“Chronology of the History of Tibet: 7th to 21st Century” By Katia Buffetrille

This chronology was first written in French at the request of Hélène Dorseuil, founder of Khata Karpo, an NGO helping Tibetan refugees. Putting together this chronology took me longer than expected, as I had to consult a wide range of sources to ascertain the facts. Hoping it might help other researchers, I have therefore decided to make it accessible in English to a wider audience. As readers will notice, there is an imbalance between the ancient and the contemporary periods because of the greater amount of information concerning the present time. As with all chronologies, I have had to make choices and there may be errors and gaps. I hope however that it will prove helpful and that others will improve it and bring it up to date. Katia Buffetrille. 

“Chronology of the History of Tibet: 7th to 21st Century” By Katia Buffetrille

618-907: The Tang Dynasty in China

Earlier spread of Buddhism (ngadar)

617-649/650: Reign of Songtsen Gampo who defeats and then rallies to his power many independent kingdoms including Zhang-Zhung in the west. His authority is respected over a vast territory. He marries, among others, Wencheng, a Tang princess. During his reign, a Tibetan alphabet is created from a North-Indian script, a code of laws is promulgated, and according to tradition, several temples are built, including the Jokhang and Ramoche in Lhasa. He is recognized as the first “King according to the Law”, (i.e. the Buddhist Dharma). This is the period called by Tibetans the “Earlier spread of Buddhism”.

Jokhang Temple, Lhasa. ©Katia Buffetrille, 1989

649-676: Reign of Manglön Mangtsen, grandson of Songtsen Gampo. Because he is too young to rule, power is exercised by Gar Tongtsen (590-667), Songtsen Gampo’s minister, and his family who continue Songtsen Gampo’s expansionist campaigns. For the first time, Tibetan armies penetrate westwards into what is now East Turkestan. They also subdue the Asha Kingdom in the northeast of the Tibetan plateau.

676-704: Reign of Tridu Songtsen. Tibetan incursions into the north-western plateau and Central Asia and conflict with the Nanzhao Kingdom (in northern present-day Yunnan).

712-755: Reign of Tride Tsugtsen (704-755). He marries the Chinese princess Jincheng (originally intended for his father Tridu Songtsen) in 710 and ascends the throne in 712. Chinese historical classics and popular Chinese Buddhist texts are said to have been translated into Tibetan.

742-797(?): Reign of Trisong Detsen, the second “King according to the Law”. Apogee of the empire. Official patronage of Buddhism by the king and court. The monarch invites Indian masters such as Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava. He is responsible for the construction of Samye, the first Buddhist monastery. Debate between the proponents of Indian Buddhism, who advocate a gradual path to Enlightenment, and those of Chinese Buddhism (Chan), for whom the cessation of all activity allows one to reach Enlightenment immediately. According to tradition, Indian Buddhism is the winner. The great texts of Indian Buddhism are translated into Tibetan.

Samye Monastery. ©Katia Buffetrille, 1988

 755-763: An Lushan’s revolt in China weakens the Tang Empire.

763: Brief occupation by the Tibetans of the Chinese capital Chang’an (now Xi’an).

797 (?)-799: Reign of Muné Tsenpo who institutes Buddhist festivals in several important monasteries of Central Tibet.

799-815: Reign of Tridé Songtsen Senaleg. Standardisation of procedures for translating Indian texts and of Buddhist terminology into Tibetan, now based on Sanskrit sources.

815-838: Reign of Tri Relpachen, third “King according to the Law”.

822: Signature of a peace treaty with China inscribed on a pillar set up in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa. Tibet and China are considered as two sovereign states. The treaty defines the borders and proclaims that “Tibetans shall be happy in Tibet and Chinese shall be happy in China”. 

The three “Kings according to the Law”: Songtsen Gampo, Trisong Detsen et Relpachen. ©Katia Buffetrille, Gyantse 1986

End of the Tibetan Empire

842: Murder of Langdarma (r. 838-842), the last Tibetan ruler, blamed by Tibetan tradition for persecuting Buddhism. End of the period of the earlier spread of Buddhism. Dislocation of the Tibetan empire due to internal quarrels and military setbacks. Descendants of Langdarma establish separate polities, including the Kingdom of Guge, in Western Tibet.

851: The Chinese conquer the oasis of Dunhuang – in today’s Gansu Province – where many documents will be discovered in our times, notably Tibetan texts little influenced by Buddhism.

852-970: Period from which we have few documents. Tibet enters the “Period of Fragmentation”.

960-1279: The Song Dynasty in China

Later spread of Buddhism (chidar)

Tibet experienced a revival of Buddhism at the end of the 10th century from the eastern and western borders of the Tibetan Plateau.

950-1685: Flourishing of the Kingdom of Guge (Western Tibet)

958-1055: Life of Rinchen Zangpo, a great Buddhist scholar from Western Tibet. King Lha Lama Yeshe Ö sends him to India where he learns to translate texts, invites Indian masters and craftsmen to Tibet, and brings back Buddhist texts. Tibetans, such as Marpa (1012-1096), Milarepa’s master (1040-1123), travelled to India to receive teachings. This is the beginning of the “Later spread of Buddhism”. Emergence of the first institutionalised schools of Tibetan Buddhism and construction of monasteries.

959-1036: Life of Lha Lama Yeshe Ö, King of Guge, patron of Buddhism.

982-1054: Life of Atisha. He arrives in Gugé in 1042 and dies in Nyetang in 1054. His teachings are at the origin of the Kadam school.

996: Foundation of the monastery of Tabo (in present-day Himachal Pradesh) and that of Toling (Western Tibet) by Rinchen Zangpo.

1027: Introduction of the Kalachakra Tantra and establishment of a new calendar system based on it.

Foundation of Shalu Monastery by Jetsun Sherab Jungné. 

Shalu Monastery. ©Katia Buffetrille, 1989

1057: Foundation of Reting Monastery (Central Tibet) by Dromtön (1004-1064), main disciple of Atisha.

1072: Foundation of the Sangpu Ne’utok Monastery (Central Tibet) by Ngo Lekpé Sherab, a disciple of Atisha. This Kadam monastery will later house monks belonging to the Geluk and Sakya traditions.

1073: Foundation in Tsang of the Sakya Monastery by Konchok Gyelpo (1034-1102).

1110-1170: Life of Pakmodrupa Dorjé Gyelpo, founder of the Pakmodru-Kagyu order.

1110-1193: Life of Düsum Khyenpa Choekyi Dragpa, 1st Karmapa and founder of the Karma Kagyu school.

1121: Foundation in Central Tibet of the Dakla Gampo Kagyu Monastery by Gampopa Sonam Rinchen (1079-1153), disciple of Milarepa.

1143-1217: Life of Jigten Sumgön, founder of Drikung Til Monastery.

1158: Foundation of Densatil by Pakmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo (1110-1170). It will become the seat of the Pakmodru family.

1159: Foundation of Katok Monastery (Kham) by Dampa Deshek (1122-1192).

Tibet from the 13th to the 17th Century

1235-1280: Life of Pakpa Lodroe Gyeltsen, nephew of Sakya Pandita, of Sakya obedience.  He establishes a “patron-priest” (chöyön) relationship with the Mongol Khubilai Khan (1215-1294), future emperor of China and founder of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (1276-1368), who gives him authority over the “Three regions” (Cholka sum). Pakpa creates a Mongol alphabet at Khubilai’s request.

1240: 1st Mongol invasion by Göden, grandson of Gengis Khan, and destruction of Reting Monastery.

1269: Foundation of Chone Monastery (Amdo) by Pakpa.

1280-1368: The Mongol Yuan dynasty rules over a vast empire which includes Tibet and China.

