The Periodization of Tibetan History: General Chronology


This timeline includes dates of influential Tibetan figures and major political eras. At this point it does not attempt to represent the whole of the Tibetan cultural region, nor does it portray Tibetan history from a variety of subject-specific rubrics – art, medicine, literature, politics – in any systematic fashion. We eventually hope to create a multi-level chronology that is region and subject specific.

Compiled by Dan Martin; reprinted from http://www.thdl.org/collections/history/timeline_general.html.
Based primarily on an outline by Michael Aris compiled from chronologies by Christopher Beckwith, Hugh Richardson & David Snellgrove, Helmut Hoffmann & Melvyn Goldstein

Early empire (c. 600-842)


c. 600 Gnam ri slon mtshan of Yarlung Valley made king of Tibet.

re. 618-641 Srong brtsan sgam po (d. 649).
Conquest of Zhang zhung; creation of Tibetan script.

641 Srong brtsan sgam po marries Chinese princess Wen-ch'eng.

re. 641-646 Gung srong gung brtsan.

re. 646-649 Khri srong brtsan.

re. 649-677 Mang srong mang brtsan.
Conquest of the A zha (T'u-yü-hun);
first Tibetan expansion into eastern Turkestan.

re. 677-704 Khri 'dus srong.

692 Temporary loss of eastern Turkestan.

re. 704-705 Lha.

re. 705-712 Khri ma lod.

re. 712-755 Khri lde gtsug brtsan, aka Mes ag tshoms.

710 Married Chinese princess Kimshang.

re. 756-797 Khri srong lde brtsan.

c. 779 foundation of Bsam yas monastery

786 Tibetan occupation of Tun-huang.

c. 792-794 Debate of Bsam yas (?).

790-c. 860 Second Tibetan colonial expansion in eastern Turkestan.

re. 797-799 Mu ne btsan po.

re. 799-815 Khri lde srong brtsan, aka Sad na legs; increasing influence of Buddhist monks in state government.

re. 815-838 Khri gtsug lde brtsan, alias Ral pa can; increase of clerical influence and translation of Buddhist scriptures.

821-822 Sino-Tibetan treaty guaranteeing most of the Tibetan colonial possessions.

re. 838 or 841-842 Khri u'i dum brtsan, later known as Glang dar ma; eclipse of monastic Buddhism in central Tibet.

Tibet in pieces (c. 842-1249)


866 Loss of imperial territory in Tarim Basin and internal disorder in Tibet. Following years saw the dispersal of surviving members of the royal family, who founded local principalities on the periphery; three great peasant revolts.

970 Ye shes 'od; king of western Tibet, sends Rin chen bzang po to Kashmir for Buddhist studies.

978 Klu mes and Sum pa return from the east to central Tibet, thus initiating the second introduction of monastic Buddhism.

1012-1096 Marpa the Translator.

1040-1123 Milarepa (Mi la ras pa), the poet-saint.

1042 The Bengali-born teacher Atisha arrives in Tibet.

1056 Reting (Rwa-sgreng) Monastery founded by Atisha's Tibetan disciple 'Brom ston; origins of Bka' gdams pa school.

1073 Foundation of the Sa skya Monastery (origins of Sa skya School).

1106 At Bsam yas, a group belonging to the Klu mes monastic faction battled a group belonging to the Rba and Rag factions. Most of the temples in the environs of Bsam yas were destroyed.

1160 Fighting in Lhasa area between the monastic communities of Rba and 'Bring. Peace negotiations by Dwags po Sgom tshul, who hands responsibility for protecting and restoring the Jo khang 'Cathedral' to Zhang G.yu brag pa. Zhang goes on to exert political control over much of the area of Dbus.

1175-1185 Monasteries of six great Bka' brgyud pa sub schools founded (the first Bka' brgyud monasteries were founded in mid 12th century).

1204 The Kashmiri teacher Shakyashri visits Tibet.

Mongol pressure (c. 1249-1349)


1182-1251 Sa skya Pandita.

1207 Tibetan chiefs submit to Mongols to avoid invasion.

1247 Sa skya Pandita visits Godan Khan.

1249 Sa skya Pandita appointed Tibetan viceroy by Mongols.

1235-1280 'Phags pa.

1260 'Phags pa visits Kublai Khan, emperor of China, and receives title of Imperial Teacher and temporal rule over the 13 myriarchies of Tibet.

1290 'Bri gung Monastery sacked on behalf of Sa skya by Mongol soldiers, bringing the 'Bri gung Gling log civil war to an end.

1290-1364 Life of Bu ston, systematizer the Tibetan Buddhist scriptural canon.

Rival powers (c. 1350-1642)


1350-4 Byang chub rgyal mtshan of the Phag mo gru Myriarchy establishes his power over central Tibet (Dbus & Gtsang), ending rule by Sa skya Dpon chen.

1357-1419 Tsong kha pa, founder of what would become known as the Dge lugs pa School.

1368 End of the Mongol Y�an dynasty in China; beginning of Ming dynasty.

1391 Birth of Dge 'dun grub, nephew of Tsong kha pa, who would later become abbot of Dga' ldan Monastery, and still later be recognized as the First Dalai Lama.

c. 1400 The circular letter of 'Bri gung Dpal 'dzin, against the Rnying ma School.

1409 Foundation of Dga' ldan Monastery.

1414 Foundation of Bkra shis lhun po Monastery in Shigatse.

1416 Foundation of 'Bras spungs.

1419 Foundation of Se ra.

1426 Visit to Tibet by Vanaratna, the last of the Indian Buddhist pundits.

1457-1542 Dge 'dun rgya mtsho, to be recognized as the 2nd Dalai Lama.

1481 Decline of Phag mo gru pa power; rise of the Rin spungs pa of Gtsang (beginning already in 1435), who patronized the Karma pa school.

1543-1588 Bsod nams rgya mtsho, 3rd Dalai Lama

1578 Invited by Altan Khan of the Tumed and began the 2nd conversion of the Mongols; received the Mongol title Dalai Lama (Ta la'i Bla ma), which was then applied to his predecessors.

c. 1565 Karma tshe brtan of Gtsang takes over power from the Rin spungs pa.

1570-1662 Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, former teacher of the Dalai Lama, installed as the 1st Panchen Lama.

1587 Official alliance between the princes of Gtsang and the Karma pa hierarch, in opposition to the Dge lugs pa.

1589-1617 Yon tan rgya mtsho, the 4th Dalai Lama, born a Mongol.

1612 Karma phun tshogs rnam rgyal takes over Central Tibet (including Gtsang).

1616 Zhabs drung Ngag dbang rnam rgyal, prince-abbot of Rwa lung Monastery, flees to Bhutan and founds the Bhutanese state.

1617-1682 Ngag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, the 5th Dalai Lama.

1623 Karma bstan skyong (son of Karma phun tshogs rnam rgyal), King of Gtsang.
Dga' ldan Pho brang government (1642-1950s)

1642 Gushri Khan of the Khoshot Mongols subdues the Bon king of Be ri and the King of Gtsang, then hands over religious and secular power to the 5th Dalai Lama. The Khoshot Khan and his dynasty remain as protectors of Tibet. Beginning of Dga' ldan Pho brang Government.
Lha btsun chen po enthrones the 1st Dharma-King of Sikkim, Phun tshogs rnam rgyal.

1651-1653 The 5th Dalai Lama visits China and the emperor K'ang hsi.

1679 Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho appointed Regent (Sde srid).

1683-1706 Tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho, the 6th Dalai Lama, famous for his songs.

1705 Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho slain by Lha bzang Khan, leader of the Khoshot Mongols in Tibet.

