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30 September

A Brief Introduction of Tibet History And Lamaism

A Brief Introduction of

Tibet History And Lamaism


Wang Zai-Tian





1. Origin of Tibetan

2. Rise of Tibetan Kingdom

3. Expansion of Tibet

4. Entry of Buddhism

5. Civil War

6. Achievements in Diaspora (I)

7. Live Buddha

8. The Fifth Dalai Lama (I)

9. The Fifth Dalai Lama (II)

10. Rural Tibet Life (I)

11. Rural Tibet Life (II)

12. Tibet As It Used To Be (I)

13. Tibet As It Used To Be (II)

14. Threat from the West

15. The Britain Invasion

16. The McMahon Line

17. Debut of the 14th Dalai Lama

18. The Tibet Trade Mission

19. Where Is My Army?

20. A Demon’s War

21. The 17-Point Agreement

22. 1950s: the Honeymoon

23. The CIA-manipulated Revolt

24. The Failure of One Country Two Systems in Tibet: A Short Review

25. Achievements in Diaspora (II)

26. The Shadow of Diaspora

27. Situation of Tibetan Refugees

28. Back in Tibet

29. India-China Skirmish (I)

30. India-China Skirmish (II)

31. India-China Skirmish (III)

Appendix I: Various Views on Tibetan Independence

Appendix II: Tibet’s Assault On Silk Road

Appendix III: Glossary






The best single description of pre-1950 Tibetan society is “feudal”

— A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet.


Tibet was a rare sample that had been under feudal system almost throughout its history.  Since the first Tibetan kingdom was founded upon aboriginal tribes’ union in the seventh century, it was not until early 20th century that Tibet’s feudalism was endangered by external influences.  The futile attempt to defend this decaying institution and the clashes inevitably followed, in spite of efforts towards a peaceful solution from both sides, finally resulted in the exile of 14th Dalai Lama in AD1959.  Months later, the serf class rose to the power.


To explore the history of Tibet, one has to bear in mind that there had been no capitalism, let alone socialism, but feudalism only.  We will, as this booklet proceeds, rely a lot on this fact to interpret events and phenomena of this great nation that remains mysterious to most outsiders.

1. Origin of Tibetan


According to Tibetan mythology, Tibetans are descendants of a male macaque and a demoness who succeeded in her enduring efforts to seduce it.  They reproduced six kids, which later proliferated to five hundred macaques.  Fruits were soon exhausted and they had to grow cereal, during which they became human beings.


There are several points we could infer from this legend.  Firstly, monkey was obviously the main totem of prehistoric Tibetan tribes.  We could further conjecture that Tibetans possibly originated from Himalayan forests living on food-collection instead of from the barren Tibetan Plateau leading a nomadic life: there is hardly any monkey in this plateau at all.  Most likely it was in the southeast edge of Himalayas along Yalutsangpu River Valley near Myanmar and Yunnan, where sub-tropical climate and abundance of protein enabled human beings to survive the last glacial period.


Secondly, the image of demoness reflects the reminiscence of cruel and violent female reign during matriarchy era [1], which is shared by most mythology all over the world.  In a sense this demoness is the Tibetan counterpart of Amazon warriors.  The description that this demoness stayed in a cave further proved that she represents a group of aboriginal Tibetans.


Thirdly, it described the transition from food-collection to food-production, which most races of mankind experienced during their childhood.  It was followed with the transition from matriarchy to patriarchy, expressed in various mythologies as goddess married to god. [2]


Then why did Tibetan migrate from fertile river valley or forest-covered mountain to the sterile Tibet Plateau?  There are various hypotheses, among which the Qiang-influence hypothesis sounds most credible.


Qiang (Chiang) was an ancient nomadic nation that originated from Northwest China.  After the agricultural Han Dynasty of China finally succeeded in expelling Huns, their northern nomadic feud, to Central Asia [3], Qiang became Han’s top threat.  During the 2-3rd century the two nations were constantly in fierce battles against each other.  By the end of the 3rd century, however, it seemed that Qiangs were inevitably losing the war.  Some Qiang tribes stayed and mixed with Han into Chinese [4].  Some others moved southwards along the southeastern boundary of Tibetan Plateau and settled down in Kham area, which is now western Sichuan Province and northwestern Yunnan Province of China.  They are the ancestors of many ethnic groups nowadays in this region, such as Naxi people of Lijiang, to name one famous example.


Chinese Annals claimed that Tibetan is a collateral branch of Qiang.  This is very complicated to validate.  Most historians believe that Qiang never entered any deeper into Tibetan Plateau other than Kham and Amdo, where they are now still living together with Tibetans and other ethnic groups.  However, their migration into Kham doubtlessly caused drastic changes to local nations, including aboriginal Tibetans.  Furthermore, Qiang’s nomadic tradition might have affected the economy structure of Tibetans, and pushed them to higher Tibet Plateau [5].  This was parallel to that Huns drove the Goth savages from Central Europe to the Western and the Southern Europe.


This hypothesis is based on assumption that Tibetans had firstly resided in the southeastern foothill of Himalayas.  The lack of history records of early Tibetans made the restoration of Tibet history an extremely tough job.  Nonetheless, the already few and broken mythology from which we could draw some information had been seriously interpolated by lamas, the only intellectual class of Tibet, in their interest.


Take the macaque-legend as an example, lamas adapted it to serve their religious propaganda.  One version claims that the macaque was sent by Avalokitesvara, one of the most important bodhisattvas [6], to bring the vicious demoness under control.  Another even claims that the monkey was an incarnation of Avalokitesvara himself [7].  Because of such interpolation, Tibetans regards Avalokitesvara as their savior.  To apotheosize himself and solidify his power, each Dalai Lama claimed himself to be incarnation of this deity.


One more evidence to be raised before we end this chapter: although Tibetan language adopted its script from Sanskrit, it belongs to the Sino-Tibetan Language Family.  There is active research to locate Tibetan origin by comparing linguistic features among languages used around Tibetan Plateau, especially the Qiang language.




[1] It is noteworthy that, notwithstanding the fact that a patriarchy society was anthropologically more advanced than matriarchy one, the brutal image of the latter could have been created, or at least exaggerated, by the male chiefs in an attempt to smear the female chiefs from whom they grabbed leadership.


[2] A good example is the Hindu deity Krishna.  He was from one of the five Aryan tribes, nomadic intruders into the subcontinent.  The number of his wives was counted at, surprisingly, 16108, representing how the patriarchy Aryan assimilated with the aboriginal matriarchy nations: it enables both nations worship both deities together.

D.D. Kosambi, The Culture and Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline, Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1998, p.130


[3] Many historians believed that this ousted nation was the same one that, after decades, arrived in east Europe under their vigorous leader Attila and built their country called Hungary.  A chain-reaction took place soon.  The Hun ousted Goth tribes from their native Central European forest to Western and Southern Europe, which was then Roman Empire territory.  These savages finally destroyed and replaced Roman institution with their own, as France, Germany, Spain and England soon came into being.


[4] This ethnic union was not at all straightforward.  Han Dynasty collapsed in AD220 and China fell apart one century later.  Qiang, Hun and other nomadic nations that had been conquered and governed by Han took this opportunity to restore their states.  Civil war broke out among them all over China.  This was arguably the darkest period in China history.  However, all these nations finally converted to Chinese culture and refreshed it.  A short-lived Sui Dynasty reunified them in AD589 before it was replaced by Tang Dynasty in AD618.  A restructured China entered a new prime time.


[5] The earliest Tibetan epic, Gesar of Ling, provided supporting evidence to this hypothesis.  The epic is about how King Gesar of mountain state Ling fought with demons and Naxis, which was a Qiang branch now still living in Yunnan and Kham region.  It illustrates that Tibetan probably originated in Kham region.


[6] Bodhisattva means savior in Buddhism.


[7] Avalokitesvara was allegedly a male disciple of Buddha Sakyamuni.  He was once sent by the Buddha to turn into a beauty so as to convert a heretic.  Probably because of this, Avalokitesvara became a female protective deity (Guan-Yin) when Buddhism spread to China.  Since Tibetan Buddhism was influenced by both, this bodhisattva become bisexual.  For example, the current 14th Dalai Lama was identified as the reincarnation partly because of his female name Lhamo Dhondup, meaning Goddess to Fulfill Your Wish

2. Rise of Tibetan Kingdom


In AD602, Tibet nation evolved into the Tibetan Kingdom [1] based on a loose union of hundreds of tribes scattered in the southwestern corner of Tibetan Plateau.  The northeastern part, Amdo, was controlled by a nomadic Qiang kingdom called Tuyuhun, while the southeastern part, Kham, was governed by China and its dependencies.


At roughly the same time Tang Dynasty was founded, which brought China into one of its prime times.  In Tang’s early years, the Turks was the main enemy on its north frontier, while Tuyuhun was Turks’ ally threatening from Tang’s west.  To address this danger, Tang Dynasty first defeated Tuyuhun in AD634.  Tang expedition soon withdrew from the desolate Tibetan Plateau, while Tibetan Kingdom followed up to profit from its conquered neighbor and seized most of Amdo.  This expansion laid the cornerstone of Tibet’s prosperity in the next two centuries.


From the same year Tibet started to raid Tang border but retreated soon after Tang reinforced a troop. King Songsten Gampo then proposed to marry a Tang princess when he saw Tang marry princesses to his neighboring nations, a traditional Chinese tactic to contain strategical rivals and forge alliance with them. Tang had no interest to hold a second frontier besides one with Turks.  As a gesture of peace, Tang emperor agreed to marry a princess to Songsten Gampo in AD641.


It worked.  Tang married two princesses to Tibet in seventy years, which resulted in Tang’s being able to focus on its war with the Turks, and won it finally.  Like the Huns in the first century BC, the Turks were expelled out of Central Asia. The main part of them kept moving west, finally captured Byzantium, destroyed the Eastern Roman Empire and renamed this city as Istanbul. [2]


The peace between Tibet and China was soon endangered.  As mentioned, Tibetan Kingdom was a union of tribes.  The kings were from the Yarlung lineage while the prime ministers were from Mgar family.  The royal marriage forged close relation between Yarlung and Tang Dynasty [3], but not with the prime minister.  After Songsten Gampo died in AD650, his grandson inherited the throne and the power was totally seized by the Mgar family, who controlled both cabinet and army.  In AD663 Tibet started war to destroy Tuyuhun.  Tuyuhun asked for help from Tang but the latter was fully engaged in war with Koguryo.  A delayed reinforcement of 100,000-strong Tang troops attempting to restore Tuyuhun was defeated in AD670 when Tibet mobilized all its army of 400,000 [4].


The conquest of Tuyuhun opened for Tibet the gate to Central Asia.  The transit between Tang and its Central Asia dependencies was then fully exposed to Tibetan cavalry.  The latter soon started to raid trade caravans and towns.  After one town near Dunhuang was sacked, for example, the Tibetan Annals happily recorded this robbery, saying that Tibetans could now wear silk clothes made in China. [5]


The Mgar family was exterminated in AD698 when the Yarlung lineage regained control of Tibet [6].  However, the relation between Tibet and China didn’t restore, as the great game in Central Asia had started right after Turks’ rout.  It was among the four main players of the world at that time.


  • The previous ruler of Central Asia, the Turks, was resting in the Siberia steppe seeking opportunity of a glorious return, although the better part of them has moved to the west.  Turks and Tibet made a constant vertical (north-south) alliance to attack their mutual enemy, Tang, as well as to block the new challenger, the Arabs, from entering this area.


  • The vigorous Tang Empire, in the east, regarded this region as the only frontier from which any external threats could arise [7].  It thus took an aggressive defense strategy that tried to make Xinjiang and Central Asia the buffer between the nomadic “barbarians” and the agricultural Chinese.


Tang controlled this region through numerous local state nations that shifted their loyalty from Turks to this new suzerain, as well as small but high-quality frontier troops protecting them.  The silk-road came into being meanwhile as a by-product of this fortified military passage.


  • In the west, the Arab Empire, or Tazi as Persians first called them and later adopted by both China and Tibet as well, emerged almost the same time as Tibet did [8].  According to many, Arab Empire’s advance into South Asia and Central Asia was simply aimed to keep its idle generals occupied.  Therefore, it was believed that the Arab Empire didn’t have much aspiration in Central Asia and granted its frontier commanders with great authority.  The latter was easily satisfied after they conquered a land of their own [9].  A horizontal (west-east) alliance was tacitly forged between China and Tazi to separate the aggressive vertical alliance and to maintain the security and stability of Central Asia.


  • For the Tibetan Kingdom, which lies in the most barren land on the earth, since the Himalayas blocked from its west, Tang to its east, it could seek expansion only in the north, which is Central Asia.


Tang Emperor made one of the most foolish decisions in the history by granting Tibet the Hetao area, an alluvion of the Yellow River, as the dowry for its second Princess JinCheng married to Tibet in AD710.  The sterile Tibet Plateau couldn’t sustain a large military force, but a fertile alluvion could.  Tibet soon combined its nomadic and agricultural strengths and created a powerful cavalry army, which enabled it to seek aggression into Central Asia. [10]


The above comparison shows that of the four superpowers of that time, China and Arab were stronger.  They sat at the two ends of the silk-road, content with Central Asia as a buffer between them.  For Turks and Tibet, however, both regarded this region as their lifeline.  A highly complicated quadrupole game of military and politics unfolded. [11]




[1] Or Yarlung Dynasty since the leading tribe originated from Yarlung Valley


[2] The Turks always dreams to restore their glory in Central Asia.  Some propose to unite from Turkey to Xinjiang into one big Turks nation.  The Uigur separatists in Xinjiang (Sinkiang) Province of China, who share no racial relation with Turks, responded and pledged to build an East Turkistan country.  They were funded by Turkey to engage in terrorism.  These organizations were finally labeled as terrorist groups in AD2002 in exchange of China’s help in US-led anti-terrorism action in Afghanistan.


[3] When Tang envoy Wang Xuan-Ce was raided in North India in AD648, he simply sent a message to Songsten Gampo to organize a united army of Tibet and Nepal, then dependency of Tibet, and conquered the offensive Indian state.


[4] Even in AD1957 there were only 2.8 million Tibetans.  Assume in 7th century the population was the same, which was unlikely, 400,000 meant one soldier from every four men.  This was obviously the entire military strength of Tibet.


[5] This paragraph of annal is very interesting that Appendix III is dedicated for its details and interpretation


[6] Only the marshal of Tibetan army escaped and fled to his enemy, Tang, seeking refuge.


[7] Unfortunately it proved later that the empire imploded.


[8] The rise of Tazi resulted from the decline of the Persian Sassanian Empire battered by the alliance of Byzantine and Turks from both sides.  These two temporary friends soon engaged in war between themselves, whereas the Arab Empire conquered West Asia without much competition.


[9] This was essentially why Tazi didn’t follow when China withdrew from Central Asia in late 8th century


[10] Wang Xiao-Fu, The History of Political Relations between the Tang Dynasty, Tibet and Arab in Central Asia, Peking University Press, 1992, p.351


[11] I will introduce only Tibet-related issues on this topic.  A thorough introduction of this world war in Central Asia will be my next project.

3. Expansion of Tibet


Conflicts broke out when Tibetan Kingdom forced one of Tang’s protectorates, Palür, to convert to Tibet and built a fortress between Palür and Tang.  This fortress blocked score of other nations of their route to China.  All of them submitted to Tibet subsequently.


To revenge and to resume the silk-road that had been severed, Tang Empire sent out General Gao Xian-Zhi with a small troop in AD747 to regain the control in this area. An ethnic Koguryo [1] who was later titled by his Arab rivals as “Sahib jihal al-Sin” [2], Gao secretly surmounted the prohibitive Pamirs, defeated the unaware Tibetan garrison of similar number to his expedition and captured the fortress in now Afghanistan.  He then continued to cross the glacier-covered Hindu Kush and finally led this small expedition to occupy Palür in now Gilgit of Pakistan by surprise.  Tang’s previous dependencies returned and Tibet’s first attempt of expansion into Central Asia was shattered.


Nonetheless, Tang Empire itself failed to control Central Asia for much longer.  The wave of dominoes that Central Asian countries submitted to Tang Empire was soon stopped by the rising Arab Empire. [3]


In AD751 armies of Abbasid Dynasty and Tang Dynasty encountered at the Battle of Talas.  Tang army was highly outnumbered [4].  Although Gao Xian-Zhi, now Tang’s governor in Central Asia, gained a temporary edge in the first five days of fighting, the betrayal of his ally, Qarluq, became the last straw that doomed his defeat.


Battle of Talas would not have been the end of competition over Central Asia between the Chinese and the Arabs.  After the narrow success in Talas, Arab Empire never convinced itself to advance further, destroy Tang’s military bases in Xinjiang and drove Chinese out of Central Asia, whereas the battered Tang frontier troops [5] soon recovered.  In AD753 the newly assigned governor Feng Chang-Qing actually initiated a new round of political and military expansion into this arena.


Before long, however, both General Feng and Gao were called back. [6]


The reason was: in AD755 Tang’s northeastern frontier commander, General An Lu-Shan, waged rebellion, which fired up a prolonged civil war that brought to an end the prime of Tang Dynasty.  Tang government recalled its Central Asia troops to withstand the fierce rebel, resulting in an empty Xinjiang as well as hardly guarded Tang-Tibet border.  The Chinese therefore forever lost Central Asia to Islam, while Xinjiang was regained almost one thousand years later during Qing Dynasty.


In AD763, eight year after Chinese civil war broke out, Tibet king Trisong Detsen stepped into throne and terminated peace with China.  Tibetan army attacked Tang along a boundary over one thousand kilometers.  They soon sacked the empty Tang capital of Chang’an.


In the south, Tibet gradually penetrated into Kham area, a remote region resided by minor nations and garrisoned by Tang frontier force.  Because of the extensive civil war in the north, this army dwindled and was seriouly outnumbered by Tibetan troops.  In one instance, Tibetans sent a girl to marry the gatekeeper of an important fortress, Weizhou.  After 20 years her two sons opened the gate and the Tibetan army flowed into the fortress. [7]


Without enough military strength to fight on both frontiers, Tang government sought peace negotiation with Tibet.  The latter correctly analyzed the situation that, although it was impossible for Tibetan Kingdom to destroy Tang Empire and conquer China, negotiation would mean the end of pirating in this abundant country.  Therefore, its strategy was to prolong negotiation, meanwhile kept profiting from China’s civil war.  In AD787 the two parties finally agreed to sign a truce in Pingliang.  It only proved to be another trap.  Tibetan troops ambushed the Tang mission right outside the summit meeting venue, leaving only the Tang prime minister narrowly escaped. [8]


Tang had to give up any expectation for reconciliation with Tibet.  But the problem remained that it didn’t afford to fight on two frontiers.  Tang then turned to its dependencies.  In the north it constructed close alliance with Uigur, a newly rising power after Tang withdrew from Xinjiang.  This area was shortly occupied by Tibet around AD792 but the local Uigurs soon drove them out.  Uigur reinforcement inflicted heavy loss to Tibet army, which soon retreated from China.  In the south, Tang called on its dependency in Yunnan to fight the Tibetan intruders, which suffered great loss and withdrew too. [9]


By the end of eighth century, the expansion of Tibet into China had been successfully curbed.


However, at that moment Tibet was still a decisive player in the world.  It could have become another Mongol Empire and conquered the neighboring civilizations such as India and China.  Nobody would have imagined its rapid degeneration and later falling as a part of China, the key factor being Lamaism.




[1] Koguryo was an ancient kingdom that recently became China’s dependency.  It covered part of North Korea and northeastern China.


[2] It means “Chinese Lord of Mountains”.


[3] In AD750 Abu al-Abbas and his army captured Damascus and overthrew the Umayyad Dynasty of Arab Empire.  Since then Baghdad witnessed the new empire, Abbasid Dynasty, survive over five hundred years until Mongol invasion.


[4] Tang: ~20,000 Chinese soldiers and ~10,000 alliance troops; Tazi: ~40,000 Arab soldiers and over ~100,000 alliance troops


[5] Right after the Battle of Talas there were in total only several thousand frontier troops in Tang’s Central Asia bases.


[6] Gao and Feng, Tang Dynasty’s best generals, were executed on the same day in the same court, at a cost for their defeats in the civil war because the untrained army they were given collapsed at the first encounter.


[7] Shen Xu, (Old) Tang History, Vol.41, p.1690


[8] Fan Wen-Lan, A Brief Chinese General History, Shijiazhuang: Hebei Education Press, 2000, p.87


[9] Now Tibet Government in Exile claims all these territory, including Xinjiang and Yunnan provinces, to be Tibet territory because more than twelve hundred years ago Tibetans cavalry arrived there.

4. Entry of Buddhism


Buddhism was introduced to Tibet by two princesses from Nepal [1] and China from both sides of the Plateau.  The Tang princess, WenCheng, alone brought 360 scrolls of Buddhism scriptures, a Buddha sculpture as well as lots of monks to Tibet.  To accommodate them, his husband King Songsten Gampo built the first Buddhism temple, Jokhang [2], in Lhasa.


Before that, Tibet’s dominant religion was Bonism, a type of Shamanism [3].  It is now still alive, mixed with Lamaism and called the Black-Hat Sect of Lamaism.  As in any other counterpart during transition from slavery to feudalism, the Tibet king was merely the leader of many feudal lords, which evolved from tribe chiefs.  Like them, he had to obey the instruction from Bon priests, who were masters of rituals.  This remnant of slavery regime obviously restricted his power.  The king hence sought to get rid of Bon priests’ influence from politics, and Buddhism became the best choice, at least he thought so.


Therefore, Tibetan kings became fervent promoters of Buddhism.  Trisong Detsen, the king who ended peace with China, invited Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava [4] from India around AD780.  He never realized what a terrible decision he had made, which would before long cost his dynasty and broke Tibet into parts.


The name Padma-sambhava means Lotus Born.  Lamaism scripture has it that, born in buds of a lotus on Lake Danakosha near Afghanistan-Pakistan border, Mr. Padmasambhava was the incarnation of Buddha Amitabha.  Others adulated him as the incarnation of Avalokitesvara, therefore he was the previous incarnation of Dalai Lama.  Before he was invited to Tibet, he had lived 3600 years in India, he claimed. [5]


When he was still a boy he was so brave to kill a sleeping baby with a stone in head, then wisely justified it with the pretense that the child would have become a malignant magician who would have harmed many people in his later life.  A minister put him into confinement but he successfully escaped and stood on the roof, holding a trident and a vajra (essentially a metal stick) in hands.  When he spotted the minister with his wife and son, without warning his trident speared through the heart of the mother and the vajra penetrated the brain of the boy. We don’t know what happened to the minister who attempted to bring justice to the murdered baby.


It is also recorded that Padmasambhava was once put on a pile of sandalwood by another evil-minded governor to be burnt to death, but he miraculously transformed the fire into a huge lake filled with lotuses.  Another story in circulation crowed about how he killed a king and impregnated his 900 wives so as to produce children who were devoted to the Buddhist teaching. [6]


It is obvious that Mr. Padmasambhava himself made up this curriculum vitae to his bewildered Tibetan audience.  I leave to my readers to analyze the mental status of this magician who dreamed himself to be so powerful to slay women and children.


Indian historians found that Mr. Padmasambhava was actually born in a minister’s family in Uddiyana, a renowned cradle of tantric practicers.  According to Indologist Ramachandra Rao, in the early phase of Tantrism the membership of a particular religion was in no way the deciding criterion for a yogi’s worldview.  Rather, it was the tantric technique which made them members of an esoteric community [7].  Therefore, it’s unconvinced whether Mr. Padmasambhava was a genuine Buddhist in the first place, or rather, another Voldemort-style sorcerer.


Mr. Padmasambhava demanded his own weight in gold bars as his fee for “enlightening Tibet with Buddhism”. When this wizard, who held a rod bearing three tiny impaled human skulls as his brand scepter, first met King Trisong Detsen, the latter demanded his bow.  Scripture recorded that Padmasambhava sprayed lightning from his fingertips and made the king kneel down instead.  This is well above what a wizard could achieve and probably another afterwards gilding.


Moreover, it is contradicting to what Lamaism scripture claims that the first four Tibetan kings who promoted Buddhism were reincarnations of four brothers, whose mother was born from the tear of Avalokitesvara.  Complicated, isn’t it?  It’s saying that Avalokitesvara, the savior of Tibet, wept for the backward Tibet (we could thus assume this bisexual bodhisattva is female in this case).  Goddess Gangchungma was then born from her tear, and her four sons swore to promote Buddhism in Tibet during their reincarnation as Tibet kings.  Trisong Detsen was one of them.  Then why should Trisong Detsen, essentially the messenger from Avalokitesvara, clash with Padmasambhava, the incarnation of Avalokitesvara itself?


After all, we couldn’t expect religious statements to be consistent.  Let’s behave tolerance and move on.


Padmasambhava energetically helped Trisong Detsen to remove any political obstacles in his way toward autocracy, in a brutal way.  Bon priests and their aristocrat followers were forced to convert to Buddhism.  Those refused to do so were ruthlessly executed, their corpses deserted into rivers.  Many fled to wilderness to survive this horrible massacre led by this “Buddha Amitabha” [8].  The Tibetan army, where Bonism priests had been highly influential, must have suffered severe purge and never recovered its strength.


Apparently there would be resistance, one coming from Trisong Detsen’s wife, Tes Pongza, who warned that Padmasambhava was not a noble Buddhist but a tantric Hindu magician bringing disaster to Tibet.  Padmasambhava and his disciples loathed her but couldn’t take any action other than write in their scripture that Tes Pongza opposed Padmasambhava simply because she fell in deep love to him but was rejected by this holy Buddha.


Furthermore, Padmasambhava dedicated to topple the old social order, which to large extent was the remnant of tribal public ownership: what the tribe raised in field and what it captured from battles belonged to the whole tribe.  Tibetan chronicles have the story of how the king attempted, for three times, to redistribute wealth evenly among the entire Tibetan populace—only to discover that the previously wealthy continue to get wealthier and the poor, poorer.  When the king complained about his inability to carry out his plan, the sorcerer was alleged to have said to him that our condition in this life is entirely dependent upon the actions of our previous life and nothing can be done to alter the scheme of things.


