Alternate History

Tibet (Twilight of a New Era)

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Bod (Wylie transcription)
Timeline: Twilight of a New Era

OTL equivalent: Tibet (1912-1951)
Flag of Tibet Emblem of Tibet
The Tibetan flag, also known as the snow lion flag Emblem of Tibet
Tibet (TNE)
Tibetan borders
Anthem "Ghang Ri Rawe"
(and largest city)
Other cities Shigatse, Gyantse and Qamdo
  others Chinese (Standard Mandarin)
Tibetan Buddhism
  others Bön (indigenous animist and shamanistic belief system)
Ethnic Groups
  others Han Chinese, Monpas and Lhobas
Demonym Tibetan
Government Absolute theocratic monarchy (until 1925), Parliamentary Monarchy (since 1925)
Dalai Lama
Kalön Tripa
Area 1,228,400 km²
Established 1912 (Tibetan Era 1658)
Independence from Chinese Empire
Currency Tibetan skar, srang and tangka (all until 1923), Tibetan srang (1923-1932, 1937 to date) Tibetan gor (1932-1937)

Tibet is a kingdom that roughly occupies the Tibetan Plateau region, in Asia, north of the Himalayas. It borders China, British India, Nepal and Bhutan.

It is home to the indigenous Tibetan people, and to some other ethnic groups such as Monpas and Lhobas, and is inhabited by considerable numbers of Han and Hui people. Tibet is the highest region on earth, with an average elevation of 4900 metres. It is sometimes referred to as the roof of the world.


The beginnings of an independent Tibet

The proclamation of the republic of China in 1912 left Tibet in turmoil. Qing officials had no immediate news of the destiny of their post and status of Tibet. A Tibetan militia launched a surprise attack on the Qing garrison stationed in Tibet. Afterwards the Qing officials in Lhasa were forced to sign the Three Point Agreement which provided for the surrender and expulsion of Qing forces in central Tibet. In early 1913, the 13th Dalai Lama, who had fled to India when the Qing invaded Tibet in 1910, returned to Lhasa and issued a proclamation distributed throughout Tibet which condemned The Chinese intention of colonizing Tibet under the patron-priest relationship, and stated that, We are a small, religious, and independent nation.

275px-China Tibet svg

Claim of China over Tibet

World War I and the fragmentation of China gave Tibet a de facto independence, although guaranteed by the British Empire, later ICF.

By the Second Simla Accord (1921) it was stated that Tibet does not forms part of Chinese territory and assumes full independence of its political authorities and provides that no officers or elected representative from Inner Tibet is to be represented in the Chinese Parliament or any such assembly, Inner Tibet is guaranteed its protection by the UK and ICF, settles the Sino-Indian border dispute, gives free movement of people and goods between the parties and provides technical and financial assistance to Tibet. This Accord was not acknowledge by the First and Second Chinese Republics, and immediately denounced upon its diplomatic communication.

The 13th Dalai Lama ruled but his reign was marked with border conflicts with Han Chinese and Muslim warlords. Also was present were the claims over the regions of Amdo and parts of Kham in Chinese territory by Tibetans. This was a major source of constant skirmish with Chinese warlords, with its climax in the Sino-Tibetan War and later the Republic of China.

The various governments of China, the First and Second Republics, never renounced to their claims of sovereignty over Tibet. The reunification of China in 1935 shifted the attention once again to regain control of territories of the former Qing Empire.

Turmoil in Tibet

Though independence was claimed internal riffs between traditionalist and revolutionary/reformist sparked. The basis was the modernization of State and Society. The main advocate of advancement was the Tibetan National Reform Party (TNRP), that was opposed by landed nobility and monastic institutions. After several consultations and pressured by landed nobility a constitution was provided by the Dalai Lama, with assistance of British Experts, making Tibet a parliamentary monarchy in 1925.

