The early history of Tibet is shrouded in myth. It is known, however, that over the centuries tribal states developed on the Tibetan plateau. The actual recorded history of Tibet dates from the seventh century A.D. Early in the century, the tribal states united to form a single kingdom. Under the strong leadership of King Song-tsan Gam-po (ruled 630?–89?), Tibet became a formidable military power. During his reign, Buddhism began to spread throughout the country. From the seventh to the ninth century, Tibetan warriors raided neighboring regions in central Asia, particularly India and China.

Although influenced culturally by both India and China, the kingdom remained politically independent for several centuries. After the 13th century, however, Tibet was for long periods under the influence of the Mongol and Ming dynasties of China. The Dalai Lama became temporal ruler, as well as spiritual ruler, of Tibet in the 17th century.

In 1720 Manchu armies invaded Tibet and made it a protectorate of the Chinese empire. Late in the 19th century, Chinese control began to weaken. Both Great Britain and Russia were interested in adding Tibet to their possessions. In 1904 British soldiers entered Tibet from India. However, after extended negotiations, Britain and Russia agreed in 1907 not to intervene, leaving Tibet under Chinese suzerainty.

Tibet broke relations with China in 1912, after the Chinese Revolution, and declared its independence in 1913. In 1950 Communist China invaded the country; in 1951 Tibet was made an autonomous province of China. An uprising against the Chinese was crushed in 1959, and the Dalai Lama was forced to flee. From 1959 until 1964, the Panchen Lama served as a puppet ruler while China consolidated its control over Tibet. When he began to denounce China's repression of Tibetan culture, he was replaced with a pro-Chinese leader. Chinese authorities vigorously attempted to supplant the Tibetan language with Chinese and to eradicate religious belief. They also dismantled the feudal system. By 1980, however, these oppressive policies had ceased, mainly because of a change in Chinese leadership.

More major protests against Chinese domination occurred in Tibet in the late 1980's. The Panchen Lama died in 1989. The Dalai Lama worked to find a peaceful way to end Chinese rule, and his efforts were recognized in 1989 when he won a Nobel Peace Prize. The Dalai Lama chose Gedhun Choekyi Nyima to serve as the new Panchen Lama in 1995. However, the Chinese government did not recognize him as such.

A new railway links Lhasa with the Quinhai province city of Golmud. It opened in 2006 and runs 710 miles (1,140 km).

Brahmaputra River; Everest, Mount; Himalayas; Kunlun Shan; Lamaism; Lhasa; Mcmahon Line; Yak.