Category Archives: TibArmy Seminar Cycle

SEMINAR CYCLE: The Bodyguard regiment (Ka dang sku srung dmag sgar) of the Ganden Phodrang army

November 15th, 16.30-18.00, conference by Alice Travers, La Maison de l’Asie (4th floor).

Photo caption: The Bodyguard / Ka dang sku srung regiment (between 1948 and 1950). © Ethnographic Museum at the University of Zurich. Inv.no. VMZ 400.07.50.012 / Photo: Heinrich Harrer, “Soldaten bei der Truppenrekrutierung”

The Bodyguard regiment (Tib. Ka dang sku srung dmag sgar) was created by the 13th Dalai lama around 1913-1914 and dissolved, with the rest of the remaining Tibetan troops, in 1959 after the 14th Dalai Lama’s flight into exile. When started, it was the first regiment (regiments were named in alphabetical order, hence “Ka”) in the newly organised and numerically increased army. It complemented the former Ganden Phodrang force of 3000 Tibetan soldiers, called “rgya sbyong” (lit. “trained by the Chinese”) at least since the end of the 18th century.

This paper will present a first attempt at a historical study of the Bodyguard regiment, based on an ensemble of Tibetan oral and written autobiographical accounts (notably some thirty-five interviews with Tibetan soldiers who served before 1959 in the Bodyguard regiment, and five book-length and article-length accounts of the Tibetan Bodyguard regiment’s officers published in the Tibet Autonomous Region and in India), as well as on British archival sources. Beyond the study of its organisation, its social composition and development over its period of existence, the presentation will particularly underline how this regiment was conceived as a showcase of the project of military modernisation launched by the 13th Dalai lama, functioning as a “model regiment” for the other permanent Tibetan troops, while retaining certain specificities related to its primary – and highly prestigious – role as the personal bodyguard to the Ganden Phodrang government’s ruler.

Seminar cycle: Tibetan Sources for the Study of the Ganden Phodrang’s Military History – the State Library of Berlin’s Collection of Legal Documents from South-Western Tibet

detail of Hs.or.6697, a public proclamation concerning the renovation of the military headquarter-cum-court of Dingri (Ding-ri sPyi-mda’ ya-mon)

October 17th, 18.00-19.30, conference by Hanna Schneider, INALCO (room 3.04).

The state library of Berlin (Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz zu Berlin) is in possession of a collection of 320 legal documents from south-western Tibet, primary sources for the study of the region‘s cultural, religious, social and military history that cover the time range between the beginning of the 18th century and the early aftermath of the Ganden Phobrang era, i.e., the early sixties of the 20th century.

Given the longstanding strategic importance of Tibet‘s border with Nepal, it comes without surprise that a considerable part of these documents directly relate to issues of military purport, with a clear focus on the three aspects of military administration, maintenance and defence.

Above all, these documents deal with and respond to the changing tides of Tibet‘s history during  and after the two Gorkha wars (1788-1792; 1855-1856) in the first place. Both events triggered far reaching consequences that e.g. led to the reinforcement of troops, the upgrading of the military prefecture of south-western Tibet with its headquarters at Ding-ri, and the systematic development of new settlements and arable lands in order to strenghten the human and agricultural resources in times of war and peace.

This collection grants valuable first hand insights into the various aspects of Tibetan military history of the time and place: the role of the key players – the Tibetan government with its central and provincial branches, e.g., the Khashag or council of ministers, the military prefecture of Dingri (Ding-ri sPyi-mda‘ khang) and the monastery and rDzong of Shel-dkar; the role and involvement of Ch‘ing authority within these levels of Tibetan bureaucracy and within the borderland defence, the administration and maintenance of the troops and their garrisons, the role of the local people within the military administration as well as within the service and tax system; documents such as a certified copy of the 10 points Nepal-Tibet treaty of 1856, sources covering the border security at the strategically important border crossing at Rong-shar, and documents dealing with reconnaissance-cum-security issues across the high ranges of the highest mountains of our planet, down to an undertaking for the restoration of and a receipt for the timely delivery of fire wood to the military headquarter at Ding-ri in the height of winter…

Seminar cycle: three seminars to come!

