central Tibet, and sent troops into China.[34]

The kingdom of Derge and another had appealed to both the Lhasa and the Qing Manchu governments for help against Namgyal. During the Nyarong War, the Tibetan authorities sent an army in 1863, and defeated Namgyal then killed him at his Nyarong fort by 1865. Afterward, Lhasa asserted its authority over parts of northern Kham and established the Office of the Tibetan High Commissioner to govern.[34][88] Lhasa reclaimed Nyarong, Degé and the Hor States north of Nyarong. China recalled their forces.[88]

Nepal was a tributary state to China from 1788 to 1908.[89][90] In the Treaty of Thapathali signed in 1856 that concluded the Nepalese-Tibetan War, Tibet and Nepal agreed to "regard the Chinese Emperor as heretofore with respect."[91] Michael van Walt van Praag, legal advisor to the 14th Dalai Lama,[92] claims that 1856 treaty provided for a Nepalese mission, namely Vakil, in Lhasa which later allowed Nepal to claim a diplomatic relationship with Tibet in its application for United Nations membership in 1949.[93] However, the status of Nepalese mission as diplomatic is disputed[94] and the Nepalese Vakils stayed in Tibet until the 1960s when Tibet had been occupied by the Peoples Republic of China for more than a decade.[95][96]

In 1841, the Hindu Dogra dynasty attempted to establish their authority on Ü-Tsang but were defeated in the Sino-Sikh War (1841–1842).

In the mid-19th century, arriving with an amban, a community of Chinese troops from Sichuan that had married Tibetan women settled down in the Lubu neighborhood of Lhasa, where their descendants established a community and assimilated into Tibetan culture.[97] Another community, Hebalin, was where Chinese Muslim troops and their wives and offspring lived.[98]

In 1879, the 13th Dalai Lama was enthroned, but did not assume full temporal control until 1895, after the National Assembly of the Tibetan Government (tshongs 'du rgyas 'dzom) unanimously called for him to assume power. Before that time, the British Empire increased their interest in Tibet, and a number of Indians entered the region, first as explorers and then as traders. The British sent a mission with a military escort through Sikkim in 1885, whose entry was refused by Tibet and the British withdrew. Tibet then organized an army to be stationed at the border, led by Dapon Lhading (mda' dpon lha sding, d.u.) and Tsedron Sonam Gyeltsen (rtse mgron bsod nams rgyal mtshan, d.u.) with soldiers from southern Kongpo and those from Kham's Drakyab. At a pass between Sikkim and Tibet, which Tibet considered a part of Tibet, the British attacked in 1888.

Following the attack, the British and Chinese signed the 1890 Anglo-Chinese Convention Relating to Sikkim and Tibet,[99] which Tibet disregarded as it did "all agreements signed between China and Britain regarding Tibet, taking the position that it was for Lhasa alone to negotiate with foreign powers on Tibet's behalf".[11][100] Qing China and Britain had also concluded an earlier treaty in 1886, the "Convention Relating to Burmah and Thibet"[101] as well as a later treaty in 1893.[102] Regardless of those treaties, Tibet continued to bar British envoys from its territory.

Then in 1896, the Qing Governor of Sichuan attempted to gain control of the Nyarong valley in Kham during a military attack led by Zhou Wanshun. The Dalai Lama circumvented the amban and a secret mission led by Sherab Chonpel (shes rab chos 'phel, d.u.) was sent directly to Beijing with a demand for the withdrawal of Chinese forces. The Qing Guangxu Emperor agreed, and the "territory was returned to the direct rule of Lhasa".[11]

Lhasa, 1900-1909[edit]

At the beginning of the 20th century the British Empire and Russian Empires were competing for supremacy in Central Asia. During "the Great Game", a period of rivalry between Russia and Britain, the British desired a representative in Lhasa to monitor and offset Russian influence.

