Timeline of Tibetan Buddhist History

Mar 7, 2003

Category: Tibetan History

Timeline of Tibetan Buddhist History

Tibet lies at the centre of Asia, with an area of 2.5 million square kilometers. The earth's highest mountains, a vast arid plateau and great river valleys make up the physical homeland of 6 million Tibetans. It has an average altitude of 13,000 feet above sea level.

Tibet is comprised of the three provinces of Amdo (now split by China into the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu & Sichuan), Kham (largely incorporated into the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan and Qinghai), and U-Tsang (which, together with western Kham, is today referred to by China as the Tibet Autonomous Region).

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) comprises less than half of historic Tibet and was created by China in 1965 for administrative reasons. It is important to note that when Chinese officials and publications use the term "Tibet" they mean only the TAR.

Tibetans use the term Tibet to mean the three provinces described above, i.e., the area traditionally known as Tibet before the 1949-50 invasion.

Despite over 40 years of Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Tibetan people refuse to be conquered and subjugated by China. The present Chinese policy, a combination of demographic and economic manipulation, and discrimination, aims to suppress the Tibetan issue by changing the very character and the identity of Tibet and its people.

c200 C.E.
Buddhism begins to percolate into Tibetan region and teachings affect Bon religion in kingdom of Shang-Shung (South Tibet).

3rd century
Buddhist scriptures begin to reach early Tibetan Kingdoms (North Tibet) during reign of King Lhatotori Nyentsen.

Songtsen Gampo, known as Tibet's first great religious king, succeeds his father, the 32nd Yarlung King, who had, at the turn of the century, begun to unify many of Tibet's kingdoms.

King Songtsen Gampo unifies Tibet and marries Chinese princess Wen Cheng and Nepalese Princess Bhrkuti who bring Buddha images.

Tibet is unified under the rule of Songtsen Gampo, Tibet's First Great Religious King.
Minister Thomi Sambhota creates Tibetan alphabet from Sanskrit - Codifies laws - Buddhist temples are constructed
Construction of Potala Palace, and Jokang and Ramoche temples to house Buddha images.

King Trisong Detsen (r.755-797) invites Shantarakshita to Tibet.

King Trisong Detsen invites Padmasambhava, yogin of Swat, to Tibet, and construction of Samye begins (775).

Samye, Tibet's first monastery, built by Trisong Detsen and Padmasambhava.
Great Convocation, 3000 monks ordained.
Translating begins.
Padmasambhava founds Nyingma order.

Exponents of Indian Buddhism prevail in debate with Chinese at Samye.

Persecution of Tibetan Buddhism under King Lang Darma, period of conflict and civil strife begins.

Destruction of Tibetan Dynasties. Buddhism almost completely wiped out in Tibet.

Commencement of second Buddhist period in Tibet.
Atisha (982-1054).

Atisha comes to Tibet and founds the Kadampa school (which later becomes the Gelugpa order).

Marpa the translator (1012-1099) founder of the Kargyu school, travels to India, studies under Naropa.
Gampopa (1079-1153) is responsible for the actual founding of the Kagyu school on the basis of Kadampa, later to be known as Gelugpa. Monastic practice and education system, with the Tantric practices of Naropa, Marpa and Milarepa.

Birth of Milarepa, 2nd hierarch of Kagyu order and a renowned poet.

Birth of Marchik Labdron (1055-1153) founder of the Chod lineage, the main lineage founded by a woman.

Founding of the Sakya Lineage by Brogmi (992-1072).
Gonchok Guelpo (1034-1102) establishes the first monastery of the Sakya monastic order.

Sakya Pandita submits to Godan Khan; beginning of the first priest/patron relationship between a Tibetan Lama and a Mongol Khan.

Tibet is reunited with Sakya Pandita, Grand Lama of Sakya, as king.

King Changchub Gyaltsen defeats Sakya and founds a secular dynasty.

Ganden, first Gelug monastery, built by monastic reformer Tsongkhapa (1357-1419).

In prolonged warfare, Karmapa supporters gain control of royal court.

Gelug-pa leader gets the title of Dalai ("Ocean") from Altan Khan.

Gushri Khan enthrones the 5th Dalai Lama as temporal ruler of Tibet.

"Great Fifth" Dalai Lama meets Qing Emperor Shunzhi near Beijing.

Fifth Dalai Lama dies; regent conceals death for the next 14 years.

Italian Jesuit priest, Ippolito Desideri studies and teaches in Lhasa.

Dzungar Mongols invade Tibet and sack Lhasa.
Fifth DL's tomb looted.

Dzungars driven out, Qing (Chinese) forces install Kesang Gyatso as the 7th Dalai Lama.

The position of Amban is created by a 13-point Qing decree on Tibet. 29-point Qing decree prescribes "golden urn lottery for picking DL and PL, bans visits by non-Chinese, and increases Amban's powers.

British troops under Colonel Younghusband enter Tibet and occupy Lhasa.

Chinese troops occupy Tibet, shoot at unarmed crowds on entering Lhasa.

Bogh Haan, the Urga "Living Buddha," proclaims Mongolia independent.

13th Dalai Lama proclaims Tibet a "religious and independent nation".

Pressure from monks causes Dalai Lama to dismiss his British-trained officers.

Truce ends.
China and Tibet fighting.
The 13th Dalai Lama dies at age 58.

Reting Rimpoche named regent.
China permitted to open Lhasa mission.

The five-year-old Tenzin Gyatso is enthroned as the 14th Dalai Lama.

Reting is replaced as regent by Taktra.

Newly opened English-language school is closed after monks protest.

Red China invades Tibet.
Tibetan army destroyed in battle at Chamdo.

17-point agreement between China and Tibet.
Chinese occupy Lhasa.

Tibetans in Kham and Amdo (Qinghai) begin revolt against Chinese ruler.
Dalai Lama visits India for 2,500th anniversary of the Buddha's birth.

Dalai Lama flees to India.
87,000 Tibetans die in anti-Chinese revolt.

International Commission of Jurists: "acts of genocide [have] been committed... to destroy the Tibetans as a religious group."

Dalai Lama approves a democratic constitution for the Tibetan exile community.

The Panchen Lama is arrested after calling for Tibetan independence.

Visitors find only 8 temples left in TAR, down from 2,700 in 1959.

China allows a series of three delegations from Dalai Lama to visit Tibet.

Dalai Lama receives the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dalai Lama recognizes six-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as 11th Panchen Lama. China denounces the Dalai Lama's choice.
The Chinese authorities place the boy under house arrest and designate another six-year-old boy, Gyancain Norbu, as their officially sanctioned Panchen Lama.

Contacts between the Dalai Lama and Beijing are resumed.

A new railway linking Lhasa and the Chinese city of Golmud is opened. The Chinese authorities hail it as a feat of engineering, but critics say it will significantly increase Han Chinese traffic to Tibet and accelerate the undermining of traditional Tibetan culture. 


Karmapa Symposium

Thaye Dorje Urgyen Dorje

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