Wednesday 17 October 2018 (18.00 – 19.30 PM), INALCO (room 3.04): 
Hanna Schneider (Erwin Schneider Archive Lech a/A), “Tibetan Primary Sources for the Study of the Ganden Phodrang’s Military History. The State Library of Berlin (Staatsbibliothek Preußischer Kulturbesitz zu Berlin)’s Collection of Legal Documents from South-Western Tibet”

Thursday 15 November 2018 (16.30 – 18.00 PM), Maison de l’Asie (room on the 4th floor): 
Alice Travers (CNRS, CRCAO), “The Bodyguard Regiment (Ka dang sku srung dmag sgar) of the Ganden Phodrang Army”

Wednesday 12 December 2018 (18.00 – 19.30 PM), INALCO (room 3.04):
George FitzHerbert (CNRS, CRCAO), “The Rise and Fall of Guandi, the Chinese God of War, in Tibetan Buddhism”

Seminar Cycle: The Lhasa Mentsikhang (1916-1950) and the Tibetan Tradition of Military Medicine

May 16th, 17.00-18.30, conference by Stacey Van Vleet, INALCO (room 3.15) – 65  rue des Grands Moulins, Paris.

Tibetan medical instruments, ca. 19th century, Tso-Ngon (Qinghai) Tibetan Medicine and Culture Museum

In the Earth-Tiger year of 1938, as Tibetans in Lhasa awaited the arrival of the young Fourteenth Dalai Lama, the Mentsikhang (Institute of Medicine and Astrology, founded in 1916) welcomed its third batch of students. At the request of the Kashak ministers, these young students were recruited mainly from ten regiments of the Tibetan army – unlike the first two batches who had come from monastic and medical family-lineage backgrounds. The formation of a Tibetan army medical corps represents the culmination of a long historical relationship between medical and military institutions in Tibetan Buddhist regions. This relationship predated British and other foreign models, and developed particularly within Gelukpa monastic medical colleges (sman pa grwa tshang) during the period of Qing Empire (1644-1911). This talk will situate the training and service of the Tibetan army’s medical corps within the politics of early twentieth-century Lhasa. It will consider the broad scope of physicians’ military duties, from treatments for wounds and broken bones to alchemical precious pills to divination aiding the course of a battle. It will argue that medical technologies supported Tibetan Buddhist governance not just through benevolent care for the populace, but also to aid in its empowerment and defense.

Seminar cycle “Les chapitres traitant de traumatologie dans le Quadruple Traité (rGyud bzhi), texte fondamental de la tradition médicale tibétaine savante”

April 5th,  15.00-16.30, conference by Fernand Meyer, Maison de l’Asie – Grand salon – (22 avenue du Président Wilson).

© Vignettes figurant le traitement des plaies dans la série des peintures sur toile qui, commanditées au début du 18ème siècle à Lhasa par le Régent Sangs-rgyas rgya-mtsho, illustre le contenu du rGyud bzhi.

Les sources textuelles tibétaines pré-modernes font rarement, si ce n’est jamais, mention de la présence de médecins accompagnant les corps d’armée tibétains. Les biographies de médecins tibétains célèbres parvenues jusqu’à nous semblent également ignorer cette activité. Toutefois le Quadruple Traité comprend plusieurs chapitres consacrés à l’examen et au traitement de traumatismes dont certains ne peuvent avoir été causés que par des armes et non par un banal accident.

Ces chapitres très mal connus et compris des médecins tibétains actuels et de la recherche en tibétologie, présentent toutefois un grand intérêt dans la mesure où ils exposent des connaissances anatomiques spécifiques, ainsi que des pratiques diagnostiques et thérapeutiques très sophistiquées qui ne sont pas évoquées dans l’exposé général de l’anatomie, de la séméiologie, ou du traitement qui constitue l’essentiel du Quadruple Traité.

Ces connaissances et pratiques relatives à la traumatologie n’ont que peu d’équivalents dans les traditions médicales indienne et chinoise dont on sait l’influence qu’elles ont eu, par ailleurs, sur le développement de la médecine tibétaine savante. Il est difficile de dire à quel moment de l’histoire de cette dernière elles ont été abandonnées. Cet abandon pourrait avoir un lien avec celui, également attesté, d’un certain nombre de pratiques chirurgicales évoquées dans le Quadruple Traité.

SEMINAR CYCLE: “A Survey of the Military and its Relationship to dGe lugs pa Religious Hierarchs (1682-1895)”

March 15th,  16.00-17.30, conference by Federica Venturi, Maison de l’Asie – Grand salon – (22 avenue du Président Wilson).

© “Horpa militia guarding northern border of Tibet”, Photography by Sven Hedin (Tibet. The Sacred Realm. Photographs 1880-1950, Aperture, 1983, 89).

In the period between the death of the Fifth Dalai Lama (1682) and the assumption of political power of the Thirteen Dalai Lama (1895) a number of military conflicts were fought in Tibetan territory. Some of these were internal, including a civil war and attempts to quell rebellious chieftains at the periphery of the plateau. Others, instead, were clashes with foreign powers that had attempted to encroach upon territories the dGa’ ldan pho brang considered in its political sphere.