Years earlier, the Dalai Lama had developed an interest in Russia through his debating partner, Buriyat Lama Agvan Dorjiev.[11] Then in 1901, Dorjiev had delivered letters from Tibet to the Tzar, namely a formal letter of appreciation from the Dalai Lama, and another from the Kashak directly soliciting support against the British.[11] Dorjiev's journey to Russia was seen as a threat by British interests in India, despite Russian statements they would not intervene. After realizing the Qing lacked any real authority in Tibet,[11] a British expedition was dispatched in 1904, officially to resolve border disputes between Tibet and Sikkim. The expedition quickly turned into an invasion which captured Lhasa.

For the first time and in response to the invasion, the Chinese foreign ministry asserted that China was sovereign over Tibet, the first clear statement of such a claim.[103]

Before the British invasion force arrived in Lhasa, the 13th Dalai Lama escaped to seek alliances for Tibet. The Dalai Lama travelled first to Mongolia and requested help from Russia against China and Britain, and learned in 1907 that Britain and Russia signed a non-interference in Tibet agreement. This essentially removed Tibet from the so-called "Great Game". The Dalai Lama received a dispatch from Lhasa, and was about to return there from Amdo in the summer of 1908 when he decided to go Beijing instead, where he was received with a ceremony appropriately "accorded to any independent sovereign", as witnessed by U.S Ambassador to China William Rockwell.[11] Tibetan affairs were discussed directly with Qing Dowager Empress Cixi, then together with the young Emperor. Cixi died in November 1908 during the state visit, and the Dala Lama performed the funeral rituals.[11] The Dalai Lama also made contacts with Japanese diplomats and military advisors.

The Dalai Lama returned from his search for support against China and Britain to Lhasa in 1909, and initiated reforms to establish a standing Tibetan army while consulting with Japanese advisors. Tibet employed Japanese military officer Yasujiro Yajima to train the Ganden Phodrang's army and to build barracks, and he resided in Tibet from 1912 to 1918.[104] Treaties were signed between the British and the Tibetans, then between China and Britain. The 1904 document was known as the Convention Between Great Britain and Tibet. The main points of the treaty allowed the British to trade in Yadong, Gyantse, and Gartok while Tibet was to pay a large indemnity of 7,500,000 rupees, later reduced by two-thirds, with the Chumbi Valley ceded to Britain until the imdenity was received. Further provisions recognised the Sikkim-Tibet border and prevented Tibet from entering into relations with other foreign powers. As a result, British economic influence expanded further in Tibet, while at the same time Tibet remained under the first claim in 1904 of "sovereignty" by the Qing dynasty of China.[105][verification needed]

The Anglo-Tibetan treaty was followed by a 1906 Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting Tibet, by which the "Government of Great Britain engages not to annex Tibetan territory or to interfere in the administration of Tibet. The Government of China also undertakes not to permit any other foreign State to interfere with the territory or internal administration of Tibet."[106] Moreover, Beijing agreed to pay London 2.5 million rupees which Lhasa was forced to agree upon in the Anglo-Tibetan treaty of 1904.[107]

As the Dalai Lama had learned during his travels for support, in 1907 Britain and Russia agreed that in "conformity with the admitted principle of the 1904 suzerainty of China over Tibet",[108] (from 1904), both nations "engage not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese Government."[108]

Qing invasion of Kham, 1904-1911[edit]

Lhasa Amban's yamen from Southeast around 1900–1901.

