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Dalai Lamas 1391-present

Regents 1652-1951

Ambans 1727-1911

Kashag 1751

Kashag 1911-1951


Tibetan Government in Exile after 1951

Tibet Autonomous Region 1965-Present

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Early history to the 9th century

Credible history begins late in the 6th century, when three discontented vassals of one of the princes among whom Tibet was then divided conspired to support the neighbouring lord of Yarlung, whose title was Spu-rgyal btsan-po. Btsan-po (“mighty”) became the designation of all kings of Tibet (rgyal means “king”; and spu, the meaning of which is uncertain, may refer to a sacral quality of the princes of Yar-lung as divine manifestations). Their new master, Gnam-ri srong-brtsan (c. 570–c.619 CE), was transformed from a princeling in a small valley into the ruler of a vigorously expanding military empire.

Gnam-ri srong-brtsan imposed his authority over several Qiang tribes on the Chinese border and became known to the Sui dynasty (581–618) as the commander of 100,000 warriors. But it was his son, Srong-brtsan-sgam-po (c. 617–650), who brought Tibet forcibly to the notice of the Taizong emperor (reigned 626–649), of the Tang dynasty. To pacify him, Taizong granted him a princess as his bride. Srong-brtsan-sgam-po is famed as the first chos-rgyal  (“religious king”) and for his all-important influence on Tibetan culture, the introduction of writing for which he borrowed a script from India, enabling the texts of the new religion to be translated. He extended his empire over Nepal, western Tibet, the Tuyuhun, and other tribes on China’s border; and he invaded north India.

In 670, 20 years after Srong-brtsan-sgam-po’s death, peace with China was broken and for two centuries Tibetan armies in Qinghai and Xinjiang kept the frontier in a state of war. In alliance with the western Turks, the Tibetans challenged Chinese control of the trade routes through Central Asia.

The reign of Khri-srong-lde-brtsan (755–797) marked the peak of Tibetan military success, including the exaction of tribute from China and the brief capture of its capital, Chang’an, in 763. But it was as the second religious king and champion of Buddhism that Khri-srong-lde-brtsan was immortalized by posterity. He initially had prohibited Buddhism, but that restriction was lifted in 761. In 763, when he was 21, he invited Buddhist teachers from India and China to Tibet, and about 779 he established the great temple of Bsam-yas, where Tibetans were trained as monks.

Buddhism foreshadowed the end of “Spu-rgyal’s Tibet.” The kings did not fully appreciate that its spiritual authority endangered their own supernatural prestige or that its philosophy was irreconcilable with belief in personal survival. They patronized Buddhist foundations but retained their claims as divine manifestations.


Disunity, 9th to 14th century

In the 9th century, Buddhist tradition records a contested succession, but there are many inconsistencies; contemporary Chinese histories indicate that Tibetan unity and strength were destroyed by rivalry between generals commanding the frontier armies. Early in the 9th century a scion of the old royal family migrated to western Tibet and founded successor kingdoms there, and by 889 Tibet was a mere congeries of separate lordships. In 843, during that period, Glandar-ma (reigned 841–846) ordered the suppression of Buddhism, and Tibet’s Buddhist traditions were disrupted for more than a century.

Tibetan generals and chieftains on the eastern border established themselves in separate territories. The acknowledged successors of the religious kings prospered in their migration to the west and maintained contact with Indian Buddhist universities through Tibetan scholars, notably the famous translator Rin-chen bzang-po (died 1055). In central Tibet, Buddhism suffered an eclipse. A missionary journey by the renowned Indian pandit Atisha in 1042 rekindled the faith through central Tibet, and from then onward Buddhism increasingly spread its influence over every aspect of Tibetan life.

Inspired by Atisha and by other pandits whom they visited in India, Tibetan religious men formed small communities and expounded different aspects of doctrine. Atisha’s own teaching became the basis of the austere Bka’-gdams-pa sect. The Tibetan scholar Dkon-mchog rgyal-po established the monastery of Sa-skya (1073), and a series of lamas (Tibetan priests) founded several monasteries of what is generally called the Bka’-brgyud-pa sect.


Although it has been widely stated that the Tibetans submitted about 1207 to Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to avert an invasion, evidence indicates that the first military contact with the Mongols came in 1240, when they marched on central Tibet and attacked the monastery of Ra-sgreng and others. In 1247, Köden, younger brother of the khan Güyük, symbolically invested the Sa-skya lama with temporal authority over Tibet. Later Kublai Khan appointed the lama ’Phags-pa as his “imperial preceptor” (dishi), and the politico-religious relationship between Tibet and the Mongol empire is stated as a personal bond between the emperor as patron and the lama as priest (yon-mchod).

A series of Sa-skya lamas, living at the Mongol court, thus became viceroys of Tibet on behalf of the Mongol emperors. The Mongols prescribed a reorganization of the many small estates into 13 myriarchies (administrative districts each comprising, theoretically, 10,000 families). The ideal was a single authority, but other monasteries, especially ’Bri-gung and Phag-mo-gru of the Bka’-brgyud-pa sect, whose supporters controlled several myriarchies, actively contested Sa-skya’s supremacy.

The collapse of the Yuan dynasty in 1368 also brought down Sa-skya after 80 years of power. Consequently, when the native Chinese Ming dynasty (1368–1644) evicted the Mongols, Tibet regained its independence; for more than 100 years the Phag-mo-gru-pa line governed in its own right.

A proliferation of scholars, preachers, mystics, hermits, and eccentrics, as well as monastic administrators and warriors, accompanied the subsequent revival of Buddhism. Literary activity was intense. Sanskrit works were translated with the help of visiting Indian pandits; the earliest codifiers, classifiers, biographers, and historians appeared. In an outburst of monastic building, the characteristic Tibetan style acquired greater extent, mass, and dignity. Chinese workmen were imported for decorative work. Temple walls were covered with fine frescoes; huge carved and painted wooden pillars were hung with silk and with painted banners (tankas). Chapels abounded in images of gold, gilded copper, or painted and gilded clay; some were decorated with stucco scenes in high relief; in others the remains of deceased lamas were enshrined in silver or gilded stupas. Under Nepalese influence, images were cast and ritual vessels and musical instruments made in a style blending exuberant power and sophisticated craftsmanship; wood-carvers produced beautiful shrines and book covers, and from India came palm-leaf books, ancient images, and bell-metal stupas of all sizes.


Tibet, 14th to 19th century

The Dge-lugs-pa (Yellow Hat sect)

For 70 peaceful years Byang-chub rgyal-mtshan (died 1364) and his two successors ruled a domain wider than that of the Sa-skya-pa. Thereafter, although the Phag-mo-gru Gong-ma (as the ruler was called) remained nominally supreme, violent dissension erupted again. In 1435 the lay princes of Rin-spungs, ministers of Gong-ma and patrons of the increasingly influential Karma-pa sect, rebelled and by 1481 had seized control of the Phag-mo-gru court.

Already a new political factor had appeared in the Dge-lugs-pa sect. Its founder was a saintly scholar, Blo-bzang grags-pa (died 1419), known as Tsong-kha-pa for his supposed birthplace of Tsong-kha in eastern A-mdo. After studying with leading teachers of the day, he formulated his own doctrine, emphasizing the moral and philosophical ideas of Atisha rather than the magic and mysticism of Sa-skya—though he did not discard the latter entirely. In 1409 he founded his own monastery at Dga’-ldan, devoted to the restoration of strict monastic discipline. Tsong-kha-pa’s disciplinary reform appealed to people weary of rivalry and strife between wealthy monasteries. Tsong-kha-pa probably did not imagine that his disciples would form a new sect and join in that rivalry, but, after his death, devoted and ambitious followers built around his teaching and prestige what became the Dge-lugs-pa, or Yellow Hat sect, which was gradually drawn into the political arena.

In 1578 the Dge-lugs-pa took a step destined to bring foreign interference once more into Tibetan affairs. The third Dge-lugs-pa hierarch, Bsod-nams-rgya-mtsho, was invited to visit the powerful Tümed Mongol leader Altan Khan, with whom he revived the patron-priest relationship that had existed between Kublai Khan and ’Phags-pa. From this time dates the title of Dalai (“Oceanwide”) Lama, conferred by Altan and applied retrospectively to the two previous hierarchs. The holder is regarded as the embodiment of a spiritual emanation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Spyan-ras-gzigs; Chinese: Guanyin)—and hence of the mythic monkey demon and progenitor of the Tibetans. The succession is maintained by the discovery of a child, born soon after the death of a Dalai Lama, into whom the spirit of the deceased is believed to have entered. Until 1642 the Dalai Lamas were principal abbots of the Dge-lugs-pa, and in that year they acquired temporal and spiritual rule of Tibet. With Altan’s help virtually all the Mongols became Dge-lugs-pa adherents, and on Bsod-nams-rgya-mtsho’s death they acquired a proprietary interest in the order and some claims on Tibet itself when the fourth Dalai Lama was conveniently discovered in the Tümed royal family.

To support their protégé, the Mongols sent armed bands into Tibet. Their opponents were the Red Hat Lama, head of a Karma-pa subsect, and his patron the Gtsang king. That phase of rivalry ended inconclusively with the early death of the fourth Dalai Lama and the decline of Tümed Mongol authority in Mongolia. The next came when Güüshi Khan, leader of the Khoshut tribe, which had displaced the Tümed, appeared as champion of the Dge-lugs-pa. In 1640 he invaded Tibet, defeating the Gtsang king and his Karma-pa supporters.


The unification of Tibet

In 1642 with exemplary devotion, Güüshi enthroned the Dalai Lama as ruler of Tibet, appointing Bsod-nams chos-’phel as minister for administrative affairs and himself taking the title of king and the role of military protector. These three forceful personalities methodically and efficiently consolidated the religious and temporal authority of the Dge-lugs-pa, establishing a unique joint control over the region by both Mongols and Tibetans. Lhasa, long the spiritual heart of Tibet, now became the political capital as well. Dge-lugs-pa supremacy was imposed on all other orders, with special severity toward the Karma-pa. A reorganized district administration reduced the power of the lay nobility.

The grandeur and prestige of the regime were enhanced by reviving ceremonies attributed to the religious kings, by enlarging the nearby monasteries of ’Bras-spungs, Sera, and Dga’-Idan, and by building the superb Potala Palace, completed by another great figure, Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho, who in 1679 succeeded as minister regent just before the death of his patron the fifth Dalai Lama. By then a soundly based and unified government had been established over a wider extent than any for eight centuries.

The installations of the fifth Dalai Lama (the “Great Fifth”) at Lhasa (1642) and the Qing, or Manchu, dynasty in China (1644) were almost synchronous. In 1652 the fifth Dalai Lama went to Beijing to meet with the Qing emperor Shunzhi. Prior to the Dalai Lama’s return to Tibet the following year, the Shunzhi emperor conferred upon him a golden album and a golden seal and formally proclaimed him the Dalai Lama (which, to the Qing, was an honorific title). In addition, a Qing envoy accompanied the Dalai Lama back to Tibet and conferred Qing legitimacy to the Güüshi Khan on behalf of the emperor. Good relations with Tibet were important to the Manchu because of the Dalai Lama’s prestige among the Mongols, from whom a new threat was taking shape in the ambitions of the powerful Oirat of western Mongolia. The Dalai Lama also expected more support from the Qing government to confirm his political power over Tibet, as Mongolian control there gradually weakened.

Elsewhere, Lhasa’s expanding authority with both Mongolian and Tibetan martial forces brought disagreements with Bhutan, which held its own against Tibetan incursions in 1646 and 1657, and with Ladakh, where a campaign ended in 1684 in Tibetan withdrawal to an accepted frontier when the Ladakhĭ king appealed for help to the Muslim governor of Kashmir.


Tibet under Manchu overlordship

The Dalai Lama’s death in 1682 and the discovery of his five-year-old reincarnation in 1688 were concealed by Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho, who was intent on continuing the administration without disturbance. He informed the Manchu only in 1694 or 1696 (sources disagree). The Kangxi emperor (reigned 1661–1722) was incensed at the deception. In 1703 he discovered an ally in Tibet and an antagonist to Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho when Lha-bzang Khan, fourth successor of Güüshi, sought to assert rights as king that had atrophied under his immediate predecessors. The behaviour of the sixth Dalai Lama, Tshangs-dbyangs-rgya-mtsho, who preferred poetry and libertine amusements to religion, gave Lha-bzang his opportunity. In 1705, with the emperor’s approval, he attacked and killed Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho and deposed Tshangs-dbyangs-rgya-mtsho as a spurious reincarnation. The Tibetans angrily rejected him and soon recognized in eastern Tibet the infant reincarnation of the dead Tshangs-dbyangs-rgya-mtsho.