1284-1339: Life of the 3rd Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje.

1290-1364: Life of Butön Rinchendrub who plays an important role in the systematisation of the Tibetan Buddhist canon. He becomes the 11th abbot of Shalu Monastery.

1301: Construction of Rongwo Gönchen Monastery (Amdo) by the Sakyapa master Sangda Rinchen. The monastery became a Geluk monastery in 1630 under Shar Kelden Gyatso (1607-1677).

1302-1364: Life of Changchub Gyeltsen, heir to the Pagmodrupa lineage established in Ne’udong, Central Tibet. He defeats the Sakyapa and takes power in 1358. He frees Tibet from the Mongol power, which was already weak.

1357-1419: Life of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Geluk school, responsible for the construction of the Ganden Monastery in 1409 as well as the establishment of the Great Prayer (Monlam chenmo) of the New Year in Lhasa. His disciples then found Drepung in 1416 and Sera in 1419.

1361?-1485: Life of Tangtong Gyelpo, a famous and much revered tantric and yogi, who is credited with the invention of Tibetan theatre and also with having played an important role in the construction of iron bridges as well as in medicine.

1368: End of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China.

1368-1644: The Chinese Ming Dynasty in China.

1405: Foundation of the Bönpo Monastery of Menri (Tsang) by Nyamé Sherab Gyeltsen (1356-1415).

1418: The ruler of Chone is recognised as hereditary chief by the Ming emperor Yongle (1360-1424).

1418-1425: Construction of the Pelkor Chödé of Gyantse by the ruler Rabten Künzang Pakpa (1389-1442), an ecumenical centre for the Sakya and Gelug traditions. He is also responsible for the construction of the great stupa, or Kumbum.

1434: The Pakmodrupa lose their power to the lords of Rinpung, protectors of the Karmapa who, in turn, are overthrown in 1565 by the Tsang Kings, supporters of the Karmapa.

1447: Construction of the Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse (Tsang) by Gendun Drup (1391-1474) who was retroactively recognised as the 1st Dalaï Lama.

1498-1565: Rivalries and conflicts between the Geluk and Karma schools and between the local lords of Rinpung and Tsang.

1560: Foundation of Kumbum Monastery (Amdo) by the monk Rinchen Tsöndru Gyeltsen.

1567-1662: Life of Lobsang Choekyi Gyeltsen, abbot of Tashi Lhunpo. He receives the title of “Panchen Bogd” from Gushri Khan, when he is 75 years old. His three previous incarnations are recognised as Panchen Lamas, which leads to two enumerations: some consider him as the 1st Panchen Lama while for others he is the 4th. He receives vast estates from the 5th Dalai Lama, and also from Gushri Khan and his grandson.

1578: Sonam Gyatso, abbot of Drepung (1543-1588), receives the title of Dalai Lam-a from Altan Khan, leader of the Tümed Mongols. His two previous incarnations are retroactively recognised as the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lama.

1588: Death of Sonam Gyatso. His reincarnation is found in Altan Khan’s relatives.

1589-1616: Life of Yonten Gyatso, 4th Dalai Lama, great grandson of Altan Khan (or his brother).

1604: Foundation of the Geluk Monastery of Gönlung Jampaling (Amdo) by Gyelsé Dönyö Choekyi Gyatso, on the orders of the 4th Dalai Lama.

1612: The King of Tsang, Karma Phuntsok Wangyel, takes power over Central Tibet.

The 5th Dalai Lama and the Ganden Podrang Government

1617-1682: Life of Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, 5th Dalai Lama, called the “Great Fifth”.

1629-1631/1634 and 1639: Three wars are waged against Bhutan by the King of Tsang, but without success.

1638-1724: Gushri Khan and his sons rule most of Amdo.

1639-1641: Gushri Khan defeats the Bönpo King of Beri and asserts his authority over parts of Kham, including the Kingdom of Chakla.

Foundation of the Kingdom of Derge (Kham) by Jampa Phuntsok who helps Gushri Khan and receives new territories in thanks.

1642: The 5th Dalai Lama receives from Gushri Khan, leader of the Khoshod Mongols, the spiritual and temporal authority over the territories of central and eastern Tibet that he has conquered. Thereafter, the hierarch institutionalises a system of government based on the union of spiritual authority and temporal power, named “Ganden Podrang”, after its abbey palace in Drepung Monastery. Construction of the Potala (from 1645) which becomes the seat of the “Ganden Podrang” government.

The Potala seen from the Jokhang Temple. ©Katia Buffetrille, 1989

1644-1911: The Manchu Dynasty of the Qing in China.

1644 and 1648: Tibetan-Mongol armies attempt to invade Bhutan but are unsuccessful.

Second half of the 17th Century: Construction of important monasteries in Kham.

1652: The King of Chakla (Kham) submits to the Manchus in order to resist the domination of the Ganden Podrang government.

1652-1653: Journey of the 5th Dalai Lama to Peking where he meets the Manchu emperor Shunzhi (1638-1661).

1656-1657: War between Tibet and Bhutan.

1668: The Chinese general Wu Sangui (1612-1678) gives Gyelthang to the Ganden Podrang government, leading to the rebellion of the followers of the Karma Kagyu school, who are defeated by the Tibetan-Mongolian troops in 1674. Construction of the Geluk monastery of Ganden Sumtseling in 1679 and transformation of many Kagyu monasteries into Geluk.

New war between Tibet and Bhutan.

1675-1676: War between Tibet and Bhutan.

1681-1683: War with Ladakh which, defeated, is compelled to cede its eastern territories (Rutok, Purang and Guge) to the Ganden Podrang by the treaty of 1684.

1682: Death of the 5th Dalai Lama. The regent Sangyé Gyatso keeps his death secret until 1696 in order to maintain the stability of the power and to complete the construction of the Potala.

Tibet after the 5th Dalai Lama

1683-1705: Life of the 6th Dalai Lama. A great poet, he does not manifest any interest in monastic life or politics.

1705: Lhazang Khan, grandson of Gushri Khan and chief of the Mongol Khoshod, wishes to take over the status of King of Tibet that Gushri Khan had assigned to himself, but without really exercising power. In agreement with the Manchu emperor Kangxi (r. 1662-1723), he attacks Lhasa, kills the regent and kidnaps the 6th Dalai Lama who dies on his way to Peking.

1706: Lhazang Khan attempts to impose a Dalai Lama of his own choice, but is opposed by Tibetans who ally themselves with the Dzungar Mongols.

1707: First arrival of Capuchin missionaries in Lhasa.

1709: Foundation of the Geluk monastery of Labrang in Amdo by the 1st Jamyang Zhepa (1648-1722).

1714: War between Tibet and Bhutan.

1716: Arrival of Jesuits and Capuchins in Lhasa.

1717: The Dzungar Mongols kill Lhazang Khan and seize Lhasa. They plunder and destroy a number of Nyingma monasteries.

1717-1786:  Life of Chankya Rölpé Dorje, chaplain of the Qing emperor Qianlong (1711-1799).

Manchu Protectorate (c. 1720-1911)

1720: The armies of the Manchu emperor Kangxi (1654-1722) drive the Dzungar out from Tibet, jointly with the Tibetan forces of Kangchené and Polané and install the 7th Dalaï Lama (1708-1757) who does not, however, exercise temporal power. The Manchu dynasty establishes a protectorate over the country. An oligarchy of five nobles led by Kangchené exercises authority.

1721: Founding of the Chone (Amdo) printing house.

1723-1724: Rebellion in Amdo by the Khoshod Mongols led by Lobsang Danjin and their Tibetan allies, repressed by the Manchus. Amdo is officially integrated into the Manchu empire.

1727: Murder of Kangchené. Creation of the position of amban (representatives of the Manchu emperor) by the Qing.

