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Tibet Autonomous Region

This article is about the administrative region of China. For the ethno-cultural region, see Tibet. For other uses, see Tibet (disambiguation).

Tibet Autonomous Region
Xizang Autonomous Region

Autonomous region
Name transcription(s)
 • Chinese 西藏自治区 (Xīzàng Zìzhìqū)
 • Abbreviation 藏 (pinyin: Zàng)
 • Tibetan script བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས།
 • Wylie transliteration bod rang skyong ljongs
 • official transcription (PRC) Poi Ranggyong Jong
Map showing the location of Tibet Autonomous RegionXizang Autonomous Region
Map showing the location of Tibet Autonomous Region
Xizang Autonomous Region
Named for From word Tibat of disputed origin.
(and largest city)
Divisions 7 prefectures, 73 counties, 692 townships
 • Secretary Chen Quanguo
 • Chairman Losang Jamcan
 • Total 1,228,400 km2 (474,300 sq mi)
Area rank 2nd
Population (2014)[1][2]
 • Total 3,145,000
 • Rank 31st
 • Density 2.56/km2 (6.6/sq mi)
 • Density rank 33rd
 • Ethnic composition 90% Tibetan
8% Han
0.3% Monpa
0.3% Hui
0.2% others
 • Languages and dialects Tibetan, Mandarin Chinese
ISO 3166 code CN-54
GDP (2014) CNY 92.1 billion
US$ 15 billion (32nd)
 - per capita CNY 29,279
US$ 4,766 (28th)
HDI (2010) 0.569[3] (medium) (31st)
Tibet Autonomous Region
Simplified Chinese 西藏自治区
Traditional Chinese 西藏自治區
Postal Map Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR)
Literal meaning Tibet Autonomous Region
Alternative Chinese name
Chinese 西藏
Postal Map Tibet
Literal meaning West-Treasure

The Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Tibet or Xizang (Tibetan: བོད་; Chinese: 西藏; pinyin: Xīzàng) for short, also called the Xizang Autonomous Region is a province-level autonomous region of the People's Republic of China (PRC). It was created in 1965 on the basis of Tibet's Incorporation by the PRC in 1951.

Within China, Tibet is identified as an Autonomous Region. The current borders of Tibet were generally established in the 18th century[4] and include about half of ethno-cultural Tibet. The Tibet Autonomous Region is the second-largest province-level division of China by area, spanning over Script error: No such module "convert"., after Xinjiang, and mostly due to its harsh and rugged terrain, is the least densely populated provincial-level division of the PRC.


Main article: History of Tibet

Modern scholars still debate on whether the Chinese Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) had sovereignty over Tibet [5][6][7] prior to the Mongol conquest of Tibet in 1642. While Tibet has formally been a protectorate of China since 1644 as part of the Qing Dynasty, from 1912 to 1950 Tibet was dissolved of suzerainty under China proper as a result of the 1911 Revolution and Japanese occupation during WW2. Other parts of ethno-cultural Tibet (eastern Kham and Amdo) have also been under the administration of the Chinese dynastic government since the mid-eighteenth century;[8] today they are distributed among the provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan. (See also: Xikang province)

In 1950, the People's Liberation Army defeated the Tibetan army in a battle fought near the city of Chamdo. In 1951, the Tibetan representatives 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.[9][10] Although the 17-point agreement had provided for an autonomous administration led by the Dalai Lama, a "Preparatory Committee for the Autonomous Region of Tibet" (PCART) was established in 1955 to create a parallel system of administration along Communist lines. The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 and renounced the 17-point agreement. Tibet Autonomous Region was established in 1965, thus making Tibet an administrative division on the same legal footing as a Chinese province.


Main article: Geography of Tibet

The Tibet Autonomous Region is located on the Tibetan Plateau, the highest region on earth. In northern Tibet elevations reach an average of over Script error: No such module "convert".. Mount Everest is located on Tibet's border with Nepal.

