Tibet Early History

Tibet Early History

Tibet until around the year 1000

Tibet’s history goes back to 127 BC. BC, in which the first king of Tibet, Nyatri Tsenpo, united the different Tibetan tribes into one nation. After him, 41 kings of the Yarlung dynasty ruled Tibet until 842 AD. At that time, Tibet was a major political and military power in Central Asia. In 648 AD, the Tibetans moved into northern India and on to Burma. In the east, the Tibetan troops invaded the territory of the Chinese Tang Dynasty.

Under the rule of King Songtsen Gampo (617-649 AD), Tibet became a powerful state with a central government, its own culture, religion and script, a law, an army and relations with foreign countries. During this time, Buddhism came to Tibet and the Tibetan script was developed. King Songtsen Gampo also established 16 general moral codes that Tibetans consider to be their first code of law.

With the introduction of Buddhism in Tibet, religious and cultural relations with India were also initiated. In 741, a border treaty between China and Tibet was signed. With the incursion of the Tibetan army into China in 780 and the conquest of the then imperial capital Chang’an (now Xi’an), however, the peace between Tibet and China came to an end.
Under the rule of King Trisong Detsen, Tibet reached the height of its political and military power.

In the last decades of the 8th century Buddhism was able to establish itself in Tibet. In 779 the first Tibetan monastery, Samye, was founded, and the clergy held the highest positions in the administration of Tibet.

The first historically documented social reforms were carried out by the Tibetan King Muni Tsenpo (reign: 797-804 AD). After the 40th King of Tibet, Ngadhak Tri Ralpachen (815-836 AD), ascended to the throne, large formations of Tibetan armed forces were sent to the border with China. However, through the mediation of Buddhist monks from Tibet and China, a peace agreement was concluded between the two countries in 821.

The last Tibetan king, Lang Darma, was a follower of the local Bon religion. During his reign, followers of the Buddhist religion were persecuted and oppressed. When he was murdered by a Buddhist monk, the great Tibetan empire fell apart. The Chinese Tang Dynasty regained most of the areas annexed by Tibet. After the end of the Tang Dynasty in 907, both the Chinese and Tibetan empires split into small principalities with no central government.

Tibet from the year 1000 to the 17th century

In 1247, after about 400 years of political disunity and fragmentation, Tibet was reunited under the Sakya Lamas, a dynasty of 20 Lama kings who maintained political and religious rule over Tibet from 1249 to 1358 with the support of the Mongols. In 1249 the most important lama of his time and abbot of the Sakya monastery, Kunga Gyaltsen (1162 – 1251), was made Vice-King of Tibet. His nephew, Sakya Drogön Phakpa (1235-1280), was elevated to secular ruler of Tibet by Kublai Khan (1216-1295), a Mongol ruler, in 1253.

The supreme lama ruler was also seen as the spiritual advisor to the Chinese emperor. The emperor, in turn, served as the patron saint of Tibet. This relationship between Tibet and China continued after the end of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in China and continued in the relationship between the Dalai Lamas of Tibet and the Manchu emperors of China.

After the fall of the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty in 1368, Tibet regained its independence. The Tibetan prince Changchub Gyaltsen (1302-1364) from the noble Phagmo-Drupa family, who ruled over Tibet from 1358 to 1436, asserted himself as ruler of Tibet in 1350. He divided the country into dzongs. Changchub Gyaltsen also wrote a code of 13 rules for the order of procedure and punishment based on the 16 moral codes from the seventh century.

Due to internal disagreement in the middle of the 15th century, the Phagmo Drupa family lost power to the Rinpung family. From 1566 the Ringpung family was succeeded by the kings of Tsang, who ruled Tibet for 76 years.

The leading monks became the executive organs of the emerging hierarchical system, the state and form of government in Tibet. From 1642 until the flight of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1959, Tibet was under the rule of the Dalai Lamas.

The fifth Dalai Lama declared Lhasa the capital of Tibet and announced that the Tibetan government would henceforth be called “Ganden-Phodrang” after the name of his palace in Drepung Monastery. He also combined religious and political power in the person of the Dalai Lama. During many reigns of the Dalai Lamas, however, the actual power to govern was in the hands of the regents, as the Dalai Lamas were often minors.

With the death of the fifth Dalai Lama in 1682, another period of civil unrest broke out in Tibet, which led to the direct influence of the Chinese Manchu emperors over Tibet.
The first Europeans to come to the country were Portuguese monks around 1624.

Tibet Early History