For those interested in learning more about the history of the current China-Tibet issue, the following two sites (pasted below) carry a lot of information that I've found offers much interesting insight. It certainly provides a more detailed and nuanced perspective than that provided simply by Western media coverage.
Friendly Feudalism: The Tibet Myth
(updated and expanded version, January 2007)
I. For Lords and Lamas
Along with the blood drenched landscape of religious conflict there is the experience of inner peace and solace that every religion promises, none more so than Buddhism. Standing in marked contrast to the intolerant savagery of other religions, Buddhism is neither fanatical nor dogmatic--so say its adherents. For many of them Buddhism is less a theology and more a meditative and investigative discipline intended to promote an inner harmony and enlightenment while directing us to a path of right living. Generally, the spiritual focus is not only on oneself but on the welfare of others. One tries to put aside egoistic pursuits and gain a deeper understanding of one's connection to all people and things. "Socially engaged Buddhism" tries to blend individual liberation with responsible social action in order to build an enlightened society.
A glance at history, however, reveals that not all the many and widely varying forms of Buddhism have been free of doctrinal fanaticism, nor free of the violent and exploitative pursuits so characteristic of other religions. In Sri Lanka there is a legendary and almost sacred recorded history about the triumphant battles waged by Buddhist kings of yore. During the twentieth century, Buddhists clashed violently with each other and with non-Buddhists in Thailand, Burma, Korea, Japan, India, and elsewhere. In Sri Lanka, armed battles between Buddhist Sinhalese and Hindu Tamils have taken many lives on both sides. In 1998 the U.S. State Department listed thirty of the world's most violent and dangerous extremist groups. Over half of them were religious, specifically Muslim, Jewish, and Buddhist. 1
In South Korea, in 1998, thousands of monks of the Chogye Buddhist order fought each other with fists, rocks, fire-bombs, and clubs, in pitched battles that went on for weeks. They were vying for control of the order, the largest in South Korea, with its annual budget of $9.2 million, its millions of dollars worth of property, and the privilege of appointing 1,700 monks to various offices. The brawls damaged the main Buddhist sanctuaries and left dozens of monks injured, some seriously. The Korean public appeared to disdain both factions, feeling that no matter what side took control, "it would use worshippers' donations for luxurious houses and expensive cars." 2
As with any religion, squabbles between or within Buddhist sects are often fueled by the material corruption and personal deficiencies of the leadership. For example, in Nagano, Japan, at Zenkoji, the prestigious complex of temples that has hosted Buddhist sects for more than 1,400 years, "a nasty battle" arose between Komatsu the chief priest and the Tacchu, a group of temples nominally under the chief priest's sway. The Tacchu monks accused Komatsu of selling writings and drawings under the temple's name for his own gain. They also were appalled by the frequency with which he was seen in the company of women. Komatsu in turn sought to isolate and punish monks who were critical of his leadership. The conflict lasted some five years and made it into the courts. 3
But what of Tibetan Buddhism? Is it not an exception to this sort of strife? And what of the society it helped to create? Many Buddhists maintain that, before the Chinese crackdown in 1959, old Tibet was a spiritually oriented kingdom free from the egotistical lifestyles, empty materialism, and corrupting vices that beset modern industrialized society. Western news media, travel books, novels, and Hollywood films have portrayed the Tibetan theocracy as a veritable Shangri-La. The Dalai Lama himself stated that "the pervasive influence of Buddhism" in Tibet, "amid the wide open spaces of an unspoiled environment resulted in a society dedicated to peace and harmony. We enjoyed freedom and contentment." 4
A reading of Tibet's history suggests a somewhat different picture. "Religious conflict was commonplace in old Tibet," writes one western Buddhist practitioner. "History belies the Shangri-La image of Tibetan lamas and their followers living together in mutual tolerance and nonviolent goodwill. Indeed, the situation was quite different. Old Tibet was much more like Europe during the religious wars of the Counterreformation." 5 In the thirteenth century, Emperor Kublai Khan created the first Grand Lama, who was to preside over all the other lamas as might a pope over his bishops. Several centuries later, the Emperor of China sent an army into Tibet to support the Grand Lama, an ambitious 25-year-old man, who then gave himself the title of Dalai (Ocean) Lama, ruler of all Tibet. Here is a historical irony: the first Dalai Lama was installed by a Chinese army.
His two previous lama "incarnations" were then retroactively recognized as his predecessors, thereby transforming the 1st Dalai Lama into the 3rd Dalai Lama. This 1st (or 3rd) Dalai Lama seized monasteries that did not belong to his sect, and is believed to have destroyed Buddhist writings that conflicted with his claim to divinity. The Dalai Lama who succeeded him pursued a sybaritic life, enjoying many mistresses, partying with friends, and acting in other ways deemed unfitting for an incarnate deity. For these transgressions he was murdered by his priests. Within 170 years, despite their recognized divine status, five Dalai Lamas were killed by their high priests or other courtiers. 6
For hundreds of years competing Tibetan Buddhist sects engaged in bitterly violent clashes and summary executions. In 1660, the 5th Dalai Lama was faced with a rebellion in Tsang province, the stronghold of the rival Kagyu sect with its high lama known as the Karmapa. The 5th Dalai Lama called for harsh retribution against the rebels, directing the Mongol army to obliterate the male and female lines, and the offspring too "like eggs smashed against rocks…. In short, annihilate any traces of them, even their names." 7
In 1792, many Kagyu monasteries were confiscated and their monks were forcibly converted to the Gelug sect (the Dalai Lama's denomination). The Gelug school, known also as the "Yellow Hats," showed little tolerance or willingness to mix their teachings with other Buddhist sects. In the words of one of their traditional prayers: "Praise to you, violent god of the Yellow Hat teachings/who reduces to particles of dust/ great beings, high officials and ordinary people/ who pollute and corrupt the Gelug doctrine." 8 An eighteenth-century memoir of a Tibetan general depicts sectarian strife among Buddhists that is as brutal and bloody as any religious conflict might be. 9 This grim history remains largely unvisited by present-day followers of Tibetan Buddhism in the West.
Religions have had a close relationship not only with violence but with economic exploitation. Indeed, it is often the economic exploitation that necessitates the violence. Such was the case with the Tibetan theocracy. Until 1959, when the Dalai Lama last presided over Tibet, most of the arable land was still organized into manorial estates worked by serfs. These estates were owned by two social groups: the rich secular landlords and the rich theocratic lamas. Even a writer sympathetic to the old order allows that "a great deal of real estate belonged to the monasteries, and most of them amassed great riches." Much of the wealth was accumulated "through active participation in trade, commerce, and money lending." 10
Drepung monastery was one of the biggest landowners in the world, with its 185 manors, 25,000 serfs, 300 great pastures, and 16,000 herdsmen. The wealth of the monasteries rested in the hands of small numbers of high-ranking lamas. Most ordinary monks lived modestly and had no direct access to great wealth. The Dalai Lama himself "lived richly in the 1000-room, 14-story Potala Palace." 11
Secular leaders also did well. A notable example was the commander-in-chief of the Tibetan army, a member of the Dalai Lama's lay Cabinet, who owned 4,000 square kilometers of land and 3,500 serfs. 12 Old Tibet has been misrepresented by some Western admirers as "a nation that required no police force because its people voluntarily observed the laws of karma." 13 In fact. it had a professional army, albeit a small one, that served mainly as a gendarmerie for the landlords to keep order, protect their property, and hunt down runaway serfs.
Young Tibetan boys were regularly taken from their peasant families and brought into the monasteries to be trained as monks. Once there, they were bonded for life. Tashì-Tsering, a monk, reports that it was common for peasant children to be sexually mistreated in the monasteries. He himself was a victim of repeated rape, beginning at age nine. 14 The monastic estates also conscripted children for lifelong servitude as domestics, dance performers, and soldiers.
In old Tibet there were small numbers of farmers who subsisted as a kind of free peasantry, and perhaps an additional 10,000 people who composed the "middle-class" families of merchants, shopkeepers, and small traders. Thousands of others were beggars. There also were slaves, usually domestic servants, who owned nothing. Their offspring were born into slavery. 15 The majority of the rural population were serfs. Treated little better than slaves, the serfs went without schooling or medical care, They were under a lifetime bond to work the lord's land--or the monastery's land--without pay, to repair the lord's houses, transport his crops, and collect his firewood. They were also expected to provide carrying animals and transportation on demand.16 Their masters told them what crops to grow and what animals to raise. They could not get married without the consent of their lord or lama. And they might easily be separated from their families should their owners lease them out to work in a distant location. 17
As in a free labor system and unlike slavery, the overlords had no responsibility for the serf's maintenance and no direct interest in his or her survival as an expensive piece of property. The serfs had to support themselves. Yet as in a slave system, they were bound to their masters, guaranteeing a fixed and permanent workforce that could neither organize nor strike nor freely depart as might laborers in a market context. The overlords had the best of both worlds.
One 22-year old woman, herself a runaway serf, reports: "Pretty serf girls were usually taken by the owner as house servants and used as he wished"; they "were just slaves without rights."18 Serfs needed permission to go anywhere. Landowners had legal authority to capture those who tried to flee. One 24-year old runaway welcomed the Chinese intervention as a "liberation." He testified that under serfdom he was subjected to incessant toil, hunger, and cold. After his third failed escape, he was merciless beaten by the landlord's men until blood poured from his nose and mouth. They then poured alcohol and caustic soda on his wounds to increase the pain, he claimed.19
The serfs were taxed upon getting married, taxed for the birth of each child and for every death in the family. They were taxed for planting a tree in their yard and for keeping animals. They were taxed for religious festivals and for public dancing and drumming, for being sent to prison and upon being released. Those who could not find work were taxed for being unemployed, and if they traveled to another village in search of work, they paid a passage tax. When people could not pay, the monasteries lent them money at 20 to 50 percent interest. Some debts were handed down from father to son to grandson. Debtors who could not meet their obligations risked being cast into slavery.20
The theocracy's religious teachings buttressed its class order. The poor and afflicted were taught that they had brought their troubles upon themselves because of their wicked ways in previous lives. Hence they had to accept the misery of their present existence as a karmic atonement and in anticipation that their lot would improve in their next lifetime. The rich and powerful treated their good fortune as a reward for, and tangible evidence of, virtue in past and present lives.
The Tibetan serfs were something more than superstitious victims, blind to their own oppression. As we have seen, some ran away; others openly resisted, sometimes suffering dire consequences. In feudal Tibet, torture and mutilation--including eye gouging, the pulling out of tongues, hamstringing, and amputation--were favored punishments inflicted upon thieves, and runaway or resistant serfs. Journeying through Tibet in the 1960s, Stuart and Roma Gelder interviewed a former serf, Tsereh Wang Tuei, who had stolen two sheep belonging to a monastery. For this he had both his eyes gouged out and his hand mutilated beyond use. He explains that he no longer is a Buddhist: "When a holy lama told them to blind me I thought there was no good in religion."21 Since it was against Buddhist teachings to take human life, some offenders were severely lashed and then "left to God" in the freezing night to die. "The parallels between Tibet and medieval Europe are striking," concludes Tom Grunfeld in his book on Tibet. 22
In 1959, Anna Louise Strong visited an exhibition of torture equipment that had been used by the Tibetan overlords. There were handcuffs of all sizes, including small ones for children, and instruments for cutting off noses and ears, gouging out eyes, breaking off hands, and hamstringing legs. There were hot brands, whips, and special implements for disemboweling. The exhibition presented photographs and testimonies of victims who had been blinded or crippled or suffered amputations for thievery. There was the shepherd whose master owed him a reimbursement in yuan and wheat but refused to pay. So he took one of the master's cows; for this he had his hands severed. Another herdsman, who opposed having his wife taken from him by his lord, had his hands broken off. There were pictures of Communist activists with noses and upper lips cut off, and a woman who was raped and then had her nose sliced away.23
Earlier visitors to Tibet commented on the theocratic despotism. In 1895, an Englishman, Dr. A. L. Waddell, wrote that the populace was under the "intolerable tyranny of monks" and the devil superstitions they had fashioned to terrorize the people. In 1904 Perceval Landon described the Dalai Lama's rule as "an engine of oppression." At about that time, another English traveler, Captain W.F.T. O'Connor, observed that "the great landowners and the priests… exercise each in their own dominion a despotic power from which there is no appeal," while the people are "oppressed by the most monstrous growth of monasticism and priest-craft." Tibetan rulers "invented degrading legends and stimulated a spirit of superstition" among the common people. In 1937, another visitor, Spencer Chapman, wrote, "The Lamaist monk does not spend his time in ministering to the people or educating them. . . . The beggar beside the road is nothing to the monk. Knowledge is the jealously guarded prerogative of the monasteries and is used to increase their influence and wealth."24 As much as we might wish otherwise, feudal theocratic Tibet was a far cry from the romanticized Shangri La so enthusiastically nurtured by Buddhism's western proselytes.
II. Secularization vs. Spirituality
What happened to Tibet after the Chinese Communists moved into the country in 1951? The treaty of that year provided for ostensible self-governance under the Dalai Lama's rule but gave China military control and exclusive right to conduct foreign relations. The Chinese were also granted a direct role in internal administration "to promote social reforms." Among the earliest changes they wrought was to reduce usurious interest rates, and build a few hospitals and roads. At first, they moved slowly, relying mostly on persuasion in an attempt to effect reconstruction. No aristocratic or monastic property was confiscated, and feudal lords continued to reign over their hereditarily bound peasants. "Contrary to popular belief in the West," claims one observer, the Chinese "took care to show respect for Tibetan culture and religion."25
Over the centuries the Tibetan lords and lamas had seen Chinese come and go, and had enjoyed good relations with Generalissimo Chiang Kaishek and his reactionary Kuomintang rule in China.26 The approval of the Kuomintang government was needed to validate the choice of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. When the current 14th Dalai Lama was first installed in Lhasa, it was with an armed escort of Chinese troops and an attending Chinese minister, in accordance with centuries-old tradition. What upset the Tibetan lords and lamas in the early 1950s was that these latest Chinese were Communists. It would be only a matter of time, they feared, before the Communists started imposing their collectivist egalitarian schemes upon Tibet.
The issue was joined in 1956-57, when armed Tibetan bands ambushed convoys of the Chinese Peoples Liberation Army. The uprising received extensive assistance from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), including military training, support camps in Nepal, and numerous airlifts.27 Meanwhile in the United States, the American Society for a Free Asia, a CIA-financed front, energetically publicized the cause of Tibetan resistance, with the Dalai Lama's eldest brother, Thubtan Norbu, playing an active role in that organization. The Dalai Lama's second-eldest brother, Gyalo Thondup, established an intelligence operation with the CIA as early as 1951. He later upgraded it into a CIA-trained guerrilla unit whose recruits parachuted back into Tibet.28
Many Tibetan commandos and agents whom the CIA dropped into the country were chiefs of aristocratic clans or the sons of chiefs. Ninety percent of them were never heard from again, according to a report from the CIA itself, meaning they were most likely captured and killed.29 "Many lamas and lay members of the elite and much of the Tibetan army joined the uprising, but in the main the populace did not, assuring its failure," writes Hugh Deane.30 In their book on Tibet, Ginsburg and Mathos reach a similar conclusion: "As far as can be ascertained, the great bulk of the common people of Lhasa and of the adjoining countryside failed to join in the fighting against the Chinese both when it first began and as it progressed."31 Eventually the resistance crumbled.
Whatever wrongs and new oppressions introduced by the Chinese after 1959, they did abolish slavery and the Tibetan serfdom system of unpaid labor. They eliminated the many crushing taxes, started work projects, and greatly reduced unemployment and beggary. They established secular schools, thereby breaking the educational monopoly of the monasteries. And they constructed running water and electrical systems in Lhasa.32
Heinrich Harrer (later revealed to have been a sergeant in Hitler's SS) wrote a bestseller about his experiences in Tibet that was made into a popular Hollywood movie. He reported that the Tibetans who resisted the Chinese "were predominantly nobles, semi-nobles and lamas; they were punished by being made to perform the lowliest tasks, such as laboring on roads and bridges. They were further humiliated by being made to clean up the city before the tourists arrived." They also had to live in a camp originally reserved for beggars and vagrants--all of which Harrer treats as sure evidence of the dreadful nature of the Chinese occupation.33
By 1961, Chinese occupation authorities expropriated the landed estates owned by lords and lamas. They distributed many thousands of acres to tenant farmers and landless peasants, reorganizing them into hundreds of communes.. Herds once owned by nobility were turned over to collectives of poor shepherds. Improvements were made in the breeding of livestock, and new varieties of vegetables and new strains of wheat and barley were introduced, along with irrigation improvements, all of which reportedly led to an increase in agrarian production.34
Many peasants remained as religious as ever, giving alms to the clergy. But monks who had been conscripted as children into the religious orders were now free to renounce the monastic life, and thousands did, especially the younger ones. The remaining clergy lived on modest government stipends and extra income earned by officiating at prayer services, weddings, and funerals.35
Both the Dalai Lama and his advisor and youngest brother, Tendzin Choegyal, claimed that "more than 1.2 million Tibetans are dead as a result of the Chinese occupation."36 The official 1953 census--six years before the Chinese crackdown--recorded the entire population residing in Tibet at 1,274,000.37 Other census counts put the population within Tibet at about two million. If the Chinese killed 1.2 million in the early 1960s then almost all of Tibet, would have been depopulated, transformed into a killing field dotted with death camps and mass graves--of which we have no evidence. The thinly distributed Chinese force in Tibet could not have rounded up, hunted down, and exterminated that many people even if it had spent all its time doing nothing else.
Chinese authorities claim to have put an end to floggings, mutilations, and amputations as a form of criminal punishment. They themselves, however, have been charged with acts of brutality by exile Tibetans. The authorities do admit to "mistakes," particularly during the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution when the persecution of religious beliefs reached a high tide in both China and Tibet. After the uprising in the late 1950s, thousands of Tibetans were incarcerated. During the Great Leap Forward, forced collectivization and grain farming were imposed on the Tibetan peasantry, sometimes with disastrous effect on production. In the late 1970s, China began relaxing controls "and tried to undo some of the damage wrought during the previous two decades."38
In 1980, the Chinese government initiated reforms reportedly designed to grant Tibet a greater degree of self-rule and self-administration. Tibetans would now be allowed to cultivate private plots, sell their harvest surpluses, decide for themselves what crops to grow, and keep yaks and sheep. Communication with the outside world was again permitted, and frontier controls were eased to permit some Tibetans to visit exiled relatives in India and Nepal.39 By the 1980s many of the principal lamas had begun to shuttle back and forth between China and the exile communities abroad, "restoring their monasteries in Tibet and helping to revitalize Buddhism there."40
As of 2007 Tibetan Buddhism was still practiced widely and tolerated by officialdom. Religious pilgrimages and other standard forms of worship were allowed but within limits. All monks and nuns had to sign a loyalty pledge that they would not use their religious position to foment secession or dissent. And displaying photos of the Dalai Lama was declared illegal.41
In the 1990s, the Han, the ethnic group comprising over 95 percent of China's immense population, began moving in substantial numbers into Tibet. On the streets of Lhasa and Shigatse, signs of Han colonization are readily visible. Chinese run the factories and many of the shops and vending stalls. Tall office buildings and large shopping centers have been built with funds that might have been better spent on water treatment plants and housing. Chinese cadres in Tibet too often view their Tibetan neighbors as backward and lazy, in need of economic development and "patriotic education." During the 1990s Tibetan government employees suspected of harboring nationalist sympathies were purged from office, and campaigns were once again launched to discredit the Dalai Lama. Individual Tibetans reportedly were subjected to arrest, imprisonment, and forced labor for carrying out separatist activities and engaging in "political subversion." Some were held in administrative detention without adequate food, water, and blankets, subjected to threats, beatings, and other mistreatment.42
Tibetan history, culture, and certainly religion are slighted in schools. Teaching materials, though translated into Tibetan, focus mainly on Chinese history and culture. Chinese family planning regulations allow a three-child limit for Tibetan families. (There is only a one-child limit for Han families throughout China, and a two-child limit for rural Han families whose first child is a girl.) If a Tibetan couple goes over the three-child limit, the excess children can be denied subsidized daycare, health care, housing, and education. These penalties have been enforced irregularly and vary by district.43 None of these child services, it should be noted, were available to Tibetans before the Chinese takeover.
For the rich lamas and secular lords, the Communist intervention was an unmitigated calamity. Most of them fled abroad, as did the Dalai Lama himself, who was assisted in his flight by the CIA. Some discovered to their horror that they would have to work for a living. Many, however, escaped that fate. Throughout the 1960s, the Tibetan exile community was secretly pocketing $1.7 million a year from the CIA, according to documents released by the State Department in 1998. Once this fact was publicized, the Dalai Lama's organization itself issued a statement admitting that it had received millions of dollars from the CIA during the 1960s to send armed squads of exiles into Tibet to undermine the Maoist revolution. The Dalai Lama's annual payment from the CIA was $186,000. Indian intelligence also financed both him and other Tibetan exiles. He has refused to say whether he or his brothers worked for the CIA. The agency has also declined to comment.44
In 1995, the News & Observer of Raleigh, North Carolina, carried a frontpage color photograph of the Dalai Lama being embraced by the reactionary Republican senator Jesse Helms, under the headline "Buddhist Captivates Hero of Religious Right."45 In April 1999, along with Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II, and the first George Bush, the Dalai Lama called upon the British government to release Augusto Pinochet, the former fascist dictator of Chile and a longtime CIA client who was visiting England. The Dalai Lama urged that Pinochet not be forced to go to Spain where he was wanted to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
Into the twenty-first century, via the National Endowment for Democracy and other conduits that are more respectable sounding than the CIA, the U.S. Congress continued to allocate an annual $2 million to Tibetans in India, with additional millions for "democracy activities" within the Tibetan exile community. In addition to these funds, the Dalai Lama received money from financier George Soros.46
Whatever the Dalai Lama's associations with the CIA and various reactionaries, he did speak often of peace, love, and nonviolence. He himself really cannot be blamed for the abuses of Tibet's ancien régime, having been but 25 years old when he fled into exile. In a 1994 interview, he went on record as favoring the building of schools and roads in his country. He said the corvée (forced unpaid serf labor) and certain taxes imposed on the peasants were "extremely bad." And he disliked the way people were saddled with old debts sometimes passed down from generation to generation.47During the half century of living in the western world, he had embraced concepts such as human rights and religious freedom, ideas largely unknown in old Tibet. He even proposed democracy for Tibet, featuring a written constitution and a representative assembly.48
In 1996, the Dalai Lama issued a statement that must have had an unsettling effect on the exile community. It read in part: "Marxism is founded on moral principles, while capitalism is concerned only with gain and profitability." Marxism fosters "the equitable utilization of the means of production" and cares about "the fate of the working classes" and "the victims of . . . exploitation. For those reasons the system appeals to me, and . . . I think of myself as half-Marxist, half-Buddhist.49
But he also sent a reassuring message to "those who live in abundance": "It is a good thing to be rich... Those are the fruits for deserving actions, the proof that they have been generous in the past." And to the poor he offers this admonition: "There is no good reason to become bitter and rebel against those who have property and fortune... It is better to develop a positive attitude."50
In 2005 the Dalai Lama signed a widely advertised statement along with ten other Nobel Laureates supporting the "inalienable and fundamental human right" of working people throughout the world to form labor unions to protect their interests, in accordance with the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In many countries "this fundamental right is poorly protected and in some it is explicitly banned or brutally suppressed," the statement read. Burma, China, Colombia, Bosnia, and a few other countries were singled out as among the worst offenders. Even the United States "fails to adequately protect workers' rights to form unions and bargain collectively. Millions of U.S. workers lack any legal protection to form unions…."51
The Dalai Lama also gave full support to removing the ingrained traditional obstacles that have kept Tibetan nuns from receiving an education. Upon arriving in exile, few nuns could read or write. In Tibet their activities had been devoted to daylong periods of prayer and chants. But in northern India they now began reading Buddhist philosophy and engaging in theological study and debate, activities that in old Tibet had been open only to monks.52
In November 2005 the Dalai Lama spoke at Stanford University on "The Heart of Nonviolence," but stopped short of a blanket condemnation of all violence. Violent actions that are committed in order to reduce future suffering are not to be condemned, he said, citing World War II as an example of a worthy effort to protect democracy. What of the four years of carnage and mass destruction in Iraq, a war condemned by most of the world—even by a conservative pope--as a blatant violation of international law and a crime against humanity? The Dalai Lama was undecided: "The Iraq war—it's too early to say, right or wrong."53 Earlier he had voiced support for the U.S. military intervention against Yugoslavia and, later on, the U.S. military intervention into Afghanistan.54
III. Exit Feudal Theocracy
As the Shangri-La myth would have it, in old Tibet the people lived in contented and tranquil symbiosis with their monastic and secular lords. Rich lamas and poor monks, wealthy landlords and impoverished serfs were all bonded together, mutually sustained by the comforting balm of a deeply spiritual and pacific culture.
One is reminded of the idealized image of feudal Europe presented by latter-day conservative Catholics such as G. K. Chesterton and Hilaire Belloc. For them, medieval Christendom was a world of contented peasants living in the secure embrace of their Church, under the more or less benign protection of their lords.55 Again we are invited to accept a particular culture in its idealized form divorced from its murky material history. This means accepting it as presented by its favored class, by those who profited most from it. The Shangri-La image of Tibet bears no more resemblance to historic actuality than does the pastoral image of medieval Europe.
Seen in all its grim realities, old Tibet confirms the view I expressed in an earlier book, namely that culture is anything but neutral. Culture can operate as a legitimating cover for a host of grave injustices, benefiting a privileged portion of society at great cost to the rest.56 In theocratic feudal Tibet, ruling interests manipulated the traditional culture to fortify their own wealth and power. The theocracy equated rebellious thought and action with satanic influence. It propagated the general presumption of landlord superiority and peasant unworthiness. The rich were represented as deserving their good life, and the lowly poor as deserving their mean existence, all codified in teachings about the karmic residue of virtue and vice accumulated from past lives, presented as part of God's will.
Were the more affluent lamas just hypocrites who preached one thing and secretly believed another? More likely they were genuinely attached to those beliefs that brought such good results for them. That their theology so perfectly supported their material privileges only strengthened the sincerity with which it was embraced.
It might be said that we denizens of the modern secular world cannot grasp the equations of happiness and pain, contentment and custom, that characterize more traditionally spiritual societies. This is probably true, and it may explain why some of us idealize such societies. But still, a gouged eye is a gouged eye; a flogging is a flogging; and the grinding exploitation of serfs and slaves is a brutal class injustice whatever its cultural wrapping. There is a difference between a spiritual bond and human bondage, even when both exist side by side
Many ordinary Tibetans want the Dalai Lama back in their country, but it appears that relatively few want a return to the social order he represented. A 1999 story in the Washington Post notes that the Dalai Lama continues to be revered in Tibet, but
. . . few Tibetans would welcome a return of the corrupt aristocratic clans that fled with him in 1959 and that comprise the bulk of his advisers. Many Tibetan farmers, for example, have no interest in surrendering the land they gained during China's land reform to the clans. Tibet's former slaves say they, too, don't want their former masters to return to power. "I've already lived that life once before," said Wangchuk, a 67-year-old former slave who was wearing his best clothes for his yearly pilgrimage to Shigatse, one of the holiest sites of Tibetan Buddhism. He said he worshipped the Dalai Lama, but added, "I may not be free under Chinese communism, but I am better off than when I was a slave."57
It should be noted that the Dalai Lama is not the only highly placed lama chosen in childhood as a reincarnation. One or another reincarnate lama or tulku--a spiritual teacher of special purity elected to be reborn again and again--can be found presiding over most major monasteries. The tulku system is unique to Tibetan Buddhism. Scores of Tibetan lamas claim to be reincarnate tulkus.
The very first tulku was a lama known as the Karmapa who appeared nearly three centuries before the first Dalai Lama. The Karmapa is leader of a Tibetan Buddhist tradition known as the Karma Kagyu. The rise of the Gelugpa sect headed by the Dalai Lama led to a politico-religious rivalry with the Kagyu that has lasted five hundred years and continues to play itself out within the Tibetan exile community today. That the Kagyu sect has grown famously, opening some six hundred new centers around the world in the last thirty-five years, has not helped the situation.
The search for a tulku, Erik Curren reminds us, has not always been conducted in that purely spiritual mode portrayed in certain Hollywood films. "Sometimes monastic officials wanted a child from a powerful local noble family to give the cloister more political clout. Other times they wanted a child from a lower-class family who would have little leverage to influence the child's upbringing." On other occasions "a local warlord, the Chinese emperor or even the Dalai Lama's government in Lhasa might [have tried] to impose its choice of tulku on a monastery for political reasons."58
Such may have been the case in the selection of the 17th Karmapa, whose monastery-in-exile is situated in Rumtek, in the Indian state of Sikkim. In 1993 the monks of the Karma Kagyu tradition had a candidate of their own choice. The Dalai Lama, along with several dissenting Karma Kagyu leaders (and with the support of the Chinese government!) backed a different boy. The Kagyu monks charged that the Dalai Lama had overstepped his authority in attempting to select a leader for their sect. "Neither his political role nor his position as a lama in his own Gelugpa tradition entitled him to choose the Karmapa, who is a leader of a different tradition…"59 As one of the Kagyu leaders insisted, "Dharma is about thinking for yourself. It is not about automatically following a teacher in all things, no matter how respected that teacher may be. More than anyone else, Buddhists should respect other people's rights—their human rights and their religious freedom."60
What followed was a dozen years of conflict in the Tibetan exile community, punctuated by intermittent riots, intimidation, physical attacks, blacklisting, police harassment, litigation, official corruption, and the looting and undermining of the Karmapa's monastery in Rumtek by supporters of the Gelugpa faction. All this has caused at least one western devotee to wonder if the years of exile were not hastening the moral corrosion of Tibetan Buddhism.61
What is clear is that not all Tibetan Buddhists accept the Dalai Lama as their theological and spiritual mentor. Though he is referred to as the "spiritual leader of Tibet," many see this title as little more than a formality. It does not give him authority over the four religious schools of Tibet other than his own, "just as calling the U.S. president the 'leader of the free world' gives him no role in governing France or Germany."62
Not all Tibetan exiles are enamoured of the old Shangri-La theocracy. Kim Lewis, who studied healing methods with a Buddhist monk in Berkeley, California, had occasion to talk at length with more than a dozen Tibetan women who lived in the monk's building. When she asked how they felt about returning to their homeland, the sentiment was unanimously negative. At first, Lewis assumed that their reluctance had to do with the Chinese occupation, but they quickly informed her otherwise. They said they were extremely grateful "not to have to marry 4 or 5 men, be pregnant almost all the time," or deal with sexually transmitted diseases contacted from a straying husband. The younger women "were delighted to be getting an education, wanted absolutely nothing to do with any religion, and wondered why Americans were so naïve [about Tibet]."63
The women interviewed by Lewis recounted stories of their grandmothers' ordeals with monks who used them as "wisdom consorts." By sleeping with the monks, the grandmothers were told, they gained "the means to enlightenment" -- after all, the Buddha himself had to be with a woman to reach enlightenment.
The women also mentioned the "rampant" sex that the supposedly spiritual and abstemious monks practiced with each other in the Gelugpa sect. The women who were mothers spoke bitterly about the monastery's confiscation of their young boys in Tibet. They claimed that when a boy cried for his mother, he would be told "Why do you cry for her, she gave you up--she's just a woman."
The monks who were granted political asylum in California applied for public assistance. Lewis, herself a devotee for a time, assisted with the paperwork. She observes that they continue to receive government checks amounting to $550 to $700 per month along with Medicare. In addition, the monks reside rent free in nicely furnished apartments. "They pay no utilities, have free access to the Internet on computers provided for them, along with fax machines, free cell and home phones and cable TV."
They also receive a monthly payment from their order, along with contributions and dues from their American followers. Some devotees eagerly carry out chores for the monks, including grocery shopping and cleaning their apartments and toilets. These same holy men, Lewis remarks, "have no problem criticizing Americans for their 'obsession with material things.'"64
To welcome the end of the old feudal theocracy in Tibet is not to applaud everything about Chinese rule in that country. This point is seldom understood by today's Shangri-La believers in the West. The converse is also true: To denounce the Chinese occupation does not mean we have to romanticize the former feudal régime. Tibetans deserve to be perceived as actual people, not perfected spiritualists or innocent political symbols. "To idealize them," notes Ma Jian, a dissident Chinese traveler to Tibet (now living in Britain), "is to deny them their humanity."65
One common complaint among Buddhist followers in the West is that Tibet's religious culture is being undermined by the Chinese occupation. To some extent this seems to be the case. Many of the monasteries are closed, and much of the theocracy seems to have passed into history. Whether Chinese rule has brought betterment or disaster is not the central issue here. The question is what kind of country was old Tibet. What I am disputing is the supposedly pristine spiritual nature of that pre-invasion culture. We can advocate religious freedom and independence for a new Tibet without having to embrace the mythology about old Tibet. Tibetan feudalism was cloaked in Buddhism, but the two are not to be equated. In reality, old Tibet was not a Paradise Lost. It was a retrograde repressive theocracy of extreme privilege and poverty, a long way from Shangri-La.
Finally, let it be said that if Tibet's future is to be positioned somewhere within China's emerging free-market paradise, then this does not bode well for the Tibetans. China boasts a dazzling 8 percent economic growth rate and is emerging as one of the world's greatest industrial powers. But with economic growth has come an ever deepening gulf between rich and poor. Most Chinese live close to the poverty level or well under it, while a small group of newly brooded capitalists profit hugely in collusion with shady officials. Regional bureaucrats milk the country dry, extorting graft from the populace and looting local treasuries. Land grabbing in cities and countryside by avaricious developers and corrupt officials at the expense of the populace are almost everyday occurrences. Tens of thousands of grassroot protests and disturbances have erupted across the country, usually to be met with unforgiving police force. Corruption is so prevalent, reaching into so many places, that even the normally complacent national leadership was forced to take notice and began moving against it in late 2006.
Workers in China who try to organize labor unions in the corporate dominated "business zones" risk losing their jobs or getting beaten and imprisoned. Millions of business zone workers toil twelve-hour days at subsistence wages. With the health care system now being privatized, free or affordable medical treatment is no longer available for millions. Men have tramped into the cities in search of work, leaving an increasingly impoverished countryside populated by women, children, and the elderly. The suicide rate has increased dramatically, especially among women.66
China's natural environment is sadly polluted. Most of its fabled rivers and many lakes are dead, producing massive fish die-offs from the billions of tons of industrial emissions and untreated human waste dumped into them. Toxic effluents, including pesticides and herbicides, seep into ground water or directly into irrigation canals. Cancer rates in villages situated along waterways have skyrocketed a thousand-fold. Hundreds of millions of urban residents breathe air rated as dangerously unhealthy, contaminated by industrial growth and the recent addition of millions of automobiles. An estimated 400,000 die prematurely every year from air pollution. Government environmental agencies have no enforcement power to stop polluters, and generally the government ignores or denies such problems, concentrating instead on industrial growth.67
China's own scientific establishment reports that unless greenhouse gases are curbed, the nation will face massive crop failures along with catastrophic food and water shortages in the years ahead. In 2006-2007 severe drought was already afflicting southwest China.68
If China is the great success story of speedy free market development, and is to be the model and inspiration for Tibet's future, then old feudal Tibet indeed may start looking a lot better than it actually was.
1. Mark Juergensmeyer, Terror in the Mind of God, (University of California Press, 2000), 6, 112-113, 157.
2. Kyong-Hwa Seok, "Korean Monk Gangs Battle for Temple Turf," San Francisco Examiner, 3 December 1998.
3. Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2006.
4. Dalai Lama quoted in Donald Lopez Jr., Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West (Chicago and London: Chicago University Press, 1998), 205.
5. Erik D. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling: Uncovering Corruption at the Heart of Tibetan Buddhism Today (Alaya Press 2005), 41.
6. Stuart Gelder and Roma Gelder, The Timely Rain: Travels in New Tibet (Monthly Review Press, 1964), 119, 123; and Melvyn C. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama (University of California Press, 1995), 6-16.
7. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 50.
8. Stephen Bachelor, "Letting Daylight into Magic: The Life and Times of Dorje Shugden," Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, 7, Spring 1998. Bachelor discusses the sectarian fanaticism and doctrinal clashes that ill fit the Western portrait of Buddhism as a non-dogmatic and tolerant tradition.
9. Dhoring Tenzin Paljor, Autobiography, cited in Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 8.
10. Pradyumna P. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet: The Impact of Chinese Communist Ideology on the Landscape (Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 1976), 64.
11. See Gary Wilson's report in Worker's World, 6 February 1997.
12. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 62 and 174.
13. As skeptically noted by Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, 9.
14. Melvyn Goldstein, William Siebenschuh, and Tashì-Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet: The Autobiography of Tashì-Tsering (Armonk, N.Y.: M.E. Sharpe, 1997).
15. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 110.
16. Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 5 and passim.
17. Anna Louise Strong, Tibetan Interviews (Peking: New World Press, 1959), 15, 19-21, 24.
18. Quoted in Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 25.
19. Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 31.
20. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 175-176; and Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 25-26.
21. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 113.
22. A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet rev. ed. (Armonk, N.Y. and London: 1996), 9 and 7-33 for a general discussion of feudal Tibet; see also Felix Greene, A Curtain of Ignorance (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1961), 241-249; Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 3-5; and Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, passim.
23. Strong, Tibetan Interviews, 91-96.
24. Waddell, Landon, O'Connor, and Chapman are quoted in Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 123-125.
25. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 52.
26. Heinrich Harrer, Return to Tibet (New York: Schocken, 1985), 29.
27. See Kenneth Conboy and James Morrison, The CIA's Secret War in Tibet (Lawrence, Kansas: University of Kansas Press, 2002); and William Leary, "Secret Mission to Tibet," Air & Space, December 1997/January 1998.
28. On the CIA's links to the Dalai Lama and his family and entourage, see Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (London: Faber and Faber, 1989).
29. Leary, "Secret Mission to Tibet."
30. Hugh Deane, "The Cold War in Tibet," CovertAction Quarterly (Winter 1987).
31. George Ginsburg and Michael Mathos Communist China and Tibet (1964), quoted in Deane, "The Cold War in Tibet." Deane notes that author Bina Roy reached a similar conclusion.
32. See Greene, A Curtain of Ignorance, 248 and passim; and Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, passim.
33. Harrer, Return to Tibet, 54.
34. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet, 36-38, 41, 57-58; London Times, 4 July 1966.
35. Gelder and Gelder, The Timely Rain, 29 and 47-48.
36. Tendzin Choegyal, "The Truth about Tibet," Imprimis (publication of Hillsdale College, Michigan), April 1999.
37. Karan, The Changing Face of Tibet, 52-53.
38. Elaine Kurtenbach, Associate Press report, 12 February 1998.
39. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 47-48.
40. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 8.
41. San Francisco Chonicle, 9 January 2007.
42. Report by the International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, A Generation in Peril (Berkeley Calif.: 2001), passim.
43. International Committee of Lawyers for Tibet, A Generation in Peril, 66-68, 98.
44. im Mann, "CIA Gave Aid to Tibetan Exiles in '60s, Files Show," Los Angeles Times, 15 September 1998; and New York Times, 1 October, 1998.
45. News & Observer, 6 September 1995, cited in Lopez, Prisoners of Shangri-La, 3.
46. Heather Cottin, "George Soros, Imperial Wizard," CovertAction Quarterly no. 74 (Fall 2002).
47. Goldstein, The Snow Lion and the Dragon, 51.
48. Tendzin Choegyal, "The Truth about Tibet."
49. The Dalai Lama in Marianne Dresser (ed.), Beyond Dogma: Dialogues and Discourses (Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, 1996)
50. These comments are from a book of the Dalai Lama's writings quoted in Nikolai Thyssen, "Oceaner af onkel Tom," Dagbladet Information, 29 December 2003, (translated for me by Julius Wilm). Thyssen's review (in Danish) can be found at http://www.information.dk/Indgang/VisArkiv.dna?pArtNo=20031229154141.txt.
51. "A Global Call for Human Rights in the Workplace," New York Times, 6 December 2005.
52. San Francisco Chronicle, 14 January 2007.
53. San Francisco Chronicle, 5 November 2005.
54. Times of India 13 October 2000; Samantha Conti's report, Reuter, 17 June 1994; Amitabh Pal, "The Dalai Lama Interview," Progressive, January 2006.
55. The Gelders draw this comparison, The Timely Rain, 64.
56. Michael Parenti, The Culture Struggle (Seven Stories, 2006).
57. John Pomfret, "Tibet Caught in China's Web, " Washington Post, 23 July 1999.
58. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 3.
59. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 13 and 138.
60. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, 21.
61. Curren, Buddha's Not Smiling, passim. For books that are favorable toward the Karmapa appointed by the Dalai Lama's faction, see Lea Terhune, Karmapa of Tibet: The Politics of Reincarnation (Wisdom Publications, 2004); Gaby Naher, Wrestling the Dragon (Rider 2004); Mick Brown, The Dance of 17 Lives (Bloomsbury 2004).
62. Erik Curren, "Not So Easy to Say Who is Karmapa," correspondence, 22 August 2005, www.buddhistchannel.tv/index.php?id=22.1577,0,0,1,0.
63. Kim Lewis, correspondence to me, 15 July 2004.
64. Kim Lewis, correspondence to me, 16 July 2004.
65. Ma Jian, Stick Out Your Tongue (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2006).
66. See the PBS documentary, China from the Inside, January 2007, KQED.PBS.org/kqed/chinanside.
67. San Francisco Chronicle, 9 January 2007.
68. "China: Global Warming to Cause Food Shortages," People's Weekly World, 13 January 2007
A SHORT HISTORY OF TIBET
You are advised to use `netscape'. The press setting in some `mosaic' is NOT right.
2. Records of early Han history
3. Dynasty (1)
4. Dynasty (2)
5. Dynasty (3)
6. Dynasty (4)
7. Feudal period
8. Ching (Qing) Dynasty
9. Recent history
10. Comments and My Personal Observations
(*)T.T.Moh, Professor of Department of Mathematics, Purdue University, a member of Tibet Study Association (formerly America-Tibet Association). He was invited to tour Tibet in 1988 with novelist Chen Jo-shi (Lucy Tuann) and essayist Dorothy Weissman by `All-China Union of Authors'
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We will separate the history of Tibet into several periods; (A) pre-history (pre-7th century), (B) dynasty, 7th century to 9th century, (C) feudal era, 10th century to 17th century, (D) reunification and part of Ching Dynasty, 17th century to 1911, (E) semi-independent, 1911-1951, (F) part of P.R. China, 1951 to present. Each era offers many fascinating stories. I shall try to recall as many as possible from memory.
What is the origin of Tibetans? We shall examine two aspects of it; the Tibetan myth, the known facts from Han history records.
(1) Tibetan myth:
The Tibetan was the descendents of a male Monkey and a female Rock-demon. This was probably invented by outsiders when they witness the Tibetan custom of covering or painting their faces to protect themselves from harsh weather conditions. Later on, in the writing of the great 5th Dalai Lama, the story changed the Monkey to Avalokitesvara, a disciple of Buddha and known as GuanYin by Han people (Jiaga in Tibetan) as a goddess, the Venus of Han. Moreover, the Rock-demon became a goddess (Tara or Mother-savior, Jeo-Tuu Muu) in Buddhism). In fact, the great 5th Dalai Lama further claimed that the Tibetan King, Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo), was a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara, and his Han wife, princess Wen-Cheng, was the reincarnation of the goddess Tara or Mother-savior. This becomes an important myth of Tibet. Even today, the palace of Dalai Lama in Lhasa is called `Potala Palace'. Note that `Potala' is the residence of Avalokitesvara which in Han Character is `Putou', and there is an island in the East China Sea with the name Putou San which is supposed to be the residence of GuanYin.
The Kings of Tibet were descendents from the heaven with ropes attaching them to the heaven. Upon their deaths, a heavenly creature would pull the ropes up with their bodies. Therefore, there were no remains of their bodies, and there were no tombs for the first seven Kings of Tibet. The eighth King accidentally cut off the rope during a fight against a rebel. From thereon, the bodies of Kings could not go up to the heaven, and were buried in the southern part of Tibet.
The Kings usually were crowned at the age of 13 years with the helps of the uncles on the mother side. It is hard to image that all old Kings passed away at precisely that moments.
The polygamy marriage system already existed, and I will further explain it later on.
The above was the story of Tubo Dynasty of the southern Tibet. There was another kingdom at the northern part of Tibet, Shangshung Kingdom. More than 2,000 years ago, what is now Ali was Upper Shangshung; the present day Changdu, Lower Shangshung; the present day Wombu, Middle Shangshung, the centre of the kingdom. It was conquered by Trisong Detsen, the king of Tubo Dynasty.
An ancient written language, bone-oracle, already existed. It will be interesting to decipher the old written language. In the 7th century Indian alphabets were adopted into the written language. Some pre-7th century poems passed down in the modern Tibetan written language.
The religious is a kind of Shamanism, which was called `Bon', later on it became the Black branch of Buddhism, and was translated to Han Character as `Stupid' if you were Buddhist or `Root' if otherwise. The `Bon' priests could sit on drums to fly to the sky. In today's Tibetan dances, sometimes you see the figures ware deer musks, those are the priests. After the introducing of Buddhism to Tibet in 7th century, Bonism was retreated to Northern Tibet, the area of ancient Shangshung kingdom.
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2. Records of early Han history
(a) The relation between Shang people and Jian-Tibetan
At the time around 1,400 B.C., there was a semi-Tibetan people called `Jian' mixed with Shang people. From the oracles, one see phrases as `Today we captured 50 Jians' frequently. Certainly, some Shang people were captured by Jian, but not recorded. By the way, the Tibetan people was considered to be the descendent of Jian by some scholars in the past. Today, Jian and Tibetan are classified as one race, Jian-Tibetan people. Anyway, we are satisfied with the closeness of Tibetan and Jian.
One of the Kings of Shang Dynasty had a name Jian-Chia. For the convenience of the reader, I will use English alphabet A, B,.. to replace the Han ordering Chia, Yee,... So , let us call this King Jian-A. There were possible explanations of his name, maybe his mother was a Jian, maybe he was a Jian-conqueror, i.e., he killed a lot of Jian, and was famous for his acts. However, there was no record of big battle between Shang people and Jian people at that time. I would rather think that his mother was a Jian. In any case, there were some inter-marriage between Shang people and Jian people who lived near each other.
Let us consider the life style of the two people. The name Jian has a root in Yion (goat, the animal `sheep' was transplanted to Han people from Northwest during Han Dynasty, sheep was called Hu-Yion, and later Mion-Yion), which indicates that Jian was likely to be goat raising nomad. This observation checks with the later records of Jian people. On the other hand, Shang people was semi-nomad with settlements, as indicated by (1) large amount of animal bones discovered in the sites of Shang people, (2) the animal decorations of bronzes, (3) the associations of Yion (goat root) in Han Characters of beauty, taste good, etc, (5) the fame that Shang people ate a lot of meat, (4) the constant movements of Shang people, one Shang King moved his capital 8 times.
Next we will discuss one of the most important relations of a society, the marriage. In Tibet, there are multihusbands-multiwives marriage system from very ancient time. The husbands may or may not be related, similarly, the wives may or may not be related. According to the government officials, this is a thing of the past. I have evidences to the contrary. In this system, husbands and wives are ordered. If the number 1 husband passes away, then the number 2 husband will assume the position of number 1 husband, etc. The children will consider all present husbands of the mother as fathers. The property will be commonly owned by the marriage group.
The marriage system of Shang people is a hot subject. The records show that there were Shang Kings with more than one wife, the oracles contains statements `number 1 father, number 2 father, number 3 father' , and `one ox for father A, one ox for father G, one ox for father H', etc. Furthermore, it had been established that fathers A, G, and H in the previous statement are brothers. Many scholars mention the possibility of multi-husbands (likely brothers)-multi-wives(likely sisters) marriage system for early to middle Shang people. If this is the case, then the brother succession system of early Shang people means the promotion of number 2 husband to number 1 as in the Tibetan system and can be easily understood.
On the religions, both believed shamanisms and both use bone-oracles. In fact the ancient written language I saw was carved on bones.
(b)Later records of Jian-Tibetan
One thing I noticed is the resemblance of the classical Tibetan poems with Chuu-Shi (southern Chinese poems of `Spring-Autumn' and `Warring States' periods). Both are with 4-7 syllables with the middle syllable or the end syllable denote a sigh, and of comparable lengths.
From there to the Early-Han Dynasty, we have little records of Jian. The ambassador, Chang Chien, of Emperor Wu tried to come back through Qinghai (Jian Land or Jian Chung) and failed. Jian assumed a peaceful life during that time. Later on, in the Later-Han Dynasty, there were troubles in Jian Land. It was largely a war between farmers and nomads. General Chao Tson-Kuo spent many years to safe guard the fertile corner of Qinghai. In fact, the battle continued for many generations and was indecisive. After the down fall of Later-Han, Jian people started moving towards the central China. During the South-North Dynastys, from the fourth to the sixth century, Jian and a relative, Tze, built several Kingdoms in the central China. These people cross married with the Han people of the northern China, and thus assimilated.
From now on we should turn to the history time of Tibetans.
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3. Dynasty (1)
(B) Dynasty, 7th century to 9th century.
(1) The initial contacts between Tibetan, Huen People and Tang (Han) people.
Just after the Jian people moved eastward to the central part of China and established their kingdoms, a nomad, Huen people, moved westward from the central-north of China to Jian Land (Qinghai or Amdo in Tibetan). It happened around the 4th century A.D.. Who was the Huen people? It was not clear in the Annals of Tang Dynasty, and was simply called the Huen people. Note that the kings of Huen people had surname `Mu-Yuon' which will classify them as a relative of Manchu nowaday.
Huen people firmly established the Kingdom of Tu-Yu (may be wrongly pronounced as Tu-Gu) Huen in the major part of Qinghai in 7th century, while the Tang people held the fertile corner of Qinghai.
As usual, there were disputes between the farmers in the fertile corner of Qinghai and the nomads around them. The Emperor, Tang Tai-Chung , sent the famous General Li Jin to lead an army with General Li Dau-Chung (we will read about him later on) to attack Tu-Yu Huen. Tu-Yu Huen was defeated and become a tributary of Tang (635 A.D.). the Emperor selected a girl from the extended royal family and she was given a title of `princess' to marry with the king of Tu-Yu Huen.
The system of marrying `princess' with kings of other tribe or countries should be studied further. In general, Tang will marry a `princess' away only if the king had some statues. Although Tang Tai-Chung had 22 daughters, the real princess, none of them was married away. Furthermore, when one of an influential member of the court of Empress Wu went to marry a Turk princess, the whole court was against the marriage. They believed that it was not right and against the rule.
Apparently, after Tu-Yu Huen was weakened by Tang army, Tibetan started attack it from the south (Tibet proper). Tibetan further sent a commission to the court of Tang to ask the hand of a Tang princess. However, Tu-Yu Huen was against and blocked the marriage.
Tibetan became angry at Tu-Yu Huen and sent a large army to attack and drive it from the valleys around the source of Yellow river. Tu-Yu Huen hid at the northern shore of Lake Qinghai. The conflicts between Tibetan and Tang people started. After several indecisive battles, Tibet resent the commission with the old proposal. The court of Tang apparently recognized Tibet as a local power and became receptive.
In the mean time, Tang conquered Turks to the north, and was interested in conquering Korea. A secured front in Qinghai was beneficial, and the marriage proposal was accepted.
(2) The marriage of Princess Wen-Cheng and King Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo)
It was according to the story of Tibet that there were 27 kings before King Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo). Most of them were just names. The history of Tibet in general began with him. We do not know very much about him either. For instance, we are not sure about his date of birth.
Who was Princess Wen-Cheng? We are not sure either. She was a member of the extended royal family of Tang Dynasty of 18 years old when sent off. General Li Dau-Chung (King of Jiang-Xia ) spent 2 years in traveling with her to Tibet. There were at least three versions of the marriage,
(a) Tang Annals told us that the marriage happened in 641 A.D.. The King of Tibet was very grateful and behaved properly as a son-in-law in receiving General Li Dau-Chung. He admired the Han clothes and ceremonies. He built a palace for Princess Wen-Cheng and sent royal members to Tang to be educated. The King passed away after 9 years in 650 A.D. and his grandson succeeded him. Princess Wen-Cheng stayed in Tibet for another 30 years.
(b) According to the 5th Dalai Lama, the King was 25 years old and sent four columns from all four doors of Lhasa to meet Princess Wen-Cheng. Princess Wen-Cheng used her power of goddess to present her train of court to all four columns of the receptionists. The King had a Nepal Princess Tsu-Tsuang (Bhrikuti Devi, daughter of King Amsuvarman) as wife. Although the Nepal Princess out rank Princess Wen-Cheng as wives, Princes Wen-Cheng out rank Nepal Princess (reincarnation of goddess Frown-Mother ) as goddess. Everything balanced out, the three lived happily thereafter, with some minor problems which made the story interesting. Princess Wen-Cheng built the Potala palace and `Xiao-Zhau temple' (which faces the capital of Tang Dynasty). Nepal Princess built the much larger `Da-Zhua temple' (Jokhang) (which faces Nepal. Later on Princess Jin-Cheng from Tang moved all relics of Princess Wen-Cheng from Xiao-Chau to Da-Chau). Both Princess had no offsprings. The King had several Tibetan wives. Later on, a disease was transmitted from a maid to Nepal Princess and then to the King, and then to Princess Wen-Cheng. The three died at the same time, and lived happily in the heaven.
(c) Some Tibetan writers claimed that the King was 70 years old, and the Nepal Princess did not allow them to see each other. After about one year, they finally met and lived together for two years and the king passed away.
What can one make out from the above? My guess is that Princess Wen-Cheng was a daughter of General Li, and the King was a middle aged man (35 years old ?) as indicated by the words that the King `behaved properly as a son-in -law to General Li' who fought many battles later on, and hence unlikely to be an old man at that time. The marriage lasted 9 years until the King passed away. In that nine years, the Nepal Princess had more influence (by the sizes of the two temples which had been preserved to this date). The Potala palace was built at that time by Tang engeneers under the instructions of Princess Wen-Cheng. The Princess indeed lived for another 30 years as proved by her occasional receptions of Tang monks on their way to visit India.
