Travers, Alice and Venturi, Federica, 2017. “Buddhism, both the Means and the End of the Ganden Phodrang Army. A State-of-the Field Review on Buddhism vis-à-vis the Military in Tibet” in https://tibarmy.hypotheses.org.
The history of Tibet is full of warfare, and the period of the Ganden Phodrang (dga’ ldan pho brang) is no exception. The aim of the TibArmy project’s first conference in Paris, held on 11 July 2017, was to explore the multi-faceted relationship between Buddhism and military affairs during this period. As an explicitly Buddhist state, the protection of Buddhism was the avowed and ultimate aim of all military action undertaken on behalf of the Ganden Phodrang– whether by its own army, by ad hoc militias or imperial forces. Buddhist monks often played prominent roles in Tibetan military affairs during this period. Also Buddhist doctrine and especially ritual liturgies of protection and destruction were used to support military action, and in Tibetan sources such methods were often portrayed as determining factors in the outcomes of armed conflict.
This blog-post offers some background to the subject by presenting an overview of prior scholarship on the relationship between Buddhism and the military in Tibet, which is adapted from the introduction presented at the conference by Alice Travers and Federica Venturi, and will appear in due course, in an extended version, as part of the introduction of our forthcoming volume, along with the collected papers of the conference (see the list of papers).
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.
Alice Travers is invited by the Société Européenne pour l’Etude des Civilisations de l’Himalaya et de l’Asie Centrale (SEECHAC) to present her work on the visual history of the Tibetan army. Find out more on the website of the SEECHAC.
The talk will take place at the Musée Cernuschi, 7 rue Velasquez, 75008 Paris, at 18.00.
This paper is about two Generals Mtsho sgo and Rnam sras gling. In 1923, when the Ninth Panchen Lama secretly escaped from his Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, General Mtsho sgo was sent by the Tibetan government in order to pursue and arrest him. Then, in 1937 when the Ninth Panchen Lama came back to Tibet from China, the Tibetan government sent General Rnam sras gling in order to arrest his Chinese escort. It will examine how, in these former and latter occasions, the Ninth Panchen Lama was pursued and stopped and how he created a new bodyguard corps while he was staying abroad.
June 22nd, 17.00-18.30, INALCO, Tsewang Topla (Senior Lecturer and Researcher in Tibetan History at the College for Higher Tibetan Studies, Sarah, India) will present his research.
A number of prosopographic works on the military world have shown how beneficial such an approach might be in advancing our historical knowledge of various cultural areas at different periods. This conference aims to present and discuss an ongoing research project on the social history of the Tibetan army under the Ganden Phodrang government, based on the use of the prosopographic method. After outlining the corpus of available sources (autobiographies, public and private archives, oral sources) for the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we will present the construction of the metasource as well as the broad lines of enquiry w propose to follow. A preliminary inquiry into the evolution of the Tibetan army officer corps was extended to the troops as a whole, from the base to the top of the hierarchy, with a comparative treatment of the various regiments that comprised the Tibetan army. The presentation will then examine a few specific examples of aspects of military history that the prosopographic approach can document and analyse: the contours of a military career, its variations according to different criteria the training of soldiers and officers, their origin and social mobility, the diversity of practices in regiments and, more generally, the evolution of the Tibetan military institution in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
During the eighth century, the Tibetan Empire (618-842) conquered a region encompassing sections of modern-day Afghanistan, India, Xinjiang, and parts of China proper, and its army made Tibet one of the major powers in Eurasia. Though the Tibetan military declined drastically after the collapse of the empire, military culture continued to influence Tibetan civil and religious society. The modern Tibetan militia was first instituted by the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682) in the seventeenth century, and reformed in the eighteenth century under Tibetan aristocrat Pho lha nas (1689-1747) and Manchu general Fuk’anggan (1753-1796). Marshaling a sizable state fighting force generally requires galvanizing domestic political and economic support. This talk aims to investigate the logistics of war-making under the dGa’ ldan pho brang since its outset. Studying Tibetan military logistics necessarily entails writing a socio-economic history of the early dGa’ ldan pho brang. Specifically, how did the dGa’ ldan pho brang regulate its conscription, supplies, transportation and training? This talk will discuss the basic military units: lding dpon and gzim chung pa, and their roles during both peace and war time under the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682), Pho lha nas (1689-1747), and Fuk’anggan (1753-1796).
The Call for Papers for the first TibArmy international symposium – The Ganden Phrodang Army and Buddhist – is open. The conference will take place in Paris, on July 11th. The Call is open until March 30th, all information – themes and submission process – is available on the website created for the conference: www.tibarmysymp2017.sciencesconf.org.
The existence of a military apparatus within the ecclesiastical government of the dGa’ ldan pho brang, controlled by religious hierarchs, reveals a dichotomy between an administration in theory committed to Buddhist values but in practice often pressed by concerns of realpolitik. In fact, on several occasions in its three-hundred year history, the government of the Dalai Lamas and the dGe lugs pa hierarchy have had to contend with adverse situations that spurred them to utilize, support or otherwise involve the Tibetan army. While the XIII Dalai Lama (1876-1933) may be the ecclesiastical figure whose support for the army is universally recognized, other hierarchs who preceded him also found ways to reconcile their religious beliefs with the necessity to solve impelling practical questions. This talk aims at illustrating some of the historical situations that required the involvement in military matters of dGe lugs pa hierarchs, and the conceptual discourses employed by them to justify and promote the use of the army.
Venue: University of Oslo – Seminar room 10, P.A. Munchs building
The presentation will first give an overview of this new field of research and present the current state of knowledge regarding the creation of the first Tibetan standing army under the Ganden Phodrang government. It will then analyse the content of the military reforms (recruitment, hierarchy, training, uniform, arms and ammunitions) undertaken during the first half of the 20th century under the successive governments, based on secondary literature, and on primary written and oral sources (biographical accounts published in India and in the TAR, archives and interviews), in order to show how the distinctive features of these reforms were closely shaped by the political national and international context at various times.
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.
This talk will introduce what appears to be an early – and perhaps our earliest – Tibetan Gesar bsang (smoke purification) ritual text. The talk will explore some of the «layers» discernible in this text’s rich presentation of Gesar as an apotheosised folkloric figure. It will also explore the issues around dating and attributing the text. The attribution to Karma Pakshi (suggested by others) is ultimately rejected in favour of a tentative attribution to Yongs-dge mi-’gyur rdo-rje (1628/41-1704), a gter-ston from Nang-chen who is famous for his visionary Karma Pakshi sādhana. This attribution would make sense in light of what we already know about the evolution of the Buddhist cult of Gesar in eastern Tibet (particularly in the Sde-dge region) from the mid 17th century.