The Chinese Invasion (1931-1937)

After end of the South Campaign immediate preparation were made for the next warfare, the rest the control of Northern China from the First Chinese Republic. Part of the planification included the occupation of Tibet in order to secure a base to strike the Ma Warlords and various local warlords of Xinjiang. In 1931 the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) occupied Tibet and set a Provincial Council of Tibet (PCT) for its rule. The PCT, acting under the authority of the TNRP, kept the Dalai Lama and part of the Constitution but dissolved the Parliament and established a period of political tutelage rule, a de facto party dictatorship. In 1933 the PCT established a National Consultative Political Conference to act as a legislative assembly being integrated by the all the parties that formed part of the United Front of Tibet, social and religious organizations and representatives of the provinces.

An important act of the PCT was the closure of transit and trade with British India and the annulment of the Second Sima Agreement and Anglo-Tibetan Trade Treaty. All trade was redirected to China and a passport control was established for outsiders and Tibetans, with the exception of Chinese that had free movement. The migration of Han Chinese to Tibet was encouraged, especially artisans, clerical laborers and specialized workers.

The Sino-British Agreement of 1937 established in exchange for help of the ICF in the Second Sino-Japanese War permitted the withdrawal of the NRA and PLA. It also recognized the autonomy of Outer Tibet to establish its government and most importantly it the reestablishment of the transit of persons and trade goods with British India and other counties as spelled out in the Second Simla Agreement. However, the Second Republic of China maintained its position of considering Outer Tibet as part of its territory with a degree of self-government but agreed not to military intervene nor could it be part of any alliance against China. This last part part established the basis for the neutrality of Tibet.

Under the Sino-British Agreement Tibet is declared permanently neutral. No armed forces or activities from other countries can used Tibetan territory. Tibet maintains external independence and inviolability of borders.

Elections for a Tibetan National Assembly were called to advance towards the end of the period of political tutelage and approve a new Constitution. The TNRP and allies of the United Front of Tibet gaining the majority, followed by the former supports of the old regime (Tibetan Democratic Union) and the Productive People's Party (former Communists).


Prior to the first Constitution

Before the first constitution, the Cho-sid-nyi encompassed the dual system of government of Tibet. At its apex was the Dalai Lama as head of the religious and lay administrations.

The lay administration was represented by a Council (Kashag), named by the Dalai Lama. It was constituted by three temporal and one monk official. Each of them held the title of Kalön. The chief of the Kashag is the Kalön Tripa. Headed by the Council was the government administration, divided into ministries: political, military, economic, judicial, foreign, financial and educational departments. Except for the Ministry of Finance, all ministries had two representatives – one temporal and one monastic. The Ministry of Finance had three lay officials. Each of them held the title of Tsipön.

The religious administration was headed by the Chigyab Khempo, a high ranking monk official named by the Dalai Lama. He was assisted by the Yingtsang, integrated by four monk officials named Trunyichenno.

The First Constitution (1925)

By the Constitution of 1925, provided and promulgated by the Dalai Lama, Tibet was proclaimed a parliamentary monarchy. Thereby, it was organized as follows:

  • The Dalai Lama was the Head of State, symbol of the Tibetan Nation, Head of the Armed forces, and the defender of Buddhism. As Head of State he had the power to name and appoint the Kalön Tripa, all the Kashag (Council) and all political and religious officers (lay and religious), as the power to grant pardons and the royal assent;
  • A Council of Regency, with a Regent as its chairman, acted as the temporal head of state when a Dalai Lama had not assumed or had not reached his age of majority. The Council of Regency was named by the Tibetan Assembly.
  • The Kashag (Council), headed by the Kalön Tripa, was responsible of all civil executive powers as delegated by the Dalai Lama;
  • The Monastic and Religious Council was named by the Dalai Lama and held their position at his pleasure. The Council was in charge of the religious administration and monasteries;
  • The Tibetan Assembly was the supreme legislative power. One-third was directly elected, the second third named or elected by the orders and one-third named by the Dalai Lama. The mandate of assembly members was five years and the Assembly could be dissolved by the Dalai Lama; and
  • The judicial power was administered by the Supreme Court of Tibet named by the Dalai Lama from a list of candidates provided by the Tibetan Assembly.

