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B6) What was Tibet's status during China's Qing dynasty (1644-1912)?




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This article is from the Tibet FAQ, by Peter Kauffner Peter.Kauffner@bearsden.org and Nima Dorje tibet@acs.ucalgary.ca.

B6) What was Tibet's status during China's Qing dynasty (1644-1912)?


The Tibetan view of their relationship with the Qing Empire was expressed
by the 13th Dalai Lama in his 1913 proclamation of independence: "The
relationship between Tibet and [imperial] China was that of priest and
patron and was not based on the subordination of one to the other."
[Walt4]

Subordination was, however, an integral part of the Chinese view of
international affairs. In traditional Chinese legal doctrine, the emperor
was a universal ruler. Any territory that was not under direct imperial
administration was considered to be either tributary or rebellious. In
the official records of the Qing dynasty, _Da Qing Lichao Shilu_, various
countries with a wide variety relationships with the Qing Empire are
listed as vassal states (_shu2guo2_), including Korea, Vietnam, Tibet,
Britain, and even the Papacy. [Walt5]

In Qing documents written during the early years of the dynasty, Tibet is
referred to as a _guo2_ (nation). [Brunnert12] This suggests a status
equivalent to that of, say, Korea or Vietnam. In later years, however, Tibet
was referred to as a _bu4_ (dependency), a term that was also applied to
Mongolia. [Walt6]

In reaction to a British military expedition to Lhasa in 1904, the Qing
government asserted, for the first time, a claim of sovereignty over
Tibet. [Walt7] An atlas published in Shanghai in 1910 helped publicized this
new territorial claim. [Atlas10] In contrast, a popular Chinese atlas first
published in 1879 has a map of the Qing Empire which shows Korea, Manchuria,
Taiwan, and China proper, but not Tibet. [Yang75]

While the Qing (or Manchu) Empire is often referred to as "China," it was
in fact a multi-national dynastic state. Muslims, Mongols, Manchus, Koreans,
and ethnic Chinese (Han) were each governed on a separate basis and no
attempt was made to create a common nationality or citizenship. Since 1911,
however, the Chinese government has based its legitimacy on ethnic Chinese
nationalism.

 

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