The China's provincial-level areas of Xinjiang, Qinghai and Sichuan lie to the north, northeast, and east, respectively, of the Tibet AR. There is also a short border with Yunnan province to the southeast. The PRC has border disputes with the Republic of India over the McMahon Line of Arunachal Pradesh, known to the Chinese as "South Tibet". The disputed territory of Aksai Chin is to the west, and its boundary with that region is not defined. The other countries to the south are Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal.

Physically, the Tibet AR may be divided into two parts, the "lakes region" in the west and north-west, and the "river region", which spreads out on three sides of the former on the east, south, and west. Both regions receive limited amounts of rainfall as they lie in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, however the region names are useful in contrasting their hydrological structures, and also in contrasting their different cultural uses which is nomadic in the lake region and agricultural in the river region.[11] On the south the Tibet AR is bounded by the Himalayas, and on the north by a broad mountain system. The system at no point narrows to a single range; generally there are three or four across its breadth. As a whole the system forms the watershed between rivers flowing to the Indian Ocean − the Indus, Brahmaputra and Salween and its tributaries − and the streams flowing into the undrained salt lakes to the north.

The lake region extends from the Pangong Tso Lake in Ladakh, Lake Rakshastal, Yamdrok Lake and Lake Manasarovar near the source of the Indus River, to the sources of the Salween, the Mekong and the Yangtze. Other lakes include Dagze Co, Namtso, and Pagsum Co. The lake region is a wind-swept Alpine grassland. This region is called the Chang Tang (Byang sang) or 'Northern Plateau' by the people of Tibet. It is some Script error: No such module "convert". broad, and covers an area about equal to that of France. Due to its great distance from the ocean it is extremely arid and possesses no river outlet. The mountain ranges are spread out, rounded, disconnected, separated by relatively flat valleys.

The Tibet AR is dotted over with large and small lakes, generally salt or alkaline, and intersected by streams. Due to the presence of discontinuous permafrost over the Chang Tang, the soil is boggy and covered with tussocks of grass, thus resembling the Siberian tundra. Salt and fresh-water lakes are intermingled. The lakes are generally without outlet, or have only a small effluent. The deposits consist of soda, potash, borax and common salt. The lake region is noted for a vast number of hot springs, which are widely distributed between the Himalaya and 34° N, but are most numerous to the west of Tengri Nor (north-west of Lhasa). So intense is the cold in this part of Tibet that these springs are sometimes represented by columns of ice, the nearly boiling water having frozen in the act of ejection.

The river region is characterised by fertile mountain valleys and includes the Yarlung Tsangpo River (the upper courses of the Brahmaputra) and its major tributary, the Nyang River, the Salween, the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Yellow River. The Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon, formed by a horseshoe bend in the river where it flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.[12] Among the mountains there are many narrow valleys. The valleys of Lhasa, Xigazê, Gyantse and the Brahmaputra are free from permafrost, covered with good soil and groves of trees, well irrigated, and richly cultivated.

The South Tibet Valley is formed by the Yarlung Tsangpo River during its middle reaches, where it travels from west to east. The valley is approximately 1200 kilometres long and 300 kilometres wide. The valley descends from 4500 metres above sea level to 2800 metres. The mountains on either side of the valley are usually around 5000 metres high.[13][14] Lakes here include Lake Paiku and Lake Puma Yumco.


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 Losang Jamcan and the current party secretary is Chen Quanguo.[15] India’s request, to open a consulate in Lhasa, capital of Tibet has been rejected by Beijing. Beijing, instead has offered Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. According to diplomatic sources familiar with the developments, the Chinese don’t want more consulates in Lhasa, where only Nepal has one.[16]

Administrative divisions

Tibet Autonomous Region is divided into seven prefecture-level divisions: four prefecture-level cities and three prefectures.

These in turn are subdivided into a total of sixty-eight counties, and four districts (Chengguan District, Samzhubzê District, Karub District, and Bayi District).

# Conventional[17] Administrative Seat Chinese
Hanyu Pinyin
Tibetan script
Tibetan pinyin
Area, km2 Population
per km2
Prefecture-level city
3 Qamdo Karub District 昌都市
Chāngdū Shì
chab-mdo grong-khyer
Qamdo Chongkyir
110,154 657,505 5.97
4 Xigazê Samzhubzê District 日喀则市
Rìkāzé Shì
gzhis-ka-rtse grong-khyer
Xigazê Chongkyir
182,000 703,292 3.86
5 Lhasa
(Autonomous Regional seat)
Chengguan District 拉萨市
Lāsà Shì
lha-sa grong-khyer
Lhasa Chongkyir
29,274 559,423 19.11
7 Nyingchi Bayi District 林芝市
Línzhī Shì
nying-khri grong-khyer
Nyingchi Chongkyir
116,175 195,109 1.68
1 Ngari Prefecture Gar County
Ālǐ Dìqū
mnga'-ris sa-khul
Ngari Sakü
304,683 95,465 0.31
2 Nagqu Prefecture Nagqu County
Nàqū Dìqū
nag-chu sa-khul
Nagqu Sakü
450,537 462,382 1.03
6 Shannan Prefecture Nêdong County
Shānnán Dìqū
lho-kha sa-khul
Lhoka Sakü
79,700 328,990 4.13


With an average of only 2 people per square kilometer, The Tibet Autonomous Region has the lowest population density among any of the Chinese province-level administrative regions, mostly due to its harsh and rugged terrain.[18]

In 2011 the Tibetan population was 3 million.[19] The ethnic Tibetans, comprising 90.48% of the population,[20] mainly adhere to Tibetan Buddhism and Bön, although there is an ethnic Tibetan Muslim community.[21] Other Muslim ethnic groups such as the Hui and the Salar have inhabited the Region. There is also a tiny Tibetan Christian community in eastern Tibet. 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.

Historically, the population of Tibet consisted of primarily ethnic Tibetans. According to tradition the original ancestors of the Tibetan people, as represented by the six red bands in the Tibetan flag, are: the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru and Ra. Other traditional ethnic groups with significant population or with the majority of the ethnic group reside in Tibet include Bai people, Blang, Bonan, Dongxiang, Han, Hui people, Lhoba, Lisu people, Miao, Mongols, Monguor (Tu people), Menba (Monpa), Mosuo, Nakhi, Qiang, Nu people, Pumi, Salar, and Yi people.

According to Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition published between 1910–1911, total population of Tibetan capital of Lhasa, including the lamas in the city and vicinity, was about 30,000, and the permanent population also included Chinese families (about 2,000).[22]

Most Han people in the TAR (8.17% of the total population)[23] are recent migrants, because all of the Han were expelled from "Outer Tibet" (Central Tibet) following the British expedition until the establishment of the PRC.[24] Real population of Han people is almost 1/3 of TAR population (more than 50% in Lhasa). Only 8% of Han people have household registration in TAR, other keep their household registration in place of origin.[20]

Some ethnic Tibetans claim that, with the 2006 completion of the Qingzang Railway connecting the TAR to Qinghai Province, there has been an "acceleration" of Han migration into the region.[25] The Central Tibetan Administration of the Dalai Lama claims that the PRC has actively swamped Tibet with migrants in order to alter Tibet's demographic makeup.[26]

Towns and villages in Tibet

"Comfortable Housing"

Beginning in 2006, 280,000 Tibetans who lived in traditional villages and as nomadic herdsmen have been forcefully relocated into villages and towns. In those areas new housing was built and existing houses were remodelled to serve a total of 2 million people. Those living in substandard housing were required to dismantle their houses and remodel them to government standards. Much of the expense was borne by the residents themselves often through bank loans. The population transfer program, which was first implemented in Qinghai where 300,000 nomads were resettled, is called "Comfortable Housing". which is part of the “Build a New Socialist Countryside” program. Its effect on Tibetan culture has been criticized by exiles and human rights groups.[27] Finding employment is difficult for relocated persons who have only agrarian skills. Income shortfalls are made up for by government support programs.[28] It was announced in 2011 that 20,000 Communist Party cadre were to be placed in the new towns.[27]


