National Geographic-Wiping Tibet Off The Map?

Tibet Map-1906
As distinct territories the now occupied lands of Tibet, East Turkestan, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria appeared in atlases and upon maps throughout the later 19th and 20th Centuries, See: 1911 Map Click On New Window.

Look in most atlases today and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the name ‘Tibet’, while the other territories have been removed completely by the vast majority of cartographers. Tibet itself usually features as the truncated geo-political creation, named by communist China as ‘‘Tibet Autonomous Region’. Closer inspection will reveal that former Tibetan place-names such as Shigatse have been changed to more Chinese-sounding Xigatse. This is no accident, Communist China has a ‘Geographical Place-Names Committee’ whose task is to invent Chinese place names to replace those in areas such as Tibet and East Turkestan; it is part of a deliberate attempt to present Tibet as a bona-fide part of China. Sadly, some leading western map publishers and geographical institutions are assisting this deception by publishing Sinocised maps of Tibet. Even the respected National Geographic (NG) has promoted this cynical and political fiction, and appears unwilling to feature genuine Tibetan place names in its publications. It was not always so as its maps had for decades had shown Tibet clearly marked, along with non-Chinese versions of Tibetan towns.

1960s NG Map Showing Non-Sinocized Place Names In Tibet


1970s NG Map Showing Non-Sinocized Place Names In Tibet


1980 NG Map Now Showing Tibetan Place Names In Sinocized Style


1994 NG Map Shows Sinocised Place Names In Tibet


Current NG Map Showing Fully Chinese Versions Of Tibetan Place Names


Following many years of presenting Tibet on its maps with non-Chinese variants of Tibetan place names, by 1980  people had noticed and questioned if  NG had approved the use of Chinese-sounding names? What does seem certain is at that time original phonetic renderings of Tibetan names were cleared from its maps, to give way to Sinocized versions, an act which supported the bogus claim that Tibet was part of Chinese territory. Given the eminent position of NG within the academic, map-making and geographic community it was not long before other cartographers followed suit in endorsing, through maps and atlases, China’s propaganda assertions concerning Tibet’s territorial status.

Yet National Geographic’s Map Policy assures the public that its cartography “strives to be apolitical” that being so how does its Map Committee explain what seems to have been a considered change of policy towards its maps of Tibet, possibly decided sometime in the very late 1970s, by approving the Sinofication of Tibetan place names. Such an action, taken we must imagine with the knowledge and possible encouragement and cooperation of China’s regime, surely constitutes a political action on the part of National Geographic? What could have prompted this troubling decision to appease China’s regime by substituting bogus Chinese versions of Tibetan place names, which NG had formerly faithfully represented? Some may argue that the respected journal was simply reflecting a political reality, well if that was so why, given Tibet was illegally annexed in 1950 and subsequently came under the military and political tyranny of China, did National Geographic continue for nearly thirty years to accurately represent authentic Tibetan place names on its maps? The political facts were that Tibet had been occupied for decades, yet to its credit NG had rightly followed a policy that featured Tibetan place names, those circumstances had not changed, so what had influenced National Geographic, to what appears to have been a deliberate policy change?

Was it purely coincidental that around 1980 China was beginning to open its doors to greater academic and economic contact with the West? Did the propspect of engagement with China, and the no doubt alluring academic, career and financial benefits, prove an irresistable determinant? Whatever the facts, in deciding to produce maps that show Tibet and its settlements with Chinese-sounding names surely benefits China’s propaganda aims, to persuade the world of the supposed legitimacy of its claims over Tibet.


It is surely time to put Tibet back on the world map, minus China’s poisonous distortions, if you agree please help us by emailing National Geographic and asking them to restore Tibet and authentic Tibetan place names on its maps and atlases. They may be contacted here:

NB: Map extracts here are for educational purposes to supplement written content.

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Categories Demonstrations, Support Our Urgent Campaigns7 Comments

7 thoughts on “National Geographic-Wiping Tibet Off The Map?”

  1. When I was doing research on my books on Tibet in 2001/2002/2003 I had great difficulty with the maps. Also, I had taken many pictures of TIbet through rural areas…of Chinese Govt. destruction….from cycling trip, no permits šŸ˜‰ I wanted to straighten things out with National Geographic, but I was warned not to even try… they would twist the pictures, or suppress them. Here is the deal. They sold out to China Govt. long ago, in order to have 1st access to things like the buried terra cotta army, etc… So, be prepared; Natl. Geographic is interested in one thing, making themselves look like the source of everything. Don’t expect them to do the right thing; though telling the public about it might “help” them do the right thing šŸ˜‰

  2. It is well known in Tibetan circles that National Geographic sold out the Tibetans many years ago, in order to not upset China Govt.. I found this out in 2001/2002/2003 as I did research on my Tibet books; as the maps all conflicted, and I had exclusive photos of damages being done by China, INC in rural areas of Tibet (from solos cycling trip I took there). I wanted to share the pictures with Natl Geographic, believing them to be honorable…..but was advised against it. National Geographic shied away from anything Tibetan, because Chinese govt. told them they would either grant them exclusive 1st access to amazing Chinese archaeological sites like the Terra Cotta Army, or deny them access. National Geographic caved. Its time for them to repair the mistake in integrity by at least correcting the maps. We need to make this knowledge public; don’t expect some poor map dept. technician to do the right thing all on his own.

    1. Thanks for your commments on NG, indeed their troubling association with China, and willingness to gloss-over and avoid the situation inside occupied Tibet, is known. However, that ethics-free status quo demands to be challenged and exposed, and we are on that case, any support you may offer is very welcome.

      1. I actually stumbled onto this site because I was curious why Google maps showed Tibet place names in Mandarin. That just seems so wrong to me.
        I’d be curious to hear what Wade Davis would have to say about the NG selling out like it has.

      2. Thanks for your supportive comments, you make a great point about Wade Davis. As to Google, well the world awaits STILL the ‘transparent’ and ‘thorough’ investigation from China into the hacking/cybe espionage scandal, both Ms Clinton and Google seem to have gone very silent on that. We wonder if fence-mending with China’s regime is at play.

  3. I also found this site while trying to discover why Google had not got Tibet on its maps. I was wondering is there a campaign to get either of these sniveling companies to do the right thing.

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