In 1717 the Oirat, nominally Dge-lugs-pa supporters, took advantage of Tibetan discontent to intervene in a sudden raid, defeating and killing Lha-bzang. Fear of hostile Mongol domination of Tibet compelled the emperor to send troops against the Oirat. After an initial reverse, his armies drove them out in 1720 and were welcomed at Lhasa as deliverers, all the more because they brought with them the new Dalai Lama, Bskal-bzang-rgya-mtsho. For the next 200 years there was no fighting between Tibetans and Chinese. However, after evicting the Oirat, the emperor decided to safeguard Manchu interests by appointing representatives - generally known as ambans - at Lhasa, with a small garrison in support. The Tibetans, interpreting this as another patron-priest relationship, accepted the situation, which generally left them to manage their own affairs. It was only in recurring crises that Manchu participation became, briefly, energetic. Imperial troops quelled a civil war in Tibet in 1728, restored order after the political leader was assassinated in 1750, and drove out the Gurkhas, who had invaded from Nepal in 1792. As Manchu energy declined, the Tibetans became increasingly independent, though still recognizing the formal suzerainty of the emperor, behind which it sometimes suited them to shelter. At no time did the ambans have administrative power, and after 1792, when Tibet was involved in wars with Ladakh (1842) and Nepal (1858), the Manchu were unable to help or protect them.


Administration and culture under the Manchu

No Dalai Lama until the 13th approached the personal authority of the Great Fifth. The seventh incarnation was overshadowed by Pho-lha, a lay nobleman appointed ruler by the Manchu. The eighth was diffident and retiring. But after the Pho-lha family’s regime, Dge-lugs-pa clerics resumed power and held onto it through a series of monk regents for about 145 years.

Chinese contacts affected Tibetan culture less than might be expected. They helped shape the administrative machinery, army, and mail service, which were based on existing institutions and run by Tibetans. Chinese customs influenced dress, food, and manners; china and chopsticks were widely used by the upper classes. The arts of painting, wood carving, and casting figures continued on traditional lines, with much technical skill but few signs of innovation. An important effect of Manchu supremacy was the exclusion of foreigners after 1792. That ended the hopes of Christian missionaries and the diplomatic visits from British India, which had been started in 1774. Tibet was now closed, and mutual ignorance enshrouded future exchanges with its British neighbours in India.


Tibet since 1900

In the mid-19th century the Tibetans repeatedly rebuffed overtures from the British, who saw Tibet at first as a trade route to China and later as countenancing Russian advances that might endanger India. Eventually, in 1903, after failure to get China to control its unruly vassal, 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 between Britain and Tibet without Chinese adherence. In 1906, however, the Chinese achieved a treaty with Britain, without Tibetan participation, that recognized their suzerainty over Tibet. That success emboldened the Chinese to seek direct control of Tibet by using force against the Tibetans for the first time in 10 centuries. In 1910 the Dalai Lama again was forced to flee, this time to India.

That dying burst by the Qing dynasty converted Tibetan indifference into enmity, and, after the start of the Chinese Revolution of 1911–12, the Tibetans rose up against and expelled the Chinese; the Dalai Lama returned to Tibet in mid-1912. Tibet subsequently functioned as a de facto independent government until 1951 and defended its frontier against China in occasional fighting as late as 1931. Of note was the Shimla Conference (1913–14), in which Tibet and Great Britain, with Chinese participation, negotiated the status of Tibet and of the Tibet-India frontier (the McMahon Line). However, China refused to ratify the conference’s agreement (including the demarcated border), nor would it recognize Tibet as an independent entity.


In 1949, after the communist takeover in China, the Chinese heralded the “liberation” of Tibet, and in October 1950 Chinese troops entered and took control of eastern Tibet, overwhelming the poorly equipped Tibetan troops. An appeal by the 14th Dalai Lama to the United Nations was denied, and support from India and Britain was not forthcoming. A Tibetan delegation summoned to Beijing in 1951 had to sign a treaty dictated by Chinese authorities. It professed to guarantee Tibetan autonomy and religion but also allowed the establishment at Lhasa of Chinese civil and military headquarters.

Smoldering resentment at the strain on the country’s resources from the influx of Chinese soldiery and civilians was inflamed in 1956 by reports of fighting and oppression in districts east of the upper Yangtze River, outside the administration of Lhasa but bound to it by ethnicity, language, and religion. Refugees from the fighting in the east carried guerrilla warfare against the Chinese into central Tibet, creating tensions that exploded in a popular rising at Lhasa in March 1959. The Dalai Lama, most of his ministers, and many followers escaped across the Himalayas, and the rising was suppressed.

The events of 1959 intensified China’s disagreements with India, which had given asylum to the Dalai Lama. In 1962 Chinese forces proved the efficiency of the new communications they had established in Tibet by invading northeastern Assam, although they soon withdrew.


In 1966 and 1967 the Chinese position in Tibet was shaken by the excesses of the early Cultural Revolution (1966–76), as the upheavals it unleashed reached Lhasa. Military control was restored by 1969, and in 1971 a new local government committee was announced. Between 1963 and 1971 no foreign visitor was allowed to enter Tibet. Repression in Tibet generally abated in the late 1970s with the end of the Cultural Revolution. However, repressive measures resumed periodically during times of civil disturbance, as when riots broke out in Tibet in the late 1980s or after protests erupted in 2008 before the Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

Meanwhile, China invested heavily in the economic development of Tibet, notably in its mineral and power-generating resources. Considerable effort also was directed at improving Tibet’s transportation infrastructure—for example, through highway and railroad construction. Tourism generally has been encouraged. In addition, both China and the Dalai Lama have made diplomatic overtures toward the other side, though the two camps remained far apart. For his part, the Dalai Lama since the 1980s has stated his desire for what he described as “autonomy” for Tibet and regions adjacent to Tibet. Chinese authorities have viewed such calls for autonomy as a continuation of the exiled Tibetan community’s desire for Tibet’s independence from China. During that time the Dalai Lama - winner of the 1989 Nobel Prize for Peace - became a renowned figure throughout the world.




TIBET WAS FROM THE TANG DYNASTY (618-906) ON SOME OF THE CULTURAL AND POLITICAL INFLUENCE OF CHINA. Under the Q'ing dynasty (1644-1911), the influence was initially increased considerably, but towards the end it diminished again during the reigns of weak emperors. After the fall of the empire and the proclamation of the Republic in 1911/12, Tibet considered itself relieved of Chinese suzerainty. The independence guaranteed by Britain, India and Russia in 1914 was not recognized by China. To counter the increasing influence of foreign countries, Chinese troops gradually occupied the country in the 1950s -51s. Tibet was annexed to China as an autonomous territory by the Beijing Convention of 23 May 1951. Several institutions exist in the Tibetan polity. In the first place there is the suzerein or patron. This was the Mongol khan from the middle of the 13th century and the Chinese emperor from the 18th century. The Chinese emperor was represented in Tibet by a governor or viceroy (Amban)


In het China van de Qing-dynastie werden provincies namens de keizer bestuurd door gouverneurs. Een belangrijk uitgangspunt daarbij was dat een gouverneur of resident nooit een provincie kon besturen waar hij zelf uit afkomstig was. Zijn plaatsvervanger kon nooit afkomstig zijn uit dezelfde provincie als de belangrijkste resident. Er was een rotatiesysteem voor lokale en provinciale bestuurders, dat er op gericht was dat uitoefening van een functie in dezelfde provincie gewoonlijk niet langer duurde dan gemiddeld drie jaar.[1]

Deze uitgangspunten werden ook toegepast voor de benoemingen in Tibet. Op enkele uitzonderingen na was de ambtstermijn in Tibet nooit langer dan drie jaar.

In de eerste periode van 1727 tot 1750 kon het aantal residenten variëren. Vanaf 1750 wordt echter een systeem ingevoerd van steeds twee aanwezige ambans, een meer senior amban en een viceamban. Het is ook vanaf 1750 dat de functionarissen in Tibet de titel van amban droegen. In totaal werden er 173 residenten in de periode 1727–1912 benoemd.


Furthermore, as elsewhere, there is the state. The state is the regulating body of the people and its territory. The head of state is the head of state. In addition, there is the Buddhist church. The Dalai Lama is at the head of this.

From 1642, the function of head of state and head of the Tibetan Buddhist church in Tibet has been usually, but certainly not always, united in the person of the Dalai Lama. The succession of head of state and head of the church is provided by the system of reincarnation. This assumes that the deceased Dalai Lama returns as a rebirth of the first Dalai Lama. This system has the advantage that the new monarch can be formed by the clergy, which in the monitoring system therefore means a form of cooptation. The disadvantage is that there are long periods when the head of state cannot fully perform his functions. From the middle of the 18th century this was provided by a regency that fulfilled the functions of the head of state during the minority of the (church) monarch. In the 19th century, born-again D.L.s could barely rule because they died resp. were killed. Until 1895, therefore, the regime was usually in the hands of a regent


Because of this association, but also because of the predominant position of the Buddhist church, Tibet can certainly be considered a theocracy until 1951, which is why the symbol of Buddhism was at the same time the symbol of the state. There are various proofs of the statement that in a theocracy the symbol of religion is also the symbol of the state. It was the same in ancient Egypt as in Mesopotamia and in Europe. The different institutions each used their own symbol.


Chapter 1

Early Rulers of Tibet




Gnam-ri srong-btsan



8Srong-btsan sgam-po  (Songtsen Gompo)



The Jokhang was founded during the reign of King Songtsen Gampo. According to tradition, the temple was built for the king's two brides: Princess Wencheng of the Chinese Tang dynasty and Princess Bhrikuti of Nepal. Both are said to have brought important Buddhist statues and images from China and Nepal to Tibet, which were housed here, as part of their dowries. The oldest part of the temple was built in 652. Over the next 900 years, the temple was enlarged several times with the last renovation done in 1610 by the Fifth Dalai Lama. Following the death of Gampo, the image in Ramcho Lake temple was moved to the Jokhang temple for security reasons. When King Tresang Detsen ruled from 755 to 797, the Buddha image of the Jokhang temple was hidden, as the king's minister was hostile to the spread of Buddhism in Tibet. During the late ninth and early tenth centuries, the Jokhang and Ramoche temples were said to have been used as stables. In 1049 Atisha, a renowned teacher of Buddhism from Bengal taught in Jokhang.


Khri-lde gtsug-btsan



Khri-srong lde-btsan (Trisong Detsen)



Tri Ral-pa-can






Era of the Myriarchy


The Western Kingdom







Priest kings under  Mongol suzerainty

Mongol Invasion and occupation: 1241-1262


Toregene Khatun


Guyuk Khan



Lamas of the Sa-skya Sect


Sa-pan Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan

Sa-skya Pandita


Viceroy 1247-1251


The History of Tibet - Yuan Dynasty

Yüan Dynasty: Tibet became an Administrative region of China


Updated: 2008-05-06 15:35


At the beginning of the 13th century, Genghis Khan, a Mongolian chieftain, established the Mongol Empire, and Tibetan secular and religious chiefs began to make contacts with the Khan Empire. In 1247 A.D., Sa-pan Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan, chief of the Sa–skya-pa Sect, together with his nephew vPhags-pa and others, went to Liangzhou (today’s Wuwei ), meeting with Go-ldan, Genghis Khan’s grandson and came to terms regarding Tibet’s submission to the Mongols


Although it has been widely stated that the Tibetans submitted about 1207 to Chinggis (Genghis) Khan to avert an invasion, evidence indicates that the first military contact with the Mongols came in 1240, when they marched on central Tibet and attacked the monastery of Ra-sgreng and others. In 1247, Köden, younger brother of the khan Güyük, symbolically invested the Sa-skya lama with temporal authority over Tibet. Later Kublai Khan appointed the lama ’Phags-pa as his “imperial preceptor” (dishi - desi), and the politico-religious relationship between Tibet and the Mongol empire is stated as a personal bond between the emperor as patron and the lama as priest (yon-mchod).

A series of Sa-skya lamas, living at the Mongol court, thus became viceroys of Tibet on behalf of the Mongol emperors.


Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan, chief of the Sa-skya-pa Sect

Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan was the fourth forefather of the Sa-skya-pa Sect of Tibetan Buddhism as well as a renowned religious politician and scholar in the  history of Tibet. He was knowledgeable and proficient in Five Kinds of Greater Knowledge, so he was respectfully called "Sa-pan Pandit" (abbreviated as Sa-pan, meaning a great scholar of the Sa-skya-pa Sect). In 1246 A.D., he led his nephew Phyag-na-rdo-rje to Liangzhou to meet with Go-ldan, coming to terms regarding Tibet's submission to the Mongols. In 1247 A.D., he wrote a letter to Tibetan religious and secular chiefs in dBus-gtsang, persuading them to submit to the Mongols. This letter was welcomed and observed by them, and it played an important role in the incorporation of Tibet into the territory of China as well as the unification of Tibet by the Yuan Dynasty.


The letter written by Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan to Tibetan religious and secular chiefs.

It is also called Sa-pan's letter to Tibetans.


Order issued by Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan to officials of dBus-gtsang Pacification Commissions




 State preceptor 1260-1270

ruler 1270-1280


Phags-pa Lama  (posthumous)

by Uran Namsarai (d. 1913)

Silk applique

Museum of Fine Arts. H: 155.0  W: 112.6


‘Phags-pa (1235-1280) played a very important role in the history of Mongolia. In 1244, as a young prince of Sakya, Phagspa, together with his brother Chanadorje, accompanied their uncle Sa-skya Pandita (1182-1251) as hostages to meet Godan Khan, second son of Ögödei Khan. Sa-skya Pandita surrendered Tibet to the Mongols in order to avoid bloodshed and mass destruction, but he succeeded in converting Godan Khan to Buddhism. Thus began the choyon, or “patron and priest,” relationship between the Mongol rulers and the Sakyapa monks of Tibet. After the death of his uncle, Phags-pa took his place and became Kublai Khan's mentor. He became the State Preceptor of the Yuan dynasty in 1260 and the Imperial Preceptor ten years later, when he was given temporal power over all of Tibet.


