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     Tibetan History

     Tibetan history can be traced back thousands of years. However, the written history dates back only to the 7th century when Songtsan Gampo, the 33rd Tibetan king, sent his minister Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit. Upon his return, Sambhota invented the present Tibetan script based on Sanskrit, which is still used today.

     Tibet's history can be divided into four distinct periods:

1. The Tsanpo Period

This period starts from Nyatri Tsanpo, the first King of Tibet, in 127 B.C (historians differ on the precise date, but this date is taken from the White Annales, a reliable book on Tibetan history). It ends in 842 A.D. at the death of Lang Dharma. Lang Dharma was the last of the Tibetan kings and was assassinated by a monk named Lhalung Palkyi Dorje as a result of Lang Dharma's ruthless persecution of Buddhism. During this period, some 42 Tsanpos (Kings) ruled over Tibet among which Songtsan Gampo was considered the zenith. Songtsan Gampo was an outstanding ruler who accomplished many things for Tibet. He unified the country, changed the capital to Lhasa, established important laws, sent Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit, and married Princess Wencheng of the Tang Court as well as Princess Bhrikuti Debi of Nepal. Last but certainly not least, Songtsan Gampo built the foundation of what was to become the Potala Palace and built the Jokhang Temple, both of which are still standing in Lhasa today.

2. The Period of Decentrailzation

This period began in 842 A.D., the year of Lang Dharma's assassination, and ended in about 1260 A.D, when Pagpa, the Abbot of Sakya Monastery, became a vassal of Kublai Khan, the first Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty. During this period little is known of actual history except that Tibet became decentralized into a number of small principalities.


3. The Period of Sakya, Pagdu, and Karmapa's Rule

This period began with the great scholar Sakya's rule over most of Southwest and Central Tibet, followed first by Pagdu's rule in Lhaoka and then by Karmara's rule in the Tsang region (Shigatse). This period lasted from 1260 A.D to 1642 A.D during which political powers centered in the three regions of Sakya, Pagdu, and Tsang, though scattered principalities remained.


4. The Period of the Gandan Podrang Administration

It is during this period that the Dalai Lama ruled Tibet. It started in 1642 A.D. when the 5th Dalai Lama took control  from the Tsang ruler. The Dalai Lama's rule came to a complete end in 1959 when China established the Tibet Autonomous Region.

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Tibet Geography

The rich and beautiful land of Tibet is located in China's South-West frontier. The Tibetan Plateau borders with China's Sichuan, Yuannan, Qinghai and Xinjiang provinces. To the south, Tibet is contiguous to India, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan and Burma, and bounded by Kashmir on the west.

When the word Tibet is mentioned, it often associated with snow and freezing cold temperatures.  In fact, it snows only once or twice a year and owing to the perpetuity of bright sunshine, it is not as cold as one might expect during the daytime, even in the coldest of the winter. "The land of snows" - the name by which Tibet is most popularly known - is correct only when it refers to the world's greatest mountain range, the Himalaya. The Himalayan range crosses the country showing their beautiful snow covered peaks against the bluest of skies.

Geographically, Tibet can be divided into three major parts: the east, north and south. The eastern part is a green, forest region, occupying approximately one-fourth of the land. Virgin forests run the entire breadth and length of this part of Tibet. The northern part is an open grassland where nomads, yaks and sheep dwell. This northern part occupies approximately half of Tibet. The southern and central part is an agricultural region, occupying about one-fourth of Tibet's land area. With all the major Tibetan cities and towns such as Lhasa, Shigatse, Gyantse and Tsetang located in this area, it is considered the cultural center of Tibet. The total area of the Tibet Autonomous Region is 1,200,000 square kilometers and its population is 1,890,000. The region is administratively divided into one municipality (Lhasa) and six prefectures (Shigatse, Ngari, Lhaoka, Chamdo, Nakchu and Nyingtri (Kongpo)).

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