Soon after the British invasion of Tibet, the Qing rulers in China were alarmed. They sent the imperial official Feng Quan (凤全) to Kham to begin reasserting Qing control. Feng Quan's initiatives in Kham of land reforms and reductions to the number of monks[88] led to an uprising by monks at a Batang monastery in the Chiefdom of Batang.[34] [88] Tibetan control of the Batang region of Kham in eastern Tibet appears to have continued uncontested following a 1726-1727 treaty.[61] In Batang's uprising, Feng Quan was killed, as were Chinese farmers and their fields were burned.[34] The British invasion through Sikkim triggered a Khampa reaction, where chieftains attacked and French missionaries, Manchu and Han Qing officials, and Christian converts were killed.[109][110] French Catholic missionaries[111] Père Pierre-Marie Bourdonnec and Père Jules Dubernard[112] were killed around the Mekong.[113]

In response, Beijing appointed army commander Zhao Erfeng, the Governor of Xining, to "reintegrate" Tibet into China. Known of as "the Butcher of Kham"[11] Zhao was sent in either 1905 or 1908[114] on a punitive expedition. His troops executed monks[25] destroyed a number of monasteries in Kham and Amdo, and an early form of "sinicization" of the region began.[115][116] Later, around the time of the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, Zhao's soldiers mutinied and beheaded him.[117][118]

Before the collapse of the Qing Empire, the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin returned in 1909 from a three-year-long expedition to Tibet, having mapped and described a large part of inner Tibet. During his travels, he visited the 9th Panchen Lama. For some of the time, Hedin had to camouflage himself as a Tibetan shepherd (because he was European).[119] In an interview following a meeting with the Russian czar he described the situation in 1909 as follows:

"Currently, Tibet is in the cramp-like hands of China´s government. The Chinese realize that if they leave Tibet for the Europeans, it will end its isolation in the East. That is why the Chinese prevent those who wish to enter Tibet. The Dalai Lama is currently also in the hands of the Chinese Government"... "Mongols are fanatics. They adore the Dalai Lama and obey him blindly. If he tomorrow orders them go to war against the Chinese, if he urges them to a bloody revolution, they will all like one man follow him as their ruler. China's government, which fears the Mongols, hooks on to the Dalai Lama."... "There is calm in Tibet. No ferment of any kind is perceptible" (translated from Swedish).[119]

Qing collapse and Tibet independence[edit]

But in February 1910, the Qing General Zhong Ying [zh] invaded Tibet during its attempt to gain control of the country. After the Dalai Lama was told he was to be arrested, he escaped from Lhasa to India and remained for three months. Reports arrived of Lhasa's sacking, and the arrests of government officials. He was later informed by letter that Qing China had "deposed" him.[11][120]

After the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet at a location outside of Lhasa, the collapse of the Qing Dynasty occurred in October 1911. The Qing amban submitted a formal letter of surrender to the Dalai Lama in the summer of 1912.[11]