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4. Dynasty (2)
(a) The period of stalemate between Tang and Tibet (641--755)
From Tang Tai-Chung to Tang Min-Huang, there was a stalemate in the military relations between those two kingdoms. There were very few conflicts during the time of Tang Tai-Chung and Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo). The next Emperor of Tang decided to move Tu-Yu Huen back to its original territory in the southern part of Qinghai (Amdo in Tibetan). The conqueror of Korea, General Hsueh Zen-Kuei, was given a title of `Governor of Lhasa' and led an army of 100,000 strong for this assignment. When his army reached the high plateau of Qinghai, a Tibetan army of 400,000 strong appeared and swept the Tang army away. Then the Tibetan army marched to the southern Xinkiang and captured the four Tang garrisons. Later, General Wang Xiao-Jia recaptures the four Tang garrisons and pushed on to attack the high plateau of Qinghai, and met his defeat there.
During this period, there were expansions for Tang and Tibet. Tang's imperial army conquered Turks, Korean, Xinkiang, Central Asia (part of the formal Soviet Union) reached all the way to Persia. In fact, once Tang had a garrison in the capital of Persia. Tibet conquered all small tribes in Qinghai.
At the end of this period, Tang had a population of 52 millions (increased from 15 millions, and the total population of Euro-Asia-Northern Africa was about 150 millions at that time) and an imperial army of 490,000 strong which was divided into garrisons of Mongolia, Northeast Tang, Northern Xinkiang, Southern Xinkiang (including Central Asia) and the Silk-road (Gansu) (including the fertile corner of Qinghai). Tibet had a population of 10 million with 3 million Tibetans (all estimates) and an army of comparable strength facing the two Tang army of Southern Xinkiang (24,000 soldiers) and Silk-road (75,000 soldiers).
The disputes involed trade contrals. Tibet wanted the four Tang garrisons at the Southern Xinkiang (which guarded the silk-road from Tang through Xinkiang and Central Asia), and Tang wanted the re-establishment of Tu-Yu Huen as the power in Qinghai (most Tu-Yu Huen moved back to the valleys at the source of Yellow river and were called `Atsai' in Tibetan). Otherwise the relations between them were close and cordial. For instance, when an ambassador of Tang to India, Mr. Wang, was in trouble, he went to Tibet and was given an army to ransack the capital of a kingdom of India. The ambassador brought back, besided others, an Indian expert of making `immortal medicine'. The great Tang Tai-Chung ate the immortal medicine and passed away. The Tang court thought the whole event was embarrassing and hid the truth.
(b) The weakening of Tang and the expansion of Tibet (755--841)
In 755, the commander of the Northeast garrison of Tang, An Lu-San (Mongol) rebelled. He led an army of 150,000 strong marched to the capital. The public opinion of the capital was condescending. Most people thought the rebellion were a joke.
A good general Fon Chang-Jin (possibly a native from a tribe of Southern Xinkiang, Conqueror of Da-Bo-Lu, i.e., Gilgit) agreed with the public opinion and was ordered by the Emperor to lead the totally untrained garrison of Loyang to face An Lu-San's army. A famous Korea general Guo Xieng-Ze (Victor of Central Asia and the loser of a war with Persia) led the palace guards and a portion of the Silk-road (Gansu) army as the second wave. General Fon, when met General Guo (a friend and formal superior of General Fon), told General Guo that An Lu-San's army was surprisingly strong, and the fact that after a blooded continuous battle of 50 km, Gen Fon was forced to withdraw, and the only way to protect the capital was to guard the castle area (Tong-Kuan). Through good military sense, General Guo did accordingly and took a defense posture at the castle area. An Lu-San's army was stopped. The Emperor Min-Huang was impatient and was moved by the public opinion. He sent someone to kill the two generals. In the meantime, the Silk-road army and the best troops from the garrisons of Northern and Southern Xinkiang were called back to protect the capital. The Emperor sent the famous Turk General Gow-Su Han to lead the army at hand. The old General saw the situation himself and decided to defend from the castles to wait for the gathering of all imperial garrisons from distances. Emperor Min-Huang did not want anything like that. He sent a strict order to attack An Lu-San's army. The old General wept openly and obeyed the order and was captured by An Lu-San's army.
The war lasted until 763 after Tang court adapted a strategy of dividing the whole Tang into `military zones' (similar to what Mao did in the CR, Mao switched the policy just in time to avoid a repetition of history), and An Lu-San's army was squeezed and bled to death eventually.
After the withdrawing of the Silk-road army and the passaging of the best troops from the garrisons of Northern and Southern Xinkiang, Tibetan army swept through and captured the Silk-road which was the richest part of Tang at that time. Thus Tibet bordered Hue-He (Mongol) and cut off Silk-road completely. The residues of the Northern and Southern garrisons of Xinkiang organized successive defenses and lasted many decades. During the time, they were waiting for the imperial army to re-open the Silk-road. After some 10 years, they sent a messenger through Mongolia to report to the imperial court. Finally, Northern garrison of Xinkiang was eliminated (790) after all old soldiers faded away, and Southern garrison disappeared into the murky history. Later on, during the conquering of Mongolia Genghis Khan, some Han tribes in the central Asia were mentioned. They were likely to be the descendents of the Southern Xinkiang garrison (which covered the central Asia).
Years later, after the downfall of Tibetan Dynasty, Tang recovered Silk-road (848). This story will be discussed later in this article.
In the mean time, Tibet attacked Szechuan and fought many inconclusive battles with Tang army. The part Yunnan of Tang rebelled and established a local kingdom. First, Yunnan got the protection from Tibet by being a tributary of Tibet. Later on Tang recognized Yunnan, and Yunnan switched side and became a tributary of Tang.
Sometimes the Tibetan army became mercenaries of Tang to fight with several rebels. Other time, the Tibetan army simply attacked Tang. Once Tibetan army ransacked the capital of Tang and crowned a new Emperor who lasted for a few days (763).
Just before the downfall of Tibetan Dynasty, Tibetan governed Tibet, Qinghai, Silk-road, part of southern Xinkiang, part of central Asia. Tibet bordered with India, Tang, Persia, Mongolia. This was the largest area which was ever controlled by Tibetan. It had a population of 15 millions and an army of 400,000 strong (all estimates).
At that time, Tang had a population of 16 millions and an army of 150,000 strong.
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5. Dynasty (3)
(4) The story of Tibet (641--877)
(a) The stories of Kings.
To help the reader, I will add an numeral artificially at the end of the names of Tibetan Kings.
As pointed in my previous sections, a grandson of Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo(1)) succeeded him. The throne passed down successively to the fourth King, Khri-de-tsung-tsan (TseDeTsuZan(4)) (704). His grandmother was the regent and she sent a missionary to Tang court asking the hand of a Tang princess for the King (6 years old).
During this time, Tang was ruled by the gentleman Emperor Chung-Chung who showed his respect to his mother, Empress Wu, every 10 days after she was de-throned, and was very soft to his sister, wife, and daughters. After hesitation and self doubt, he decided to let go his adopted and beloved daughter, Princess Jin-Cheng of 16 years old.
According to the 5th Dalai Lama, the story was different. The beautiful Tang Princess heard about the handsome crowned prince, a son of Khri-de-tsung-tsan (TseDeTsuZan(4)), and decided to marry him. When Tang princess arrived, the crowned prince just passed away, and then she married the King.
According to Tang Annals, Princess passed away in 739 (possibly 45 years old). According to Tibetan history the King was murdered in 754 (possibly 56 years old). The next king, Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)), was born in 742. This is very possible. At least, Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)) could not possibly be a son of Princess Jin-Cheng. However, the 5th Dalai Lama told us a different story: Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)) was a son of the Tang Princess Jin-Cheng. Just after birth, Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)) was stolen by a Tibetan wife of the King. When he could walk, during a party of the court, he was requested by the King to bring a cup of wine to his uncle on the mother side. To every body's surprise, he went directly to the side of Princess Jin-Cheng, and showed every body who his mother really was, and was thus nicknamed.
Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)) was a important figure in promoting Buddhism. He will be discussed later on. He passed away in 797, and Tibet Dynasty was decaying. His son, Mu-ne-tsan-po (MuNiZanBoo(6)), succeeded him. Mu-ne-tsan-po (MuNiZanBoo(6)) was a true believer of Buddhism, and ruled three times that all properties should be equally distributed. On the other hand, he married a young wife of his father, possibly while his father was still alive. Note that this was not against the rule. Anyway, for one reason or other, his mother got him murdered, and the throne passed to another son of his mother and his father, Khri-de-srong-tsan (TseDeSonZan(7)). The King passed away in 815, and his son Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)) succeeded. For Buddhism, the three Kings, Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo(1)), Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)) and Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)), were important, and were named Guardian-Kings (Fa Wang).
Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)) ruled for some time, and was murdered by the prime minister. The throne was passed to his brother Dar-ma(9) who married Khri-tsug-de-tsan's (TseTsuDeZan(8)) wives. After a couple years of promoting Buddhism, Dar-ma(9) changed side and decided to destroy Buddhism and to revive the native religion `Bon'. The Buddhists believed that Dar-ma(9) was a re-incarnation of an ox, and called him Lang (ox) Dar-ma(9). A Buddhist (non-monk) dressed in a clothes which was black outside and white inside, and rode on a white horse which was colored by black charcoals, killed Dar-ma(9) with an arrow at Lhasa (842). Once the deed was done, the Buddhist ran away. He passed a river where he turned his clothes inside out which became white, and his horse was washed white in the river. Therefore, the chasers lost his tracks. According to Buddhism, this Buddhist was a re-incarnation of a god, who befriended the ox in the past reincarnation.
After Dar-ma(9) passed away, his second wife produced a son after a few months. His first wife produced a baby too. However, the baby was old enough to have teeth. Therefore, rumors spread, and the royal family was divided into two groups to fight a 20 years war. The hell broke loose in Tibet, every one fought the next person. It was described as `one bird flies high, the whole flock follows'. The royal families fought against each other, the warlords fought against each other, the slaves fought against the masters. The Dynasty was completely destroyed (877).
Since then, Tibet entered the feudal period and lost all conquered lands, Central Asia, Southern Xinkiang, Silk-road (Gansu) and Qinghai (Amdo in Tibetan). The Tibetan tribes and the descendents of Tibetan army occasionally set up local powers and kingdoms in Qinghai and Silk-road (Gansu) where there were pots of racial mixing. Otherwise Tibet almost became a geographic term, and there were very little news about Tibet for long time. We have to use Tibetan documents for this period. Those are the topics of my later reports.
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6. Dynasty (4)
(4) The story of Tibet (641--877)
(b) The rising of Buddhism and the religious conflicts
The two wives, Nepal Princess Bhrikuti Devi and Princess Wen-Cheng, of Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo(1)) were both Buddhists. Each brought a group of Buddhist monks into Tibet. Those were the beginning of the propagation of Buddhism in Tibet which met a strong resistance from the native religion `Bon'. The King was very supportive. After him, Buddhism was in disfavor by the court. Princess Jin-Cheng was a Buddhist and revived Buddhism. She sent for monks from Tang and Xinkiang, and built some temples, organized the translations of Buddhism scriptures into Tibetan.
The fifth King, Khri-srong-de-tsan (TseSonDeZan(5)), who was possibly a son of Princess Jin-Cheng, was an important figure in promoting Buddhism. When he was 20 years old, he changed side from `Bon' to Buddhism. Under the King there was a debate between `Bon' priests and Buddhists. He declared that Buddhists won the debate, and `Bon' was prohibited (in fact Bon was not eliminated at all). There was a prosperity of Buddhism in Tibet.
Then there were internal disputes of Buddhism. As we know, Zen Buddhism (Ch'an) appeared in Tang Dynasty. The two branches of Zen were the newer `Dun Mon' (sudden enlightenment) and the traditional `Jien Mon' (gradual enlightenment), the first one believed in the sudden enlightenment, the second one believed in the gradual enlightenment. Who was right? That became a hot dispute. The King organized a second debate which lasted 3 years. Tang monks supported the newer Dun Mon, and India monks as led by Padmasambhava (Lien-hua sen, Lotus-Birth, ) supported the traditional Jien Mon. The King finally declared India monks the winners. The content of the debate was largely lost. According to the 5th Dalai Lama, some of the arguments were centered on the meaning of Tang monks phrases `Dun Mon' and `Jien Mon'; `Mon' in Tibetan sounded as `no' or `not', therefore, `Dun Mon' meant `un-law', and `Jian Mon' meant `un-kind' (Jien meant `kind' in Tibetan), hence Tang monks were trying to argue for an un-lawful and un-kind religion. I do not know the truth of the story.
The same King designated the first 7 Tibetan monks, and declared a law that every 7 families should support 1 Buddhist monk.
His son, Mu-ne-tsan-po (MuNiZanBoo(6)), succeeded him. Mu-ne-tsan-po (MuNiZanBoo(6)) and his mother were believers of Buddhism. His mother had him murdered, and the throne passed to his brother Khri-de-srong-tsan (TseDeSonZan(7)).
The King consolidated Buddhism in Tibet. He started using monks as prime ministers, and systematically translated Buddhist scriptures into Tibetan.
The King passed away in 815, and his son Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)) succeeded. He was a true believer of Buddhism. Sometimes, he would lay down his long hairs on the ground for monks to sit on them to preach. He declared that anyone who stared or pointed to a monk would be punished.
For Buddhism, the three Kings, Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo(1)), TseSonDeZan(5) and Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)), were important, and were declared as Guardian-Kings (Fa-Wang) of Buddhism.
For all those years, Bon believers were trying to resist. Some Bon prime minister murdered the King, Khri-tsug-de-tsan (TseTsuDeZan(8)). The throne was passed to his brother Dar-ma(9) who was convinced to destroy Buddhism and to revive the native religion `Bon'. The timing might be a strange coincidence, note that in Tang, the Emperor (Wu-Chung) prohibited Buddhism in favor of Taoism at the same time. Dar-ma(9) ordered that all Buddhist scriptures burned, all Buddhist sculptures tossed away, and all temples used as butcher's mills. The destructions were total. It was a victory of Bon. Thus the first period of Buddhism (Chien-Hon Chee ) was closed in Tibet.
