Federica Venturi (CNRS, CRCAO), is participating to the New Research in Military History confenrece, in Cambridge (UK). The conference is organised by the BCMH1 on 18th-17th November, 2017.
Her paper aims to investigate the war between Tibet and Ladakh which took place on the westernmost edge of the Himalayan plateau between 1679 and 1683. While Tibet and its spiritual and political head, the Dalai Lama, represent today utmost symbols of peace and nonviolence, in the past the Dalai Lamas and their Buddhist governments did not refrain from using belligerent methods in order to achieve their political goals. A prime example is that of the V Dalai Lama (1617-1682), who first accepted the extension of his rule on territories which had been conquered and presented to him by western Mongol troops, and then continued, during his forty years of reign, to consolidate his regime by engaging in wars with various neighboring polities. One of these was the kingdom of Ladakh, ruled by a dynasty that patronized a Buddhist school rival to that of the Dalai Lama. The competition for the largesse of a limited number of donors to the different religious establishments led to tensions that eventually resulted in a four-year war, and in the intervention of the neighboring Mughal empire on the Ladakhi side.
This little studied war ultimately determined the border between Tibet and Ladakh, which remains unchanged to this day. By consulting Tibetan sources contemporary with this conflict, this paper will outline the causes and main events of this war as well as provide information on the tactics employed by the combined Tibetan and Mongol armies utilized by the Dalai Lama’s government. It will show that war was considered an appropriate response and legitimate method to solve political and economic disputes also in Tibet, a country theoretically governed according to nonviolent Buddhist principles.
Federica Venturi (CNRS, CRCAO) participated in the inaugural conference of the Italian Association for Tibetan, Himalyan and Mongolian Studies – Associazione Italiana di Studi Tibetani, Himalayani e Mongoli (AISTHiM)- which took place in Procida, Italy (September 12-15th, 2017).
She presented the paper : How to Reconcile Budhism and Violence? Examples from the Tibetan Army of the dGa’ Idan pho brang.
The paper examined the question of how the Buddhist government of the dGa’ ldan pho brang justified the use of war on the occasions in which it deemed necessary to employ the Tibetan army. In particular, presented the ways in which certain important religious figures among the dGe lugs pa, such as the V Dalai Lama, rationalized the necessity to employ violent means. This paper also considered the figure of dGa’ ldan tshe dbang dpal bzang po (second half of the 17th century), an ex-lama from Tashilhumpo to whom the V Dalai Lama entrusted the general command of the Tibetan army during the war between Tibet and Ladakh (1679-1683).
The Association was created with the aim of promoting the study and knowledge of Tibetan and Himalayan civilizations in Italy, supporting research, publishing scientific studies, translations and works for the general public on Tibetan, Himalayan and Mongolian civilizations, and organizing conferences and collaborating with academic institutions.
It has been long acknowledged that state violence and military activity were a part of Tibetan history. Indeed, popular perceptions aside, the evidence for this has been easily available. In this talk some of it will be reviewed, to clarify both the idea that violence was justifiable and the fact that military organization was part of Tibetan politics and society – weaponry, soldiers, support units, etc. – all a part of functioning of authority in Tibet. The history of 17th and 18th century Tibet provides enough examples of the ways in which armed force war trained and deployed to allow us to make useful observations about the Tibetan military.
Pr. Elliot Sperling is a Numata Visiting Professor in South Asian, Buddhist, and Tibetan Studies at the University of Vienna. His writing and research has concentrated on Tibetan history, with a specific focus on Tibet’s historical and modern relations with China.