Tibetan history is notable in two particular respects. One is the extraordinarily
pervasive influence of Buddhism in all aspects of daily life. At one time, a sizeable
number of Tibet’s male population were monks and lamas, and eventually this
ecclesiastical group became Tibet’s temporal rulers as well as its spiritual leaders.
The Dalai Lama, believed to be the reincarnation of Tibet’s patron deity, is the
highest and most revered among this ruling monastic theocracy.
The second noteworthy aspect of Tibetan history is the ambiguity and
disagreement surrounding Tibet’s long political relationship with China. Tibetans
generally view Tibet as an historically independent nation that had a close
relationship with a succession of Chinese empires. A succession of Chinese
governments, on the other hand, have claimed that Tibet has been a political and
geographical part of China for many centuries.40 In 1949-1951, the newly established
communist government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) backed up this claim by sending military troops to occupy Tibet. Since then, Tibet has been under active Beijing rule as its westernmost province, Xizang (the Tibet Autonomous
Region, or TAR).
In 2006, the 109th Congress passed legislation to award the Dalai Lama a Congressional Gold Medal in recognition of his international status and accomplishments.65 The decision reportedly was denounced by Beijing as a move that “seriously interferes with China’s internal affairs and damages U.S.-China relations.”66 With President Bush in attendance, a move that further raised the profile of the event, the Dalai Lama was awarded the medal in a ceremony on October 17, 2007, in the Capitol Rotunda. Source: Tibet: Problems, Prospects, and U.S. Policy. CRS Report for Congress.