1728: Polané Sonam Topgyel (1689-1747), a Tibetan lay nobleman, becomes King of Tibet (1740-1747) with the consent of the Manchu emperor and remains so until his death. Installation of a Manchu garrison of 2 000 soldiers and two representatives (amban) in Lhasa.

1729: Tenpa Tsering, King of Derge, builds the printing house of Derge.

Derge printing house. ©Katia Buffetrille, 2016

1729 and 1732: Wars between Tibet and Bhutan.

1732: War between Tibet and Bhutan.

1745: End of the Capucin mission in Lhasa.

1750: Murder of Gyurme Namgyal, son and successor of Polané, by the amban, followed by the murder of the latter by the Tibetans. Reorganisation of the Tibetan government by the Manchu emperor Qianlong (r. 1736-1795). The 7th Dalai Lama (1708-1757) is appointed as the religious and temporal leader of Tibet but is assisted by the amban.

1757: Death of Kelzang Gyatso, the 7th Dalai Lama, and nomination of an ecclesiastical regent ensuring the interregnum until the enthronement of the next Dalai Lama. This system is continued until the 1950s.

1758-1805: Life of the 8th Dalai Lama. He does not exercise power due to his premature death.

1774-1775: Mission of George Bogle (1746-1781), sent by the Governor of the British East India Company to the 6th Panchen Lama (1738-1780), abbot of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery.

1783: Mission of Samuel Turner to the 7th Panchen Lama (1782-1853).

1788: First Gurkha invasion of Nepal and defeat of the Tibetans.

1791: Second Gurkha invasion and intervention of the Manchu army. Beginning of the closing of Tibet to foreigners.

1792: Promulgation of the “29-Article Ordinance” by the Manchu Emperor Qianlong in order to reorganise Tibetan institutions. Introduction of the golden urn for the selection of important reincarnations by drawing lots among several candidates. For the two important Geluk lineages, only the 10th (1816-1837), 11th (1838-1856) and 12th (1856-1875) Dalai Lamas as well as the 8th (1855-1882) and 9th Panchen Lamas (1883-1937) were chosen by lot.

1799-1865: Life of Gonpo Namgyal, a charismatic leader from Nyarong who succeeded in unifying the three regions of Nyarong between 1836 and 1861 and in seizing the territories of neighbouring chiefs.

The Dalai Lamas, 9th (1806-1815), 10th (1816-1837), 11th (1838-1855) and 12th (1856-1875) die before they could exercise power. The country was then ruled by regents from Geluk monasteries recognised by the Manchu emperors.

1839-1860: Submission of the Manchus to European powers following the two Opium Wars (1839-1842 and 1856-1860).

1841: The Dogra army commanded by Zorawar Singh launches an attack in the west of Tibet. Zorawar Singh is captured and beheaded.

1855-1856: The Gorkha invade Tibetan border towns. The amban decide to negotiate and the treaty signed demands not only a tribute paid by the Tibetans to the Nepalese, but also the right for Nepal to open an embassy in Lhasa and extraterritoriality rights for the Nepalese residing in Tibet.

1862-1865: Gonpo Namgyal continues his conquests (including Derge, the territories of the five Hor chiefs, etc.) and controls the trade route between Central Tibet and China. Lhasa sends troops as well as the Qing, but the latter only intervene when Lhasa’s victory is imminent.  Gonpo Namgyal is killed.

During the second part of the 19th century, Tibet is closed to foreigners.

1876-1933: Life of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

1883: Anti-Nepalese riots in Lhasa.

1888: First border conflict between British and Tibetans in Sikkim. The latter are defeated. First British invasion in Tibet.

1890: British protectorate over Sikkim and signature of a convention between British and Manchus fixing the border between Sikkim and Tibet.

1893: Treaty of commercial regulations between the British and the Manchus not recognised by the Tibetans.

1895: The 13th Dalai Lama assumes power.

1896: Attempted assassination of the Dalai Lama by the Demo regent.

1904: British expedition led by Francis Younghusband. The British troops reach Lhasa. First exile of the Dalai Lama to Mongolia, then to China in 1908. The defeat of the Tibetans leads them to sign an Anglo-Tibetan convention in Lhasa which allows the installation of a British resident in Lhasa, and the opening of three commercial agencies: in Dromo (Southern Tibet), Gyantse (Central Tibet) and Gartok (Western Tibet) and requires the payment of an indemnity. Withdrawal of the British.

1906: Convention on Tibet between the Manchu dynasty of the Qing and Great Britain which ratifies the Lhasa Convention of 1904.

1907: The Manchu general Zhao Erfeng (1845-1911), the “Butcher of Kham”, occupies large parts of Eastern Kham where he carries out a colonial policy of Sinicization.

Anglo-Russian Convention in which both parties recognise China’s suzerainty over Tibet.

1908: The 13th Dalai Lama, then in exile, goes to Peking where he meets the emperor and empress who die during his stay. He participates in their funeral.

1909: Return of the 13th Dalai Lama to Lhasa. He flees the following year in the face of the arrival of an advance guard of Zhao Erfeng’s Manchu troops.

1910: Second exile of the 13th Dalai Lama, this time in India where he discovers modernity and realises that his country must be modernised.

1911: Republican Revolution in China. Fall of the Manchu dynasty of the Qing.

De facto Independence (1913-1951)

1912: Return of the 13th Dalai Lama to Lhasa. The Manchu garrison surrenders and the Tibetans expel all the Chinese present in Tibet.

1913: The 13th Dalai Lama proclaims the independence of Tibet but it is not recognised by foreign powers.

Introduction of paper money.

Four boys from aristocratic families are sent to Great Britain to receive a Western education.

Signature of the Tibetan-Mongol treaty in which the two countries mutually recognise their independence (Outer Mongolia proclaimed its independence in 1911).

1914: Simla Convention between Great Britain, China and Tibet; the treaty is not ratified by China. The southern border of Tibet is delimited by the McMahon Line which the government of the PRC still does not recognize. Four regiments of the army are trained according to the British system and are equipped with the Tibetan flag. In the following years, the Dalai Lama creates postal services, a bank, initiates a telegraph system, and develops agriculture.

1918: Agreement of Rongbatsa (Eastern Tibet) after the victory of the Tibetan troops on the Chinese troops. It delimits the Eastern border of Tibet with China.

1920-1921: Charles A. Bell is sent to Lhasa as “Ambassador of British India”. This mission marks the apogee of the relations between Tibet and Great Britain.

1923: Flight of the 9th Panchen-lama (1883-1937) to Mongolia then to China because of his refusal to pay taxes intended to finance the army. Opening of an English school in Gyantse.

1924: Construction of the hydro-electric power station of Drapchi, near Lhasa, put into service in 1927.

Creation of the People’s Republic of Mongolia.

1925-1926: The conservatism of the high clergy prevents the 13th Dalai Lama from continuing the modernisation of the country. The English school in Gyantse is closed.

1928: Chiang Kai-Shek creates a nationalist government in Nanjing as well as the Tibetan and Mongolian Affairs Commission.

1932: “Testament” of the 13th Dalai Lama in which he worries about the threat that a communist system poses to Buddhism because of the destruction and massacres perpetrated by the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, under Soviet pressure and with Soviet assistance.

Kelzang Tsering launches the “Khampa rule for Kham”, a self-rule movement aiming at local power based on ethnicity.

1933: Death of the 13th Dalai Lama.

1934: Reting Rinpoche (1912-1947) is appointed regent. The Nationalists send a condolence mission to Lhasa and two Chinese officials remain in Lhasa but they have no political power. The aristocrat Lungshar seeks to introduce reforms giving more power to the National Assembly. He is accused of plotting against the government and attempting to assassinate the Minister Trimön and sentenced to be blinded.