Main article: Economy of 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 2011, Tibet's nominal GDP topped 60.5 billion yuan (US$9.60 billion), nearly more than seven times as big as the 11.78 billion yuan (US$1.47 billion) in 2000. In the past five years, Tibet's annual GDP growth has averaged 12%.[18]

While traditional agriculture and animal husbandry continue to lead the area's economy, in 2005 the tertiary sector contributed more than half of its GDP growth, the first time it surpassed the area's primary industry.[29][30] Rich reserves of natural resources and raw materials have yet to lead to the creation of a strong secondary sector, due in large part to the province's inhospitable terrain, low population density, an underdeveloped infrastructure and the high cost of extraction.[18]

The collection of caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis, known in Tibetan as Yartsa Gunbu) in late spring / early summer is in many areas the most important source of cash for rural households. It contributes an average of 40% to rural cash income and 8.5% to the TAR's GDP.[31] 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.[32]

In 2008, Chinese news media reported that the per capita disposable incomes of urban and rural residents in Tibet averaged 12,482 yuan (US$1,798) and 3,176 yuan (US$457) respectively.[33]

The China Western Development policy was adopted in 2000 by the central government to boost economic development in western China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region.


The Potala Palace in Lhasa, the capital of the TAR.

Tourists were first permitted to visit the Tibet Autonomous Region in the 1980s. While the main attraction is the Potala Palace in Lhasa, there are many other popular tourist destinations including the Jokhang Temple, Namtso Lake, and Tashilhunpo Monastery.[34]



File:Lhasa airport.jpg
Lhasa Gonggar Airport.

The civil airports in Tibet are Lhasa Gonggar Airport,[35] Qamdo Bangda Airport, Nyingchi Airport, and the Gunsa Airport.

Gunsa Airport in Ngari Prefecture began operations on 1 July 2010, to become the fourth civil airport in China's Tibet Autonomous Region.[36]

The "Peace Airport" for Xigazê was completed on 30 October 2010.[37]

Nagqu Dagring Airport is expected to become the world's highest altitude airport by 2014 at 4,436 meters above sea level.[38]


The Qinghai–Tibet Railway from Golmud to Lhasa was completed on 12 October 2005. It opened to regular trial service on 1 July 2006. Five pairs of passenger trains run between Golmud and Lhasa, with connections onward to Beijing, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xining and Lanzhou. The line includes the Tanggula Pass, which, at 5,072 m (16,640 ft) above sea level, is the world's highest railway.

The Lhasa–Xigazê Railway branch from Lhasa to Xigazê was completed in 2014. It opened to regular service on 15 August 2014.

The construction of first section of the Sichuan–Tibet Railway from Lhasa to Nyingchi. Construction work is expected to start in November 2014, and to take 7 years.[39]

