Shakabpa and the Awakening of Tibetan History


Academic scholarship may not generally lend itself to moving or inspirational writing, but there are exceptions. Edward Gibbon’s, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, is probably the greatest work of history written in the English language (Hugh Trevor-Roper) and a literary masterpiece praised for its narrative clarity, biting irony and elegant prose. It was a book that woke people up to a whole new way of viewing antiquity, especially in relation to the development of religious institutions – the Christian church in particular.  It was also the defining work of history that came out of the European Enlightenment.

Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa’s Advanced Political History of Tibet deals with events, places and personalities that have, of course, less resonance or significance to the rest of the world, especially at the moment when China is being hailed internationally as the next global superpower, and the issue of Tibet has been relegated to a kind of oblivion, more distant and inconsequential (it sometimes appears) than a chariot race at the Hippodrome in ancient Constantinople.

But within it’s own more modest niche of intellectual relevance, Shakabpa’s history should be seen as an inspirational work, one that opened the eyes of Tibetans to their historical past, the memory of which had been systematically and near-effectively erased by Communist propaganda and mind-control (xinao, literally “brainwashing”).


Under Chinese totalitarian control, Tibetans had been subjected to an overpowering indoctrination campaign to make them believe they possessed no history of their own other than a sporadic narrative of slavery[1] and barbarism from which they had been “liberated” by the PLA in 1950. In addition to this and other forms of daily political and psychological indoctrination, the entire population, for roughly over two decades (from 1959 to the early 1980s) endured (at one time or the other) starvation, forced labor, torture, executions and a succession of mass campaigns that reached a crescendo with the savagery and destruction of the Cultural Revolution. By the time Mao died the Tibetan people had been culturally, intellectually and spiritually reduced to a near catatonic state.

A trickle of rumors and disconnected stories, vague and sporadic at best, somehow made its way out of Tibet, even during the height of the Cultural Revolution. But with the slight opening up of the country in the late seventies and early eighties the exile-capital of Dharamshala finally began to get hard information on what had really happened inside Tibet. It was also around then that people in Tibet were finally allowed to communicate with relatives and friends abroad.

An official[2] in the exile government received a message from a cousin who was a senior Communist cadre in Sichuan province. This cadre had attended a special high-level meeting where Shakabpa’s “false” history of Tibet had been discussed. He heard that the “Dalai counterrevolutionary faction” (talé lokchoe shoga) in India had published a very dangerous and subversive book. He asked his relative in India to secretly send him a copy of the book through a trusted courier.

This and other similar incidents made the government-in-exile realize that people inside Tibet wanted to read Shakabpa’s history. At the time the book was printed by the Tibet Cultural Printing Press in Dharamshala. It was cheap but the quality of the printing and paper was woefully substandard. It was also inconvenient for any sort of covert distribution as the book consisted of two thick volumes. But many copies were somehow secretly smuggled into Tibet. I was told that it was later reprinted in Japan in a compact one-volume edition, exclusively for distribution within Tibet. A special thin lightweight paper was used and the font and page size considerably reduced.

In subsequent years, in discussions with other “new arrivals” from Tibet, who had read the book, I received the definite impression that Shakabpa’s history had been not just informative or intellectually enlightening, but possibly even therapeutic in a psychological sense. One person from Lhasa described how he had felt after reading Shakabpa’s history: “nye saypa nang-shing jhe song”, or “it was like being awakened from sleep”. A well-known Tibetan scholar and incarnate lama, Rakra Thupten Chodhar, in a verse of praise for Shakabpa’s history, wrote  “You who have taken up and sung this unblemished song of our history/ Have awakened many beings from enduring sleep.”

In his 1973 memoir, Awakenings, the neurologist Oliver Sacks tells the story of the victims of the 1920’s sleeping-sickness (encephalitis lethargica) epidemic, which caused them to remain in a bizarre and deep catatonic states for entire lifetimes. Sacks, who worked in a long-term care facility for these patients used the new drug L Dopa which managed to wake them up, almost miraculously, from decades of “sleep.”  In a sense, Shakabpa’s book became the cultural and intellectual L Dopa for Tibetans who had manage to survive Communist Chinese rule but had been intellectually traumatized by the experience.

In the years that followed, Tibetans inside Tibetan once again began to produce works on their history, literature, culture and much else. What was impressive was not only the generally high-standard of these works but also the prolificacy, the sheer quantity of books, journals and articles that came out from Tibet, despite the repressive political atmosphere and state censorship, which though not as totalitarian as before, is still a permanent (though mutating) feature of the Tibetan intellectual landscape. Perhaps it would not be incorrect to say that Shakabpa’s history was probably one of the seminal intellectual inspirations, or at least a vital factor that contributed to the unleashing of this enormous intellectual and cultural energy in Tibet.


The publication of the English translation of Shakabpa’s two-volume Advanced Political History of Tibet, (which first appeared in Tibetan in 1976), has been eagerly awaited by all students of Tibetan history, especially those like myself who, regrettably, find it easier to read English than Tibetan. Of course, we have had the English language one volume, Tibet: A Political History published by Yale University Press, since1967. It was, without doubt, the most comprehensive one volume history of Tibet we had till then.

Nonetheless, since the Advanced History was published over nine years after the ‘67 Yale history, the author had sufficient time not only to revise, correct and update his initial treatise but also enlarge on it considerably. The structures of the two works are fairly similar, but the Advanced History has a great deal more detail and information. The unhurried pace of the writing of the Advanced History allows Shakabpa to expound on his various source materials, even digressing now and then to make comparisons between some of them on certain dates or facts, which contributes to the readers understanding of the breadth and diversity of Tibetan historical writing.

The first chapter on the “Origins, Culture and Traditions of Tibet”, at more than a hundred dense pages, is by itself a substantial text-book on Tibetan civilization, providing an astonishing wealth of information that even present-day specialists on some these subjects might find useful. Of the many sections (and sub sections) in this chapter alone – all compulsive reading – my favorite is the section “Lhasa the Capital”, where Shakabpa lays out detailed accounts of all the major temples, monasteries, mosques, church (the former), stupas, public buildings, courthouses, monuments, cairns, markets, roads, alleys, bridges, dams, canals, springs, and even the history of the famous giant prayer flag poles (dharchen), which were well-known landmarks in the Lhasa of yesteryear, like the famous Cornhill maypole in London destroyed by Oliver Cromwell.

As only a Tibetan would, Shakabpa describes the various prominent features of the Lhasa landscape essentially by their preternatural resemblance to each of the eight auspicious symbols of Buddhism (tashi-ta-gye), which for all Tibetan, especially the devout pilgrims, are important components of their sacred (geo-mystical) vision of that holy city. In describing “Lhasa’s residents, of high, low, or middle station, (who) were completely carefree”, he does not forget to include the ubiquitous beggars, and recounts how they would spend their mornings begging for food, after which they would sing songs in the street and get drunk by the evening, which he regards as “a marvelous thing.” I have recounted this at some length to give the reader a feel for Shakabpa’s encyclopedic knowledge of Tibet, his traditional, non-western outlook, and the touch of humor and humaneness, present throughout the book.


The full title of the English translation is One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet, by Tsepon Wangchuk Deden Shakabpa and translated and annotated by Derek.F. Maher. Published by Brill Tibetan Studies Library, Leiden in 2010, the book has been ably translated by Maher who is the Associate Professor and Director of the Religious Studies Program, at East Carolina University.

There are some minor errors in the translation: “mepo dhampa” Gandhi should not have been translated as “grandfather” Gandhi. The Tibetan term is generally used to mean “founding father” or “father of the nation.” This sentence “The governor of Sikkim, Sir Charles Bell, came to Lhasa to deliver a letter on behalf of the Indian Ambassador” should be “The Political Officer of Sikkim, Sir Charles Bell, came to Lhasa to deliver a letter on behalf of the Viceroy of India.” The phrase “Annual taxes which Castle and estates had to pay…,”  should have used the word “district” or “district headquarters” instead of “castle.” The Tibetan world “dzong” can mean castle, but not in this instance. “…The phrase “British government owner of India” should be “government of British India”. Also “makchi” is commander-in-chief not “minister of defense”.

Maher has problems with some of the contractions that Shakabpa uses which is sometimes difficult even for native Tibetan speakers, if they are unacquainted with the source terms. For instance Maher translates “dochi” as Do governor. This is actually the contraction for “do-may chikyap,” or “ the Governor-General of Eastern Tibet”. In the same way Maher’s “do region” should have been translated as Eastern Tibet or Kham. Shakabpa’s contraction of Chakpori is rendered by Maher as “Jakri” mountain, and Ramoche tsuglakhang as “Rache” tsuglakhang, which might be a problem for the non-Tibetan reader.

The English spelling of people and place-names are unnecessarily confusing. Maher should perhaps have stuck to the system used in the Yale history, where Tibetan names were written in the basic phonetic system that earlier scholars on Tibet as Charles Bell, Hugh Richardson and others had used. The Yale history also provides a very useful transliteration of Tibetan names (Wylie system) in the index, which nails down the Tibetan spelling. Maher could have followed this system and used the actual Tibetan script in the index, which is possible these days.

Hence in Maher’s translation the 13th Dalai Lama’s prime minister, Shatra Paljor Dorje, is written as Shedra or Shedrawa Peljor Dorje. The famous merchant Pangdatsang is rendered variously as Pomda, Pomdabu and Bomdawu. The Dalai Lama’s nephew Drumpa is given as Bhumpa, the resistance leader Andrug Gompo Tashi is written as Amdruk Gompa Tashi, and the Quoshot Mongol ruler of Tibet, Lhasang (or Lhazang) Khan is written as Lozang Khan.

The suffix “wa” or “pa” that often occurs at the end of a name just means “of” or “from” and perhaps should not be included in the translated English text, as they could confuse. The exception being names where such suffixes have become intrinsic through usage. I have put the suffixes in parenthesis to highlight the problem: Shedra(wa) Peljor Dorje, Ngapo(pa) Ngawang Jikme, Namse’ Ling(pa),Tsarong(pa), Gapzhi(wa), Tretong(pa), and the mouthful Troggawo(wa). But this is offered as a suggestion for the reader’s comprehension, and not as a correction.

While on the name of Tretong or rather Tethong, I think it is incumbent on Western (and Chinese) academics not to supplant the specific English spelling that Tibetans themselves have used (since the beginning of the last century) for their names, especially surnames: Tethong, Tsarong, Shatra, Surkhang, Pangdatsang and so on. Melvyn Goldstein in his The Demise of the Lamaist State also transgresses with Norbhu for Norbu, Cawtang for Chogten, Canglocen for Changlochen, Tricang for Trijang, Jayan for Jamyang and Trentong for Tethong.

Maher strays from the norm in spelling certain place-names:  Pakri for Phari, Zhikatse’ for Shigatse,’ for Thuna, “Trashi” lhunpo for Tashilhunpo, and Gulok for Golok. Tibetan pronunciation of Chinese and Indian place names should not have been carried over to the translation, as “Lendru” for Lanzhou (or Lanchow), “Drungchin” for Chongqing (or Chungking) and “Drintu” for Chengdu. Kurseong, in Darjeeling district is given as “Kharshang”, though Maher correctly renders Shakabpa’s contraction “Ka-Bug” as Kalimpong. There is also some confusion with the names of British officials. Shakabpa’s Mr. Pal and Mr. War are probably A.W. Paul and J.C. White.

Maher cannot avoid the problem that even Tibetans have with the lack of spacing between printed words, which sometimes causes people to read suffixes for prefixes (and vice versa) among other things. Maher’s Elha Gyari should be E’ Lhagyari, Tögar Pön Gapzhi should be Tö Garpon Gapzhi, Gartong Tsen should be Gar Tongtsen  and Lhato Tori Nyentsen should be Lha-totori-Nyentsen.


Shakabpa, in the introduction to this book, is clear about his purpose in writing his history. He did not see it just as a “neutral” academic work but as a means of making the world understand the true independent status of Tibet. I may be challenged on this, but I am convinced that this patriotic declaration of intent gives Shakabpa’s work its intellectual clarity and strength. Whether you agree or disagree with him on this one or other statement or opinion, it is clear that Shakabpa has no hidden agenda, nor that he is laying claims to the kind of rarified objectivity that quite a few academics in Tibetan studies insist on making about their work, which I feel only serves to demonstrates the accuracy of Lun Xun’s observation that “whoever thinks he is objective must already be half drunk.”

Shakabpa in his introduction clearly tells us that the inspiration to write his history was a patriotic one. In January 1946 he traveled to India and Nepal with his family on a pilgrimage, at the cusp of the freedom struggle, the year before India became independent. Shakabpa was in Bombay at the time when the Congress organized a mammoth political rally at the Gateway of India where Nehru, Patel, Sarojini Naidu and other nationalist leaders addressed the enormous gathering. Shakabpa was profoundly moved by the experience, and by the passion and dedication of the Indian people. It was then that the idea of writing a political history of Tibet first began to take shape.

He had earlier, in 1931 as a junior official in Lhasa, been summoned by his uncle the senior minister Trimon, who presented him with a pristine khadag and a large collection of documents relating to the 1914 Simla conference, which Trimon had attended as assistant to the Prime Minister Shatra. After a long conversation Trimon told his young nephew that he should study these important documents and consider writing a political history of Tibet. Shakabpa mentions that he enjoyed reading biographies, histories and the Gesar epic, but he did not take his uncle’s request seriously at the time. His later Indian experience finally focused his mind on the idea of writing a political history of Tibet.

This is perhaps a convenient point to provide the reader a brief account of Shakabpa’s official career.  He became a tsepon or Finance Secretary, in 1939, and also headed the national mint at Drapchi. In 1947 he headed the Tibet Trade Mission that visited India, China, USA and Britain which had a “two-pronged aim to develop trade relations with the West as well as propagate (the fact of)  Tibet’s independence.”[3] He met and spoke with such world leaders as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Secretary of State General George Marshal, Prime Minister Clement Attlee, and also Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. In September 1950, Shakabpa was sent by the Tibetan government to open negotiations with China, to forestall the imminent invasion of Tibet by Communist China. But his efforts were to no avail and a month later on 6th October 1950 the PLA  attacked the small Tibetan force at Chamdo. Shakabpa remained in India after the invasion and began to write his political history.

In Kalimpong he also joined forces with Gyalo Thondup and another official and launched the “Tibetan Welfare Organization” to carry on the freedom struggle from outside. This clandestine organization managed to provide support to resistance groups within Tibet, and also made the first connection with the CIA. After the 1959 Uprising, Shakabpa and Gyalo Thondup travelled to New York to present Tibet’s case before the General Assembly of the United Nations. Through the sponsorship of Ireland and Malaya, and the support of the United States and other nations, three resolutions on Tibet were eventually passed. In 1963 Shakabpa resigned from official duties to complete his history. He died on February 23, 1989.

Rinchen Sadutsang, Shakabpa and Gyalo Thondup in New York



Because of Shakabpa’s “patriotic declaration of intent” that I mentioned earlier, and the deep love for Tibet that manifestly pervades his work, I have on occasion heard Shakabpa being referred to as a “nationalist historian”, with the unstated pejorative that accompanies the label. Besides the fact that patriotism is here being confused with nationalism, I think that such a viewpoint demonstrates a lack of understanding of the political mentality of people who lived in a pre-modern society. Orwell wrote that “… the abandonment of the idea that history could be truthfully written is peculiar to our own age” by which Orwell meant the age of modern nationalism – of Hitler, Stalin, even Mao – and by extension the present era of Chinese neo-nationalism: from the official minzuzhuyi to the fenqing phenomenon.

Shakabpa comes from an age far earlier than the period of the Great War that Orwell was discussing in that passage, not in time of course, but in the pre-industrial and medieval nature of traditional Tibetan society and government. Because Shakabpa is such a capable historian and moreover as his book first came out in English, many readers unconsciously assume that he was someone with a modern or Western education. And this where I find reading Shakabpa such a fascinating experience.

His patriotism is of an old fashioned kind, lacking the self-righteous vitriol of the modern nationalist. He is incapable of the kind of calculated dishonesty and aggressive, even abusive language that pervades present-day Chinese writing on Tibetan history. Shakabpa is so old world that when discussing the emperors of China, the leaders of the PRC, or even the much hated Manchu ambans, he provides proper titles and does not allow himself any passing barb or ideological labeling, so ubiquitous in “nationalist” historiography in general, and which at times, even slips through in Western academic writings on Tibet.

Shakabpa, like many other Lhasa aristocrats, seemed to have been involved in the factional politics of his time. In the forties he belonged to the group supporting the Taktra regency and was opposed to the former regent, Reting. Yet in his history he is conscientiously fair to both sides, as Hugh Richardson notes: “Tsipon Shakabpa, although to some extent parti pris as an important official and as a kinsman of the Changkyim bKa’-lon bla-ma whom the ex-regent had brusquely dismissed from office in 1940, provides well-informed and balanced information.”[4]

Later in Kalimpong, Shakabpa allied himself with the Dalai Lama’s brother Gyalo Thondup and they were sometimes in disagreement, if not competition, with the exiled Prime Minister Lukhangwa. Yet Shakabpa not only describes, at great length, the many occasions that Lukhangwa courageously stood up to the Communists in Lhasa but also his later work in Kalimpong in attempting to unify Tibetan refugees and exiles, and petitioning the government of India to allow the Dalai Lama sanctuary in India. I mention this since I had earlier written critically of the exile leadership (including Shakabpa and Gyalo Thodup) for its shabby treatment of Lukhangwa, especially during the period before his death.[5]

Corrections and revisions are part of any scholar’s intellectual regimen, though perhaps not to the point where one feels obliged to highlight earlier mistakes. But Shakabpa is painfully honest. One example, in the Advanced History Shakabpa “confesses” to an error in his previous work.  “I wrote that Regent Demo was susceptible to occasional mental disorders. That statement was mistaken. The person referred to as the ‘crazy Demo’ seems to have lived from 1825 until 1860. He did not serve as the regent.”[6]

The native historians we have had in the 20th century from Africa, India, the Middle East and even China, were (or are) all scholars educated in a modern if not Western milieu. Probably the only non-Western contemporary historian we have who was completely educated and formed in his own traditional society is Shakabpa. In this he is a rara avis, a curiosity, a genuine throwback to a pre-nationalistic age, where for all its many drawbacks, the idea “that history could be written truthfully…” as Orwell points out in his essay “Looking Back at the Spanish War”, … had not been entirely abandoned.


The fact of Shakabpa being a traditional historian is important for Tibetans to appreciate. It goes to demonstrate that, accomplished as Shakabpa was as a historian, he did not emerge from an intellectual vacuum. That, despite propaganda to the contrary, Tibet had a long and sophisticated tradition of history writing, on which, in large measure, Tsepon Shakabpa built his great work.

The late scholar on Tibet and Bhutan, Michael Aris of Oxford had this to say of the Tibetan historical tradition “… it is clear that, by comparison with many other peoples of the east or west, they (Tibetans) maintain a high level of historical consciousness and a deep sense of the vitality of the living past”.[7] He also points out the intellectual rigor of that tradition “For instance when writing his monumental history of Amdo, The Ocean Annals, (dhepter gyamtso) completed in 1865, the author Dra-gon Konchog,[8] provides a list of no less than six hundred or so sources he had consulted for this work.”

To get a feel for this enormous “ocean” (gyamtso) of indigenous historical writing one should browse through Tibetan Histories[9], by Dan Martin, a former student of Taktser Rimpoche and an accomplished Tibet scholar. This bibliography provide valuable information on over seven hundred Tibetan-language historical works. The listing does not include biographies, and old Tibetan works of historical nature and documentary sources generally referred to as the Dunhuang documents. This book is out of print but you can access it on Google books. The author has also worked on updating and correcting his opus, even adding another couple of hundred entries. Dan Martin also provides a useful breakdown of the various genres in Tibetan historical writing, which readers will find enlightening. Also invaluable in this regard is “Tibetan Historiography” by Leonard W.J. Van der Kuijp in the collection, Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, a recommended vade mecum for all Tibetan scholars, historians, poets and writers.

One of the reasons that led to Gibbon being called “the first modern historian of ancient Rome” was his unprecedented and extensive use of primary sources, among other things. Shakabpa’s work is invaluable to us because of the enormous archival sources he had access to (and which he fully utilized in his tome) and which probably no Tibetan historian till then, and certainly no Western scholar had had the opportunity to use. The most important of these are, of course, the various official archives in Lhasa and other centers and monasteries, now inaccessible to exile Tibetan and international scholars, but which in recent years have been partially and intermittently opened to a select few Chinese and Tibetan academics. Shakabpa also gained access to other sources such as the royal archives in Bhutan, Kathmandu and Sikkim, the Bihar Research Society Library in Patna, the National Archives in New Delhi, and other libraries and archives in London, New York, Washington D.C., and Paris.

Though a traditional scholar Shakabpa was able to personally meet and draw upon the knowledge of international experts as Peter Aufschnieter, the anthropologist Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, Hugh Richardson, R.A Stein, Guiseppe Tucci, Rahul Sankrityayan, Turrell Wylie and Luciano Petech. He also seems to have met such present-day scholars as Mathew Kapstein and David Jackson (both of whom pleasantly surprised him by speaking to him in Tibetan) and others.

Of course Shakabpa’s access to the important Tibetan personalities in modern Tibetan history was, enviably, in a class of its own. But he was even able to consult and discuss his work with a large number of great Tibetan scholars and historians. First of all there was his uncle the minister Trimon who was a participant in the Simla conference, as well as the 13th Dalai Lama’s physician Ngoshi Jampa Thubwang who accompanied His Holiness to Darjeeing. Later there were other eminent scholars as Trijang Rimpoche, Khunu Tenzin Gyaltsen Rimpoche, Dhingo Khentse Rimpoche, Dudjom Rimpoche, Banyak Athing, and many others that Shakabpa unfailingly acknowledges and thanks throughout his book.

Besides the affinity to Gibbon in his pioneering use of primary sources, Shakabpa’s history might be lauded for its literary merits. I am not qualified to make this evaluation but many Tibetan intellectuals whose judgment I respect, and indeed his own translator, were struck by how “The book is quite beautifully written, with rich poetic expression, extensive vocabulary, and often clever and amusing adages and similes. The Tibetan text makes very wide use of quotations, and so as the narrative moves through the centuries, it employs many distinct styles of Tibetan.”


Of course, as much as I do not read Tibetan well enough to appreciate Shakabpa’s qualities as a writer, there are many young Tibetans who would find it daunting, for one reason or the other to plough through the massive Advanced History, even in its English translation. For them and for all the older Tibetans who may be literate in their own language but find it difficult to read scholarly tomes, I can provide a solution that is not only convenient and enjoyable, but eminently traditional as well.

In 1985 Shakabpa gave a lengthy series of lectures at the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives (LTWA) at Dharamshala. For about two months, from March 22 to May 18 he lectured daily, probably from nine to three (four?) pm, five days a week. It wasn’t really a lecture series in the Western academic sense but more of an expository teaching, of the kind that Tibetan lamas give to their follower, where using a Buddhist work, say Nagarjuna’s Commentary on Bodhicitta (jangchup semdrel), the lama will read passages from the text and then launch into lengthy explanations.

I don’t know of any lama who has done this for approximately 250 near-continuous hours as Shakabpa did in Dharamshala. He read passages from his Advanced History and then analyzed and expounded on the events and personalities at length, and explained his source materials. He also went into lengthy discussions on controversies and even associated gossip and rumors, which he could not have included in his book. Unlike religious teachings, Shakabpa also took questions, first thing in the morning, on what he had discussed the previous day. It was all wonderfully fascinating stuff. And the very fortunate thing is that the LTWA made high quality audio recordings of this work, now available on DVD/CD.

I have downloaded the digital files on my IPod and listen to them when I’m at the gym or I am driving, especially long distances. I would strongly advise all Tibetans to buy the CD’s from Dharamshala. I know many Tibetans in Europe and America have parents who feel bored, lost and isolated living in the West. Even if, let us say,  your pala or amala may not be intellectually inclined, just hearing Shakabpa’s voice, his impeccable Tibetan and his Lhasa dialect, should give them much joy. He is not a dry-as-dust pedant, but someone with a great sense of fun, and a fund of amazing stories and anecdotes about their homeland, many of which they’ve probably never heard before. At one point Shakabpa even sings the old accountant’s song – for he had started his official career in the financial department. His voice quavers slightly, but considering his then 78 years, he manages surprisingly well. A notebook and pencil are essential for profitable listening. Just the incidental information he unconsciously drops throughout the lectures adds up to a treasure trove (ter-dzoe). Did you know bananas grew in Tibet and were called “hangla”?


I find it difficult to find fault with an author who has given me so much knowledge and even pleasure. Once upon a time I might have frowned on Shakabpa’s inclusion of dragons and snow-lions in his list of Tibetan fauna, but these days I am just delighted at the impressive textual references he unearths to support such improbabilities; one of them even being a pecha published by my grandfather, a biography of the 6th Dalai Lama, in which there is mention of one of his entourage seeing such a fabulous beast.

But if I have to take issue with Shakabpa on one thing, it is on his view that the “patron-priest” (cho-yon) relationship was a mutually beneficial alliance that a free and independent Tibet maintained with the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and later the Manchu Qing Dynasty. And that only during the latter period of the Manchu Empire and under the Nationalist government “a perverse understanding of the preceptor-patron relationship between China and Tibet developed,” and Tibet’s independent status was violated.

