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Battle of Chamdo
Part of the Incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China
DateOctober 1950
Locationpresent-day Qamdo Prefecture
Result PRC victory
Annexation of Tibet into the PRC
Tibet Tibet  People's Republic of China
Commanders and leaders
Tibet Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme (POW)[1] China Mao Zedong
China Liu Bocheng
China Zhang Guohua
China Fan Ming
Tibetan Army:[2] 8,500[3] People's Liberation Army: 40,000[4][5]
Casualties and losses
180 killed or wounded[6][7][8] 114 killed or wounded[6]

The Battle of Chamdo (Chinese: 昌都之战), also referred to as the Invasion of Tibet,[9] the Chinese invasion of Tibet,[10][11] or officially in China as the Liberation of Tibet[12] was a military campaign by the People's Republic of China against a de facto independent Tibet in Qamdo after months of failed negotiations.[13] The purpose of the campaign was to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and thus exert powerful pressure to send negotiators to Beijing to sign terms recognizing Chinese sovereignty over Tibet.[14] The campaign resulted in the capture of Qamdo[6] and further negotiations between the PRC and Tibetan representatives, eventually resulting in the incorporation of Tibet into the People's Republic of China.


On March 7, 1950, a Tibetan Government delegation arrived in Kalimpong to open a dialogue with the newly declared PRC and to secure assurances that the PRC would respect Tibetan “territorial integrity”, among other things. The onset of talks was delayed by debate between the Tibetan delegation, India, Britain, and the PRC about the location of the talks. Tibet favored Singapore or Hong Kong (not Beijing), Britain favored India (not Hong Kong or Singapore), India and the PRC favored Beijing, but India and Britain preferred no talks at all. The Tibetan delegation did eventually meet with the PRC’s ambassador General Yuan Zhongxian in Delhi on September 16, 1950. Yuan communicated a 3-point proposal that Tibet be regarded as part of China, that China be responsible for Tibet’s defense, and that China be responsible for Tibet’s trade and foreign relations. Acceptance would lead to peaceful "liberation", or otherwise war. The Tibetans undertook to maintain the relationship between China and Tibet as one of preceptor and patron, and their head delegate Tsepon W. D. Shakabpa, on September 19, recommended cooperation, with some stipulations about implementation. Chinese troops need not be stationed in Tibet, it was argued, since it was under no threat, and if attacked by India or Nepal could appeal to China for military assistance. While Lhasa deliberated, on October 7, Chinese troops advanced into eastern Tibet, crossing the de facto border[15] at 5 places. The purpose was not to invade Tibet per se but to capture the Tibetan army in Chamdo, demoralize the Lhasa government, and thus exert powerful pressure to send negotiators to Beijing to sign terms for a peaceful incorporation of Tibet.[14] On October 21, Lhasa instructed its delegation to leave immediately for Beijing for consultations with the Communist government, and to accept the first provision, if the status of the Dalai Lama could be guaranteed, while rejecting the other two conditions. It later rescinded even acceptance of the first demand, after a divination before the Six-Armed Mahākāla deities indicated that the three points could not be accepted, since Tibet would fall under foreign domination.[16][17][18]

Invasion of Kham region

Before the Communist takeover, the relationship between the Khampa and the Dalai Lama's Government had deteriorated badly. As a result, the Khampa barely opposed or even joined the initial Communist assault on Chamdo. The People's Liberation Army had occupied Kham without much opposition from the Khampas. The relationship between the Khampa and the Tibetan Dalai Lama government in Lhasa was extremely poor at the time. Pandatsang Rapga, leader of the pro Kuomintang Tibet Improvement Party offered the governor of Chamdo, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, some Khampa fighters in exchange for the Tibetan government recognizing the independence of Kham. Ngabo refused the offer.

After the defeat of the Tibetan Army in Chamdo, Rapga started mediating in negotiations between the People's Liberation Army and the Tibetans.

Rapga and Topgay engaged in negotiations with the Chinese during their assault on Chamdo. Khampas either defected to the Chinese PLA forces or did not fight at all. The PLA succeeded in the invasion.[19]

Invasion of Tibet

After months of failed negotiations,[13] attempts by Tibet to secure foreign support and assistance,[20] and PRC[21] and Tibetan[citation needed] troop buildups, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed the Jinsha River on 6 or 7 October.[22] Two PLA units quickly surrounded the outnumbered Tibetan forces and captured the border town of Qamdo by 19 October, by which time 114 PLA[6] soldiers and 180 Tibetan[6][7][8] soldiers had been killed or wounded. Writing in 1962, Zhang Guohua claimed "over 5,700 enemy men were destroyed" and "more than 3,000" peacefully surrendered,[23] though that appears to be hyperbole. Active hostilities were limited to a border area controlled by the Government of Tibet northeast of the Gyamo Ngul Chu River and east of the 96th meridian.[24] After capturing Qamdo, the PLA ceased hostilities[7][25] and sent a captured commander, Ngabo, to Lhasa to reiterate terms of negotiation, and waited for Tibetan representatives to respond through delegates to Beijing.[26]