On 13 February 1913, the Dalai Lama declared Tibet an independent nation, and announced that what he described as the historic "priest and patron relationship" with China had ended.[11] The amban and China's military were expelled, and all Chinese residents in Tibet were given a required departure limit of three years. All remaining Qing forces left Tibet after the Xinhai Lhasa turmoil.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Norbu 2001, p. 78: "Professor Luciano Petech, who wrote a definitive history of Sino—Tibetan relations in eighteenth century, terms Tibet's status during this time as a Chinese "protectorate". This may be a fairly value-neutral description of Tibet's status during the eighteenth century..."
  2. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C. (April 1995), Tibet, China and the United States (PDF), The Atlantic Council, p. 3 – via Case Western Reserve University: "During that time the Qing Dynasty sent armies into Tibet on four occasions, reorganized the administration of Tibet and established a loose protectorate."
  3. ^ Dabringhaus, Sabine (2014), "The Ambans of Tibet—Imperial Rule at the Inner Asian Periphery", in Dabringhaus, Sabine; Duindam, Jeroen (eds.), The Dynastic Centre and the Provinces, Agents and Interactions, Brill, pp. 114–126, doi:10.1163/9789004272095_008, ISBN 9789004272095, JSTOR 10.1163/j.ctt1w8h2x3.12
  4. ^ Di Cosmo, Nicola (2009), "The Qing and Inner Asia: 1636–1800", in Nicola Di Cosmo; Allen J. Frank; Peter B. Golden (eds.), The Cambridge History of Inner Asia: The Chinggisid Age, Cambridge University Press – via ResearchGate
  5. ^ Szczepanski, Kallie (31 May 2018). "Was Tibet Always Part of China?". ThoughtCo.: "The actual relationship between China and Tibet had been unclear since the early days of the Qing Dynasty, and China's losses at home made the status of Tibet even more uncertain."
  6. ^ Lamb 1989, pp. 2–3: "From the outset, it became apparent that a major problem lay in the nature of Tibet's international status. Was Tibet part of China? Neither the Tibetans nor the Chinese were willing to provide a satisfactory answer to this question."
  7. ^ Sperling 2004, p. ix: "The status of Tibet is at the core of the dispute, as it has been for all parties drawn into it over the past century. China maintains that Tibet is an inalienable part of China. Tibetans maintain that Tibet has historically been an independent country. In reality, the conflict over Tibet's status has been a conflict over history."
  8. ^ Sperling 2004, p. x.
  9. ^ Mehra 1974, p. 182–183: The statement of Tibetan claims at the 1914 Simla Conference read: "Tibet and China have never been under each other and will never associate with each other in future. It is decided that Tibet is an independent state."
  10. ^ Szczepanski, Kallie (31 May 2018). "Was Tibet Always Part of China?". ThoughtCo.: "According to Tibet, the "priest/patron" relationship established at this time [1653] between the Dalai Lama and Qing China continued throughout the Qing Era, but it had no bearing on Tibet's status as an independent nation."
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Tsering Shakya, "The Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tubten Gyatso" Treasury of Lives, accessed May 11, 2021.
  12. ^ Fitzherbert & Travers 2020: '[From 1642], as a Buddhist government, the Ganden Phodrang’s choice to relinquish... the military defence of its territory to foreign troops, first Mongol and later Sino-Manchu, in the framework of “patron-preceptor” (mchod yon) relationships, created a structural situation involving long-term contacts and cooperation between Tibetans and "foreign" military cultures.'
  13. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C. (April 1995), Tibet, China and the United States (PDF), The Atlantic Council, p. 3 – via Case Western Reserve University
  14. ^ a b c d e Szczepanski, Kallie (31 May 2018). "Was Tibet Always Part of China?". ThoughtCo.