Of course, Shakabpa was unbending in his insistence on the issue of Tibetan independence, which is directly at odds with present day advocates of cho-yon who only require Tibet to be an “autonomous entity” within the PRC. Nonetheless, what Shakabpa fails to grasp is that such a relation between a militarily and economically powerful empire and a weaker dependent state, even if the latter received some form of spiritual consideration, even respect, is essentially a relationship between unequal partners, hence a relationship between an overlord power and a protectorate or a colony.

Of course, there were instances in the relationship, as between the Ming court and the 5th Karmapa, when Chinese sovereignty over Tibet was non-existent, as the authoritative scholar on Sino-Tibetan relations, Elliot Sperling, pointed out to me. We also have the historical case that official exile publications often cite, where the Shunzhi emperor received the 5th Dalai as an equal sovereign. But such instances were the exception. The overriding reason why such a pernicious relationship as the patron-priest institution was accepted on the Tibetan side, besides the fact of China’s military dominance, was the economic and political advantages it conferred on the Tibetan clergy.

But Shakabpa as a traditional scholar, steeped in his Tibetan Buddhist beliefs, regarded the relationship as a unique one without parallel in Western history, and that “…(the) Westerners’ manner of approaching political affairs cannot explain this situation.” Shakabpa may be excused for this conviction as even a European writing on Tibetan history as Michael Van Walt claims that Tibet’s Cho-Yon relationship with the Yuan and Qing was sui generis, or without origins in any other system. Van Walt cites Shakabpa, but perhaps a reading of European history would have been in order.

Theodor Mommsen in discussing the Roman province of Judaea noted that the region “… had long before the Roman period developed under the government of the Selucids the so-called Mosaic theocracy, a clerical corporation with the high priest at its head, which, acquiescing in foreign rule and renouncing the formation of a state guarded the distinctiveness of its adherents, and dominated them under the aegis of the protecting power.”[10] Then we have the long conflict between the papacy and the Holy Roman Empire, and every other possible variation on the patron-priest relationship being played out in European politics, up to the time of Mussolini and the Lateran Treaties (1929) when the sovereignty, power and position of the Holy See was finally settled, ending the “Roman Question.”


The most hostile and extensive body of critical writing on Shakabpa’s history has come largely from inside the PRC. In exile society there was, for a time, much show of appreciation for the man and his work but little intellectual discussion. In the last couple of decades, he has been studiously ignored. The Tibetan world these days is one filled with awards and honors, but I don’t think Shakabpa ever received anything, official or otherwise. Hence this review essay is my one-man Festschrift for Tibet’s greatest modern historian. Perhaps I should use the term Gedenkschrift, since this is more in the way of a memorial than a celebration.

Such a memorial, recalling his unequaled contribution to Tibetan historiography is necessary since he was attacked, posthumously, a few years ago, with a degree of viciousness and dishonesty that even his Communist Chinese critics could not quite achieve. A former member of the exile-parliament and scholar from Amdo, Hortsang Jigme, accused Shakabpa, in print[11], of basing his entire history on writings and manuscripts stolen from the great Amdo scholar and poet, Gendun Chophel (GC). He claims that the aristocrat Kapshopa had acquired drafts of GC’s historical texts and had divided up these copies of GC’s writings with Shakabpa who used them in his Political History.  Hortsang Jigme does not provide anything in the way of credible evidence to back up his claims.  One  “proof” he offers is that that the full title of GC’s work is The White Annals: A History of Greater Tibet as Concerns its Political Traditions, but that strangely enough Shakabpa’s work “…has the title Tibet: A Political History, on the cover of his book”. The irrefutable connection between the two books presumably being the two words “political” and “history”.  Hortsang Jigme sarcastically remarks “…isn’t this a sign of knowing how to steal, but not knowing how to cover it up.”  The overall language and reasoning of Hortsang Jigme’s diatribe serves only to remind us of the nastiness, the dishonesty  and the mind-numbing inanity of Cultural Revolution rhetoric, that even after four decades still unfortunately lingers on in Tibetan political and intellectual discourse.

Simpleminded Tibetans believe that GC had built an airplane out of leather and wood and even flown it over the Jangthang. Within this corpus of fantastic tales about GC, is one that he had written a political history of Tibet that absolutely and incontrovertibly proved Tibet’s independence and which on production before the UN would have compelled China to leave Tibet. Tragically this history was lost or stolen. Even some educated Tibetans buy into this story, or at least a part of it. Samten Norboo who translated the White Annals into English mentions in his introduction that “According to the testimony of Professor Ngawang Jinpa of St.Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, this large compilation had been completed and the manuscript in the custody of Mr. Ma-nang A-po, an associate of the author. Unfortunately we have lost track of the manuscript, following the demise of Mr.A-po.”[12]

Probably the most authoritative account of GC’s life during this tragic period is the one written by Sherab Gyatso, who was his student, close friend and constant companion, especially during the last years of his life.[13] (Note: this is not the geshe Sherab Gyatso who was GC’s dialectics teacher at Drepung)  “This biography has been cited by Western and Tibetan scholars who have written about GC’s life and works.”[14] Sherab Gyatso mentions that GC’s aristocratic patron and close friend Horkhang, put together and copied such works as the White Annals from GC’s notes and jottings. During his imprisonment GC sent a message to Horkhang telling him to stop his copying and write at the end of the history, “The unfinished composition of the Tibetan history is concluded for the time being.”[15] No further reference is to made to the history by Sherab Gyatso. There are only two other biographical accounts of GC by people who actually knew him personally and were around him during this period. One is by his student and patron Horkhang (who published The White Annals), and the other Rakra Thupten Chodar, an incarnate lama who studied under him. Both biographies make no mention of GC’s manuscript being stolen, much less by Shakabpa.

Sherab Gyatso only mentions Shakabpa once and that in a very positive light “One day I received a letter from prison. GC had written, ‘I have heard that Shakabpa is well acquainted with Tagdra (the regent). See if you can ask for my release through him.’ I visited Shakabpa, who said, ‘The case has been sent to Neushar Thuptan Tharpa, the official of the Foreign Affairs office. Now it won’t take long.’ Just as he said GC got out of prison after about seven or eight days.”[16]

Sherab Gyatso mentions what happened after his friend’s release “At about this time, the cabinet of the Tibetan Government gave GC a coupon to get three khal of grain and a little money for tea and butter per month.”[17].

Professor Donald Lopez who has authored two books on GC’s writings does not mention any official conspiracy to steal GC’s manuscript or to prevent him from writing his history. Lopez states that after GC was released from prison “The government eventually provided him with rooms behind the Jokhang, above the Ministry of Agriculture, along with a stipend of money and grain, with the instruction that he resume work on The White Annals. He did not do so. Anecdotes from this period deal for the most part with his heavy drinking…”[18]

But the most convincing argument against GC’s work being stolen by Shakabpa is that whatever historical material GC had, and whatever he had written, was exclusively about the early imperial age. Shakabpa on the other hand only devotes one chapter to this period. In this chapter his sources are the standard Tibetan histories, and Western and Chinese sources. On a number of occasions he quotes from Gedun Chophel’s White Annals, and respectfully refers to the author as “khewang” or “great scholar”. The bulk of Shakabpa’s history, is based on archival material, which he had access to as an official, and which Gedun Chophel as a “mendicant” poet and scholar from distant Amdo, absolutely did not.

Why didn’t the government-in-exile speak out against this attack on its official history and official historian? In 1988, Shakabpa, in the most respectful way possible, expressed his disagreement with the Strasburg Statement. I was told he was in tears when he heard that the Dalai Lama had surrendered the cause of an independent Tibet. That same year he and another scholar, Yonten Gyatso, co-authored a small booklet that they printed and secretly distributed throughout Tibet, “urging the Tibetan people to continue their struggle for independence”.[19] In the atmosphere of sycophancy and intrigue in Dharamshala, such an initiative could have been deliberately misconstrued as “opposing the Dalai Lama” (Gyalwa Rimpoche la ngogoe), and it is possible that the attack on Shakabpa had official approval, if not encouragement. Another Tibetan who opposed the Strasburg Statement (namely myself) was also attacked by Hortsang Jigme, this time in a pamphlet in 2003.[20] This publication even featured an official introduction by the kashag secretariat, seal and all.


Hence Shakabpa’s history can be read not merely as a record of the past but as a powerful revolutionary document, that even now, twenty-two years after the author’s death, is deeply disturbing to Beijing, and which frustrates and confounds those Tibetans attempting a final handover of Tibetan sovereignty to China.

One reason why so many in exile seem so unconcerned, so blasé about giving up the struggle for independence stems, in large part, from their appalling ignorance of Tibet’s history. It is not just that history was and is so badly taught in Tibetan schools, but also arises from the near absence (these days) of history being valued as an intellectual or literary activity. If you go to the website of the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, our premier academic institution, you will find it divided into ten departments, including even a Science department – but no History.

It is this ignorance of, even contempt for, history which I feel is the source of those bizarre statements emanating from the likes of our former prime-minister Samdong Rimpoche, as that “the Tibetan issue is the internal affair of China”,  and from the Dalai Lama that Tibet had to be a part of China because it was a “landlocked country.” In the past the Gelukpa church regarded history as an unnecessary distraction, and discouraged monks and geshes from reading historical works. When His Holiness visited Paris in 1984 he was received by such eminent French Tibetologists as R.A. Stein, Madame Macdonald and others at the Institut National des Langues et Cultures Orientales (INALCO), one of France’s grands établissements. They showed him the research they had been conducting on ancient Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang, a specialty field of French scholars in the world of Tibetan Studies. His Holiness, I believe, told them that it would be more useful if they studied Buddhist texts.

I began this long essay by describing how Shakabpa’s history seemed to have helped awaken all those people in Tibet who had been reduced to a “catatonic”, or to put it in Buddhist terms a near “yidak” or “preta”, condition under Communist indoctrination and oppression. But it has become evident that since 1987, 1989, 2008, and now this year,  the people in Tibet are all wide-awake. Their courage, commitment and sacrifices have more than demonstrated this to the whole world.

This time around it is those of us in exile (especially the leadership) who need to be awakened from our current sleep-walk along a very treacherous path. But, of course, there is no need to look far for a bracing wake-me-up and a fresh set of directions. In the last line of the author’s preface, Shakabpa tells us exactly what he wants his history to accomplish: “It is my fondest wish that this book will be like a compass that indicates the path to recovering our independence.”

(This essay was written during my residency at the International Writer’s Program at the University of Iowa. I would like to thank the Writer’s Program and the Shelly & Donald Rubin Foundation, for their support. Professor Elliot Sperling took time off from his busy schedule to go through my work and offer valuable criticism and suggestions.)



[1] Chinese Communist propaganda has, on little evidence, insisted on describing traditional Tibetan society as a “slave society.” Marxist theory of historical materialism identifies five successive stages of human history, the second stage being “slave society”. Since pre-revolutionary China was, according to official Communist doctrine, on the more advanced third stage of “feudalism”, Tibet could be depicted as being an entire historical stage behind China – even feudal China.

[2] I received this information in a telephone conversation with Dzachutsang Sonam Topgyal, a former prime-minister of the exile government, who was the secretary of the Department of Information of the exile government, when Tibet first began to open up in the mid eighties.

[3] Karma Gyatsho, “Tsepon Wangchuk Deden shakabpa (1908-89): A Brief Biography”, Tibet Journal, Vol XVI  No.2 Summer 1991, Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamshala.

[4] H.E Richardson “The Ra-sgreng Conspiracy of 1947”, in Tibetan Studies in Honour of Hugh Richardson. Proceedings of the International Seminar on Tibetan Studies Oxford 1979. Editors Michael Aris and Aung San Suu Kyi, Aris & Philips Ltd. Warminister England, 1980.

[5] Jamyang Norbu, “Moulting of the Peking Duck”, Tibetan Review, April 1979.

[6] Shakabpa, One Hundred Thousand Moons: An Advanced Political History of Tibet, Brill Tibetan Studies Library, Leiden, 2010. p. 565

[7] Dan Martin (with Yael Bentor), Tibetan Histories: A Bibliography of Tibetan-Language Historical Works, Serindia, London, 1997.

[8] Brag-dgon Dkon-mchog-bstan-pa-rab-rgyas (b. 1800/ 1-1866), Deb-ther Rgya-mtsho (A mdo Chos-‘byung, Yul Mdo-smad-kyi Ljongs-su thub-bstan Rin-po-che Ji-ltar Dar-ba’I tshul Gsal-bar brjod-pa deb-ther Rgya-tsho). Published with Added English title: The Ocean Annals of Amdo, ed. By Lokesh Chandra (new Delhi 1975), in 3 volumes.

[9] Dan Martin. Ibid.

[10] Theodor Mommsen, The Provinces of the Roman Empire. First published 1885, republished 1909, Barnes & Noble, USA, Page 161.

[11] Hortsang Jigme, Drang den gyis lus pae slong mo wa. (The Beggar Beguiled by Truth), Chapter 16. “A Brief Inquiry Into the Question of Who Wrote Tibet: A Political History.”

[12] Samten Norboo, The White Annals (translation) LTWA Dharamshala, 1978. p 11.

[13] Irmgard Mengele, dGe-‘dun-chos-‘phel: A Biography of the 20th-Century Tibetan Scholar, Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, Dharamshala, 1999. This work is based on the biography of Gedun Chophel written by Sherab Gyatso in 1972 and published in the Biographical Dictionary of Tibet and Tibetan Buddhism, Dharamshala, 1973 .

[14] Mengele, p. 17

[15] Mengele p. 74

[16] Mengele. p. 68

[17] Mengele. p.72

[18] Donald S. Lopez Jr. The Madman’s Middle Way. University of Chicago Press, 2006. P45.

[19] Tsipon Shakabpa, & Yonten Gyatso, The Nectar of the Immortal Gods Inducing Recollection in the Bretheren Living at Home in the the Three Provinces of Tibet and Living in Exile. Published by the authors and distributed secretly in Tibet. 1988.

[20] Hortsang Jigme, Jam dbyangs nor bu rjes ‘brang dang bcas pa’i grib ma dgrar lang la brtags pa’i tshoms, Dharamshala, 2003.


138 Replies to “Shakabpa and the Awakening of Tibetan History”

  1. I am no historian.

    Who can deny 6 million first hand witness to Tibet’s sovereign state ?? Except in court of this Chinese Regime.

    China, Tibetans may be weak by your defination, but we will never accept “Tibet was part of China” We lost our country to you, thats the only fact.



  2. Great info. Before now I’ve had only a sketchy knowledge of someone so integral to Tibet’s resistance. Would love to hear his lectures, but can’t find on the LTWA website. Is there a link to buy a download/CD? Or can they only be bought in Dharamsala?

  3. Publishers in west are major part of corporate greed, but they hardly get mentioned.

    The cost of China’s Tibet Policy, the last book by late Prof. Dr Dawa Norbu before his untimely demise, is not as high as Shakapa’s above mentioned book, but it’s way beyond my budget, and I’m sure many Tibetans like me. The last time I checked in Amazon it was sold for $170! Does anyone know if the China’s Tibet Policy was published by Rupa or any other indian publisher?

  4. wow…Jamyang Norbu la….you are still wasting your life in the history…i think, you should wake up what is going on now….otherwise you should research and analyze little bit more about the current history since 1950s….

  5. “For them and for all the older Tibetans who may be literate in their own language but find it difficult to read scholarly tomes, I can provide a solution that is not only convenient and enjoyable, but eminently traditional as well.”

    i think you set up this blog with a commitment to provide a solution to Tibetan issue. where is the solution? chalktibet? & more sites?

  6. A brilliant review of Shakabpa’s immensely important history! Well done, Jamyang, as only you can do. It is true that the two volumes published by Brill are too expensive for almost anyone except university libraries, which is why I have repreatedly appealed to SFT to have its member chapters request that it be purchased for their libraries. University libraries are usually very responsive to such requests from student associations. In this way Shakabpa could be made available for students, including Tibetans and Brill might see some return for its efforts. Brill’s publications on Tibet are way too expensive for most individuals but they publish many works that would never be published otherwise. The quality of their books as well as the prices indicate that they are aimed at the university library market. Also applaud Jamyang’s suggestion that many Tibetans, young and old, would be thrilled to hear the recordings of Shakabpa’s lectures.

  7. Shakapa’s Bod kyi srid don rgyal rabs is the first comprehensive history book of Tibet that had not only awaken Tibetans from their sleep but it also played a significant role in encouraging many Tibetans both inside and outside Tibet to appreciate and love their history. However, the most important contribution of this book lie in setting as a model for writing modern Tibetan historiography which deviates greatly from the norms of traditional monastic style of writing Tibetan history. One can also say the same with the Gendun Choephel’s Deb ther dkar po, although it was only limited to Tibet’s imperial history.

  8. wow,jamyang la,such an eminent job you have done..
    But who doesn’t know the facts about the independent Tibet before we adopted THE STRASBOUG PROPOSAL OF MIDDLE WAY APPROACH in 1988..We don’t have options.
    It is a tragedy;;;;;;;;;;which country in the world will take initiatives and take interest to rewind the history and bring our independences.
    It’s better we must learn from our mistakeS that

  9. Rangyul #6: You’re so right! HHDL proposed much better solutions to the Tibetan issue; “befriend with Chinese”, “hope for the best, prepare for the worst”… All very good plans of actions, isn’t it? Well… actually, after a second analysis, I think I prefer JN’s ideas…!

  10. Thanks scholar Jamyang Norbu La for coming up with this painstakingly compulsive writing that I take to my heart as the timely ‘unbiased’ testimony, memorial for our late great historian, Shakabpa Chok. Through reading this illuminating piece I couldn’t resist yielding to the simmering sadness and frustration towards our such filthy way, such ill-honoring a master-spirit by succumbing to the dooming internal strife, divisive factional bigotries that cost us the heaviest price ever. But the fact of our exile government’s apathetic silence or indifference to such case, here attacking an official historian by an internal bigot without any concrete ground, like covertly supporting is really tear-shedding–yet asleep. Yes, as it’s the case, the internal attack, but here groundless, can be the most formidable ever. Yeah, willing to ruin completely, at intellectually nil level, is to ruin internally not by an external force like PLA.

    Thanks for re-awakening! It can be the case of our being senselessly and easily adaptable for lacking a true ‘sense of history’.

    Thanks so much!

  11. Being born in India and not knowing the history of Tibet as well as i should, i am grateful for all this information that gives me better understanding of my Phayul!! Thank you, Jamyang-la!!

  12. An Excellent orientation to our true ‘sense of history’ (11).

    I agree with your statement: “The fact of Shakabpa being a traditional historian is important for Tibetans to appreciate. It goes to demonstrate that, accomplished as Shakabpa was as a historian, he DID NOT emerge from an INTELLIGENT VACCUUM. That, despite propaganda to the contrary, Tibet had a long and sophisticated tradition of history writing, on which, in large measure, Tsepon Shakabpa built his great work”.

    I’ve been able to appreciate & enjoy works of many Non Tibetans proficient in Tibetan whose scholarship & research (in English) have been based on these “traditional writings”. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find topics of studies related to histories of far flung areas of Eastern Tibet.
    Also I like the differentiation you make between ‘modern nationalism’ (Hitler, Stalin, Mao) & ‘old fashioned patriotism’!

  13. Real Awakening?

    Real awakening will come if you read Gendun Chophel’s White Annals. To me, he is the greatest of modern Tibetan historians. According to Samten Karmay, he was the first Tibetan historian who analyzed the inscriptions written on the ancient pillars (Doring) in Lhasa. He also consulted ancient Tunhuang documents as sources for his work.

    Dhondup Gyal, the father of modern Tibetan poetry, revered the White Annals. Apart from Gendun Chophel, Gyal admired, like Jamyang, the great Chinese writer Lu Xun.

    Most of the present young writers in Tibet who are at the forefront of intellectual battle against the Chinese colonial onslaught are very much inspired by Gendun Chophel’s idea. The poet Mechey, who is now put in prison by the Chinese, wrote a poem titled ‘Seeing Gendun Chophel from afar.’

    I don’t have evidence to claim that Shakaba’s political history was stolen from Gendun Chophel’s White Annals, but if you can read and feel Tibetan literature, if you have Tibetan literary consciousness, you will see lots of similarities in the literary style of both these works – particularly some of the lines of the early chapters of Shakapba’s dealing with Tibetan antiquity, such as the origin of the word ‘Tibet’ and the Tibetan people, appears to have been lifted straight from GC’s.

    Had Jamyang been taught well in Tibetan literature, he might have some reservations regarding his total faith in Shakaba’s.

    Nevertheless Jamyang is absolutely right when he says that one of the main reasons why Tibetans easily give up claim for our independence is because of the lack of clear awareness and learning of our history.

    Few weeks back I had a chat with one of the Tibetan teachers who taught in CST Mussorie. He said to me that Gendun Chophel’s White Annals is no more part of the Tibetan school curriculum!

    Hail to our collective AMNESIA!

  14. @ Nyeji Well I do agree with Jamyang Norbu as his powerful narration supported by chain of fact and truth is undeniable.

    It is indeed true that scholars in Tibet take inspirational notes from Gendun Choepgel and Dhondup Gyal but it is not sheer because of its vital historical coverage and Immaculate historical fact. Shakapa Scholar work was banned and unable to reach the masses in the Tibet and the consequent is the lost of intellectual enhancement in Tibet.

    Dhondup Gyal is amazing modern poet and not established historian so his reverence to White Annals has lesser significant with JN’s claim.
    It is universal truth that same Subject always coming up with similarity but reader should read in right sense. no speculation.

    Jamyang Norbu did not get chance to study Tibetan language That is true, he was saying that in one of his inspiring talk in San Francisco in 2009 . But his knowledge of Tibetan history is out weight of Those who had learnt Tibetan. so I do believe what he say is the the most reasoning one.
    Is Exile Tibetan school curriculum a subtle one to depend on?

  15. Dear Nyingjey la, you wrote “Shakapba’s dealing with Tibetan antiquity, such as the origin of the word ‘Tibet’ and the Tibetan people, appears to have been lifted straight from GC’s.”

    Of course it does appear to have been lifted straight from GC, because Shakabpa is actually quoting GC verbatim. He writes “However, Drenwang Gendun Chopel la gave evidence that “Bhota” came from the word “Bo.” How ever he also quotes “Khunu Gen Tendzin Gyaltsen cited Situ Tenpe Nyinje to assert that “Bo” came from “Bhota”. (pg5). He quotes from Gedun Chophel on a number of other places also. It is clear that he admired and respected GC. And perhaps his reading of GC’s White Annals, influenced his style. I think that GC admirers should regard that as a complement, and not accuse (directly or indirectly) people who quote from GC or share his ideas as plagiarists or criminals. Creating a cult of Gedun Chophel is not a constructive way of honoring his memory.

  16. After reading Jamyang Norbu’s essay, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to read Shakabpa’s work before too long. Maybe one of the universities in this area has it or will get it. On the topic of Tibetan history and the Dunhuang manuscripts, HH Chetsang Rinpoche has written a history of the Tibetan empire up through the time of Langdarma, which I think is largely based on those manuscripts, and an English translation of which became available last summer from Vajra Publications. I have not had a chance to read this yet, either, but wonder if Jamyang la or anyone here has, and what you may think of it (before I decide whether to part with the $65 – this one isn’t cheap, either.) A related lecture Chetsang R. gave at the Rubin Museum can be seen here:

  17. The Tibetan version of Shakabpa’s history is magnificiently written. His work is truely unparalleled in so many levels, that makes him the greatest modern Tibetan historian, without any doubt.

  18. Where can I get Shakhapa’s book of ONE HUNDRED THOUSAND MOONS – AN ADVANCED POLITICAL HISTORY OF TIBET in India? It is unavailable in India, as far as I know. But I dont know whether I could afford to buy it.

    And more precious is the book called CHINA’S TIBET HISTORY written by Prof Dawa Norbu, which I tried in every nook to find it but in vain. One time, during the book exhibition in Delhi at 50 years of Exile, I saw it, but it is not for sale. I think since the first print, no other print has been done. So, we Tibetan should tried to find the way to print this precious book from exile India.

    Thank you Jamyang Norbu for your work on this research and analysis.

  19. Jamyang,

    I am not trying to create a ‘personality cult’ out of GC. He is not beyond criticism. No one is. I feel GC hasn’t got his due recognition in the Tibetan society, especially in exile Tibetan society, who are very much afraid of his revolutionary ideas.

    For instance, his poetry is still not taught in the schools, his Ludrup Gongyal is banned in Sera, Drepung and Ganden monasteries, and as I said in my previous comment, now his White Annals has been removed from the school syllabus.

    Young intellectuals in Tibet are inspired by GC, because he was an iconoclast, who stood up against authorities and dogmas.

    Shakabpa, great he was as a politician/statesman, was still very much part of the institution or powers that be, with all the intrigues and lies and corruption involved.

    It is my sincere hope that exile Tibetans will find GC one day.

    Shakabpa’s Tibetan literary skills resembles very much with GC’s. They almost sound same to my ears. It could be inspiration as you said or it could be otherwise.

    I am still open!