This story is certainly apocryphal, since it’s impossible for wealth reallocation, if there was ever any, to finish thrice during Padmasambhava’s “fifty” years in Tibet.  It was doubtlessly intended as a lesson to whomever might question his or her lowly social status and to reinforce the notion that struggle for change would be fruitless.  With such trick Padmasambhava solidified the new social order, which came along with territory expansion and economy development.


That is to say, besides being a Buddhism missionary, Padmasambhava acted as a political advisor and brought to Tibet its most wanted institution when Tibet was undergoing a social transition from aboriginal tribes to feudalism.


Padmasambhava started the prosperity of Buddhism, or more exactly, Lamaism, in Tibet.  In his request, on May 15th of AD799 Trisong Detsen built the Samye Monastery, which became the holiest monastery for Lamaism, like Mecca for Islam.  Samye was built to facilitate Buddhism indoctrination to Tibet aristocrats.  It’s the cradle of Lamaism, which is a medley of two primeval religions, namely Tantrism of South India and Bonism of Tibetan Plateau, and, last and least, cloaked with Buddhism.




[1] Tibet interfered in Nepal royal struggle and propped up a pro-Tibet government that married the princess to Songsten Gampo in acknowledgement. Shen Xu, (Old) Tang History, Vol.198, p.5290


[2] Jokhang remains to this day one of the most important temples in Tibet, and Dalai Lama had claimed it to be his property ever since his sect grabbed Tibet regime in 17th century.  After the 14th Dalai Lama settled in Dharamsala of India, he ordered his government in exile build a simplified Jokhang there.


[3] Evidences suggest that Tibetan Bonism may have been deeply affected by Parseeism from Central Asia.  Chapter 10&11 gives more details.


[4] Known by common Tibetans as Guru Rinpoche, meaning Master of Jewel.


[5] After his “3600 years” life in India, he lived in Tibet for merely fifty years and three months, a figure itself is doubtfully long.


[6] Stories about Padmasambhava are compiled by Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Der Schatten des Dalai Lama: Sexualit, Magie und Politik im Tibetischen Buddhismus (The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism), Patmos, 1999, Part II Chapter 5


[7] Ramachandra Rao, S. K., Sri-Cakra, Delhi, 1989, p. 42


[8] As a result, the remote North Tibet for the first time in history saw large immigration.

5. Civil War


Now the Bon priests felt the fatal threat.  Were all Tibetans converted to Buddhism, no matter voluntary or forced to do so, they would end up jobless and lost all their privilege and power.  They had to fight back.  In AD838, they murdered the drunken king Tritsu Detsen, a fanatical adherent of Buddhism who pushed through a harsh regime of monastic despotism that placed the rights of the monks far above those of ordinary people, and sent his brother Langdarma to the throne.  The first decree of the new king was prohibition of Buddhism.


In the Lamaism scripture Tritsu Detsen was of course depicted as one of the four messengers from Avalokitesvara.  It smeared Langdarma as the incarnation of a donkey, who belonged to but loathed his four owners. [1]


Soon came the counterattack from the Lamaism side.  In AD842 they sent Palgyi Dorje, disguised as a black-hat Bon priest requesting to meet Langdarma, to commit regicide.  In order to bring the murder into accord with the Buddhist commandment against any form of killing, lamas evaluated it as a gesture of compassion: in being killed, Langdarma was prevented from collecting even more bad karma and plunging ever more people into ruin.  In this sense Palgyi Dorje didn’t kill Langdarma but nobly and mercifully liberated him from further bad karma.


The assassin’s heroic deeds have been ever since dramatized in Tibetan Opera, Vcham. It’s still on play annually in Samye Monastery. [2]


The assassination irreversibly destroyed the fragile political balance of Tibetan Kingdom, a loose tribe union, and facilitated feudal lords to mushroom.  It triggered a bloody civil war that lasted for centuries.


Lamaism, the only beneficiary, thrived during this period.  From now on I will no longer refer to this Tibetan religion as Buddhism, since I regard it discredit to categorize Lamaism as a genuine denomination of Buddhism.  Buddhism was no doubt one of the main origins of Lamaism.  Nonetheless, just like Christianity is not a denomination of Judaism (I am not saying Christianity is a degeneration of Judaism), Lamaism is essentially, if not completely, different from Buddhism.


Historically Buddhism was founded to counter Brahmanism, the predecessor of Hinduism. It emphasizes equality and mercy to counter caste, atheism [3] to counter polytheism, and meditation to counter rituals.  Buddhism denies any god who could affect, let alone govern, the fate of human being. Instead it interprets the suffering and inequality that current life is simply retribution of what one has done in previous one, or karma.  In this sense, it’s not god but human being itself who determines its future and next life.  The ultimate aim of life is nirvana, meaning to leave this incessant cycle of life and suffering.


As you could see, by nature Buddhism reflects ancient Asian wisdom and philosophy rather than religion.


Buddhism has experienced three phases: Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana.  In Sanskrit Yana means “vehicle”.  Hina, Maha and Vajra means “small”, “great” and “diamond” respectively.  Collectively they mean various vehicles towards nirvana.


The three teachings are radically different from each other.  Generally speaking, Hinayana (popular in Southeast Asia) focuses on one’s own nirvana; Mahayana (popular in East Asia) on how to help the others.  Both encourage meditation to grasp the ultimate truth.


In contrast, as the last phase of Buddhism, Vajrayana was profoundly affected by Hindu Tantrism, which focuses on ritual rather than wisdom.  It came into being when the elite Buddhism was gradually eroded by the grass-root Hinduism.  Vajrayana Buddhism was then claimed by Hinduism as one of the latter’s numerous denominations, and Buddha the tenth incarnation of Vishnu, an important deity of the latter.  Spiritually assimilated by Hinduism, Buddhism was also battered by the intruding Islam from Central Asia.  Consequently this once glorious philosophy finally vanished in India.


Lamaism is the most important denomination of Vajrayana.  The way lamas meditate is absolutely different from monks of Hinayana or Mahayana Buddhism.  What lamas seek is not to find the universal truth by their own meditation, but to restore the psyche of ancient yogis.  Lamaism scripture logs in great details how ancient yogis thought and acted.  Generation by generation, lamas study these scriptures trying to get rid of their own mind and replace it with the ancient yogi’s.  The aim is to revive an ancient soul in a new body.  This whole process is essentially what they called “reincarnation”.


Buddhist is never eager to seize power, while lamas always are.  Trisong Detsen meant to employ Buddhism to weaken the power of the mighty nobles and the caste of the Bon priests.  However, we will soon see how lamas totally seized all the power.


The most important event during this period was that various Lamaism sects, ten influential ones at least, took form.  Among them are: Nyingma (meaning old), or Red-Hat Sect, the oldest and fundamentalism sect that conserved most Tantrism from their alleged originator Mr. Padmasambhava; Sakya (meaning white earth), or Color-Hat Sect, was founded in AD1073 and remained the leader among sects and dominant force of Tibet until the secular regime prevailed again; Kagyud (meaning instruct orally), or White-Hat Sect, the secret community that proliferated into four big denominations and at least eight sub-denominations. Kagyud also invented “reincarnation” for their inheritance.


After two hundred years’ war, in 11th century different sects of lamas were in such disorder that actually each monastery was a warlord.  Black art, promiscuity and other evils related with lamas were at their prime time in Tibet history.  Then in AD1032 Atisha was invited from Bangladesh to restore order. He organized a summit meeting of various sects and institutionized rules for them to obey.  This was the so-called Atisha Reform, which was incomplete and almost futile to stop the chaos of Tibet.  But later a local guru set the milestone of Lamaism development by building up a pyramid hierarchy of lamas.  His name is Tsong Khapa.


Tsong Khapa compiled and edited Lamaism scripture, which were all written in India before translated and commented in Tibet.  The highest one of them is Kalachakra Tantra, which the current Dalai Lama loves to make sermon of.  Kala means sky or time, Chakra means wheel and Tantra means secret.  So we can call it Secret Scripture of Time Wheel.  It defines the fundamental hierarchy and rules of Lamaism.  In this hierarchy various Lamaism sects were well organized, therefore made it ready for a clerical regime.




[1] It’s simply a shame that, as Lamaism grows, Buddhism degenerated to such low level of mud-throwing.


[2] Dharamsala propaganda claims that Vcham has been destroyed by communist China but narrowly conserved by Tibetans in exile, which is merely a politically-oriented story.


[3] As time went on, unfortunately, Buddhism was philistinized as it spread from a few wise men to the mass.  These wise men who grasped the truth were apotheosized as gods.  Nowadays most Buddhists went to monasteries to worship them instead of meditate for truth as they did.

6. Achievements in Diaspora (I)


Tsong Khapa set up his hierarchy in AD1409 when he created his own sect, Geluk, or Yellow-Hat Sect, in Lhasa.  But long before this, Lamaism has already gained ground outside Tibet.


Due to its seemingly endless civil war, large number of Tibetan lamas, mainly of Sakya Sect, sent themselves on exile, most to China for career opportunity.  They generally failed to promote Lamaism there, since China had already developed an array of mature denominations of Mahayana Buddhism, Zen to raise one example, thus they couldn’t get a share in this market.


They then headed north.  A nomadic nation to the north of China recently evolved into a superpower which soon conquered East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, Middle East, Russia and East Europe.  It’s Mongol.


Mongol was also dominated by Shamanism at that time.  It was in thirst of an advanced religion, and Lamaism arrived at the right time to drench it.


Mongol leaders were so eager to find religion to help them control their fierce warriors that they tried almost everything that approached them, including Buddhism, Christianity, Daoism, Islam, Judaism and Lamaism.  Khubilai Khan, who finally united China and became the emperor of Yuan Dynasty, trusted that there had been four prophets: Buddha, Moses, Jesus Christ and Mohammed.  He believed that by worshiping all of them, the Gods would bless him.  In AD1288, Khubilai crushed a rebel fellow-prince, whose troop believed in Christianity.  People of other religions thus scorned these defeated Christians that God was not on their side.  Khubilai comforted these losers by saying that: their lord was not loyal, therefore the Cross didn’t assist him.  It shows that the Cross is efficacious [1].  How sly this Khan was!


More sly is the lamas.  One of them was courted by a Mongol queen to pray for her sick baby, who unfortunately died soon after.  When the queen reproved the lama, he sophisticated that the protection of Lamaism to the life from death is like that of a lantern to a candle from wind.   However, it’s unable to save the candle from burning out.  The queen was fooled and Lamaism was further adored by the Mongol monarchy in a priest-patron way [2].


Citizens got hands amputated when they hit the lamas, or tongues cut when they scolded them, which was originally a Tibetan law set by the brutal Padmasambhava [3].  Meanwhile lamas took no punishment for any crime, as long as they were not involved in rebellion [4].  One advisory Lama, during the final days of Mongol governance of China, even suggested the last Mongol emperor to execute all Chinese with the most popular surnames such as Wang, Zhang and Li, so as to put out Chinese rebellion.  See how merciful these lamas were!


The Mongols didn’t invade Tibet since the latter acknowledged allegiance.  Some Chinese historians claim that Tibet was under China government since Yuan Dynasty.  This is not convincing.  Mongol is now a component of the Chinese nation, but it’s dubious whether emperors of Yuan Dynasty regarded themselves as Chinese Emperors.  This is different from Manchus who also conquered China in 17th century but soon completely converted to Chinese culture and claim themselves to be a collateral branch of Chinese.


Therefore, I prefer to remain cautious that Yuan Dynasty was not a Chinese dynasty, and thus Tibet was not part of China by 13th century.


When the Mongols were ousted in AD1368, the Chinese Ming Dynasty inherited nominal sovereignty over Tibet from Yuan Dynasty, and conferred the Kagyud Sect as the religion leader of Tibet.  Then the Tsong Khapa Reform took place in AD1409, as I have mentioned in previous chapter.


Until then, hardly any Chinese visited Tibet.  Chinese merchants dragged their way up to Kham and Amdo, which were inhabited by various small nations.  These nations then completed the rest of work to trade Chinese products, mainly tea, into Tibet.




[1] Fan Wen-Lan, A Brief Chinese General History, Shijiazhuang: Hebei Education Press, 2000, p.522


[2] It is noteworthy that Lamaism was popular only among Mongol aristocrats at this time.


[3] Fan Wen-Lan, p.523


[4] The relationship between monarch and religion could therefore be observed.  In order to efficiently control the mass, a king allows his clergy servants do whatever they want, as long as it’s not threatening his power

7. Live Buddha


There are five main sects remaining in current Lamaism: Bon (Black-Hat) is the Lamaism-affected Shamanism; Sakya (Color-Hat) was the leading sect during 12-14th century; Geluk (Yellow-Hat) was founded by Master Tsong Khapa in AD1409 and the leading sect till now; Nyingma (Red-Hat) derived from Padmasambhava the sorcerer from India; and Kagyud (White-Hat), the inventor of “Reincarnated Live Buddha”.


Live Buddha is a free translation of Tibetan word “Rinpoche”, which literally means “jewel of people”. It is the title for lama of certain high level.  There are two kinds of Live Buddha: reincarnated and non-reincarnated.  The latter enjoy privilege only in his lifetime, while the former could pass it to his next reincarnation.  When a reincarnated Live Buddha is dying, he gives some vague information on the direction and location where his reincarnated successor should be found [1].  After his death his acolytes will go towards that direction trying to find a baby who is recently born, and appoint him to be the next Live Buddha.


(The next paragraph involves text that could cause strong antipathy.  Readers are recommended to skip it)


Before Live Buddha scheme was introduced, it was recorded by Lamaism scripture that senior guru passed his “wisdom” to his disciple in a process called Fifteen Levels of Initiations.  After step by step strict ritual, finally the disciple should bring ten female relatives [2], [3] from which the guru would choose one and practice copulation with her, or the so-called merge of vajra with lotus.  It is believed in Lamaism that the male wisdom is stored in somewhere back in one’s skull and then circulate along the spine until the tip of penis and is ejaculated as sperm.  However, male wisdom needs to be mixed with its female counterpart, so the guru copulates with a woman (called mudra or wisdom enchantress) and uses an ivory spoon to take out the mixture of his sperm and the lady’s vaginal secretion (called sukra or life juice).  The disciple would drink it with great pleasure, as the wisdom is therefore passed to him.  He would then practice copulation with the rest nine women, without ejaculation.  If he failed, he would need to use his tongue to recollect his ejaculation from her vagina [2], otherwise his initiation aborted and he would stay in hell. [4]


A poem about such Lamaism sexual ritual:


In the sacred citadel of the vulva of

a superlative, skillful partner,

do the praxis of mixing white seed

with her ocean of red seed.

Then absorb, raise, and spread the nectar—

A stream of ecstasy such as you’ve never known [5]


Obviously such repulsive sexual ritual inherited more from Hindu Tantrism than Buddhism.  However, it soon proved to be an inappropriate way of legacy transition when the cleric no longer lived reclusively in secret India jungle but as powerful warlords in Tibetan Plateau.


Kagyud invented Live Buddha institution to solve the problem of power inheritance when it was shortly in power during a break of civil war.  However, it is the Geluk that benefited most from this invention when they came into power.  Why this solution is so efficient?  It eliminated the chance of the leaders’ acolytes and folks (an exception being the bastard of 5th Dalai) to inherit the power, thus reduced power struggle and made the handover peaceful.  Moreover, to the interest of the whole clerical elite, “it kept control of the transition of power out of the hands of the lay nobility, for religious incarnations could only be identified by the clergy”. [6]


However, when checking Buddhism principle one would easily realize that a Live Buddha is contradictory.  A Buddha is one who has entered nirvana, i.e., no longer trapped in the eternal cycle of life and death.  Then how can there be any “Live Buddha”?


Now let’s see what is Dalai Lama.  This title is actually Mongolian, since it was Altan Khan of Mongol who conferred it to the leader of Geluk.  In Mongolian, Dalai means ocean, La means highness and Ma means no.  Therefore, Dalai Lama means top scholar with knowledge like ocean.  It is the top of the Tsong Khapa pyramid.


As you have learned, Master Tsong Khapa was the creator of Geluk, so he was actually the first Dalai Lama.  But he was never called so, because this title was first conferred to the third Dalai Lama, almost two hundred years after Master Tsong Khapa.


Let’s make it clear: the title Dalai Lama was first given to the fourth generation of Geluk leader, who was called the third Dalai Lama.  The first (who was the direct successor of Tsong Khapa) and the second were never called so during their lifetime.  In this sense, Tsong Khapa was actually the 0th Dalai Lama.


Live Buddha is an inheritance system for senior guru.  For those stray gurus who are not recognized as Live Buddha, they still use the Fifteen Levels of Initiation scheme.  Even Dalai Lama themselves sometimes practice such rituals without the purpose of initiate their disciples.  The most famous example was the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706), who was a talented poet and an infamous whorehouse patron.  He wrote poem such as:


Although I sleep with a woman every night

I never lose a drop of semen [7]


As long as the pale moon

Dwells over the East Mountain,

I draw strength and bliss

From the girl’s body [8]


Glacier-water (from) ‘Pure Crystal Mountain’

Dew-drops from (the herb) ‘Thunderbolt of Demonic Serpent’

(Enriched by) the balm of tonic elixir;

(Let) the Wisdom-Enchantress(es) be the liquor-girl(s):

If you drink with a pure commitment

Infernal damnation need not be tasted [9]


When I’m at the Potala Monastery

They call me the Learned Ocean of Pure Song;

When I sport in the town,

I’m known as the Handsome Rogue who loves Sex! [7]

The sixth Dalai Lama was so fascinated with copulation that he even had a channel dug from his palace, the Potala, to a bar in downtown Lhasa where he met sex workers.  It is conserved as a history and tourism spot to this day.




[1] In the case of the 6th Dalai Lama, he once wrote a poem: “White crane/ lend me your wings/ I will not fly far/ From Lithang I shall return”.  After his death acolytes went to Lithang to look for his reincarnation.  K. Khondup, A History of 17th & 18th Century Tibet, New Delhi 1984, p.34


[2] Naropa (a cura di Ranieri Gnoli e Giacomella Orofino), Iniziazione, Kalacakra, p.192


[3] In practice he would buy girls or rent prostitutes, and then claim they are his relatives.


[4] Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Der Schatten des Dalai Lama: Sexualit, Magie und Politik im Tibetischen Buddhismus (The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism), Patmos, 1999, Part I Chapter 6


[5] Quoted by Miranda Shaw, Passionate Enlightenment: Women in Tantric Buddhism, Princeton 1994, p.158


[6] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.11


[7] Quoted by John Stevens, Lust for Enlightenment – Buddhism and Sex, Boston, 1990, p.78


[8] Quoted by Erwin Erasmus Koch, Auf dem Dach der Welt — Tibet. Die Geschichte der Dalai Lamas, Frankfurt 1960, p.172


[9] Quoted by Per K. Sorensen, Divinity Secularized: An inquiry into the nature and form of songs ascribed to the Sixth Dalai Lama, Vienna 1990, p.113

8. The Fifth Dalai Lama (I)


Now let’s look at the fifth Dalai Lama, a prodigy in shifts of politics.  At his time, Tibet was under a secular regime founded by Changchub Gyaltsen since 14th century.  The Geluk lamas, with great thirst to power, intrigued to overthrow it.  However, they were in such inferior position that these yellow-hat lamas had to wear two-fold hats: disguised as red-hat when they were out of their monastery. [1]


To seize supremacy, these lamas must repeat what happened to Tritsu Detsen and Langdarma: to create chaos in the nation and destroy the monarchy.  How to achieve this?  Employ external military force.  Whom to employ?  The fifth Dalai Lama targeted at Mongols.


After the Mongols were ousted from China, some of them roamed around and arrived in Amdo, where they were converted to Lamaism.  This was the first time the Mongols populace converted to Lamaism.  Before that, Lamaism was merely a royal religion.  It soon spread back to Mongolia.  This proved to be beneficial to China: since Lamaism always results in fervor of domestic struggle but impotence in fighting outsiders, after conversion the Mongols lost their aggressive spirit and stopped raiding then Ming Dynasty frontier, where one Ming emperor was even captured during a Mongol ambush not long before.  Mongols were contained by Ming Dynasty, later conquered by Qing Dynasty and finally included into the Chinese nation.


It was Mongol Altan Khan who conferred the “Dalai Lama” title to Geluk in AD1578.  The third Dalai Lama, who first obtained this title, paid back by selling the fourth Dalai Lama assignation to a Mongol prince.  This Mongol Dalai lived only 28 years before a sudden death released this puppet from strict scrutiny imposed by his Tibetan “acolytes”.  But the Mongols had been firmly roped in by this deal that was almost costless to lamas.


Now the fifth Dalai Lama wanted their military help, and they reached a new deal without much bargain.  Gushri Khan, the leader of a strong Mongol tribe, invaded and conquered Tibet in the request of His Holiness the Fifth Dalai Lama.


His “Holiness” could be reflected in Tibetan historian’s own words.  He wrote a letter to Gushri Khan requesting him to destroy the regime of Tsangpa ruler Karma Tankyong Wangpo.  When the Mongol army started attack, he claimed in an innocent voice that he merely wanted the Mongol intruders to protect Geluk, and blamed his acolyte Chazod Sonam Chophel to have tampered with his letter and turned it from “tune of the flute” to “a song of the arrow”.


However, Chophel was not at all punished and the Mongols continued with their intrusion, which met with strong defence of Shigatse, Wangpo’s capital.  The battle became a deadlock.  When the scapegoat Chophel suggested cease-fire, Dalai totally took off his disguise, demanded continued attack and threatened that if the intruders he invited to assault his own country couldn’t win, “we shall have to leave Lhasa and find some other country to live in” [2].


Furthermore, he performed a voodoo ritual for the defeat of his opponents in the Ganden monastery temple.  In the ritual, a likeness of Wangpo in the form of a torma (dough cake) was employed. Incorporated into the dough figure were the blood of a boy fallen in the battles, human flesh, Tibetan beer, poison, and so on. [3]


Shigatse finally fell.  Karma Tankyong Wangpo was captured, “wrapped and sewed up in leather and thrown into the Shigatse river” [4], so that Buddhism non-violence sanction would not be violated.  Tashi Zilnon, the rival sect’s monastery was dismantled to build Geluk ones, while smaller monasteries were forced to convert to Geluk.


Dalai later boasted to his countrymen that the military exploit was achieved primarily by his “profound potency of the tantric rites” and only secondarily by the intervention of the Mongolians [5].  However, his defeated rival, the Kagyud, claimed that the Mongolian occupation of the Land of Snows was the work of nine terror gods who were freed by the Yellow-Hats under the condition that they fetch the Mongolian hordes into Tibet to protect their interest. [6]


During these vicious bites, the fifth Dalai Lama was enthroned as the spiritual ruler of Tibet in AD1642.


“The Great Fifth” seized power with external military interference.  Now he needed to consolidate it, which was more difficult than just employing mercenaries to attack his own nation.  The feudal lords were defeated by Mongols, but their assets, militia and influence were still there.  They could topple him at any time after the Mongols left Tibet.  Dalai did asked Gushri Khan and his troops to stay, yet still wanted his clerical regime to be recognized and protected by a superpower.  And the superpower in East Asia at that time was China.


You could easily guess what next step this politician took.  In AD1653 he went to Beijing in person, visited the emperor of Qing Dynasty, or the Manchu dynasty.  He acknowledged Tibet’s dependency to China and sought to be conferred as the ruler of “Tibet Province”.  The China government agreed to make Tibet its 18th province and sent officials to Lhasa to supervise the government [7].  Tibet army essentially acted merely as police for internal security.  China army would take care of the defense of Tibet.  We will soon see how China fulfilled its duty in saving Tibet from Gurkha invasion.


If I were a Tibetan I would regard the fifth Dalai Lama as a traitor who sacrificed the sovereignty of his nation to guarantee his own regime.  But throughout the history it more than often happened that the meanest guy seized the power, didn’t it.


(However, the fifth Dalai Lama’s tomb was looted by Mongol intruders in AD1717.  Sometimes you have to trust that there is a god and he sometimes could be just)


And fortunately I am not a Tibetan and don’t need to feel shame since China adopted a nation that voluntarily defected to us.  During the whole event, China didn’t commit anything filthy.  Shall we look at how foul Britain acquired India, the States annexed Texas, France encroached Indo-China and Japan attained Ryukyu if my readers hold any doubt on this?




[1] K. Dhondup, A History of 17th and 18th Century Tibet, New Delhi, 1984, p.6


[2] K. Dhondup, p.21-24


[3] Zahiruddin Ahmad, “Sino-Tibetan Relations in the Seventeenth Century”, in: Serie Orientale Roma XL, Rome 1970, p. 103


[4] K. Dhondup, p.26


[5] Zahiruddin Ahmad, p. 134


[6] Charles Bell, The Religion of Tibet, Delhi 1994, p.98


[7] It’s almost the same as how communist China treats Hong Kong after AD1997: you can do almost whatever you want, except foreign affairs and defense

9. The Fifth Dalai Lama (II)


Another important result of this meeting was that Dalai Lama handed over to China the right to make final selection of reincarnated Dalai Lama.  Before that, conflicts took place when more than one qualified kids were found after the previous Dalai Lama’s death.   They were all kept in Lhasa and one was chosen later according to his performance.  This of course led to some power struggle.  Now fifth Dalai Lama left China to choose its favorite from all the candidates, and the successor must go to Beijing and report to the central government, which in fact enabled China to choose and supervise the governor of Tibet.  This became a nominal ceremony later.  The China emperor would pick up a special lot among others from a “golden urn”, a lot that has already been chosen by Tibetan officials. [1]


The fifth Dalai Lama finished his fruitful journey and returned Lhasa.  Now he turned to internal security.  He was such a genius politician that he managed to merge the political interest of lamas and feudal lords.  It’s obvious that they shared solid mutual interest and therefore could collaborate smoothly.  The lama used Lamaism to help the feudal lords tightly control their tamed serfs, exactly in the way that the Europeans used Christianity to appease African slaves.  It’s much more cost-effective and even more efficient.  The feudal lords found that their interest was not at all eroded with lamas in power.   As a result they no longer cared whether Tibet was a secular or clerical regime.