Kublai army camp


vPhags-pa was the fifth forefather of the Sa-skya-pa Sect. Before Kublai  (Yuan Emperor Shizu (Qubilai = Shih Tsu (1260-1294)), attacked Sichuan and Yunnan in 1253 A.D., he invited vPhags-pa to meet with him in an army camp.

In 1260 A.D., vPhags-pa was conferred upon the title of “State Tutor” (regent?) and received a Jade seal. He became a Senior official in the Central Government, who dealt with Buddhist affairs in a capacity of State Tutor. In 1270 A.D., he was conferred upon the title of  "Imperial Governor", for initiating the script.


Jade Seal of the Yuan Preceptor, Supervisor of Buddhist Affairs

China, Yuan Dynasty (1260-1368)

H: 10 cm; L: 12 cm x 12 cm

Tibet Museum, Lhasa


Published: Tibet Museum Catalog, pp. 30-31, no. 3; Golden Treasures, pp. 22-23

This square jade seal bears a crouching mythical beast (dragon?) and was made for the Yuan Dynasty guoshi (National Preceptor). Its inscription is written in Phagpa script. After Phagpa was named National Preceptor, these titles became more and more honorific. The title guoshi became Guanding guoshi (Empowered as National Preceptor), and was later changed to Da Yuan guoshi (National Preceptor of the Great Yuan). [1]


In 1260 A.D., Phags-pa came to Kublai Khan’s throne, and then the title of “State Tutor” was conferred upon vPhags-pa and bestowed upon him a jade seal, ordering him to wield political and religious powers in Tibet. Thus began the system of the “unification of political and religious affairs”. In 1271 A.D., Kublai established the Yuan Dynasty, and Tibet officially became an administrative region under the Central Government of the Yuan Dynasty which set up the Political Council in charge of Buddhist affairs of the entire nation as well as military and political affairs in Tibet. The Yuan Central Government set up the General office administered by the Pacification Commissions with 13 Wanhus (Khri-skor, one Wanhu stands for ten thousand households) under its jurisdiction and appointed all officials. And the census was conducted; the standards of tax and corvée were established; post stations and army service stations were set up and troops were dispatched within the territory of Tibet


Conch with spirals running to the right bestowed upon vPhags-pa by theYuan Emperor.

It is now enshrined in Sa-skya Monastery.


This conch is the emblem of spiritual authority in Hinduism


Jade sculpture of the fifth forefather of the Sa-skya-pa Sect vPhags-pa


In 1253, Kublai was ordered to attack Yunnan and he asked the Dali Kingdom to submit. The ruling Gao family resisted and killed Mongol envoys. The Mongols divided their forces into three. One wing rode eastward into the Sichuan basin. The second column under Subutai's son Uryankhadai took a difficult route into the mountains of western Sichuan. Kublai went south over the grasslands and met up with the first column. While Uryankhadai travelled along the lakeside from the north, Kublai took the capital city of Dali and spared the residents despite the slaying of his ambassadors. The Dali King Duan Xingzhi (段興智) himself defected to the Mongols, who used his troops to conquer the rest of Yunnan. Duan Xingzhi, the last king of Dali, was appointed by Möngke Khan as the first tusi or local ruler; Duan accepted the stationing of a pacification commissioner there. After Kublai's departure, unrest broke out among certain factions. In 1255 and 1256, Duan Xingzhi was presented at court, where he offered Möngke Khan maps of Yunnan and counsels about the vanquishing of the tribes who had not yet surrendered. Duan then led a considerable army to serve as guides and vanguards for the Mongolian army. By the end of 1256, Uryankhadai had completely pacified Yunnan.



When Kublai Khan asked for artists and craftsmen, it was Phagspa who recommended Anige, the phenomenal Newari artist who came to Dadu in 1260 with twenty-four artisans and contributed greatly to the art of the Yuan dynasty.

Phags-pa was also the creator of the square-headed Phags-pa script (1270), the official script of the Yuan dynasty. This script was used on all official documents and seals



Records on setting up the Political Council by the Central Government

In 1264, Kublai, Yuan Emperor Shizu, set up the General Council in charge of Buddhist affairs in the entire nation as well as local administrative affairs in Tibet.In 1288 A.D., it was changed into the Political Council



Chart of Imperial Tutors of successive generations granted by the Yuan Court

Imperial Tutors were major official positions in the Yuan Central Government. Emperors of successive generations all granted “Imperial Tutors” (altogether 14 generations), which lasted from 1270 A.D. when vPhags-pa was conferred upon the title of “Imperial Tutor” to the collapse of the Yuan


Records in History of Yuan Dynasty on establishing the

Pacification Commissions General Office and 13 Wanhus


By order of Kublai, the Pacification Commissioners General office with Three Regions of dBus, gTsang and mNgav-ris was set up. It placed 13 Wanhus under its jurisdiction, and established Sa-skya as their head. dPon-chen (chieftain) was appointed in Sa-skya , who administered 13 Wanhus. Such officials as dPon-chens and heads of Wanhus were recommended by Imperial Tutors and granted by the Central Government. From then on, Tibet officially became an administrative region, and the system of the unification of political and religious affairs, authorized by the Central Government, came into being



viceroy of Tibet 1267-1314


A series of Sa-skya lamas, living at the Mongol court, thus became viceroys of Tibet on behalf of the Mongol emperors.

Seal of Sang-rje-dpal (1267-1314A.D.)

Sang-rje-dpal was the seventh generation of Imperial Tutor,

who was bestowed upon the seal by the Yuan Central Government.




Seal of Prince Bailan (Pavi-lend-bang ) with inscriptions in the vPhags-pa script


In 1246 A.D., together with Kun-dgav-rgyal-mtshan, Phyag-na-rdo-rje went to Liangzhou to meet with Go-ldan. After that, he stayed in the mainland. Kublai married Princess Mo-kha-dun to him, conferring upon him the title of "Prince of Bailan" ( honorific title of an emperor’s son-in-law) and bestowing upon him a gold seal. Phyag-na-rdo-rje was the first who was granted as a Duke in the Sa-skya-pa Sect as well as in the entire Tibet.


Decree by Imperial Tutor Sang-rje-dpal to Rin-chen-sgang-pa





House of Phag-mo Gru

Kings 1302-17th cent


Mirror, Yuan 1271-1368


The mirror, a medium for self–kowledge, consists of a silver disk supported by two dragons  (mang) and  crested with  a monstrous head (Chibar = victory) recrested with a triple jewel (konchog sum) . In base is a garuda (vehicle of the ruler) ensigned of a buddhist sun-and- crescent the emblem of the Yuan dysnasty.


The Phagmodru Dynasty, often called Phagmodrupa, was a Tibetan dynasty founded by Tai Situ Changchub Gyaltsen at the end of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty.

Gyaltsen was a member of the Lang family. He came from the phagdru kagyü tradition founded by Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyalpo.. This could have been the badge of office of a Yuan vice-king


Byang-chub rgyal-mtshan


 r. 1358-1364


…Phag-mo-gru, under its leader Byang-chub rgyal-mtshan (1302–64), moved in and soon began to actively dispute the Sa-skya lama’s authority. By 1358 Byang-chub rgyal-mtshan had liberated all of central Tibet, eradicating Mongol control over the country. Byang-chub rgyal-mtshan and the Phag-mo-gru leaders who succeeded him assumed the title of Gong-ma,… (Brittannica)


Desi Shakya Gyaltsen


r. 1364–1373)


Desi Shakya Gyaltsen (Wylie: sde srid sh'akya rgyal mtshan, ZYPY: Sagya Gyaincain) (nephew of the former)


Desi Drakpa Changchub 


r. 1373–1381)


Desi Drakpa Changchub (Wylie: sde srid grags pa byang chub)  (nephew of the former)


Gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen 


King 1385-1432


Seal of Gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen as Guanding Guoshi


Gongma Drakpa Gyaltsen (Tibetan: སྡེ་སྲིད་བསོད་ནམས་གྲགས་པ, Wylie: Gong ma grags pa rgyal mts'an, (1374–1432) was a King of Tibet who ruled in 1385–1432. He belonged to the Phagmodrupa Dynasty (1354-1618), which was the leading regime in Tibet between 1354 and 1435. His reign was comparatively tranquil, but he was also the last ruler of the dynasty to wield full powers over the central parts of Tibet.


Gongma Drakpa Jungne


r. 1432–1445

Gongma Drakpa Jungne ( Tibetan གྲགས་པ་འབྱུང་གནས Wylie: gong ma grags pa 'byung gnas) (nephew of the former)


Dragpa Jungne (1414-1445) was the seventh monarch from the Phagmodru dynasty from 1432 to 1445, A few years after the start of his reign, Central Tibet (U-Tsang) fell into a civil war and a period of two centuries of internal struggles began in Tibet. The influence of the Phagmodru dynasty continued for a smaller region until the early 17th century


House of Rinpung



Rinpungpa (Tibetan: ཪིན་སྤུངས་པ་, Wylie: rin spungs pa, Lhasa dialect IPA: rĩ̀púŋpə́) was a Tibetan regime that dominated much of Western Tibet and part of Ü-Tsang between 1435 and 1565. The House gained dominion over large parts of Tibet through family feuds within the House of Phagmodru During one period around 1500 the Rinpungpa lords came close to assemble the Tibetan lands around the Yarlung Tsangpo River under one authority, but their powers receded after 1512.





(1466 - ca. 1479

Donyo Dorje


Ngawang Namgyal

1512-ca 1550

Döndrub Tseten Dorje

ca.1550 - ?)

Ngawang Jigme Drakpa



House of Gtsang-pa



Tsangpa (Tibetan: གཙང་པ, Wylie: gTsang pa) was a dynasty that dominated large parts of Tibet from 1565 to 1642. It was the last Tibetan royal dynasty to rule in its own name. The regime was founded by Karma Tseten, a low-born retainer of the prince of the Rinpungpa Dynasty and governor of Shigatse in Tsang (West-Central Tibet) since 1548.


Karma Tseten


Karma Tensung


Karma Bstan-skyong


Gtsang-pa King

Antique and Collectible 1600-1680

Tibetan Carved [5th Great Dalai Lama ?] Gilt Robes

Tibetan Sacred Statue to Benefit All Sentient Beings

Home or Office Display to Support Free Tibet & Nepal

43.7 ´ 22.3 cm. TantricBuddhistRelics


Kalmuk suzerainty 1635 ca. - 1713


Gusri Khan



Gushri Khan (1585-1655)


Güsrhi (or Gushi), a Khoshut prince and leader of the Khoshut Khanate, was known for his devotion to the Gelugpa. Sonam Rapten was the chief attendant during the youth of the 5th Dalai Lama (1617-1682). He drew up plans to end persecution of the Gelug and unify Tibet with the help of Güshi. Güshi proceeded to Ü-Tsang in 1638 as a pilgrim. There he received religious instructions by the 5th Dalai Lama. During a ceremony in Lhasa, he was placed on a throne and proclaimed "Holder of the Doctrine Chogyal”.

Not long afterwards the king of Beri in Kham, Donyo Dorje, opened hostilities by allying  with the Tsangpa ruler Karma Tenkyong and sent a message, suggesting that the troops of Kham and Tsang would attack the Gelugpa stronghold in Ü in concert. The aim was to eradicate the Gelugpa and allow freedom of worship for the other sects.

Having subdued Kham entirely by 1641, Güshi proceeded to invade the domain of Karma Tenkyong in Tsang. On 14 April 1642, he became king of the three parts of Tibet and set up the white umbrella of his laws on the peak of the world.” On the 5th day of the 4th month in 1642, the Dalai Lama was led in state to the palace of Shigatse and seated on the throne of the deposed king. With this act he replaced the rival dominant school of the Karmapas. Güshi Khan then declared that he bestowed the supreme authority of Tibet on Dalai Lama, from Tachienlu in the east to the Ladakh border in the west. The 5th Dalai Lama in his turn confirmed the position of Güshi Khan as the Dharma king (or chogyal) of Tibet.

Gushi Khan died in January 1655, leaving ten sons


Lha Bzan Khan



In 1700 - when the sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso was already installed - a new khan came to power with the Oirat Mongols, Lhabzang Khan. At that time, Sanggye Gyatso's influence was greatly diminished, as the Chinese Emperor Kangxi seriously reproached him for keeping the fifth Dalai Lama's death secret. Determined to restore the power of his predecessor Güshri Khan in Central Tibet, Lhabzang invaded Central Tibet with the strong assent of Kangxi. Eventually there was a form of truce, in which Sanggye Gyatso relinquished his position as a desi in 1703. His son Ngawang Rinchen succeeded him as a desi.

