What Should I Know About Tibet?

Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

Tibet, which is also spelled in some older texts as Thibet, is a region in central Asia. It is home to indigenous Tibetan people, but the control of the area has been disputed and fought over for many centuries. It is often called “The Roof of the World” because the average elevation of the land is 16,000 ft (4,900 meters), making it highest region on the planet. It also includes Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the entire world.

Part of Mount Everest is in Tibet.
Part of Mount Everest is in Tibet.

Tibet is currently rules by the People’s Republic of China. However, Taiwan — or, the Republic of China — also officially claims it. The People’s Liberation Army invaded the country in 1950. Tibetans were not properly equipped to resist this invasion, and the next year China exerted sovereignty over the country.

Tibet is controlled by the People's Republic of China.
Tibet is controlled by the People's Republic of China.

There is much debate about whether the claims on the country stand up in international law. In fact, there is a third government involved. This government is referred to as the Government of Tibet in Exile. Because of intense, sometimes violent disputes, many indigenous Tibetans have fled their native land.

The Dalai Lama, founder of the Central Tibetan Administration (also known as the Tibetan Government in Exile).
The Dalai Lama, founder of the Central Tibetan Administration (also known as the Tibetan Government in Exile).

There are many people who believe that Tibet is an unjustly occupied country. In fact, there are a number of national organizations that consistently work toward freeing it from occupation and allowing it to be an autonomous nation. Those who invaded the country in 1950 claimed that many native Tibetans were living in serfdom and needed to be liberated. Many of those fighting for a free Tibet claim that the country would have modernized on its own, that the antiquated practice of serfdom would have soon died out without the invasion of the Chinese.

Tibet is well known for its branch of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is a branch of Vajrayana Buddhism and is related to forms of the religion that are practiced in Japan. In addition to being practiced by Tibetans, Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in Mongolia. However, many of the Chinese guards occupying Tibet have supported an attack on the region's traditional culture. Many ancient monasteries were destroyed in these attacks. In fact, most Tibetan Buddhists fled to other countries, fearing for their safety. The Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, fled to India.

Vajrayana Buddhism is an aspect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Vajrayana Buddhism is an aspect of Tibetan Buddhism.
Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel

In addition to her work as a freelance writer for wiseGEEK, Diane is the executive editor of Black Lawrence Press, an independent publishing company based in upstate New York. She has also edited several anthologies, the e-newsletter Sapling, and The Adirondack Review. Diane has a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence College and an M.A. from Brooklyn College.

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