Tibet, also known as the rooftop of the world is the highest region on the planet and lies at an average of 4,500m. It is a rich and diverse region, a number of great asian rivers have their humble beginnings on the plateau including the Indus and Meekong rivers. The eastern regions of Amdo and Kham have vast green grasslands while the central and western regions of U-Tsang are arid and desolate. The people are kind, compassionate and devout buddhist, they are however prisoners in their own land under the communist rule of the People’s Republic of China (PRC).
Tibet today isn’t what it once was, officially it is about half the size it was one hundred years ago with the regions of Amdo and Kham now part of the Chinese provinces of Qinghai and Sichuan respectively, while what was know as U-Tsang is also a province of China named the Tibetan Autonomous region, although the Tibetans have anything but autonomy there. In 1950 the invasion by Mao’s red army began following months of failed negotiations where Tibet tried to gain international support regarding their independence. In 1959 the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and at the time political leader, fled to India where he has lived in exile ever since. It is estimated that over one million Tibetan’s have been killed since China’s hostile take-over and approximately one hundred thousand Tibetans have also fled the oppression now mostly living in India, but have also sought refuge all around the world. During the Cultural Revolution that followed in the late sixty’s the vast majority of Tibet’s temples and Buddhist relics were destroyed and the Tibetan people were not allowed to practice their religion which is essentially woven into every aspect of daily life.
The situation has improved since the Cultural Revolution, some temples have been rebuilt and Tibetan’s can openly practice their religion but they are far from free. The PRC has influence and control over the monastery’s pushing propaganda and restricting what is taught, diluting the pure teachings and the lineages that have been unbroken since the time of the buddha. Photos of the Dalai Lama, who is considered extremely special to the Tibetan people, are completely banned in most if not all of Tibet and people are also not allowed to gather in groups of more than a few people, even in public squares.
All of this continues unknown to most of the Chinese people, they are taught at school that the people of Tibet were liberated by Mao’s armies, that they welcomed them in with open arms and that the Dalai Lama is a Separatist who is wholeheartedly against the Motherland. I think it is important for people to travel to Tibet despite the difficulties with visas and permits to witness sufferings and lack of freedoms that the people still experience today first hand. This will help raise awareness and international support so that the PRC will finally give the Tibetan people the freedoms they deserve and at a minimum complete autonomy of their region. The Tibetan people are screaming for our help as loud as they can which is evident by the 125 (at the time or writing) self immolations that have taken place since February 2009, you can read more about that here.
The regions I have visited: