THE LAND: Tibet is one of China's remotest areas, a region of lofty plateaus and the world's highest mountains, known as the "roof of the world."
It lies on China's border with India and Nepal -- a frontier that includes the Himalayan mountains and Mount Everest, the world's highest peak. In an area the size of Western Europe, Tibet's people practice primitive agriculture in a harsh climate.
THE PEOPLE: Tibet's population of 2 million includes 500,000 Chinese. The indigenous language is Tibetan, but the official language is Chinese.
THE ECONOMY: In 1979, 1.2 million Tibetans were involved in agriculture, including 500,000 nomadic herdsmen. Chinese modernization efforts have helped create nearly 300 small- and medium-sized factories and mines producing electric power, coal, building materials, lumber, textiles, chemicals and animal products. A tourism development program has helped make Lhasa, Tibet's capital, a popular destination for Western visitors.
HISTORY: China claimed Tibet (Xizang in Chinese) from the 13th to 19th centuries. It gained independence in 1911, but China annexed Tibet as an autonomous region in 1950 and put ethnic Chinese in key Tibetan party and government posts.
In 1956, a popular Tibetan uprising within China spread to Tibet, and Beijing crushed the revolt in 1959 with its military. That year, the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader whom Tibetan Buddhists consider a god-king, fled to India with tens of thousands of followers and has lived in exile since.
Beijing says he is welcome to return and live in other regions of China, but the 52-year-old Dalai Lama has refused, saying he will only reside in his rightful home of Tibet.
During the religious persecution of China's 1966-76 cultural revolution, radicals razed thousands of monasteries and forced monks to become peasants or laborers. In the last decade, Beijing has restored some freedom of worship.
Beijing has also republished Tibetan literature and dictionaries in recent years and sponsored exhibitions and seminars of Tibetan culture.