Tenzin Gyatso was born into a peasant family in Taktser, Amdo province, and was designated the 14th incarnation of the Dalai Lama by the monks of Lhasa in 1937. He was enthroned in 1940, but his rights were exercised by a regency until 1950. He fled to Chumbi in southern Tibet after an abortive anti-Chinese uprising in 1950, but negotiated an autonomy agreement with the People's Republic the following year and for the next eight years served as nominal ruler of Tibet.
After China's suppression of the Tibetan national uprising in 1959 he was forced into permanent exile, and settled with other Tibetan refugees at Dharamsala in Punjab, India, where he established a democratically based alternative government and sought to preserve Tibetan culture.
A revered figure in his homeland, the Dalai Lama has continually rejected Chinese overtures to return home as a figurehead, seeking instead full independence. In 1988 he modified this position, proposing the creation of a self-governing Tibet in association with China. The following year he was awarded the Congressional Human Rights award and the 1989 Nobel Prize for peace in recognition of his commitment to the non-violent liberation of his homeland.