However, in 1705 Lhabzang again took military action, killing Sanggye Gyatso. He was beheaded by order of the Tibetan queen of Lhabzang, Tsering Trashi. His son Ngawang Rinchen fled to China. Although Kangxi supported Lhabzang's military action, it was allowed to send the Chinese Emperor Kangxi a representative of the Imperial Court to Tibet for the rest of his life to oversee the implementation of Lhabzang's governmental duties. The choice fell on Ho-shou who, although with great retinue, traveled to Lhasa without a military escort. Ho-shou was tasked with restoring order in Tibet and supporting Lhabzang against his opponents, who were largely under the support of the murdered regent Sanggye Gyatso. This mission was the first attempt on the part of China to establish Tibet as a Chinese protectorate. However, the attempt failed and Ho-shou left Lhasa in 1711. His post was not re-occupied and Lhabzang ruled sovereignly, with no direct Chinese influence in Tibet.


Lha-bzang Khan (Tibetan: ལྷ་བཟང༌།, ZYPY Lhasang; Mongolian: ᠯᠠᠽᠠᠩ ᠬᠠᠨ Lazang Haan; alternatively, Lhazan or Lapsangn or Lajang; d.1717) was the ruler of the Khoshut (also spelled Qoshot, Qośot, or Qosot) tribe of the Oirats. He was the son of Tenzin Dalai Khan (1668–1701) and grandson (or great-grandson) of Güshi Khan being the last khan of the Khoshut Khanate and Oirat King of Tibet. He acquired effective power as ruler of Tibet by eliminating the regent (desi) Sangye Gyatso and the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, but his rule was cut short by an invasion by another group of Oirats, the Dzungar people. At length, this led to the direct involvement of the Chinese Qing Dynasty in the Tibetan politics.


Legal Document of the Tibetan Ruler Lhabzang Khan.

 The seal is in mongolian uïghour script as Qoshots are Oirats. (From: Dieter Schuh)


Seal of Labzang Khan

 (From: Dieter Shuh)


Chinese Protectorate 1717-1912


Civil War 1727-1728



Prince of Tibet 1728-1747



Polhané Sönam Topgyé (Tibetan: ཕ་ལ་ནས་བསད་ནམས་སྟོབས་རྒྱ, Wylie: Pho lha nas bsod nams stobs rgyas) (1689 – 12 March 1747) was one of the most important political personalities of Tibet in the first half of the 18th century. Between 1728 and 1747 he was effectively the ruling prince of Tibet and carried royal titles during the period of Qing rule of Tibet. He is known as an excellent administrator, a fearsome warrior and a grand strategist. After the troubled years under the reign of Lhazang Khan, the bloody invasion of Tsering Dhondup and the civil war, his government ushered in a relatively long period of stability and internal and external peace for Tibet.


Seal of the Tibetan ruler Polhané Sönam Topgyé, granted by the Yongzheng Emperor (1678-1735)  of the Qing dynasty


The emperor gave Pholawa the title of Paisi, Jun Wang Yasa and a seal with the following inscription in Tibetan, Mongolian and Manchu scripts: “The seal of Dhoroypa, implementor of imperial orders in U-Tsang.”


The goal of Pholhanas was to give Tibet a longer period of peace and stability after another 25 years of continuous civil war and military interference from outside Tibet. With the support of the Chinese Emperor Yongzheng, he first exiled the father of the seventh Dalai Lama whom he saw as a potential troublemaker. He then forced the Dalai Lama to retire for six years in Garten near Litang (1728-1735).

In 1735 Pholhanas considered his position sufficiently firm to agree to the Dalai Lama returning to Lhasa. He ruled almost independently of the Chinese emperor as a king of Tibet. Pholhanas died in 1747 after 20 years of peace and stability in Tibet.


Gyurme Namgyal


Son of Pho-lha-nas


Portrait of Gyurme Namgyal (restored)


Pholhanans was succeeded as a desi by his son Gyurme Namgyal. whose political objective was to end Chinese authority in Tibet.

In 1748, he cleverly persuaded the Chinese emperor to reduce the Chinese garrison in Lhasa from 500 to 100 men, while preparing to send 1,500 troops from the Tibetan army from Kongpo to Lhasa with 49 loads of ammunition. At the same time, he re-established close relations with the Doengaren which he called on to march over Ladakh to Tibet.

When both ambans Fuqing and Labudun learned of his plans, they invited him in their residence to kill him on the pretext of holding conference. He then sparked a short-lived uprising against the Chinese, killing Fuqing, Labudun, 51 soldiers and 77 Chinese civilians in Lhasa.


Seal of Gyurme Namgyal

Dieter Shuh


Yellow Hat Order 1409


The Gelug school was founded by Je Tsongkhapa, an eclectic Buddhist monk who traveled Tibet studying under Sakya, Kagyu and Nyingma teachers, such as the Sakya Master Rendawa (1349–1412) and the Dzogchen master Drupchen Lekyi Dorje.

Tsongkhapa and his disciples founded Ganden monastery in 1409, which was followed by Drepung (1416) and Sera (1419), which became the "great three" Gelug monasteries. After the death of Tsongkhapa the order grew quickly, as it developed a reputation for strict adherence to monastic discipline and scholarship as well as tantric practice.


Shakya Yeshe



Shown here is an imperially-commissioned portrait of the prominent Lama Shakya Yeshe (1354-1435), one of the eight greatest disciples of Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), the founder of the Gelug order (Yellow Hat Order).

In 1408, Emperor Yongle (1402-1424), of the Ming Dynasty, sent an invitation to Tsongkhapa to visit the Ming capital. Tsongkhapa refused the invitation, so in 1413, Yongle sent a second invitation. This time, Tsongkhapa delegated Shakya Yeshe, who arrived in Nanjing the next year. There, he built temples, initiated monks and, in 1415, and was given the title Da Ci Fawang (Tibetan: Byams chen chos rje, "Dharma King of Great Loving Kindness"), one of several princely religious titles given by Yongle to great Tibetan Lamas. Shakya Yeshe received bountiful gifts from Emperor Yongle, including a black hat, which is clearly visible in one of his two portraits

In 1429, Shakya Yeshe returned to China, during the reign of Emperor Xuande (1426-‘35), this time to the new northern capital at Beijing, where he demonstrated his abilities as a healer by curing the emperor's ills. He also toured the sacred mountain Wutaishan, Mongolia, and Amdo (present-day Qinghai province). In 1434, the emperor granted him another, even more exalted title (consisting of thirty-eight Chinese characters). The next year, in 1435, he died on his way home to Tibet.


The earlier of these two images (see no. 9) is embroidered silk and shows the Lama as a younger man, seated in meditation on a lotus throne, with his hands in a gesture of preaching, carrying two lotuses at shoulder level, which support the bell and vajra. His hair is knotted into a chignon and he wears a three-leaf crown. He is surrounded by an elaborate "throne of glory," surmounted by Garuda (the mount of the Indian deity Vishnu and enemy of the nagas). In the upper corners of the embroidered portrait are images of White Tara and Vajradhara. The portrait was apparently remounted with embroidered silk that was once part of a Qing Dynasty imperial robe.


Thangka of Shakya Yeshe


China, Ming Dynasty, Xuande reign (1426-1435)

H: 108 cm; W: 63.5 cm Norbulingka Palace Collection

Published: Precious Deposits, vol. 3, pp. 150-151, no. 55


In this portrait of Shakya Yeshe, he is attired in a robe with dragon and cloud designs, patterns and lotus motifs. Atop the head he wears a black crown, adorned with the five Buddhas; recorded as a gift from the Chinese Emperor. The lengthy woven title in Tibetan and Chinese, dates this slit-silk tapestry to the Xuande period (1426-1435).


Inscription at the top right: "Variously active, clear knowing, holy itself, supremely victorious, pure wisdom, greatly illuminating, all pervasive, protector of the realm, vastly spreading the teachings, greatly loving king of Dharma [Jamchen Choje] in the western direction, supreme knowledge-holder, one who has thus gone [tathagata], powerful-one, the great complete all-knowing enlightened one."


Inscription along the bottom front of the composition: “Together with this image a Kalachakra, Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Vajrabhairava and Mahachakra were created by Gonding Goshir Amogha and Goshir Sonam Sherab.”

Jeff Watt 09-2014


On his right a drill-bu or ritual bell, on his left a vajra or thunderbolt


Saddle of a Tibetan lama

Yuan 1271-1368

Hohhot Museum Inner Mongolia


Even the highest members of Outer Mongolia's ecclesiastical aristocracy rode on horseback, [despite the fact that the Manchu emperors of China (1644-1911), their overlords, awarded some the privilege of being carried in litters or carriages]. The saddle shown here was, because of its stag decoration,  probably intended specifically for a lama. (Lama, Tibetan Bla-ma (“superior one”), in Tibetan Buddhism, a spiritual leader. Originally used to translate “guru” (Sanskrit: “venerable one”) and thus applicable only to heads of monasteries or great teachers.)

This could have been Tsongkhapa or Shakya Yeshe, being the highest lama’s of the era.



Stag on the saddle front


Chapter 2

Dalai Lama 1391-present


The Dalai Lama's Personal emblem


All D.L.s had a personal emblem. On (mostly apocryphal) portraits of the D.L.s this is placed in the foot of the picture. The emblems are taken from the rich Buddhist iconography and sometimes represent one of the Exalted Signs. They should be considered as the personal motto of the D.L . Thus, the emblem of the current D.L. a globe loaded with a dove of peace.


All D.L. had a personal emblem. This was held in the left hand. It is not known if the D.L.’s adopted these emblems themselves or were ascribed later to them.


1 bowl, fruit

2 bilva fruit

3 coral bilva fruit

4 triple jewel bowl, conch

5 bilva fruit

6 peony bilva fruit

7 drilbu wheel drum

8 mirror, jewels, flowers

11 wheel fruit

12 offerings of the five senses

13 wheel

14 coral, Globe, bilva fruit


Below is a gallery of Dalai Lama portraits. Many of them are apparenly not contemporaneous of the sitter and therefore merely just stencils of Dalai Lamas. This was changed after the 13th Dalai Lama and his successors of whom there are photographies in official dress.


01 Gedündrup (Dge’dun grub)



Dge-'dun grub-pa, the first Dalai Lama (1391-1475)

Tibet. Posthumous portrait. End 17th-beginning 18th cent.

Tempera on canvas; 76,5 x 50 cm

Kon. Mus .Kunst & Gesch. Brussel. Inv. Ver.337


The symbol of  1 DL shows a bowl with three lemons, symbolizing happiness.

Below the hand and footprints



Portrait of Gedündrup Mural painting on the wall of the main temple in Norbulingka in Dharamsala.


02 Gedün Gyatso (Dge’dun rgya mtsho)




03 Sonam Gyatso


བསད་ནམས་ར་མཚ (Wylie: bsod nams rgya mtsho, ZYPY: Soinam Gyaco)  was the first to be named Dalai Lama, although the title was retrospectively given to his two predecessors.


In praise of his achievements, Altan Khan granted to bSod-nams-rgya-mtsho the honorific title “Da lai bla ma Vajradhara” in 1578, which means a “superior man with great wisdom and authority”.


In 1577 Sonam Gyatso, who was considered to be the third incarnation of Gyalwa Gendün Drup, formed an alliance with the then most powerful Mongol leader, Altan Khan.. As a result, Sonam Gyatso was designated as the 3rd Dalai Lama; "dalai" is a translation into Mongolian of the name "Gyatso" ocean. Gyalwa Gendün Drup and Gendun Gyatso were posthumously recognized as the 1st and 2nd Dalai Lamas respectively

Sonam Gyatso was very active in proselytizing among the Mongols, and the Gelug tradition was to become the main spiritual orientations of the Mongols in the ensuing centuries. This brought the Gelugpas powerful patrons who were to propel them to pre-eminence in Tibet. The Gelug-Mongol alliance was further strengthened as after Sonam Gyatso's death, his incarnation was found to be Altan Khan's great-grandson, the 4th Dalai Lama.


04 Yonten Gyatso (Yon tan rgya mtsho)



Portrait of Yonten Gyatso.

Mural painting on the wall of the main temple in Norbulingka in Dharamsala (1995)


05 Ngawang Losang Gyatso (Blo bzang rgya mtsho)


Sönam Chöpel, Sonam Rabten

 regent 1642-1658

Trinley Gyatso, 'P'rin-las-rgya-mts'o

regent 1660-1668

Lobsang Thutob (Thustobs) Blo-bzan-mThu-stobs

regent 1669-1675

Lobsang Jimpa Blo-bzan-sbyin-pa

regent 1675-1679

Sanggye Gyatso

regent 1678-1703





Photo Courtesy of Bowers Museum

Seal of the 5fth Dalai Lama, 1617

Tibet Museum


The handle a qilin (unicorn), emblem of a military official of the 1st rank.

The stamp with Chinese, Manchu, and Tibetan inscriptions, carved into this official seal, express the international stature and importance of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the ‘Buddha of Great Compassion in the West and Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky.’

The Fifth Dalai Lama, also known as the Great Fifth, built the Potala Palace and served as both the secular ruler and spiritual teacher of Tibet, a dual role held by each subsequent Dalai Lama.


Chinese, Manchu, and Tibetan inscriptions, carved into this official seal, express the international stature and importance of the Fifth Dalai Lama, the “Buddha of Great Compassion in the West and Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky.” The Fifth Dalai Lama, also known as the Great Fifth, built the Potala Palace and served as both the secular ruler and spiritual teacher of Tibet, a dual role held by each subsequent Dalai Lama.