The Long March starts in October.

1935: Birth in Amdo of Lhamo Dhondup, the future 14th Dalai Lama.

Gara lama Sonam Rabten (1865-1936) launches the Second “Khampa rule for Kham” movement.

1935-1936: Soldiers of the Long March cross the Ngaba and Gyalrong regions. They plunder villages and desecrate religious buildings, creating wounds that are still alive today among the inhabitants.

1936-1947: Installation of a British mission in Lhasa.

1937: A search mission recognises Lhamo Dhondup as the 14th Dalai Lama. He receives the name Tenzin Gyatso.

Death of the 9th Panchen Lama in China.

1939: The 14th Dalai Lama’s departure for Lhasa is only possible after the payment of a large sum of money to the Muslim warlord Ma Bufang who rules Qinghai.

A group of five Khampa students from Batang, led by Baba Phuntsok Wangyal, found the Tibetan Communist Party. Its aim is an independent and revolutionary Tibet, allied with but not subject to the Chinese or Soviet Communist Parties (however, it does not play any significant role thereafter). Another movement, the Tibet Improvement Party, based in Kalimpong, includes Tibetan aristocrats, important Khampa businessmen, and Gendun Chopel (1903-1951), a non-conformist Geluk monk, scholar, poet, and artist. This party aims at the integration of Tibet into the Chinese Republic. It is dismantled in 1946.

Creation of the Xikang province.

Launching of the third “Khampa rule for Kham” movement.

1940: Enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama.

1941: Reting Rinpoche resigns because his dissolute life does not allow him to confer novice vows on the young Dalai Lama. He is replaced by Taktra (1874-1952), a very conservative monk.

1942: Mission of Ilia Tolstoy and Brooke Dolan to Lhasa, both agents of the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Their aim is to establish a supply corridor from India to China via Tibet to support the Allied war effort in China against Japan. Refusal of the Tibetan government.

1945: Establishment of an English school in Lhasa, closed after a few months due to pressure from conservative clerics.

Arrival in Lhasa of Heinrich Harrer and Peter Aufschnaiter, two Austrian prisoners of war who have escaped from a camp in Dehra Dun.

The Xikang government bans opium.

1946: The Tibet Improvement Party in Kalimpong is disbanded. Taktra Rinpoche sends a Tibetan congratulatory mission to India on the occasion of the end of the Second World War.

1947: Gendun Chopel arrested.

Participation of a Tibetan delegation in the Pan-Asian Conference held in Delhi.

The plot by Reting Rinpoche against Taktra Rinpoche and the revolt of the monks of the Sera Jé College who support him are foiled. Reting is imprisoned and dies soon after.

Independence of India. End of British interests in Tibet. The British mission becomes the Indian mission.

Sending of a Tibetan trade mission to India, UK, USA and China. The emissaries travel with Tibetan passports.

1949: Fall of the Guomindang. Closure of the Chinese mission and expulsion of all Chinese residing in Tibet.

Mao proclaims the People’s Republic of China and announces his intention to “liberate” Tibet from the “influence of the English and American imperialists”. Only seven Westerners are then present in Tibet with no American among them.

1950, October: The Chinese invasion begins. In November, the 14th Dalai Lama is given full powers as head of the Tibetan government. The People’s Liberation Army wins the Chamdo battle (Kham) after a much more determined resistance than is generally reported.

The Dalai Lama flees to Dromo (Yadong) on the Sikkimese border. The Tibetan government appeals to the UN, but the Indian delegates persuade the Assembly to postpone the appeal.

Tibet Occupied Since 1951

1951: The Seventeen-Point Agreement is signed in Beijing by a group of representatives of the Tibetan government directed by Ngabo Ngawang Jigme. It stipulates that Tibet is part of China but undertakes to respect the political and religious system of the country. (It might be worth mentioning that by “Tibet” only the Ganden Podrang-controlled area was understood. Amdo and part of Kham, (Xikang Province) was already regarded by the Chinese as part of China, no matter whether areas were de facto independent or not.)

Return of the Dalai Lama to Lhasa.

Death of Gendun Chopel.

1952: Lhasa Primary School is established under the auspices of the Chinese government.

1953: Tibetan tribute to Nepalese is abolished.

1953-1985: Life of Dhondup Gyal, a Tibetan intellectual from Amdo, creator of Tibetan poetic writing in free verse.

1954: Journey of the 14th Dalai Lama and the 10th Panchen Lama to Peking to participate at the Chinese National People’s Assembly. Meeting with Mao Zedong. India and China sign a treaty elaborating the “Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence”. Opening of the roads from Lhasa to Sichuan and from Lhasa to Qinghai.

1955: Return of the Dalai Lama to Lhasa. Dissolution of the Xikang province and incorporation of Eastern Kham into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan and Yunnan.

1956: Setting up of the Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet (PCART) which is intended to replace the Tibetan government. The Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama travel to India to take part in the celebrations of the 2500th anniversary of the birth of the Buddha (Buddha Jayanti). The Dalai Lama hesitates to return to Lhasa, but following Zhou Enlai’s promise that no reforms will be implemented by force, he returns. Launch of the “democratic reforms” in Kham, which consist in the elimination of pre-1949 political institutions, the formation of cooperatives, the confiscation of land, the denunciation, imprisonment, and execution of “class enemies”, the expropriation of monasteries and the political “re-education” of the remaining population. Revolts break out which are strongly repressed. Some last until 1958. Many Khampas flee to Lhasa.

CIA assistance to Khampa resistance fighters begins.

1957: The Southernmost Tibetan region of Kham becomes Diqing (Dechen) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture and is integrated in Yunnan province. Opening of the road linking Xinjiang to Tibet.

Gompo Tashi launches the Resistance Army (Chushi Gangdruk, “Four Rivers, Six Mountains”) in Lhasa, made up mainly of Khampas. Its headquarters are then set up in Lhokha (south-east of Lhasa). The army changed its name to the “Volunteer Defenders of the Faith”, showing that this organisation encompassed all Tibetans and not just the Khampas.

1958: Amdo rises up to prevent collectivisation. Very strong repression to which must be added the destruction of religious buildings and the forced return of most of the clerics to secular life. The rebellion is not completely crushed until 1962. Launch of the “Great Leap Forward” (1958-1960). Communes are created in Amdo as early as 1958.

1959: 10 March, Lhasa Uprising. On 17 March, the Dalai Lama flees to India under the protection of Khampa soldiers from the Chushi Gangdruk Resistance Army, to which the Ganden Podrang government has never given official support. More than 80,000 Tibetans also flee the country. On 29 March 1959, the Dalai Lama denounces the Seventeen-point Agreement in Lündze Dzong and forms a provisional government, the “Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness” commonly referred to as the “Tibetan government in exile”. He establishes it in India, initially in Mussorie, then from 1960 in Dharamsala, in Himachal Pradesh.

Beginning of the destruction of religious buildings and implementation of the “democratic reforms” in Central Tibet. Thousands of Tibetans are arrested, or sent to labour camps, and sometimes executed.

Zhou Enlai announces the abolition of the former Tibetan government. The Panchen Lama is appointed President of the PCART.

First UN resolution calling for respect for the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people and Tibetan particularities.

1960: The People’s Liberation Army finally succeeds in controlling Tibet. The Tibetan Resistance Army establishes a base in Mustang (Nepal). Between 1960 and 1971, the Nepalese government turns a blind eye to Khampa activities in Mustang.

1961: The UN adopts a second resolution calling for the protection of human rights in Tibet and recognising the right to self-determination of the Tibetan people.

1962: Sino-Indian war over the “McMahon Line” which had determined the border at the Simla Conference of 1914 but which China did not recognise. India’s defeat. The question of the border between the two countries remains.

