karachaicherkess autonomous region

Tibet Autonomous Region


The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), also called Xizang Autonomous Region (བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས་; Wylie: Bod-rang-skyong-ljongs; ), is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC).

Within the People's Republic of China, Tibet is identified with the Autonomous Region, which includes about half of historical Tibet, including the traditional provinces of Ü-Tsang and Kham (western half). Its borders coincide roughly with the actual zone of control of the government of Tibet before 1959. Tibet is the second-largest province of China by area (spanning over ) after Xinjiang.

Unlike other autonomous regions, the vast majority of inhabitants are of the local ethnicity. As a result, there is debate surrounding the extent of actual autonomy of the region. The Chinese government argues that Tibet has ample autonomy, as guaranteed under Articles 112-122 of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China as well as the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy of the People's Republic of China, while human rights organizations around the world accuse the Chinese government of persecuting and oppressing the local population.

Tibet is under the administration of the People's Republic of China. The Central Tibetan Administration, commonly referred to as the Tibetan Government in Exile and headed by the Dalai Lama considers this situation an illegitimate military occupation and holds that Tibet is a distinct sovereign nation with a long history of independence, though the Dalai Lama currently does not seek full independence for Tibet, but would accept an autonomous status similar to that now held by Hong Kong.


Before 1959, the present extent of the Tibet Autonomous Region (comprising Ü-Tsang and western Kham) was governed by the government of Tibet headed by the Dalai Lama. Other parts of historic Tibet (eastern Kham and Amdo) were not under the administration of the Tibetan government during the twentieth century; today they are distributed among the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan.

Following Soviet practice, there is a convention that the governor of the Tibet Autonomous Region is an ethnic Tibetan, while the general secretary of the local Communist Party committee is an outsider, usually Han Chinese. Notable general secretaries of the local party committee include Hu Jintao, who served in the 1980s.

In 1950, the Chinese Army invaded the Tibetan area of Chamdo, crushing minimal resistance. In 1951, the Tibetan representatives, under Chinese military pressure, signed a seventeen-point agreement with the Chinese Central People's Government affirming China's sovereignty over Tibet. The agreement was ratified in Lhasa a few months later. Western Government secret intervention into Tibet began before the 1959 CIA supported insurrection. British MI6 agent Sidney Wignall, in his recent autobiography, , reveals that he travelled to Tibet with John Harrop in 1955 posing as mountaineers. Captured by the Chinese authority, Wignell recalled that he was surprised to find two CIA agents were already under Chinese detention. Tibetan exiles trained in a CIA camp in Colorado clashed with Chinese forces in 1959 during the celebration of the Tibetan New Year, after which the 14th Dalai Lama, with CIA help, went into political exile in India. After 1959, the CIA trained Tibetan guerrillas and provided funds and weapons for the fight against China. However, the effort stopped when Richard Nixon decided to seek rapprochement with China in the early 1970s. Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, in The CIA's Secret War in Tibet , reveal how the CIA encouraged Tibet's revolt against China - and eventually came to control its fledgling resistance movement. The New York Times reported on October 2, 1998 that the Dalai Lama's administration acknowledged that it received $1.7 million a year in the 1960s from the CIA, but denied reports that the Tibetan leader benefited personally from an annual subsidy of $180,000. The money allocated for the resistance movement was spent on training volunteers and paying for guerrilla operations against the Chinese, the Tibetan government-in-exile said.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on Earth. In northern Tibet elevations reach an average of over . Mount Everest lies on Xizang's border with Nepal.

Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan lie to the north and east of the region; Indian states of Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh to the west; and Yunnan, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Indian states of Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh to the south. Tibet also shares a short southeastern border with the PRC province of Yunnan.


The Tibet Autonomous Region is a province-level entity of the People's Republic of China. It is governed by a People's Government, led by a Chairman. In practice, however, the Chairman is subordinate to the branch secretary of the Communist Party of China. As a matter of convention, the Chairman has almost always been an ethnic Tibetan, while the party secretary has almost always been a non-Tibetan. The current Chairman is Qiangba Puncog, who is a native of Qamdo Prefecture. The current party secretary is Zhang Qingli, who has previously been the party secretary of Tai'an and Lanzhou, and commander of the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps.

Administrative divisions

Tibet Autonomous Region is divided into one prefecture-level city and six prefectures.

The prefecture-level city:

  • Lhasa (拉萨 | Lāsà Shì)

The prefectures:

  • Nagqu (那曲地区 | Nàqū Dìqū)
  • Ngari (阿里地区 | Ālǐ Dìqū)
  • Nyingchi (林芝地区 | Línzhī Dìqū)
  • Qamdo (昌都地区 | Chāngdū Dìqū)
  • Shannan (山南地区 | Shānnán Dìqū)
  • Xigazê (日喀则地区 | Rìkāzé Dìqū)

These in turn are subdivided into a total of seventy-one counties, one district (Chengguan District, Lhasa) and one county-level city (Xigazê).


The Tibet Autonomous Region has the lowest population density among China's province-level administrative regions, mostly due to its mountainous and harsh geographical features.

As of 2000, 92.8% of the population are ethnic Tibetans, who mainly adhere to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön. Han Chinese comprise 6.1% of the population 

Smaller tribal groups such as the Monpa and Lhoba, who follow a combination of Tibetan Buddhism and spirit worship, are found mainly in the southeastern parts of the region.

Towns and villages in Tibet


The Tibetans traditionally depended upon agriculture for survival. Since the 1980s, however, other jobs such as taxi-driving and hotel retail work have become available in the wake of Chinese economic reform. In 2007, Tibet's nominal GDP topped 34 billion yuan (US$4.5 billion), nearly triple the 11.78 billion yuan (US$1.47 billion) in 2000. In the past five years, Tibet's annual GDP growth has averaged 12%.

While traditional agricultural work and animal husbandry continue to lead the area's economy, in 2005 the tertiary sector contributed more than half its GDP growth, the first time it has surpassed the area's primary industry. The re-opening of the Nathu La pass (on southern Tibet's border with India) should facilitate Sino-Indian border trade and boost Tibet's economy.

In 2007, the Chinese news media reported that the per capita disposable incomes of urban and rural residents in Tibet averaged 11,131 yuan (US$1,464) and 2,788 yuan (US$367) respectively. .

The China Western Development policy has recently been adopted by central government to boost economic development in western China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region.


Tourists were first permitted to visit the TAR in the 1980s. While the main attraction is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, there are many other popular tourist destinations including Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery.

See also


Further reading

  • Sorrel Wilby, Journey Across Tibet: A Young Woman's 1900-Mile Trek Across the Rooftop of the World, Contemporary Books (1988), hardcover, 236 pages, ISBN 0-8092-4608-2.

External links

Pro Chinese rule and policies in Tibet

Contra Chinese rule and policies in Tibet


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