    And I spell my name as NYINJEY (in wylie nyin byed) not NYEJI as one of the readers wrote, nor NYINGJEY, as Jamyang wrote.

    Name/identity matters!

  20. Tibetans should celebrate and be proud of the great historical legacy left behind by your own native historian. It is an embarassment to your people to discover characters like Tenzin Nyingjey, who do little to make your people proud of their contributions to your society.

  21. There is a two volume set rejoinder (to this work) written by Wang Göd and Sherap Nyima et el., published in 1995 by Mirik Petun Khang, China: “Böjong gi logyu gobab cheshib”.

    A review of above volumes on this blog by the same reviewer would make a really exciting reading!

  22. David Coon,

    I respect (proud) Tibetan historians, but I try not to indulge in self congratulations or worse triumphalism. I am deeply critical, about myself and others as well.

    You also misspelled my name! Sign of misunderstanding and misjudging me?

    Best wishes.

  23. Nyinjey,
    Since you don’t have prove that Shakabpa plagiarise and Jamyang clariified, lets appreciate and celerate the fact that we have two great historians. Why bad mouth one against other.

  24. Wow. I need to reread this article, like, ten times.

    It is such a shame the book is so costly – isn’t there some way we can lobby for a reprint or something?

  25. #26

    Propose Motilal Benarasidass for Asian version and that is going to be really cheap.

    Why not go for the Tibetan version from Sherig Parkhang on a price which is more or less free?

  26. For me only the greatest gift of ‘right tone’ counts, including other artistic merits, for valuing a master spirit. So, as surfaced above, both GC and DG belong to the same category as our beloved and respected master-spirits for bearing the same quality.

    My high reservation for those a few these days crippled yet pompously deluded with such high illusions that only blind rather than seeing further. So the case of many half-baked writers these days but in fact at the stage of just beginning–how such noble task is underestimated. To hone, to strike from the right motive with the given gifted intuition, to stick to it as the essence of one’s life, to enjoy rather than endure, to aim high rather than low like for instant fame are ignored so knowingly–they may know how to preach so, I presume.

    Those with the self-given credit should come out better, not infested with this shortsightedness of ours. A man of letters’ life, the hardest one, can’t be taken for granted thus as there are more brilliant public out there.

    Be honed unbiased first!

  27. Hi CE,
    where are you now absconded when the history is revealing?………
    everyone wants to hear from you now?any thing to tell..or
    Learn the true phases of Tibet’s authentic…’s for free..

  28. Aku Tonpa,

    Yes Shakapba is a great modern Tibetan historian. No doubt about that. His work has given me a lot of pride in our history.

  29. Dolma, friendo, I care little for the irrelevant writings of a dead Tibetan. The history captured certainly is interesting, but it has no effect on the situation today. Lest you lose yourself in the past, allow me to remind you: the Simla Accord was still signed (although only initialed by the Chinese), The Golden Urn is still in Beijing, and most importantly, the PAP is still operating in an internationally recognized part of China, a place called Tibet. You can find it on any modern map, it’s in the western portion of the PRC, solidly within its borders.

    So Dolma, in regard to what I have written above, which FACT do you care to debate(bullshit)?

  30. many of the Tibetan intellectuals claimed that so-called Tibetan Political History is formerly written by the Gedun Choephel…..
    it seems true as we can see from the introduction of his motivation which spurred by his uncle while presenting him a lot of documents——–“He had earlier, in 1931 as a junior official in Lhasa, been summoned by his uncle the senior minister Trimon, who presented him with a pristine khadag and a large collection of documents relating to the 1914 Simla conference, which Trimon had attended as assistant to the Prime Minister Shatra. After a long conversation Trimon told his young nephew that he should study these important documents and consider writing a political history of Tibet. ”
    I think it’s clear that it is true.
    How do u think JN?

  31. As far as I’m concerned, Shakabpa Dhampa is only second to the precious ONE we have today. My 92 year old father, a former resident of Kalimpong, who is much interested in our history, culture, religion, etc. has nothing but praises for the great Dhampa — a true Quewang or great scholar — evidenced by his voluminous literature on Tibet in addition to numerous lectures and endeavors. It is said he yearned always Tibet’s independance, and he endeavored for it till the sunset of his life. Indeed, a MENTOR.

    I also admire and respect GC who was a genious substantiated by his numerous feats, but not a statesman. GC was bitterly against a piece of real estate that we ceded to British India in a classic quid pro quo deal during the Simla Convention of 1914, with the aim to further galvanize our independant status. As a die-hard patriot, GC revelled against the ceding of some teritories south of the McMahon line, which the Chinese are making a big fuss today, elevating India’s anxiety. And, GC paid the price for it though unjustly. Please excuse me for straying a little off track on this.

    Aslo, it’s not so much many of our folks and those in the exile government service don’t know much of our history, but it’s they don’t know what they don’t know relating to our history. To say history is important is an understatement
    cause the present is the past.

    Now,if I’m to get the Shakabpa’s two volumes under $150.00, I’m willing to buy it right now; mailing included. If that’s possible please let me know.

    Ajo Che, SoCal

  32. Whoever they might be now, but they certainly were not able to prevent Tibet being at the current state. Lets not do heavy puja unnecessarily or else shall become” ranghi ranghi chak..tsokpey kup chak”.

  33. I was fortunate enough to get a used (but new condition) copy of the history for a savings of 100 USD off the list price, and the mailing cost was very cheap. So I still feel a little smug even after all the complaints I’ve heard here. It’s worth it! Stop whining and get a job to pay for it, will you people? It’s only a month’s wages. (Excuse me, but I’ve got to make this short or I’ll be late for my Occupy protest.)

    Nyinjey (I hope I spelled your name right) said, “According to Samten Karmay, he was the first Tibetan historian who analyzed the inscriptions written on the ancient pillars (Doring) in Lhasa.”

    I feel sure S.K. didn’t say exactly this, since I have no doubt at all that he’s aware that the author of the Khepe’i Gatön (Mkhas-pa’i Dga’-ston) as well as Kathok Rinzin Tsewang Norbu were readers and studiers of inscriptions (not the only ones, but anyway the more prominent among the historians who did so) who not only quoted but made use of the Doring inscriptions in their writings.

    For the entertainment of Tibetan readers, I’d much recommend going to this website for the Bodleian Library where you can see a manuscript that could have been (I’m not completely sure of it) scribed by/for Tsewang Norbu (1698-1755) himself. To see it (photos of Hugh Richardson’s photos of the original manuscript that may exist somewhere) go here:

    Or if that doesn’t work, just go to the following URL, then put “Richardson” in the search box.

    History matters more than anything else in the world… except, of course to those to whom it doesn’t.

    Thanks for a thoughtful and as always excellently written essay, Jamyang-laa!


  34. @chineseengineer

    “it’s in the western portion of the PRC, solidly within its borders.”

    Can’t be that solid since the PRC keeps publishing maps with endlessly different borders.

  35. I never heard of any other books written by Shakapa, which really prooves he was not a scholar. However, suddenly he came out with a history book claiming he wrote it. It raises many questiions how he wrote it….why there is no other books he produced? It is like a student who never wrote an essay in the school, one day the student participated in an essay context, he got a distinguished result…isnt hilarious? Surely, this kind of doubt and questions will be dismissed by defenders of well-off groups for names and others for their specific interest. Gendun Choephel was a real scholar, he produced at 40 books in Tibetan, also translated couple from Indian to Tibetan and translated from Tibetan English. The poetic style of Gechoe la is well know, so he wrote the history in such a manner as well. We all know, Gechoe was imprisoned, who knows what happenned to his writings? We are told that GC was imprisoned by Tibetan Government. Tibetan government? Wait…it is an axcuse for protecting real people who has interest, stake, and powers….then who are the people? Well, ultimately, it is aristocrosy or the elite group or upper strata who maintains power and enforce their power onto people. Does it make any sense? Who is shakapa? of course of one of stake-holder of the so called Tibetan government… many books did he produce beside Political history of Tibet? None….how many poetries did he write? None? Is he a geshe? No…..Then how come he not only able to write a history…but with a scholarly style and prose? well…..this is the controversy….keep going on folks…..dont close the chapters and hand down verdict…..keep searching and keep asking questions……dont dismiss my doubts as being jealousy or whatever Tibetans online frds fond of when accussing others…..The reasons given in favor of Shakapa and dismissing the “distant amdo scholar” does not ring true to my ears…..


  36. One does not need to produce “quantity” of books to prove to be a scholar. It is the quality of ones work that matters, and not quantity to demostrate scholarship. It is not how long one can live, but how well you live your life. Its typical of our Tibetan mentality to place quantity over quality. For example when I have completed a retreat, I am always asked “so how many manis did you count”, instead of being asked “how was the quality of your retreat”. It is the quality of the retreat experience that counts, and not how many prayers you mumbled. Besides, Shakabpa had devoted a large portion of his life time as a government official, in the act of service for his country. He could not afford the leisurely time off as a wandering poet or mendicant or traveller, producing books and poems left and right. Hence, Mendawa Khepa Chempo Shakabpa was even compelled to obtain official leave from his duties to complete the historical writing of the great political history of Tibet. On the other hand, I have the highest respect for Khewang Gendun Choepel, whose books I cherish and honour yet it is unfortunate that such unfounded and outrageous accusations of Shakabpa plagiarising Khewang Gendun Choepel’s works by Alak Jigme Hortsang, has sadly ignorant and uneducated people beleiving whatever they want to hear without any regard to academic evidentiary and scholarship.

  37. “how many books did he produce beside Political history of Tibet? None”

    Two I know of:

    and an article:

    The Rise of Changchub Gyaltsen and the Phagmo Drupa Period. Bulletin of Tibetology, n.s. vol. 1 (1981), pp. 23-32.

    I think he spent almost all of his time working on one book, something that isn’t at all unheard of in literary history. I have no compelling reason to believe or disbelieve stories that someone besides himself played an important role in its writing. I’d like to see more forensic evidence first.


  38. There need be no doubt of the Tsipon’s sole authorship. I was not planning to mention this, but I personally heard an attestation by the late Tibetologist Turrell V. (“Terry”) Wylie of the University of Washington. Professor Wylie, previously known for his great work on traditional Tibetan geographical science, once mentioned collaborating with Shakabpa on the English language abbreviated version published by Yale University Press. That would explain, among other things, the omission of references to putatively mythological beasts.

  39. “…GC hasn’t got his due recognition in the Tibetan society, especially in exile Tibetan society, who are very much afraid of his revolutionary ideas.” (#20).

    It is a kind of interesting issue, as it comes over and again in various occasions. This comment does not aim at or against anybody. It is just a side talk with some information. (Thanks to the blog owner for the space.)

    The above quote speaks of the “due recognition” that Gendun Chopel was entitled to did not dawn upon him. There are others who say that he was not credited (the way he must have been) by the people to whom Gedun Chopel offered his scholarly assistance. A certain writer who worked on Gedun Chopel’s the “Song of Impermanence” is of the opinion that this song contains the latter’s anguish over such treatments.

    The author of the “…Hundred Thousand Moons…” (HTM) seems to have treated Gendun Chopel in a very civilised way, and therefore he must not be considered as someone who fall under above categories. The HTM’s author has addressed Gedun Chopel calling him “Drenwang Gendun Chopel”. He has used the adjective “drenwang” instead of the more usual way of addressing a scholar, “khewang”. Of course, drenwang also has the same meaning as that of khewang, but it also connotes a little more than what khewang does. It means “genius”. So he really has placed Gedun Chopel right on the top.

    Perhaps, it is true that Gedun Chopel did not receive the kind of respect a learned scholar like him must get, especially when he was still alive and was living in Lhasa. The reason could be that of a social reason. Perhaps, the then Tibetan society was the kind that was heavily built on a social “class system”. To be a respected person in such a society, it was perhaps necessary for one to have a solid identity of social class and status. Gendun Chopel did not seem to have cared much about any such things. Perhaps, he didn’t even care to secure a Geshi degree. Or perhaps he did. To write was what he cared most. And this indeed rewarded him, but posthumously. To say that he has not received “due recognition” even today, perhaps needs a second thought. Posthumously he has become immortal, and most probably he will remain so for evermore.

    Had he been educated in modern science, he would have become a world renowned inventor, but that was impossible then.

    And now a quote from the HTM’s author, which this comment maker has heard personally in a lecture gathering in India in 1980s: “shi chig le med na yang rgya mi chog la yug gö re ta!” (it may be as trivial as a louse, but it must be thrown to the direction where Chinese are). There you go.

