Historical Documents

The history of modern Tibet is heavily contested between different schools of thought, including the work of Chinese communist historians, Tibetan nationalists, and other scholars.  This selection of documents is designed to give readers immediate access to primary documents of different types, and from different periods, that illustrate modern Tibetan history at the basic level. We offer only basic suggestions for interpretation, if any, and largely leave readers to decide what kind of history these documents suggest. Many will be of use only for those with detailed knowledge of Tibetan or Chinese languages, and of the historical contexts to which the documents belong, but even in the absence of such knowledge we hope that they will encourage research into more granular ways of thinking about Tibetan history.

The documents are intended to offer a wide variety of examples from different areas of politics, art, administration, and media from the latter half of the 20th century onwards.  Most of these documents on this site are being made publicly available for the first time, with the goal of increasing the amount of publicly available resources for Tibet scholars, students, and those simply wishing to learn more about Tibet.


Documents from the 1930s and 1940s

Sample documents from the last two decades in which Tibet - at this time meaning mainly the area west of the Drichu (Jinsha) river, the Upper Yangtse, roughly similar to the TAR today - functioned as an independent polity, ruled by the government in Lhasa.

Unofficial Writings & Dissent

Very few documents exist that were produced unofficially by Tibetans in Tibet discussing political complaints against the government, its policies and historical claims. The most famous is the “Precious Manifesto” produced by four monks at Drepung monastery in 1989, based on their reading of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and on the policies of the Dalai Lama. The monks rece

Internal Documents

This section includes all manner of historical documents meant for internal circulation produced or regarding Tibet and Tibetan autonomous regions.

Policy Meetings

These documents are from various meetings and give us a look into the inner workings of meetings during the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Informative Propaganda

Examples of PRC propaganda materials from the period of Cultural Revolution up until during the early years of Opening Up and Reform under Deng Xiaoping in the 1980s.

Minzu Policy

Minzu, 民族 (mínzú) and also 少数民族 (shǎoshù mínzú), are the terms used most often to refer to the minority groups in the People’s Republic of  China, often referred to as ethnic minorities or nationalities in English. This category deals with any document that relates to minzu policy at some level of government up to the national level.


The paintings and stele documented here represent works of Tibetan art little-known to Westerners.