One more important thing related to the fifth Dalai Lama was that he originated another reincarnated Live Buddha called Panchen.  He conferred his teacher, who was an acolyte of the fourth Dalai Lama, the Mongol puppet, as the fourth Panchen [2].  It’s actually a power allocation inside the group itself: Dalai assigned his trusted intimate to help him control the immense Tibetan Plateau.  It was also aimed to enable both to help educate the next reincarnation of the other party after he deceases. [3]


The fifth Dalai Lama died in AD1682.  His unannounced biological son, Sangye Gyatso, concealed his death to the public for 15 years and ruled Tibet in his father’s name.  In AD1697 Beijing finally learned the truth.  All in a hurry, Sangye found a boy and called him the sixth Dalai.  He explained to the central government that he concealed the death of fifth Dalai so as to keep Tibet stable.  Beijing not at all believed his humbug, but accepted it so as to avoid further trouble.


However, it was the sixth Dalai who caused regent Sangye even bigger trouble.  As mentioned before, the sixth Dalai should have become an erotic poet rather than the highest incarnation of Lamaism.  He pushed the ugly side of Tantra Lamaism to an extreme.  His dissolute life together with Sangye’s dictatorship made even Lamaism-tamed Tibetans sick.  What was even worse, power struggle soon broke out among the Big Three, i.e., spiritual, political and military leaders of Tibet.  Sangye, a model of evil politicians who must have inherited much from his father, first targeted at Dalai Lama.  He sent killers to attack the Dalai who returned from mid-night entertainment, but clumsily failed and disgracefully exposed.  He then attempted to poison Lhazang Khan, grandson of Gushri Khan (the fifth Dalai’s accomplice) who killed his brother to become the commander of Mongol army in Tibet, but also failed.  In revenge, the latter waged a coup in AD1705, killed Sangye and sent the sixth Dalai Lama to Beijing for trial, who died on the way in AD1706. [4]


Then in AD1717 the Tsungar Mongols, Sangye’s close ally, attacked Tibet and sacked Lhasa in his revenge. Nonetheless, they also looted the tomb of his father, the fifth Dalai Lama.  Tibet government resorted to Beijing and then YongZheng emperor sent his troops twice to oust Tsungar Mongols in AD1718 and AD1720.  The Tsungar chief poisoned himself in desperation.  Tsungar Mongol was the last trouble-making Mongol tribe in China history.  Since then the Mongols that once dominated tremendous part of Eurasia was finally conquered.


After all these events, Beijing officially deposed the late sixth Dalai Lama and assigned the seventh [5].  It realized that the conflicts between the clerics and the layman were the fundamental cause of constant turbulence in Tibet.  Therefore, it adopted a policy to support the Dalai Lama and suppress the aristocrats.  The 7th Dalai Lama, for the first time, was given extensive temporal power.  Restrictions were put on the lay nobility.


To tighten its control over Tibet, China greatly strengthened the power of the amban, China’s imperial envoy to Tibet province.  They were now considered on a par with the Dalai and Panchen Lamas, in absolute charge of financial, diplomatic, and trade matters.  Reforms were also introduced, particularly of the ulag system, or Tibetan corvee labor.  The amban handed out grain and money to the poor and brought some experts in to build Tibet’s first mint.


Beijing’s policy worked to gain stability for Tibet, but at the price that Dalai became the essential autocrat.




[1] There is general agreement that the 9th, 13th and 14th Dalai Lama were not chosen by this method of golden urn but rather selected by the appropriate Tibetan ecclesiastical officials with the selection being approved after the fact by the emperor.  In such cases the emperor would also issue an order waiving the use of the urn.  There is also general agreement that the 10th, 11th and 12th Dalai Lama were chosen by the lottery method.


[2] In this way the fifth Panchen was of the same generation with him.


[3] The 14th Dalai Lama is now in exile while the 10th Panchen was loyal to central government (I have mentioned that Panchen and Dalai started at the same generation.  In later chapter I’ll explain why Panchen is now four generations behind Dalai).


In AD1990 the 10th Panchen died.  According to the tradition his acolytes found several candidates to be his 11th reincarnation, chose one and reported to Beijing for the latter to announce.  However, Dalai Lama in Dharamsala inquired whom Beijing was going to pick up and forestalled to announce the same boy to be the next Panchen, which has never been the Dalai Lama’s business except the fifth Dalai who initiated Panchen.  Maybe the current Dalai thought he should outperform his fifth ancestor, we don’t know.


[4] K. Dhondup, A History of 17th and 18th Century Tibet, New Delhi, 1984, p.43-47


[5] However, Beijing didn’t bother to investigate Sangye’s illegal process of finding the sixth Dalai but tacitly consented the legality of this fake Dalai Lama

10. Rural Tibet Life (I)

Tibetan’s life is deeply influenced by the circumstance of Tibetan Plateau, meanwhile interwoven with their religions [1].  In this chapter I will make a brief introduction of traditional Tibetan life as it extends to this day.


The first thing one might notice from a Tibetan is probably his robe.  Tibetan robe is long, thick and large.  Its sleeves are longer, often by half, than one’s arm, which makes Sleeve Dance a brand Tibetan art.  The strange thing, however, is that traditionally Tibetans hardly wear any underwear, and the robe is more often than not grubby.


These features are all practical.  The sleeves are so long that Tibetans could keep their hands inside when it’s chilly, which is generally the case in Tibet.  The robe is large because, the upper part is used by Tibetan to store supply when he travels, while the lower part is made large to cover his legs when he directly squat on the ground to defecate without taking off pants, which is also due to harsh climate that dominates the Plateau.  It’s thick so that the Tibetan can sit on even frozen ground, and it’s long so that Tibetan could outlie in the open country using it as a sleeping bag.


As you can see, a robe provides a Tibetan with much more than we thought it does.  How could you expect it to be spotless?  Moreover, most Tibetans hardly wash their robes, just as they seldom wash their face and hands, especially in nomadic areas.  This is because water is sparse in Tibet.  Before tap water was introduced after AD1951, people had to get natural water from a brook or lake [2], usually far away. Then there is no way to store the water, since it froze at night in most regions during most seasons.  A final reason is that washed skin is more vulnerable to the cold and dry wind, therefore it’s better to keep face and hands covered with some grease instead of washing it off. [3]


The style of Tibetan house varies.  In the Sichuan part of Kham region Tibetans are richer.  They built stone house with a large court fenced with stonewall.  In the old days such fort-like house was owned only by nobility.  It  often has two or three storey, with people staying upstairs and cattle in the ground floor.  The TAR part of Kham has more wooden houses, but the structure is similar.  The roof is covered with stones to prevent it from being blown by wind.  When a stone rolls off the roof, a monk is invited to augur.


In nomadic area people stay in tents, while some have settled down in wooden bungalow.


At the center of either the living room or a tent is always a fire pan, whose flame represents the prosperity and continuity of a Tibetan family.  For this reason the fire could never be put out.  This tradition originated from Bonism, the local shamanism of Tibetan, while Bonism adopted the adoration of fire from Parseeism.  It is believed that when the Tibetan nation expanded to the northern Tibetan Plateau in 7th century they were influenced by Turks and Persians from Central Asia, both adored fire. [4]


At the entrance of every village as well as occasionally in the way there will be pile of stones in the shape of pyramid about two meters in height.  Travelers, no matter they are leaving or passing the village, will go around the stone pile for one cycle in pray for journey safety.


As Tibetans are becoming rich nowadays, they built stupas at both ends of a village.  These are also aimed to bring blessing from the Buddha to the village.  The size of such stupa depends on the economy status of this village, while their style is surprisingly monotonous.  Villages fill the hollow stupa with all kinds of treasures: gold, silver, precious stone, etc.  A deputy head of a Tibetan county in Kham once complained to me that local people, who are becoming rich via herbal medicine trade with Han, prefer contribute their wealth into the stupa instead of investing on education of their children, with such faith that life is determined by the Buddha’s mercy instead of anything else.


Yak is the most important cattle to Tibetans.  They make yak milk into ghee, from which they obtain protein to sustain the severe weather.  Together with Chinese tea compressed into the shape of brick, the yak-milk tea enables Tibetans to travel long distance without large amount of supply. Yak hide could be made into robe, saddle, boot and sacks.  Yak hair could be made into rope, tent and clothes.  Yak dung is used by nomads as the principal if not only fuel.  In summary, yak provides Tibetans almost all his commodities.




[1] If we admit that religion developed according to the circumstance that it originated from, it’s still the local condition, such as weather, geography, geology, etc. that molded the lifestyle of people.


[2] A well is very rare in Tibetan Plateau, essentially a huge stone mountain covered with slice of soil.


[3] Wang Li-Xiong, Sky Burial: The Fate of Tibet, Toronto: Mirror Books, 1998, Chapter 11-1


[4] Wang Xiao-Fu, The History of Political Relations between the Tang Dynasty, Tibet and Arab in Central Asia, Peking University Press, 1992, p.12-13

11. Rural Tibet Life (II)


“Wind horse” is literally translated from Tibetan word “Lung-Ta”, which is actually a prayer flag of five colors [1].  Originating from Bonism, it was dedicated to the mountain deity, who was depicted as riding the horse of wind.  Later Lamaism adopted this motif and reinterpreted it: the scripture written in the “wind horse” spreads with the wind, like cargo with horse.  So wind is horse. [2]


There are four kinds of wind horse.  The first type is a vertical flag, usually erected in front of a monastery or mountain.  The second type or the most familiar one is a long rope hung with many small flags.  Usually there are several such ropes, each could be as long as tens of meters, parallel to each other.  The third is just flyer that Tibetan traveler used to scatter when they pass a mountain or so.  The last is fewer: rectangular cloth to hang on wall.  It is used as indoor decoration, therefore degenerates from its original purpose, which is to fly in wind.


The wind horse leads to other popular Tibetan prayers.  One is a cylinder that rotates around its handle. It could be large ones that appear in line in the two wings of every monastery, or small ones that Tibetans hold at hand.  They believe that by rotating it once the scripture inscribed is read once too.  In this way, Tibetans, who were mostly illiterate in the old days, could keep pattering.  They employ wind to read for them by using wind horse.  They even inscribe scriptures on waterwheels, which would much more rapidly accumulate good “karma” for them.  As Prof. Grunfeld put it, Tibetans believes “in the merit of quantity over quality in religious practices”. [3]


Tibetans take very open attitude towards sex.  “…morals are so loose as almost to be nonexistent”, “…prostitute are unnecessary, extramarital intercourse is condoned; it is quite common for a husband to bring for treatment his wife infected during his absence”, written by Heinrich Harrer in his bestseller Seven Years in Tibet [4].  Another doctor estimated around AD1900 that venereal diseases affected over 90 percent of the Tibetan population [5].  Taken into consideration of the harsh circumstance in Tibet that caused high child mortality ranging from 40% to 75% before AD1951 [6], the large male population in celibacy [7], and the lack of religious sanctions to marriage, it’s quite understandable why promiscuity was so common [8].  However, in the long run the rampant venereal diseases undoubtedly affected Tibetans’ overall diathesis.


Tibetan burial is very unique: the body is dismembered, bones are smashed with rock, and then together with minced flesh it’s mixed with grain and scattered to feed the vultures.  The so-called “sky burial” again could be traced back to Parseeism from Central Asia, while the rocky Tibetan plateau and scarce trees made essential reasons.


At the end of this chapter, let’s briefly touch on the spiritual life of Tibetans, which is fundamentally influenced by Tibet’s inhospitable natural conditions, with Guiseppe Tucci’s comment:


The entire spiritual life of the Tibetan is defined by a permanent attitude of defense, by a constant effort to appease and propitiate the powers whom he fears.


(Tibetan religion is) shot with a certain ambiguity: on the one side the fear of capricious spirits that was inherited by Lamaism from the country’s original religions and, on the other, the conviction that man possesses the means to control these dark vengeful forces demanding propitiation.  Magic, ritual, acts of piety, liberality towards monasteries and teachers, exorcism, liturgical technique, all come to his aid. [9]




[1] Meaning five elements: white for soul; yellow for earth; red for fire, blue for sky and green for river


[2] Such interpretation that it is used to augur the direction for moving home is merely canard.


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p. 28


[4] Heinrich Harrer, Seven Years in Tibet, London: Rupert Hart-Davis, 1953, p.176


Heinrich Harrer was an Austrian doctor, a resolute racist and a fanatical follower of Adolf Hitler.  He was sent by the Nazi Germany to look for origin of superior race in Tibet.  He was captured and enjailed in a prisoner-of-war camp when he arrived in British India, but later escaped and sneaked into Tibet.  His memoir, Seven Years in Tibet, was later filtered off his Nazi background and made into an eponymous movie to brainwash the unwitting Western audience.


[5] George N. Patterson, Journal with Loshay, New York, 1954, p.88


[6] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p. 20


[7] Estimated anywhere between one fifth to one third of male population, Hanna Havnevik, Tibet Buddhist Nuns.  History, Culture Norms and Social Reality, Oslo: Norwegian University Press, 1989, p.37


[8] Another collateral example: a Tibetanized Han defector who joined Kham rebel, Losang Tashi, resided in a Tibetan settlement near Mysore, India.  He claimed in memoir that in his sixties he drove away his son and married his Tibetan ex-daughter-in-law, who then gave birth to his three kids, an unimaginable incest to any Han community.  Tsering Wangchuk, Han-Tibetan Losang Tashi, Dharamsala, 1991, Chapter 7


[9] Guiseppe Tucci, The Religions of Tibet, Berkeley, 1980, p.187, p.73-74

12. Tibet As It Used To Be (I)


Supporters of the Dalai Lama’s government in Lhasa appeared to believe that pre-1950 Tibet was an undeniably independent state where the inhabitants were universally happy and smiling through all adversity, a society in which not one soul could find complaint, for all needs were addressed and all were benevolently ruled in a classless paradise.  It was this “Shangri-la,” so the story continues, that the inhuman, Buddhist-hating Chinese soldiers defiled by enslaving the people for their own ends.  [1]


Supporters of Beijing, on the other hand, saw Tibet as a society that had been based on the gravest inhumanities, where a handful of aristocracy—both lay and clerical—had enslaved the people in a European-style medieval feudalism that visited the most barbaric punishments and cruelties upon the populace until the People’s Liberation Army marched into Tibet to liberate it. [2]


While both allegations are biased in political interest, “China appears to have fabricated the least” [3].  A more objective observation is that Tibet before AD1959 was highly repressive, nonetheless stable; common Tibetans suffered from harsh weather and cruel exploitation, nonetheless they had hardly any complaint.  The latter was due to the anaesthetization of Buddhism karma theory as well as the proven incapacity that had been experienced by previous generations when facing the nature.


On living standard, in spite of the claim that “before the Chinese crackdown in March 1959, the normal Tibetan diet included an inexhaustible flow of butter-tea, large amounts of meat and various vegetables,” [4] a survey made in 1940 in eastern Tibet [5] came to a somewhat different conclusion.  It found that 38% of the households never got any tea but either collected herbs that grew wild or drank “white tea”—boiled water.  It found that 51% could not afford to use butter, and that 75% of the households were forced at times to resort to eating grass cooked with cow bones and mixed with oat or pea flour.


On healthcare, Tibetans believed that illness was result of demon intrusion.  Monks instead of doctors were invited to exorcise the demon.  As a result patient highly cherished the pat of monk on his forehead [6] instead of medicine.  Any suffering or death was regarded as a result of the patient’s karma.  There was no hospital or medical service at all before Christian missionaries arrived in 19th century.


On public security, there have been more than enough glorifications such as: “The Tibetan countryside, except in certain districts along the eastern border, was mostly free from brigandage”, “There is no police force because there is no need for it, there is no need for it because there is little crime, and virtually none that cannot be quickly and easily settled by arbitration…(because of the) simple fact that the Tibetan people find it more agreeable and more convenient to be law-abiding.” [7]


There is no evidence to support these images of a utopian Shangri-la.  In Lhasa, foreign visitors recalled that thieves were as thick as “fleas on a dog”.  They also complained to have lived in constant fear of burglars.  Worse still, the police force itself turned to crime in the evening, and even monks were not above criminal activity either. [8]


In the countryside the most notorious villains were the Khampas, “infamous in Tibet as brigands.  In fact all robbers were generally referred to as Khampas.”


There was, nominally, no death penalty since Buddhist belief precludes the taking of life.  Instead, tricks such as whipping a person to the edge of death and then releasing him to die elsewhere allowed Kashag officials to justify the death as “an act of God”.  For example, the 5th Dalai Lama executed his political opponent, Tsangpa King Wangpo, who was “wrapped and sewed up in leather and thrown into the Shigatse river” [9].  In AD1922 a British woman witnessed in Gyantse a public flogging, after which the victim was exposed and tied on the top of a mountain pass where he froze to death overnight.  Another British resident of two decades in Tibet also reported seeing countless eye gouging and mutilations for petty crime. [8]


On class mobility, recent statements such as “there is no class system and the mobility from class to class makes any class prejudice impossible” are inaccurate and reflect politics rather than fact [10].  It’s therefore necessary to introduce Tibet’s class system.


According to the AD1959 estimation when China carried out social reform, the social breakdown was:


Clergy                          15%

Nobility                        5%

Nomads                       20%

Serfs & Slaves              60% [11]


Clergy were on the top layer of Tibet hierarchy.  Monasteries all over Tibet owned most of the land with huge number of serfs working on them [12].  Enjoying the largest annual income, nonetheless, they received colossal financial aid from Tibet government in Lhasa, or Kashag.  “Tibet’s friend”, Sir Charles Bell, cites the financial records for AD1917.  In that year Kashag received an income of ₤720,000, while the church received ₤800,000.  However, as contribution Kashag gave the church an additional ₤274,000. [13]


Consequently, a monk’s life was good: “no work, plenty to eat, and without sin”. [14]




[1] This chapter is mainly compiled from A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, New York, 1996


[2] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.5


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.149


[4] Smear Campaign against Dalai Lama in Lhasa, N-T 8:2 (March-June): 1-2


[5] Chen Han-Seng, Frontier Land Systems in Southwestern China, New York: E.P. Dutton, 1977, p.14


[6] One of the interesting “evidence” that the Han is “ruining the Tibetan culture” is that nowadays Tibetans have changed their cherish from the pat of a lama to the stethoscope of Han doctor: at the end of any medical treatment the patient would request the doctor to use the stethoscope to touch his/her forehead.


[7] Thubten Norbu and Colin M. Turnbull, Tibet, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968, p. 116


[8] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.23


[9] K. Dhondup, A History of 17th and 18th Century Tibet, New Delhi, 1984, p.24


[10] Thubten Norbu and Colin M. Turnbull, Tibet, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968, p. 324


[11] Concerning the Question of Tibet, Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 1959, p.213-215


[12] Panchen X says the land was owned: 30.9% by Kashag, 39.5% by the clergy and 29.6% by lay nobility. Panchen Erdeni, Democratic Reform for a New Tibet, Peking Review, 27, 1959, p.6-11.  Another figure says: 38%, 37% and 25%.  Ratne Deshapriva Senanayake, Inside Story of Tibet, Colombo: Afro-Asian Writer’s Bureau, 1967, p.39


[13] Charles Bell, Portrait of the Dalai Lama, p.165-166


[14] Although considered sinful, homosexuality appears to have been widespread among the clergy and almost unknown among the lay population. A. Tom Grunfeld, p.32

13. Tibet As It Used To Be (II)


A monastery not only provided relatively comfortable life but acted as the only “public school” as well [1][2].  It was essentially the only venue where class mobility, if any, could take place.  However, usually only rich families could afford to send their kids to become lamas, since the parents needed to build houses around the monastery for accommodation.  Monasteries also rejected applicants from lower classes by such excuse that they were born in miserable families because they committed evil in their previous life, therefore didn’t have enough good karma to serve Buddha as a monk.


To accumulate “good karma”, applicants from lower castes had to run all out.  One lama from a free peasant’s family recalled that he was not recruited until he body-measured [3] his pilgrimage to Lhasa.  However, even these applicants managed to enter a monastery, “the social classes within the monastery were almost as rigidly enforced as without; social mobility was the exception rather than the rule” [4].  While an aristocracy boy could stay only one night in a monastery to gain his monk identity which would later secure him a lucrative position in Kashag when he grew up, low caste kids felt greatly satisfied when they no longer needed to labor in barren fields trying to fill their lords’ barns.


The next level below the clergy is nobility.  They were the largest landowners of Tibet, next to the clergy and Kashag.  Their representatives technically ran the Kashag.  As reward, each official were allocated a government estate, whose output became his salary [5].  Many Kashag positions were “family seats” that showed no mobility at all.


For important position there were dual officials: one monk and one layman.  Such system was easily abused when the nobility sent their sons to join monasteries, sometimes just overnight, merely to obtain a monk identity, which after generations made both classes’ interests deeply interwoven.


After a thin townsfolk class was the serfs, the largest class in number.  Below serf was a small slave class.  Tibetan serfs enjoyed hardly any freedom more than slaves.  The only difference might be: the former could work freely on his assigned field, while the latter couldn’t.


A serf belonged to his lord/monastery/Kashag, as well as his/her offspring.  Marriage, if not hybridization, between serfs were forced by their mutual owner for labor reproduction.  Once one party deceased or was sold to other feudal lord, the remaining one would be assigned to other serf.  In case a lord didn’t have equal number of male and female serfs, marriage of serfs belonging to different lords would be facilitated.  A bond between two feudal lords told that son(s) of the serf couple would belong to the owner of the male serf, while daughter(s) to the other. [6]


A serf not only turned over most of his products to his lord, but also had to pay tax to the Kashag and local monastery.  Annual government taxes included: barley for monks, prayer festival tax, hay tax, poisonous flower tax [7], utensil tax, meat tax, corvee tax, military tax, etc.  Monastery taxes included: butter tax, meat tax, wool tax, woolen cloth tax, barley tax, etc.


Feeding all the clergy and nobility, serfs themselves lived in “small, badly lighted, cold hovels” [8], while one of these parasites later shamelessly described to her Western listeners that:


The people (serfs) were so contented although the difference between their livelihood and their master’s was so great…In Tibet everything was done alike for rich and poor.  No one can imagine how gay life was in Tibet.[5]


Because of the large male population in celibacy, polyandry was rampant.  It usually took the form of a woman marrying brothers or a father and son(s).  Other common explanations for the practice of polyandry include the economic structure of the family as well as corvee, or ulag, which was assigned to each household.  The breaking up of a household would put an additional burden on the remaining members, leaving them with an undiminished level of corvee. [9]


Immigrants and heretics made Tibet’s “untouchable”.  A dilemma came into being when the altitude of Tibetan Plateau necessitates intake of animal protein but Buddhism prohibited taking of life.  The solution was not difficult to find: create a separate class of butchers, who “were regarded as sinners and outcastes” [10].  Lhasan butchers were all Muslims who mainly migrated from Kashmir.  They were at the lowest level of the “benevolent” Tibet society.  It was not until AD1957 that Beijing facilitated their pilgrimage to Mecca with grants, an act that angered many Lamaists.


Tibetan society before AD1959 was dangerously polarized.  Even an envoy from the highly corrupt Manchu China in late 19th century lamented that local serfs were too cruelly treated. Surprisingly however, Tibet was stable. Rebellion of serfs was never heard.


Besides the inherited tenet to sit down under suffering due to Tibetans’ accumulated trauma of failure when trying to conquer the inhospitable natural condition of Tibetan Plateau, religion helped most to suppress any impulse for violent revolt.  As the current Dalai Lama explained, “the idea of karma is that what comes to us is not only inevitable but also the result of our actions in this life or in others we have lived.  Therefore, we have to accept it.” [11]


From a pure secular point of view, this doctrine could be seen as one of the most ingenious and pernicious forms of social control ever devised.  The victim of such an extremely unfair society dare not fight for his justice, fearing that it would bring him even tragic misfortune in his next life.


In summary, the evidence above indicates that Tibet, as of before AD1950, was neither a mythical “Shangri-la” nor a “hell on earth”.  Witnessing smiling faces and friendly people, which literally every traveler did, could as easily have been an indication of Tibetan stoicism.  Meanwhile, a serf whose feet were amputated by his lord might peacefully accept his fate as reasonable reward from his previous life karma.


In this condition Tibet was about to be opened to the world of class struggle, modern industry and communications, revolutionary ideology, and international diplomacy.  However, it was far from being prepared.




[1] This chapter is mainly compiled from A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, New York, 1996


[2] Although representing the only educated class in Tibet, the vast majority of the lamas learned to memorize lengthy religious liturgy and little else, and were referred to as “nonreaders”.  One scholar estimates that 90 percent of the monks at the three major Lhasa monasteries in Lhasa were “nonreaders”, while another estimate puts their numbers, in general, at 75 percent. A. Tom Grunfeld, p. 32


[3] To repeatedly lay down ones’ body to the ground and in this way cover the entire distance of journey


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, p. 32


[5] A former aristocrat recalled that a small estate consist of a few thousand sheep, a thousand yaks, many nomads and two hundred agricultural serfs.  The annual output was over 36,000kg of grain, 1,800kg of wool and 500kg of butter. Rinchen Dolma Taring, Daughter of Tibet, London, 1970, p.102-103


[6] Melvyn C. Goldstein, “Taxation and the Structure of a Tibetan Village”, Central Asiatic Journal, 1971, 15


[7] Poisonous flower is added during papermaking (for Lamaism scripture) against moth.


[8] David MacDonald, The Tibetan at Home, Asia, 24, 3, 1929, p.220


[9] A. Tom Grunfeld, p. 21


[10] Charles Bell, People of Tibet, p.217-218


[11] Dalai Lama, quoted in Bradford Smith, Chinese Tyranny in Tibet, the Atlantic 207:6(June 1961):52

14. Threat from the West


The Himalayas had been a natural barrier to protect Tibet from its west.  India, in the other side of Himalayas, was never united, let alone ever organized itself into any threat to Tibet.  The Himalayas nations, such as Sikkim, Bhutan and Ladakh, were to various levels loyal to Lhasa.  The first two were conquered by Tibetan warriors and Lamaism missionary (Nyingma and Kagyud respectively), while Ladakh was essentially a remote state of Tibet.


Since late 18th century, however, Tibet started to face emerging challenges from its west frontier.  These challenges began with Gurkha invasion and ended with the communist China defeating this so-called “the best infantry of the world” during the AD1962 skirmish, which will be the topic of the last chapters of this booklet.


The Gurkha descends from Mongol.  They moved from Central Asia and settled down near Nepal valley, which was then split into 40-strong tiny nations.  The Gurkha was invited to fight in their civil war, but later in AD1768 this guest united Nepal and founded the aggressive Nepal Kingdom.  They are accustomed to the mountainous environment and transformed to excellent infantry from cavalry.


Instigated by a Nyingma lama who was anti-Gelug and wealth-thirsty [1], in AD1788 the Gurkha intruded Tibet and occupied Tibet’s dependency Sikkim.  Two years later they invaded Tibet again and the young 7th Panchen fled from his capital Shigatse, which was afterwards looted by the Gurkha.  Again Lhasa turned to Beijing for rescue.  QianLong, then China emperor, sent a small but well-trained troop to salvage Tibet.  The battle was successful.  Chinese army not only ousted the Gurkha, but also crossed Himalayas and approached Katmandu, the Nepal capital.  The Gurkha managed to defeat the vanguard of Chinese army in snow, then exploited this leverage to announce its surrender and became China’s tributary in AD1791. [2]


Emperor QianLong used the conquest of Gurkha to complete his list of so-called Ten Military Exploits.  However, it also marked the summit of Qing Dynasty, which no longer won any war afterwards except one battle against France in north Vietnam in AD1885.  As early as in late 18th century Britain has started to export opium, which it grew in India, to China so as to reduce its trade deficit on Chinese tea.  The balance totally reversed.  Qing Dynasty for the first time suffered from deficit; its hard currency of silver kept flowing out and evaluating at a rocket speed.  To survive from this harsh trade war, it had to forbid opium, which was against the British interest.  An Opium War therefore was inevitable, in the popular theory of Western historians, so as to promote free trade with China. [3]


While Britain invaded China mainly from the south during the Opium War, in the west it did so from its colony of India through Tibet.


By AD1805 Britain had controlled almost entire India [4], which acted as a cash cow and financed Britain’s modernization for two centuries [5].  Britain’s instant aim was to annex Himalayan nations, such as Kashmir, Ladakh, Nepal, Sikkim and Bhutan, so as to create an “outer line” in protection of British India.  Its further goal was to control Tibet and enter China from the west.


This strategy was greatly due to geopolitics as well.  In Southeast Asia Britain and France reached an agreement that they would keep Thailand independent as a buffer between them.  To the east of Thailand it’s France’s colony, the west Britain’s.  Now Britain found that it had only three land accesses into China: from British Myanmar to Yunnan, from British India across Himalayas to Tibet, and from Central Asia to Xinjiang.


On the Myanmar-Yunnan border there are three parallel torrents that made traffic hardly possible [6]; moreover, China government managed to destroy the Britain-sponsored Muslim rebel and was highly alert of Britain’s aggressive policy; in Xinjiang province, China recently suppressed Britain-instigated separatists’ revolt and signed border treaty with Tsar Russia.  Moreover, Britain didn’t see it good time to break its balance with Russia in their “Central Asia Game”.


The only break-through point left was Tibet.




[1] The origin was that the 6th Panchen was awarded millions tael of treasure during his Beijing trip in AD1780.  After his death the wealth was seized by his regent, while Panchen’s younger brother, a Nyingma monk, felt unfair.  He fled to Nepal and persuade the Gurkha king to invade Tibet and raid this wealth.  This Nyingma lama was doing exactly the same thing as his Gelug counterpart did before: to invite foreign army to sack their own country in a desperate attempt for their own interest.


[2] Nepal remained loyal to China even after it reduced into a protectorate of Britain in AD1816.  In AD1837, just four years before the Opium War, Nepal managed to send Beijing a copper gun it seized from British army.  Readers could imagine how hard it was two centuries ago to carry a huge gun across Himalayas and went all the way to Beijing.  The Gurkha did this in order to warn China the threat from Britain, but the decrepit Qing Dynasty regarded it as a gift from this small “dependency”, which it no longer was, and replied that please stop sending us such extra tribute.  Ji, Ping-Zi, From Opium War to Jiawu War: History of China’s Foreign Relations During 1839-1895, Shanghai:East China Normal Univ. Press, 1998, p.109


Nepal was finally conquered by Britain, and Gurkha Company became one of the best-known unit in British army.


[3] Check western publications you will find nowadays nobody ever mentions the trafficker role Britain government disgracefully acted in this farce.


[4] Except for Sind and Punjab


[5] Since AD1757 when Britain won Bengal.


[6] By AD1868 Britain had sent nine expeditions to prospect for route from Myanmar to Yunnan, China.  Ji, Ping-Zi, p.401

15. The Britain Invasion


In AD1815-16 Nepal was defeated and made an informal British protectorate, along with the adjacent northwest Indian hill states: Darjeeling was annexed in AD1835; Kashmir and Ladakh in AD1846; Sikkim was made a protectorate in AD1861; Bhutan in AD1865; and Assam annexed in AD1886.


To advance into Tibet, Britain first trained one hundred and thirty Indians for the Survey of India, a British India government agency.  They traveled through Tibet disguised as monks, traders, and pilgrims.  Their real mission was to conduct geographical surveys by measuring distance with their rosary beads, hiding surveying instruments in their prayer wheels [1].


With basic data obtained via such “investigation”, Britain attempted to seize Tibet by force in AD1888 and AD1904 but failed.  The altitude of Tibet prevented British troops from fighting efficiently, whereas Tibetans fought back awkwardly but fiercely.


In AD1886 Britain accused Tibet of “invading” Sikkim by building fortress in Sikkim territory, although Sikkim king himself denied such accusation and clarified that Tibet was building fortress in its own territory.  Britain not at all cared about such declaration:  what it needed was merely an excuse to march into Tibet.  In AD1888 British India army captured Sikkim, jailed its king and attacked Tibet fortress on Tibet-Sikkim border.  Tibetan army commanded by Manchu amban Wen Shuo survived the first wave of attack but finally retreated.  China government replaced the hawkish Wen Shuo with dovish Sheng Tai, who negotiated with Britain [2] and signed a treaty in AD1890 that recognized the transition of suzerainty over Sikkim from Tibet to Britain [3].  That was to say, China gave its dependency’s dependency to Britain.  The gate to Tibet was open.


In AD1900 the 13th Dalai Lama wrote to the Sikkim king who was kept in Britain confinement:


“Why do the British insist on establishing trade marts?  Their goods are coming in from India right up to Lhasa.  Whether they have their marts or not, their things come in all the same.  The British, under the guise of establishing communications, are merely trying to over-reach us.  They are well practices in all these political wiles.” [4]


The Russian approached him at this moment, scaring him that the China government would soon give up Tibet to Britain “like a slice of bread” in order to protect itself [5].  To “aid” Tibet, Russia provided some ammunition and requested for privilege in Tibet.  The British almost instantly learned about this visit and felt the threat of competition.  Consequently, in AD1903 the famous adventurer and colonist Colonel Younghusband led an army of 10,000 British, Gurkha and Indian soldiers to invade Tibet again.


Then Britain Prime Minister Arthur Balfour instructed, rather like a pirate or kidnapper, that:


“If the lama refuses to even consider our very reasonable and moderate offers, we have no choice but to turn the expedition from a peaceful into a punitive one…to destroy such buildings as walls and the gates of the city and to carry some of the leading citizens as hostages.” [6]


In front of a strategically located and massively guarded pass, Tang La, the British gentlemen solicited negotiation, and ordered every soldier to take one bullet off his bore, which was still loaded with bullets.  The Tibetan army were using outdated flintlock that was detonated by igniting the fuse.  They saw British India troops took off bullets, in return these honest fellows put out their kindling.  The British army instantly fired. In less than five minutes over five hundred Tibetan soldiers were killed.  This was how colonists with superior weapon cheated their outnumbered and poorly-equipped enemy.


Younghusband looted Gyantse and sacked Lhasa in AD1904. The 13th Dalai Lama first fled to Mongolia and then Beijing, while Panchen was “escorted” by the British to India.  Lamas who remained in Lhasa signed a truce with Younghusband but it was instantly repudiated by both Chinese and British governments. China regarded this truce null since Tibet had no sovereignty to sign any truce.  It soon sent diplomats to negotiate with British government and an effective truce was reached before long.  The Britons returned India with 400 mule-loads of wealth they robbed from Tibet


While the Younghusband expedition proved to be a military success, it was a political blunder.  The Britain has been trying to embellish this obvious aggression ever since.  It was recorded in Britannica in this way: “…a political mission was dispatched from India to secure understandings on frontier and trade relations. Tibetan resistance was overcome by force, the Dalai Lama fled to China, and the rough wooing ended in a treaty at Lhasa in 1904…”


Britain realized that Tibet is so vast and at such a high altitude, that it’s impossible for Britain to conquer it, let alone effectively managing it, with existing resources.  It then adjusted its strategy, put up a mask and approached Tibet in a friendly way.  To encroach Tibet territory, Britain introduced the McMahon line.




[1] Derek Waller, The Pundits.  British exploration of Tibet & Central Asia, Lexington, University Press of Kentucky, 1990


[2] Ironically, an Englishman Robert Hart, renowned for his “integrity”, sat on Beijing’s foreign affairs advisory board, while his brother James Hart was employed as the translator of the China delegation.  Robert learned every detail of both parties from James, kept communication with the British delegation, instructed the latter how to negotiate with Chinese and how to get the maximal profit out of it.  He advised the Britain delegate to ask for much more than what Britain actually wanted, and slash the overbid part later.  He even told his brother to add more request when he translated the British government’s conditions to his Chinese employee, so as to help his own government.


Gao, Hong-Zhi: Britain and China’s Frontier Crisis, Heilongjiang, 1998


[3] Z.T. Wang, A Brief Introduction of Sikkim Political History, 2004, Chapter 4.


[4] P.L. Mehra, Tibet and Russian Intrigue, RCAJ 45:1 (Jan 1958):32


[5] J. Macgregor, Tibet, A Chronicle of Exploration, London, 1970, p.297


[6] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.56

16. The McMahon Line


Sir Henry McMahon was sent to India in charge of its foreign affairs.  He proposed that, according to international tradition, countries are demarcated by natural landform, and therefore the boundary between British India and Tibet should be the crest of Himalayas.


McMahon Line doesn’t sound totally nonsense as it is.  For example, the boundary between Singapore and Malaysia is the middle line of Johor Strait; and the one between France and Spain is the crest of Pyrenees.  However, such “international tradition” should only be applied to areas without defined border.  In the case of Tibet, Tibetan has been resided in both sides of the Himalayas for generations [1].  There had already been clear border in the south piedmont of Himalayas between Tibet and other nations.  The McMahon Line was created to seize this part of land in a sound pretext.


McMahon did this without informing the British Parliament back in London, who later accepted it merrily.  According to Prof. Grunfeld:


“The ‘Outer Line’ was surreptitiously moved sixty miles north from the foothills of the Assam Himalayas to their crest.  This was done covertly, as the Indian government and the India office in London conspired to keep the public and the Parliament misinformed, assuring them that the new frontier was actually the same as the old.  The Times of London took a different task [2], arguing editorially that the frontier had indeed been altered and as a result the old treaties were invalid—even if the altering had been done unilaterally and secretly.” [3]


However, with Britain’s sweet promise to give Tibet clerical government weapon and luxury, lamas rapidly forgot the recent invasion and started negotiation with them.  This was against its agreement with Beijing that the central government would take care of Tibet’s foreign affairs and defense.


Then why did Tibet bypass Beijing?  This was in AD1910s.  The Qing Dynasty was toppled down in AD1911 and the Republic of China was then founded, followed by decades of civil war.  There was no China central government that had enough strength to deal with Tibet affairs.  Like many other Chinese provinces, Tibet became essentially autonomous, until the communist took over and reunited mainland China.


Therefore, in AD1913 at Simla (which Britain took from Nepal), delegates from Beijing [4], Lhasa Kashag and British India met and discussed the McMahon issue.  Beijing rejected this demarcation and quitted from the conference.  The next year, Lhasa secretly agreed to acknowledge the McMahon Line and signed a treaty with Britain [5], in which it essentially became a dependency of Britain but still nominally admitted to Chinese suzerainty.


Lhasa’s motives for signing such a treaty were unclear.  It gave up territory and reversed suzerains from China to Britain.  It certainly did not achieve “independence” —unless the state of independence is judged solely by the right to sign treaties with other nations.  Moreover, the treaty forced Kashag to agree there were two Tibets—inner and outer, with Lhasa controlling only the former, and put Lhasa on record as being willing to admit to de jure Chinese suzerainty.  Indeed, it can as easily be argued that Tibet’s signing was an example of its lack of independence. [6]


The major British participants at Simla knew well what they did was questionable.  Charles Bell, a senior British India official, admitted that the Tibetan could not comprehend the manipulation of the frontier: “the Tibetans couldn’t make maps.” [7]


Tibetologist Grunfeld commented that:


“The treaty revealed responsible officials of British India to have acted to the injury of China in conscious violation of their instructions; deliberately misinforming their superiors in London of their actions; altering documents whose publication had been ordered by Parliament; lying at an international conference table; and deliberately breaking a treaty between Britain and Russia. [8]


“The validity of the Simla Convention in International Law is at best questionable, at worst null and void… However, it did help to achieve Britain’s short-term aims.” [9]


Since Britain weapon and other promised aids never arrived [10], Lhasa refused to honor this treaty soon after.  And China government of course never acknowledged it.  The Britain neither announced nor enforced the Simla Convention until AD1937, when the Japan started its 8-year invasion of China.  Official British publications also continued to print the old frontier until that year.


The McMahon line was implemented as late as AD1950 by the unyoked India government who adopted this illegal demarcation from British India.  It buried the fuse of India-China skirmish in AD1962, which we will cover in last chapters of this book.




[1] The 6th Dalai Lama was born in the south piedmont


[2] The future of Tibet, Times 27 August 1912, p.5


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.63


[4] Beijing government, who was then in serious deficit, was compelled by Britain, its main creditor, to participate this meeting.  Nonetheless, Chen Yi-Feng (Ivan Chen) the envoy was instructed to take a firm stand on territory issue.  Beijing didn’t mind the failure of this meeting organized by Britain, whose entire intention was to seize land from Tibet.


[5] Sir McMahon induced Chen Yi-Feng to initiate a draft treaty, but Beijing repudiated this unauthorized draft immediately. Sir McMahon then presented the draft to London, which also cancelled its validity. In July AD1914, the conference was closed without Chinese signing the convention. London had instructed McMahon all along not to sign bilaterally with Tibetans if China refused, but McMahon proceeded to sign with the Tibetan representative.  Nonetheless, London recognized this unauthorized treaty afterwards.


[6] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.67-68


[7] Charles Bell, China and Tibet, Journal of the Royal Central Asian Society, London, 36, 1, 1949, p.54


[8] It refers to the Anglo-Russian Entente that mutually recognized Chinese suzerainty of Tibet signed in AD1907, in which Britain was to engage “not to enter into negotiations with Tibet except through the intermediary of the Chinese Government.”


[9] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.69


[10] It’s not at all difficult to figure out that Britain wouldn’t have any intention to arm a nation that it plans to annex.  Only US sincerely armed Tibet: CIA armed and trained rebels to attack Chinese communists, which is an integral part of US global strategy to contain communism.  Once US developed better relation with the communist China in AD1972, CIA stopped such aid instantly.

17. Debut of the 14th Dalai Lama


In AD1933, the 13th Dalai Lama died, leaving his acolytes wandering around to look for his reincarnated baby.  One group arrived in Amdo and found one in a Han-Tibetan mixed village.  The boy was named Lhamo Dhondup, a female name meaning Goddess to Fulfill Your Wish.  At that time he couldn’t speak Tibetan but a dialect of Mandarin.  A German Tibetologist, Matthias Hermanns, happened to be visiting this village and witnessed the whole event.  He knew the family well and recorded it in his book [1].  However, in official propaganda the 14th Dalai allegedly spoke decent Lhasa Tibetan when he saw the acolytes, so as to show that he is “the one”.


Now let’s wait a minute to explain this: why in fifth Dalai’s time the Panchen was also the fifth, while the counterpart of 14th Dalai was only the tenth?  Shouldn’t it be similar generation?


This is because four Dalais died unnaturally.  They are the 9th to the 12th, all died before they grew up, the direct reason being Palden Lhamo.


The full title of Palden Lhamo is “Great Warrior Deity, the Powerful Mother of the World of the Joys of the Senses” [2].  She is the protective goddess of Dalai Lama, unfortunately we witnessed totally the reverse.


According to Lamaism scripture Palden Lhamo would be among the most repulsive figures in a worldwide gallery of demons. With gnashing teeth, bulging eyes and a filthy blue body, she rides upon a wild mule. Beneath its hooves spreads a sea of blood which has flowed from the veins of her slaughtered enemies. Severed arms, heads, legs, eyes and entrails float around in it. The mule’s saddle is made from the leather of a skinned human. That would be repulsive enough! But the horror overcomes one when one discovers that it is the skin of her own son, who was killed by the goddess when he refused to follow her example and adopt the Buddhist faith. In her right hand Palden Lhamo swings a club in the form of a child’s skeleton. Some interpreters of this scene claim that this is also the remains of her son. With her left hand the fiendess holds a skull bowl filled with human blood to her lips. Serpents are entwined all around her. [3] [4]


There is a temple called Gokhang dedicated to Palden Lhamo to the southeast of Lhasa.  It’s stuffed of real and magic weapons, and more horrible, padded out by all manner of dried human body parts.  They are the tributes to the bloodthirsty goddess.  Since Palden Lhamo is the protective goddess of Dalai, it was a tradition that each Dalai would visit Ghokang and spent a night there. [5]


Just imagine, even as an adult, could you sleep in a room full of limbs, organs and torsos of human beings?


All the four Dalais were sent there in early childhood.


Take the 12th Dalai as an example.  He was 15 years old when his best playmate stole something trivial from his palace, the Potala.  The wrongdoer was caught and killed by the regent, then strapped astride a horse as if it were alive and brought to the poor child Dalai.  In front of him, the dead boy was amputated and beheaded.  Then in a few days, the shocked Dalai was sent to stay in Gokhang.


There is little doubt that these Dalai were merely sacrifice in power struggle: once the young Dalai died, the regent could stay in his position for next two decades.


Now let’s move back to the 14th Dalai, who never disclosed whether he had visited Gokhang.  His first regent was a Live Buddha called Reting Rinpoche, who was pro-Beijing.  Reting ruled for eight years before he handed over to Regent Taktra Rinpoche.  The innocent Reting agreed with Taktra personally to rotate office regularly, but Taktra denied later.  To get the power back, Reting allied with Choekyong Tsering, father of 14th Dalai.


However, Choekyong Tsering was soon poisoned in AD1947, generally believed done by men of Taktra.  During nationwide shock, Taktra arrested Reting and put him into jail, accusing him to be the one behind this assassination.  Reting’s acolyte, Tsenya Rinpoche [6], led pro-Reting monks to save their head via protest.  Taktra ordered guns for them. At least 200 Sera-Monastery monks died in this monastic “civil war”. Reting’s residence was razed to the ground.


Taktra then announced to Tibetans that it was a rebel plotted by China central government and started a holocaust of Han merchants in Lhasa.  Meanwhile, he telegraphed China government in Nanjing, which was then fully engaged in fighting with communists, saying that Reting was a communist [7].  Another smart lama, wasn’t he?


Reting was charged with treason and tortured to death in jail.  His testis were grinded before he was strangled, or poisoned by other accounts [8].  Other “accomplices” had their eyeballs dug.  [9]


Just how cruel and tormenting the atmosphere of this time has been described later by a Tibetan refugee: “Rivalry, in-fighting, corruption, nepotism, it was decadent and horrible. Everything was a matter of show, ceremonial, jockeying for position”. [10]


The focus of this whole power struggle is actually on whether Tibet should stay with then war-torn China.  Reting was pro-China, so was 14th Dalai’s father, Choekyong Tsering, who couldn’t even speak Tibetan when his son was enthroned.  Their rival was the nobility.  They didn’t want to stay under the weak China.  They were more interested to obtain British military aid so as to more effectively control their surfs.  And they prevailed in this round.


After the relentless cleansing in AD1947, pro-China lamas and the family of 14th Dalai were suppressed, leaving his brother Gayle Dhondup still murmuring about their father’s abnormal death till now [11].  The pro-independence side seized the power.  They taught the 14th Dalai their dogma, which made this highly intelligent young man a person of contradiction.  He inherited both pro and anti-China thoughts from both sides.  When the feudal lords failed in their AD1959 revolt, he went on exile with them; whereas when they used him as an image for Tibet Independence, he from time to time expresses wishes to reconcile with China government and keep Tibet as an autonomous region of China as it always has been.  It’s generally accepted that he’s not a die-hard pro-independence person.


From AD1947 till AD1950 it was the prime time of the pro-independence sect, while young 14th Dalai grew up.  Then in AD1950 the China army was at gate.




[1] Matthias Hermanns, Mythen und Mysterien. Magie und Religion der Tibeter, Cologne 1956, p.323


[2] Hugh Richardson, Ceremonies of the Lhasa Year, London 1993, p.87


[3] Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Der Schatten des Dalai Lama: Sexualit, Magie und Politik im Tibetischen Buddhismus (The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism), Patmos, 1999, Part II Chapter 2


[4] I couldn’t believe Buddhism will ever have such brutal image and that’s one more reason I doubt Lamaism is a genuine denomination of Buddhism.


[5] Charles Bell, The Religion of Tibet, Delhi 1994, p.159


[6] He was afterwards claimed by his opponents as the incarnation of a wrathful tutelary deity.  What a farce!


[7] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.73


[8] Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, Berkeley, etc. 1989, p.513


[9] Lamas are specialists in digging eyes in a very “civilized” way.  The executer just used special gadget to press the eye socket until the eyeballs briskly jumped out.  I wish it was painless to those poor innocent victims.


Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, Hong Kong, 1994, p.213


[10] Quoted by Mary Craig, Kundun: A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama, London 1997, p.123


[11] Mary Craig, p.120

18. The Tibet Trade Mission


Right before conflicts with Beijing, Kashag had one with New Delhi first.


After Britain relinquished the subcontinent in 1947, India took it for granted to inherit the de facto suzerainty of Tibet from the former.  It maintained a representative in Lhasa, essentially as an ambassador.  It had garrisons at towns on trade route, such as Yadong, a junction between Tibet and Sikkim, both treated by India as under its orbit.  As about Tibet’s foreign trade, India peremptorily prohibited the Tibetans from acquiring hard currency its exports generated.


Before AD1950, Tibet’s main export was wool, purchased by US to produce automobile rug.  As early as in AD1930s it had amounted to about 3,000 to 4,000 tons per year [1].  During World War II US stopped this trade, which resulted in Tibet’s wool rotten in Kalimpong, Sikkim.  After the war, fortunately, US resumed purchase, which amounted to two million US dollars a year.  However, India government intercepted US dollars that were supposed to be paid to Tibetans, and gave them fragile Indian rupees instead.  To add insult to injury, the Indians charged customs duties on goods Tibet imported through the port at Calcutta.  “Lhasa was at the mercy of Indian officials who were, by their actions, hardly affirming their stated beliefs that Tibet was an independent state.” [2]


Tibet, an already poor country, couldn’t afford such exploitation by India.  Facing decreasing gold reserve, Taktra-led Kashag decided in AD1948 to send a trade mission to China, Europe, America and India.  According to Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa, the leader of this delegation, the purposes of the trip were:


  • To purchase gold to back up the Tibetan currency
  • To obtain aid for their efforts to ease Indian restriction on Tibet trade
  • To expand Tibet trade
  • To demonstrate Tibet’s independence and sovereign status [3]


To deter this delegation, New Delhi warned the United States that the sole purpose of this mission was to enrich Kashag officials, while India was highly concerned that “any gold purchased would find its way back to India from Tibet to be resold at highly inflated and profitable black-market prices.” [4]


Such trick was doomed to fail.  However, UK and US had, mutually, more serious concern: since both countries officially recognized China’s sovereignty over Tibet, they couldn’t treat this Tibet Trade Mission as an official government deputation.


Shakabpa gaily claimed that:


Throughout their entire journey abroad, they carried Tibetan passports and travel documents, which were recognised and accepted by all the countries they visited; thus, they established another precedent supporting the independent status of Tibet. [5]


However, historical facts suggested otherwise.


The Mission first went to India without using passport as a long-standing agreement.  Then it went to Nanjing, the capital of Republic of China, which regarded the group as a provincial delegation. “Tibetan passport” was not used either.


In UK, London informed Washington that the Tibet Trade Mission would be received as “a private commercial affair, not in any official capacity” [6], although the Tibetans regarded themselves as an official one.  While the prime minister received them in 10 Downing Street, no political issue was raised and the British government kept Chinese Embassy fully informed of the whole event.


In its five days in Switzerland, the Mission was constantly accompanied by a secretary from Chinese Embassy, obviously forced on the reluctant Tibetans by Swiss government.  No newspaper reported their visit.  Their visas were merely to facilitate travel and were not meant to imply recognition of the passports. [4]


As for the United States, even before the group arrived in New Delhi to apply for US visa, Department of State had instructed its Embassy in December AD1947 to issue them visa on Form 257, “standard procedure [in] cases where applicant presents passport of [a] Government [the] US does not recognize” [7].  Then in July AD1948 US Embassy in Nanjing was instructed to inform China government that there should be “no reason whatsoever to believe issuance of visas indicated any change in American policy on [the] question of sovereignty over Tibet”. [8]


During its stay in the US, the group was received by the Department of Commerce, which treated it as private businessmen and dealt with them only on commercial matters.  Shakabpa raised his courage to request a meeting with President Harry S. Truman to present him with gift from the Dalai Lama and Kashag.  To his surprise, the Department of State agreed, on the condition it “be conducted with the approval of and under the auspices of, the Chinese Government”. [9]


Consequently, the Department of State designed the procedure that China government would formally request a meeting with President Truman and the Chinese Ambassador, Wellington Koo, would accompany the Tibetans to the White House.  The embarrassed Shakabpa refused such a meeting.  But this frustration didn’t discourage him from boasting years later in his book <Tibet: A Political History> that Tibet’s sovereignty was fully recognized by the US government.


Although the Tibet Trade Mission completely failed in achieving any political goal, it did manage to purchase gold from the US.  It is noteworthy that internally the Department of State informed the Department of Treasury that it “does not intend that such a sale would affect the continuation of this Government’s recognition of China’s de jure sovereignty over Tibet” [10].  Meanwhile it instructed US Ambassador in New Delhi to tell Indian authorities “the willingness of the United States to sell gold to the Tibetan authorities does not constitute recognition of the Tibetan administration as a sovereign government”. [11]


India soon lifted its greedy policy of robbing Tibetan government of its hard currency generated from export.  However, private merchants still receive only rupee from their trade.  This situation was not changed until India and China signed trade agreement years later.




[1] Tolstoy, Outline of Journey: Economic Report


[2] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.88


[3] Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa, Tibet: A Political History, 1984, p.295


[4] Grunfeld, p.89


[5] Shakabpa, p.296


[6] Office of Intelligence Research, “Tibet”, p.37, National Archives, Diplomatic Branch, Washington, D.C.


[7] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1947, vol. VII, The Far East: China, Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 1972, p.604


[8] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, p.760-761


[9] Grunfeld, p.90


[10] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1948, p.757-758


[11] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1949, p.1064-1078

19. Where Is My Army?


China Communist Party (CCP) defeated the Nationalists and drove its Republic of China government to the island of Taiwan.  Its own regime, the People’s Republic of China (PRC), was founded on 1 October, AD1949.  The communist army, People’s Liberation Army (PLA), smoothly swept through south China thereafter.  Britain, our intelligent buddy, was among the first in western countries to acknowledge PRC in exchange for the latter’s acknowledgement of Britain’s control over Hong Kong, since it was impossible for UK to recover soon enough from the debris of World War II before it could confront the fierce PLA at that time.  Their military strength could be observed during the Korean War soon after. [1]


As PLA approached Chamdo of Kham, the entrance to Lhasa-controlled part of Tibet, Lhasa turned to London and Delhi for military assistance. Britain just hastily left behind its nightmare in the subcontinent in AD1947, thus could provide nothing but spiritual encouragement.  India did hold a meeting to discuss this issue among Indian Foreign Secretary, its ambassador to Beijing, head of its Intelligence Bureau as well as Indian Army staff.  All but General Cariappa favored military intervention despite geography obstacle.  However, Cariappa had the final say [2].  India provided Lhasa with ten thousand guns instead.


Regent Taktra then announced on 14 January 1950 that Tibet would send missions to Britain and United States to “announce” its independence.  One week later Beijing proclaimed that it would be regarded as serious offense against China if any country would accommodate such mission.  Although U.K. and U.S. were hostile against communist China, they rejected these missions since they had to recognize China’s sovereignty of Tibet.


Disappointed Tibetan feudal lords and lamas then decided to make a military attempt to see how tough PLA was.  However, their troop deployment was seriously delayed.


The historic reason was that the clerical regime of Tibet never had a decent army.  As we related earlier, the lamas seized Tibet using Mongol mercenary.  After the fifth Dalai contribute Tibet to Imperial China, Tibet’s own military force, lama army, acted merely as internal security force or to provide the first wave defense before Chinese army arrived to their rescue.  According to British soldier who invaded Tibet in AD1904, lama army had very bad morale if not moral.  They didn’t even bother to bury their own fellows who lay in the dust after three months [3].  A Tibetan official also recalled in a report to the Kashag dated AD1904 that when he tried to persuade the fleeing lama officer to reorganize his troops, the latter responded by shooting him. [4]


After Lhasa decided to seek independence since AD1910s, it asked Britain to help train a modern army.  So pervasive was the British influence that as late as AD1950 the officers of this “new army” gave all their orders in English while the army band was only capable of playing such traditional “Tibetan” tunes as “Auld Lang Syne”, “God Save the King” and “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”. [5]


In reality, though, the army was hopelessly ill-equipped and poorly-trained [6].  The British, while wishing to develop an army in Tibet to protect them from possible Chinese invasion, were at the same time reluctant to adequately train and equip it, fearing that Tibetan nationalism might grow so strong that one day it might use this army to march south.  So the Tibetan army was little more than window dressing. [7]


Nonetheless, the obsolete lamas could tolerate hardly anything new.  They doubted that the commander of this showy army could place a threat to their regime.  As a result they skillfully, once more, dug out his eyeballs.  The new army underwent a severe cleansing and became as impotent as their counterpart, the lama army.


Lamas and feudal lords clearly understood that they couldn’t rely on either army to protect their caste and privilege, yet none of them was willing to send their own serf into this unknown battle or pay a cent.  After violent squabble and tactics among themselves, ten regiments were finally pieced together with feudal lords and lamas as officers.


Not only in low morale, but the Tibetan military forces were unable to receive any helping hand from the local Tibetan population: the nomadic Khampas were firmly anti-Lhasa, or essentially against any government trying to collect tax from them. Consequently they helped the PLA and worked as guides and interpreters.


Fortunately, the communists didn’t attack during Tibet’s hasty preparation.  The PLA was patiently waiting for reply of whether Lhasa would prefer a peaceful reunification [8].  Another factor was that the altitude of Tibet severely affected the strength of PLA who came from low land.  Therefore, the two armies just confronted each other in the hot summer of AD1950 outside Chamdo.


Internationally, Korean War just broke out on June 25th, AD1950.  All the main forces of PLA were gradually sent to rescue the completely collapsed North Korean regime, leaving this weak division alone in the vast Tibet Plateau, with neither reserved troop nor secured supply.




[1] A documentary on Korean War was aired in History Channel in 2003, in which an American narrator commented that “it is not a forgotten war.  It is a forgotten VICTORY”.  This is among the most blatant self-comfort I have ever witnessed.  Let’s await further Hollywood daydreams on this war, as they already did on Vietnam War.  Anyway, history seems to be a victim of any interpolator at any time.


[2] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.98


[3] Edmund Candler, The Unveiling of Lhasa, Tibet Press, 1989, p.77-78


[4] Tibet History Files, Vol. 7, 1985, p.97-100


[5] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.80


[6] However, the equipment level of both Tibetan army and their PLA counterpart was similar, as both PLA and Tibetan officers compared and admitted later.  This PLA division came from the worst-equipped PLA group army.  Tsering Wangchuk, Han-Tibetan Losang Tashi, Dharamsala, 1991, Chapter 4


[7] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.81


[8] The messenger Beijing sent to Lhasa, a live Buddha of Kham, was poisoned under instruction given by Robert Ford, a British spy disguised as the radio stationmaster of Chamdo.

20. A Demon’s War


Back in Lhasa, lamas were cheerfully giving their part of contribution to the war:  they were calling for help from a devil called Kshetrapala.  The tributes used to invocate this demon, or “demon recipe”, were specified as:


  • Torma (cake) made of buckwheat and blood;
  • Five different sorts of meat, including human flesh;
  • The skull of a child of an incestuous relationship, filled with blood and mustard seeds;
  • The skin of a boy;
  • A bowl of human brain in blood;
  • A lamp filled with human fat with a wick made of human hair;
  • And a dough like mixture of gall, brain, blood and human entrails. [1]


In AD1950 summer the Gelug lama made a huge torma of roughly three-yard high, claiming that the powerful demon Kshetrapala was invocated and sealed in it.  They burnt it outside Lhasa town and bluffed Tibetans into believing that the demon as well as his accomplices was released to destroy the deity behind PLA, which was claimed to be a “nine-headed Chinese demon”.


The Chinese claim that 21 individuals were killed in this brutal ritual so that their organs could be used to make the huge cake. Relatives of the victims are supposed to have testified to this [2]. One could with good reason doubt the Chinese accusations because of the political situation, but not because they contradict the logic of Tibetan rites of war — these have been recorded in numerous Lamaism tantric texts. [3]


Lamas never worried about the poor outcome of their ritual.  In their words, it takes time.


When Colonel Younghusband invaded Tibet in AD1904, lamas also invoked the same deity for help, but nothing happened and British expedition shortly sacked Lhasa.  Two decades later several British soldiers died during an earthquake in the India province of Bihar.  The lamas gloriously traced this natural disaster back to magical activities which they had conducted prior to the invasion.  Again, during China leader Mao’s final days in AD1976, the 14th Dalai spent three days praying for his death in Ladakh, India before he declared that Mao died because of his curse [4].


I am yet to find a proper way to express my gayety towards such great self-confidence.


The lamas were simply brilliant to foresee that the powerful demon Mr. Kshetrapala did take time to prove his cruelty, whereas the Tibetan army made of serfs, lamas, and hooligans collapsed right after the beginning of fight, some simply shooting their own officers.  This was the so-called Chamdo Battle, in which 180 Tibetans were killed or wounded, 898 taken prisoners and 4317 surrendered [5], the others fled back to their villages.  The outnumbered PLA division never expected such land-sliding victory.  They entered Chamdo and sent messenger again to Lhasa for peaceful solution.


The feudal lords recognized from the fiasco that it was impossible, without support from mass Tibetans, to fight with an army that had just won China [6].  What’s even worse was that they lost two thirds of their strength in this battle and couldn’t afford further fighting.  They resorted to the external forces again.


India first stood out to send three formal notes to China government on 21 & 28 October and 1 November, 1950, requesting Beijing to keep Tibet’s autonomy under China’s suzerainty and to maintain India’s privileges in Tibet, such as garrison, representative and transmitter, which it inherited from British colonist.  Beijing rejected them as intervention of China’s interior affair and reaffirmed that no foreign garrison would be allowed to deploy in Tibet. [7]


In further effort, on 7 November 1950 Kashag sent Secretary of United Nation a letter drafted by India’s representative in Lhasa, Sinha, whose job was seriously endangered by Beijing’s recent declaration.  This letter appealed for intervention into China’s “invasion” of Tibet.  US-backed EI Salvador proposed for a discussion on it.  However, both Britain and India suggested postponing any judgment.  For Britain, since it has withdrawn from India, Tibet no longer acted as any crucial buffer of its colony, not to mention that it didn’t want to cause any backfire to Hong Kong, now under China’s instant military reach.  For India, it didn’t want to lose China as an important ally in the third world.  Practically, New Delhi wished to forge close cooperation with Beijing against Pakistan, which was US’ anti-communism bridgehead in South Asia.


Since both most influential countries on Tibet issue expressed indifference, US had no option but to follow.  Therefore the Western world lost the best opportunity to stab in China’s back when it was fully engaged in the Korean War.[8]




[1] René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz, Wo Berge Götter sind. Drei Jahre bei unerforschten Völkern des Himalaya, Stuttgart 1955, p. 261


[2] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.29


[3] Victor and Victoria Trimondi, Der Schatten des Dalai Lama: Sexualit, Magie und Politik im Tibetischen Buddhismus, Patmos, 1999, Part II Chapter 8


[4] Dalai Lama XIV, Freedom in Exile – The Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, New York, 1990, p.222


[5] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.108


[6] PLA general Li Jue analyzed four decades later that Lhasa should have adopted a totally different strategy: avoid any decisive battle with PLA but annoy its transit using guerrillas.  Ji You-Quan, White Snow, Beijing, 1993, p.139


It sounds reasonable, but how could an utterly isolated regime wage a guerrilla war?  Nonetheless, even if the Kashag adopted such strategy, it would only facilitate PLA to eradicate Tibetan feudal lords and consolidate its frontier step by step.  Consequently there wouldn’t have been any revolt since there wouldn’t have been any feudal lords left to lead any.


Therefore, it was essentially wiser for the Kashag to drop the gun.


[7] Yang Gong-Su, How China Resisted Foreign Intervention of Tibet Affairs, Beijing, 1992, p.250-252


[8] Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989-1991), pp.708-786.

21. The 17-Point Agreement


Since the international community recognized Tibet as an integral part of China, the Tibetan feudal lords yielded to the Qing model, in which they simply acknowledge Tibet to be an autonomous province of China, and everything would remain the same.


Furthermore, the lords knew that their serfs were not loyal to them but to the cleric, since it holds true universally that sermon is far more effective than whip.  Wisely they decided to leave monks, their political ally, to deal with Beijing.


However, Major Kaishar Bahadur, Nepal’s representative in Lhasa, preferred the opinion that the negotiation resulted from clerical pressure on the lay leadership for selfish, not nationalistic, reason:


“The monks…are so firmly entrenched in a system which perpetuates their power and idleness, that they would go to any lengths to maintain their dominating position in the country and to keep their life of relative affluence.  The monastic centers are like college towns with as many as 1000 monks in one place, whiling away their time, spending the mornings in droning mechanical prayer, supported in parasitic luxury on the meager resources of the country.  Many of the monks, if they believed their system would not be disturbed, would put up no effective opposition to Chinese Communist influence.  They would be principally concerned in maintaining themselves in power even at the expense of the country.” [1]


14th Dalai Lama himself fled to Yadong (Yatung) on the Tibet-Sikkim border with aristocrats and animals loaded of wealth.  He sent two representatives to Beijing for negotiation.  One of them was the defeated frontier commander of Chamdo Battle, Ngabo Ngawang Jigme, who had totally lost confidence in the backward Kashag [2] and remained adamant in Tibet’s peaceful unification with China ever since.


Lhasa and Beijing’s pursuits were a good match.  For the communists, they regarded Tibetan an integral part of Chinese, like Bengalese to Indian or Welsh to Briton.  They treated Tibet as a province that China lost control half a century before due to regime transition and imperialist interference, which was true.  Moreover, they didn’t wish to hastily get rid of Tibet’s serfdom either, since it has been the communist’s policy to keep away from minority ethnic groups’ custom and tradition.


With both sides happy with their goals achieved, a 17-Point Agreement was reached and signed on 23 May 1951.  Beijing would honor Dalai Lama as the eternal spiritual leader of Tibet, while Kashag agreed to have Tibet stay in China as an integral part.  Beijing would leave Tibet remain in feudalism instead of practicing any socialism reform as happened in most other parts of China.


Kashag on exile repudiated after AD1959 that this agreement was signed in Beijing, instead of in Lhasa, under China’s direct pressure, therefore illegal.  They further argue that the Tibetan seal used in this agreement was made in Beijing, not the real one used by Lhasa government.


Well, it’s true that the winner always takes an edge in negotiating with the loser, which is exactly why military engagement is necessary in many circumstances to show both parties a clearer picture.  In this case, Dalai Lama was fully informed of negotiation progress and approved the final agreement himself.  If he did feel it unfair, he could have walked ten minutes into India-annexed Sikkim, like he is on exile now.  Instead, however, he returned Lhasa and resumed his throne as the god-king of Tibet.  It’s not convincing that he was against the 17-Point Agreement, which doesn’t deprive anything from him.


The delegation was sent to Beijing because the Kashag had turned down the opportunity to negotiate in Lhasa, which the Chinese had originally proposed. [3]


As for the seal, the two representatives of Lhasa didn’t bring the sole seal to Beijing.  Since transport to and fro Tibet was extremely backward at that time, they sought approval from Yadong and was granted to duplicate one for the signing of the agreement.  All telegraph traded between them are conserved.


In a word, the lamas and feudal lords didn’t grumble at all about the legality of this agreement before the AD1959 revolt.  They went back to their palaces and demesnes to continue their luxury life by exploiting their serfs.


The communists called it Peaceful Liberation of Tibet.  Actually it’s not: it’s not completely “peaceful” since there was a Chamdo Battle; and it’s not “liberation” since the communist didn’t touch the clerical regime and the serfdom continued without any scrape.  After all they felt happy to take Tibet back quite peacefully, so they acquiescence with the feudalism, although many did express antipathy.  A Han diplomat in charge of Tibet’s foreign affairs recalled that his unit paid local feudal lord two silver dollars per day for each local groom to carry their equipment to Lhasa.  The lord took the money but ordered his serfs to work for free.  When the Kashag officials came to welcome this unit, the lord even summon his female serfs to sleep with these officials from Lhasa [4].  This was of course unbelievable to these Han communist cadres, but they could do nothing but grumble between each other in private.


Anyway, the honeymoon between Beijing and Lhasa began.




[1] Memo of conversation between two US Consular officials and Major Bahadur, Calcutta, 4 December 1949.893.00 Tibet/11-949, National Archive, Diplomatic Branch, Washington, DC


[2] When Ngabo Ngawang Jigme’s aide attempted to liaise with Lhasa during the battle, he was told that Kashag bureaucrats were all engaged in outing feast and wouldn’t be able to take care of the battle. Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913–1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State, Hong Kong, 1994, p.716


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.113


[4] Yang Gong-Su, An Envoy’s Memoir, 1995, Chapter 7

22. 1950s: the Honeymoon


The first ordeal China faced was the American boycott of Tibet wool after the reunification.  Beijing’s response was to purchase Tibet’s entire wool production at three times the market price [1].  This would have been in line with their policy of winning the support of the Tibetan people, benefiting both the serfs responsible for raising the sheep, the feudal lords who profited from the sale and the lamas who lived on tax income.


14th Dalai Lama went to Beijing afterwards to meet Mao and other top officials in central government.  He wrote an extraordinary poem to Mao that he has only recently acknowledged after Beijing provided manuscript.  To my surprise, he didn’t use his conventional excuse that he wrote this poem “under pressure” or “to protect Tibetans”, but rather, weakly contended that the composition of poetry was a common practice in Tibetan culture [2].  The unabashed adulation in the poem hardly demonstrates someone unhappy with the Chinese presence in Tibet:


O!  Chairman Mao!  Your brilliance and deeds are like

those of Brahm and Mahasammata,

creators of the world


Only from an infinite number of good deeds can such a

leader be born, who is like the sun shining
over the world.


Your writings are precious as pearls, abundant and
powerful as the high tide of the ocean
reaching the edges of the sky


Another detail is helpful for readers to learn more about the mysterious Lamaism: the excrement from His Honor was carefully collected, conserved and sent back to Tibet, where it was made into “holy medicine”, since Lamaism treats it as panacea. [3]


The first highway connecting Sichuan and Lhasa was officially opened on 25 December 1954.  It is 2400km in distance and took four years and nine months to complete.  On the same day the 2100km long Qinghai-Tibet Highway opened too.  The third major link was opened in October 1957 from Xinjiang Province through the disputed Aksai-Chin area, totaling 1200km. [4]


With these arteries in operation, the price of Chinese tea, a daily commodity in Tibetan’s life, dropped by two-thirds in two years.  The road allows one truck to transport in two days the same quantity of goods previously carried by sixty yaks in twelve days.  Besides supplying Tibet market with more and cheaper products, it also relieved central government staff and PLA in Tibet of their food supply problem.  Beijing used to buy grain for them from Hong Kong and transport it via India, so as to avoid fluctuating the local market already suffering from scanty grain supply.


The enormous cost of building these roads and keeping them open under severe climatic conditions and sabotage by dissidents, as well as such of other fundamental construction projects, was rarely appreciated outside China.  Nonetheless, it caused the first discord between central and local government.


Each of these Beijing-funded and managed highway projects employed great number of local Tibetans for labor, and paid them due wages.  However, this was against the traditional ulag, or corvee that feudal lords enjoyed for generations free of charge.  The result was that, in regions along the highway, serfs realized that they were not born to work for free, and they could change their miserable life by working hard and making more money, instead of taking it as the retribution of “karma”, which their feudal lords and lamas had been instructing them. [5]


Therefore, these highways not only changed the economy system of Tibet, but eroded into its social structure as well.  Serfs were walking out of darkness; feudal lords felt their way of life was endangered; only lamas were still enjoying their yet unchanged luxury.


Towards the end of 1950s the honeymoon between Lhasa and Beijing was drawing to an end, with internal conflicts and foreign intrigues accumulating.




[1] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.114


[2] Stuart and Roma Gelder, The Timely Rain: Travels in New Tibet, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1965, p.204-205.  Dalai Lama interview


[3] As collateral evidence, 40 years later a pious Lamaism follower called Shoko Asahara, who established the infamous AUM Shinrikyo, released poison gas in Tokyo subway and now stayed in jail, used to bid a small bottle of his semen at US$7000.  Of course 14th Dalai and his acolytes no longer admit any relation with this once very close student and generous patron, but mails between them seized from Shoko’s AUM headquarter proved that Dalai assigned Shoko Asahara to promote “genuine Buddhism” in Japan and assisted him to expand this evil cult.


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.121


[5] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.129

23. The CIA-manipulated Revolt


“Our hope of solving the problem of the mainland China was not through attack upon the mainland but rather by actions which would promote disintegration from within”, said Walter Robertson, Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs [1][2].  This was the guideline of US’ attempts to “destabilize” the communist China.


Tibet was by no exception a pawn in this Cold War chessboard.  Since early 1950s US had been training Tibetan agents who were first ferried from Tibet through Sikkim, Kalimpong, Siliguri, Dhaka to Taiwan, then trained in Saipan and later Camp Hale, Colorado [3].  They were then para-dropped back to Kham region, most never responded afterwards.


India’s “moral support” also extended to the sharing of Chinese military information with Tibetan rebel leaders [4] well before AD1962 when skirmish broke out between them.


However, the worldwide rejection of the charges made by CCP that Tibet received foreign military aid did a disservice to the cause of the Tibetan refugees by making the eventual acknowledgement of aid all the more difficult and embarrassing. When the Dalai Lama was presented with evidence that members of his staff had, indeed, been in touch with, trained by, and working for the CIA he replied:


“Some points are not convenient for us to comment upon.  This kind of report is extremely dangerous, because it implies that the resistance in Tibet was initiated by some outsiders.  This is not so.  I want to emphasize that the whole policy was initiated by Tibet whether we had CIA/United States help or not; with or without CIA, Tibetan determination was there from the start.” [5]


Of course he is right.  It is useful to note that the CIA’s method of operation is to seek out whatever resistance and dissension already exist, then work to become part of that resistance—expand it, manipulate it, take control of it, and finally order it to function for the CIA’s interests, whatever its original purposes.


The evidence indicates that the dissension between Lhasa and Beijing was insufficiently widespread to sustain a lengthy, open rebellion.  Nonetheless, the CIA and the Indians understood full well that the Tibetan rebellion had no chance of success or even of causing any major disruption to the Chinese.  The government of the United States was only interested in harassing China’s rulers:


“It was a flea biting an elephant,” recalled one CIA veteran. “Basically Tibet was just a nuisance to the Chicoms [Chinese Communists]. It was fun and games.  It didn’t have any effect.” [6]


It was certainly not fun and games to the Tibetan rebels risking their lives for their cause.  Nevertheless, American support continued to raise false hopes.


To brief this revolt: the Khampas rebels fled to Lhasa with refugees since late AD1958, seeking haven from PLA military pressure.  When the commander of PLA in Lhasa routinely invited Dalai Lama to watch a show in his camp in spring AD1959, they blockaded Dalai’s palace and claimed that the Chinese was going to kidnap him.  Dalai first wrote to the commander for his help, but later mysteriously changed his mind and went on exile.


Beijing for a decade insisted he was kidnapped by his feudal ally, while Tibetans on exile claims otherwise.  Nobody knows what really happened, but an excellent evidence shows how the revolt was plotted and instigated, probably jointly with foreign mastermind:


On 2 March 1959—only days before the revolt broke out in Lhasa—the Calcutta paper the Statesman published a remarkable article by an unnamed author.  This author, proving to have exceptional sources and insight, uncannily predicted the possible course of events in Tibet in coming days.  He wrote that the Khampas and refugees in Lhasa would agree that the Chinese soldiers presented little threat to the Tibetans in this holy city.  In spite of this, the rebels would begin cutting off all the roads leading into the city in the event that fighting broke out.  Moreover, the author surmised, the Dalai Lama would be unwilling to leave Lhasa; in order to convince him to leave, the Khampas would have to create some disturbance. [7]


What he had forecast happened exactly soon after.


The exile of Dalai Lama was also planned and carried out by CIA [8].  Mullin, the author of The CIA, said: “this fantastic escape and its major significance have been buried in the lore of the CIA as one of the successes that are not talked about.  The Dalai Lama would never have been saved without the CIA.” [9]


Finally, the doctrinaire anticommunism of the Western and Indian press corps led them to glorify the Dalai Lama and life in Tibet, while reacting to every explanation offered by China—even when documents were produced—with scorn and ridicule.  A Calcutta periodical claimed that during AD1962 revolt “…on the best authority, that Norbulingka with its 200 buildings … has been reduced to shambles by heavy Chinese artillery.” [10]


But a Tibetan who left in AD1969 asserted that the Norbulingka remained intact [11].  And British visitors in AD1962 also confirmed that the palace had suffered little damage and there was no evidence of rebuilding at all. [12]


The revolt as well as rebel raids, in the final analysis, did not cause any major disruptions, in no way weakened the strength of the central government in China or its hold on Tibet and failed to bring the Dalai Lama any closer to fulfilling his wish of triumphantly returning to Lhasa.  Indeed, it can be argued that the opposite was the case.




[1] This chapter is compiled from A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, New York, 1996


[2] Quoted from Weissman, Last Tangle, p. 13


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.154


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.159


[5] Chris Mullin, The CIA: Tibetan Conspiracy, 1975, p.31


[6] John Ranelagh, The Agency. The Rise and Decline of the CIA, 1986, p.335-336


[7] Our Special Correspondent, “The Pattern of Revolt in Tibet”, the Statesman 2 March 1959, p.6


[8] A legend about Dalai Lama was spread that during his escape a PLA fighter attempted to attack him but was blocked by thick clouds.  It was later confirmed to be a CIA scout trying to convoy him.  Since it’s a taboo to talk about US aid, Dharamsala propaganda chose to keep with the legend.


[9] Chris Mullin, p.33


[10] The Statesman 25 March 1959


[11] Kunsang Paljor, Tibet: The Undying Flame, p.18


[12] Stuart and Roma Gelder, The Timely Rain: Travels in New Tibet, New York: Monthly Review Press, 1965, p.186

24. The Failure of One Country Two Systems in Tibet: A Short Review


As mentioned, the communist China practiced its “One Country Two Systems” policy first in Tibet: the central government in Beijing took charge of foreign affairs and defense of Tibet while left all other internal issues to the local Kashag.  This was also how Qing Dynasty governed Tibet.


Han cadres were told to refrain from criticizing, let alone interfering with, how Kashag ran Tibet.  As a consequence, an Indian diplomat living in Lhasa observed that: “While most (Kashag) officials live smugly in their ivory towers, leading much the same life of idle dissipation, the common people … have derived little comfort from the alliance which the Communists have forged with the ruling aristocracy of Tibet.” [1]


Just like in the current Hong Kong issue, Beijing reckons that the only way to consolidate its sovereignty is to provide locals with economic stimulus so as to convince them that to stay within Chinese nation is the right choice.  Since political or economic reform, such as redistribution of land to serfs, was out of the question, the central government was left with technical measure, such as to construct infrastructure and to promote trade.


Nonetheless, the Chinese authorities failed to comprehend that any change—regardless of how small and seemingly insignificant—could not help but have a profound effect on such a rigid and ossified feudal society.  Prof. Grunfeld commented that:


“By installing the Panchen Lama at Tashilhunpo Monastery in 1952 the Chinese had rekindled a centuries-old rivalry [2].  By paying wages to Tibetans for building the roads they disrupted the practice of ulag.  By paying Tibetan children to attend school they gave the serfs added economic leverage and disrupted age-old work practices.  By providing the most modest training for Tibetan cadres they created alternative avenues of social mobility for serfs.” [3]


Then came the Khampas rebellion.  Internally it was caused by land reform carried out in Sichuan province, which shares part of Kham region with Tibet.  Feudalism was abolished there, land and properties confiscated to be redistributed to liberated serfs.  Externally it was instigated and aided by the US and India, as described in previous chapter.


Under such circumstance many feudal lords and monastery heads who lost their serfs and land rebelled.  One former rebel leader later recalled that the rebel were led by “big traders in Lhasa and the heads of the Kham monasteries”, instead of common Tibetans as people might regard for granted.  “Big traders in Lhasa” obviously referred to those who communicated between Tibet and US via India.


In a sense, just like Korean War or Vietnam War, it’s part of the Cold War.


Western propaganda keeps claiming that rebels are all volunteering common Tibetans.  It is difficult, however, not to wonder how much “volunteering” there really was if the rebel leaders were feudal nobles.  One wealthy rebel leader admitted donating to the cause forty-six “employees,” along with their weapons and horses, as well as other supplies such as one hundred pack horses and mules. [4]


Rebels were soon defeated and fled to Tibet where PLA hesitated to wage further military campaign.  However, panic was thus spread to feudal lords back in Tibet: whether the communist would do the same thing to them, with their serfs already attracted and swayed by the heresy of freedom and human rights brought by these newcomers.


The vanquished rebels believed that the only chance to win their feudalism back was via US’s military interference.  But US had a firm prerequisite: Washington did not want to take the risk of fighting with China and Soviet Union by fully aiding rebel forces in Tibet when they did not even have the official approval from their own religious and secular leader—the Dalai Lama.  As early as in AD1956 when Dalai visited India for the 2500-Year Anniversary of Buddha Birth, CIA offered Dalai Lama through his brother Thubten Norbu military aid, choices of exile destination and promised to raise Tibet issue in UN, asking him to repudiate the 17-Point Agreement so as to make an excuse for US to interfere [5].  Dalai rejected and returned China with Nehru’s advice. [6]


Because of this failure, Grunfeld commented, “The rebels’ inability to get that approval through peaceful means may very well have been the impetus for the events of March 1959.” [7]


The 14th Dalai Lama therefore became the key person.  If this spiritual leader of Tibet chose to abide by the 17-Point Agreement with Beijing, the rebels would have lost their ground and further revolt could have been avoided.  However, his acolytes who had been controlling the Kashag for ages wouldn’t concede to any challenge even it’s illusory, and his ally, the feudal lords, wouldn’t compromise on any potential loss of their privilege.  They, together with rebels outside the palace, created panic around Dalai.  It’s then utterly rational that Dalai took their side, as he had always been with.


Nonetheless, even if in March AD1959 the young 14th Dalai Lama had managed to cooperate with the communist, to control his men and to stop the Khampas rebels from revolt, the future of any peaceful solution in Tibet issue would still have been dim.  The basic conflicts were between the left leaning communist and ossified feudal lords and their clergy ally, as well as that between US and China over the weakest link of the newly born China nation: Tibet.  These conflicts were inevitable until “The Demise of the Lamaist State”. [8]


Then assume China was not under communist government, would it have been any better?  My answer is No.  The “One Country Two Systems” model which worked for Tibet Province during Manchu Empire couldn’t have been further sustained.  The reason is simple: feudalism and serfdom couldn’t survive any longer in modern society, no matter how some people claim it to be their “tradition”, “culture”, “lifestyle”, or whatsoever.




[1] PRO FO 371/99659, 16 April 1952


[2] In yet another power struggle among lamas, this time between Dalai and Panchen, the latter lost and went to China’s protection in early 20th century.


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.129


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.132-133


[5] Patterson, Requiem for Tibet, p.122-138; Thubten Norbu, Tibet, p.244


[6] Rumor has it that Beijing persuaded Nehru to do so, offering the Tibet land to the south of the McMahon Line.  To be discussed later.


[7] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.154


[8] Melvyn Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951. The Demise of the Lamaist State, 1989

25. Achievements in Diaspora (II)


The second wave of Tibetan diasporas did perfectly well in public relation.


Sweet fairy tale about Tibet before China invasion were made up such as: “Almost every Tibetan engaged in agricultural occupation, however poor he may be relatively, has, in his possession a minimum of 5 to 6 cattle, and 30 sheep” [1], as if Tibet doesn’t represent one of the harshest environments in the world and Tibet never employed serfdom to exploit the large number of serfs and sustain luxury life of a small aristocracy and clergy class.


Actually the Tibet government in exile did accept as unequivocally true such ludicrous statements as:  “It must, therefore, be pointed out that serfdom does not exist in Tibet in any form whatsoever” [2]


If it held true that harmony instead of exploitation dominated Tibet, how to explain why the 14th Dalai Lama, from a rural family in Amdo, accumulated 7-11 million US dollars personal wealth when he fled to India in AD1959? [3]


It was not until AD1974 that Tibet historically proclaimed self-sufficient in grain.  To counter this news a Tibetan refugee proudly claimed that before 1959 in Lhasa grain per capita was already 349kg.  However, in another document a former aristocrat recalled that the production in his farm was only 200kg by every serf. [4]


The esteemed Dalai Lama, unfortunately, was also involved in such “war of words”, which could easily backfire.  For example, His Holiness on one hand accuses that Tibet was the darkest part of China, with insufficient power supply in many remote counties.  On the other hand, however, His Holiness blames China government polluted this pure plateau by building power plants there, as if electricity could come from nowhere. His Holiness further complains that the lighting in Lhasa is a sign that the Tibetan culture has been eroded by Han culture [5].  To be dark or not to be, that seems a big problem.


His Holiness also charges that China is committing genocide to Tibetans by birth control.  The fact is that the “notorious” birth control policy only applies to the Han, the majority of Chinese, not to any minority.  In Tibet town dwellers are encouraged to have only two kids per couple, but not enforced.  None the less, His Holiness himself praised during a New York Times interview that birth control is religion-wise acceptable for populous country like India [6].  I have no comment on his double-dealing.


Dalai Lama’s another favorite accusation is Chinese migration into Tibet, which is believed by many.  A German musician once protested about it to me.  When I explained how ridiculous such indictment is since Han babies could hardly survive at the altitude of Tibetan Plateau, he seriously proclaimed that this is because China polluted Tibet with its nuclear waste, another never proved rumor [7], obviously forgetting what he was complaining about.  Actually, even the State Department of the United States, the resolved instigator of Tibet issue, rejected such claim by calling it “inaccurate, incomplete and misleading”. [8]


Anyway, these anti-China statements as well as utopian fantasies of an imaginary Tibet had long been trusted by many Westerners since the Cold War, especially after China replaced USSR since 1990s to become the main make-believe enemy to be demonized.  The western media managed to gild Tibet into a “Shangri-la” that once was flooded with cream and honey instead of rocks and mosses.  Such propaganda caters to the western yearning for Eden that they believe to have been forever lost after industrialization.  Historically it shows an interesting cycle: the European overthrew feudalism and carried out industrialization; now they long for the “good old days” and Tibetan feudalism filled this mental vacuum at the right time.


The pinnacle of these achievements was the awarding of Nobel Peace Prize to Dalai Lama in September AD1989.  However, the Norwegian Nobel Committee said their choice of him “was an attempt both to influence events in China and recognize the efforts of the student leaders of the democracy movement (during AD1989 TianAnMen Square Crackdown)” [9].  That is to say, Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Prize to show the western stand on China’s democratization, while Dalai himself and his group had been trying to separate from China for decades.  Such absurdity could be matched only by Lord Mountbatten’s decision in AD1947 to leave India’s Ministry of External Affairs to decide the future of Sikkim while the latter was seeking independence from India.


Just one year before (AD1988), in Strasbourg Proposal Dalai had dropped his appeal for independence.  After receiving Nobel Prize and later witnessing the collapse of USSR, His Holiness regained some confidence.  He denounced his own Strasbourg Proposal and boasted to UK Prime Minister Major on 2 December, AD1991 that Tibet could redeem freedom in 5-10 years. [10]


Of course we cannot trust any promise or forecast given by any lama.  After Deng Xiao-Ping proliferated economy reform to more regions since AD1992, China kept growing rapidly, and His Holiness again seemed to lose his faith easily.  On 11 August, AD1993 he retreated to the Strasbourg Proposal by claiming again that he had “never” sought complete independence from China [11].  There was obviously internal communication problem that during a conference at Washington D.C. in September that year, Dalai’s representative in US, Lodi Gyari, denied his employer’s statement, saying it’s concocted by western media [12].  What injustice to Western media, who has worked so hard to help His Holiness concoct stories!




[1] Quoted from Dalai Lama, Tibet and the Chinese People’s Republic, p.104


[2] Quoted from Tsepon Shakabpa, Tibet and the Chinese People’s Republic, p.74


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.194


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.174


[5] Dalai Lama, Freedom in Exile, the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, p.233-234


[6] New York Times, 28 November 1993


[7] Even the following anti-China report admitted that such claim about nuclear waste was totally groundless: Sino-Tibetan Coexistence, Creating Space for Tibetan Self-Direction, A Conference Report (United States Institute of Peace, 1994), p.20


[8] Elaine Sciolino, Beijing is Backed by Administration on Unrest in Tibet, New York Times 7 October 1987, p.A1


[9] Sheila Rule, How and Why the Dalai lama Won the Peace Prize, New York Times 13 October 1989, p.A14


[10] World Daily, 3 December 1991


[11] Reuters, New Delhi, 11 August 1993


[12] Xu Ming-Xu, Intrigues and Devoutness: The Origin and Development of the Tibet Riots, Toronto: Mirror Books, 1999, p.419

26. The Shadow of Diaspora


The reason why Tibetan Kashag in exile gave up rebellion and turn to public relation had little to do with Dalai’s “non-violence” dogma that many people link his Nobel Prize with, but rather due to the failure of violence.  An American who frequented CIA-aided Tibetan guerilla bases in Bhutan lamented:


“What was once a sizable force, with as many as fifteen thousand armed men, supplied (by US) with some of the latest technology by 1970 had been reduced to a sorrowful few, fighting among themselves and surviving in a hostile population (Bhutan Kingdom) that tolerated their presence only because it was ‘the wish of the Dalai Lama.’” [1]


These remnants then plotted a coup to set fire to Thimpu, capital of Bhutan, and kill the young Bhutan king who adopted them as refugees.  They dreamed of making Bhutan a colony of Tibetan rebels and a military base for raids into China.  Unfortunately the treacherous Bhutan government cracked this genius project and sent all the Tibetan refugees to the reluctant India. [2]


Another country that suffered from Tibetan rebels, Nepal, also changed its policy.  After China helped to build a highway crossing the Himalayas, a prohibitive project both UK and India refused to take, Nepali king Birendra decreed an ultimatum to the rebels to surrender in March 1974, who rejected bravely.  Gurkha troops were then deployed for “final solution” and a scared Dalai Lama urged the rebels to lay down their arms.  The second spring only about forty diehard rebels escaped to Nepal-India border, where they were encircled by both armies.  “While the Indians looked on helplessly, they were all slain by the Nepalese.” [3]


The Kashag in exile also faces other challenges.


Politically the Tibetan Youth Congress, an impatient competitor appealing for democratization, keeps warning the Kashag bureaucrats that serving the government in a democratic system, if there is any, should be vastly different from serving it in feudal Tibet.  One target they attacked was Dalai’s sister Tsering Dolma, who administered the Upper Nursery in Dharamsala.  She allegedly placed pairs of children stood guard at all the entrances, regardless of the weather.  While children were frequently on the verge of starvation, she was noted for her formal 12-course luncheons.  In bitterly cold weather the children were clad in “thin, torn, sleeveless cotton frocks—though when guests visit the Upper Nursery every child there is dressed warmly in tweeds, wool, heavy socks, and strong boots” [4]


Religiously, although Tibetan government in exile attempted to masquerade Lamaism as the mainstream of Buddhism [5] to westerners who know hardly anything about Buddhism, it proves as time passes that Lamaism is merely a mixture of aboriginal local shamanism and brutal Indian Tantra cloaked with Buddhism doctrine.  Increasing reports from western women about sexual assault from their Tibetan mentor were exposed.  Well-known examples include:


June Campbell worked as translator and personal assistant for the seventies-year old Kagyud guru, another “His Holiness” Kalu Rinpoche (1905–1989), who pressed her into becoming his sexual consort during rituals.  After Campbell wrote a book, Traveler in Space, to tell her trauma [6], two lamas in the Kalu Rinpoche lineage allegedly rang a magazine and recriminated that “this June Campbell had a fantasy of having an affair with Kalu Rinpoche” [7].  This bears great similarity to another masturbatory accusation made by lamas about their political rival, Tibet queen Tes Pongza, to fall in love with their ringleader Mr. Padmasambhava.


In AD1992 the well-known bestseller author and commentator on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Sogyal Rinpoche, had to face the Supreme Court of Santa Cruz, alleged to have “used his position as an interpreter of Tibetan Buddhism to take sexual and other advantage of female students over a period of many years”.  Victoria Barlow from New York City related that “I went to an apartment to see a highly esteemed lama and discuss religion. He opened the door without a shirt on and with a beer in his hand”.  The guru “lunged at me with sloppy kisses and groping. I thought I should take it as the deepest compliment that he was interested and basically surrender to him”. [8]


Dalai himself had to admit that “In recent years, teachers from Asia and the West have been involved in scandals about sexual misbehavior towards male and female pupils” [9].  However, the issue is not merely about several degenerate gurus, but a degenerate religion that provides a hotbed.  Personally I don’t believe His Holiness Kalu Rinpoche was really a sexual maniac: he was just doing what his tantric religion needs him to do.


Then on 4 February 1997 the world again witnessed the brutal side of Lamaism: the murdered bodies of the 70-year-old lama Losang Gyatso and two of his pupils were found just a few yards from the residence of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. The murderers had repeatedly stabbed their victims with a knife, had slit their throats and according to press reports had partially skinned their corpses [10]. Even the “mouthpiece” for the Dalai Lama in the US, Robert Thurman saw the murder as a ritual act: “The three were stabbed repeatedly and cut up in a way that was like exorcism”. [11]


Whereas outsiders are getting a better picture of what Lamaism is, inside it partisanship is rampant.  Kagyud, which lost Tibet to Gelug in 17th century, saw its rout to India an opportunity to regain the power. It never hesitated to attack Dalai Lama, the leader of Gelug, such as “Your Smiles Charm, Your Actions Harm” or “He was referred to here as a ‘merciless dictator, who oppresses his people more than the Chinese do’”. [12]


The last and largest challenge: the Kashag is working towards an aim hardly feasible.  When Beijing speaks of Tibet, it refers to the Tibet Autonomous Region, whereas when the Dalai Lama speaks of Tibet, he speaks for an area more than three times the size of the TAR in which Tibetans live or lived, namely, Kham, Amdo and part of Xinjiang.  In realizable reason His Holiness hasn’t yet included Ladakh and “Arunachal”, which is now controlled by India.


“The historical reality is that the Dalai Lamas have not rules these outer areas since the mid-eighteenth century, and during the Simla Conference of AD1913 the 13th Dalai Lama was even willing to sign away rights to them since he didn’t own any” [13].  The demographic reality is that over 17 non-Tibetan ethnic groups stay in this “Great Tibet” area, whose populations add up to more than that of Tibetans [14].  Many of them, such as Qiang and Naxi, have been living there no later than Tibetan.  If Tibetan could claim sovereignty simply because they stay or even arrived in a place, should the Mongols claim sovereignty over Eurasia since they once arrived in most of it under Genghis Khan; or should Chinese claim the same over the whole world, since there is Chinatown everywhere?


His Holiness, I mean it this time, clearly understands that Tibet couldn’t stand on its own feet.  Before he fled to India he said that India would be in a better position than China to claim sovereignty over Tibet [15].  After he realized how backward India is, he allegedly spoke to Chinese dissidents in Washington in April 1997 that Tibet couldn’t support itself, neither politically nor economically, therefore must rely on help from either China or India, and should better lean on China [16].  Tibetan scholar Dawa Tsering added a religious reason that Chinese are more tolerant to religions than Indians who regard Lamaism as heresy. [17]


It’s now clear that the dream of Dalai Lama and his Kashag in exile is: ostensibly admit China’s sovereignty over Tibet (so that China would continue to pay for Tibet’s development); retrieve governance from China; push China to remove all the non-Tibetan ethnic groups from Tibetan Plateau (which is essentially race cleansing); last but not least, keep the right to hold referendum (when only Tibetans are left) at anytime to achieve independence.


My final comment: true wisdom means the correct estimation of others’ wisdom.




[1] Michel Peissel, Secret War in Tibet, p.216


[2] Bernard Weintaub, Bhutan Reports 30 Seized for Plot to Kill King, New Bhutan Reports 30 Seized for Plot to Kill King, New York Times, 6 Feb 1974, p.24; Bhutan King in Tibet Crisis, Tibet Review 14:2 (Feb 1979):7


[3] Dawa Norbu: China Behind Khampa Disarmament, TR10:1 (Jan 1975):3-4


[4] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.201


[5] His Holiness himself patently claimed that Lamaism is the best Buddhism


[6] June Campbell, Traveler in Space: In Search of Female Identity in Tibetan Buddhism, London 1996


[7] The Emperor’s Tantric Robes, Tricycle, Winter 1996 issue.  This is a very good retrospectus from a previous western admirer of Lamaism and Tibetan culture.


[8] Tricycle 1996, vol. 5 no. 4, p.87


[9] Esotera, 12/97, p.45; retranslation


[10] Süddeutsche Zeitung, 1997, no. 158, p.10


[11] Newsweek, May 5, 1997, p.43


[12] Kagyü Life 21, 1996, p.34


[13] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.245


[14] In Amdo, for example, Tibetan made up less than 30% of population in AD1949, one year before Chinese invasion


[15] Dalai Lama, Freedom in Exile, the Autobiography of the Dalai Lama, p.150


[16] Xu Ming-Xu, Intrigues and Devoutness: The Origin and Development of the Tibet Riots, Toronto: Mirror Books, 1999, p.428


[17] Dawa Tsering, Beijing Spring, November 1997

27. Situation of Tibetan Refugees


Tibetan refugees included not only clergy and feudal lords but people from lower classes as well.  According to a survey done over 869 families in 1970s, the main reasons for Tibetan refugees are ranked as:


1.         Anxiety over not being allowed to remain practicing Buddhists;

2.         Rumors of atrocities committed by the Han;

3.         Rumors of Tibetans being prevented from marrying Tibetans;

4.         Rumors of Tibetans being compelled to marry Han;

5.         The departure of the Dalai Lama; and

6.         (during the Cultural Revolution) Incessant political meetings, insecurity over the future, and the educating of children to watch and report the behavior of their parents. [1]


We could see from this statistics that most refugees didn’t really have any experience of being persecuted.  Then how about their individual statements?  A Tibetan refugee reluctantly declined an offer from a sympathetic Britain woman to write a pamphlet of alleged “atrocity” stories, saying that:


“I myself had to ‘collect’ from the refugees and failed to obtain one which I could conscientiously pigeon-hole as ‘authentic’.  I learned by experience how impossible it is … The ordinary Tibetan is by nature truthful and honest.  But to rely upon this unquestionable fact without, at the same time, recognizing that his view of ‘truth’ bears no relation to what the West would regard as valid evidence is dangerous.  The Tibetan peasant has been accustomed from his cradle to his grave to accepting legend and fairy tale as literal truth.” [2]


Grunfeld then commented:


“Refugee statements must be examined with the utmost caution. While they undoubtedly contain some truth, they tend to be influenced and exaggerated by emotional trauma and a psychological need on the part of refugees to justify their actions to others—and even to themselves.  Refugees, especially in the period immediately following their ordeal, tend to be disoriented, frightened of being repatriated, and anxious to please their hosts … for recollections are inevitably biased by the individual’s inability to view situations beyond their immediate experience.” [3]


Refugees’ living standard in India was highly diversified.  According to a research done by an Indian scholar of Benares University in AD1978, refugees remained in the shadow of their former social strata back in Tibet.  “Poorer classes are being relegated to the hotter, more economically depressed, more crowded agricultural settlements (in South India) where education and employment opportunities are far below those in the northern refugee centers (at a healthy altitude for Tibetans)”.


In the north over 45% claims themselves to be “rich” or “very rich”, 40.0% “middle”, 14.7% “lower middle”, none “poor”.  They “disproportionately represented the monastic hierarchy, upper classes and the active participants in the Tibetan resistance movement”. [4]


In comparison, in the south settlement of Mundgod, almost all characterized themselves in their former professions as peasants, herders, and in the service of trades.  Of the 3869 investigated, 2871 had no schooling, 639 were currently attending school, and only 18 had completed high school. [1]


An American physician related in AD1980s that “refugees were living in extreme poverty, in unhealthy settlements on ‘leftover’ land in the poorest areas of India” [5].  Unfortunately it still accorded with my observation during AD2003-2004 in even the richer north settlements.


Desperate refugees sought to join Indian army or go in for hard labor so as to survive.  Many of the former died during the Bangladesh clash. For the latter, some 20000 Tibetans were employed in road building at horrible conditions that even Tibetan refugee officials admitted in 1964 that they were worse off than they would have been if they had remained in Tibet.  One poor refugee complained that in India “corruption and bribery (were) every bit as common as they used to be in Tibet.” [6]


The education level is very low.  A Tibetan journalist visiting Bylakuppa settlements commented that: “those who were unable to afford such an (education) expense, but were equally concerned about their children’s education, were keeping them at home rather than send them to the Tibetan schools.  After sixteen years of technological and financial assistance, the camp’s leadership still failed to establish even the most rudimentary social welfare scheme for the poor under their charge” [7]. One discontented Tibetan refugee claims that his nephew, after nine years of schooling, has yet to read a newspaper or an entire book. [8]


It is also noteworthy that Dalai Lama keeps criticizing that China government is strangling Tibetan culture by using Han as the medium of instruction, whereas the fact is that Tibetan schools in India use English.  This is because the writing language of Tibetan was developed solely by and for clergy, therefore not at all suitable for even primary education, let alone tertiary education in science and technology.  For example, Tibetan uses the same words for “climate” and “weather”, “whale” and “crocodile”, “power” and “energy”, “heredity” and “reproduce”, etc.  Consequently, among the five main languages of minorities in China, four others are being used in tertiary education, leaving Tibetan the only one that is congenitally deficient. [9]


Inferior living standard of India and rapid economy development back in Tibet caused increasing refugees to flow back, while Kashag in exile runs all out to curb this trend.  For example, a former councilor who returned Tibet was sentenced without trial by Kashag as criminal at large, and his acquaintance in Dharamsala were interrogated and ordered by the police to sever any communication from him. [10]


Nonetheless, the upstream struggle of Tibetan refugees to return their hometowns remained a big headache for Tibet government in exile.




[1] T.C. Palakshappa, Tibetans in India: A Case Study of the Mundgod Tibetans, p.16


[2] A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, p.148


[3] A. Tom Grunfeld, p.147


[4] Girja Saklani, Tibetan Refugees in India, A Sociological Study of an Uprooted Community, p.397-398


[6] Letter from Stephen L. Davis and Grania Davis to TR 15:1 (January 1980):20


[7] Dawa Norbu, Red Star, p.246


[8] T. Wangyal: Tibetan settlements in Bylakuppa, p.13-14


[9] Thubten Samphel, A Culture in Exile: Tibetan Refugees in India, China Report 24:3 (1988): 239


[10] Xu Ming-Xu, Intrigues and Devoutness: The Origin and Development of the Tibet Riots, Toronto: Mirror Books, 1999, p.149


[11] Tsering Wangchuk, Han-Tibetan Losang Tashi, Dharamsala, 1991, Chapter 7

28. Back in Tibet


At least now you don’t see emaciated serfs in rags carrying the litter of a noble dressed in warm clothing, turquoise rings and gold bracelets.


