Although this was a geological trip, I was unable to separate what I observed from the policies of the Chinese government regarding Tibet. All impressions, interpretations, and opinions are my own, not those of the institutions that sponsored this field trip. I am sorry if they cause offense, but these things must be said.
Our journey traversed Sichuan, Gansu, and Qinghai Provinces of China in addition to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). However, despite these being provinces of China, the area visited was mostly confined to "ethnic Tibet," a region that has historically had a Tibetan population (map). Tibet was a major central Asian power in the 7th through 10th centuries, conquering the Chinese capital of Ch'ang-an (Xian) in 763. It avoided incorporation into the Mongol empire in the 13th century by promising political loyalty and religious teachings in exchange for Mongol protection. Tibet retained an uneasy independence constantly pressed by the Chinese until 1949, when the China began its present military occupation of Tibet.
Originally, Tibet consisted three provinces: Kham, Amdo, and Ü-Tsang. However, in 1959, Kham was incorporated into Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu, and much of the province of Amdo was absorbed into Qinghai province. The Tibetan Government in Exile, led by His Holiness the Dalai Lama (photograph), does not recognize the Chinese occupation of ethnic Tibet, but has worked to come to an accomodation with the Communists. The Chinese have used torture, execution, and deportation to decimate the Tibetan Buddhist community. Many lamas, monks, and nuns fled to India and reestablished their monasteries. There is a continuing flow of Tibetan refugees into India.
Historical data and other information are available at the links below: