Published: April 2002
Did you Know?
In Did you Know? the National Geographic magazine team shares extra information we gathered to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects.
Did You Know?

Although today the Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama to be a troublesome and disruptive figure seeking to split Tibet from China, there was a time when it saw him as the key to the union of the two countries. In 1954, some time after the new Chinese Communist government began to assert control over Tibet, the teenage Dalai Lama was brought to Beijing and made a vice president of the Steering Committee of the People's Republic of China. During his visit the young Dalai Lama met with Mao Zedong many times and also, on one occasion, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. The years following the Dalai Lama's return to Tibet in 1955 saw his relationship with the Chinese government deteriorate. In 1959, as the people of Lhasa rose in rebellion fearing his abduction by the Chinese, the Dalai Lama fled to India and formed a Tibetan government-in-exile to contest Chinese domination of his homeland. Thousands of Tibetans fled with him as the Chinese seized direct military control of Tibet, crushing all resistance. The years since have seen the Chinese government attempt to expunge traditional devotion to the Dalai Lama from Tibet, accusing its former vice president of, among other things, deceitfulness and terrorism.

—Tom Cannell