T.D. Allman, Cold Wind of Change, Guardian 29 December 1973, p.11


After the clergy and nobility fled to India, the communist for the first time controlled Tibet and established a secular government without much resistance.


Since Beijing’s restraint during the 1950s had been regarded by Lhasa as an indication of weakness and was rewarded with revolt, now nothing could stop an all-out attack on the feudal social structure.  Feudalism was eradicated in Tibet, hopefully for good.


Just like in other parts of China, after revolution the poor turned noble while the rich turned suppressed.  This won’t cause much trouble in a modern society, I mean, not too much.  But in a highly backward nation like Tibet it did stimulate dissatisfaction, not only among those who suffered from the change but also among those who benefited from it.  Although happy with their social rank promoted, the once poor still respect the once elite since the latter were the only intellectual class.  They turned unhappy soon when they saw the latter no longer esteemed by the new regime.  One could scorn it as sequelae of being enslaved for generations, but this is normal mentality, not to mention their spiritual leader was in exile.


This is probably why many Tibetans still cherish the memory of old days, during which they were yoked by merciless feudal lords and anesthetized by hypocritical lamas.  In other words, the Han did damage the Tibetan tradition, which Han regards as backward or brutal but many Tibetans still relish, even if they had suffered so much from it.  Isn’t it true that many of ourselves often recall “the good old days”, which never truly existed?


The communists popularized free education in Tibet, a most proper policy.  Previously, the only education in Tibet meant to send a child, boy of course, to a monastery to become a monk, which only the rich could afford.  This was also the only way to creep up the hierarchy of a clergy regime.  Now it’s totally different.  After 9-year basic education the central government selects Tibetan talents to study in Beijing and Shanghai for secondary or tertiary education, and then sends them back to Tibet for government positions.  This helps to develop a local elite class loyal to Beijing while avoid putting many Han cadres as would arouse discontent among Tibetans.


Also the tax-free policy appeased Tibetan farmers and nomads.  The Tibetan Autonomous Region is not subsidized by central government, but completely financed.  My interviews with Tibetans in Kham, the origin of rebellion in AD1950s, shows that they were satisfied with the government.  Moreover, I learned during my tour to Darjeeling and Dharamsala, two hubs for Tibetan refugees in India, that many refugees have returned China while increasing number of others are planning to do so, given poor living standard and stagnant growth in India.


I believe the next step China could further ensure its control over Tibet would be its reconciliation with the 14th Dalai Lama.  As mentioned, Dalai is not fanatically pro-independence: he knows better than anyone else that it’s essentially hopeless.  However, if he dies before such reconciliation, things could become bitter to Beijing.  Currently Dalai restrained Tibetan separatists from violence.  If he died, his suppressed acolytes and feudal lords, who are heavily funded by various anti-China groups, will for sure brainwash his next reincarnation and do whatever they want to.  Although I don’t think they would be influential enough to achieve much, I do expect it would add more headaches to China government besides the already prolonged Taiwan issue.


For people who suggest China give up Tibet, let me spend one more minute to explain China’s stand:


From a historical view, China didn’t obtain Tibet in any filthy way such as invasion or deception.  China annexed Tibet decently when His Holiness the Fifth Dalai Lama the Great Traitor betrayed his country.  With this firm in mind, I don’t see any point for so-called “to honor Tibetans’ will”: then who would honor the will of other Chinese people who see Tibet as an integral part of China?  Suppose now people of Pulau Ubin vote to found a Republic of Ubin, is it democratic?  If it was, why Northern Ireland is still part of UK, Quebec of Canada, and American Indians still tightly monitored by the federal government of the States?


From a military view, China needs Tibetan Plateau as a shield of its western boundary.  Without Tibet, China will be cornered into low land, exposed to threats from above.  Just like nuclear weapon effectively avoided world war, Tibet has been a buffer to secure the peace between China and India, which we greatly cherish.  Imagine China gives up Tibet, Tibet won’t be able to finance its independence and will finally fall a dependency or protectorate of India.  Bearing in mind what happened to India’s grumbling small neighbors such as Nepal, Sri Lanka, Sikkim, Bhutan, etc., China has to protect itself against India’s chauvinism.


One can easily accuse it as unilateral opinion of Han invaders.  But what could be expected from the return of the feudal lords and clergy to do Tibet any good?  Tibet needs progress, both political and economic.  But the separatists belong to a degenerate social system that had been already deserted by the history.  They are simply not qualified.


Let me stop here and leave my readers with further pondering.  The next chapters should be called appendix since it described a war fought between India and China over Tibetan land.

29. India-China Skirmish (I)


The fuse of India-China skirmish in AD1962 was buried by British government, who also succeeded in creating everlasting problems between Iraq and Kuwait, India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, etc.


There are two disputed territories between China and India.  The western one, Aksai Chin of Karakoram Range, is “located at a no-man’s land, where nothing grows and no one lives, on high altitude Himalayas, one of the most barren regions of the world” [1].  The Turki name “Aksai Chin” means “China’s white sands” because as early as in 8th century it was the frontier between China and Turki nations in Xinjiang.


Aksai Chin connects Xinjiang and Tibet. To its west is Ladakh, a Tibetan kingdom in the southern side of Himalayas.  Ladakh was reunited into Tibet during the 5th Dalai Lama’s military expansion.  But later it was conquered by British India in 19th century and inherited by India after AD1947.  To safeguard Ladakh and the whole Kashmir valley below it from the perilous Great Game in Central Asia among Great Britain, Russia and the declining Imperial China, British government first defined Aksai Chin as Tibet territory, so as to sever it from Xinjiang, which was about to be annexed by Russia at that time.  Then it proposed to China a boundary demarcation with the McCartney-MacDonald line, trying to push the British boundary forward on the Karakoram Range by defining its crest as the border.  China never replied to this proposal, but British India and later India government took it for grant.


After the Imperial China collapsed in AD1911, the forward school of British strategists proposed to place Aksai Chin within British India territory.  It was ignored by London.  Britain “never attempted to exert authority on Aksai Chin or establish posts in it” [1].  However, the new India government after 1947 intended to pursue an even more forward policy than had the British.


The eastern part was the area affected by the McMahon Line, which was also proposed in an attempt to redefine the established border between Tibet of China and then British India with the Himalayas crest.  After British India collapsed into various South Asia countries, this line affects not only China and India but Myanmar as well.


However, Myanmar and China had no problem in settling their demarcation with the McMahon Line: this part of McMahon Line happened to be the same as their traditional boundary.  In the case of India, China’s policy is: I don’t acknowledge McMahon Line, but if you come to negotiate with me, I could acquiesce in the crest demarcation.


China’s diplomatic practices with other neighboring countries showed that it could agree with the crest demarcation even if it was not the established border.  For example, the Everest used to be entirely Tibet territory.  When China and Nepal established diplomatic relation, they agreed to share it from the crest [2].  As with Pakistan, China again gave half of the second highest peak in the world, Chogori, or better known as K2.


According to India Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s testimony in India parliament in AD1959, Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai told him in AD1956 that because of the historical friendship between India and China, China would acknowledge the crest boundary [3].  This is true, taken into mind the honeymoon period India and China was enjoying.


Therefore, if there was no McMahon Line or both governments could sit down and negotiate, China and India could have reached a peaceful solution on crest boundary.  Unfortunately history flowed otherwise.


After India regained independence in AD1947, it “followed closely the footsteps of the British colonists”. In AD1949, India sent troops to bring Sikkim as its protectorate. In the same year, India signed a treaty to take over Britain’s rights to guide Bhutan in foreign affairs. In AD1950, India increased its control over Nepal and consolidated the “chain of protectorates” in the Himalayan states. [4]


Immediately after India’s independence, Lhasa appealed to New Delhi for a return of territories from Ladakh to Assam, taken away during British colonial expansion.  India prevaricated that it would follow the policies set by the previous government and barred any further discussion. [5]


Instead of returning Tibetan territories, in November 1950, India unilaterally declared the McMahon Line as their boundary.  “Map or no map… we will not allow anybody to come across that boundary” as Nehru declared.  Furthermore, “India would refuse to open the question to negotiation when or if the Chinese did raise it” [4].  According to India, there is not at all any “land in dispute” since it’s “unquestionably” all India’s land, despite that the McMahon Line appeared on its maps only ten years before.


India’s such unilateral diplomatic policy was minted by its strongman Jawaharlal Nehru, who inherited colonialism from the Great Britain that he managed to drive away from India.


Though born a Brahmin, Nehru declared in his biography that intellectually he’s more an Englishman than an Indian [6].  As a result, he announced in public speech that India was much closer to western countries rather than to any others. [7]


Nehru developed his chauvinism long before he came into power.  As early as he was still in prison because of anti-colonialism activities, he had started to dream of the Great India in future that absurdly includes “countries bordering on the Indian Ocean on either side of India – Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, India, Ceylon, Burma, Malaya, Siam, Java, etc.” It will be India-dominated and “present day minority problem will disappear, or in any rate will have to be considered in an entirely different context.”  He continued to distain small national states that they are “doomed.  It may survive as a cultural autonomous area but not as an independent political unit.” [8]


Such optimistic chauvinism led to India’s expansionism policy in South Asia over fifty years, which is to annex or control neighboring small national states such as Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Maldives and Bangladesh.  The Tibetan territory to the south of McMahon Line came to its interest as well.


New Delhi chose to implement the McMahon Line in AD1951, when Beijing was fully engaged in Korean War whereas Lhasa engaged in negotiating for its future.  Spontaneous revolt broke out.  For one instance, a local Tibetan tribe attacked and killed all but one of 74 Assamese riflemen and civilians.  It was retaliated by Indian military force soon after.


In September 1951 the Chinese Prime Minister, Zhou En-Lai, proposed to the Indian ambassador to stabilize the Tibetan frontier through discussions between India, China and Nepal, confirming that China had decided to accept the McMahon Line as India’s northwest boundary. But India passed the opportunity to formalize the McMahon Line.


By AD1953 India had totally translated the McMahon Line from map to ground by occupying the area between the established Indo-Tibet border and Himalayas crest.  The size of this region is 90,000 sq km, about one hundredth of China, or three Taiwan, or 140 Singapore.




[1] Neville Maxwell, India’s China War, Historical Introduction, New York, 1970, Historical Introduction


[2] One disadvantage is that the south side of Everest is easier to climb, thus Chinese have to conquer it with much more effort.


[3] There is opinion that Zhou made this offer in exchange that Nehru would persuade Dalai Lama to return Tibet after he attended the 2500th anniversary of the Buddha’s birth in India.  This is hardly possible.  Dalai visited India in April AD1957 where he was proposed by CIA to stay in exile, whereas Nehru claimed that Zhou made this offer in AD1956.


[4] Neville Maxwell, India’s China War, New York, 1970, Part I


[5] Richardson, Short History, p.174


[6] His biographer, Michael Brecher, also commented that “Nehru is essentially a Westerner in his intellectual make-up”.  Michael Brecher, Nehru: A Political Biography, London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1959, p.19


[7] Jawaharlal Nehru, Before and After Independence: A Collection of the Most Important and Soul-stirring Speeches During 1922-1957, New Delhi, p.245


[8] Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, Bombay, 1965, p.536

30. India-China Skirmish (II)


It’s Chinese philosophy that I could even give it to you for free, but if you just take it without enquiring me, I am not happy.  Although Beijing repeatedly expressed that it would accept the McMahon Line, albeit it was proposed by British imperialist, through negotiation, New Delhi adamantly refused these proposals, claiming the Outer Line it recently implemented was “historically settled” demarcation.


Then India, together with CIA, interfered in, if not plotted, the AD1959 revolt and later adopted Tibetan rebels, who later kept harassing Tibet from their India base, which made China start to reconsider whether there was essentially any friendship remaining.


Nonetheless, China continued to seek for peaceful solution.  In April AD1960 Chinese Premier Zhou En-Lai and Foreign Minister Chen Yi visited New Delhi for one week, proposing a 6-point agreement as common ground for two countries to base further negotiation on:


  1. There is land in dispute between China and India;
  2. There are de facto Lines of Control in these land in dispute;
  3. In demarcation, the usage of landmark, such as watershed, mountain pass and river valley, should be consistent along the entire boundary;
  4. Demarcation should take into consideration of both countries’ national sentiments on the Himalayas and Karakoram;
  5. Before land dispute could be solved via negotiation, both country stay behind its Line of Control and stop further advance;
  6. To prevent military conflict, both country stop patrol.


Such a peer-to-peer proposal was again rejected by India government.  To India, there is no “land in dispute” at all, as long as it claims all the land belongs to India.  However, China unilaterally stopped patrolling within twenty-kilometers of the border.


The last straw came when China found that India was still penetrating on the boundary in this no man’s land.  The Indian boundary sentries were constantly advancing towards China, some even behind China’s own.  Again it was against the Chinese philosophy: if you want it, fight like a man and take it.  Without diplomatic negotiation or military action, it was an insult for China to see its territory being encroached in this way. [1]


In the book <Who’s to be blamed in 1962> written by an Indian journalist, the author quoted from Indian generals he interviewed that Nehru instructed them to build posts wherever possible, and claimed in meetings that once actual sovereignty was obtained, it would always be recognized by the world. [2]


Obviously, Nehru and his colleagues held ridiculous faith that whatever India did along the borders, China would not attack. He dismissed the increasingly emphatic Chinese warnings of “grave consequences” and reassured the Parliament that “There is nothing to be alarmed at, although the (Chinese) note threatens all kinds of steps…if they do take those steps we shall be ready for them”.   As South Asia observer Maxwell comments: “This basic assumption was the basis of the forward policy, a military challenge to a militarily far superior neighbor”. [3]


Another essential factor behind India’s aggressive strategy was the support from Soviet Union.  Sino-Soviet ideological and political split escalated in late 1950s.  Russia actively sought alliance with India to deter China.  The AD1959-1961 China famine evidently encouraged both countries to take advantage.  A Soviet-aided military defiance therefore took place.


Now comes the third philosophy of Chinese: Once pressed a Chinese tends to keep stepping back and back until he reaches the corner.  Then he fights back desperately.  The sly British colonists knew this well and never pushed China too much.  Unfortunately New Delhi failed to learn this tip from its previous government.


Beijing no longer expected any likelihood that New Delhi would like to negotiate.  After its last proposal for both troops to withdraw 20 km from the disputed crest boundary failed, in AD1962 China waged the so-called “Defense and Fight-back Battle” to drive out Indian army from the disputed land, both in the east and west.  In Mao’s words, it was a punitive expedition and to ensure 20 years’ peace on the border.


In this sense, both aims were achieved.


The battle in the west was quite straightforward: China regained firm control of the crest region of Aksai Chin which India claimed sovereignty, and defaulted Tibetan Ladakh to India.  The battle in the east was in two stages.  In the first stage, PLA swiftly drove Indian army back to the traditional border; in the second, PLA defeated the redeployed and reinforced Indian army. [4]


The initial purpose of China was to bring India back to the negotiation table. Therefore China only expected a small-scale battle.  However, the Indian army, once quite fierce in boundary clashes, just routed at PLA’s first wave attack, which enabled the latter smoothly marched to the traditional border overnight.  This was a debacle both China and India hadn’t expected.  After that, however, the temporary winner and loser actually had reverse feelings regarding their respective circumstance.


On the China side, because the victory came too easily, the PLA hadn’t prepared for corresponding logistics so as to supply the small troops that had just recovered the 90,000 sq km territory.  As a result the headquarter back in the other side of Himalayas was in deep anxiety, keeping in mind the bad memory of the only destroyed PLA division ever in history: during the Korean War it chased too far away and was surrounded by the reinforced US army.


On the India side, the first defeat united different interests in parliament and Nehru threatened China with “the unexpected anger of the Indian people when aroused” [5] confidently.  He again refused China’s proposal as to withdraw 20km back from both sides of crest boundary, although India army was already driven much more behind that line.  He was full of retaliation.


However, until this moment Nehru and his Defense Minister Menon still mistakenly took it for granted that Chinese army was too weak to fight any more, as if it was PLA who lost the first campaign.  Even worse was that they assigned a General Kaul, described by The Times of India as “a soldier of extraordinary courage and drive” but actually had no experience of commanding troops in combat.  He was ordered to start Operation Leghorn [6] instantly so as to oust Chinese back to the north of McMahon Line and get the face back.  This slapdash order proved to be decisively disastrous.


Till this day there are still large amount of Indians grumbling that China won the war simply because Indian army was “ill-prepared” [7].  This is only half-true.


For the first stage, it’s true that India never expected that China would beat back when it just pulled through a devastating three-year famine, which was exactly why India had been escalating encroaching.  During the second stage, however, the Chinese never crossed the traditional boundary, therefore leaving Indian army with ample time for redeployment and reinforcement.  It was New Delhi itself that hastened the second campaign, which doomed India’s failure.




[1] Of course this is China’s view.  In India’s view, it regards it as its own land.  But even in that sense I don’t understand why Indian government didn’t put it on the table, no matter peacefully or by force.


[2] Who’s to be blamed in 1962, translated and published by Tibet Press, Lhasa, 1985


[3] Neville Maxwell, India’s China War, New York, 1970, Part II


[4] I am not going to elaborate this war.  Interested please read <India’s China War>.  It’s online available.


[5] Neville Maxwell, Part V


[6] This strange name comes from an Italy harbor where Defence Minister Menon fought in Britain army.


[7] Pranay Gupte, Business Talks – for India and China, Straits Times, Aug 10, 2004

31. India-China Skirmish (III)


India’s second campaign ended even more gracelessly than the first.  The inexperienced General Kaul proved to be completely impotent, while his frontline commander Brigadier Dalvi, who later wrote a book on this war [1], was taken prisoner in a totally disordered rout during which the well-renowned Gurkha regiment was destroyed.  India officially reported 1,383 killed, 1,696 missing, and 3,968 captured, while China reported 240 wounded and killed, none captured.


Now the PLA is on the entrance of Ganges plain facing no decent enemy ahead.  However, to the surprise of the world, China unilaterally announced ceasefire.  They returned to the crest boundary that they don’t acknowledge, then moved a further 20 kilometers north, appealing to India to stay 20 kilometers south of this line so as to keep peace during negotiation.  Before they retreated:


“They made it a matter of principle or pride to hand back the equipment left by the retreating Indians in as good condition as possible. It was collected, sacked, piled or parked; cleaned, polished, and carefully inventoried – small arms, mortars, artillery, trucks, shells and ammunition, clothing, and all the other impedimenta of a defeated army. Among the return equipment were a few American automatic rifles as the first installment of American military assistance captured at Se La, and a Russian helicopter in serviceable condition. China did not publicize this extraordinary transaction, and said it was simply a gesture ‘to further demonstrate … sincerity for a peaceful settlement.’ But although Indians cooperated by formally receiving the returned equipment, they bitterly resented what they perceived as added humiliation and denounced the Chinese gesture as a propaganda maneuver”. [2]


The Indian Army did not return on the heels of the Chinese.  Instead, India government sent immigrants first, as what they did to annex Sikkim [3].  Nor did they hold themselves to the 20 km line south of the crest boundary, instead they further marched to the new line, which is 20 km north to the ridge.


That’s what China achieved: it won a simply nice victory, but in the end it lost more than before the war [4].  It meant to bring India back to the table, but the other party never cared.  The only thing good is that no large-scale clash happened ever since, which satisfied then China leaders with their security concern of a second frontier besides potential Soviet invasion.


In order to maintain the already broken friendship [5] and show other countries that China has no intention to solve land dispute using military force, China stubbornly gave away land it recovered by blood.  With great amount of immigrants from India as well as their high fertility, the Indian population in this area has outnumbered that of the Tibetan aboriginals and an actual sovereignty, as Nehru had been longing for, has been achieved.  It’s unlikely that China could repossess this 90,000 sq km territory in the future, whereas India still claims the sovereignty of another 30,000 sq km land of Aksai Chin.


I understand that it’s difficult for China to supply its army fighting in the other side of Himalayas, and both superpowers at that time were aiding India.  However, I sincerely wish that China government would learn a lesson from this war: we are living in a world of jungle and beasts, only the stronger and the crueler could survive.  Justice is a mechanism to balance the powers.  It shouldn’t exist between the strong and the weak, as it never did.


On the India side, AD1962 skirmish doomed the end of Nehru’s heyday.  Although he made a cheeky claim to his countrymen that “Chinese had turned tail rather than face” the powerful Indian army, the humiliation from two land-sliding routs was mainly placed on him and shattered his dream to become the leader of non-align movement in which India was a main proposer.


The current trend is that India and China would probably maintain the status quo, i.e., to partition Tibet along the Himalayas, since both realize that a united Tibet and the nationalism that follows are against their interest.  The poor Tibet Kashag in exile could do nothing but self-deceivingly claim the vast territory in western China should all be Tibet’s, or China’s economy achievements all come from exploiting Tibet, without mentioning a word on their deprived land by their adopter, India.


Let me close this chapter with my personal view on India-China relation.  Although as a common Chinese I could never imagine, many if not most Indians trust that one day China would invade its longtime neighbor India.  They think so because of the skirmish between us in AD1962, which was fundamentally caused by the McMahon Line concocted by the British colonists.  Without this ridicule demarcation there wouldn’t have been any war between these two great cultures, let alone China’s support of Pakistan and the nuclear crisis later on.  I don’t want to blame India because India is doing what was in its interest, since it makes sense to India to inherit this crest demarcation, although never implemented, from British colonists.  It’s simply a tragedy that we fought this war that not at all solved our dispute but only left both with deep regret and chasm.




[1] Dalvi: Himalayan Blunder, India: Thacker, 1969


[2] Neville Maxwell, India’s China War, New York, 1970, Part V


[3] It is noteworthy that to send immigrants to disputed territory is a crime according to the international law


[4] This is neither the first time nor the last time that China won a battle but retreat from victory.  In AD1885, France destroyed China’s East Sea Fleet and a treaty had been drafted for China to give up its dependency Vietnam to France.  Afterwards France decided to fight another battle and get more profit.  But this time it failed near Vietnam-China border.  Its commander was killed and the France government collapsed consequently.  Instead of taking benefit of victory and demand for a fair treaty, however, the pedantic China government stuck to the old treaty to show its credibility.


Similar event happened in China-Vietnam skirmish in AD1979 when China fought a war simply to teach Vietnam a lesson not to encroach China territory


[5] whose existence was already endangered from the moment India marched towards the McMahon Line, the moment India adopted Tibet rebels and the moment India built their posts behind China’s.

Appendix I: Various Views on Tibetan Independence


The Dalai Lama’s Views [1]


  1. Tibet has had a continuous central government from, at least, the 7th Century.
  2. Tibet has its own unique culture and language – a written script derived from Sanskrit, not from Chinese.
  3. The relationship between the rulers of Tibet and those of China was known as one of “priest-patron”. Tibetans see this as a link between equals – much as Christian world leaders view the Pope. In any case, the “priest-patron” relationship was with the Mongols and Manchus when they ruled China, not with the predominant Han people.
  4. The Chinese representatives sent to Lhasa, the ambans, were originally sent as “security guards” to the Dalai Lama and derived all their authority solely through the Lhasan government. Tibetan treaties referred to the Han as “religious disciples”.
  5. Tibetans did not abide by the Anglo-Chinese treaties of 1890 and 1893 that referred specifically to Tibetan concessions; Tibetans were not consulted in the drafting of these treaties.
  6. Lhasan officials signed several foreign treaties: 1856 with Nepal, 1904 with Britain, 1913 with Mongolia and 1914 with Britain. The 1904 treaty stipulated that “no foreign power” would be permitted to intervene in Tibetan affairs.
  7. In 1912 the Lhasa government evicted all Han residents and soldiers from Tibet, while the Dalai Lama simultaneously declared independence.
  8. The Chinese government had no control or influence in Lhasa from 1913 to 1950.
  9. Tibet was represented as an independent state at the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947.
  10. The Shakabpa Trade Mission of 1947-48 traveled to several countries with Tibetan passports as their only travel documents. Various nations affixed their visas to this passport.
  11. Tibet has printed and issued its own postage stamps and coins for most of this century.
  12. Tibet has its own army and fought, unassisted, against Gurkhas and Kashmiris.
  13. Tibet has carried on foreign relations with England, Russia and the United States (the Tolstoy/Dolan mission).
  14. Tibet has hosted foreign diplomatic representatives: the Nepalese from 1856, the British from 1936-47 and the Indians in 1947-62.
  15. During World War II Tibet remained neutral; in 1943 the Tibet Bureau of Foreign Affairs was established to conduct diplomatic relations.
  16. Britain and America forfeited their privileges of extraterritoriality in China on 11 January 1943. Tibet was not included in that agreement, indicating that the UK and the USA saw Tibet as separate from China. Extraterritoriality did not end in Tibet until 29 April 1954.
  17. Tibet has been the subject of three United Nations resolutions condemning Chinese actions.
  18. Tibetan representatives were compelled to sign the 17-Point Agreement using forged seals, thereby making the agreement null and void from the very beginning. As a result, all of China’s policies since then have been illegal under international law.


The Chinese Government’s View


The view of the government of China, whether Mongol, Manchu or Han, whether imperial, republican or communist, has remained constant for centuries.


