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Chinese Tibet - 1720-1911

Tibet Flag
Dalai Lama
I Gedun Drupa 13911474
II Gedum Gyatso 14761542
III Sonam Gyatso 15431588
IV Yonten Gyatso 15891616
V Lobsang Gyatso 16171682
VI Samyang Gyatso 16831706
VII Keisang Gyatso 17081757
VIII Jampei Gyatso 17581804
IX Longto Gyatso 18051805
X Tshutrim Gyatso 18161837
XI Khedru Gyatso 18381855
XII Chinlei Gyatso 18561875
XIII Thutan Gyatso 18761933
XIV Tenzin Gyatso 1935 ..
Since 1720 Tibet had been a dependency of China, and as such is under the Chinese viceroy of Sze-chuen. Chinese authority is represented by two imperial delegates, one of whom is the assistant of the other. They direct exclusively the foreign and military administration of the country, leaving the civil and religious government in the hands of the Tibetans. The Chinese force exterminated the black lamas, placed the Dalai on the throne of Baudala; and confirmed him by an ordinance of the 59th of Kang-he (AD 1720). There was another revolt in AD 1727, but the Chinese troops were successful. From this period the Chinese government increased the garrison, and built at Koda, near Ta-tsin-lau, (in the Chinese province of Sze-chuen), the temple of Kauci-yuen, which was appointed to serve in future as the residence of the Dalai-lama. There were two Chinese ambassadors, called " Ambans," at the court of Lhassa ; they take precedence after the Lama. These ambans are supported by an army of 1,000 soldiers; the period of office of an Ambau is limited to three years.

In 1717 the Sungars invaded the country, but were driven out by Chinese armies in 1720, when eastern Tibet was placed under the direct rule of Chinese officials at Kansu and Szechwan. The town of Djachi was built in 1733, and in 1735 the Sungarians submitted. About this time the Dalai was removed to his old quarters, the Potala. In 1760, the several orders of princes, which had been created at the general peace, were abolished, and the government was solely confided to Chinese generals, the consent of the Dalai being formally asked. Troops were spread all along the frontiers, extensive commercial intercourse commenced between the two countries, and Lassa became the great western capital.

In 1774 Warren Hastings sent from India an envoy to negotiate friendly commercial relations between Tibet and the British East India Company. Another embassy was sent under Turner in 1783, but his efforts were made futile by the policy of the company under the administration of Lord Cornwallis, who, under treaty engagements with Nepal, assisted the Gurkhas when in 1790 they invaded Tibet and plundered Tashilunpo. In 1791, the Gorkas began to disturb the frontiers of Dzangba, or Thsang, a province of Tibet. The Emperor of China ordered a large army to terminate the disturbance. All this part of the western countries was independent of China; but as the Tartars had penetrated the territory, it was set down as a place belonging to China. The Gorkas were driven out in 1802 and the passes between India and Tibet remained virtually closed until 1903. Tibet had since been a province of China, if occupation of it by Chinese troops, and having its affairs administered by its officers, constitute it as such.

The dalai lama sent an embassy every year to Peking, with presents, which consisted of a very fine description of woollen cloth, perfumed tapers, small silver obelisks, idols, and other various utensils used in the Budhist temples. Their value was said to amount to upwards of 60,000 rubles. Presents were likewise sent to the relations of the Emperor, likewise to his great ministers. He also sent valuable presents to the several lamas, who resided at Peking. Books which were printed at Lassa, relating to Budhism, were poured into China in great quantities.

Every year, messengers were sent from Lhasa, bearing an imperial mandate from China, addressed to the Deb and dhurma rajahs of Bhutan, and to the pilas and zumpons under their orders. This mandate contains instructions to be careful in governing the country, to quell internal tumult promptly, and report any apprehended invasion from foreign foes. A present of twenty pieces of gold was also sent. Tibet was governed by two great ministers sent from Peking, called Tachin, they governed both Anterior and Ulterior Tibet. These ministers, as a matter of form, consult the Dalai-lama on whatever concerns Anterior Tibet, and the Bant-chin erdeni for the affairs of Ulterior Tibet. All appointments to offices of government, and to titles of nobility, must have the consent of the Chinese officers.

Pekin officials feared that, if Europeans entered and settled in Thibet, the same thing would happen in those countries. And there was ar game of obstruction played. They specially dread the entry of Europeans into Thibet, where it was well known there is a very strong party, numerically speaking, antagonistic to the present Chinese rule, and desiring autonomy. The people of Thibet too are quite different from the Chinese in character, and cannot agree with the latter. Again the Thibetans are tired of seeing all the Chinese mandarins sent to Thibet reaping large private fortunes out of the country, against which the sums spent by the Chinese government on the soldiery and lamas, divided in infinitesimal portions amongst many, were by no means considered as even a partial set-off.