The inscription reads

"Seal of the omniscient vajra holder la'i Ta-bla-ma, the excellent, fully-come-to-rest buddha of the West, lord of buddhist teachings in the world."


1642 "On the 5th day of the 4th month in 1642, the Dalai Lama was led in state to the palace of Shigatse and seated on the throne of the deposed king Karma Tenkyong. With this act he replaced the rival dominant school of the Karmapas. Güshi Khan then declared that he bestowed the supreme authority of Tibet on the Dalai Lama, from Tachienlu in the east to the Ladakh border in the west. The 5th Dalai Lama in his turn confirmed the position of Güshi Khan as the Dharma king (or chogyal) of Tibet.


Shun Chih (1644-1661)


In 1652, the Fifth Dalai Lama was called to visit Beijing to pay homage to the Court and he therefore led an entourage of 3,000 people to Beijing to have an audience with Emperor Shunzhi. In the following year, the Qing court sent them to Daiga (now known as Hohhot (Inner Mongolia)). On his way to Tibet, the Qing Government granted him the title of “Dalai Lama, Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky, Holder of the Vajra” and gave him a gold album and a gold seal. The gold seal is inscribed with “Seal of the Dalai Lama, Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky, Holder of the Vajra”, thus formally determining the Dalai Lama’s title and political status. “Dalai lama” means “vast ocean” in Mongolian. In Tibetan, “lama” means “guru” (great teacher).

This is the origin of the title of the Dalai Lama, officially conferred by the Qing Government.


Xinhua file Photo

The picture shows a fresco in the Potala Palace depicting Emperor Shunzhi (Shun Chih (1644-‘61)) receiving the 5th Dalai Lama in Beijing in 1652, or the 9th year of his reign. Ngawang Lobsang Gyamco then came to Beijing and was granted to be the 5th Dalai Lama plus a golden certificate of appointment and a gold seal of authority in the following year.

Seal of 5th Dalai Lama, 1652

Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky, Holder of the Vajra.

Qing Dynasty, gold seal with a Ruyi knob, 8.257 grams, H. 10.1 cm, £: 11.5 cm


06 Tsangyang Gyatso (Tshangs dbyangs rgya mtsho)

1683 - deposed 1706

Sanggye Gyatso

Lhabzang Khan

Ngawang Rinchen


King of Tibet 1703 – 1717

Regent 1703 - 1706


Letter of Command of the 6th Dalai Lama

In the head of the document the seal of the 1st Bogdo Gegen of Mongtolia, Zanabzar (1635-1723). In the foot the seal of the Dalai Lama


(Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Dharamsala.)


Chinese Protectorate 1717-1912


Civil War


07 Kelzang Gyatso (Bskal bzan rgya mtsho)



7th D.L.




Golden Seal Awarded by Emperor Yongzheng to the Seventh Dalai Lama




The tibetan state was founded in 1751. The chinese version of that event is:

In 1751, the Qianlong Emperor (*1711–1799; ruled 1737–1796) issued a 13-point decree which abolished the position of Regent (Desi), put the Tibetan government in the hands of a four-man Kashag, or Council of Ministers, and gave the ambans formal powers. The Dalai Lama moved back to Lhasa to preside (in name) over the new government.

The Tibetan version has it that:

"The 'king' or governor of Tibet was no longer appointed by the Chinese after 1750, and the Dalai Lama was tacitly recognized as sovereign of Tibet, with the exception of Kham and Amdo on the one hand and, on the other, Ladakh — which was at first under Moghul suzerainty before being annexed by Kashmir after the Dogra war (1834–1842)."

In 1751, at the age of forty-three, Kelzang Gyatso constituted the "Kashag" or council of ministers to administer the Tibetan government and abolished the post of Regent or Desi, as it placed too much power in one man's hand and the Dalai Lama became the spiritual and political leader of Tibet.


Wheel of Law and the Achievement of State


In 1753, Kelzang Gyatso founded the Tse-School in the Potala Palace and built the new palace of Norling Kalsang Phodrang at the Norbulingka."At the request of the Shabdung Rinpoche Jigmi Dagpa (Jigs med grabs pa, 1724–1761), spiritual and temporal ruler of Bhutan, Dalai Lama VII helped in the creation of a gold-and-copper monastery roof in Bhutan."


The symbol of the empire was, presumably after the establishment of a state council (Kashag) in the 18th century, the Buddhist Wheel of  Law or chakra. This wheel appears on coins from this time.


Wheel of Law

 Norbulingka Summer Palace, Lhasa, 1755



The Buddhist emblem of a golden eight-spoked wheel flanked by two deer represents the Buddha’s first discourse, which he gave in the Deer Park at Sarnath, near Varanasi. This discourse is known as the ‘first turning of the wheel of dharma’, when the Buddha taught the doctirnes of the Four Noble Thruths and the Eightfold Noble Path to five Indian mendicants. As a symbol of the Buddha’s teachings a gilded three-dimensional wheel and deer emblem is traitionally placed at the front of monastery and temple roofs, from whewre it shines as a crowning symbol of the Buddhaddarma. Tis emblem similarly appears over the four gateways of the divine mandala palace.

The origin of the wheel and deer emblem probably predates Buddhism, as both the insignia of the wheel, and the motif of two deer flanking the deity Shiva Pashupati, have been found on clay seals unearthed from the ancien Indus valley  civilization (cica 2500 BCE). These ancient seals of Shiva as Pashupatinat, the ‘Lord of the Animals’, probably form a link between early Shaivism and the first disciples of the Buddha. The Deer Park at Sarnath, to which Shakyamuni Buddha returned after his enlightenment at Bodh Gaya, an where he delivered his first discourse, was probably a sacred grove dedicated to Shiva Pashupati whene Shaivite yogins lived and practiced. Sarnath is very close to the ancient city  of Kahi (modern Varanasi), the Çity of Light’, which was primarily sacred to Shiva. With tge establishment of the great stupa and monastic academy at Sarnath, it is possible thatthe early Buddhists took the iconic image of Pashupati flanked by two deer, and replaced the central figure of Pashupatu with the iconic symbol of the Buddhist wheel. The wheel and deer motif then became and emblem of the supremacy of the Buddha’s teachings over its early predecessor.

The monastic academy at Kushinagara, where the Buddha was crenated, is believed to have had the emblem of a funeral pyre between two sal trees over its gateway. It may have been that each of the sacred sites connected with the major events in the Buddha’s life displayed specific eblems to commemmorate these events. However, the wheel and deer emblem eventually became the enduring symbol of an establishment where the Buddha’s teachings are transmittted and where the endless wheel of the dharma continues to turn.

The to deer peacefully rest in attentive obedience on either side of the golden wheel, whith the male deer to the right and the female to the left. The male deer is sometimes depicted withe the single horn of the seru deer (unicorn) or rhinoceros, and on gilded bronze sculptures the sexual organs of the two deer may be shown. The gentleness and grace of the deer represent the qualities of the true Buddhist mendicant. [2]


The chakras, which are held in various Buddhist temples in Tibet and held by two deer, can be considered “the achievements of the (Tibetan Buddhist) Church”. This is all the more so because these animals, called seru in Tibetan, one of which has a horn on the center of its forehead, are described as rhinoceroses. (symbolizing abstinence and loneliness), an animal (xiniu) that in the Chinese military hierarchy is the symbol of a commander of the 7th rank.

On top of Buddist temples the dharmachakra is often supported by a male and a female deer kneeling and  in adoration

The dharma wheel is said to have been offered in the form of a thousand-spoked wheel to Śākyamuni Buddha (= Gautama Buddha 480-400BC) by Brahma when requesting him to teach the sacred dharma. At that moment, from the forest came a pair of male and female deer, also known as the krishnasara (Tib.kri sha na sa ra) antelope of compassion. With unblinking gaze, they looked at the wheel with joy and delight.


Subsequently, the Buddha related the noble eight-fold path with the wheel. Likewise, he related the male and female beings whose mind-streams are touched by this path with the pair of male and female deer. Ever since then, the wheel flanked by a pair of deer has been a special symbol for Buddhists.


On the oldest coins minted from the 18th century until 1929, is a wheel of law between eight tibetan characters  (n° 5)


Tibetan undated silver tangka (2nd half of the 18th century)

with eight times the syllable "dza" in vartula script, reverse (& obv)


The Tibetan "dza" can be used to transcribe the Sanskrit syllable "ja" which can be short for "jaya" ("victorious"). The central design of the coin is a wheel with eight spokes which is a reference to the Buddhist "dharmacakra" ("wheel of law"). Thus the design and the inscription of the coin combined may have the meaning "victorious wheel of law", or, in a wider sense "victorious teaching of Buddha".[3]




The 7th D.L. abolished the office of Desi or Regent and replaced it with a Kashag or Council of Ministers.

In this Kashag rivalry arose after the Chinese government withdrew the troops stationed in Lhasa. The political battle was won by (a certain) Phola who became the de facto monarch of Tibet.

Phola ruled for twenty years and was succeeded by his son Gurmey Namgyal Phola who pursued an independent policy towards China. After this policy failed, the 7th was restored to its secular power.


Tibetan ranges of authority





konchog sum






18th or 19th century saddle from Tibet with lotus.

An embroidered silk fabric featuring a lotus motif covers the seat and sides of the saddle

Rubin Museum of Art, New York [4]


The lotus is the symbol of Buddist administrative authority.


8th century Saddle

Even the highest members of Outer Mongolia's ecclesiastical aristocracy rode on horseback, despite the fact that the Manchu emperors of China, their overlords, awarded some the privilege of being carried in litters or carriages. The second saddle shown here (cat. no. 2) was intended specifically for a high lama. Its pommel and cantle are both enameled yellow, decorated with designs in brown enamel, and edged with chestnut and green Russian leather. All the fittings are silver and the long straps that hang down on either side of the rider's leg are tightly woven, tasseled cords of silk. Sumptuous yellow brocaded silk woven in a dragon-rondel pattern covers the seat, side skirts, stirrup pads, and long fringed underpad. The use of silk of this color and weave was bestowed by the Manchu emperors only as a mark of the highest favor.


The Budhha Dharma symbol supported by two mang


In terms of quality and style of workmanship this saddle is extremely similar to some of the best imperial Chinese saddles, such as one owned by the emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–96) and preserved in the Palace Museum, Beijing (G.171546). In addition to its very high quality, this saddle is also exceptional for having all of its original parts, including the elaborate seat cover of embroidered silk and the fittings of the saddletree. Although this type of saddle is often identified as Tibetan, the form of the saddle plates, the style of workmanship, and the type of saddletree, along with the similarity to imperial Chinese saddles, indicate it is more likely to be Chinese, perhaps from the imperial workshops. That it was used in Tibet, however, is demonstrated by the Tibetan letter ka, which is branded on the underside of the saddletree as a form of inventory number. It must have belonged to a Tibetan nobleman of the highest rank, possibly received as a gift directly from the imperial court. The saddle plates are made from relatively thick iron, deeply chiseled and pierced, the motifs densely arranged so that the gaps in the scrollwork are narrow. The plates are finely crosshatched and damascened overall with a thick layer of gold foil. The beads of coral and ivory in the center of the pommel and cantle are popular Buddhist symbols called the Three Jewels, representing Buddha, Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and Sangha (the community of believers). [5]


Probably such a saddle belonged to  the 7th Dalai Lama. (the dragon with four toed-claws (Mang).

On the front and back an achievement of the Buddha Dharma (teachings of the Buddha): The three jewels (konchog sum: Buddha, Dharma, Sangha) supported by two dragons.In fact the triple jewel is the symbl of religious authority..


Saddle cloth with dorje gyatum. 18th cent,

Coll. George T. Rockwell. Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA

From: Rituels Tibetains, Visions secrètes du Ve Dalai Lama. 2002-2003. cat. 157





A new Chinese army recaptured Lhasa in 1728. The new Chinese emperor Qianlong (1735-1796) decided to reform the administration of Tibet. Formally, the Tibetan government was now headed by the Dalai Lama, who was to govern the area along with the Chinese ambans. The office of desi in the sense it had previously. was abolished

Now the government of historic Tibet refers to the government headed by the Dalai Lama. Formally this had been the case since the end of the period of the seventh Dalai Lama (1708-1757).

In practice, in the 19th century, mainly regents ruled in Tibet due to the death of the ninth to twelfth Dalai Lama at a very early age, always under mysterious circumstances.


Son of Pho-lha-nas



08 Jampel Gyatso (‘Jam dpal rgya mtsho)


Demo Rinpoche Jampäl Geleg Gyatso

regent 1757-1777

8th Tatsag Rinpoche

regent 1791-1811


Seal of the 8th Dalai Lama,

 Qilin, Jade.

The Tibetan Culture Museum.


Gyaltsab Yeshe Lobzang Tanpa'i Gonpo, the 8th Tatsag (rgyal tshab ye shesc



Gyaltsab Yeshe Lobzang Tenpa'i Gonpo, the 8th Tatsag (rgyal tshab ye shes blo bzang bstan pa'i mgon po, 1760-1810).

At the top center is Jampal Gyatso, the 8th Dalai Lama (1758-1804). On the left is the 4th Panchen Lama, Tenpa'i Nyima (1782-1853). On the right is Tadrag Pandita Ngagwang Chopel (1760-1839). Below that to the left is Akshobhyavajra Guhyasamaja in Heruka form. On the right side is Heruka Chakrasamvara.

At the left side is the monastery of Podrang Ganden Namgyal. On the right side is Legkyob Ling.

At the bottom center is the worldly protector deity Activity Pehar, white in colour, with three faces and six hands, riding atop a snow lion.


1st Tsemönling Rinpoche

regent 1777-1786

09 Lungton Gyatso (Lung ston rgya mtsho)


8th Tatsag Rinpoche

regent 1791-1811


Last picture of  “Finding a Dalai Lama” representing the enthronement of  the 9th Dalai Lama by the mongolian ambassador Manjubazar (right to him), with ambans on the right seat.


From: https://archibibscdf.hypotheses.org/88


10 Tsultrim Gyatso (Chul khrims rgya mtsho)


7th Demo Rinpoche, Ngawang Lobsang Tubten  Jigme Gyatso

regent 1811-1818

2nd Tsemönling Rinpoche, Ngawang Jampäl Tsültrim Gyatso

regent 1819-1844


11 Khedrup Gyatso (Mkhas grub rgya mtsho)


3rd Reting RinpocheNgawang Yeshe Tsültrim Gyatso

regent 1845-1862


12 Trinley Gyatso (Phrin las rgya mtsho)


Wangchug Gyalpo Shatra

regent 1862-1864

Lobsang Khyenrab Wangchug

regent 1864-1872

The 10th Tatsag Rinpoche Tatsag Ngawang Pälden

regent 1875-1886

The 9th Demo Rinpoche, Lobsang Trinley

regent 1886-1895


Trinley Gyatso (Phrin las rgya mtsho)

The twelfth Dalai Lama (1856-1875)


13 Thubten Gyatso (Thub bstan rgya mtsho) 



10th Tatsag Rinpoche gawang Pälden

regent 1875-1886

9th Demo Rinpoche,Lobsang Trinley

regent 1886-1895

5th Reting Rinpoche, Jampäl Yeshe Gyaltsen

regent 1933-1941


Thubten Gyatso (Tibetan: ཐབ་བསན་ར་མཚ་, Wylie: Thub Bstan Rgya Mtsho); 12 February 1876 – 17 December 1933) was the 13th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

In 1878 he was recognized as the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama. He was escorted to Lhasa and given his pre-novice vows by the Panchen Lama, Tenpai Wangchuk, and named "Ngawang Lobsang Thupten Gyatso Jigdral Chokley Namgyal". In 1879 he was enthroned at the Potala Palace, but did not assume political power until 1895, after he had reached his maturity.

Thubten Gyatso was an intelligent reformer who proved himself a skillful politician when Tibet became a pawn in The Great Game between the Russian Empire and the British Empire. He was responsible for countering the British expedition to Tibet, restoring discipline in monastic life, and increasing the number of lay officials to avoid excessive power being placed in the hands of the monks.


13th Dalai Lama

Seated on his throne: Its backrest of lotuses and peonies. A dorje gyatum on its throne cloth, dragons behind the throne and regalia on its right.

On the floor and on the wall four ckawed dragons (mang).


The fresco shows the Empress Dowager receiving the 13th Dalai Lama

who came to Beijing in 1908, or the 34th year of the reign of Emperor Guangxu. (Xinhua file Photo)




In 1904, when British troops invaded Lhasa, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama Thub-bstan-rgya-mtsho left for the interior and arrived in Inner Mongolia via Qinghai and Gansu. Then he went to Beijing via Shanxi to pay homage to Emperor Guangxu and Emperess Dowager Cixi. In 1909, he returned to Lhasa. In order to celebrate his return, Tibetan religious and secular believers donated money to cast this gold seal and presented it to him.

Seal of Dalai Lama, Qing Dynasty, gold seal with a lion knob,

H. 11.5 cm, £ 14.2 Î13.8 cm


This gold seal was presented to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama by Tibetan religious and secular believers in 1909.

The inscriptions in Tibetan, Sanskit and vPhags-pa script read: “Seal of the Lecturer of Buddha's Words, Master of the Three Realms, Benevolent Leader of Buddhism, Wisest Lama, Wish-fulfilling King,  Worshipped by All People”. (From: chinadaily.com.cn)


In the chinese system of military symbols of rank the lion (Shizi) occupied the first or second place after the unicorn or qilin.

Besides of that a lion was an important buddhist symbol





Ming and Qing


Late Qing





Qilin (after 1662)






Lion (Sanskrit: sinha. Tibetan: seng)

The lion has an indigeneous history as a mystic animal in Tibet, which was reinforced when Buddhism was introduced with its use of a lion throne for the Buddha. The lion can be seen in many roles in Tibetan art. It is the third of the Bon mytological animals. The lion of Buddha remains as a peripheral supporting beast for the thrones or bases of various deities, often literally supporting the base with its up-raised hand in an Atlas-like pose. There is also a rather separate concept of the snow lion as an emblem of the Tibetan state. As such it appears on the Tibetan  national flag and on the seal of the Tibetan and Mongol states.


Chapter 3




Government of Tibet


Organizational chart ofGanden Phodrang Traditional Government



Dakai Lama                    


religious admininistration

Chikhyab Khenpo

Lay administration


National Assemblies

Tsongdu Gyendzom




Thubten Gyatso declared independence from China in early 1913 (13 February), after returning from India following three years of exile. He then standardized the Tibetan flag in its present form.  At the end of 1912 the first postage stamps of Tibet and the first bank notes were issued. Thubten Gyatso built a new medical college (Mentsikang) in 1913 on the site of the post-revolutionary traditional hospital near the Jokhang.

Flag of Tibet, officially used 1912-1959.


Within a yellow bordure a white mountain charged with two snow lions supporting a yin - yang symbol and the auspicious triple jewel. Above the mountain is a golden sun with blue and red rays. (From: W. Smith: Flags. 1975 p. 25.)


On the flag of Tibet, the chakra has been replaced by a (rising) sun radiant which, in combination with the white triangle representing a mountain, represents the Tibetan Empire.


In addition, there is the triple jewel and the yang-yin symbol that should be more closely associated with the 13th D.L. and that is held by two snow lions.



Parted per pile the chief gironny of twelve Gules and Azure, the base Argent charged with two lions supporting a yin - yang symbol and the auspicious triple jewel by way of crest. In nombril point a rising sun radiant Or; in chief, dexter and base a bordure Or.


The modern Tibetan national flag was adopted in 1916 Its international debut was in the National Geographic Magazine’s “Flags of the World” issue of 1934. It even featured in a cigarette-card series in Europe in 1933. The flag was probably too new to appear in the very first flag issue (1917) of the National Geographic, but Tibet does receive mention in an article on medieval flags in that same issue. According to an eminent vexillologist, Professor Pierre Lux-Worm, the national flag of Tibet was based on an older 7th century snow lion standard of the Tibetan Emperor, Songtsen Gampo. It should be borne in mind that over 90% of the flags of the nations in the UNO were created after WWII, including the national flag of China. The Tibetan flag made its official international appearance in 1947, at the First Inter-Asian Conference, which Mahatma Gandhi addressed. The Tibetan flag was displayed alongside other flags of Asian nations, and a circular flag emblem placed before the Tibetan delegation on the podium.


The flag consists of a stylized representation of a mountain and a sun radiant. In front of the mountain is an achievement

Tibet itself  is represented as a mountain in the form of a white triangle

Like the symbol for China designed by Sun-yat Sen in 1906, the Tibetan sun has twelve rays. In the Chinese case, they symbolize the continuous process of progress. The sun itself is the heavenly symbol that symbolizes supreme power. The Tibetan sun is a symbol of freedom, happiness and prosperity. Its 12 rays represent the 12 descendants of the six aboriginal tribes of Tibet, the Se, Mu, Dong, Tong, Dru, and Ra which in turn gave rise to the (twelve) descendants. Their colours red and blue are symbolic of the two black and red guardian deities (male and female) with which Tibet has been connected since times immemorial.

The central element of the achievement is the yin-yang symbol in yellow and blue. This is the chinese symbol of the two First Causes or Creative Opposites such as heaven and earth, light and dark, male and female, stillness and movement, etc. This can be understood as the symbol of the driving force of the head of state in the person of the Dalai Lama who unites both principles.

On either side of the yin-yang symbol are two snow lions holding up the Triple Jewel (konchog-sum). This is the Buddhist symbol of the holy trinity Buddha, Dharma and Sangha that every professing Buddhist deals with on a daily basis. Dharma is the word of Buddha or the Buddhist teachings. Sangha is actually the Buddhist monastic order but is understood by the Tibetans as Lamaism or the Tibetan Buddhist Church.

The snow lions can be interpreted differently. In the Bon religion prior to Buddhism, the lion is the third mythological creature. In Buddhism, the lion or a pair of lions is the support of the throne of Buddha, and various deities are literally depicted in Buddhist iconography as being carried by a lion. Notwithstanding, its meaning as a chinese military rank symbol should also be noted.

Lastly, the adornment with a yellow border symbolises that the teachings of the Buddha, which are like pure, refined gold and unbounded in space and time, are flourishing and spreading.



Development of the Achievement


1912 TIBET: First Series: 5 Tam Banknote, Green (1912) Seal #1 (Normal) Serial Number #24787 (Pick #1): Very Good Condition – quite worn, but much nicer condition than usually found.


Soon (1913), the achievement was augmented with a second lion


1913 Tibetan First Series: 50 Tam Purple Banknote Seal 1A, (1658/59 = 1913), Serial Number #35765 (Pick #6) Printed on thick paper. Very Fine Condition, tiny pin holes, but in excellent Condition when compared to the few surviving examples. The highest value banknote of this series. It is very rare and seldom offered – only a few examples in Purple have survived. (The front of the note features two lions holding a ball or wheel in the foreground with mountains, clouds & the sun in the background. The back of the note features a sage pouring water from a Kalasha under a peach tree. There are also cranes and a deer with a scenic background. Beautiful Colour, a Very Rare Banknote.


1913 Tibetan Banknotes: First Series Violet 5 Tam Banknote with MISSING SEAL. (dtd 1658 = 1913) Sage Green. Vertical crease, but still a VF+ Condition example of this Very Rare First Series Banknote. 5 Tam notes in this condition are almost non-existant. A Beautiful Example of the Missing Seal Variety!


1927 TIBET: Very Rare PROOF of the 50 Tam (1673 = 1927). Finished Proof on INDIAN paper (No “watermark”), Seal and Serial Numbers not inscribed. The Serial Number tablet is 19mm long. (Snorrason’s Print Block D), Issued Banknotes were not printed on Indian Paper. F/VF Condition.


The existence of Proofs of the 50 Tam Tibetan banknotes were first disclosed in the book ‘The Tibetan Currency of China’ (published by the Potola Archives) - examples of these Proofs have never before appeared in the market. The Tibetan Mint experimented with both Indian and Tibetan papers and we know the use of Tibetan paper was approved by Dalai Lama. (‘The Tibetan Currency of China’ P.370-71) One of the most important discoveries relating to Tibetan Banknotes.


The 13th DL on his throne in Norbu Lingka palace (ca 1932)


A dragon on the floor, on his right a sitting lion, on his left the regalia On the backrest the triple jewel and an imperial dragon (lung) . On the front panel  an achievement:

A chakra crested with the triple jewel (konchog sum), supported by two dragons (druk) and two phoenixes (gyaja) in chief.

The triple jewel supported by two dragons date from the 18th century when it was on the front of a safdle of the 7th Dalai Lama (1720-1757)  or his successor (Rule of Emperor Qianlong (r. 1736–96)). The two phoenixes are the symbol of administrative authority







1 srang, 1935

snow lion


Thubten Jampäl Yeshe Gyaltsen 

 Regent 1934-02.1941


Thubten Jampäl Yeshe Gyaltsen, 1939


Tag-drag Rin-po-che 

Regent 1941-17.11.1950


Tagdrag Rinpoche, the last regent in Tibet  1941-1950


Seal of Tagdrag Rinpoche

(Dieter Shuh)



14 Tenzing Gyatso (Bstan ‘dzin rgya mtsho)  



2nd Tagdrag Rinpoche,  Ngawang Sungrab Thutob

regent 1942-1950


Tenzing Gyatso at a youg age



Portrait of Tenzing Gyatso seated on his throne. The photo was probably taken during his accession to the throne in 1950. The same throne covering is used as for the XIIIth D.L .. Behind the little D.L. this photo shows the wreathed monogram of the Supreme Ten. This is a mystical monogram consisting of ten Sanskrit syllables: Om Ham Ksha Ma La Va Ra Ya Hum Phat above which the sun-moon-fire symbol. The ten syllables symbolize the ten cosmic elements of the teachings of the Kalachakra. The regalia are just visible on his right side.


14th D.L. 1957


Portrait of the 14th D.L. He is seated on an all-new carved throne in the Tsuglahang Palace in Dharamsala, On top of the backrest the triple jewel.

On the throne cloth the double dorje, set in a border with various Buddhist symbols. The dorje is made of gold this time, and the ends are filled with red, black, white and yellow.


