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Tibetan History

Tibet has a long history, with signs of human existence dating back more than 4,000 years in the area of Nyingchi, in what is now eastern Tibet. By the time Songtsen Gampo established the Tubo dynasty in the 7th century AD, Tibet was developing rapidly with close communication with the Han people in the Tang Dynasty. Over time, Tibet has also experienced both low and high points in its history. So what was the development of Tibetan history? Who are some of the historical figures that had a profound impact on Tibetan history? Please read on to find more about Tibetan history.

What is the history of Tibet?

Since the early seventh century, China had entered a new historical stage. 300 years of chaos came to an end and the powerful Tang Dynasty was finally established in Central China. At the same time, the first unified Tibetan dynasty also appeared in Tibet history, namely, Tubo Kingdom.

The Tubo Kingdom and then Tang Dynasty were in a good relationship, especially after Songtsen Gampo, the great Tibetan King, married Princess Wencheng. And in 710, another Tang Princess Jincheng was sent to Tibet to marry Tubo king Tridé Tsuktsen. Hence, Tibetans got closer contact with Han People in politics, economy, culture via royal marriage and alliance. The Monument of the Tang-Tubo Alliance, also known as Changqing Alliance Tablet, is a good case in point. It still stands in front of Jokhang Temple, symbolizing the peace agreement between the two dynasties.

By the middle of the ninth century, slave uprisings continuously took place in the Tubo Kingdom. In the year 877, the Tubo Kingdom was completely overthrown. Since then, the whole Tibetan areas had been trapped in the phrase of splitting, separating, and scuffling for up to 400 years. And just 30 years after the collapse of the Tubo Kingdom, Tang Dynasty also disintegrated and entered into the period of Five Dynasty and Ten Kingdoms. However, it didn’t affect the connection between Tibetan and Han people that deeply. In 960, the Song Dynasty was set up. The exchanges between Tibet and mainland China in economy and culture went further.

In 1260, Kublai Khan conquered the Southern Song Dynasty and established the Yuan Dynasty. Phags-pa was honored as the national division and responsible for creating Mongolian (Phags-pa script). Kublai Khan also set up Xuanzheng Institute and asked Phags-pa to be in charge of national Buddhism and Tibetan administrative affairs. From then on, Tibet was officially incorporated into the territory of China's Yuan Dynasty. No doubt that Phags-pa had made a great contribution to the country’s reunification and across-region cultural exchanges.

In the late 14th century, the Ming government inherited the administrative system from the Yuan Dynasty. The relationship between Tibet and central authority had been further consolidated.

Since the 17th century, the Qing government further strengthened its rule over Tibet. In 1721, Bkav Blon Management System was set up. Qing imperial residents in Tibet occurred in 1727. The Authorized Regulations for the Better Governing of Tibet, issued in the year 1792, had 29 articles, making specific provisions on Tibetan administration, finance, military, foreign affairs, and so forth. And according to the 29 articles, the high commissioners should supervise the handling of Tibetan affairs on behalf of the central government, enjoying equal standing with the Dalai Lama and the Bainqen Erdeni Those rules and regulations marked that Qing governance in Tibet has become more legalized.

Seeing from the development of Tibetan history, Tibet has been an integrated part of China since the Yuan Dynasty. In the past 700 years, it has never been out of the jurisdiction of Chinese sovereignty. Even in the roughest of times, Tibet has not seceded from mainland China and no country in the world would admit that Tibet is an independent state.

What are the Influential Figures in Tibet History?

Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng are two of the most influential people in Tibet. Songtsen Gampo reunified the Tubo Kingdom and created the Tibetan alphabet. His marriage to Princess Wencheng allowed the introduction of Tang civilization and Buddhism into Tibet and the construction of the now-famous Potala Palace and the Jokhang Temple.

There are also many famous figures in Tibetan history, such as the Fifth Dalai Lama, who guilt the bulk of the famous Potala Palace, and Tsangyang Gyatso, who was also a famous poet and political figure in Tibetan history.

Other figures who have had a profound influence on Tibetan culture and religion include Guru Rinpoche, Tsongkhapa, King Trisong Detsen, and so on.

What is the oldest monastery in Tibet?

The oldest monastery in Lhasa is the famous Jokhang Temple with a history of over 1300 years. As the spiritual heart of Tibet, Jokhang Temple is the holiest monastery in Tibet. The highlight of the Jokhang Temple is the life-size statue of 12-year-old Sakyamuni Buddha.

The Trandruk Monastery is one of the oldest monasteries in Tibet, contemporaneous with the Great Jokhang Temple. Unlike the famous Jokhang Monastery, Trandruk Monastery is not well known. It is one of the first Buddhist monasteries built during the Tubo period, located in Naidong County, Shannan City. It houses a very precious pearl Thangka.

The oldest monastery in western Tibet is Tholing Monastery, which was built in 997 AD by the second King of Guge Kingdom.

Among all Tibetan monasteries, the first Buddhist site in Tibet is Samye Monastery. Built in the 8th century, Samye Monastery marks the true birth of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a good place to learn how early Buddhism influence local Tibetans.

Most Read Articles about Tibetan History

Tibet has a long history and quite close ties to the surrounding regions. To learn more about Tibet and get some basic background knowledge for your Tibet tour, please read the top 4 most-read articles about Tibet History.

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