The Second Constitution (1938)

The Constitution of 1938 was drafted and approved by the Tibetan National Assembly, on a model draft provided by the National Consultative Political Conference. According to the second constitution Tibet is a parliamentary monarchy and its organized in five plus one power constitutional basis, in a similar way to the Chinese constitutional model. The Constitution officially ended the political tutelage period in Tibet.

  • The executive branch (Central Tibetan Administration) is organized as follows:
    • Dalai Lama is the Head of State. He promulgates bills and regulations approved by the Tibetan Assembly, promulgates acts and ordinances that have the force of law; confer honors and appointments. He can summon, adjourn, prolong, and dissolve the Tibetan Assembly on advice and decree of the Kashag. He can authorize referenda in cases involving major issues. A three member Council of Regency elected jointly by the Kashag and the Tibetan Assembly in accordance with law, by means of secret ballot, rules in case of death of the Dalai Lama and until his successor is appointed.
    • The Kashag and Kalon Tripa (Chief Kalon) are responsible for exercising the executive and administrative powers of the Tibetan Central Administration and Ministers appointed by the Kashag. The Kashag consist of seven Kalons elected by the Tibetan Assembly by secret ballot. The tenure of the Kashag is five years. The Kalon Tripa is elected by the elected Kalons by secret ballot. The election of a Kalon Tripa is valid by a simple majority. The tenure of the Kalon Tripa is one year and can be re-elected. The Kashag can be called by the Tibetan National Assembly to answer question on the administration of Tibet. The Ministers, except those named by their Council, are freely appointed and removed by the Kashag.
  • The legislative branch is in charge of National Assembly. All legislative power and authority rest in the Tibetan National Assembly, and legislation requires the assent of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to become law. Laws can be proposed by the National Assembly, Kashag, and the Judicial, Control and Religious Affairs Councils. The mandate of Tibetan Assembly is five years. When the Tibetan Assembly is not in session, there is a Standing Committee. The Tibetan National Assembly consists of
    • (a) members elected from each of the regions of Tibet
    • (b) members elected from each religious denomination: Nyingma, Kagyud, Sakya, Geluk and Yungdrung Bon.
  • the judiciary is organized in the Judicial Council. The Judicial Council is the supreme appellate court regarding legal issues involving individuals and public institutions of the Tibet. It is also highest judicial authority of the Tibetan Central and Local Administration and interprets the constitution. The Judicial Council appoints and names all judges of the lower and specialized courts of law. The Judicial Council is composed of a Chief Judge, named by the Kashag on a proposal of the Tibetan Assembly and 14 fellow judges appointed by the National Assembly. The Judicial names a Minister of Judicial Administration
  • the control and supervision under a Control Council. that examines all income and expenditure accounts of the Tibetan Central Administration. The Control Council as the authority to audit and investigate, according to law, the entire fiscal and administrative record of the Tibetan Administration, including all Tibetan Administrative Departments and establishments, which are recipients of grants, funds or monies from the Central Tibetan Administration. The Control Council is named by the Provincial Control Councils and local and city government councils. The Provincial Control Councils perform the same duties as the Control Council. The Control Council names a Minister of Audit.
  • the Examination and civil service are directed by the Civil Service Council that decrees all matters regarding examination and appointment of the officials of the Central and Local Tibetan Administration. The Civil Service Council formulates rules and regulations in regard to the appointment, training, privileges and powers of the officials of the Central and Local Tibetan Administration as determined by the Tibetan Assembly by law. The Civil Service Council consists of a Chairman, and 15 members, appointed by the Judicial and Control Councils. The Control Council names a Minister of Examinations and Civil Service.
  • religious affairs under the Religious and Monastic Affairs Council that is in charge of preserving, promoting, supporting and protecting Buddhism. It supports and develops knowledge side by side with good values, promotes good understanding and unity among followers of all religions. It also enhances the application of religious tenets and values to everyday life. The Commission exercises control over religious appointments, the selection of clergy. and appoints a the Minister of Religious and Monastic Affairs.


Flag of Tibetan National Reform Party (TNE)

Flag of Tibetan National Reform Party

During the 1910s inside Tibet there were various groups that considered the traditional government of Tibet as entirely outdated and feudal. They appealed for a modern and secular government which would implement a land reform, abolish serfdom and slavery, improve infrastructure, have a written constitution, introduce newer technology, set up a national and obligatory educational system, and a professional standing army. These groups founded the Tibetan National Reform Party (TNRP) in 1918.