In 1959, during the 1959 uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India and the Tibetan government continued in exile


In the latest images of the 14th, the throne cloth with the dorje has been replaced by a floral cloth


Emblem of the Office of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 2011


The emblem represents a red disk charged with a chakra surroounded by 32 stars and crested with a crescent-and-moon, all surrounded by two branches of laurel.

Below is a ribbon with a motto

On the background is the façade of the Dalai Lama's residence of Ganden Phodrang (Drepung monastery), surmounted by the Himalayan mountainridge and the crescent and sun from the achievement.

The Achievement


From 1909 until 1959, a single snow lion or a pair of them was used as the national emblem of Tibet on coins, postage stamps, banknotes and the national flag of Tibet. The version shown on right with two Snow Lions was introduced by the 13th Dalai Lama in 1912 based on old military banners, and is still used by the Government of Tibet in Exile.[1] The flag is popular known as the Snow Lion Flag (gangs seng dar cha)



3 srang, 1935

The first version of a coat of arms is on a 3 srang-coin. It shows a five-topped mountain range between a sun and a moon and a lion passant with a ball or yin-yang symbol.

In this context the lion is the badge of the regent or governor of Tibet.

On the reverse there is a Treasure Vase (Gter gyi bumpa)


Achievement on a banknote, 1945 (?)


Chapter 4

Tibetan Government in Exile



In 1959, during the 1959 uprising, the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India and the Tibetan government continued in exile


In 1959 a national achievemen was designed.  It is:


Arms: A multicoloured dharmachakra

Supporters: Two snow lions proper

Crest: A sun and a moon

Compartment: A three-topped mountainridge

Motto: བོད་གཞུང་དགའ་ལྡན་ཕོ་བྲང་ཕྱོགས་ལས་རྣམ་རྒྱལ  (bod gzhung dga' ldan pho brang phyogs las rnam rgyal : "Tibetan Government, Ganden Palace, victorious in all directions".)


The Emblem of Tibet is a symbol of the Tibetan government. It combines several elements of the flag of Tibet, with slightly different artistry, and contains many Buddhist symbols. Its primary elements are the sun and moon above the Himalayas, which represent Tibet, often known as the Land Surrounded by Snow Mountains. On the slopes of the mountains stand a pair of snow lions. Held between the two lions is the eight-spoked Dharmacakra, represent the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Inside the wheel, the three-colored swirling jewel represents the practices of the ten exalted virtues and the 16 humane modes of conduct. The inscription on the swirling banner below is as follows: bod gzhung dga' ldan pho brang phyogs las rnam rgyal  ("Tibetan Government, Ganden Palace, victorious in all directions".) The Ganden Palace, located in Drepung monastery was the residence of the Dalai Lamas until the 5th Dalai Lama. After the 5th Dalai Lama had moved to the Potala in the mid 17th century the Tibetan Government created by him in 1642 became known as the "Ganden Phodrang" Government.


Coloured version


This coat of arms, with a mountain range in the background and a sun and moon in the sky, the symbols of the sky and the universe, is still in use but only by the D.L. in exile and not by the Chinese authorities in Lhasa.

Presumably, the intention has been to express a sharper separation between church and state and a greater role for government over the power of the monarch. A chakra is also found in the state coat of arms of Bhutan and, for a number of years, also in the state coat of arms of Mongolia.


Achievement  of the Central Tibetan Administration in exile 2016


This is the official emblem of the Central Tibetan Administration government-in-exile headquartered in Dharamsala, India. Along with their flag, the emblem is considered a symbol of the Tibetan independence movement and is thus banned in the People's Republic of China, including the Tibet Autonomous Region, which corresponds to the former area of control of the Tibetan government at Lhasa, as well as other areas in greater Tibet. The emblem is often seen printed in black-and-white and crimson-and-white variants, which is characteristic of the colors commonly seen in Buddhist iconography and dress.

The emblem of the Central Tibetan Administration on the board outside the Tibetan Settlement Office in McLeod Ganj, India, on 24 October 2016. The words in Tibetan say: MAY THE TRUTH PREVAIL.


Regents / Desis


The regents in historical Tibet, desis in Tibetan, are regents who have held the government of historical Tibet since the 5th Dalai Lama in times when the reincarnation of a deceased Dalai Lama had not yet been found or the Dalai Lama was still too young to to rule, then called Gyaltsabs (regents ruling the country during the absence and minority of the Dalai Lamas) and Sikyongs (chief administrators ruling during the minority of the Dalai Lamas). Initially, the desi had duties comparable to a prime minister with very extensive powers. From the late 18th century this changed into tasks comparable to a regent. During the 300 years that various regents ruled the Gelug state of Tibet (1642-1951), the word desi has changed in meaning in the Tibetan context. In fact and historically, supreme power in Tibet was held by regents for the vast majority of this period. From 1720 onwards, there were periods in the history of Tibet that, in addition to the regent and / or Dalai Lama, there were also one or two governors present who were sent from Beijing, called ambans.


1 Dalai lama Gendün Drub (1391 - 1474)

2 Dalai lama Gendün Gyatso (1475 - 1542)

3 Dalai lama Sönam Gyatso (1543 - 1588)

4 Dalai lama Yönten Gyatso (1589 - 1616)


5 Dalai lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617 - 1682)

Regent Sönam Chöpel, Sonam Rabten (1642 - 1658)



Regent Trinley Gyatso, 'P'rin-las-rgya-mts'o (19 august 1660 - 30 march 1668)

Regent Lobsang Thutob (Thustobs) Blo-bzan-mThu-stobs (26 september 1669 - march 1675)

Regent Lobsang Jimpa Blo-bzan-sbyin-pa (16 october 1675 - 21 june 1679)

Regent Sanggye Gyatso (1678 - 1703)


6 Dalai lama Tsangyang Gyatso (1683 - 1706) (did not rule hardly himself)

King of Tibet Lhabzang Khan (1703 - 1717)

Regent Ngawang Rinchen (1703 - 1706)


7 Dalai lama-pretendent Yeshe Gyatso (1706 - ~1708)

7a Dalai lama Kälsang Gyatso (1708 - 1757) (did not rule hardly himself)

Regent Tagtsepa (1717 - 1720)

Regent Khangchenne (1720 - 1727)

Regent and king of Tibet Pholhanas (1728 - 1747)

Regent and king of Tibet Gyurme Namgyal (1747 - 1750)

Regent Gashi Pandita (1750 - ?)

Regent, 6th Demo RinpocheJampäl Geleg Gyatso (1757 - 1777)

8 Dalai lama Jampäl Gyatso (1758 - 1804) (dis not rule hardly himself)

Regent, 1st Tsemönling RinpocheNgawang Tsültrim (1777 - 1786)

Regent, 8th Tatsag Rinpoche, Tenpey Gonpö (1791 - 1811)

Regent, 7th Demo RinpocheNgawang Lobsang Thubten Jigme Gyatso (1811 - 1819)

9 Dalai lama Lungtog Gyatso (1806 - 1815) (did not rule himself)

Regent, 2nd Tsemönling RinpocheNgawang Jampäl Tsültrim Gyatso (1819 - 1844)

10 Dalai lama Tsültrim Gyatso (1816 - 1837) (did not rule himself)

Regent, de derde Reting RinpocheNgawang Yeshe Tsültrim Gyatso (1845 - 1862)

11 Dalai lama Khädrub Gyatso (1838 - 1856) (did not rule himself)

12 Dalai lama Trinley Gyatso (1856 - 1875) (did not rule himself)

Regent, Wangchug Gyalpo Shatra (1862-1864)

Regent Dedrug Khyenrab Wangchug (1864 - 1873)

Regent, 10th Tatsag Rinpoche Tatsag Ngawang Pälden (1875 - 1886).

Regent, 9th Demo RinpocheLobsang Trinley (1886 - 1895).

13 Dalai lama Thubten Gyatso (1876 - 1933)

Regent, 5th Reting RinpocheJampäl Yeshe Gyaltsen (1933 - 1941)

Regent 2nd Tagdrag RinpocheNgawang Sungrab Thutob (1942 - 1950)

14 Dalai lama Tenzin Gyatso (1935 - present)





An Amban was in the period of the Qing-dynasty the resident and representative (~ Governor-general) of the chinese imperial authority in Tibet.


From 1727 the Qing Emperor appointed an amban in Tibet (Chinese: Zhùzàng Dàchén 駐藏大臣), who represented Qing authority over the Buddhist theocracy of Tibet, and commanded over 2,000 troops stationed in Lhasa. The chief amban was aided by an assistant amban (Bāngbàn Dàchén 幫辦大臣) and both of them reported to the Qing Lifan Yuan. Their duties included acting as intermediary between China and the Hindu kingdom of Nepal (Ghorkhas Country); a secretary (Yíqíng zhāngjīng 夷情章京) dealt with native affairs. Three Chinese commissioners (liángtái 糧台), of the class of sub-prefects, were stationed at Lhasa, Tashilumbo and Ngari.


Most ambasa were appointed from the Manchu Eight Banners, a few were Han Chinese or Mongol. The Emperors used ambasa to supervise Tibetan politics, and the Emperors Qianlong, Jiaqing and Daoguang each decreed that the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama were bound to follow the leadership or guidance of the ambasa in carrying out the administration of Tibet.


List of Ambans 1727-1908


The nationalities of several ambans are unknown. Of the 80 ambans, most were Manchu and four were Han Chinese: Zhou Ying, Bao Jinzhong, Meng Bao, and Zhao Erfeng. At least fifteen Mongols were known to have served as ambasa, perhaps more.


(H=Han Chinese, M=Mongol, ? = unknown, unmarked=Manchu)


Sengge 僧格 1727–1733

Funing 福甯 1803–1804

Mala 馬臘 1728, 1729–1731, 1733–173

Cebake 策拔克 1804–1805 (Mongol)

Mailu 邁祿 1727–1733

Yuning 玉甯 1805–1808

Zhou Ying 周瑛 1727–1729 (Han)

Wenbi 文弼 1808–1811

Bao Jinzhong 包進忠 1729–1732 (Han)

Yangchun 1811–1812

Qingbao 青保 1731–1734 (Mongol)

Hutuli 瑚圖禮 1811–1813

Miaoshou 苗壽 1731–1734

Ximing 喜明 1814–1817

Lizhu 李柱 1732–1733

Yulin 玉麟 1817–1820

A'erxun 阿爾珣 1734

Wen'gan 1820–1823

Nasutai 那素泰 1734–1737

Songting 松廷 1823–1827

Hangyilu 杭弈祿 1737–1738

Huixian (Qing official) 惠顯 1827–1830

Jishan 紀山 1738–1741

Xingke 興科 1830–1833

Suobai 索拜 1741–1744, 1747–1748

Longwen 隆文 1833–1834

Fuqing 傅清 1744–1748

Wenwei 文蔚 1834–1835,1853

Labudun 拉布敦 1748–1749

Qinglu 慶祿 1836 (Mongol)

Tongning 同寧 1750

Guanshengbao 關聖保 1836–1839

Bandi 班第 1750–1752 (the 1st with official Amban title)

Meng Bao 孟保 1839–1842/1843 (Han)

Duo'erji 多爾濟 1752–1754 (?)

Haipu 海朴 1842–1843

Salashan 薩拉善 1754–1757

Qishan 琦善 1843–1847

Guanbao 官保 1757–1761

Binliang 斌良 1847–1848

Funai  輔鼐 1761–1764

Muteng'e 穆騰額 1848–1852

Aminertu 阿敏爾圖 1764–1766

Haimei 海枚 1852

Guanbao 官保 1766–1767

Hetehe 赫特賀 1853–1857 (Mongol)

Manggulai 莽古賚 1767–1773

Manqing 滿慶 1857–1862 (Mongol)

Wumitai 伍彌泰 1773–1775 (Mongol)

Chongshi 崇實 1859–1861

Liubaozhu 留保住 1775–1779, 1785–1786 (Mongol)

Jingwen 景紋 1861–1869

Suolin 索琳 1779–1780

Enlin 恩麟 1868–1872 (Mongol)

Boqing'e 博清額 1780–1785

Chengji 承繼 1872–1874

Fozhi 佛智 1788–1789

Songgui 1874–1879

Shulian 舒濂 1788–1790

Seleng'e 色楞額 1879–1885

Bazhong 巴忠 1788–1789 (Mongol)

Wenshuo 文碩 1885–1888

Pufu 普福 1790 (Mongol)

Changgeng 長庚 1888–1890

Baotai 保泰 1790–1791

Shengtai 升泰 1890–1892 (Mongol)

Kuilin 奎林 1791

Kuihuan 奎煥 1892–1896

Ehui[zh] 鄂輝 1791–1792

Wenhai 文海 1896–1900

Chengde 成德 1792–1793

Qingshan 慶善 1900

Helin 和琳 1792–1794

Yugang 裕鋼 1900–1902 (Mongol)

Songyun 松筠 1794–1799 (Mongol)

Youtai 有泰 1902–1906 (Mongol)

Yingshan 英善 1799–1803

Lianyu 聯豫 1906–1912

Hening 和甯 1800 (Mongol)

Zhao Erfeng 趙爾豐 (appointed March, 1908), (Han)


Finding of the 9th Dalai Lama in presence  of the ambans. 1808


From  this picture can be deduced that the official dress of the amban was blue with a black red topped hat.