1706 Lha bzang Khan deposes the 6th Dalai Lama and installs Pad dkar 'dzin pa, who is not accepted as a Dalai Lama by Tibetans.

1708-1757 Bskal bzang rgya mtsho, 7th Dalai Lama.

1716 The Jesuit priest Desideri in Lhasa.

1717 Zunghar Mongols sack Lhasa and kill Lha bzang Khan.

Manchu pressure (c. 1720-1912)


1720 The Manchu Emperor K'ang Hsi has the Zunghars driven out of Tibet. Khang chen nas rules, following the orders of the Manchus (Rnying ma school persecuted).

1723 Civil war follows withdrawal of Manchus from Lhasa.

1728 Pho lha nas defeats his rivals and governs Tibet with Manchu support. (He rules Tibet from 1728-1747.) Pairs of Manchu representatives called Ambans established in Lhasa.

1740-1747 Pho lha nas established as King of Tibet.

1750 Pho lha nas's son and successor 'Gyur med rnam rgyal is killed by Manchus, after ruling only 3 years; the Ambans are murdered.

1757 Death of 7th Dalai Lama; appointment of Regents (now called Rgyal tshab, "Representatives," rather than Sde srid) from monastic ranks (mainly incarnates) begins now and continues until 1950s.

1758-1804 'Jam dpal rgya mtsho, 8th Dalai Lama.

1774-1775 George Bogle's mission to the 3rd Panchen Lama.

1783 Samuel Turner's mission.

1788 First Nepalese invasion.

1790-1792 Second Nepalese invasion defeated with help of Manchu army; policy of excluding foreigners adopted. Manchu military power begins a long slow decline.

1806-1815 Lung rtogs rgya mtsho, 9th Dalai Lama (officially on the throne 1808-1815, although power remained in the hands of his Regents).

1816-1837 Tshul khrims rgya mtsho, 10th Dalai Lama.

1838-1855 Mkhas grub rgya mtsho, 11th Dalai Lama.

1842 The Dogra war.

1854-1856 Conflict with Nepal.

1856-1875 'Phrin las rgya mtsho, 12th Dalai Lama.

1876-1933 Thub bstan rgya mtsho, 13th Dalai Lama.

1890 British annexation of Sikkim; battles between British and Tibet continue several years.

1904 Younghusband Expedition to Lhasa; flight of 13th Dalai Lama to Mongolia, then his visit to Peking; Anglo-Tibetan treaty.

1906 Sino-British treaty on Tibet.

1910 Chao Ehr-feng's troops occupy Lhasa; Dalai Lama escapes to India.

1911 Surrender of Chinese garrison in Lhasa. End of Ch'ing dynasty. Mongolia declares independence.

1912 Dalai Lama, on his return to Tibet from India, declares Tibet independent.

Independence (1912-1950s)


1913 Chinese soldiers in Lhasa deported to China via India. On January 11, the Tibeto-Mongolian Treaty of mutual recognition is signed.

1914 Simla Convention between Britain, China and Tibet.

1934 Death of 13th Dalai Lama; Rwa sgreng appointed Regent; fall of Lung shar and his reformist party; mission of General Huang Mu-sung to Lhasa.

1935 Birth of the present 14th Dalai Lama.

1941 Rwa sgreng resigns as Regent, succeeded by Stag sgra.

1947 India undertakes to continue the British relationship with Tibet; the Rwa sgreng conspiracy; revolt of the Se ra Byes College.

1948 Tibetan Trade mission to China, US and UK.

PRC Rule (1950s-present)


1950 Chinese People's Liberation Army invades Tibet; assumption of power by the young 14th Dalai Lama; appeal to the UN.

1951 Seventeen Point Agreement allows Chinese protection, but internal autonomy (guarantees of no interference with traditional political system and religion).

1959 Flight of 14th Dalai Lama to India, followed by about 80,000 Tibetans. In following years the number of refugees would total about 200,000.