History of Tibet
Tibet the name is referred to by its inhabitants as “Po”. The origin of this name is uncertain but may have originally meant “native land” or “original place”. According to the Blue Annals, it is a shortened from the earlier name “Bygyel” but the White Annals contends that it is derived from the pre-Buddhist religion of Bon. The name “Tibet” by which it is known to the outside world, is probably derived from the Mongolian word Thubet. It is often called “Gangchen” by its inhabitants, meaning the “Land of Snows”.
As recounted in traditional Tibetan sources, the story begins in the distant past that the land of Tibet used to be covered by a big sea about millions of years ago, then slowly immense pressure from the Indian ocean forced it upwards to the north beyond the Himalayan range and become the Asian plateau of Tibet. This aspect of the story corresponds to current scientific information on the area’s geographical history. One result was the formation of the Himalayas, the world highest mountains, and a huge high-altitude plateau that came to be known as Tibet.
When the land was newly formed, according to traditional accounts, its only inhabitants were a monkey, who was an incarnation of Avalokitesvara and an ogress. The monkey was peaceful and contemplative, living alone in a cave and practicing meditation. The ogress, however, was a creature of wild emotion and lust. She is described as strong-willed, stubborn, and driven by sexual desire. Thinking that she is alone, she approached the monkey and begged the monkey to marry her, when the monkey heard her cries he was filled with compassion and agreed her wishes.
Their union produced six offspring, and each of them had different characters as they came from the six different realms with different karma. Tibetans today see themselves as descendants of these two progenitors and believe that they have divided natures that result from the personalities of the monkey and the ogress. Their gentleness and compassion are traced back to the monkey, but their wilfulness, avarice and other negative personality traits derive from the ogress.
The Beginnings of Tibetan Society
Tibet has a long history, but the written history is more clearly recorded since the seventh century after master Sambhota invented the standard Tibetan script. In general speaking, Tibetan history can be divided into five parts.
- The primitive historic period
- The Tsenpo period
- Decentralization period
- Sakya, Pagmo Drupa and Tsangpa king’s period
- Ganden Podrang period
Traditional histories trace the beginnings of the Yarlung dynasty to Nyatri Tsenpo. Around 127 B.C. when some herdsmen were grazing their livestock on Mt Tsentang Goshi, they saw a young man who only pointed to the sky when they asked where he was from, so they regarded him as a heavenly son and carried him on their necks and made him their king.
Nyatri Tsenpo meaning necked thrown king, he is the first king of Tibet and first palace Yumbu Lhagang was built for him during the time of his region. This was the beginning of Tsenpo’s period and there were forty-two kings in Tibet with Langdarma as the last Tsenpo or king in the 9th century. The histories about the 32 former kings were probably told orally generation after generation and they are full of mystery and legends.
It was believed that the Nyatri Tsenpo when he died he ascended to heaven by means of a “sky rope”. Hence the next six generations his successors followed his example, but the rope was cut during the lifetime of the eighth king, Drigum Tsenpo. He was buried in a tomb in Kongpo in the Yarlung valley in central Tibet, and this structure is the first concrete evidence of early Tibetan history. Since then, the kings were buried in vaults, many of which are still found an area named Chonggye in the Yarlung valley.
The period of Tsenpo ended since then and decentralization period started. This period began in 842 A. D. the year of Langdarma’s assassination and ended in about 1260 A.D. During this period Tibetans had to live a very hard life as there was no longer a unified government and there were many fighting between different areas.
Following that, Drogon Chogyal Pagpa Became the royal master of the first Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan. So, he supported Choegyal Pagpa to be the local leader of Tibet. This basically came to an end when the Pakmo Drupa took over the power from the Sakya ruler at the end of the 15th century.
From the latter part of the 15th century onward Tsangpa Kings took over the poser from the Pagdru and ruled Tibet until the end of the 16th century when the 5th Dalai Lama finally took over the ruling power from them. After that the period of Gandan Podrang’s administration began in about 1642 A.D., the fifth Dalai Lama ruled over Tibet which was continued by successive Dalai Lamas until the 14th.
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