Zhao Erfeng, last Amban of Tibet


Zhao Erfeng (1845–1911), courtesy name Jihe, was a Qing Dynasty official and Han Chinese bannerman (Manchurized Han Chinese),, who belonged to the Plain Blue Banner. He is known for being the last amban in Tibet, appointed in March, 1908 by the Qing government. LianYu, a Manchu, was appointed as the other amban. Formerly Director-General of the Sichuan - Hubei Railway and acting viceroy of Sichuan province, he was the much-maligned Chinese general of the late imperial era who led military campaigns throughout Kham (eastern Tibet) and eventually reaching Lhasa in 1910, thus earning himself the nickname "Zhao the Butcher". He was killed during the Xinhai Revolution by Chinese Republican Revolutionary forces intent on overthrowing the Qing dynasty. After the fall of the Qing dynasty in 1912, the Manchu Amban Lien Yu and his Chinese soldiers were expelled from Lhasa.


Plain Blue Banner


Armed Forces


The Tibetan Army (In Tibetan: མག་དཔུང་བོད་, In Wylie: dmag dpung bod), was the military force of Tibet after its de facto independence in 1912 until the 1950s. As a ground army modernised with the assistance of British training and equipment, it served as the de facto armed forces of the Tibetan government.


Lu Dongzan and two aides meet Tang Emperor Taizong in Chang'an

at the 640 embassy and request an interview

La Chaise à sedans (see Buniantu, / , bùniǎntú by Yan Liben (阎立本 /閻立本) (601 - 671), Beijing Palace Museum. [6]


At times in the first millennium, Tibet had a very strong army that at times caused large area expansions under various kings of Tibet. During the reign of Songtsen Gampo (630-649), Tibet grew into a vast empire that extended to Turkestan in the west, Nepal in the south, Amdo and Kham in the east, and Tarim in the north. In 763 King Trisong Detsen (755-797) conquered large parts of China. At the end of Trisong Detsens government, Tibet extended to present-day Turkestan, northern Pakistan, Nepal, and parts of northern India and China. Tibet retained this size for several centuries, until Mongol leader Godan Khan conquered parts of Tibet in the 13th century.


Supported by the Mongols, the 5th Dalai Lama Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso and his army managed to end the rulers of Tsang in 1640. Unlike the time of the Yuan, in return for military support, the Dalai Llamas did not have to reside at the Mongol court so that they could control Tibet from Lhasa. In 1647, Lobsang Gyatso conquered Central Tibet and became the undisputed ruler of Tibet.


The symbol of secular and religious authority (“harmony between the secular and religious power”) of the Dalai Lama is a double thunderbolt, a cross of dorje that is to say a dorje gyatum.

We may suppose that the dorje gyatum was introduced in 1652 by the 5th D.L (1617-1682).

In 1652, the 5th Dalai Lama was called to visit Beijing to pay homage to the Court. In the following year, he returned to Tibet. On his way back, the Qing Government granted him the title of “Dalai Lama, Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky, Holder of the Vajra” and gave him a gold album and a gold seal. The gold seal is inscribed with “Seal of the Dalai Lama, Buddha of Great Compassion in the West, Leader of the Buddhist Faith beneath the Sky, Holder of the Vajra”. This is the origin of the title of the Dalai Lama, officially conferred by the Qing Government.


Saddle cloth with dorje gyatum. 18th cent,

Coll. George T. Rockwell. Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA

From: Rituels Tibetains, Visions secrètes du Ve Dalai Lama. 2002-2003. cat. 157


A dorje gyatum is on the throne cloth of the 13th Dalai Lama, after he had organized the Tibetan Army. It is also on the cushions of the throne. In the corners of the cloth of the throne are swastikas, solar symbols.

The dorje gyatum is the Buddhist symbol of armed authority


Even the highest members of Outer Mongolia's ecclesiastical aristocracy rode on horseback, despite the fact that the Manchu emperors of China, their overlords, awarded some the privilege of being carried in litters or carriages. The second saddle shown here (cat. no. 2) was intended specifically for a high lama. Its pommel and cantle are both enameled yellow, decorated with designs in brown enamel, and edged with chestnut and green Russian leather. All the fittings are silver and the long straps that hang down on either side of the rider's leg are tightly woven, tasseled cords of silk. Sumptuous yellow brocaded silk woven in a dragon-rondel pattern covers the seat, side skirts, stirrup pads, and long fringed underpad. The use of silk of this color and weave was bestowed by the Manchu emperors only as a mark of the highest favor.


The last Tibetan Army was established in 1913 by the 13th Dalai Lama, who had fled Tibet during the 1904 British invasion of Tibet and returned only after the fall of the Qing power in Tibet in 1911. During the revolutionary turmoil, the Dalai Lama had attempted to raise a volunteer army to expel all the ethnic Chinese from Lhasa, but failed, in large part because of the opposition of pro-Chinese monks, especially from the Drepung Monastery. The Dalai Lama proceeded to raise a professional army, led by his trusted advisor Tsarong, to counter "the internal threats to his government as well as the external ones".


Supreme commander 1925. (13th D.L.)

a whirling emblem gakhi in the midde


1939 Regent Thubten Jampäl Yeshe Gyaltsen


1957 (14th D.L.)



Tibetan Monlam Cavalry, 1938 [7]

Showing chakra crests


Tibetan Monlam Cavalry, 1939 [8]



Cap badges)

Army badge for the commander (ru-dpon) of the second (right: the number 2) Ru (left) of the Ga regiment (above the letter ga and the number 1 (dang-po) = ga-dang).


Identification mark for member 424 (below) of the 7th Iding (right) of the 2 nd Ru (left) of the Ga regiment (above: the letter ga and the number 1 (dang-po) = ga-dang).

8 Army badge made of embossed silver sheet with inlaid turquoise for a high officer of the Da regiment.


Army badge made of embossed silver sheet for a high officer of the Cha Regiment (below the letter cha and the number 1 (dang-po) = cha-dang) with a gemstone (nor-bu), flanked by the moon and sun, (above) and a pair of Snow lions as the main motif in the middle.


Militäry Order (dpa´-rtags)


Avers and revers of the order conferred by the 13th Dalai Lama to the commander-in-chief Dasang Dradül Tsharong (Zla-bzang dgra-´dul Tsha-rong) of the Tibetan army


From: http://www.tibet-encyclopaedia.de/moderne-armee.html


Tibetan Volunteer Army 1958-1974

Chushi Gangdruk (in Tibetan: ཆུ་བཞི་སྒང་དྲུག,,in Wylie:Chu bzhi sgang drug, literally "Four Rivers, Six Ranges", full name: in Tibetan  མདོ་སྟོད་ཆུ་བཞི་སྒང་དྲུག་བོད་ཀྱི་བསྟན་སྲུང་དང་བླངས་དམག. in Wylie: mdo stod chu bzhi sgang drug bod kyi bstan srung dang blangs dmag, "the Kham Four Rivers, Six Ranges Tibetan Defenders of the Faith Volunteer Army" was an organization of Tibetan guerrilla fighters, formally created on 16 June 1958, which had been fighting the forces of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Tibet since 1956.


Flag Chushi gang druk 16.06.1958




Tibet Area



Chapter 5 Chinese Rule

Tibetan Autonomous Region


Tibet Autonomous Region / Xizang Autonomous Region / བོད་རང་སྐྱོང་ལྗོངས། :/  西藏自治区


Tibet in China


The Tibetan Autonomous Region was officially created in 1965. Nevertheless the Communist Party of China took over military power in Central Tibet already with the invasion of Tibet in 1950-51; in fact, in Kham province this happened as early as 1949. The main leaders at the time were party secretaries.


Secretaries of the Communist Party

Zhang Guohua

january 1950 - june 1951

Fan Ming

june 1951 - december 1951

Zhang Jingwu 

march 1952 - august 1965

Zhang Guohua

september 1965 - 1967

Ren Rong

august 1971 - march 1980

Yin Fatang 

march 1980 - june 1985

Wu Jinghua

june 1985 - december 1988

Hu Jintao 

december 1988 - november 1992

Chen Kuiyuan 

november 1992 - september 2000

Guo Jinlong

september 2000 - december 2004

Yang Chuantang 

december 2004 - november 2005

Zhang Qingli 

november 2005 - may 2006

Zhang Qingli

may 2006 - present


Constitutional framework

Prior to 1951, Tibet had a theocratic government of which the Dalai Lama was the supreme religious and temporal head. After that the newly installed Chinese administrators relied on military control and a gradual establishment of civilian regional autonomy. Tibet was formally designated a zizhiqu region) in 1965, as part of the separation of religion and civil administration. It is now divided into the dijishi (prefecture-level municipality) of Lhasa, directly under the jurisdiction of the regional government, and six diqu (prefectures), which are subdivided into shixiaqu (districts), xian (counties), and xianjishi (county-level municipalities).

The army consists of regular Chinese troops under a Chinese military commander, who is stationed at Lhasa. There are military cantonments in major towns along the borders with India, Nepal, and Bhutan. Local people have also been recruited into some militia regiments.

The emblem for the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Tibet Autonomous Region

Emblem designer Dainzin Namgyai now works with the Tibetan People's Publishing Fine Arts Department, and has over 30 years of experience in his craft. The abstract striped emblem of a lotus reminiscent of the Tibetan painting of "Eight Happiness", a hada and a snow-capped mountain, symbolizing the ethnic and geographical characteristics of Tibet, brings out the subject of celebration, harmony and of prosperity. The lotus petals in the shape of hands that hold a rising sun under the red five-star national flag reflect the patriotism of the Tibetan people. The word in Tibetan above the sun means the union of the Tibetan people around the homeland


The emblem is red, yellow and blue to express “solemnity, joy and warmth”, and to represent the great successes achieved by the Tibetan people in the 40 years since the founding of the autonomous region. The combination of the sun and the lotus petals is reminiscent of a red flower contrasted with green leaves. For Tibetans, the flower is sacred and pure. Thus, the cultural and regional characteristics of Tibet are manifested in a perfect way. The background of the sunny sky blue emblem of the high plateau portends the prosperous and promising future of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the great Chinese family.

China.org.cn  2005/09/01



The commemorative logo for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tibet autonomous region

The basic pattern on the logo is a perfect circle, like a moving wheel. It symbolizes the trend of the prosperous development of the new socialist Tibet. The circle also symbolizes harmony and joy, showing the steadfast confidence of the people of all ethnic groups in Tibet toward building a moderately prosperous society and their longing for a happy life.

The logo uses elements from Mt. Qomolangma and the Potala Palace, giving it more identity. It also uses a combination of red, yellow and orange as well as the figures "1965-2015", all of which highlight the warm, auspicious and joyous theme.

The design element for the core of the logo is based on the Arabic numeral "50", highlighting the theme of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Tibet Autonomous Region. Above the Arabic numeral "5" is the Five-Starred Red Flag (the national flag of the People's Republic of China), representing the close unity of the Tibetan people around the Party Central Committee with Xi Jinping as the General Secretary and everyone forging together as one. The bottom contains unique characteristic Tibetan colorful ribbons, symbolizing joy, peace and good fortune. The Arabic numeral "0" is combined with a fluttering hada (ceremonial white silk scarf) and lotus decorating the "5". This conveys a meaning of the substantial economic and social development and richness in the lives of Tibetan people.

A positive energy emanating from the logo design implies that, under the leadership of the Communist Party of China and in the socialist community, people of all ethnic groups in Tibet, full of pride and enthusiasm, are building a prosperous, harmonious, happy, law-abiding, culturally advanced and beautiful Tibet.” Tibet Daily.


The Dalai Lama's house crown


The design of the crown goes back to the fur hats with fold-down cuffs that are common in the Tibetan highlands. The front of the crown, which is reminiscent of the European plate crown, in contrast, however, is not connected with hinges but with leather strips, made of silver and set with corals, turquoise and lapis lazuli. The main motif is a gold-plated meditating Buddha in the lotus position. Buddha is considered the founder of Lamaism, who has been in AD 632. (with a short break 1816-1842) is the state religion. A conservative direction, the Red Hats, was pushed into the background in the 14th century by Tsongk’apa (from the Onion Country), the founder of the reformatory direction of the Yellow Hats. His third successor received the title Dalai Lama, which is still common today, from the Mongol prince Altan Hagan. Until the re-establishment of Chinese sovereignty in 1951, he was the spiritual and secular head of Tibet. Where the imperial orb sits at Christian crowns, the namtschu wangden rises here, a mystical Indian spirit eviction symbol, surrounding the holy three fish from Lake Yamdrock in southern Tibet (From: J. Abeler: Kronen. 1973. Kat.-Nr. 39. FarbtafeI 33).




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 © Hubert de Vries



[1] https://www.asianart.com/exhibitions/bowers/26.html

[2] Beer, Robert: The Handbook of Tibetan Buddhist Synmbols. Chicago, 2003 pp. 58-59

[3] https://issuu.com/spinkandson/docs/13020/23

[4] https://rubinmuseum.org/blog/collection-highlight-newly-restored-saddle-from-tibet-or-mongolia

[5] https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/26642?rpp=20&pg=1&ao=on&ft=1998.316&pos=1

[6] http://www.absolutechinatours.com/china-travel/Buniantu.html

[7] https://simon-roy.tumblr.com/image/169814607397

[8] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GIpGDxxPdI

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