FROM the earliest dawn of accredited history the mountains and deserts of inmost Asia have sent out forces, moral, intellectual and physical, that have overrun large tracts of the earth's surface. The hardy nomad, finding his scanty pasture insufficient for his growing herds, must needs sally forth to subdue the soft-living peasants outside, and to possess their land. But the times of nomadic conquest are long past. It is some six hundred years since the Mongols created the largest empire that history can record. Today the movement is in general reversed. It is the nations outside, overpeopled or ambitious, and strengthened with the weapons of modern science, who press in upon the nomads still living their old-world existence. Yet these large, hidden areas continue to make themselves felt in the movement of world forces.
To realize the present relation of Tibet to the Powers that encircle her one must understand something of her geography and of the course of events that has shaped her destiny. The million square miles over which she is spread constitute the highest territory on the face of the earth. Inhabited plains and valleys succeed one another ten thousand to fifteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. Here dwell the peasants and the herdsmen, while the latter also range still higher up the mountain sides. A hard country, breeding a hardy people, who in consequence went out and overran the territories of their neighbors in China, Turkestan and India.
In the seventh century of the Christian era Buddhism commenced effectively to penetrate the country. After a temporary setback in the tenth century, it had by the end of the eleventh established a firm hold, and this has grown stronger and stronger with the passing centuries. This Buddhism came from Nepal, Kashmir and India, and in a lesser degree from China. Hinduism having by then recovered its ascendency in India, the Tibetan importation was encrusted with Hinduism and Hindu Animism, and further mingled with the Animism
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