(c) The developments of Tibet
In the beginning Tibetans were nomad. After the conquering of the neighboring tribes, Tibet adopted more and more the way of agricultures, and became a country with sizable farmers, as presented in a Tang poem `Tibetans never tilled the land in the old days, they learned to grow rice and millet now'. Tibetans also learned irrigations from the farmers. Gradually there were villages in the valleys. After the conquering of Tu-Yu Huen, their land was put to the good use for horses and Tibet was famous for producing excellent horses.
The two wives, Nepal Princess Bhrikuti Devi and Princess Wen-Cheng, of Srong-tsan-gam-po (Songtsen Gampo(1)) brought with them engineers, doctors etc. Tang sent experts of wine-making, water-mill, paper-making, bronze-making etc, and silkworm eggs. I can not reserve my doubt about the use of silkworm eggs in the highland of Tibet. They initiated the handicraft industries of Tibet. Furthermore, Tibetans got the techniques of food-process and jewel-making from Persian. Very soon the products were appreciated by the Emperor of Tang when they were delivered as tributes.
Tibet adopted a spelling written language using Sanskrit (old Indian alphabet).
The science of medicine was studied in Tibet. Tibetan was probably the first people with a good idea of fetus-development; a fetus will pass through a period of fish, and then a period of reptiles etc. Tibetan medicine was most likely influenced by Tang medicine as Indian medicine used the theory of 4 elements (as in Greece and elsewhere) as the foundation, while Han medicine relied on the theory of 5 elements. Tibetan medicine followed the theory of 5 elements.
Tibetans used the 12 animal symbols for years as in Tang, furthermore they used Yin-Yan times the 5 elements, i.e., 10 symbols which corresponded to the Han 10 numeral symbols Chia, Yee,.....etc, plus 12 animal symbols to form a 60 valued system (sexagenary) as in Tang.
Tibetan architecture was famous. The styles of building were essentially original. The greatest contribution of Tibetan engeneering was probably the invention of the iron suspending bridge. The suspending bridge was an old idea developed in the Han Dynasties. First they suspended a rope over a valley to transmit human and material. Later on, it was modified to have three ropes with two higher ones for human beings to hold. Then it was modified to four ropes with the lower two covered by wood boards. In Tibet, it was perfected to the present form. The Tang monks marveled while traveling through Tibet to India.
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7. Feudal period
(C) The feudal period (10th century -- 17th century)
(1) The first period (the downfall of Tibet Dynasty to the end of Song Dynasty 1240)
(a) The emerging of Tibetan Buddhism
During the era of Dar-ma(9), several Buddhists ran away with Buddhist scriptures. They first escaped westward to the western part of Tibet, and then to Xinkiang. After the downfall of Dynasty, they came back to Qinghai (Amdo) and set up a temple to propagate the religion. In the meantime, Tibetans went to India to study Buddhism and came back to preach. Moreover, some famous Indian monks, as Dipamkarashrijinana (Atisa), were invited to Tibet to give lectures. Buddhism gradually revived. The time after 978 would be named the second period of Buddhism (Hou-Hon Chee).
The Tibetan Buddhism thus propagated became an independent branch of Buddhism. First it absorbed `Bon' and was modified by `Bon'. `Bon' became a branch of Tibetan Buddhism, the Black branch. The major differences in appearance were (1) Buddhism used the ancient Aryan symbol, a reverse swastika (as in Nazi Germany), as its symbol, while Black branch used the swastika (this was a mistake of Mr Hitler, he thought that swastika were the ancient Aryan symbol, however, it turned out to be the symbol of `Bon'!), (2) in praying or turning the praying wheel, Buddhists would turn clockwise, while the Black branch would turn counter-clockwise.
The above phenomena were not unique. Note that Han people had a native religion, Taoism, and a native philosophy, Tao-Chia. After the introduction of Buddhism to Han people, Taoism started imitating Buddhism, although maintained its character of nature-research (it produced many important scientists), while Buddhism combined with Tao-Chia to form Zen Buddhism.
The second character of Tibetan Buddhism is its relying on the `Tantric method' (`Mi' method), i.e., Tibetan Buddhism believed the secretive and magic power of `Tantric Divinities', and of reciting certain words (Lieng-Zo) passed down from generations. They believed the results of continuously praying to a particular god which would bestow the magic power of the god to the payer. Note that in Buddhism there were two main factors: Sutrus (Xien i.e., open) and Tantrus (Mi i.e, closed or secretive). In the Tantric method, sometimes, at the final stage, sex will be used. There was nothing fundamentally wrong about Tibetan Buddhism from the point of view of Buddhism.
The third character of Tibetan Buddhism is the meat-eating habit. Although vegetarianism was preached by Buddha, the peculiar restriction of Tibet made the meat-eating habit necessary.
Later on, Moslem extended its influence to India, Xinkiang, Silk-road (Gansu) and the south part of Qinghai, and Brahmanism revived in India, Tibetan Buddhism being different from Han Buddhism became isolated. Tibetan Buddhism advanced along its own direction, and became unique. It was not possible for Tibetan Buddhism to go east, south and west, therefore it spread to north to Mongolia. Later on, Tibetan Buddhism spread to Mongolia including Tuvu (part of Russian nowaday, i.e., Tannuwulianghai in Han words, Tibetan Buddhism is revived in Tuvu after the collapse of Soviet Union).
The first generation of Tibetan Buddhism was called the Red branch (Nying-ma-pa). Since then, different branches of Tibetan Buddhism, Old-Yellow branch (Ka-dams-pa), Flower branch (Sa-skya-pa), White branch (Ka-gyud-pa ) flourished in the different parts of Tibet. Red and Old Yellow branches were not concerned with the civic world matters, and concentrated only on religion. Up to now we had the 5 branches, Red, (Old) Yellow, White, Flower, and Black, of Tibetan Buddhism. The only late comer was (New) Yellow branch, that was the branch of Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. We will come to them later. I should mention that each branch was further differentiated into many subbranches, sometimes 10 or more. At the end of this era, Flower branch assumed a dominating position in Tibet, and gradually became corrupted, some Tibetan monks believed that sex would stimulate senses and was an essential way to enlightenment.
There were two things worth reporting. In 1076, the year of `fire-dragon', there was a big convention of Tibetan Buddhists, the so-called fire-dragon year convention which pointed to a widely acceptance of Buddhism in Tibet. Secondly, A subbranch of White branch invented the system of `Tulku/Living Buddha', i.e., the reincarnation of the past sages. According to the `reincarnation story of Buddha', Buddha were animals as deer in his past reincarnations. Reincarnations were never intended from human to human, let alone from monk to monk, by Buddha. The system of Tulku/Living Buddha was unique, only in Tibetan Buddism. It is a common misunderstanding that there are only two Tulkus/Living Buddhas in Tibet. In fact, there are many. There is always one Tulku/Living Buddha in a big temple as observed by me personally.
(b) The social structures
Corresponding to the diversification of Buddhism, the place was ruled by many lords. Usually, a family would be in control of the local lordship and the temple. Some temples became effective governing organizations, full equipped with soldier-monks. It was very similar to the medieval Europe and Japan before Meiji reformation.
(c) The areas surrounding Tibet
After the downfall of Tibetan Dynasty, a native, Gen Chang Yee-Chao , of Silk-road (Gansu), decided to chase the Tibetan army away. He organized many people of Sa-Chou (Sand-county, today's Dunhuan) to rebel. One day, many people gathered together, armed themselves and yelled at the Tibetan guards. The guards were scared away. Gen Chang organized a small army for fighting and farming simultaneously. Gradually, the army grew and conquered city after city along Silk-road while pushing eastward towards Tang. Finally they connected with Tang, and were recognized by Tang as part of Tang army. They advanced westward and reached Xinkiang (848--861). Apparently, this was an important local event since there were paintings and stories preserved to present day.
Song Dynasty was established in the land of Han in 960. Song Dynasty was a matured kingdom with advancements in the arts of governing, arts, sciences etc. This society was very humane. The punishments of scholars were very limited. Disfavored scholars were usually sent away to be governors in remote counties, almost no scholar was ever killed by Emperors. The inspirations of Tang people was to conquer far away lands, build empire etc, and thus lost the civil feelings of love and family. There were great results in mathematics and sciences, military and civil. Gun powders, printing, chemical warfares etc were invented in this era. The population reached 100 millions in a world of possible 250 millions.
A Tibetan subrace, Danxan, built a kingdom, Xixia, on Silk-road (Gansu) in 1002. The people of Xixia were Buddhists and used Tibetan alphabet. Another Tibetan tribe, Jiaoslo, occupied the fertile corner of Qinghai, and became a tributary of Song Dynasty. After Xixia blocking the trade along the silk road, the territory of Jiaoslo became the second silk road for the East-West trade of that time. Later on, Song sent an army to conquer Jiaoslo and Qinghai (1104).
The trade between Han people of Song Dynasty and the tribes around Tibet was mainly the exchange of tea-horse, Tibetan and tribes wanted tea and Han wanted horse.
(2) The second period (Yuan and Ming Dynasties 1240--1640)
(a) The conquering of Tibet by Mongol
In 1218, Genghis Khan swept through southern Xinkiang. In 1223, Genghis Khan led an army reaching Hindi river. In 1227, he conquered Xixia of Silk-road (Gansu). His son, the next Emperor, sent an army to the front of Lhasa, and suddenly withdrawed back to Qinghai and Silk-road (Gansu). Then the commanding general of Mongolia troop demanded a completely surrender. Tibetan lords and masters gathered together and decided to sent Saban and his nephew Phags-pa (Flower branch) as representatives to Mongolia army.
They decided the only way was to surrender, and negotiated a treaty which included items as the properties would be respected, Tibetan officials would not lose their positions etc.
According to the 5th Dalai Lama, it were Tang army who suddenly showed up, and Tibet had surrendered to Tang. It was an example of confusing non-Tibetan with Han people.
(b) The rule of Yuan Dynasty
Since then Yuan Dynasty sent garrison troops to Tibet and set up post stations to open up transportation and communications between Dadu (Beijing) and Tibet. The Mongolia system of post stations, Zanze , was a modification of the ancient post system, E , of Han people. Eventually, Han people adopted Zan as the character for station.
Yuan Dynasty divided Qinghai into four parts; the fertile corner became part of Silk-road (Gansu), Mongol land at the north-west, land around Lake Qinghai (Tu-Yu Huen's land), and southern plateau became part of Tibet. Tibet was divided into three military zones (marshal area) , and Kang area (the part bordered Szechuan) was an individual state.
On the other hand, Tibetans were assigned with high positions in Yuan central governments, for instance, Sankou , a Tibetan, became a financial minister. Moreover, the Flower branch of Tibetan Buddhism became the state religion, Phags-pa assumed the title of the Emperor-teacher of Yuan Dynasty and became the `pope' of Buddhism all over Yuan territory. Tibetan were classified as `colored eye' people second only to Mongol and above Han. There were many horrible stories about Tibetan monks in Han history books. One of Tibetan monks dug up the skull of a past Song Emperor (Li-Chung) to make a cup for the Emperor-teacher. Some Tibetan monks demanded the rights of the first nights of brides. The term Flower-monk meant promiscuous monk in Han language since that time.
For political reasons, some one created an image of `teacher-patronage' between Tibetan monks and Mongolian Khans to replace the political reality of `ruled-ruler'. They would believe that a bunch of Mongolia rulers, from Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan on, sat in their tents with golden roofs, enjoyed Tibetan monks' `religious blessings and teachings in exchange for patronage and protection.' But this was very far from truth. Only a person who was ignorant about Mongolia history dares to tell this story. Mongols were Shamanists during that time! Even the title of Saban was `the high priest of Shamanism'! Mongolian Khans sent missions to visit Pope at Rome and King of England. There were persistent rumors in the West that Mongolian Khans were Christians. If you look at the first names of Mongols at that time, then you would realize that Christianity was more popular than Buddhism: you could find more Mongols used the names as Marcus, Cyriacus than all Buddhism first names. In fact, Mongols turned into true Buddhists in Ming Dynasty, after the creation of (New) Yellow Branch. The Mongolia Khans cared less about `religious blessing and teachings' than anything else. If you read Taoist book, `the western travel of Taoist Chang-Chuan zhen-ren', you would believe that Genghis Khan were a Taoist. It was clear that those Mongolia Khans used religions for their own political purposes.
How about Qing (Ching) Dynasty? Was there an imaginative `teacher-patronage' relation between Tibetan monks and Qing Emperors as some propagandists wanted us to believe nowaday? It was well known that Manchu believed in their own Shamanism to the very end! Read `A Dream of Red Chamber'. The Manchu Shamanism was described there. Did they need Dalai Lama to be their `the spiritual guide'? Of course not! All religious people exaggerated their own religions. I had no quarrel with them. But faking fictitious stories as historical facts made people laugh.
Towards the end of Yuan Dynasty, a famous Tibetan hero, Gyan-Ch'u Gye-Tsen who was a White branch Buddhist monk, unified the area around Lhasa, and was recognized by Yuan Dynasty as the local ruler, became the most powerful figure in Tibet. Under the influence of him, White branch Buddhism emphasized more on the `open' or Xien method. He passed away in 1364 when 63 years old. In 1368, an army of Ming Dynasty entered Dadu (Beijing) and ended Yuan Dynasty.
(c) Ming Dynasty (1348--1640)
In Ming era, Tibet became largely a tributary of Ming Dynasty, as Tibet was a part of Yuan Dynasty. Ming court re-confirmed the post station system, and kept the divisions of Tibet in Yuan Dynasty. Ming court sent several military expeditionary forces to pacify Tibet. Ming court further bestowed many titles to Tibetans, including 5 Kings and 3 Guardian-Kings (White branch, Flower branch, and New Yellow branch, see below), which largely indicated the real situations of Tibet. The most important Kingship was Enlightening-King (San Hua Wang) which was given to the successors of Gyan-Ch'u Gye-Tshen who governed a large part of Tibet. In 1565, a new power, Tsanba Khan, who belonged to a different White branch, took away most land of Enlightening-King without the awareness of it by the Ming court.