  40. I hat off to our great scholar like Shakhapa and Gedun Choephel. We are proud of having such intelligent person like them. There is no doubt that The Great History of Tibet was written by Shakhapa. Just because of popularity of GC cannot be proved that it was written by him. This rumour came after the analysis article written by Hortsang Jigme in his one of Tibetan book, which is considered to be biased one by 99.99% readers. But only 00.01% followed into his word and try to prove the popularity of GC with mixing then political situation with this popular book. I am not surprised with this saying. Even some people are claiming that Thonmi Samboda didnot write the SUMCHUPA & TAGJUGPA.Ha Ha.

  41. On the subject of Dge-‘dun-chos-‘phel’s lost history, see the introduction to Samten Norboo’s translation of the White Annals (Dharamsala 1978), p. 11:

    “Though Deb-ther dkar-po is a brief work, the author had plans to compile an exhaustive and detailed volume devoted to Tibetan history covering a period up to the recent past. According to the testimony of Professor Ngawang Jinpa of St. Joseph’s College, Darjeeling, this large compilation had been completed and the manuscript in the custody of Mr. Ma-nang A-po, an associate of the author. Unfortunately we have lost track of the manuscript, following the demise of Mr. A-po.”

    Perhaps the family of Mr. A-po would by now be ready to come forward and tell what they know? In any case, the rumors weren’t started by our dear friend Hortsang-la who would have been — What? — 11 years old when the White Annals translator wrote those words about it?

    There seems to be a general trend to spread stories about the lost works of Gendun Chompel that may or may not be in someone’s personal possession (there was something in a footnote to one of Glenn Mullin’s books that I lost track of), and I’ve heard similar stories about his lost botanical work. Anybody know what happened to *that* one?

    The area where I see Gendun Chompel’s greatness is primarily his being the very best Indologist among Tibetans in the early 20th century. I realize that young people may, for reasons they find entirely understandable, gain more inspiration from a guy who got drunk and wrote poetry, or who got naked and sketched nudes. Which reminds me… Wait, I forgot what I was reminded of…

  42. i like our history and i studied selon Shakapa’s book in school but its been long time since then and i would like to thanks jamyang norbu for reminding me of this great work and i encourage jamyang norbu la to write more of critical comments on status of our language in exile community which need to be up graded to the level of hari-potter and lord of the rings etc… or else our language wiil slowlly go to the museam but our history will nerver die as we have lots of documents now and besides we will have a brighter history than our past which by no means anything lesser than the other great histories of nations….this should not be our wish but our choice and we deserve it…. so shall we take it…. of course it will take time….but we should have patient, vision, selfishness, brought based geopolitical fore sight so that we can take advantage this time of A declining America and Rising China ….

    they gona meet some where and there will be lots of streams released …. so we should take our chances this time not like the where we missed the block game by a huge margin……

  43. I should have added at least 40 scholarly publications…..if you think these are just quantities…then you are either ignorant of Tibetan Language or never read about those books or you just defending your own group’s name or whatever interest you have. If you are doing for the sake of patriotism, then it is the wrong way to show patriotism because you are supporting a criminal act in defence of your noble patriotism. We are in a modern society, Tibetan history is not complete in exile, it is just about imperial period or various good times of past and of course brutal Chinese occupation, but not about abusive, corrupt, and power mongering elites group who does nothing, but feed on the blood of common men and women. We in exile quite skilled at idealizing oneself and sweeping all the wrongs under carpet. It is time to re-examine our recent past history and role of kudras, whether they truely served people through public service as someone claimed or they manipulated and oppressed masses…….questioning about kudras is still a banned topic or rather a taboo because they still weild influence and power over the community. Often use China’s propaganda as an excuse in order to dissuade people from exploring this dark chapter of histories because if discussion takes place, then it will weaken our struggle because it helps the CHinese communist. In my view, it is not the case, Chinese communist certaily exaggerated things here and there, but it is not without an iota of truth in it. We will be only confident and face the past and build future only by acknowledging about the corrupt act of kundras of yesterdays. If elites are realy acted in service of people, then propably, there wont be an invasion or at least there wont be aristocracy ruling the masses with iron fist. I think Gendun Choephel’s stolen works also can well be placed in this darker history of our share past, especially those under the then Ganden Podrang’s political administration. Most of the defenders who write about those status-quo are also descendent of kudras or elitist…what can we expect from them for reforming community and fair treatment of history? It will be a as difficult as observing a star during day time.

    By the way, we study about Tibetan history in school, and teachers often refer to Gechoe’s white annal. When I read Shakapa’s book, the every first paragraph is neither paraphrased nor wrote by him with reference, rather a direct copy and paste……even if cited, what is the use of direct copy and paste and quote the source? It will be a criminal act in the West…..


  44. @Dan,

    Samten Kary did mentions that in Tibetan history only two figures looked at Lhasa Doring: one was Langdarma and the other dge ‘dun chos ‘phel. He adds that even the great pawo tsuglakhang trengwa had not analyzed the inscriptions…

    If and when you visit Dhasa, let me know. I will introduce you to Samten’s article in which he wrote the above views.

    Most of the Tibetan historians tend to write chos ‘byungs – they are great literary works, but often disappoints deeply skeptical and even cynical folks like me. Sorry. To me GC was an exception. That’s why I hold him with the highest regard!

  45. …Actually, Gendun Chopel was a born innovative genius, who always looked for an empirical new interpretation of the world around him. He was a positivist amidst a host of non-positivist believers whose interpretation of the reality upset him to such an extend that he had to write “Ludrup Gong Gyen”.

  46. @Nyinjey-laa,

    OK, no need to travel so far when the book is on my shelf! The Arrow and the Spindle vol. 2, pp. 25-26:

    “No Buddhist historians had ever bothered to read these inscriptions. Even dPa’-bo gTsug-lag ‘phreng-ba did not do so, because he asks the readers of his historical work to insert the texts of the inscription of the Sino-Tibetan peace treaty in Lhasa into his work if the reader has occasion to copy them out (KhG Vol.1, p. 416). It took nearly eleven centuries for a Tibetan historian to take an interest in reading the inscriptions in Lhasa and this was dGe-‘dun chos-‘phel who examined them in the 1940’s.”

    I checked the reference and it’s true it says what Samten-la said it says (no surprise there). It says, “lha sa’i rdo ring gi yi ge bshu bar nus na bar ‘dir chug cig,” but I think that could be a note for himself, isn’t it? (Or perhaps for his work-study assistant.) For most of this page he actually describes the main content of the very same doring inscription, so that shows without any doubt he had (directly or indirectly) read and was aware of the content. Whether that means he ‘analyzed’ it or not, I don’t know. But he certainly summarized it nicely.

    But Rinzin Tsewang Norbu (following Richardson’s identification of that Bodleian manuscript as being that of “RT” meaning Rinzin Tsewang Norbu) definitely did copy the treaty inscription of Lhasa, and Richardson uses this as a justification for another study of it (after Li Fang-kuei’s of 1956) since it has readings of letters that had since became “effaced or illegible” as he says.

    And as Richardson also points out, two other important early histories made use of significant parts of this inscription (the Rgyal-rabs gsal-ba’i me-long and the Deb-ther sngon-po).

    So I admit to being partly right and partly wrong. And I admit that you were largely right. But I would want to beg (if I may) to differ with you about how special Gendun Chompel was. Other history writers long before him have shown their capability to compare and contrast conflicting sources and come to critical conclusions of their own. I can actually give quite a few examples of this, although it might take a lot of our precious time. But all that could just be me, since I’ve never believed the modern world is the great place it’s been cracked up to be. Modernist rhetoric defines its own romantically idealized epoch by badmouthing the past more than the past deserves. As if the most heinously barbaric acts of all time didn’t happen in the 20th century! There’s really no especially good reason for self-congratulations by people in the 21st either, imho, but I like to keep a wait-and-see attitude.

    PS, I may see you in Da’sa in the coming year and we’ll talk some more with less damage to my keyboard fingers.

  47. Just some trivia & slightly off topic : I don’t know if Gendun Chompel would have been the Indologist who passed on the information to the Tibetan in Tibet about the ‘Thuggee cult’ that had existed in India. They were discovered by an Englishman & finally rehabilitated to the Andaman Nicobar islands. My guess is that the bit of knowledge about the ‘Thuggies’ and and mistaken identity led to the somewhat comedic episode described in one of Jamyangla’s essays on Tibetans & Superstitions.

  48. Dan,

    I do agree modernity is nothing great to be ‘admired.’ History’s most brutal murders, as you rightly pointed out, happened in the so-called modern times.

    But at the same time, Tibet’s present tragedy is due to our inability to ‘modernize’ ourselves, despite some great efforts by the 13th Dalai Lama.

    Hope to see you around in Dharamsala!

  49. Dan,

    just to respond to your question why GC is special. To me he is special because he was an iconoclast, who stood up against authority, power, dogmas, presuppositions, someone who thought outside the box, and was willing to take risks. He was an anti-imperialist – hated the British empire. He is great because throughout his life he was a ‘beggar who lived on pen.’ He is great because he lost his head for his ‘ideas.’

    That makes him such an inspiration for young and colonized Tibetan intellectuals!

    I’m not a GC fanatic, and he is not beyond criticism. No one is. So we can beg to differ on his ‘greatness.’

    The truth is that Tibetans in exile haven’t come to terms with GC (most of his works are not taught in Tibetan schools, only deb ther dkar po was taught, but recently this text has been removed from the school syllabus as well!) and his ideas, despite his tremendous influence on intellectuals in Tibet, as can be seen in the writings of Dhondup Gyal and the current intellectuals who are at the forefront of intellectual battle against the Chinese colonialists.

  50. NYINJEY ,

    During Gendun Chopel’s life time, the most of Tibetans scholars did not treat him any special or an exceptional scholar; he was just another failed monk who happened to be travel to India. Even though he wrote several works, there was nothing extraordinary about his works and his life. When he was alive, not too many series scholars had even noticed him. Then, after nearly thirty years of his death, why there were suddenly emerging of Gendun Chapel and why his works were so special? In order to answers these questions, we have to go back the political and ideological background of time. In these unsettling the political, ideological and social background, the construction of Gendun Chapel as a ‘culture hero’ began; it occurred in three geographical spaces, the inside Tibet, the Tibetan diasporas, and the international scholarly community. The project itself had nothing to do with Gendun Chapel himself or his work; rather it was largely due to some people’s imagination of Gendun Chapel
    “How did a round earth come from the flat head of Gendun Chophel?”

  51. #50 Rewalsar: I don’t know if I should be saying this because it’s just my understanding of the book by D. Lopez: Gendun Chopel view on ‘reality’ coincides with that of the traditions that are based on empirical studies.

  52. It is funny, some Tibetans accuse Shakabpa to steal works from GC. then,did GC steal works from other scholars? Specially, GC had never studied Chinese, but he quote extensively and said even translated some historical works from Chinese. Where did he get these works? Where he study Chinese?

  53. Shakabpa’s history is $400 in the Brill version, beyond the means of almost everyone except libraries. However, I would suggest that the original Yale version, now in a cheap Indian edition, is as detailed as almost anyone would want. The Brill English translation of Shakabpa’s Tibetan two-volume history is so detailed as to be intimidating to most, myself included. Still, I wish SFT would act on my suggestion to get their chapters to request it for university libraries. Brill has no incentive to produce an Indian edition and it has the copyright so no one else can either. I once advised Dawa Norbu to get his China’s Tibet Policy printed in India, since it was $90 in the Curzon edition, but he never did or perhaps couldn’t if the publisher had the copyright. However, his book was a compilation of previously published articles in a variety of journals, most of which are probably available for free with a little research.

  54. While we Tibetans engage in futile conversations disputing as to the authorship of books, Warren Smith has now twice brought up a very important point of how to best disseminate these historical facts which at the present seem to be outside the grasp of ordinary Tibetans considering that these scholarly books due to their limited readership are very expensive and are mainly housed in university libraries. I am pretty confident that the SFT chapters can request the book through their libraries. My university has the book and hope to read it soon.

  55. In the end, if we all want to go by the logic of the cynics like NewgenerationTB, there will be no Tibetan scholars: every tibetan scholars has cited his/her Indian masters in their writings. So, if Shakabpa work is a criminal act, then the rules applied to all of our previous and present scholars. Period. We are bunch of Dumbos!!!!!
    You know, thats why, i (agu-Tonpa) am here for the Tibetans: On a mission to enlighten those Dumbos!!!

    FYI, Dr. Lobsang Sangye didn’t produce any book but those same cynics called him Scholar (Khewang).

    Finally, please don’t act like you are one of the scholars that can rebuttal Shakabpa and JN. Please tell us exactly in quotation and page number to highlights your points that constitutes plagiarism, or criminal act. Less, you are cimmiting a crime here.

    Yours Agu.

