An antique map challenging the relationship between Tibet and China was recently given to the Dalai Lama. It clearly defines the two regions as separate countries, a historical counterpoint to China’s claim over the highest region on earth. The gift – drawn almost a hundred years before China’s invasion of Tibet – was presented at a ceremony at the Dalai Lama’s residence in Dharamsala, India.
The Dalai Lama received the map as a joint gift from Emory University and Miklian Antiquarian Maps. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan population, many of whom have lived in exile in India since the 1950s.
The map itself is an original chart of Asia, Tibet and China drawn by Augustus Mitchell in the year 1869. Mitchell was one of the most famous and respected mapmakers of the 19th century, and his maps were prized for their accuracy as well as their striking attention to geographic and artistic detail.
The Mitchell map also bestows additional documentation and credence to the Free Tibet movement, which asserts that the 1950 invasion of Tibet by China was illegal and a breach of state sovereignty. Official statements from China often state that Tibet is, and has always been, a part of China. This map casts doubt on that claim.
While all major governments now consider Tibet to be the domain of China, during many periods of history the relationship between the two regions was not as it is today. Both Tibet and China have cultures stretching back thousands of years, and interactions between the two have undergone tremendous flux as the powers have risen and fallen in supremacy and influence.
Miklian Antiquarian Maps owner Jason Miklian considers the map itself as a significant piece of world history, one that is often more complex and impermanent than we assume. “Almost every land in the world has been ruled by an outside force at least one point in history,” Miklian explained. “This map of an independent Tibet illustrates the always fluctuating geopolitics of nation-states since the 1600s, and a glimpse into how people understood the world almost 150 years ago. This is just one of hundreds of fascinating antique maps that provide proof that today’s borders, boundaries and countries were not always so.”
The Dalai Lama has also been awarded the position of Presidential Distinguished Professor at Emory, and will be arriving to the United States for a series of lectures from 17-19 October 2010, to be attended by actor Richard Gere, author Matthieu Ricard, and other distinguished luminaries.
More information on the Emory – Tibet partnership can be found at http://www.tibet.emory.edu/, and Miklian Antiquarian Maps is located at http://www.MiklianMaps.com.