Tibet became tributary to China about 1720, and had never since shaken off the yoke. Owing to the jealous exclusiveness of the Tibetan and Chinese authorities, and the close watch they keep all along the frontiers, it is believed that only three Europeans have entered Lhassa during the 19th century, namely the Englishman Manning (in 1811-12) and the Frenchmen Hue and Gabet (1846), though several Europeans reached the city in previous centuries. But since about 1866 specially trained Indian explorers have from time to time been sent into Tibet by the Calcutta authorities.

As a matter of fact, the Chinese government did not derive much pecuniary gain from Thibet, say only a few thousands of pounds levied chiefly in duties at Ta-tsien-lu, still it is a mine to the Chinese officials, even though it may be actually a burden pecuniarily to the Chinese government. The burden, however, is compensated for by having another do minion in the empire for the sake of prestige, and this is really why China is so jealous of European enterprise entering Thibet.

At the end of the Ming dynasty there occurred a civil war in China against that dynasty, the partisans of which called in to their assistance a celebrated Manchu general. This general some years before had had his fortune told by a lama high priest of Thibet, and it was prophesied then that he would become emperor of China. Being called by the Chinese loyal party, he went to the emperor's help, and finding on his arrival that the emperor had fled and that the throne was vacant, he sat down, and proclaimed himself emperor, thereby fulfilling the high priest's prophecy. This, says the story, was the origin of the Manchu dynasty, and the success is of course attributed to the old high priest, who belonged to the Ge"luk-pa sect.

Owing to this, the Manchu dynasty nominated that as the official sect, and in order to retain its prayers in favor of the dynasty, the sect is paid a yearly subsidy by the emperor, and the Manchus believe that, were those prayers to cease, the dynasty would fall and the whole of China be lost to it. The Chinese were fully alive to the probability, indeed certainty, that were Europeans to obtain a footing in Thibet, the influence of the lamas (already so much hated by the people) would cease, and as the lamas themselves express it, "their cup would be broken." With the collapse of the lamas would vanish the prayers for the dynasty. Thus it was evident how from political and religious motives it is entirely in the interest of the emperor of China and of the lamas, more especially of the Ge"luk-pa sect, to exert every effort to keep Europeans out of Thibet.

The Thibetans, on the other hand, hated the Chinese officials, and said that the latter come to their country beggars and grow rich at the expense of the country. The people of Thibet were indeed simply considered by the official classes as the wealth suppliers of the lamas, and of the Chinese and Thibetan officials.

During the years 1903 and 1904 a series of disputes between Great Britain and China arose over the situation in Tibet. By the conventions of 1890 and 1893, Yatung, in the Chumbi Valley, on the frontier of India and Tibet, was opened for trade. According to the statement of the Indian officials the conventions had not been well observed, and during 1903 the Indian government dispatched a commission under Colonel Younghusband to secure their observance. A force of soldiers under Brigadier General Macdonald accompanied them as an escort. The Tibetans did not welcome the mission, but openly resisted their advance, there being severe fighting at several places. The mission, however, proceeded to Lhasa, reaching there on August 3, 1904.

The Dalai Lama, the supreme ruler, had fled, but the Amban, the representative of the suzerain Chinese Government, was present, and after considerable negotiations a formal treaty was signed by all the leading officials and representatives present, the seal of the Dalai Lama being fixed by the regent in charge on September 7, 1904. Tibet agreed to establish markets at Gyantse and Gartok in addition to the one at Yatung. Tibetan and British officials were to be stationed at these markets, and Great Britain agreed to alter any objectionable features in the convention of 1893. Tibet agreed to pay Great Britain 500,000 ($2,500,000), payable in seventy-five yearly installments. Great Britain was to occupy the Chumbi Valley for security for carrying out the treaty. Of greater importance, however, is the agreement of Tibet to demolish all the forts between the Indian frontier and Gyantse on the trade routes, while most important of all is the agreement of Tibet " not to sell, lease, or mortgage any Tibetan territory to any foreign power without the consent of Great Britain and not to allow any foreign power to concern itself with Tibetan affairs or to construct roads or railways or open mines in Tibet." By a later agreement the British Government decided that the amount of the indemnity should be reduced to 166,000/. ($830,000), and that the period of occupation of the Chumbi Valley should be limited to three years.

The special international significance of this settlement of the Tibetan question was the apparent security which Great Britain had against the aggressive action of Russia, it having been generally supposed that Russia had succeeded in winning the sympathy and liking of the Dalai Lama, and that her intention was to push further into Tibet, as she had done in the other parts of the Far East. This agreement also probably affords to China a reasonable security against seizure of Tibetan territory, although the country will be opened up.



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