Tibetan prisoners of war were generally well treated. After confiscating their weapons, the PLA soldiers gave the prisoners lectures on socialism and a small amount of money, before allowing them to return to their homes. According to Tenzin Gyatso, the current as well as the Dalai Lama of the time, the PLA did not attack civilians.[27]


The PLA sent released prisoners (among them Ngapoi Ngawang Jigme, a captured governor) to Lhasa to negotiate with the Dalai Lama on the PLA's behalf. Chinese broadcasts promised that if Tibet was "peacefully liberated", the Tibetan elites could keep their positions and power.[28] The Government of Tibet then sent representatives to Beijing to negotiate.

The government of PRC then defined the battle to be against "pro-Britain pro-Slavery separatist" 3rd Taktra Ngawang Sungrab Thutob, "who is responsible for the death of Jamphel Yeshe Gyaltsen, the former teacher of Dalai Lama".[29]

See also


  1. Mackerras, Colin. Yorke, Amanda. The Cambridge Handbook of Contemporary China. [1991] (1991). Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-38755-8. p.100.
  2. The Tibetan Army, Gyajong, was established according to the 29-point reform installed by Emperor Qianlong. See Goldstein, M.C., "The Snow Lion and the Dragon", p.20
  3. Freedom in Exile: The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, 14th Dalai Lama, London: Little, Brown and Co, 1990 ISBN 0-349-10462-X
  4. Laird 2006 p.301.
  5. Shakya 1999, p.43
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 Jiawei Wang et Nima Gyaincain, The historical Status of China's Tibet, China Intercontinental Press, 1997, p.209 (see also The Local Government of Tibet Refused Peace Talks and the PLA Was Forced to Fight the Qamdo Battle, "The Quamdo battle thus came to a victorious end on October 24, with 114 PLA soldiers and 180 Tibetan troops killed or wounded." Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "wg" defined multiple times with different content
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Shakya 1999, p.45. Shakya also quotes PRC sources reporting 5738 enemy troops "liquidated" and over 5700 "destroyed". Shakya does not provide an estimate of PRC casualties.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Feigon 1996, p.144.
  9. New York Times archives search for "Invasion of Tibet".
  10. Goldstein (2007) p.608.
  11. This Day in History, BBC News, Saturday, December 25th 1999.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Shakya 1999 pp.28–32 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Shakya992832" defined multiple times with different content
  14. 14.0 14.1 Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, vol.2, pp.48–9.
  15. Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, University of California Press, 2009, Vol.2,p.48.
  16. Shakya 1999 pp.27–32 (entire paragraph).
  17. W. D. Shakabpa,One hundred thousand moons, BRILL, 2010 trans. Derek F. Maher, Vol.1, pp.916–917, and ch.20 pp.928–942, esp.pp.928–33.
  18. Melvin C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm: 1951–1955, Vol.2, ibid.pp.41–57.
  19. John Kenneth Knaus (2000). Orphans of the Cold War America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (illustrated ed.). PublicAffairs. p. 71. ISBN 1-891620-85-1. Retrieved 2011-12-27. 
  20. Shakya 1999 p.12,20,21
  21. Feigon 1996 p.142. Shakya 1999 p.37.
  22. Shakya 1999 p.32 (6 Oct). Goldstein 1997 p.45 (7 Oct).
  23. Survey of China Mainland Press, no. 2854 p.5,6
  24. Shakya 1999 map p.xiv
  25. Goldstein 1997 p.45
  26. Shakya 1999 p.49
  27. Laird 2006 p.305.
  28. Laird, 2006 p.306.
  29. [1]


  • Feigon, Lee. Demystifying Tibet: Unlocking the Secrets of the Land of Snows (1996) Ivan R. Dee Inc. ISBN 1-56663-089-4
  • Ford, Robert. Wind Between The Worlds The extraordinary first-person account of a Westerner's life in Tibet as an official of the Dalai Lama (1957) David Mckay Co., Inc.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 1: 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State (1989) University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-06140-8
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. A History of Modern Tibet, Volume 2: The Calm Before the Storm 1951-1955 (2007) University of California Press. ISBN978-0-520-24941-7.
  • Goldstein, Melvyn C. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (1997) University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-21254-1
  • Grunfeld, A. Tom. The Making of Modern Tibet (1996) East Gate Book. ISBN 978-1-56324-713-2
  • Knaus, Robert Kenneth. Orphans of the Cold War: America and the Tibetan Struggle for Survival (1999) PublicAffairs . ISBN 978-1-891620-18-8
  • Laird, Thomas. The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama (2006) Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-1827-5
  • Shakya, Tsering. The Dragon In The Land Of Snows (1999) Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-11814-7
  • Robert W. Ford Captured in Tibet, Oxford University Press, 1990, ISBN 978-0-19-581570-2

See also

  • Sino–Tibetan War (1930–1932)

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