The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China

The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China: A Political History of the Tibetan Institution of Reincarnation

Peter Schwieger
Copyright Date: 2015
Pages: 352
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7312/schw16852
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  • Book Info
    The Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China
    Book Description:

    A major new work in modern Tibetan history, this book follows the evolution of Tibetan Buddhism'strülku(reincarnation) tradition from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, along with the Emperor of China's efforts to control its development. By illuminating the political aspects of thetrülkuinstitution, Schwieger shapes a broader history of the relationship between the Dalai Lama and the Emperor of China, as well as a richer understanding of the Qing Dynasty as an Inner Asian empire, the modern fate of the Mongols, and current Sino-Tibetan relations.

    Unlike other pre-twentieth-century Tibetan histories, this volume rejects hagiographic texts in favor of diplomatic, legal, and social sources held in the private, monastic, and bureaucratic archives of old Tibet. This approach draws a unique portrait of Tibet's rule by reincarnation while shading in peripheral tensions in the Himalayas, eastern Tibet, and China. Its perspective fully captures the extent to which the emperors of China controlled the institution of the Dalai Lamas, making a groundbreaking contribution to the past and present history of East Asia.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-53860-2
    Subjects: Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. VII-XII)
    Peter Schwieger
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-16)

    One of the most striking features of all Tibetan societies right up to the present day is the social position of reincarnated enlightened persons, regarded as emanations of transcendent divinities. In Tibetan they are calledtrülkus, a term referring to specific Buddhist concepts and ideals that were already present in Mahāyāna Buddhism in India. But as a social position, thetrülkuis a genuine Tibetan development. It comprises religious, economic, legal, and political functions, all of which accrued during the course of Tibetan history. Apart from a very few notable exceptions,trülkus always were and still are males. The most...

  5. 1 THE HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRÜLKU POSITION
    (pp. 17-49)

    The social position of thetrülkuin the form we know today did not arise at one specific point, but rather developed gradually over time. Although it is generally accepted that all of its essential components had already been taken from various Mahāyāna doctrines during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and then combined to form one homogeneoustrülkuconcept, it was not until the seventeenth century that the position finally embraced all of the religious, social, and political functions that are associated with it today.

    For sketching out the early historical development of thetrülkuposition, we have to rely...

  6. 2 A TRÜLKU AS THE HEAD OF SOCIETY
    (pp. 50-70)

    The seventeenth century witnessed the culmination of the development of the Tibetantrülkuposition. At this time, the religious and social functions of thetrülkuplaced him at the top of society. High Tibetan reincarnations became deeply involved in political power plays both in Tibet proper and increasingly in relation to Inner Asian power struggles and rivalries concerning empire building.

    Out of the concept of the “union of religion and politics,” the clerical elite further developed the idea of the “two systems” (luknyi), and the distinction between the religious and the secular spheres became more and more blurred. Under Qubilai...

  7. 3 STRUGGLE FOR BUDDHIST GOVERNMENT
    (pp. 71-111)

    The fifth dalai Lama died in 1682, a fact that was kept secret by his regent for a good fifteen years—not only from the Tibetan public but also from the emperor and the aristocracy of the various Mongol tribes, all of whom regarded themselves as great patrons of the Dalai Lama. While pretending that the Dalai Lama had gone on a strict retreat and having a monk acting as him when he had to appear personally,¹ the regent secretly searched for his reincarnation and carried out political acts in his name. The regent later claimed that he had done...

  8. 4 THE EMPEROR TAKES CONTROL
    (pp. 112-145)

    The complex political crisis that evolved around the Dalai Lama made the emperor realize how important the control of high-level Tibetan reincarnations was for building a stable empire in Inner Asia. But instead of restricting the social role of thetrülkuin response to the political risks that the position entailed, the emperor chose to make use of it more and more for his own political agenda.

    The Kangxi Emperor was of two minds when it came to the Tibetan clergy. His means of subjecting the lamas to his authority was either harsh criticism and even severe punishment or public...

  9. 5 BUDDHIST GOVERNMENT UNDER THE IMPERIAL UMBRELLA
    (pp. 146-184)

    With the backing of the emperor, Polhané’s rule gave Central Tibet a period of peace and stability. The Seventh Dalai Lama had learned his lesson and refrained from any involvement in politics. This situation remained until 1747, when Polhané’s son Gyurmé Namgyel inherited his office. In contrast to his father, Gyurmé Namgyel pursued an anti-Qing policy. Acting recklessly and violently even toward close family members, he soon lost the sympathy of the people and of the high officials as well. Some sources even suggest that he showed symptoms of madness. In 1750, theambans, the imperial representatives in Lhasa, forestalled...

  10. 6 IMPERIAL AUTHORITY OVER THE TRÜLKU INSTITUTION
    (pp. 185-208)

    Another decision the Qianlong Emperor made in his efforts to control thetrülkuinstitution was to find a method for identifying reincarnations that was less prone to corruption. To this end, he manufactured two golden urns for drawing lots. One he sent to the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa in September 1792 and one he displayed in the Yonghegong in Beijing. The urn in Beijing was intended for reincarnations among the Mongols. The idea was that eminent Gelukpatrülkus would draw lots from it under the supervision of officials from the Lifan Yuan.¹ In this way, the Gelukpa elite in Central...

  11. 7 THE AFTERMATH
    (pp. 209-218)

    After the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and the proclamation of the Republic of China in 1912, the Thirteenth Dalai Lama attempted to rule Tibet on his own authority, independent of China.¹ But the new Chinese government upheld China’s claims to Tibet. Efforts by the Dalai Lama to strengthen the independent position of the Tibetan government through reforms and diplomacy were obstructed by the clergy of the great Gelukpa monasteries, Drepung, Sera, and Ganden.² In their opinion, the reforms desired by the Dalai Lama jeopardized the traditional system of the “union of religion and politics.” Unlike the Dalai Lama, the...

  12. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 219-222)

    The tibetan institution of reincarnation has added to the Tibetan clergy and to Tibetan society as a whole a new upper strata characterized by the quality of sanctity. Despite the failure of early efforts to exploit the eminent social position of incarnations for the purposes of political control, elite members of the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism were successful in the seventeenth century in installing the Dalai Lamas as a prominent line of incarnations to function as sacred rulers over Tibet. These incarnations became the core of the newly established Buddhist government in Tibet, which combined religious authority of the...

  13. APPENDIX 1: TIBETAN REINCARNATION LINES OF MAJOR POLITICAL SIGNIFICANCE
    (pp. 223-226)
  14. APPENDIX 2: QING EMPERORS AND QOSHOT KINGS OF TIBET
    (pp. 227-228)
  15. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. 229-230)
  16. NOTES
    (pp. 231-288)
  17. TIBETAN ORTHOGRAPHIC EQUIVALENTS
    (pp. 289-306)
  18. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 307-324)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 325-342)