  15. ^ Fitzherbert & Travers 2020: "...the Ganden Phodrang (Dga’ ldan pho brang)’s military institutions were heir to a strong Tibetan martial tradition with roots extending back as far as the period of the Tibetan Empire (7th to 9th centuries) and perhaps beyond—a tradition whose traces were still visible in the Ganden Phodrang’s army until 1959..."
  16. ^ Emblems of Empire: Selections from the Mactaggart Art Collection, by John E. Vollmer, Jacqueline Simcox, p154
  17. ^ Central Tibetan Administration 1994, p. 26: "The ambans were not viceroys or administrators, but were essentially ambassadors appointed to look after Manchu interests, and to protect the Dalai Lama on behalf of the emperor."
  18. ^ Klieger, P. Christiaan (2015). Greater Tibet: An Examination of Borders, Ethnic Boundaries, and Cultural Areas. p. 71. ISBN 9781498506458.
  19. ^ Revolution and Its Past: Identities and Change in Modern Chinese History, by R. Keith Schoppa, p341
  20. ^ International Commission of Jurists (1959), p. 80.
  21. ^ India Quarterly (volume 7), by Indian Council of World Affairs, p120
  22. ^ Klieger, P. Christiaan (2015). Greater Tibet: An Examination of Borders, Ethnic Boundaries, and Cultural Areas. p. 74. ISBN 9781498506458.
  23. ^ Irina Garri, The rise of the Five Hor States of Northern Kham. Religion and politics in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands, "Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines", No. 51, 2020. Posted online 09 December 2020.
  24. ^ René Grousset, The Empire of the Steppes, New Brunswick 1970, p. 522
  25. ^ a b c d e f Irina Garri, "The rise of the Five Hor States of Northern Kham. Religion and politics in the Sino-Tibetan borderlands", Études mongoles et sibériennes, centrasiatiques et tibétaines, No 51, 2020, posted online 09 December 2020
  26. ^ Szczepanski, Kallie (31 May 2018). "Was Tibet Always Part of China?". ThoughtCo.: "The Dalai Lama made a state visit to the Qing Dynasty's second Emperor, Shunzhi, in 1653. The two leaders greeted one another as equals; the Dalai Lama did not kowtow. Each man bestowed honors and titles upon the other, and the Dalai Lama was recognized as the spiritual authority of the Qing Empire."
  27. ^ Waley-Cohen, Joanna (1998). "Religion, War, and Empire-Building in Eighteenth-Century China" (PDF). International History Review. 20 (2): 340. doi:10.1080/07075332.1998.9640827.
  28. ^ Wellens, Koen (2011). Religious Revival in the Tibetan Borderlands: The Premi of Southwest China. University of Washington Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0295801551.
  29. ^ Dai, Yingcong (2011). The Sichuan Frontier and Tibet: Imperial Strategy in the Early Qing. University of Washington Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-0295800707.
  30. ^ Ya, Hanzhang; Chen, Guansheng; Li, Peizhuan (1994). Biographies of the Tibetan spiritual leaders Panchen Erdenis. Foreign Languages Press. p. 63. ISBN 7119016873.
  31. ^ Zheng, Shan (2001). A history of development of Tibet. Foreign Languages Press. p. 229. ISBN 7119018655.
  32. ^ Memoirs of the Research Department of the Toyo Bunko: (the Oriental Library), Issues 56–59. Tôyô Bunko. 1998. p. 135.
  33. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 116–7
  34. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jann Ronis, "An Overview of Kham (Eastern Tibet) Historical Polities", The University of Virginia
  35. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 117–120
  36. ^ a b Smith 1996, pp. 120–1
  37. ^ Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz, Kleine Geschichte Tibets, München 2006, pp. 109–122.
  38. ^ Mullin 2001, p. 285
  39. ^ a b c d Rolf Alfred Stein (1972). Tibetan Civilization. Stanford University Press. pp. 85–88. ISBN 978-0-8047-0901-9.
  40. ^ Mullin 2001, p. 288
  41. ^ Mullin 2001, p. 290
  42. ^ Smith 1996, p. 125
  43. ^ Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). Tibet and its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated, pp. 48–9. Shambhala. Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk)
  44. ^ Schirokauer, 242
  45. ^ Smith 1996, p. 127.