The 10th Panchen Lama sends to Zhou Enlai the “70,000 Character Petition” in which he denounces the abuses committed against the Tibetan people. He is placed under house arrest, then arrested in 1964, after a speech in which he affirmed his faith in the Dalai Lama.  He is not rehabilitated until 1978.

Some monasteries are allowed to hold assemblies; individuals are released.

1963: In exile, at the initiative of the Dalai Lama, the forty-six elected members of the Tibetan Parliament in exile draft a Constitution based on Buddhist doctrine and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

1964: Launch of the “Socialist Education Campaign”. The monasteries opened in 1962 are closed again.

1965: Creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) which corresponds roughly to the territory governed by the Ganden Podrang government. For the Chinese, the term Tibet refers exclusively to the TAR. For the Tibetans, “Tibet” refers to the “Three Provinces”: central and western Tibet and the two eastern provinces of Kham and Amdo, a territory of 2,500,000 square kilometres, a quarter of China.

Third United Nations resolution renewing its “call for the cessation of all practices which deny the Tibetan people their human rights and fundamental freedoms”.

1966-1970: “Cultural Revolution” in TAR. With the religious sites having already been desecrated, all vestiges of traditional culture are destroyed in an atmosphere of persecution. Prohibition of all monastic life and imprisonment of a large number of Tibetans (lay and religious). Chaos and fighting between the two Red Guard factions (Gyenlo and Nyamdré). The army restores order in 1970.

1967: Opening of the Lhasa-Dram (Zhangmu) road.

1969: Tibetan uprisings in some regions (for example, Tsang, Pelbar or Ngaba).

1970: Creation of the Tibetan Youth Congress, a political organisation based in Dharamsala aiming for the independence of Tibet.

Opening of the Kodari-Kathmandu road.

1971: Henry Kissinger visits China. The People’s Republic of China joins the UN.

1972: Richard Nixon visits China and ends CIA aid to the Tibetan Resistance Army (Chushi Gangdruk).

1974: The Tibetan Resistance Army fighters, based in Nepal, lay down their arms.

1976: Death of Mao Zedong and end of the “Cultural Revolution” in China.

1978: Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997) comes to power. Launch of the “Four Modernisations”, covering agriculture, industry, science and technology, and national defence. Beginning of an era of relative liberalisation: reconstruction of monasteries, setting-free of Tibetan prisoners including a large number of traditional former government officials, participants in the Lhasa uprising as well as Baba Phuntsok Wangyal (who had been imprisoned in 1960) and the 10th Panchen Lama who continues to defend the Tibetan cause until his death.

Meeting between Gyalo Dhondup, one of the elder brothers of the Dalai Lama, and Deng Xiaoping who will then pronounce his famous sentence: “Apart from independence, all issues can be discussed”.

1979: Visit of the first delegation of the government in exile to Tibet. The members visit different parts of Tibet and are welcomed everywhere by crowds of Tibetans calling for the return of the Dalai Lama.

Cultural and religious revival

1980: Mission of enquiry in Tibet by Hu Yaobang (1915-1989), Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party. He recognises the failure of the CCP policies and affirms that the Chinese policy in Tibet is similar to colonialism. Reforms, decided by the Chinese authorities and not always adapted to the needs of the Tibetans, are engaged on the economic, cultural and religious levels.

Two other delegations of the Tibetan government in exile visit Tibet.

Creation of a Tibetan literary journal in Lhasa “Tibetan Literature” (Bod kyi rtsom rig sgyu rtsal).

Foundation of the Larung Gar (Kham) monastic camp by the great Nyingmapa teacher Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok (1933-2004).

1981: Meeting between Hu Yaobang and Gyalo Dhondup during which the Chinese leader invites the Dalai Lama to return to the PRC, promising that he will enjoy the same status as before 1959, while forbidding him to reside in the TAR.

Creation in Xining of a literary journal, “Light Rain” (Sbrang char).

1982: A delegation of the Tibetan government in exile travels to Beijing. Its members are entrusted with the task of requesting that the three Tibetan regions (Central and Western Tibet, Kham and Amdo) be recognised as a single political and administrative entity with the same status as Taiwan or Hong Kong. No agreement is reached.

Promulgation of the Chinese constitution which includes an article affirming freedom of religion.

1984: Second National Work Forum on Tibet in Beijing. Hu Yaobang announces the opening of the TAR to Chinese companies and Chinese migrants as well as to foreign tourists.

1985: Opening in Lhasa of Tibet University and the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences.

The fourth delegation sent by the Tibetan government in exile visits Amdo.

1987: Hu Yaobang is dismissed from his post as Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.

The Dalai Lama delivers the Five-Point Peace Plan for Tibet to the Human Rights Commission of the US Congress.

Pro-independence demonstrations in Lhasa led by monks. Severe repression. Chinese police open fire and kills and injures demonstrators.

1988, June 15: The Dalai Lama announces, in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, that he no longer claims the independence of Tibet but simply for a genuine autonomy of all the Tibetan areas inside the People’s Republic of China, within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Refusal by the Chinese authorities, who respond by saying that the PRC will not accept any “independence, semi-independence or disguised independence” for Tibet. Many exiled Tibetans feel betrayed by the Dalai Lama’s proposal.

Hu Jintao (1942-) becomes Party Secretary of the TAR.

Demonstrations in Lhasa in March and December. Police shoot again and many Tibetans are arrested.

1989: January: Death of the 10th Panchen Lama at Tashi Lhunpo Monastery, his traditional seat in Tibet.

March: New demonstrations in Lhasa and severe repression. Hu Jintao institutes the martial law throughout the TAR on 7 March, which last until May 1990. End of the “liberalisation”; the fight against “separatism” becomes the absolute priority.

In December, the Dalai Lama receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

Demonstrations by Chinese students, intellectuals and workers in Tiananmen Square in Beijing – but also in several other Chinese cities – which end in a massacre.

1990: Martial law is lifted in May. Small demonstrations in Lhasa quickly repressed.

The Dalai Lama is received by several government leaders.

1991: Promulgation of the “Charter of Tibetans in Exile” which is the supreme law governing the functions of the government in exile.

The Dalai Lama sends a message to the Chinese authorities via the Chinese Embassy in New Delhi, offering his help in the search for the Panchen Lama. The proposal is refused.

The UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities adopts a resolution expressing its concern about “the situation in Tibet”. President George H.W. Bush meets the Dalai Lama and signs an Act of Congress declaring Tibet an “occupied country”.

1992: The Dalai Lama publishes the “Guidelines for Future Tibet’s Polity and Basic Features of its Constitution”. He announces the end of his temporal power and the establishment of a democratically elected government as well as the dissolution of the government in exile when Tibet will be independent.

Chen Kuiyuan (1941-) is appointed Deputy Secretary of the CCP in Tibet and then Secretary. He is noticed by his desire of “Hanisation” of the administration of the TAR.

Launching of “bilingual” education in China.

Proclamation of the Republic of Mongolia.

1993: The Dalai Lama meets President Bill Clinton.

The Chinese government terminates all contact with Dharamsala.

Beginning of construction of dams on the Mekong.

1994: Third National Work Forum on Tibet: launch of a campaign against the Dalai Lama and Tibetan monks in Tibet who become systematically suspect. Movement from a moderate control of religion to very strong restrictions.

New meeting between the Dalai Lama and the President of the United States.

1995: The Dalai Lama announces the recognition of Gendun Choekyi Nyima as the 11th Panchen Lama. The latter is immediately kidnapped by the Chinese authorities who choose another one, Gyeltsen Norbu, by means of a lottery procedure, involving the drawing of his name from the Golden Urn.