  1. Tibet’s continuous central government was a local government, not a national one.
  2. A distinct language and culture are not necessarily prerequisites for independence. The PRC has over 50 distinct ethnic groups and is one of many multinational states in the world.
  3. The “priest-patron” relationship was not equal at all but rather one of superior to inferior. The treaty signed in 822 AD referred to the two parties as the “Nephew” and the “Uncle”, hardly an equal relationship in traditional family structures. The rulers of China conducted Tibet’s foreign affairs.
  4. The relationship between China and Tibet began with the imperial marriage of King Songsten Gampo and Tang Dynasty Princess Wen Cheng. This tie was strengthened by similar marriages in later years. Moreover, there were times when the ambans were in almost complete control of the government in Lhasa, such as the period from 1728 to 1911. Tibet was incorporated into China in the mid-13th Century when the rulers of China named Phagpa as the ruler of Tibet. The Qing Dynasty “decided on the organization of the local government in Xizang”. Since 1712 Manchu power was supreme over China’s border areas including Tibet.
  5. As for the various treaties signed by Tibet:

–         The 1856 treaty was imposed on Lhasa after a defeat at the hands of the Nepalese, while China was in the throes of a major rebellion (the Taiping) and was unable to proffer assistance. The treaty did not mention Tibetan “independence”.

–         The 1904 treaty was also imposed on Tibet. The reference to a “foreign power” was meant to indicate Russia, not China, as witnessed by the absence of the expulsion of the Han from Tibet at the time, by the Chinese government paying the stipulated indemnity, and by the subsequent 1907 Anglo-Russian pact and the 1908 Anglo-Chinese pact that reaffirmed China’s suzerainty over Tibet.

–         The 1913 Mongolia treaty is most likely a figment of a fertile imagination and even if valid was, in the words of a noted expert in international law, more “a secret intrigue between two parties whose status was doubtful than a clear declaration of independence”. [2]

–         The 1914 Simla pact was secretly altered after China’s delegates pulled out of the conference; and China’s refusal to sign the pact raises doubts as to its validity.

  1. If the Dalai Lama’s declaration of independence in 1912 was valid then why was he willing to sign the original Simla agreement in 1914, which would have recognized Chinese suzerainty in an international agreement? Unilateral declarations of independence are meaningless unless recognized by other nations.
  2. Evicting Han officials at a time when China was ravaged by civil war and could not defend them is more an example of the ability of a regional area to exert its local authority over central government representatives than a display of “independence”.
  3. The Chinese government, indeed, had no influence over Tibet in the years 1912 to 1951 but neither did it have influence over many areas of China where local warlords ruled as virtual dictators. This condition alone does not represent independence.
  4. At the Asian Relations Conference in New Delhi in 1947, the Indian organizers took down the Tibetan flag after a protest from the Chinese Embassy.
  5. The Shakabpa Trade Mission was a private business trip. The members traveled on passports that were not recognized by most, if not all, of the nations they visited. Visas were issued as a special expedient, while the Chinese government was repeatedly reassured that Tibet continued to be recognized as part of China.
  6. The minting of coins and stamps do not in themselves denote an independent state. The mail service in Tibet was severely restricted, in any case, since the illiteracy rate was over 90% of the population. Currency was also seldom used, particularly outside the urban areas. A survey done in Kham in 1940 showed that 29.21 % of the Tibetan households never used any currency at all, while 35.68% never used more than Tibetan $20 a year. [3]
  7. Dozens of warlords throughout China during the 20th Century had their own armies, which, in some instances, were in constant conflict. In any event, there were several times when armies were sent by China’s rulers to help repel attacks on Tibet.
  8. It is true that the government of Lhasa had direct relations with London, St Petersburg, Moscow and Washington; but each of these governments has continually and consistently reaffirmed Tibet’s status as a part of China. Not a single instance exists when any of these governments recognized Tibet as “independent”.
  9. The Nepali representatives in Lhasa have always concerned themselves with trade matters, while the British arrived at a time when China was far too weak to adequately protest. The Chinese representatives always saw themselves in a different role from the other two plenipotentiaries. Once again, neither Nepal nor Britain has ever publicly recognized Tibet as an “independent” state.
  10. Tibet’s neutrality during World War II had more to do with its geographic isolation and lack of strategic value than with a conscious effort on the part of the Lhasan authorities. The US, for one, did not recognize the Tibetan Bureau of Foreign Affairs.
  11. Extraterritoriality’s continued existence in Tibet was a direct result of the Chinese government’s lack of control there and consequent inability to press for an end to this onerous practice in that region. As soon as it was strong enough to do so, it demanded, and received, an end to it. Parenthetically, the existence of extraterritoriality in a region is a demonstration of the weakness of that region and its lack of independence rather than the opposite.
  12. The UN resolutions were passed at a time when the PRC was not permitted to become a member and of course was not allowed to present its version of events in Tibet.
  13. The 17-Point Agreement was valid and whether seals were forged or not is irrelevant. The Dalai Lama acquiesced to it for almost a decade without a word of protest, and it was recognized in international treaties with India (1954) and Nepal (1956). There was no international protest at the time of its signing, while the UN refused to discuss it. Complaints were all ex post facto and politically motivated.


Third Party Views


No nation has ever publicly accepted Tibet as an independent state, in spite of several instances of government officials appealing to their superiors to do so. Treaties signed by Britain and Russia in the early years of the 20th Century, and others signed by Nepal and India in the 1950s, reaffirmed China’s position that Tibet was a part of China.


The Americans presented their views in 1943. On 19 April of that year the British Embassy in Washington presented the State Department an aide-mémoire that stated in part,


The relationship between China and Tibet is not a matter which can be unilaterally decided by China, but one on which Tibet is entitled to negotiate, and on which she can, if necessary, count on the diplomatic support of the British Government.


On 15 May Washington responded:


For its part, the Government of the United States has borne in mind the fact that the Chinese constitution lists Tibet among areas constituting the territory of the Republic of China. This Government has at no time raised a question regarding either of these claims.


London replied on 22 July. In a document entitled “Policy of His Majesty’s Government Towards Tibetan Relations With China”, it asserted that colonial India’s interest was to maintain friendly relations with Tibet while at the same time recognizing China’s suzerainty. However, “any unconditional admission of Chinese suzerainty should be avoided”. London, it continued, would prefer to have Tibet and China negotiate a settlement of their differences, which would recognize both Chinese suzerainty and local Tibetan autonomy. But, if the latter were to be impinged upon the British would not “continue to recognize even a theoretical status of subservience for a people who desire to be free and have, in fact, maintained their freedom for more than thirty years”.  The irony of this statement, made by the world’s largest colonial power, appears to have been lost on policy-makers in Whitehall. [4]


The status quo remained until 1947 when India gained its independence; from then on, London acquiesced with the policy decisions made in New Delhi. The Americans, on the other hand, wavered little from their original policy. This may have resulted from the alliance with the Kuomintang, even after the move to Taiwan, for the KMT’s attitude toward Tibetan independence was indistinguishable from that of the PRC. The closest the US came to a policy change was reflected in an official statement made on 28 March 1959, declaring:


The United States is profoundly sympathetic with the people of Tibet in the face of the barbarous intervention of the Chinese Communist imperialists to deprive a proud and brave people of their cherished religious and political autonomy and to pervert their institutions to Communist ends. [5]


The statement scrupulously avoids mention of Tibetan independence. Aid to Tibetan dissidents to fight communism was one matter, but to champion an independent nation state of Tibet was entirely another.


Not a single state, including India, has extended recognition to the “government-in-exile” of the Dalai Lama in the more than two decades of its existence, despite obvious precedents for such an action. This lack of legal recognition of independence has forced even strong supporters of the refugees to admit that


Even today international legal experts sympathetic to the Dalai Lama’s cause find it difficult to argue that Tibet ever technically established its independence of the Chinese Empire, imperial or republican. [6]


Theoretically, the United Nations recognizes four criteria for statehood: (a) a permanent population, (b) a defined territory, (c) a government, and (d) capability of entering into relations with other states. Tibet fulfils those requirements. However, so does the Canadian province of Quebec and, for that matter, any state of the United States. The People’s Republic of China met those requirements and was kept out of the UN for over twenty years.




[1] This chapter is cited from A. Tom Grunfeld, The Making of Modern Tibet, 1996, Appendix B


[2] Rubin, The Position of Tibet, p.123


[3] Chen Han-Seng, Frontier Land Systems in Southwestern China, New York: Institute for Pacific Relations, 1949, p.142


[4] Foreign Relations of the United States, 1943, p.626-628, p.630, p.634-636


[5] Department of State Bulletin, 40, 1959, p.515


[6] Henry S. Bradsher, Tibet Struggle to Survive, Foreign Affairs, 47, 1969, p.758

Appendix II: Tibet’s Assault On Silk Road


After Tibet seized Amdo from the Qiang nation of Tuyuhun in AD670, the Silk Road between China and Central Asia was exposed to Tibetan cavalry’s swoop.  The situation further deteriorated when Tang emperor ceded the fertile Hetao Alluvion as the dowry for Princess JinCheng married to Tibet in AD710, which soon became Tibet’s springboard to intrude Tang Dynasty.


In the annal of <Biographies of (Tibetan) Kings> unearthed in Dunhuang [1], a record of Tibetan attack of this town in AD727 is highly valuable to learn about the political situation of Tibetan Kingdom.  It is translated and listed in sentences below:


  1. After the prime minister and princes from various tribes agreed, the king decided to lead the expedition himself;
  2. (Tibet) enforced its law in Tang territory, captured Dunhuang;
  3. At that time Tang’s prestige is high: even (our ally) Turks had to submissive to Tang.  Tang territory extends until the Arab Empire;
  4. Tang is a very wealthy country.  Lots of goods was stored in the junction of Dunhuang to be transported to Central Asia (via the Silk Road);
  5. Tibet captured Dunhuang and seized all the goods.  The king obtained great amount of wealth;
  6. Even the low class of civilians could wear silk clothes made in China.


The first sentence illustrates the political hierarchy of Tibetan Kingdom: a loose union of Tibetan tribes.  The king came from the Yarlung lineage, the most powerful tribe.  Below him was the prime minister, then other lower level officials, all representing their own tribes (“princes” essentially refers to tribe chiefs).  The cabinet made mutual decision and every tribe sent its troops to participate in the expedition.


The military force of Tibetan Kingdom used to be commanded by the prime minister.  However, because the Mgar family, the second largest family during the beginning of Tibetan Kingdom, abused such power and imposed threat to the Yarlung lineage before it was exterminated by the latter in AD698, Tibetan kings chose to hold the army by himself.  As a result, we often see history records that the king commanded army himself after AD698.  This AD727 campaign was among such examples.


As shown, the Tibetan army was an allied one.  When the king attempted to introduce tantric Buddhism to strike the local Bonism but unfortunately stirred internal struggle, tribes stopped sending their troops.  Consequently the Tibetan army diminished to a group of royal guards and the seemingly powerful Tibetan Kingdom collapsed instantly.  A civil war had already been doomed at the beginning of this loose tribe union.


The second sentence, Tibet enforced its law in Tang territory, is a clumsy embellishment of this invasion.  Later we will find out that the invasion was not even for expansion, but merely to plunder the caravans.


The third sentence attempts to indirectly boast of its military victory by glorifying its rival, China, as a superpower of this region.  It objectively described the geopolitical situation: Tang Empire and Arab Empire met at Central Asia, while the Turks and Tibetans were geographically separated from their alliance in order to control this region.


The fourth sentence introduces Dunhuang as an important trade junction along Silk Road, which explains why Tibet attacked it.


The fifth sentence illustrates that the Tibetan cavalry acted like a gang of robbers: they sacked this town simply to plunder the goods.  The Tibetan king was the leader of this bandit who cut the biggest share of melon.


The last sentence shows how merry the Tibetans felt when they enjoyed the looted commodities.  We could assume that the merchandise was distributed to all the tribe chiefs that attended this action, since even the “low class” received some sugarplum.


Nonetheless, it indirectly suggests that Tibetan Kingdom and Tang Empire didn’t have large amount of trade, since even to wear silk clothes, Tang’s main export product, was regarded as a great joy.  This is apparently because the nomadic Tibet couldn’t afford to purchase commodities from China.  It is also the fundamental reason why Tibet, as well as all other nomadic nations, was eager to pillage wealth from agricultural nations with its military advantage of mobility.




[1] Tibet History Materials Unearthed in Dunhuang, Beijing: Nation Press, 1980, p.141

Appendix III: Glossary


Abbasid Dynasty: the caliphs of Baghdad, the second of the two great Sunni dynasties of the Muslim empire.


Amban: imperial envoy sent by Qing Dynasty to supervise Tibet and Kashag


Amdo: the northern part of Tibetan Plateau. It’s in the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu and Sichuan.


Amitabha: the Buddha of Limitless Light (or Life), is the primary deity of the Pure Land school of Buddhism


Avalokitesvara: In Mahayana Buddhism, Avalokitesvara or Avalokiteshvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas. Avalokitesvara is probably the most widely worshipped Buddhist deity, especially in his highly evolved forms as Guan Yin (in China) or Kannon (in Japan). In Vajrayana Buddhism Avalokitesvara is also known as Padmapani, the Holder of the Lotus.


Bhutan: a small, mountainous nation of south Asia, located in the Himalaya Mountains between India and China.


Bodhisattva: In Buddhist thought, a bodhisattva is a being that, while not yet fully enlightened, is actively striving toward that goal. Conventionally, the term is applied to hypothetical beings with a high degree of enlightenment and power. Bodhisattva literally means “enlightenment being” in Sanskrit.


Bon: the shamanistic religion in Tibet before the arrival of Buddhism in the 7th century.


Btsan po/mo: Tibetan king/queen.  Btsan means strong in Tibetan. It infers that the aboriginal Tibetan tribes elected the strongest as their chiefs.


Byzantium: an ancient city on the Bosporus founded by the Greeks; site of modern Istanbul; in AD330 Constantine I rebuilt the city and called it Constantinople and made it his capital


Dalai Lama: belongs to the Gelug sect of Tibetan Buddhism. Every other Buddhist sect in Tibet recognises the Dalai Lama as the religious and political leader of all Tibet.  The Dalai Lama is often thought to be the head of the Gelug, but this position is held by the Ganden Tripa (Holder of the Throne of Ganden monastery). The Dalai Lama has been ruler of Tibet and Head of State from when the Gelugpas began to control the country (the mid-17th century until 1959, when the Dalai Lama had to flee to India).


Dunhuang: a city located in an oasis in the Gansu province, China. It is located near the historic junction of the northern and southern Silk Roads and was therefore a town of military importance. Dunhuang was made a prefecture in 117BC by Emperor Han Wudi and was a major point of interchange between China and the outside world during the Han and Tang dynasties.  Rocked by waves of invasion, Dunhuang has previously been independent, as well as being ruled by both Tibet and China.


Geluk/Yellow-hat: a Lamaism school founded by Tsong Khapa, Tibet’s best known religious reformer and arguably its greatest philosopher. The first monastery he established was that of Ganden, and to this day its head, the Ganden Tripa, is nominal head of the school though its most powerful figure is unquestionably the Dalai Lama.


Gesar: (1) an ancient king of Tibetan nation “Ling” in legend; (2) the epic about Gesar of Ling


Gilgit: a region in the Northern Areas of Pakistan, located within Pakistani-ruled Kashmir and bordering the Chinese region of Xinjiang.


Gurkha: Tibeto-Mongolians who speak Khas, a Rajasthani dialect of Sanskritic origin.


Han: the majority ethnic group within China which constitutes over 92% of the population. The name was occasionally translated as the “Chinese proper” in older texts (pre1980s) and is commonly rendered in western media as the “ethnic Chinese”.


Han Dynasty: imperial dynasty that ruled China (most of the time) from 206 BC to AD221 and expanded its boundaries and developed its bureaucracy


Hinayana: (Sanskrit lit. low vehicle) is a term often used to identify Early Buddhist Schools that are now mostly extinct.


Hindu Kush: the main mountain range in Afghanistan. It is the westernmost extension of the Pamir Mountains, the Karakoram Range, and the Himalayas.


Hun: Many historians consider the Huns the first Turkic people mentioned in european history. References in Chinese sources to peoples called the Xiong-Nu go back to 1200 BC. Their Xiong rulers, first mentioned as a family in 1766 BC in the story of Chunwei and the fall of the Xia dynasty, may be the ancestors of the later, better-known (to western scholars) Huns, though not all scholars agree. Korean legend takes the stand that an alliance of northern Altaic tribes under a “Huan” ruler from 7193 BC pre-dated the establishment of China


Jokhang: located in Lhasa, this is the earliest and arguably the most important Buddhism monastery built in Tibet.


Kagyu/White-hat: known as the Oral Lineage and the Spotless Practice Lineage School of Tibetan Buddhism. It evolved into the so-called “Four Major” and the “Eight Minor” lineages of the Kagyu School.


Kalachakra: astrological system that forms one of the main building blocks to compose Tibetan astrological calendars.


Karma: the very being which one experiences on is governed by thoughts and deeds in past lives


Kashag: Tibetan government run by clergy and nobility


Kashmir: a region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent. The term Kashmir historically described the valley just to the south of the westernmost end of the Himalayan range. Politically, however, the term ‘Kashmir’ describes a much larger area which includes the regions of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.


Koguryo: an ancient kingdom in southern Manchuria and northern Korea


Ladakh: once an independent Buddhist kingdom. A breakdown in relations with Tibet in the 17th century resulted in an attempted invasion by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Kashmiri help restored Ladakhi rule at a price – the building of a mosque in Leh and the conversion of the Ladakhi king to Islam. Kashmir later went on to annex Ladakh, ending its independence and in the long run making it part of British India. The kingdom’s former land is now divided between India, Pakistan, and the Aksai Chin district of China


Mahayana: a major school of Buddhism teaching social concern and universal salvation; China; Japan; Tibet; Nepal; Korea; Mongolia


Manchu: a member of the Manchu speaking people of Mongolian race of Manchuria; related to the Tungus; conquered China in the 17th century.  Now they form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China.


Mudra: “wisdom enchantress” or female partner to be used during tantric rituals


Naxi: an ethnic group in the foothills of the Himalayas northwest Yunnan Province, China


Nyingma/Red-hat: The Old Translation School.  Although the name Nyingma or “Old School” is a retrospective label, the Nyingma historians recognize the Indian mystic Padmasambhava who came to Tibet in the 9th century as the School’s real founder. Central to the Nyingma tradition is a set of scriptures recognized as terma, or “treasure texts”. These are works believed to be written by Padmasambhava and hidden as spiritual treasures to be discovered by specially blessed masters when the time is most ripe for their reception.


Padmasambhava: (Sanskrit “lotus-born”) founded the Tibetan or tantric school of Buddhism in the 8th century. In Bhutan and Tibet he is better known as Guru Rinpoche (“precious master”) where followers of the Nyingma school regard him as the second Buddha.


Palür: an antient kingdom in now Gilgit, Pakistan


Pamirs: located in Central Asia, the Pamir Mountains are formed by the junction of the world’s greatest mountain ranges, a geologic structural knot from which the great Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun, and Hindu Kush mountain systems radiate.


Panchen Lama: the same highest ranking lama compare Dalai Lama in the Geluk sect of Tibetan Buddhism, the sect which historically controlled Tibet. He bears part of the responsibility for finding the incarnation of the Dalai Lama and vice versa.


Qiang/Chiang: The Qiang people are an ethnic group.  They form one of the 56 ethnic groups officially recognized by the People’s Republic of China, with a population of approximately 200,000 living in northwestern Sichuan province. Nowadays, the Qiang are only a small segment of the population, but they are commonly believed to be an old, once strong and populous people whose history can be traced to the Shang dynasty 4000 years ago, and whose offspring include the Tibetan and many minorities in southwestern China.


Qing Dynasty: the last imperial dynasty of China (from AD1644 to AD1912) which was overthrown by revolutionaries; during the Qing dynasty China was ruled by the Manchu


Rinpoche: means “jewel of people” in Tibetan.  It’s used to call lamas.


Roman Empire: an empire established by Augustus in 27 BC and divided in AD395 into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern or Byzantine Empire; at its peak lands in Europe and Africa and Asia were ruled by ancient Rome


Sakya/Color-hat: (lit. Pale Earth) a Lamaism school that derives its name from from the unique grey landscape of Ponpori Hills.


Sassanian Empire: the era of the second Persian Empire, from AD224 to AD651


Shamanism: is a range of traditional beliefs and practices that involve the ability to diagnose, cure, and sometimes cause illness because of a special relationship with, or control over, spirits. This tradition has existed all over the world since prehistoric times.


Sikkim: an ancient country in the north-east of India situated between Nepal and Bhutan. It is a land characterized by Buddhist shrines and rich cultural traditions.


Sukra: “life juice” or vaginal secretion


Tang Dynasty: the imperial dynasty of China from AD618 to AD907


Tazi: China and Tibet used to call the Arab Empire as Tazi


Tantra: (Sanskrit: loom) also tantric yoga or tantrism, is any of several esoteric traditions rooted in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Extolled as a short-cut to self-realization and spiritual enlightenment, there are two “paths” in Tantra: dakshinachara (also known as samayachara), the “Right-Hand Path”, and vamachara, the “Left-Hand Path”. The latter is associated with many ritual practises that go against the grain of mainstream Hinduism, including sexual rituals , consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants, animal sacrifice and flesh-eating.


Tibetan: An ethnic group from Tibet.  Some of them also live in Amdo and Kham together with other ethnic groups.


Tuyuhun: A Qiang nation in Amdo during 6-7th century


Ulag: Tibetan corvee labor


Umayyad Dynasty: the first dynasty of caliphs of the Prophet Muhammad who were not closely related to Muhammad himself, though they were of the same Meccan tribe, the Quraish. The first dynasty reigned from AD661 to AD750


Vajra: a Sanskrit word meaning both thunderbolt and diamond and refers to a symbol important to both Hinduism and Buddhism


Vajrayana: also known as Tantric Buddhism, Mantrayana and Esoteric Buddhism, is often viewed as the third major school of Buddhism, alongside the Theravada and Mahayana schools.  The Vajrayana is actually a subset of Mahayana Buddhism. Vajrayana Buddhists themselves often classify their school as the final stage in the evolution of Indian Buddhist theory which they enumerate as: Hinayana, Mahayana, Vajrayana


Xinjiang/Sinkiang: Uighur Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China, sometimes known as Chinese Turkestan or Eastern Turkestan. The capital is Urumqi. Xinjiang’s area is 1,650,000 km² and the population is estimated at about 19 million.


Yuan Dynasty: (AD1271-1368) also called the Mongol Dynasty, was part of the Mongol Empire




Two events triggered this project.


During a chat, one of my Singaporean friends challenged me why China occupied Aksai Chin of India since AD1962.


He doesn’t know that, meaning “China’s white sands” in Turki since no later than 7th century, the no man’s land of Aksai Chin was not until AD1950s claimed by India as its territory, who nonetheless never implemented this claim.


A more complicated one took place in the small town of Mahoba in central India.  A German musician challenged me why there are so many non-Tibetans, mainly “Han immigrants”, in Tibet.


During our talk I realized that he had little idea of the difference between inner Tibet, Kham and Amdo. He treats all of them as Tibet, and suggests that Tibet should accommodate Tibetans only.  He doesn’t know that the relationship between Tibet and Tibetan is far different from Europe and European: European is not an ethnic group while Tibetan is just one of many living in Tibet.  He doesn’t know that Tibetans were actually latecomers to Amdo.  He doesn’t know that Tibetans have been outnumbered by other ethnic groups since centuries ago in both Kham and Amdo.  He doesn’t know that, witnessed by his German compatriot, 14th Dalai Lama who came from Amdo could only spoke Chinese dialect when he first met lamas from Lhasa in 1930s.  He doesn’t know that in inner Tibet most if not all “Han immigrant” he claimed went there to work or do business on a temporary basis: they are migrants instead of immigrants.  He doesn’t know, or rather, doesn’t notice that the “Chinese” buildings that he claims to be ruining Tibetan culture are actually all “Western” buildings, which are ruining not only Tibetan but the whole Oriental culture.


When I further proved to him there couldn’t be many “Han immigrants” since Han women couldn’t give birth in altitude of Tibet, he rapidly changed his topic, charging China government put nuclear waste in Tibet.  When I asked him for reference and evidence, he just kept silence.  I had to calm myself: he is an artist while I am a researcher.  Maybe our ways of reasoning are totally different.


This German musician is kind, humorous and resourceful.  He’s like most Westerners I’ve met: their knowledge about the past and reality of Tibet is solely from one side.  They obtain and trust each piece of information from Western media that claims itself to be “free media”.  Unfortunately, it was illustrated in this booklet to have been interpolating facts of Tibet in political pursuit as well as helping Kashag, representing a group of clergy and feudal lords in exile, to add volume to its propaganda.


The Tibet issue is part of the Cold War.  It worsened as the Cold War intensified, and will disappear only when the latter really ends.


I could explain all these to my Singaporean and German friends.  But I don’t afford to repeat it again and again each time when I meet another Western-educated person.  I am essentially fighting a giant bare-fisted.


Therefore, I decided to write it down.


I wrote this booklet to present Western readers with historical facts that have been filtered from them by mainstream Western media.  I made every effort to have all materials used in this booklet referenced, most from Western publication.  I am not saying non-Western publication has no credibility.  But since many, if not most, Westerners feel only their publication represent justice and credibility, let’s cater to this irrational preference.


If you have different knowledge or interpretation of certain historical facts described in this pamphlet, I’ll be grateful to hear from you with decent reference.  Please write to Robert.wangyi@Gmail.com


If you find this booklet fair-minded, it will be greatly appreciated if you would pass it to your friends who are also interested to obtain broader knowledge about Tibet.


For further reading, I would recommend The Making of Modern Tibet by A. Tom Grunfeld and The Demise of the Lamaist State by Melvyn Goldstein on Tibet modern history, The Shadow of the Dalai Lama: Sexuality, Magic and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism by Victor and Victoria Trimondi on Lamaism, India’s China War by Neville Maxwell on India-China skirmish in AD1962 and The History of Political Relations between the Tang Dynasty, Tibet and Arab in Central Asia by Wang Xiao-Fu on Tibet’s expansion and foreign relation during 7-8th century.


Thank you for reading this book.


Wang Zai-Tian

1st Edition: 3 June 2003, Singapore

2nd Edition: 29 September 2004, Singapore



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