A sketchy record of the ancient history of Tibet exists from around the 1st century, and relies mainly on oral history. It was during the Tubo Kingdom that historians began to make written records.

According to legend, the Tibet Plateau was dotted with various tribal clans, known as the "12 small states'' or "40 small states'' in Tibetan history texts. Where these small states were located there were small towns which, through repeated cycles of conflict, became formidable tribes, among which the most powerful included the Yarlung Tribe in the Shannan River Valley, the Zhangzhung Regime in Ngari, and the Supi Tribe north of the Yarlung Zangbo River. At that time, the Lhasa River valley was known as the "Gyiqoiko'', which present-day Lhasa calls "Gyixoiwotang'' (meaning fertile land downstream from the Gyiqoi River).

The Gyiqoi River Valley was then ruled by two princes: Dagyiwo and Chibangsum of the Supi Tribe. In the early 7th century, Nangri Songtsan, leader of the Yarlung Tribe, sent his troops northward, crossing the Yarlung Zangbo River. In A.D. 633, his son, Songtsen Gampo, established the formidable Tufan Dynasty with Lhasa as its capital, effectively unifying Tibet for the first time.

During the period of King Songtsen Gampo, the Jokhang Temple and the Ramoche Temple were built, and the first palace was erected on the site of the Potala. In addition, many small monasteries and palaces were built in the Lhasa area. In the mid-9th century, a period of political division began and continued until the mid-13th century, when the religious circle headed by the Saskya Sect of Tibetan Buddhism pledged allegiance to the Yuan Dynasty.

At the beginning of the fifteenth century, the Gelug (Yellow Hat) sect gradually unified the whole of Tibet. In 1652 the Fifth Dalai Lama was invited to visit Beijing and was warmly received, and the Qing emperor conferred on the Dalai Lama the honorific title of "All-Knowing, Vajra-Holding Dalai Lama," a title which established his position as the paramount Buddhist leader in Tibet. In 1721, the Qing government sent a chancellor to Tibet and later authorized the self-governing management of the region.

In 1904, British forces invaded Tibet. They caused many deaths among the poorly-armed Tibetan forces before marching on, capturing Lhasa and imposing a punitive treaty on the Tibetans before withdrawing. After the formation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, an agreement was reached in 1951 between the local government of Tibet and the Central Government on the future administration of the region.

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