  56. It seems we need to worship the “national servemen of pre-1950” and they indeed deserve something “special” for “serving the people”…..criminality turns into object of “worship” and “respect”…….. at least, smeone is “demanding” respect for being part of that “special group”……


  57. It is quite funny to me see people argue about who stole whose work when it is history we are dealing with and not some literary composition. They didn’t make up the history. History happened and people wrote about it. What is there to plagiarize? I am likely to believe Shakappa, owing to his position and access, had a thorough knowledge of the historical events. Gedun Chomphel la is also a great scholar and an innovative one. His method were unconventional some of the time but equally vital to proper understanding of our history. No sane person is going to buy into such conspiracy theories. Why do we have so many people like that? 9/11 was actually an inside job or Ancient Aliens built the paramid sort of people can’t seem to be able to decipher facts from fiction. Unless there is credible proof, it is henious a crime to accuse a respectable author of plagiarism. Leave that to the nutjobs.

    you said “Gedun Chomphel la is also a great scholar and an innovative one. His method were unconventional some of the time but equally vital to proper understanding of our history”
    where did you get that conclusion?
    Of course, you have drawn these conclusions from, Heather Stoddard, Toni Huber , Donald Lopez’s work.
    The real funny thing is the people who admire GC so much have little understand about his works because the most these people have weak understanding of literary tradition and culture. Many of his works have not been solidly studied and his claims have not been thoroughly examined; an emotional tendency that precludes objectivity has been intertwined with the study of Gendun Chophel. As I have said before, It has to do with the long-held idealization of Gendun Chopel and has nothing to do his works and ideas.
    Come on, tell us what GC did was so exceptional and his methods were unconventional some of the time? what did he innovate? a rounded earth?

  59. By comparing the picture of the three gentlement in this essay to the picture of tibetan in tibet at that time.
    I just cant avoid the feeling that the two are either from 2 separate countries or planet altogether.
    Pictures deliver worth more info
    than few empty words.

  60. @agu:Those Tibetan scholars who cited Indian masters are in the realm of religion and spirituality. Most recent popular reference is NALANDA UNIVERSITY and ITS MASTERS….but no one refers to Indian masters for Tibetan history as such. Please list even one of the Indian masters who wrote about Tibetann civilization and its origin to whom Tibetan scholars refers as you claim! Remember, Tibetan civilization begins way before the Buddhist influence in Tibet. I think you are a confused dumboos…excuse for my word. But I still do wait for the name of the Indian master who wrote about Tibet, its people, and its history and Tibetans scholars and historians refer to it as you boldly claimed.

    In the meantime, we still have to settle about roles of kudras and its theft from common people from material wealth to historical works and so forth….it has to be done and everything should be transparent…we are no dumboss about his shitty history and we need a justice to history….history should not be written by few power holders and powerful clans of kudras…rather history should be written by common men and woman. It is always true, history is written by the winners….it is also true that history is written by power-holders at a local and national level…..lets cut through this standard practice of mortal human beings…


  61. Ugen: I don’t think you read my initial post carefully but I was paying respect to both the concerned authors here, who were equally great in their own way. I don’t see why one has to be maligned so that the other one can be propped up as the epitome of excellence.

    Now getting back to Gendun Chomphel la I do think he is an innovative person who prefer first hand experience to book knowledge (not that I am denigrating book knowledge which are of course tremendously useful too). He personally lived in India and visited different places and interacted with the unknown at the time. Look at his book on eroticism where he described in detail different techniques and intimacy levels, which he boasts might have been more useful since he actually experienced it instead of monks gleaning knowledge from the scriptures. He wrote on geography, traveller’s guidebook, history, poetry…I must say if you don’t think these are pretty innovative for a Tibetan at the time, I don’t know what you are looking at. I don’t see how you can go around discrediting someone who basically was quite unique at the time and who is quite relevent even today to a lot of people. You can read the comment section to know he is still a potent force, even though I believe some people exaggerate his lack of recognition. I have not met one person who didn’t think highly of him – except for you that is. If he wasn’t consider quite a talent at his time, I am sure Shakappa wouldn’t have referred to him as ‘Kwewang’ if he wasn’t. Simple logic.

  62. #68

    “kudra” sounds like a Persian or Arabic name (Sorry, just a joke). There is another name also (coming from the same source), which is very much cherished among new-generation exiled Tibetan echelons: “kungo” (read ku-ngo). So two important names, “kudra” and “kungo”. NO COMMENT.

    before GC, at least there were six hundreds lotsawas (exclude those Tibetans who translated works from Mongolian, Chinese, Manchu into Tibetan and vise versa) and many of them travelled to India, Kashmir, Uddiyana, and other places,  many of them left guidebooks and  travel logs, even GC himself quoted extensively some of these works.Similarly, several hundreds of Tibetan travelled and lived in the Inner Asia, from caspian sea to the east China sea, for centuries and many of them have written something about these palaces. Are you telling me that GC was somehow superseded all these people? I don’t think so, read this. it may be help you!

  64. Ugen: I am not saying GC is the only one but that he has to be firstly considered a khewang and part of that prestigious group and secondly that he is unique amongst them. Even you will have to admit that most of these Lotsawas strictly concentrated their efforts on religious affairs mainly (not that it is bad) and generally nothing else. Gendun Chomphel travelled as an ordinary person and as such his views are a little different, as was his patriotism. I seriously doubt any Lotsawas wrote on erotism a la karma sutra via direct experience. Similarly, his views on the flat earth theory was in direct contradiction to the views held at the time in Tibet. His unfinished historical book was one of the few that attempted to look at our history without the religious prism. Even when I was in school, I was taught history in a buddhist centric view which is completely biased and bad history. I don’t know how they do it today but if it is still the case, then it means we are still behind GC 2011. So, yes, he is quite unique.

    But that doesn’t mean there are many other khewangs who shouldn’t be respected because each generation builds on the works of others. He is undoubtedly a khewang. That much is clear to me. If you don’t think so, then it is your prerogative. But nice talking to you.

  65. @ NewgenerationTB:
    You are such a hopeless fellow! No wonder you didn’t understand my scarsm. REread 1000 times before you comment/question me.
    Just to give you one example: Tsonkhapa’s Lamrim was based on Atisha’s Lamdron and cited Chodjug and other text by Nalanda’s masters. But one calls it Plagiraism, or to use your word, Criminal act.”This is what i am trying to convey.

    Bottom line: It doesn’t matter whether in the realm of Sprituality or religion, or for that matter history, If the ideas being used in the writings was cited, there is no question of plagiarism.

    Why do you have so much grudges against ALL Kudraks? There are good as well as bad Kudraks like there are good monks and bad monks, good tibetan and bad tibetans etc.

    In the end: History can be written by everybody given one has the knowledge and the skills. I disagree with your call that it should be written by “common men and women.” Why do you wanna limit? How about transgender?

    Then again, Jamyang la is right: Creating a cult of Gedun Chophel is not a constructive way of honoring his memory.

    Honestly speaking, I don’t know what Khewang means in this day and age. And, I don’t know if he is khewang or not in its strictest sense because i don’t have the knowledge to review his work.

    But, He is, for sure, a creative and adventurous guys.

    Did anybody hear that GC’s book Doe pae tenchoe was copied from Indian Kamasutra? I would be mindful given my limited knowledge. But, some of our “khewangs” say so.

    looks like you have never bothered to read the link I sent you. all answers is there and don’t need to be repeated again. among tibetan scholars inside tibet, this debate is not new,specially this year, it was a hot topic on tibetan blogspheres!

  67. Tibet: A Political History, pg. 325: Tibetans must not perpetuate provincialism or secctarianism. They should not be conscious of wether they come from U, Tsang, Kham, or Amdo; they must be conscious only of the fact that they are all Tibetans. They must be well organized and united to defend their rights; and they must strive to live and function under the leadership of the Dalai Lama in their struggle for a free, democratic state.

    Let this advice by the author bind us together as one people without the disunity and factious sentiments held by a few ignorant and petty minded souls that attempt to break up the fabric of our society. We must rise above the sort of bigotry and segregational rhetoric and mentality, that is unacceptable in the 21st century, if we are to win the fight for the independence of Tibet.

  68. JN la,
    I was so happy to read your artical after a long silence. Heard that you are in sought of depression after the incident of exile government hasty decision to dissolve. It just brings me more pain. Our officials do not look for the long term stategy, rather very shortsighted or may be there are thinnking of SO CALLED THE WESTERN PUT IT “LEGACY”.

    Thank you for writing and please do not keep any silence for it kills so many youth’s will and courage.

  69. JN lak,

    I am coming from Science background, I never had a great interest in history. But I am a passionate Tibetan. This is the only reason which directs me into read Tibetan history, very strange to me.

    I listened to all your u-tube clips and read some of your articles. Your presentation of history is so balanced. I also like the fact that you present history in the right perspective. I can also feel your pride in being Tibetan and your gladness in presenting its history. This is very contagious, you make listener like me feel proud too.

    I thank you so much for one thing. For a long time I carried this hatred towards “Khudak” I can understand that its weakening me as a Tibetan and so so harmful for our unity and collective effort. Listening to your clips really calmed me down. Thanks for putting those times in correct time line with respect to the global situation.

    I really like to invite you to speak in Calgary. We have a few hundred Tibetans. I think your presentation of Tibetan history will benefit a lot to our people. JN, your time has come to energize Tibetans.

    Can I have you personal email if its a open secret ?


  70. Before I had little weird feeling toward “Kudrak” after I listen his talk at canada and San francis co. sort of realization took place in my heart. His writing always bring hope and pride to be our-self. thank Jamyang la. we feel so great of YOU.

  71. You will see the solution if you have an open mind. After all, we are the solution- a broad-minded, critical thinker, patriotic, bold- which JN showed all these years though thick and thin.

    JN has no more responsibilty to show the solution than all of us. But he has every right to criticise our govt and our leaders.

    Where is your solution?

  72. @Agu Tonpa

    NG:Is Lamraim a history or a religious discourse…then it is not a good example to give and hide
    criminal act by those who had stolen GC’s real and well researched history book. History matters….religion does not matter, it is a matter of belief of individuals…history is a matter of justice to social evolution. If you have problem with lamrim, then feel free to write to Genden Tripa or to the Geluk monastic establishment…I got no problem because as far as I know Lamrim is not a history. For your info. GC even disagreed with Jetsong Khapa regarding the definition and interpretation of “Dependent Origionation” which is kind of unique amongst Tibetan Buddhist scholars, that is one of the reasons that GC’s view is banned in Tibetan monastic circles especially in Geluk monastic communities, he was denounced as “Thailok (someone who lost in the Dharma, so regarded as sinned individual)”.

    “In the end: History can be written by everybody given one has the knowledge and the skills. I disagree with your call that it should be written by “common men and women.” Why do you wanna limit? How about transgender? ”

    I think you are going against what you are trying to preach since your nullification and unwillingness to bend to listen to other’s view. I did not disprove Tibetan history as such, what I said someone’s work was stolen and produced by some power-holders of old Tibet, along the way, some sons and daughters of old establishment is in defense of their own kind’s criminal act by politicizing the issue. Tibetan history that is taught in exile school system got huge holes in it. All facts about Kudras are surprisingly and magically surmarized into few sentence, and few achievements are magnified to such an extent. History being distorted to a great length. Whether we like it or not, history need to be rewritten and judgement need to be passed for once and for all.

    When I say history written by men and women, for your correct info, I meant anyone can write given sufficient knowledge and concret historical proof…..even illiterate people live the history….scholars tend to bend history in order to meet your vested interest, that is why there is so much controversy regarding history. Just for example, many Tibetan people in diaspora tend to think they know better than those who live in Tibet about the situation there. As a result, what these people learnt is small part of the whole that too presented by others in the print media. Naturally you feel you the entire situation, but not and it is a fact but many cannot digest the fact. Once JN defended himself from accussation that he never even went to Tibet, “that in order to know about the situation in Tibet, one can know better from outside than being inside”.

    “Creating a cult of Gedun Chophel is not a constructive way of honoring his memory”

    Please mind, nobody is asking GC’s unrealistic magic or sort and convince folks to believe in him as special….what we simply trying to do is, do a justice to his torture, imprisonment, and later theft of his interllectual property by those who improsoned him. Therefore, JN and your short and well concealed lies in the form of “cult of GC sort” does not distract us from the fact that we are neither worshiping him nor asking anyone to worship him, but justice need to be done regarding his unfortunate ending and robbery of his property. Your argument just runs in the same vein as Chinese communist accussation of HHDL for being a cult leader because once Japanese cult leader shoko met HHDL, but later killed hundreds in Tokyo subway, or Accusing HHDL of having TIES to NAZI Germany because Henrich was a member of nazi camp…….we all know such accussation do not add up well, certainly JN’s argument do not add up well and unable to distract us from the main issue of personal interllectual property theft by elitist of old guards. By the way, Tibetan old guards, or elistist or kudras got a nice and short definition about GC’s unfortunate ending as, “he was charged being communist spy and making fake dayang”……lol…..are innocent kid so gullible to believe such a lies by kudras while hiding their own power hunger and abuse of power? This is a tip of ice-berg about vast unexplored part of Tibetan history, we definitely need to rewrite it.