This presentation aims to offer an overview of the military engagements that occurred in this period, and particularly to examine in which way religious hierarchs of the dGa’ ldan pho brang became involved with these military affairs. Several sources, including the lives (rnam mthar) and autobiographies (rang rnam) of religious hierarchs, as well as the life stories of laymen, such as the biography of Pho lha nas bSod nams stobs rgyal (1689-1747), and the autobiography of rDo ring bsTan ’dzin dpal ’byor (b. 1760), can be used to trace the role of some of the dGe lugs pa hierarchs with respect to the employment of armed forces. In addition, the multiple viewpoints shown in these sources also allow the investigation of more general questions concerning the army of the dGa’ ldan pho brang, such as when it originated, how it operated, and how it developed and was shaped by contemporary historical events.

Seminar cycle: “Armed forces of the Ancient Kingdom of Dergé in the 18th Century: a preliminary study”

December 14th,  17.00-18.30, conference by Rémi Chaix, Maison de l’Asie – 4th floor – (22 avenue du Président Wilson)

© Jampa Phuntsok (?-1667), considered as the founder of the Kingdom of Dergé, in the Dergé Gyelrab

The making and the expansion of the territory of the Dergé (sDe dge) Kingdom, between the mid-17th and late 18th centuries, were partly achieved by military action. Yet, no archives related to the forces that were mobilised (their size, their organisation, their equipment, etc.) and their modalities of action are, to my knowledge, available to document this crucial aspect of the influence and the prestige of this kingdom across Kham and, more widely, the Tibetan world.

This paper will show how the biographies of the chaplains of the house of Dergé, particularly those of Situ Panchen and Palden Chokyong, allow us to glimpse some aspects of the engagement of the armed forces in the context of internal conflicts in the kingdom, against certain neighbours and also during large-scale conflicts, such as the Jinchuan wars, alongside the Manchu armies.

Seminar cycle: Winning the Peace: The Aftermath of the Tibet-Ladakh War of 1679–1683 and the Reorganisation of Western Tibet

Conference by Charles Ramble, Inalco, room 3.03 (65 rue des Grands Moulins) – 17.30 – 19.00

1683 edict, photography by Charles Ramble

The Tibet Ladakh war, which resulted in victory for the Central Tibetan army under the leadership of the Mongol general Ganden Tshewang and the annexation of the Ngari region, has been well documented by several authors, notably Luciano Petech. Less well known are the measures that were taken to bring the newly-won territory in the administrative orbit of Lhasa’s Ganden Phodrang government. Based on published Tibetan studies and a hitherto unknown edict of the Fifth Dalai Lama issued in 1683, this presentation will examine the post-war policies that were implemented to reassure the local chiefs and the ordinary population of Western Tibet of the good intentions of their new ruler.

THE PRESENCE OF QING OFFICIALS AND GARRISONS IN MID-19TH CENTURY TIBET FROM A VISUAL PERSPECTIVE

October 12th, 17.00-18.30, INALCO, Diana Lange (Humboldt University, Berlin) will present her research. Discussant: Fabienne Jagou.

Abstract

In 1857 a British official engaged a Tibetan lama to produce what later ended up as “Wise Collection” in the British Library: the most comprehensive set of visual depictions of mid-19th century Tibet, but also the largest panoramic map of Tibet of its time. The map covers the areas of Lhasa, Central Tibet, Southern and Western Tibet, Ladakh and Zangskar. Topographical characteristics are depicted as well as detailed information on infrastructure. Furthermore, illustrations of monasteries, forts, and garrisons – the “three seats of power” – are shown. We can find more than 30 illustrations of garrisons on the map covering Central and Southern Tibet. But even more is included in this collection of drawings: visual narratives of several Tibetan ceremonies and rituals, detailed illustrations of selected monasteries and temples, such as a very detailed drawing of the so-called Chinese Temple – the Gesar Lhakhang in Lhasa. This talk will discuss the presence and significance of the Qing officials and garrisons in mid-19th century Tibet from a visual perspective and based on the illustrations in the Wise Collection.

Two generals of the Ganden Phodrang army and the Ninth Panchen Lama

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.

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.

“Social history of the Tibetan army: sources for a prosopographic approach”

June 2nd, 17.30-19.00, INALCO, Alice Travers, CNRS/CRCAO, Principal Investigator of TibArmy, will present her 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.

“Benign Bellicosity: the dGa’ ldan pho brang Military History in the 17th and 18th Centuries”

April 27th, 15.00-16.30, Maison de l’Asie, talk by Qian (Barton) Qichen, Columbia University

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).