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The history of Tibet (1)

When we wander around the Tibetan scenic spots, such as the Potala Palace (布达拉宫), Norbulingka (罗布林卡), the Jokhang Temple (大昭寺), the Ramoche Temple (小昭寺) and the Barkhor Street (八廓街), and when we look up at Mount Qomolangma (珠穆朗玛峰) and look down at the Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon (雅鲁藏布大峡谷), the things that we touch are not only the irreplaceable cultural and natural relics, but also the unique Tibetan history.


What can we see in Tibet of its past and present? The following photos will show you a true Tibet by uncovering its mysteries and close ties with her motherland—China.


During the Qin and Han Dynasties (221 BC-220 AD), the ancient Tibetans inhabiting on both sides of the Yarlung Zangbo River's middle reaches were closely associated with the Han nationality and other ethnic nationalities from the central, western and northwestern China. It can be proved from the unearthed cultural relics and northern Tibetan excavation.


By the reign of the 29th Tsampo Tabonyexi, the Sheboye Tribe of Yarlung had fundamentally united the northern and southern banks of the Yarlung Zangbo River (雅鲁藏布江), and began a further outward expansion. After a series of struggles and wars, the tribal union of Sheboye integrated the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River, the main agricultural area of Tibet.


Songtsan Gambo was born in 617, and he caught the throne of the Tubo Kingdom (today's Tibet) in 629.


As a talented and far-sighted king, Songtsan Gambo made great efforts to widen economic and cultural cooperation with neighboring countries after unifying most of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.


The painting was drawn by Yan Liben, a famous painter in the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is a realistic work which depicts Emperor Tang Taizong is receiving an envoy of the Tubo king Songtsan Gampo who married Princess Wencheng from the Tang Dynasty. Photo: China Tibet Online



As part of his efforts, he sent his trusted minister Kartongtsanyusung, also known as Lotongtsan in the history of the Tang Dynasty, to Chang'an (today's Xi'an), capital of the Tang Dynasty to seek for a bride from the royal court. This showed the great importance that the Tubo Kingdom attached to the Tang Dynasty.


Eventually, Emperor Tang Taizong agreed to let Princess Wencheng marry the Tubo king. Princess Wencheng set out for the faraway Tubo Kingdom and reached there in 641.


Songtsan Gambo's marriage with Princess Wencheng from the Tang Dynasty contributed a lot to the political, economic, and cultural cooperation with the Central Plains and South Asia.


Some production technologies and handicrafts, together with some books on medicine and calendar calculation, were introduced into the Tubo Kingdom, contributing to its economic and cultural development.


Princess Wencheng was said to have taken statues of the Buddha and Buddhist monks with her. Songtsan Gambo also built the Jokhang Temple and the Ramoche Temple for his two wives including Princess Wencheng. The two temples were the earliest monasteries built in the Tubo Kindom.


It was said that the statue of Sakyamuni brought by Princess Wencheng was housed in the Ramoche Temples. At that time, Songtsan Gambo built the grand Potala Palace on the Red Hill of Lhasa, which showed the kingdom’s advanced architectural technology.


Princess Wencheng lived in Tubo Kingdom for nearly forty years, and earned respect and reputation from the local people for her contributions made to the kingdom.

The wall painting in Norbulingka shows the scene of Princess Wencheng arriving in the Tubo Kingdom and being greeted by Songtsan Gambo. This shows the great importance that the Tubo Kingdom attached to the relation with the Tang Dynasty. Photo: China Tibet Online

The monument used to commemorate the Tang Dynasty's aligning with the Tubo Kingdom was built in front of the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa in 823, witnessing the friendship between ancient Tibet and the Central Plains of China. The inscription engraved in the two sides of the monument describes the history of the king of the Tubo Kingdom being the "nephew" of the emperor of the Tang Dynasty. Photo: China Tibet Online

The photo shows a route map of the ancient tea-horse road and the old path connecting the Central Plains and the Tubo Kingdom. During the Song Dynasty, which was after the Tang Dynasty, the trade between ancient Tibet and inland China increased frequently. Particularly, the ancient tea-horse road promoted the economic relationship between the Central Plains and the Tubo Kingdom. Photo: China Tibet Online

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