The TNRP is considered by its founders a branch of Chinese Nationalism and adopted a program similar to the Chinese KMT. Its adherence to the One China principle alienated it from Tibetan nationalism that favored the status quo of independence from China. However, its call for social and political reform made it popular in urban sectors. Most of its following came from intellectuals, merchants and inhabitants of the areas near China and Chinese residing in Tibet.

Tibetan nationalism and sectors loyal to the Dalai Lama, formed relatively late, the Enlightenment and Peace Party (EPP). During 1920-1931, the EPP was the main government party until it was dissolved by the Provincial Council of Tibet (PCT). As part of the Sino-British Agreement of 1937 political activity was opened to former leaders and members of the EPP that founded the Tibetan Democratic Union.

A secret Tibetan Communist Party (TCP) was formed in the late 1920s, becoming public in 1931. However, during the Chinese Occupation, its activities were severely impaired by the TNRP-led PCT. Although a member of the United Front of Tibet, its delegation to the National Consultative Political Conference was an eleventh hour decision. On preparation for the end of the period of political tutelage it renamed itself Productive People's Party and approved a new party program in 1937.

Society and religion

There were three main social groups in Tibet: ordinary laypeople (mi ser in Tibetan), lay nobility (sger pa) and monks. The ordinary layperson could be further classified as a peasant farmer (shing-pa) or nomadic pastoralist (trokpa). Although the Constitution of 1912 ended feudalism and provided legal equality to all inhabitants, these provisions are not implemented. Slavery was still recognized as legal until 1931.

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.


The economy of Tibet is dominated by subsistence agriculture. Due to limited arable land, the primary occupation of the Tibetan Plateau is raising livestock, such as sheep, cattle, goats, camels, yaks, donkeys and horses. The main crops grown are barley, wheat, buckwheat, rye, potatoes, oats, rapeseed, cotton and assorted fruits and vegetables. Traditional agricultural work and animal husbandry lead the area's economy. 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. Staple foods in Tibet are roasted barley, yak meat and yak butter tea.

Tibetan agricultural property consisted of two kinds: land held by the nobility or monastic institutions (demesne land), and village land (tenement or villein land) held by the central government, though governed by district administrators.

Prior to 1923 Tibetan currency consisted of non-decimal copper, silver and gold coins and paper money. These were named skar, srang and tangka. The mintage reform of 1923 created a single currency, the gor. One srang is divided into ten gorsur or 100 gar. It also established the Government Bank of Tibet (GBT), with assistance from English experts. The GBT is in charge of minting and printing the srang, managing foreign exchange, licensing and supervising commercial banks and the custody of the silver and gold reserve. During the Chinese Invasion (1931-1937) the Tibetan gor was issued as a replacement of the srang.

The Anglo-Tibetan Trade Treaty of 1922, open trade between Tibet and the United Kingdom (later ICF) via British Trade Agencies and Tibetan Trade Marts. The Treaty, in force for ten years, automatically renewable for the same period, also regulated communications with British India and prohibited new monopolies.

There is a proposal for the construction of the Tibet Railroad that would connect India and China.

Tibetan armed forces

The Tibetan Army (Tibetan: དམག་དཔུང་བོད་) is the military force of Tibet after its de facto independence in 1912. It serves as the de facto armed forces of the Dalai Lama government to counter internal and external threats - the latter being China and the former the monasteries' own armies of dob-dobs ("warrior monks"). As a ground army it was modernized with the assistance of British training and equipment. After its defeat by the NRA and PLA forces the defeated Tibetan Army was demobilized, disbanded and several of its officers put on trial.

The withdrawal of the Chinese NRA allows Tibet to rebuild its armed forces now organized in obligatory national conscription in the Tibetan Army and Tibetan Air Force. Public order is kept by the Tibetan Police Force and border control by the Tibetan Border Guard. Training follows the British tradition with weapons and vehicles provided by China and ICF as provided by the Sino-British Agreement.

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