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Useful Notes: Tibet
China owns this now. Damn commies!
The stereotypical setting of The Shangri-La and the subject of a popular political cause.

For centuries, Tibet was a Buddhist theocracy ruled by a duo known as the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni, both the Tibetans believed to be the Reincarnation of great Lamas from the early 1700s.From the era of Kublai Khan until the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Tibet was under some level of control by Imperial China. Disagreements over how much control tend to center around what political ax the speaker wants to grind. In any case, the chaos of the Xinhai Revolution allowed Tibet to slip out of Chinese control and achieve de facto independence in 1912.

In 1950, Tenzin Gyatso became the current (and possibly last) Dalai Lama. That same year, Mao Zedong decided Tibet needed to be "liberated" from "imperialist forces". Even though it was essentially independent and that's sort of the opposite of imperialism, Tibet is seen as under the circle of British influence and the Theocracy needs to be removed. So in reality, China proceeded to use socialism to save Tibet from theocratic feudalism. For most of the 1950s, the Dalai Lama cooperated with China's new communist rulers, but he fled Tibet during a 1959 rebellion against Chinese rule. He arrived in India, where he established a Government in Exile and is based to this day. The Dalai Lama has since become an international celebrity and met with various world leaders. For the first twenty years of his exile, the Dalai Lama argued in favor of Tibetan independence, but he has since moderated his position to favoring greater Tibetan autonomy within China.

There is considerable debate whether there will be another Dalai Lama after the current one dies. He claims that he will not reincarnate in Tibet unless it is free. The Chinese government claims that it has the authority to select the next Dalai Lama since ROC does not offer to oversee the process and the reincarnation of the Panchen Erdeni is stable.

Views on Tibet
  • The pro-Tibet view: The dominant view in western countries, it casts the Dalai Lama as The Obi-Wan and the People's Republic of China as The Empire. It argues that China illegally annexed an independent country, abuses human rights there, and is destroying Tibet's traditional culture.
  • The pro-China view: This view casts the Dalai Lama as a deposed third-world dictator trying to get back his personal fiefdom. It argues that Tibet is a traditional part of China and therefore reconquering it was justified. It also points out that Chinese rule has brought modernization and improved Tibetan living standards. Of course, claims of human rights abuses and/or destruction of Tibetan culture are categorically denied.
  • The third option view: This view argues that it is true that Tibet was a backwards, medieval theocracy, but that it's also true that China is an oppressive imperialist. Therefore, it casts the conflict as Grey and Gray Morality.
  • The other third option is that independent Tibet was backwards and unfair and that China is oppressive and imperialist, but that new changes to Tibet's Government in Exile make it a more fair governing system than either China or pre-China Tibet (e.g. the Dalai Lama recommending the removal of his position as head of state).

Tibet in popular culture
  • Lost Horizon, which is the Trope Namer for The Shangri-La (it means "Shang Mountain Pass" in Tibetan).
  • 1997 saw two Dueling Movies, Seven Years in Tibet and Kundun, take on the life story of the Dalai Lama. Not only were the movies Banned in China, so were the people who worked on them (Jean-Jacques Annaud, who directed Seven Years in Tibet, has since had his ban lifted). Although both are in the pro-Tibet camp, Kundun was nice enough to portray the Chinese as Well Intentioned Extremists.
  • The Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode "Holier Than Thou" argues against the pro-Tibet view.
  • 2012 features a Tibetan family who manages to get on one of the Arks, but an old monk decides to stay behind.
  • Chen Ai Luo Ding (After the Dust Settles): A novel written by a Tibetan author based on his family's accounts before the revolution, about a secluded Tibetian village/citadel encountering early 20th century technologies, culture, and opium. A great hit in China.
  • Xizang Mimi (A Secret In Tibet)

The Tibetan flag
As the last-known flag of Tibet before 1959, this is reused by the government-in-exile, and thus Banned in China. The golden border signifies the spread of Buddhism. At the center is the golden sun of freedom and prosperity, which emits twelve rays, signifying the twelve clans descending from six aboriginal tribes, alternating between red and blue to signify the male and female guardian deities of the region. Directly below it is a white triangle representing the Himalayas. In its center are a pair of Tibetan lions, symbolizing the harmony of temporal and spiritual governance. On one paw they hold a yin-yang symbol, reminding the viewer of the eternal law of karma, and on the other the Three Flaming Gems (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha).
TaiwanUsefulNotes/AsiaManchuria
TaiwanUsefulNotes/ChinaManchuria

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