The oldest past of Tibet is obscure. The terrain is so inhospitable that some of it has yet to be explored, and there has been little archaeological investigation. Presumably the earliest inhabitants practice an animistic, shamanistic religion known to precede Buddhism in Tibet, where it is called the Bon religion. Meanwhile, trade routes through Tibet link India, China, and Central Asia. Tibet does not truly emerge as a historical entity until the seventh century A.D., when Buddhism and centralized rule, two of Tibet's most enduring institutions, are established. By the thirteenth century, the two are firmly combined by monastic rule. The first Dalai Lama is named in the sixteenth century. Hundreds of years of Lamaism, the Tibetan form of Mahayana Buddhism, create in Tibet a peaceful, devout community devoted to learning and meditation.
Tibet (Tibetan Bod) has close cultural ties with India, with which it shares its long southern border. By contrast, conflict and occupation mark Tibet's history with its northern neighbors. Over many centuries the Mongols, and later the Manchus, repeatedly invade and subjugate China and thereby control the Dalai Lama. By the end of the nineteenth century the British are taking an active role in Tibet's affairs, and by the early decades of the twentieth century China is asserting its claims on Tibet. In 1950 the People's Republic of China invades and in 1959 annexes Tibet. Designated the Xizang Autonomous Region of China, Tibet falls victim to a Chinese campaign to disperse the Tibetans and destroy their culture. A persistent Tibetan rebellion is suppressed, while the Dalai Lama, exiled in India, keeps Tibetan traditions alive on foreign soil.
416B.C.: King Nyatri Dzenpo, the first recorded Tibetan king, founds a dynasty in the Yarlung valley. He builds the first fortress in Tibet at Yambulhakang.
c.A.D. 570–620: Tribal chief Namri Songzen attempts unification of the region.
620: Namri Songzen's son Songzen Gampo, first emperor of Tibet, begins his reign (620– 649). He conquers the kingdoms of Nepal to the west and Kamarupa to the south, unifying a large empire and establishing his capital at Lhasa. His marriage to a Tang princess establishes a dynastic tie with China.
7th century: The presence of Buddhist missionaries in Tibet challenges the indigenous Bon religion. Songzen Gampo sends scholar