See also

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  1. ^ "Tibet's population tops 3 million; 90% are Tibetans". 4 May 2011. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  2. ^ 张军棉 (10 June 2011). "Top 10 least populous Chinese regions". Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  3. ^ 《2013中国人类发展报告》 (PDF) (in 中文). United Nations Development Programme China. 2013. Retrieved 14 May 2014. 
  4. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn, C.,Change, Conflict and Continuity among a Community of Nomadic Pastoralist: A Case Study from Western Tibet, 1950–1990, 1994, What is Tibet? – Fact and Fancy, pp76-87
  5. ^ Wylie (2003), 470.
  6. ^ Wang & Nyima (1997), 1–40.
  7. ^ Laird (2006), 106–7.
  8. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom, The Making of Modern Tibet, M.E. Sharpe, p245.
  9. ^ Gyatso, Tenzin, Dalai Lama XIV, interview, 25 July 1981.
  10. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn C., A History of Modern Tibet, 1913–1951, University of California Press, 1989, p. 812-813.
  11. ^ "Tibet: Agricultural Regions". Retrieved 6 August 2007. 
  12. ^ "The World's Biggest Canyon". Retrieved 29 June 2007. 
  13. ^ Yang Qinye and Zheng Du (2004). Tibetan Geography. China Intercontinental Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 7-5085-0665-0. 
  14. ^ Zheng Du, Zhang Qingsong, Wu Shaohong: Mountain Geoecology and Sustainable Development of the Tibetan Plateau (Kluwer 2000), ISBN 0-7923-6688-3, p. 312;
  15. ^ "Leadership shake-up in China's Tibet: state media". France: France 24. Agence France-Presse. 15 January 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  16. ^ "China says no to Indian consulate in Tibetan capital". 3 August 2012. 
  17. ^ Zhōngguó dìmínglù 中国地名录 (Beijing, SinoMaps Press 中国地图出版社 1997); ISBN 7-5031-1718-4.
  18. ^ a b c China Economy @ China Perspective. Retrieved on 18 July 2013.
  19. ^ Wang, Guanqun. "Tibet's population tops 3 million; 90% are Tibetans". Xinhua news. Xinhua news. Retrieved 2011-05-04. 
  20. ^ a b "西藏自治区常住人口超过300万". Xizang gov. Xizang gov. Retrieved 2011-05-06. 
  21. ^ Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  22. ^ LHASA (LIIASSA, LASSA,... – Online Information article about LHASA (LIIASSA, LASSA. Retrieved on 18 July 2013.
  23. ^ Xizang gov. Xizang gov Retrieved 2011-05-06.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  24. ^ Grunfeld, A. Tom (1996). The Making of Modern Tibet. East Gate Books. pp. 114–119. 
  25. ^ Johnson, Tim (28 March 2008). "Tibetans see 'Han invasion' as spurring violence | McClatchy". Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  26. ^ "Population Transfer Programmes". Central Tibetan Administration. 2003. Archived from the original on 29 July 2010. Retrieved 29 July 2010. 
  27. ^ a b ""They Say We Should Be Grateful": Mass Rehousing and Relocation Programs in Tibetan Areas of China" (PDF). Human Rights Watch. June 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  28. ^ Andrew Jacobs (27 June 2013). "Rights Report Faults Mass Relocation of Tibetans". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 June 2013. 
  29. ^ "Xinhua – Per capita GDP tops $1,000 in Tibet". 31 January 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  30. ^ "Tibet posts fixed assets investment rise". 31 January 2006. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  31. ^ Winkler D. 2008 Yartsa gunbu (Cordyceps sinenis) and the fungal commodification of rural Tibet. Economic Botany 62.3. See also Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han
  32. ^ Maseeh Rahman in New Delhi (19 June 2006). "China and India to trade across Himalayas | World news". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  33. ^ "Tibetans report income rises". Retrieved 11 October 2011. 
  34. ^ * Birgit Zotz, Destination Tibet. Hamburg: Kovac 2010, ISBN 978-3-8300-4948-7 [1]
  35. ^ "Gongkhar Airport in Tibet enters digital communication age". Xinhua News Agency. 12 May 2009. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  36. ^ "Tibet's fourth civil airport opens". Xinhua News Agency. 1 July 2010. Retrieved 11 December 2010. 
  37. ^ "Tibet to have fifth civil airport operational before year end 2010". Xinhua News Agency. 26 July 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  38. ^ "World's highest-altitude airport planned on Tibet". Xinhua News Agency. 12 January 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2010. 
  39. ^ Chu. "China Approves New Railway for Tibet". CRI. Retrieved 9 November 2014. 

Further reading

  • Hannue, Dialogues Tibetan Dialogues Han, travelogue from Tibet – by a woman who's been travelling around Tibet for over a decade, ISBN 978-988-97999-3-9
  • 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.
  • Hillman, Ben, ‘China’s Many Tibets: Diqing as a model for ‘development with Tibetan characteristics?’ Asian Ethnicity, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2010, pp 269–277.

External links

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