- historical event: Tibetans are today perceived as a peaceful and deeply religious people, oppressed by more powerful and aggressive Chinese. However, it was not always so. From the 7th to the 9th century, the Tibetan state was an empire in Central Asia.
A really unusual event occurred on this day back in 764. Namely, Tibetan military forces occupied the huge capital of China – Chang’an – once the largest city in the entire world.
From the 7th to the 9th century, the Tibetan state was a kind of an empire in Central Asia. It could militarily confront even the former Chinese Tang dynasty. The Tibetan Empire stretched to the borders of today’s Mongolia, and even included the parts of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. On its western borders, the Empire even clashed with the Arabs! In the south, the Tibetan influence was felt even in Bengal, to the shores of the Indian Ocean.
Emperor Trisong Detsän ruled Tibet in 764. He sent an army of allegedly 200,000 men to the border with China’s Tang Dynasty. The Tibetan army defeated the Chinese and progressed to the capital of the Chinese Empire – Chang’an. The Chinese Emperor Daizong had to flee the city. The Tibetans in China reportedly even placed a puppet emperor as opposition to the ruling Tang Dynasty.
Interestingly, the city of Chang’an (today’s Xi’an) was at that time was the largest city in the world. The main street was at least 153 meters wide! The dimensions of the fortified town were 9,400 x 8,400 meters. Within these walls lived about a million inhabitants, and another million lived outside of them. Specifically, Chang’an, according to the census of 742, had 1,960,188 inhabitants. That’s a huge number, if you take into consideration that the largest European city at the time – Constantinople – had about eight times less inhabitants – not even a quarter of a million.