Demonstrations in Lhasa.

1996: Launch of a five-year patriotic re-education campaign conducted by teams sent to each of the 1,700 monasteries of the TAR, a campaign which is then extended to schools and universities.

During the 10th Five-Year Plan, tourism is declared one of the pillars of the TAR’s development.

1997: Death of Deng Xiaoping.

The Clinton administration announces its intention to create a new position in the State Department, that of special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

1998: Re-education campaign extended to the entire Tibetan plateau.

First self-immolation of a Tibetan, Thubten Ngodup, in Delhi, India. 

1998-2017: self-immolations of 10 Tibetans in exile

2000: The 17th Karmapa, Ugyen Trinley Dorje, aged fourteen, head of the Karma-Kagyu school, and recognised by the Chinese authorities as well as by the Dalai Lama, flees from Tibet to India.

Via the Chinese embassy in Delhi, the Dalai Lama proposes to the Chinese authorities to send a delegation for talks. This proposal remains unanswered.

The Chinese central authorities launch the “Great Western Development” campaign. The sedentarisation of nomads, which has always been part of Chinese policy since the 1960s, is strongly encouraged in the name of ecology or development.

China-wide census, including Tibet.

2001: Construction of the Lhasa-Golmud railway begins. China joins the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The monastic camp of Larung Gar (Eastern Tibet), founded by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok, undergoes its first expulsions of clerics and destruction of monastic dwellings.

Tourism is declared one of the three pillars of Tibet’s economic development along with mining and traditional medicine.

The county of Gyalthang, victim of deforestation, turns to tourism and is officially renamed Shangri-La County.

The Dalai Lama meets President George W. Bush at the White House.

For the first time in Tibetan history, the Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa), Samdhong Rinpoche, is elected by a democratic vote of Tibetan exiles.

2002: First of a series of nine round tables between envoys of the Dalai Lama and members of the United Front.

Hu Jintao becomes General Secretary of the CCP.

Demonstration in Chentsa (Amdo) against Chinese Muslims (Hui).

President Bush signs a Foreign Policy Bill that includes the Tibetan Policy Act.

2003: Second round table.

Eastern Tibet: Start of the anti-slaughter (i.e. vegetarian) movement initiated by Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok and led mainly by Nyingmapa lamas.

The Nepalese police carry out the first forced repatriations to China of Tibetans who attempt to transit Nepal in order to take refuge in India.

2004: Third round table. Publication of a White Paper on “Regional Ethnic Autonomy in Tibet” which refutes the Dalai Lama’s proposal to treat Tibet like Hong Kong or Macau according to the “one country, two systems” principle.

The general plan for the first national park “Three-River-Source National Park” (Sanjiangyuan) in Qinghai is approved by the State Council as the first of many similar projects, leading to the expulsion of many nomads from their pasturelands.

Death of Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok (1933-2004), founder of Larung Gar.

2005: Adoption of the 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010) which calls for “Building a New Socialist Countryside”.

Fourth round table.

The Nepalese government orders the closure in Kathmandu of the Dalai Lama’s Representative Office and the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office, and increasingly turns to China.

Pema Tseten, writer and director, from Amdo, is the creator of the first independent Tibetan-language feature film The Silent Holy Stones. It is the first in a series of internationally acclaimed films.

2006, July 1: Inauguration of the Lhasa-Golmud railway line which promotes the transport of minerals to mainland China, significant Han migration, and mass Chinese tourism.

11th Five Year Plan in TAR (2006-2010) and start of the campaign for “Comfortable Housing” in the TAR. It leads to the relocation of villagers to “New Socialist Villages” established along the road, under the pretext of beautification and also to the sedentarisation of nomads.

6 July: Reopening of the trade route between India and China through the Nathula Pass (Sikkim).

27 September: The Dalai Lama receives the Congressional Gold Medal from President George W. Bush in Washington.

For the first time, a video documents the death of a young Tibetan nun, killed by a Chinese guard while trying to reach Nepal via the Nangpa la, and then India.

Many Tibetans burn otter, leopard, and other skins after the Dalai Lama’s speech made at the Kalachakra ceremony in India in January demanding that they stop wearing clothes lined with the skins of endangered animals.

Fifth round table.

Second self-immolation of a Tibetan in Bangalore (India).

The appointment of Samdhong Rinpoche is renewed for a new five-year term.

2007, February 15: The European Parliament adopts a resolution to facilitate dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

15 October: Opening of the 17th Congress of the Chinese Communist Party in Beijing.

Demonstration in Golok (Amdo) against Chinese Muslims (Hui).

Implementation of the “Management Measures for the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism” issued by the State Administration of Religious Affairs in Beijing requiring the official endorsement by the Chinese authorities of all reincarnations to be recognised.

Sixth round table.

2008 March-May: Peaceful demonstrations and riots against Chinese policies throughout the Tibetan Plateau coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the launch of “democratic reforms” in Qinghai, engaging the entire population, both secular and religious. The March 14 demonstration in Lhasa, which was shown constantly on Chinese television, is now known as “3-14”. The repression is particularly severe. The number of deaths is still unknown to this day. Many Tibetans are arrested and receive severe sentences and both clerics and lay people undergo intensive political re-education sessions.

The Summer Olympics kick off in China. On 8 May, the flame is carried up to the top of Mount Everest.

12 May: Earthquake of magnitude 7.9 in Sichuan Province. The epicentre is located in the Qiang and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture of Ngaba. More than 80,000 people are killed or missing and hundreds of thousands are injured. Thousands of schools are destroyed due to faulty construction.

21 June: The Olympic flame arrives in Lhasa.

The Tibet Autonomous Region is closed to tourism from March to June, a closure which will become usual on sensitive dates.

Seventh and eighth round tables.

2009: First self-immolation of a Tibetan monk, Tapey, in Tibet, Ngaba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture, in response to the banning of a ceremony in his monastery in Kirti commemorating the 2008 deaths.

2009-2019: Self-immolations of 156 Tibetans in Tibet (overwhelmingly in Amdo and Kham)

28 March: Chinese authorities establish a “Serfs Emancipation Day” on the 50th anniversary of the launch of “democratic reforms” in the TAR.

Numerous peaceful actions to protest against Chinese policies.

Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, a member of pre-1959 Tibetan government and one of the signatories of the Seventeen-point Agreement, dies on 23 December. He had served the Chinese government and held various high political positions in the TAR.

2010: Peaceful protests in some Amdo towns for the preservation of the Tibetan language in education. Protests for environmental preservation in some places in TAR, Kham and Amdo. Refusal of many Tibetans across the plateau to celebrate the New Year as a sign of mourning for the 2008 dead.

The arrests of Karma Samdrup, a prominent Tibetan environmentalist and philanthropist, who is sentenced to fifteen years in prison, and Dorje Tashi, one of the TAR’s wealthiest businessmen, who is sentenced to life imprisonment for helping exile groups, show that no one is safe from repression any more.

On 14 April, an earthquake magnitude 6.9/7.1 strikes the Jyekundo region, killing more than 2,600 people and leaving about 100,000 homeless.

China-wide census, including Tibet.

Chinese influence in Nepal is increasingly affecting Tibetan refugees.

President Barack Obama meets with the Dalai Lama.

Ninth and final round table.

2011: Chen Quanguo is appointed Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region. He remains in office until 2016, when he is sent to Xinjiang. He establishes surveillance networks using new technologies, multiples police stations, and sends Party cadres to villages and monasteries. The campaign is aimed at “the masses” and not just at nuns and monks. Enactment of repressive laws against Tibetan language and religion, which must “adapt to the socialist society”.

Zhang Qingli, former Party Secretary of the TAR, launches a “struggle to the death against the Dalai Lama’s clique” and describes the Party as the “true Buddha” of Tibetans.

