Skip to main content

The Snow Lion and the Dragon

China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama

Melvyn C. Goldstein


List Price: 26.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.


Tensions over the "Tibet Question"—the political status of Tibet—are escalating every day. The Dalai Lama has gained broad international sympathy in his appeals for autonomy from China, yet the Chinese government maintains a hard-line position against it. What is the history of the conflict? Can the two sides come to an acceptable compromise? In this thoughtful analysis, distinguished professor and longtime Tibet analyst Melvyn C. Goldstein presents a balanced and accessible view of the conflict and a proposal for the future.

Tibet's political fortunes have undergone numerous vicissitudes since the fifth Dalai Lama first ascended to political power in Tibet in 1642. In this century, a forty-year period of de facto independence following the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1911 ended abruptly when the Chinese Communists forcibly incorporated Tibet into their new state and began the series of changes that destroyed much of Tibet's traditional social, cultural, and economic system. After the death of Mao in 1976, the rise to power of Deng Xiaoping quickly produced a change in attitude in Beijing and a major initiative to negotiate with the Dalai Lama to solve the conflict. This failed. With the death of Deng Xiaoping, the future of Tibet is more uncertain than ever, and Goldstein argues that the conflict could easily erupt into violence.

Drawing upon his deep knowledge of the Tibetan culture and people, Goldstein takes us through the history of Tibet, concentrating on the political and cultural negotiations over the status of Tibet from the turn of the century to the present. He describes the role of Tibet in Chinese politics, the feeble and conflicting responses of foreign governments, overtures and rebuffs on both sides, and the nationalistic emotions that are inextricably entwined in the political debate. Ultimately, he presents a plan for a reasoned compromise, identifying key aspects of the conflict and appealing to the United States to play an active diplomatic role. Clearly written and carefully argued, this book will become the definitive source for anyone seeking an understanding of the Tibet Question during this dangerous turning point in its turbulent history.

Praise For The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama

“Remains the best introduction to Tibet.”

— Nicholas Kristof,

"Despite its poetically symbolic title, this slim, clearly written volume offers the general reader a concise and balanced overview of the complicated history of Tibetan and Chinese relations. . . . Skillfully weaving together the story of Tibet's political, geographic and cultural history, the author spares neither the Chinese, whose political contact with Tibet dates back to the 7th century A.D., nor the current Dalai Lama, whose representatives seem more intent on turning him into a pop-culture icon than working toward a compromise solution."

— Publishers Weekly

"In this concise monograph Goldstein skillfully explains the history of the Tibet Question, critically analyzes the contemporary motivations and intentions of key figures in both Beijing and Dharamsala, and boldly offers a peaceful solution to a question that has plagued China's internal and external relations, brought undue suffering to all Tibetans, and is threatening Tibetan culture with irrevocable change." 

— China Review International

"Clearly written and carefully argued, the book will serve as a source for anyone seeking an understanding of the forces that have shaped contemporary Tibet. It handsomely repays any level of consultation."

— The China Journal

"The Snow Lion and the Dragon is an important new source on the Tibet Question. Interested readers will profit from its clear and concise treatment of the major contentious issues, and its author is to be admired for venturing constructive possibilities for their future resolution."

— Journal of Buddhist Ethics

University of California Press, 9780520219519, 165pp.

Publication Date: April 2, 1999

About the Author

Melvyn C. Goldstein is John Reynolds Harkness Professor of Anthropology and Codirector of the Center for Research on Tibet at Case Western Reserve University, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He is the author of many books on Tibet, including A Tibetan Revolutionary: The Political Life and Times of Bapa Phüntso Wangye (with Dawei Sherap and William R. Siebenschuh), Essentials of Modern Literary Tibetan: A Reading Course and Reference Grammar, and volumes 1–3 of A History of Modern Tibet, all published by UC Press.