  46. ^ Melvyn C. Goldstein (18 June 1991). A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. University of California Press. pp. 328 ff. ISBN 978-0-520-91176-5.
  47. ^ Smith 1996, p. 126
  48. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 125–6
  49. ^ Wang 2011, p. 30.
  50. ^ Dai 2009, p. 81.
  51. ^ Dai 2009, pp. 81–2.
  52. ^ Elliott 2001, p. 412.
  53. ^ Rawski 1998, p. 251.
  54. ^ Dabringhaus 2014, p. 123.
  55. ^ a b c d e f g h Cite error: The named reference FitzHerbert was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
  56. ^ a b Smith 1996, pp. 126–131
  57. ^ Mullin 2001, p. 293
  58. ^ Stephane Gros, "Chronology of major events with particular attention to the Sino-Tibetan borderlands". Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019.
  59. ^ a b Wang Lixiong, Reflections on Tibet Archived 2006-06-20 at the Wayback Machine, "New Left Review" 14, March–April 2002:'"Tibetan local affairs were left to the willful actions of the Dalai Lama and the shapes [Kashag members]", he said. "The Commissioners were not only unable to take charge, they were also kept uninformed. This reduced the post of the Residential Commissioner in Tibet to name only.'
  60. ^ Chapman, F. Spencer. (1940). Lhasa: The Holy City, p. 135. Readers Union Ltd., London.
  61. ^ a b Huc, Évariste Régis (1852), Hazlitt, William (ed.), Travels in Tartary, Thibet, and China during the Years 1844–5–6, Vol. I, London: National Illustrated Library, p. 123 |volume= has extra text (help).
  62. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 191–2
  63. ^ Wang 2001, pp. 170–3
  64. ^ Shirokauer, A Brief History of Chinese Civilization, Thompson Higher Education, (c) 2006, 244
  65. ^ Derek Maher, "The Eighth Dalai Lama, Jampel Gyatso" Treasury of Lives, accessed May 17, 2021
  66. ^ a b Frederick W. Mote, Imperial China 900–1800, Harvard University Press, 2003 p.938.
  67. ^ The journey and meeting is described in Kate Teltscher, The high road to China: George Bogle, the Panchen Lama and the first British expedition to Tibet, Bloomsbury Publishing 2007, pp. 208–226.
  68. ^ In regard to kowtowing, Shakabpa writes:'As they were leaving, the emperor came to visit the all-seeing Rimpoché. As the Emperor was to remain there for three days, he went to prostrate to his spiritual father at a place called Tungling.' Shakabpa, ibid.p.500.
  69. ^ Shakabka reads this event as illustrating the Preceptor-Patron relationship between China and Tibet. The Emperor wrote a letter which read: The wheel of doctrine will be turned throughout the world through the powerful scripture foretold to endure as long as the sky. Next year, you will come to honor the day of by birth, enhancing my state of mind. I am enjoying thinking about your swiftly impending arrival. On the way, Panchen Ertini, you will bring about happiness through spreading Buddhism and affecting the welfare of Tibet and Mongolia. I am presently learning the Tibetan language. When we meet directly, I will speak with you with great joy.' W. D. Shakabpa, One hundred thousand moons, trans. Derek F. Maher, BRILL, 2010, p. 497.
  70. ^ Frederick W. Mote, Imperial China, p.938.
  71. ^ Teltscher 2006, pp. 244–246
  72. ^ Smith 1996, p. 137
  73. ^ Smith 1996, pp. 134–135
  74. ^ Derek Maher in W. D. Shakabpa, One hundred thousand moons, translated with a commentary by Derek F. Maher, BRILL, 2010 pp.486–7.
  75. ^ Mullin 2001, p. 358
  76. ^ Patrick Taveirne,Han-Mongol encounters and missionary endeavors, Leuven University Press, 2004, p.89.
  77. ^ See the references here for Tsering Shakya's and Samten Chhospel's biographies of the Dalai Lamas at Treasury of Lives
  78. ^ Goldstein 1989, p.44, n.13
  79. ^ a b Taveirne,Han-Mongol encounters, p. 89.
  80. ^ Smith 1996, p. 151
  81. ^ Samten Chhospel, "The Ninth Dalai Lama, Lungtok Gyatso", Treasury of Lives, Biographies of Tibetan Masters, 2011.
  82. ^ Samten Chhospel, "The Tenth Dalai Lama, Tsultrim Gyatso", Treasury of Lives, Biographies of Tibetan Masters, 2011.
  83. ^ Smith 1996, p. 138
  84. ^ Grunfeld 1996, p. 47
