6. WERE THERE HAN CHINESE IN THE TAR PRIOR TO THE 1950 CHINESE LIBERATION/INVASION?
Despite its remote Himalyan heights, Tibet borders are porous: ethnic Tibetans, Han, Mongols, Nepalese, Indians, and other Asian ethnicities freely traveled back and forth for centuries. In fact, historically, battles between Tibetan armies and Chinese armies raged from Kashgar, Xinjiang over the Tibetan Plateau into Kashmir, India.
It was Westerners who view Tibet in a Shangri-La like isolation, and thus its impenetrability was more a deeply held Western belief and illusion than reality.
Moreover, with their overlapping history, inter-marriage and miscegenation was not an uncommon occurrence. Tang Princess Wencheng married Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 640 and gave birth to children. She is credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet and the Jowo Buddhas that she gifted to Tibet is Tibetan Buddhism's most revered Buddha. The Jowo is housed in Tibetan Buddhism's most holy temple in the Barhhor Plaza. She brought along her own Han court who stayed with her in Tibet for the rest of her life, many who also intermarried with Tibetans.
In 775-779, King Trison Detsen build the first major Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Samye. The first floor is Tibetan, the second floor is Chinese, and the third floor is Indian. Over the years, many Chinese Buddhist monks traveled to Tibet and stayed for vaious periods to teach Buddhism.
Traders and other commercially enterprising Tibetan and Han traveled freely in and out of Tibet for centuries. The centuries old Tea Route (also known as Southern Silk Route) started from Yunnan and traversed through Tibet into Nepal, India, and beyond.
Miscegenation was particularly pronounced during the Qing Dynasty, when thousands of Han soldiers were garrisoned for years in Lhasa and in other major cities of the Tibetan Plateau.
To a large extent, from a DNA viewpoint, the categories of ethnic Tibetan vs. Han are a bit misleading as they imply distinctly different racial groups, as distinct as say, African Americans from European Americans. Ethnic Han, Tibetans, Mongols, and Manchu have an overlapping history. Separate, but yet the two cultures shared Buddhist teachings, culture, medicine, art, technology and food. Their bloodlines have cross-mixed over the centuries.
A DNA identification project would go a long way to clarify the trope of isolation, separation, and ethnic Tibetan "purity." Some DNA studies indicate a common DNA matrix, but given the polarization around this issue, more research would be helpful to settle it one way or the other. But in a globalizing world, why would this matter - it's smacks of eugenics, a kind of aryanization of one ethnic group to discredit another.
Note - Personal: Anecdotally, in Fall 2009, I started teaching at the Central University of National-Minorities, including a large number of Tibetans. I was mistaken by a Tibetan student on the first day as Tibetan and although an a third-generation American, I am 100% ethnic Han! As a volunteer tutor toTibetan university students in an oral “English Corner”, I was once again mistaken for being Tibetan. This happened often during my visit to Tibet as well. I am genetically “pure Han"- whatever that mongrel pedigree of "pure Han" might be.
"Can we talk?..."
an investigation into how we know what we know;
of distinguishing truth & fact
from deep seated beliefs and reflexive opinion.