Archaeological findings have proven that as early as 10,000 years ago, human begins lived on the Tibet Plateau. Some believe the Nyingchi Man, who lived sometime between 8,000 to 5,000 years ago, was the ancestor of Tibetans.
More than 2,000 years ago, the Yarlung tribe who lived in the Yarlung Zangbo River valley in southern Tibet dominated the area. In the early 7th century, Songtsan Gambo, chief of the tribe, led his people from the river valley to the present-day Lhasa area. He united Tibet by annexing other tribes on the Tibet Plateau and established the Tubo Kingdom.
Tibet has had different names during different historical periods. During the Tang and Song dynasties, it was called "Tubo." During the Yuan and Ming dynasties, it was called "Us-Tsang," and starting in the Qing Dynasty, it was called "Xizang."
In the Tang Dynasty, the Tibetans called themselves "Bo." The earliest written record of "Tubo" in Chinese can be found in the The Chronicles of Tubo in the New History of the Tang Dynasty. Af first, Tubo referred to the area of present-day Tibet. Later, with the burgeoning of the Tubo Kingdom, the name referred to the area comprised of Tibet, Qinghai, and Xikang. Eventually, the entire Qinghai-Tibet Plateau was called Tubo.
The pronunciation of Tubo can be derived from the bilingual (Chinese and Tibetan) inscriptions on the Tang-Tubo Treaty Stele in front of Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, erected during the Tang Dynasty.
After the establishment of the Yuan Dynasty, Tibet became an administrative region of China, under the jurisdiction of the central government. After Tibet became part of the Yuan territory, Tibet was still called "Tubo." In its zenith, Tubo comprised Tibet, Qinghai, Xikang--three areas that included Ngari, Central and Western Tibet, southern Gansu, northwestern Sichuan, Ganzi, Gamdo, and Yunnan's Deqen Prefecture. The area covering Qinghai, southern Gansu and northwestern Sichuan is pronounced "Amdo" in Tibetan and is abbreviated as "Do." Because the area covering Ganzi, Deqen, and Qamdo is pronounced "Kang" in Tibetan, the two areas were called Do-Kang. The area covering Central and Western Tibet was called Us-Tsang.
In the early Qing Dynasty, Tibet's name had three versions: "Tibbat," Tanggut," and "Xizang." During the reign of Emperor Jiaqing of the Qing Dynasty, Tibet was called "Xizang." "Xi" (meaning "west") refers to Tibet's location in western China; "Zang" is from Tibetan pronunciation "Us-Tsang."
The English version of "Tibet" came from the Arabic language "Tibbat." In the mid-ninth century, an Arabic merchant visited China. After going back to his home country, he wrote a book on his travels in China, and he spelt the name Tubo "Tibbat." In a history textbook published in Japan, the author pointed out that the Arabians used the name Tibet, obviously derived from the word "Tubo." Marco Polo, who traveled extensively in China in the 13th century, used the word "Tibet" in his travel notes published in French. The translator explained that the word "Tibet" came from the pronunciatioin of "Tubo."