10 March: The Dalai Lama, by withdrawing from politics and transferring his authority to an elected leader, ends the Ganden Podrang political system inaugurated by the 5th Dalai Lama in the 17th century. The motto of the “government in exile”, which was “The Tibetan Government of Tibet, Palace of Bliss, Victorious Everywhere” (Bod gzhung dga’ ldan pho brang phyogs las rnam rgyal), is changed for “May Truth be Victorious Everywhere” (bden pa ni rnam par rgyal gyur cig).

Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard-educated lawyer, is elected Prime Minister (Sikyong).

Twelve Tibetans self-immolate in Tibet and two in exile (India and Nepal).

2012: Xi Jinping (1953-) is appointed General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman of the Central Military Commission of China

Chinese officials understand the importance of the Dalai Lama to Tibetans and launch a “Legal education campaign” in all TAR monasteries.

Travel restrictions for Tibetans between TAR and the Tibetan-speaking provinces of Kham and Amdo (four permits required). Restrictions on issuing of passports, especially in TAR.

On their return from Bodh Gaya, between 2000 – 3000 Tibetans who attended the Kalachakra are arrested and detained for two months for “re-education”. This marks the end of the possibility of Tibetans from Tibet to participate in religious ceremonies in India.

Launch of a campaign to further Sinicise and control Tibetan monasteries across the plateau (“Nine Essential Elements”) and a regulation for monastery cadres (“The Six”). Increased control of the internet and social networks with increasingly strict censorship.

Demonstrations in TAR (Driru county, Nagchu prefecture) for the preservation of Tibetan language and culture resulting in numerous arrests. Demonstrations in Kham (Drango, Kardze, Serta). Violent repression and very heavy sentences. Beginning of solo protests in Amdo (Ngaba).

Under the pretext of modernisation, Tibetan traders are expelled from the Barkhor in Lhasa and replaced by Han.

Eighty-four Tibetans self-immolate in 2012, including two Tibetans from Amdo in front of the Jokhang in Lhasa on 27 May. Beginning of condemnations by association hitting relatives and friends of the one who self-immolates.

One self-immolation in exile (India).

2013: Xi Jinping is appointed President of the People’s Republic of China and promotes “The Chinese Dream”.

Start of small-scale protests, often in villages, small towns, or rural townships, concerning mining, environment, religion, etc. Increased surveillance of villagers. Arrests and heavy penalties imposed on secular and religious leaders.

In exile, 10 March, the day of the Lhasa uprising, becomes Tibetan Martyrs’ Day.

Twenty-seven Tibetans self-immolate in Tibet and two in exile.

2014: The United Front Work Department is given responsibility for all religious and ethnic issues. Continued displacement of Tibetan nomads, religious repression and attacks on the Tibetan language.

The first dam on the middle reaches of the River Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) comes into operation. Protests against mining in various parts of the Tibetan plateau such as Sangchu County (Amdo), Kham Kardze, and Chamdo in the TAR.

Death of Baba Phuntsok Wangyal.

Eleven self-immolations in Tibet.

2015: Start of the construction of the railway between Lhasa and Nyintri, the third section of the Chengdu-Lhasa railway line.

The campaign to send Party cadres to TAR villages, which was supposed to last three years, becomes permanent.

Banning of associations for the defence of language, education or environment. Death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, known for his charity work. Arrested in 2002, sentenced to death, then to life imprisonment for “terrorism and incitement to separatism”. Demonstrations in Chengdu, near the prison, and arrests.

Eight self-immolations in Tibet (one known only in January 2021) and two in exile (Nepal).

2016: The imperative to Sinicise religion is introduced by Xi Jinping at the National Conference on Religious Work. The campaign on “maintaining stability” intensifies, and many social, cultural, and environmental activities previously considered harmless become the object of state repression.

Arrest of Tashi Wangchuk, a trader from Jyekundo who, in 2015, had gone to Beijing to defend the preservation and transmission of the Tibetan language and had agreed to have his action filmed by the New York Times.

Publication in China of a list of 870 reincarnations recognised by the CCP: the Dalai Lama is not included.

Expulsion of a large number of nuns and monks from Larung Gar monastic camp, in order to reduce their number to 5 000 (compared to several tens of thousands) and very significant destruction of buildings. Many monks are sent away for patriotic re-education.

Three self-immolations in Tibet, one in exile (India).

2017: 19th Party Congress which approves the inclusion of “Xi Jinping Thought” in the Constitution. Affirmation of a tougher policy for Tibet to preserve stability and fight separatism. Emphasis on the Sinicisation of all religions, including Tibetan Buddhism, a religion “born in ancient China”, according to a United Front member. New rules expressed in an opaque language that allows the CCP authorities to define contraventions of specific regulations according to its political agenda: extremism is put on the same level as religion.

Tibetans are forbidden to travel to Bodh Gaya for Kalachakra.

Incident between the Indian army and the PLA on the Doklam Plateau, a corridor between Bhutan and Sikkim.

Expulsion of a large number of nuns from Yachen Gar monastic camp (Kham). They are sent to patriotic re-education and half of the camp is destroyed.

Six self-immolations in Tibet, two in exile (India).

2018: The reform of the Constitution allows Xi Jinping to remain indefinitely in power after his two terms. United Front Work Department has direct control over all religions including Tibetan Buddhism.

Launch of the “Four Principles” policy which requires religious people to be loyal to the Party and to become its propagandists. Criminalisation of any expression of interest in Tibetan culture, religion, language, the Dalai Lama, and of course independence, etc., all considered as “separatism”. Tashi Wangchuk is sentenced to five years jail for his advocacy of Tibetan language education. Students and party members are banned from religious festivals. Small-scale protests and arrests continue.

Chengdu-Ya’an railway opens, the first section of the Chengdu-Lhasa line.

On 20 December, President Donald Trump signs the “Tibet Reciprocal Access Act of 2018”, which aims to allow Tibetans to return to their country or for the Chinese authorities who prevent them from doing so to face sanctions.

Three self-immolations in Tibet.

2019: US Congress passes the Reciprocal Access Bill to Tibet.

Continued attacks on language, religion, and the Dalai Lama. Thousands of nuns are expelled from Yachen Gar.

Universities of “Nationalities” stop teaching in Tibetan language.

One self-immolation in Tibet.

2020: 7th Tibet Work Forum announces a tougher regime for Tibetans in China with emphasis on Party building and integration of more Tibetans into the CCP, patriotic education of nuns and monks, campaigns against separatism and the influence of the Dalai Lama and a strengthening of “national unity”. Launch of a three-year ideological program targeting nuns and monks between the ages of 18 and 50.

The Covid-19 crisis is used by the Chinese authorities to pursue their policy of assimilation and repression, and that of closing temples and monasteries. The various official Chinese and Western sources, which are incomplete and not very precise, report a very small number of sick people and never specify whether the patient is Tibetan or Han Chinese.

Mandarin is henceforth compulsory in TAR even in kindergarten.

Beginning of the construction of the Ya’an-Nyingtri railway, the second section of the Chengdu-Lhasa rail link.

A new census is launched.

India bans many Chinese apps including WeChat, making contact between Tibetans in the diaspora and in Tibet even more difficult.

Confrontation between Chinese and Indian soldiers in the Galwan valley, near Ladakh. Deaths on both sides.