I would take the opportunity to clarify the term of `Kingship' in Han records. There are two kinds of `Kingships': King or King of a Kingdom. When the King of Japan was referred to, the King was called King of Japan Kingdom, which indicated that Japan was an independent country. When King was mentioned without the term Kingdom, it means domestic title. At the beginning period of Song dynasty, the King of Wu-Yue wanted Song Dynasty to recognize him as King of Wu-Yue Kingdom, which was a very very serious matter. In the case of Tibet, all Kingships were domestic titles.
The development of Han people was interrupted by Yuan (Mongolia). The tradition of the humane face of Song Dynasty was lost to some extend. There were tremendous improvement on the technique front in Europe. The leading edges of science and technology of Han people were lost. However, there were some improvements in the absolute terms for Han people in this era, as the population of Ming increased to 200 millions.
After Tibet became a tributary of Ming, Tibetans realized that it was a very profitable business to pay tribute to the court, because the rewards were huge, and there were no tax for the trades carried by the tribute trains. After several years, Tibet wanted to pay tribute to the court every year with special Tibetan missionaries of several thousand strong. The court had to send royal decrees to restrict the frequences of the tributes.
To pacify the area and to please Tibetans, Ming court printed several Buddhism scriptures to be distributed in Tibet. In general there were prosperities in Tibet. Most temples were built in this era.
The most important event was the rising of Yellow branch (as against Old-Yellow branch). A great Tibetan monk, Tsong-kha-pa, organized a great convention in 1409. Thus he started the (New) Yellow branch of Tibetan Buddhism (`good behavior' branch). His rules were (1) very strictive on the regulations, monks and nuns should be celibate, marriage and sex were prohibited. (2) monks and nuns should depend on donations. (3) monks and nuns should not seek worldly powers. (4) to maintained `the system of Tulku/Living Buddha'. (5) to construct more temples . (6) to have annual conventions (7) to have a degree system, `Gexi' as a Ph D of theology, of Buddhism.
Monks of other Tibetan Buddhism disliked his new branch. Gradually, Yellow branch was squeezed out. The third re-incarnation of his youngest disciple (who was supposed to be a reincarnation of Buddha Chen-re-zi) went to Mongolia. There he achieved great success. The Mongolia Khan, Altan (Anda) Khan, was converted and bestowed him the title `Dalai'. He traced back, and called the first one 1st Dalai Lama, the second one the 2nd Dalai Lama, and called himself 3rd Dalai Lama. The title Panchen Lama(who was supposed to be a reincarnation of Buddha O-pa-me, or Buddha of Eternal Light) came much later, and would be reported at the proper time. He passed away in Mongolia in 1588, and designated a prince of Mongol as his re-incarnation, the 4th Dalai Lama.
When the 4th Dalai Lama grew up, Mongolia Khan sent Mongolia troop to help him back to Tibet. Note that the influence of Mongol was always very strong in Tibet. The 4th Dalai Lama restored to Yellow branch the control of the three big temples of Lhasa. Some Mongolia troop stayed on as the guard of Yellow branch.
The 5th Dalai Lama was an important figure. At that time, a Mongolia kinglet Chog-thu (Juetu) Khan who belonged to the White branch occupied the western part of Qinghai, sent an army of 10,000 strong with the intention of destroying the influence of Yellow branch in collaboration with Tsanba Khan, and Beri-Tusi, the ruler of Kang area (near Szechuan) who believed in Bon, intended to conquer Tibet for Bon. In the mean time, another Mongolia kinglet, Gu-shri (Kusi) Khan after conquering the western part of Qinghai (Mongol area) answered the call of Dalai Lama, led his troop entering Tibet. First he crushed Beri-Tusi and eliminated both Tsangpa Khan and Chog-thu (Juetu) Khan (1642). Form then on, Yellow branch became the most influential branch of Buddhism in Tibet.
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8. Ching (Qing) Dynasty
(D) Ching Dynasty (17th century -- 1911)
(1) From tributary to part of Ching Empire
After the Mongolia kinglet, Gu-shri (Kusi) Khan conquered Qinghai, Kang area and Tibet, Yellow branch became dominating. However, the 5th Dalai Lama followed the traditional way, dominating but not eliminating. All branches of Buddhism were respected.
The 5th Dalai Lama was invited to have an audience with the third Emperor, Shunzhi, of Ching Dynasty. On his way to Beijing, the 5th Dalai Lama wrote several letters to the Emperor informing him that `Your subject has secret informations, and wishes a private audience'. The court decided that whatever the 5th Dalai Lama wanted to say, it would be terrible if the court did not listen to him, and it would be equally terrible if the court did listen to him. Therefore, the court threw many banquets for him, re-affirmed his title of Dalai Lama and gave him a lot gifts. In the end, Dalai Lama did not get a chance to talk.
What the court had in mind was `promoting Yellow Branch to pacify Mongol'. This policy was finally revealed by the great grand son (Qianlong) of that Emperor. The court had already made up its mind, there was really nothing to talk about.
The Mongolia Kings ruled Tibet through a local government led by the governor, Diba. In 1668, Mongolia King and Diba passed away. There were no successor of the King for three years. The next year, the 5th Dalai Lama assigned Sangs-gyas Gya-tsho (Sanjie-Jiatzuo) to be the next Diba (if you read the marshal-art story of Jinyun `The story of Deer Pot', you would see Sangs-gyas (Sanjie) there). Sangs-gyas (Sanjie) was a good scholar and published several books. The 5th Dalai Lama remodeled Potala palace to the present scale, and wrote many books. In 1682, the 5th Dalai Lama passed away. It was a bad news for Diba Sangs-gyas Gya-tsho (Sanjie-Jiatzuo), because the 5th Dalai Lama was on his side to balance the power of Mongolia King Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan. Therefore, Diba hid the news from everybody for 15 years, and behaved as if the 5th Dalai Lama were still alive. It was soon discovered by Ching Emperor Kangxi the Great. He said nothing for a while.
After Emperor Kangxi inquired the death of the 5th Dalai Lama, Diba Sangs-gyas (Sanjie). reported that the reincarnation of Dalai Lama, the 6th Dalai Lama, had been discovered. However, the 6th Dalai Lama turned out to be a poet who liked to write love poems to beautiful girls. This displeased many people.
In 1704, during a reviewing of military forces in Tibet, Diba Sangs-gyas (Sanjie) suddenly captured Mongolia King Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan. The monks came out to negotiate a truce, King Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan was released. Instead of going to Qinghai as agreed upon, King Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan came back with the full force of the Mongolia troop, and Diba Sangs-gyas (Sanjie) was killed.
Ha-zang(Lhatsan) Khan disbelieved the 6th Dalai Lama as the real one. Ching court ordered the (false) 6th Dalai Lama to be delivered to them, which was done accordingly. Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan claimed that he found the real 6th Dalai Lama who was entitled by Ching court as the real 6th Dalai Lama. What happened to the (false) 6th Dalai Lama was not clear; there were stories that on his way to Beijing he either was killed, or passed away peacefully, or ran away. Later on, another Dalai Lama was discovered, and was called the true Dalai Lama, and he was put under the protection of Ching court at once. It was generally agreed that the (false) 6th Dalai Lama was the real one, and the (real) 6th Dalai Lama was a false one and the true Dalai Lama was the 7th Dalai Lama.
In this chaotic situation, Ching court recognized the title `Panchen Lama' which was given by Gu-shri (Kusi) Khan to the reincarnations of the second disciple of Tsong-kha-pa to stablize the situation. In 1717, a Mongolia (Dzungar)kinglet who lived in northern Xinkiang sent troops to Lhasa, killed Ha-zang (Lhatsan) Khan and destroyed Buddhism in Tibet. In 1718, the imperial court sent Manchu army with the true Dalai Lama to Tibet. In 1720, Manchu army with the help of Tibetan army drove Mongolia army away, and after a few years Ching court conquered all Mongolia. A new chapter of Tibet just began.
(2) The ruling of Ching empire
The imperial court abolished the position of Diba as the governor. Instead, Ching court set up the Kaloon government consisted of 4 Kaloons, with the leader of Tibetan army, Kangjinai, as the chairman. In 1725, imperial court set up the garrisons of Kang area and the Governor of Qinghai (Tsu Xilin Dachen ). Later on, Ching court used the same model to set up Tibet Governorship, with the title `Tsu-Tsan Dachen'.
The three Kaloons made their move against the chairman in 1727. The chairman was murdered, and his troop, led by Pho-lha Sod-nams Tobs-gyas (Bolonai), advanced towards Lhasa. Ching court at once sent guards into Tibet to protect Dalai Lama. After the war, Pho-lha Sod-nams (Bolonai) was given the title of prince and later on was promoted to King. Furthermore, Ching court set up a garrison of 2,000 soldiers under Tsu Tsan Dachen (minister in Tibet, which later on became the Governor of Tibet), who in principle governed Tibet with Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama. They further defined the territory of Tibet which might be called Tibet proper in some one's terminology today.
(3) The consolidation of the rule of Ching Dynasty
After the passing away of Pho-lha Sod-nams (Bolonai) in 1747, there were disputes between the eldest son of Pho-lha (Bolonai) and Dalai Lama. It developed into a very serious situation. The Tsu Tsan Dachen invited the eldest son of Bolonai to the government building and executed him on the spot. The troop revolted and Tsu Tsan Dachen was killed by them. The rebellion was crushed very quickly, the Kingship of Tibet was abolished and replaced by Gexia (Kazis) government which was essentially Kaloon government. Later on there were invasions by Nepal troop (Gurkha) in 1788 and 1792, the imperial army had to be dispatched to repulse Nepal army (Gurkha). In 1793, the important royal decree of 29 Article was officially published. This was the law until 1911. By the decree, Tsu Tsan Dachen would rule Tibet with Dalai Lama, however, every order had to be stamped with the seal of Tsu Tsan Dachen. Dalai Lama would not be allowed to write to the Emperor directly, instead, Dalai Lama should sent his letter through Tsu Tsan Dachen. The local government is subordinated to Tsu Tsan Dachen, all officials would be appointed by Tsu Tsan Dachen, etc. In other words, Tsu Tsan Dachen became the Governor of Tibet.
Ching court further invented the special decrees of Ching government and R.O.C. government respectively.
Ching conquered Xinkiang and Mongolia in the meantime, and established the third largest empire in Chinese history. The population reached 400 million in the first half of 18th century, as against 1,000 millions for the world population at the end of 18th century. At this time, there were 2 millions Tibetans (estimate).
Ching court printed many Buddhist scriptures in Tibetan for distribution. Many temples were remodeled and constructed in this era. The traditional trade of tea-horse between farmers and nomads increased. There were peace and prosperity in general.
(4) The advancement of Western powers, from 1840-1911
The year Western power reached China was 1840, it was through the infamous `Opium War', or `Trade War' depended on your opinions. What happened then was up to interpretations. Probably, only historian several hundred years from now could assess.
One point of view was the West was trying to spread the civilization and humanity to the rest barbarians. The contacts of West and the rest of the world were largely mutual beneficial (benefactor's view). Another point of view was the West was essentially evil and greed. The only things the West wanted were land and the richness of the land (revolutionary's view). The truth was probably somewhere in-between.
The Far East (from British point of view) was the remote land, and hence the last land reached by the West. The reactions of the establishments of China and Japan were very different and worth studying. Note that traditionally, both China and Japan were influenced by Han civilizations. For many years, Chinese establishment was blind to the advantages of the West, while the establishment of Japan voluntarily started an effective program of learning from the West. By their continuous defeats at the hand of the West, the establishment of China lost its prestiges. The fringe or marginal members of China establishment started a rebellion.
At this time, British conquered India through East India Company, and fought a war against Russian in Afghanistan which was close to Tibet. Any border could be improved by either pushing it further or neutralized the neighboring area. Therefore, British showed interests in Tibet. Several times British sent troops to Tibet. Once they massacred 1,000 defenseless Tibetan soldiers (1904) and reached Lhasa. The 13th Dalai Lama had to run away to Mongolia. Instead of the traditional protection provided by the imperial court under this situation, the 13th Dalai Lama received a punishment which made him angry. The imperial court negotiated a treaty with British to settle the dispute.
The imperial court decided to establish a province `Xikang' to govern the area of West Szechuan and East Tibet which was the Xikang province in R.O.C., and no long existed in P.R.C.. The reasons were manifold; the court wanted to safe-guard the road from Szechuan to Tibet, and recognized the differences between those two areas.
The imperial court sent 1,000 soldiers from New Army (modern army) into Tibet as the garrison of Lhasa.
This is almost at the end of this article. We shall talk about the modern chapter of Tibetan history.
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9. Recent history
In this last part about the history of Tibet, I will talk about the most controversial parts of Tibetan history: (E) The state of semi-independent, 1911-1951, (F) part of P.R. China, 1951 to present.
(E) The state of semi-independent 1911--1951
(1) The revolution of China, 1911
Under the pressures of Western Powers and Japan, and domestic rebellions, Ching court lost its `Mandate of Heaven' (Tian-Min). When there was a small disturbance at a city along Yangtse river, the disturbance spread to several areas. Ching court decided to abdicate instead of fighting. Gone with Ching court was the old establishment which had helped ruling China for several thousand years.
Only after many years, did people realize that they lost not only `pig-tails' but also the central government of civilian services. China plunged into chaos. Many provinces were independent or semi-independent for one time or other.
