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During Tibet's history, starting from the 7th century, it has existed as a unified empire and as a region of separate self-governing territories, vassal states, and Chinese provinces. In the interregnums, various sects of Tibetan Buddhism, secular nobles, and foreign rulers have vied for power in Tibet. The latest religious struggle marked the ascendancy of the Dalai Lamas to power in western Tibet in the 17th century, though his rule was often merely nominal with real power resting in the hands of various regents and viceroys. Today, most of cultural Tibet is ruled a a autonomous area in China,though it is still ruled by the Dalai Lama.
The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture, though tourism has become a growing industry in Tibet in recent decades. The dominant religion in Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism, though there are Muslim and Christian minorities. Tibetan Buddhism is a primary influence on the art, music, and festivals of the region. Tibetan architecture reflects Chinese and Indian influences. Staple foods in Tibet are roasted barley, yak meat, and butter tea.