Amdo – A mdo
Asha – ’A zha
Atisha – A ti śa
Baba Phuntsok Wangyal – ’Ba’ pa phun tshogs dbang rgyal
Beri –  Be ri
Butön Rinchendrub – Bu ston Rin chen grub
Chakla –  Lcags la
Chamdo – Chab mdo
Changchub Gyeltsen – Byang chub rgyal mtshan
Chankya Rölpé Dorje – lCang skya rol pa’i rdo rje
Chensa – Gcan tsha
chidar – phyi dar
Cholka sum – Chol kha gsum
Chöyön – mchod yon
Chone – Co ne
Chushi Gangdruk – Chu bzhi gangs drug
Dampa Deshek – Dam pa bde gshegs
Demo – De mo
Densatil – Gdan sa mthil
Derge – Sde dge
Dhondup Gyal – Don grub rgyal
Dorje Gyelpo – Rdo rje rgyal po
Dorje Tashi – Rdo rje bkra shis
Dram – ’Gram
Drapchi – Grwa bzhi
Drepung – ’Bras spungs
Drikung Til – ’Bri gung mthil
Dromo – Gro mo
Dromtön – ’Brom ston
Düsum Khyenpa Choekyi Dragpa – Dus gsum mkhyen pa Chos kyi grags pa
Ganden – Dga’ ldan
Ganden Podrang – Dga’ ldan pho brang
Ganden Sumtseling – Dga’ ldan Sum rtse gling
Gar Tongtsen – Mgar stong btsan
Gartok – Sgar thog
Gendun Choekyi Nyima – Dge ‘dun chos kyi nyi ma
Gendun Chopel – Dge ’dun chos ’phel
Gendun Drup – Dge ’dun ’grub
Geluk(pa) – dge lugs
Gönlung Jampaling – Dgon lung byams pa gling
Gonpo Namgyal – Mgon po rnam rgyal
Guge – Gu ge
Gyalo Dhondup – Rgyal lo don ’grub
Gyalrong – Rgyal rong
Gyantse – Rgyal rtse
Gyelsé dönyö Choekyi Gyatso – Rgyal sras don yod Chos kyi rgya mtsho
Gyelthang – Rgyal thang
Gyeltsen Norbu – Rgyal mtshan nor bu
Gyenlo – Gyen log
Gyurme Namgyal – ’Gyur med rnam rgyal
Jampa Phuntsok – Byams pa phun tshogs
Jamyang Zhepa – ’Jam dbyangs bzhad pa
Jetsun Sherab – Jungné Lce btsun Shes rab ’byung gnas
Jigten Sumgön – ‘Jig rten gsum mgon
Jokhang – Jo khang
Jyekundo – Skye dgu mdo
Kadam(pa) – Bka’ gdams pa
Karma Phuntsok Wangyal – Karma Phun tshogs dbang rgyal
Kagyu – Bka’ brgyud
Kalachakra – Dus ’khor
Kalon tripa – Bka’ blon khri pa
Kangchené – Khang chen nas
Karmapa – Karma pa
Karma Samdrup – Karma Bsam grub
Katok – Kaḥ thog
Kelzang Gyatso – Skal bzang rgya mtsho
Kelzang Tsering – Skal bzang tshe ring
Kham – Khams
Khenpo Jigme Phuntsok – mkhan po ’Jigs med phun tshogs
Kirti – Kīr ti
Konchok Gyeltsen – Dkon mchog rgyal mtshan
Kumbum – Sku ‘bum
Labrang – Bla brang
Langdarma – Glang dar ma
Larung Gar – Bla rung sgar
Lha Lama Yeshe Ö – Lha bla ma ye shes ’od
Lhamo Dhondup – Lha mo don grub
Lhasa – Lha sa
Lhoka – Lho kha
Lobsang Choekyi Gyeltsen – Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan
Lobsang Danjin – Blo bzang bstan ’dzin
Lobsang Sangay – Blo bzang seng gé
Lungshar – Lung shar
Lündzé Dzong – Lhun rtse rdzong
Manglön Mangtsen – Mang slong mang brtsan
Marpa – Mar pa
Menri – Sman ri
Milarepa – Mi la ras pa
Muné Tsenpo – Mu ne btsan po
Naktsang Nulo – Nags tshang nus blo
Nangpa la – Nang pa la
Ne’udong – Sne’u gdong
ngadar – snga dar
Ngabo Nawang Jigme – Nga phod Ngag dbang ’Jigs med
Ngaba – Nga ba
Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso – Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho
Ngo Lekpé Sherab – Rngog legs pa’i shes rab
Nyamdré – Mnyam ’brel
Nyamé Sherab Gyeltsen – Mnyan med Shes rab rgyal mtshan
Nyarong – Nyag rong
Nyetang – Snye thang
Nyingtri – Nyang khri
Nyingma(pa) – Rnying ma (pa)
Pakmodru(pa) – Phag mo gru (pa)
Pakpa Lodroe Gyeltsen – ’Phags pa Blo gros rgyal mtshan
Pelbar – Dpal ’bar
Pelkor Chödé – Dpal ’khor chos sde
Pema Tseten – Pad ma tshe brtan
Polané Sonam Topgyel – Pho lha nas Bsod nams stob rgyal
Purang – Spu hrang
Rabten Künzang Pakpa – Rab brtan kun bzang ’phags pa
Ramoche – Ra mo che
Rangjung Dorje – Rang byung rdo rje
Reting – Rwa sgrengs
Reting Rinpoche – Rwa sgrengs rin po che
Rinchen Zangpo – Rin chen bzang po
Rinchen Tsöndru Gyeltsen – Rin chen brtson ’grus rgyal mtshan
Rinpung – Rin spungs
Rongbatsa – Rong ba rtse
Rongwo Gönchen – Rong bo dgon chen
Rutok – Ru thog
Sakya – Sa skya
Sakya Pandita – Sa skya paṇḍī ta
Sangyé Gyatso – Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho
Samdhong Rinpoche – Zam gdong rin po che
Samye – Bsam yas
Sangpu Ne’utok – Gsang phu Ne’u thog
Sera – Se ra
Shalu – Zha lu
Shar Kelden Gyatso – Shar Skal ldan rgya mtsho
Shigatse – Gzhis ka rtse
Sikyong – srid skyong
Sonam Gyatso – Bsod nams rgya mtsho
Songtsen Gampo – Srong btsan sgam po
Taktra – Stag sgra
Tangtong Gyelpo – Thang stong rgyal po
Tapey – Bkra bhe
Tashi Lhunpo – Bkra shis lhun po
Tashi Wangchuk – Bkra shis dbang phyug
Tenpa Tsering – Bstan pa tshe ring
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche – Bstan ‘dzin dge legs rin po che
Tenzin Gyatso – Bstan ’dzin rgya mtsho
Thubten Gyatso – Thub bstan rgya mtsho
Thubten Ngodup – Thub bstan
Toling – Mtho lding
Tridé Songtsen Senaleg – Khri lde srong btsan Sad na legs
Tridé Tsugtsen – Khri lde gtsug btsan
Tridu Songtsen – Khri ’dus srong btsan
Trimön K- hri smon
Tri Relpachen – Khri Ral pa can
Trisong Detsen – Khri srong lde btsan
Tsang – Gtsang
Tsongkhapa – Tsong kha pa
Ugyen Trinley Dorje – O rgyan ’Phrin las rdo rje
Ü-Tsang – Dbus Gtsang
Yachen Gar – Ya chen sgar
Yonten Gyatso – Yon tan rgya mtsho
Zhang Zhung – Zhang Zhung
Altan Khan – Altan Qan
Bogd – Boyda
Goden – Köden
Gushri Khan – Gušri Qan
Khubilai Khan – Qubilai Qan


I would like to thank Matthew Akester, Rémi Chaix, Isabelle Henrion-Dourcy, Samten G. Karmay, and Fernand Meyer for their review and comments. Last but not least, I am deeply indebted to Per Kvaerne who not only did a careful reading of the text but also corrected the English. Any remaining errors are my sole responsibility.


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