Tibetan Empire

The Tibetan Empire (Tibetan: བོད་ཆེན་པོ, Wylie: bod chen po , lit.'Great Tibet'; Chinese: 吐蕃; pinyin: Tǔbō / Tǔfān) was an empire centered on the Tibetan Plateau, formed as a result of imperial expansion under the Yarlung dynasty heralded by its 33rd king, Songsten Gampo in the 7th century. The empire further expanded under the 38th king Trisong Detsen. The 821–823 treaty concluded between the Tibetan Empire and the Tang dynasty delineated the former as being in possession of an area larger than the Tibetan Plateau, stretching east to Chang'an, west beyond modern Afghanistan, and south into modern India and the Bay of Bengal.

Tibetan Empire
Bod chen po
Standard of the Tibetan Emperor, Songtsen Gampo (7th century)
Map of the Tibetan Empire at its greatest extent (late 8th-early 9th century)[2]
Common languagesTibetan languages
Tibetan Buddhism, Bön
Connected familiesTengri tribe
Tsenpo (Emperor) 
Songtsen Gampo, 33rd Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Gungsrong Gungtsen, 34th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Mangsong Mangtsen , 35th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Tridu Songtsen, 36th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Me Agtsom, 37th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Trisong Detsen, 38th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Mune Tsenpo, 39th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
 800/804 – 815
Sadnalegs, 40th Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Rapalchen, 41st Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Langdarma, 42nd Emperor of the Yarlung Dynasty
Lönchen (Chief Minister) 
Gar Tongtsen Yülsung
Gar Trinring Tsendro
Nganlam Takdra Lukhong
Nanam Shang Gyaltsen Lhanang
Banchenpo (Chief Monk) 
Nyang Tingngezin Sangpo (first)
Dranga Palkye Yongten (last)
Historical eraLate Antiquity
800 est.[3][4]4,600,000 km2 (1,800,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Tang dynasty

The Yarlung dynasty was founded in 127 BCE in the Yarlung Valley. The Yarlung capital was moved to Lhasa by the 33rd king Songsten Gampo, and into the Red Fort during the imperial period which continued to the 9th century. The beginning of the imperial period is marked in the reign of the 33rd king of the Yarlung dynasty, Songtsen Gampo. The power of Tibet's military empire gradually increased over a diverse terrain. During the reign of Trisong Detsen, the empire became more powerful and increased in size. At this time, a 783 treaty between the Tibetan Empire and the Tang dynasty defined the borders, as commemorated by the Shol Potala Pillar in Lhasa.[5] Borders were again confirmed during the later reign of the 41st king Ralpacan through his 821–823 treaty between the Tibetan Empire and Tang dynasty, which was also commemorated by three inscribed stelae.[6][5] In the opening years of the 9th century, the Tibetan Empire controlled territories extending from the Tarim Basin to the Himalayas and Bengal, and from the Pamirs into what are now the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Yunnan. The murder of King Rapalchen in 838 by his brother Langdarma, and Langdarma's subsequent enthronement[5] followed by his assassination in 842 marks the simultaneous beginning of the dissolution of the empire period.

Before the empire period, sacred Buddhist relics were discovered by the Yarlung dynasty's 28th king, Iha-tho-tho-ri (Thori Nyatsen), and then safeguarded.[7] Later, Tibet marked the advent of its empire period under King Songsten Gampo, while Buddhism initially spread into Tibet after the king's conversion to Buddhism, and during his pursuits in translating Buddhist texts while also developing the Tibetan language.[7] Under King Trisong Detsen, the empire again expanded as the founding of Tibetan Buddhism and the revealing of the Vajrayana by Guru Padmasambhava was occurring.[7]

The empire period then corresponded to the reigns of Tibet's three 'Religious Kings',[5] which includes King Rapalchen's reign. After Rapalchen's murder, King Lang darma nearly destroyed Tibetan Buddhism[5] through his widespread targeting of Nyingma monasteries and monastic practitioners. His undertakings correspond to the subsequent dissolution of the unified empire period, after which semi-autonomous polities of chieftains, minor kings and queens, and those surviving Tibetan Buddhist polities evolved once again into autonomous independent polities, similar to those polities also documented in the Tibetan Empire's nearer frontier region of Do Kham (Amdo and Kham).[8][9]

Other unreferenced ideas about the dissolution of the empire period include: The varied terrain of the empire and the difficulty of transportation, coupled with the new ideas that came into the empire as a result of its expansion, helped to create stresses and power blocs that were often in competition with the ruler at the center of the empire.[according to whom?][citation needed] Thus, for example, adherents of the Bön religion and the supporters of the ancient noble families gradually came to find themselves in competition with the "recently" introduced Tibetan Buddhism.[citation needed]