  85. ^ Samten Chhospel, "The Twelfth Dalai Lama, Trinle Gyatso", Treasury of Lives, Biographies of Tibetan Masters, 2011.
  86. ^ Smith 1996, p. 140, n.  59
  87. ^ Mullin 2001, pp. 369–370
  88. ^ a b c d e Yudru Tsomu, "Taming the Khampas: The Republican Construction of Eastern Tibet" Modern China Journal, Vol. 39, No. 3 (May 2013), pp. 319-344
  89. ^ Ashley Eden, British Envoy and Special Commissioner to Sikkim, dispatch to the Secretary of the Government of Bengal, April 1861, quoted in Taraknath Das, British Expansion in Tibet, p12, saying "Nepal is tributary to China, Tibet is tributary to China, and Sikkim and Bhutan are tributary to Tibet"
  90. ^ Wang 2001, pp. 239–240
  91. ^ Treaty Between Tibet and Nepal, 1856, Tibet Justice Center
  92. ^ History of Tibet Justice Center
  93. ^ Walt van Praag, Michael C. van. The Status of Tibet: History, Rights and Prospects in International Law, Boulder, 1987, pp. 139–40
  94. ^ Grunfeld 1996, p257
  95. ^ Li, T.T., The Historical Status of Tibet, King's Crown Press, New York, 1956
  96. ^ Sino-Nepal Agreement of 1956
  97. ^ Yeh 2009, p. 60.
  98. ^ Yeh 2013, p. 283.
  99. ^ Tibet Justice Center – Legal Materials on Tibet – Treaties and Conventions Relating to Tibet – Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet (1890) ...
  100. ^ Powers 2004, pg. 80
  101. ^ Tibet Justice Center – Legal Materials on Tibet – Treaties and Conventions Relating to Tibet – Convention Relating to Burmah and Thibet (1886)
  102. ^ Project South Asia
  103. ^ Michael C. Van Walt Van Praag. The Status of Tibet: History, Rights and Prospects in International Law, p. 37. (1987). London, Wisdom Publications. ISBN 978-0-8133-0394-9.
  104. ^ Fitzherbert & Travers 2020: "And the other concerns the role of the Japanese officer Yasujiro Yajima (see photograph 7), who was resident in Tibet between 1912 and 1918 and was employed by the Tibetan government both as an instructor for the Tibetan army, and to design a new Tibetan military barracks. This constitutes one of the last episodes of “Asian influence” on the Ganden Phodrang’s army before it began to be disbanded following the Chinese Communist invasion"
  105. ^ Alexandrowicz-Alexander, Charles Henry (1954). "The Legal Position of Tibet". The American Journal of International Law. 48 (2): 265–274. doi:10.2307/2194374. ISSN 0002-9300. JSTOR 2194374.
  106. ^ Convention Between Great Britain and China Respecting Tibet (1906)
  107. ^ Melvyn C. Goldstein, Tibet, China and the United States: Reflections on the Tibet Question. Archived 2006-11-06 at the Wayback Machine, 1995
  108. ^ a b Convention Between Great Britain and Russia (1907)
  109. ^ Bray, John (2011). "Sacred Words and Earthly Powers: Christian Missionary Engagement with Tibet". The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan. fifth series. Tokyo: John Bray & The Asian Society of Japan (3): 93–118. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
  110. ^ Tuttle, Gray (2005). Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (illustrated, reprint ed.). Columbia University Press. p. 45. ISBN 0231134460. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  111. ^ Mission-Thibet (fr)
  112. ^ Royal Horticultural Society (Great Britain) (1996). The Garden, Volume 121. Published for the Royal Horticultural Society by New Perspectives Pub. Ltd. p. 274. Retrieved 2011-06-28.(Original from Cornell University)
  113. ^ Eric Teichman (1922). Travels of a consular officer in eastern Tibet: together with a history of the relations between China, Tibet and India. University Press. p. 248. ISBN 9780598963802. Retrieved 2011-06-28.(Original from the University of California)
  114. ^ FOSSIER Astrid, Paris, 2004 "L’Inde des britanniques à Nehru : un acteur clé du conflit sino-tibétain."
  115. ^ Karenina Kollmar-Paulenz, Kleine Geschichte Tibets, München 2006, p. 140f
  116. ^ Goldstein 1989, p. 46f
  117. ^ Hilton 2000, p. 115
  118. ^ Goldstein 1989, p. 58f
  119. ^ a b The Swedish newspaper Fäderneslandet, 1909-01-16
  120. ^ Goldstein 1989, p. 49ff