Let us come back to the problem of Tibet. In 1911, the New Army which was the garrison of Lhasa revolt following the event of Yangtse river. Tsu Tsan Dachen was captured. Then there was a fight between Tibetan army and New Army. None wanted to fight to death. Each guarded a corner of Lhasa, and shot from a distance. It lasted a few months, and people ran back and forth to cry to each camp. Finally, New Army had enough and was bribed to leave. Since then until 1950, Tibetan army was the only force in Tibet.
Traditionally, Tibetan just wanted a peaceful land to worship Buddha. Naturally, the 13th Dalai Lama was not interested in independence which for sure would cause a lot of trouble for Tibet. Therefore, after the establishment of Republic (R.O.C.) in 1911, the 13th Dalai Lama always sent Tibetan representatives to the central government (largely in name only) of China as congressmen and managing Tibetan business as Temples managements etc.. It was impossible for the central government to send troops to a neighboring province, let alone sending troop to Tibet. There was a peaceful time as long as Tibet was concerned.
British ruled India and was very interested in the legal status of Tibet. Years ago (1907), British signed Treaty of St Petersburg with Russian to define the relation between Ching and Tibet as `suzerainty' without the knowledge of Ching court. Since then, it was used again and again by British. Tibetan sometimes used this term after 1911 which was never acknowledged by any central government of China. In 1913-14, British arranged a conference of Briton, Tibetan and Chinese central government at Simla, India to defined Tibet. The conference broke up without any common agreement.
(2) The period of Kuo-Fu (ROC or Kuomintang)
In 1927, Kuomintang successively conquered and ruled the tributary of Yangtse river. Most provinces acknowledge Kuo-Fu as the central government with capital in Nanking. Although nothing had changed just because of it.
Kuo-Fu set up a high ranking `Commission of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs' in the government imitating Ching's `Li-Fan Yuan' (ministry of national minorities, and foreign countries). At that time, the 9th Panchen Lama (who ruled a third of Tibet) was in trouble with the 13th Dalai Lama. The 9th Panchen Lama acted in the traditional way by going to the central government. Kuo-Fu was more than happy to receive him. As usual, he was bestowed a honorable title (someone may think it is higher than a Nobel Prize), given a large sum of money and a high position in the government. The 13th Dalai Lama was not very happy, and sent missionaries to the central government to complain. It was agreed that the 13th Dalai Lama should enjoy more honors, and commissions of the central government and Tibetan government should be sent to each capital, and Tibetans were sent as congressmen of the central government.
Kuo-Fu set up the province of Xikang as planned by Ching court. The act took away the eastern part of Tibet. In 1930, Tibetan army fought in Xikang with some local warlords (some one wanted to call it a Sino-Tibetan war). The appointed governor never again tried to rule the part of Tibet, and nobody cared as long as there was no disturbance. Later on, PRC abolished Xikang, and the present Tibet was exactly the same as in Ching Dynasty. In 1931, Tibetan army fought with Qinghai troops (the so-called Ma-chia army, the army of Ma family, Moslem army). The central government did its best to arrange cease fires. In the chaotic situation of China, hardly anyone noticed the battles.
After the 13th Dalai Lama passed away (1933), Yellow branch was looking for his reincarnation. In the meantime, the 9th Panchen Lama wanted to go back and was given an escort by Kuo-Fu to do so. However, Panchen Lama passed away in 1937 in Qinghai before reaching Tibet. In 1939, the chairman of `Commission of Mongolia and Tibetan Affairs', Wu Chung-Xin, went to Tibet to chair the ceremony of the 14th Dalai Lama(the present Dalai Lama) `sitting on his bed' (crowning) as the formal Tsu Tsan Dachen of Ching Dynasty would do. The regent of Tibet Radreng requested the government of R.O.C. to exempt the 14th Dalai Lama from the lottery system which was granted by a special decree. There were a lot of improvements of the relations. For instance, Tibetan congressmen wrote the Article about Tibet in the Constitution of R.O.C..
(F) Tibet is a part of P.R. China, 1951 to present.
In 1949, there was another big revolt in China, the Red army was triumphing over Kuo-Fu's army. The situation was clear to everybody, and Tibetan government decided to end the relation with Kuo-Fu by asking the commission of Kuo-Fu to leave. In the mean time, the Red army defeated Ma's Moslem army and conquered Qinghai and then conquered part of Xikang. From the fall of 1949 to the fall of 1950, there were a lot tensions between the government of PRC and Tibetan government. Naturally, Tibetan government wanted Red army to stop which was encouraged by Western Powers for the obvious reasons of disliking and distrusting the Red army.
In the fall of 1950, two sides fought a decisive battle in Chandu, located either in Eastern Tibet or Xikang province depending on your points of view. Tibetan army, some 5,000 strong, led by Kaloon Nga-Bou Nga-Wang Jig-Me was totally captured. The situation became impossible for Tibetan government. The 14th Dalai Lama took over and appointed Nga-Bou Nga-Wang Jig-Me as the leader of a delegation to Beijing to negotiate. The `Seventeen Article' Agreement signed was the same as what happened in history since the time of Yuan Dynasty. In the fall of 1951, the Red army following the tracks of Ching Emperor Qianlong advanced to Lhasa along the four fronts of Xinkiang, Qinghai, Szechuan and Yunnan.
The situation of Tibet resembled Qianlong's time (1720) of Ching Dynasty. The General of `Tibetan military zone' replaced Tsu Tsan Dachen, the government of `Autonomous Tibet' replaced Kaloon Government. However, there was a major difference. The mission of Tsu Tsan Dachen was to promote Yellow branch, while the General of `Tibet military zone' was to carry out the anti-religion policy of the central government. The government of PRC gradually applying her policies in Han area to Tibet. For instance, Buddhism was largely distroyed in Han area, and was discouraged in Tibet. The landlord class (who supported Chinese civilization for several thousand years) was largely purged in Han area, and was restricted in Tibet. From the point of view of Maxists, the above policies were only the `trend of history' and the `liberation of people', and it was the Tibetan who overthrew the `three big landowner classes' (San Da Ling Tsu) and liberated herself.
However, even treated with the milder policies of Maxists, some Tibetans had a hard time. Maybe after so many years of domestic battles in the land of Han (China proper), enough stories of Red were told, Han people expected what they got. What Tibetans got was a total surprise to them.
On March 10, 1959, the tension between Dalai Lama and the General exploded. The 14th Dalai Lama ran to India.
In 1962, China defeated India along the borders.
Later on, PRC modified parts of her policies in Tibet.
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10. Comments and My Personal Observations
Indeed the land of Tibet was beautiful. I was amazed and charmed by the mountains, rivers and lakes. The Tibetans were handsome and elegant. It was a dream land. The Tibetans loved to sing and dance. No wonder that it was called a ocean of songs and dances. The people was friendly. I had heard scary stories about the relations between Tibetan and Han. However, during my trip, there was no hostility except one minor event. I mingled freely with the crowd in Barkor street around Jokhang, and purchased several souvenirs there from Tibetans. Several Han workers were disillusioned after trying so many years to improve the local situations and prepared to leave. Some Han artists fell in love with Tibet, its land and people, and avowed to stay.
As far as I can observe during my trip to Tibet in 1988, there are very few Han in Tibet. In fact, in Tibet (proper), there are only 2 millions people with some 70,000 non-Tibetan (including soldiers). There are at least 10 different subraces in the Greater Tibet (a term not commonly used, including Qinghai, parts of Szechuan and Yunnan, corresponding to Tibet Dynasty). Most of the subraces have been there for tens of centuries and probably were the natives of the land before the Tibetans immigrating to there. Out of a total population of some 13 millions, 3.8 millions (some western writters like to use a figure of 6 millions) are Tibetans , 2 % are Han (somewhere around 200,000 people including soldiers), the rest are Moslems, Mongolians, Turks, Tu, Baiyi, Yi etc. Some propagandists counted them as `Chinese migrations', and concluded wrongly that there were more `Chinese' than Tibetans in the land of Tibet. It was unreasonable to re-build Tibet Dynasty in today's world, just as to re-build a Serb dominating Yugoslavia. This was an irrationality of `Tibet Independent Movement' as proposed which includes Qinghai, parts of Szechuan and Yunnan.
I would like to interrupt for a minute. After hearing so many arguments about China or Chinese, I found a lot of them were just semantics. What is the meaning of `Chinese'? Does it mean `citizen (or nationalities) of China' or just `Han'? In the first sense, anybody, independent of race, could theoretically become a Chinese. In the second sense, China probably should deserve a different English term. I do not mean that we should never use those terms. However, if any disagreement appears, then one should reflect and be careful.
An important problem arose from the above semantics: China as traditional known was never a racist state, therefore, it was irrational to equal China with the country of Han people. Not only Yuan (Mongolia) Dynasty and Ching (Manchu) Dynasty were recognized as Chinese Dynasties, there were many non-Han Dynasties which were treated exactly as any Han-Dynasty. Even Tang Dynasty which was no doubt a Han-Dynasty in many people's mind was really ambiguous. It was known that the matriarch of the royal family was a Turk, and the patriarch had no known family background of any kind. Furthermore, according to a famous Tang poet Dupu, the royal family had the characteristic of high nose! (Guo Di Tze Sun Jin Lon Dzun). Possibly non-Han. The government of Tang was full of non-Han including Tibetan. But who cared? The only thing one really cared was if the Chinese civilization was maintained, which meant if `Chung' (loyalty to the Emperor, to the civilization, to the state), `Hsiao' (to respect parents and elders), `Jie' (self-sacrifices, which were especially applied to females facing rapists), `Yee' (fraternity) had their positions. Almost all people in the past had no problem in recognizing a Han Emperor, a Turk Emperor, a Mongolia Emperor, a Manchu Emperor, or a Tibetan King of China. Anyone who took a revisionist and racist point of view about Chinese civilization was likely a racist oneself.
The high mountains and bad weathers make the area non-self-sufficient. There were material improvements for the daily life of Tibetans. For instance, there were wide spread electricity in Tibet, although limited. While I was in Nagqu (northern Tibet), there were only 4 hours supply of electricity daily, and most people had used cotton clothes, and vegetables (which traditional were considered to be weeds) etc. All those materials came from Han area, most likely under the costs. I saw the trains of trucks carrying materials to Tibet, and going back emptied. It would be hard for Tibetan to live in the old way, and the new way of life demanded substantial aids from somewhere else. Anyone who proposed a future plan for Tibet had to tell us where the aids (around $ 200 millions per year) would come from.
I observed that the highways from Qinghai, Szechuan, Yunnan, Xinkiang had been constructed. The army could reach Lhasa from there in 1 day. It was impossible to carry out a successive military action against PRC in Tibet.
Were there discriminations against Tibetans? It depended on your point of view. From the point of view of Maxists, since the policies in Tibet were not as `advanced' as in Han area, you might argue for the existences of discriminations. If you were a non-Maxist and a religious person, then you would think Han people was discriminated against.
There were substantial destructions of Buddhism which were loved by most Tibetans and a lot of other people in China. It was against the traditional way of governing China. I observed that most people, including communists and cadets, were Buddhists in Tibet. Some communists and cadets would recite some Buddhism scriptures, or simply `Om Ma Ni Pa Me Hum' before going to work.
Is the destruction of Buddhism inevitable as predicted by Buddha? The modern era is the dark age of religion. In Europe and Japan, the power of monasteries disappeared. In Japan, after Meiji reformation, most temples had only one monk, the Abbot, while hundreds or even thousands before. The Japanese Government simply forced them out. What is right? Why did Japanese succeed and PROC failed? I can not tell.
On the problem of cultures other than religion, I disliked the way of administration of the University in Tibet. They emphasized too much on literatures and liberal arts. I thought to develop Tibet, one should have experts on all subjects. Once I talked with some Tibetan writters in 1988, I wanted to know why they were writing in Han characters, were there too much Sinicization? They told me that only novels in Han character would have a huge market in Han land. Once I was inside `Tibet autonomous government', all signs were written in Tibetan only, I had a hard time finding my way around. It was a wishful thinking to develop all cultures, science, mathematics, archeology, etc, along every race line. In U.S.A., one could only encourage a bi-lingual education, and could not prohibit English for any minority race. It would do more harm for the said minority, if English was not allowed. With the present population of Tibet, I did not foresee the possibility and advantage of restricting the education only to Tibetan. Anyone who proposed this rule was only condescending on the completely unknown Han written civilization.
In the old time, there were a lot of cordial relations between Tibetan and Han people. Tibetans loved to talk about Princess Wen-Cheng, say, in the writting of the 5th Dalai Lama the great. Now, many Tibetans tried to avoid the topic. What a change! The danger is the vicious cycle of violences. The happiness of Tibetan is the most important issue. I foresaw a future Tibet in the traditional fashion. Hopefully, nothing bad and irrational would happen to them.
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1) Annals of T'ang:
2) Annals of Five Dynasties:
3) Annals of Song
4) Annals of Yuan:
5) Materials Pertaining to Tibet in the Veritable Records of the Ming and Ch'ing Dynasties. Compiled by Lo Hsiang-Lin. Centre of Asia Studies, University of Hong Kong, 1981.
6) Nag-dban-bb-bzan-rgya-mtsho (Hsi-tsang wang ch'en chi) the 5th Dalai Lama, translated into Han characters by Guo Hojin, Nationality Publication, Beijing, 1982.
7) Tibet and the Tibetan. Tsung-Lien Shen and Shen-Chi Liu. Stanford University Press. 1952.
8) Tibetan Civilization. R.A.Stein, translated by J.E.Stapleton Driver. Stanford University Press. 1972.
9) India's China War. N. Maxwell, Anchor Books, Doubleday & Company, Inc 1972.
10) My tour of Ching-Kang-Tsan high plateau, Chen Jo-shi, Linking Press, Taiwan. 1990
11) Glimpses of Northern Tibet, Ma Lihua, Panda Books, Chinese Literature Press, Beijing, China. 1991
12) Chronology of Chinese Dynasties
13) Chinese History Time-line
14) History of China
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