    “Did anybody hear that GC’s book Doe pae tenchoe was copied from Indian Kamasutra?”
    GC certainly entertained what he wrote with ladies, he even painted positions with women. Maybe you are partly right, he translated some of Karmasutra……but still, he he used his own Tibetan language to translate it so well into Tibetan. I would say he is partly a lotsawa then, the great translator…….the actual experience him with women, shows not just he read karmasutra, and translated, but he lived what he wrote, it is proved by his own companion monk. There is some source that says GC learnt sanskrit and English, but definitely not hindi….I am still not sure if Karmasutra is whether in sanskrit or hindi…Englighten me on this. GC translated the entire ramayan into Tibetan, and some of kargyur into English not long after he started learning English…..Tibetans have been in exile for the last 50 years in India, given opportunity to learn English and Hindi, we still dont have a good translation of any HIndi into Tibetan. There is only few English novels translated into Tibet, for example “The Great EXPEACTATION” or “Dhunpa Chenpo”, but it is still not a standard work…after all it is the Tibetan in exile….if you further want to compare….read some of the literature from Tibet. Also show some of the work of JN’s translation into Tibetan……


    you are just repeating what the chinese official scholars and some westerns said about tibet and its history, there were not secular history, but only religious one. it is a silly statement, the binary opposition between the ideas of religion and secular is problematic. let leave it aside, still thousands of the the government’s documents and achieve are still stored in Lhasa, all these were historical documents and achieves. GC was not special, jus another scholar. that’s all, the construction of GC as cultural hero is nothing to do with tibet and tibetan history. all answer is there if you are care to find out. otherwise, u r just repeating what other people falsely concluded.

  74. What brings Gedun Chopel here on this website this time seems to be: whether or not Gendun Chopel’s “lost manuscript” had anything to do with the “Hundred Thousand Moon”. This is perhaps a very complicated issue. The “lost manuscript” is the heart of this argument. Unless and until it is substantially proven that the manuscript did exist, this argument cannot make any progress. It seems that no one so far has ever done any such research in this direction. Indeed, it is important to recover the manuscript, if it did exist.

    The argument that Gendun Chopel is not a “special man” is interesting, but it appears to be an argument as futile as arguing that a crow has teeth. Gendun Chopel has now become an immortal legendary folk-figure in time society. It is Tibetan people who raised him to this position. He is now as immortal a legendary folk-figure as the Sixth Dalai Lama and Khache Falu. People love their work and they become public figure. It is the Tibetan people from all walks of life, who collectively made him immortal. One may conduct an opinion poll of Tibetan people (whether Gendun Chopel is a special man or not) to convince oneself, if one is ever suspicious of this fact and if one has time and energy to do so.

  75. REWALSAR ‘s argument is even more funny than TB new generation’s. let’s say GC is “an immortal legend” or ‘cultural hero’ whatever name you prescribe him. the fact remains same,as I have said before, it has nothing to do with his works or life, it says something about us and people who constructed and promoted it. Similarly, for years many people and even for some Tibetans, Mao was once a “legendary folk-figure” so I am not surprised that GC is also prescribed as a legendary figure because we know that the statue of cultural hero and legend can be created. Lastly, the scholarship is not a popular contest. If you talk about popularity, I have to agree with you that people do love GC and his works (without understanding or knowing other works) so as the Korean soap opera!

  76. I’m glad the truth is slowly coming out. Many can not see it in their lives. That’s tragedy, but the world, especially the future generation will find it.

    Just a matter of time!

    Want to ask this to Jamyang: what do you think of the box full of documents that was lost when Gendun Chophel was released from prison.

    May be those documents were burned by some aristocrats to warm themselves from the cold when they were fleeing the Chinese occupation?

  77. @ NewGenerationTB,

    Lets cut to the chase: My problem with you is that you keep on saying “criminal” for citing Gendun Choephel’s work in Shakabpa book. If you have proof, bring to the table.

    I don’t think I’ll get anywhere discussing with you on any topics because you seem to look everything in a “glass half empty” way. You are also very hateful person that your view will not be objective at all. In the mean time you become gullible and believes all these conspiracy theory.

    Buddy, Agu Tonpa gave up on you. You still didn’t Get my point. Tsik la ma tsod, Dhon la Tsod.

    Hey NGTB, I was told that you are a son of your Kudrak neighbor. Didn’t you hear yet? Another surprise: clairvoyant told me that your previous life was a kudrak.

    Hahahaha. JUST KIDDING, please don’t believe this rumour and wreck havoc on your family.

    With puppy,
    Yours Agu.

  78. 365 Million Dhayang Question:
    Who knew Gendun Choephel has box full of documents and who knew whick Kudrak took that?

    Please ket me know. I’ll be the first one to Wooop their asses.

    I would appreciate your answer with solid proof. But, I can also take your answer with beyond reasonable doubt.

    In search of a strong whip!

  79. who said GC had full of documents? Of course, some of so called his students said that, but the questions still remain, no seems know how many boxes were there, one big box was the procession of Horkhang La (a Kudrak) and he gave it back GC’s nephew before he passed away and now the box is at GC museum in Amdo.
    Actually, no one knows how many books GC had written and how many were out there. the lists works that GC’s apologists provided are factually wrong.

  80. @Agu, I am as much in search of an answer as controversial tale of official narrative of then power-holders not to be trusted. The state of his imprisonment, reasons of his imprisonment, lose of his researched archives. All these are rather mythical fairy tale style of history is still taught in nicely packaged but devoid of content is still taugt in our school systems today. It is upto us whether we like to search for a more objective past or sit and believe history told us by certain section of the people or we be part of the “bending history” to protect wrongs done by earlier elitist and eulogizing them as noble Bodhisatva while we are hell on Buddhist nature of our history and let loose hell on Buddhist scholars of the past while we eulogizing more agreessive and oppressive laymen clan called “Kudras” whose criminal rule is far outweighs their contribution to a static society they ruled. It is our choice bro…..It is very interesting to see there are section of the people who can easily let loose their disgust to Buddhist scholars because they wrote our history from Buddhist lens rather then objective analysis, at the same time, these same people attempting to hide the oppressive nature of my recent past and their regid rule brought a static nature of society while other nations moving forward. Whether we like it or not, Buddhist scholars wrote mostly about our imperial period by turning kings into icon of Bodhisattvas, but at the same time, during these periods, Tibet was strong and a to be feared empire on its own. After end of the imperial period, society fell, slowly developed kudras…..then onward, the history is rather murky.

    Agu, I am neither a hateful nor a gullible, rather I am a free spirit who questions the banned and questions the imcompleteness in everything that I perceives…therefore, there is no opportunity for anyone to brainwash me because I have a functioning and logic head.


  81. …Also Gedun Chopel was a good scholar, rather than “just” a scholar as one might prefer to call, although it is hard to determine what “just” a scholar could mean. From the view point of today’s modern method of scientific research standard, his research works are of very high standard. Ludrup Gong Gyen, Himalayai Tenchoe, and of course Debther Karpo, for example, are well written and well researched works, based on certain theoretical and methodological approaches, which are very different from his contemporary Tibetan scholars. In these works, he is rational and positivistic. His selection and critical treatment of his source materials, especially for his Debther Karpo, is as scientific as any good search scholar would do today. So it may not be misleading to say: in addition to being a “cultural-hero” he was a scholar of difference.

    Perhaps, his article about the Earth, in which he has given greater emphasis on its shape (“globe” against “flat”), was basically to make the information concerned available in Tibetan language. It did contain a sort of introductory note with a few sarcastic comments here and there, but there doesn’t seem to have much to make a big fuss out of it.

  82. REWALSAR ,

    Yes, he was just another scholar, nothing specially, one of among thousands. I don’t know that scientific methods you are referring to, if you are referring to Heather Stoddard’s methods and conclusion, I agree with you, for her and others, he was exceptional one. Otherwise, I do not see why he was so different from other scholars. Specially, the works of the fifth Dalai lama, Sumpa Khampo, Drukgyel Wang and other’s were rational and sophisticated as GC if not more so.
    About the flat earth thing, it shows how GC’s ignored about the Tibetan calendric making science and misjudged about the history, and people used such examples to promoted GC is as a cultural hero, so it shows how shallow their arguments are too. The shape of earth had never been an issue until GC wrote the piece and his apologists promoted it.
    GC is a cult figure now, but i am not sure it is good for tibetans.

  83. WHen there are these many bighead scholars available in Tibet..what then has fcked them up that we are in exile? Are they all hiding in Peyja and that regular folks state activity is not that of significant to those scholars?

  84. @Daveno: Kudras locked them up! So better ask the “Kudras”……Ignorance is BLISS. When GC heard Chinese army arrived in Lhasa, GC asked his then care-taker to take him and see the Chinese army, the care-taker took him on back onto the roof top, do you know what GC said with a sign of sadness, “Now we are fucked up!”

    Very interesting to debate about the nuances of then history instead of sucking the juiceless stale history of oppressive elitist of that time……


  85. Hi All,
    Surprise! I have all the boxes of Gendun Choephel’s documents. There is not an iota of worth discussing about it.

    He was only talking about how our Regent and monks were bad. Also, he was so disgusted with the Tadrak Rinpoche and Reting Rinpoche fued.

    Thats the end of the story. Now read Jamyang la’s next post.

  86. Agu Tonpa has found the treasure everybody is looking for. Now we can proceed to the next phase which is the origin of Bon religion and the stark similarity between the concepts of Buddhism. Which influenced the other?

  87. Feud? The Feud? Was GC used as scapegoat for the FEUD between two monks? It seems we wrongly blamed the elitist……it seems no aristocratic hereditary was existed….! A real surprise!


  88. Kudrak is very dangerous, and they exploited everything from the Tibetan people…
    they paralyse the people and they’d like to be the Khepa as they considered themselves—–this is the way to keep their situation….

    there is a funny joke that before the fifties, one of the Kudraks was drunk and was roaring to the audience that, which is the bigger, Lhasa or China ?…..
    they never ever travel beyond Kyichu…….
    what a fool

    hahaha…whenever I remember this or was reminded by others, I couldn’t help to burst into laughter….

    hahahahaaeeeeehehehhehehehehehhahahahha h hahah h hah haahh ahh h h

  89. @TDorjee,
    Mine is not Anti-Kudra rants, but a request for a fair treatment of history from a objective point of view rather than whitewashed history that of Communist China. GC’s tragic ending of both life and interllectual property are real example, if you are ever ready to re-examine our history, start from there. Do we still have to live in DENIAL MODE? I think no…..I think we are capable of accepting the past and move on with courage….those who feel humiliated because of their negative roles in our history, then be it……WE MUST TELL THE TRUTH, AND WE MUST HAVE THE REAL TRUTH, NOT THE INVENTED VERSION OF TRUTH.


  90. if we are going to be true and honest about our past, then the real culprit needs to be examined for the deterioration of the Tibet nation. Buddhism or rather the state ownership of Buddhism, the rise of the monastic power, gelug particularly, and Dalai Lama institution specifically, are singularly responsible for the failure of the Tibet nation. Aristocracy does hamper development but for its own survival, it won’t let the nation fall usually as it is traditionally linked with its power base. We should have let Lang Dharma reign supreme and did away with all this nonsense which are not representative of buddhism at all and possibly have a country right now instead of being the number one refugee title holder in the world. You want to be honest? Start there.

  91. How easy to say “for its own survival and power base” and to think that would somehow let them get away for the all the free rides.

  92. Oppression by Kudras are well-recorded “by others” and people who subjected to the estate….is oppression by Dalai Lama institution felt by people and recorded, anywhere? No matter whar, kudras will never get a “FREE-RIDE”….That’s for sure….Tsering Dorjee is making a typical excuse from kudras…


  93. NewGen + Daveno: Please don’t put words in my mouth with your own biases and intellectual cowardice. You are too quick to point out the inequality and suffering under the Kudrak system while you completely neglect and gloss over the monastic system that was ultimately responsible for the failure of the Nation. You do know monasteries own also land and serfs too, right? They had equal or more power than the aristocracy in Tibet and exerted far more influence than any other power structure in Tibet for centuries. I would be the last to deny the oppressive nature of the Kudrak class because as you mentioned, it is not only recorded but wasn’t that far in our history yet if we are being fair, we need to come out and also point out the oppression under the monastic system. I think it is intellectual dishonesty to deliberately cover up and excuse the excesses of oppression under the monastic system, simply because one cannot bring oneself to question or implicate reverends. The knife cuts both ways. Be careful where you wag your finger because peope you like and respect might also fall under that category. I am just asking for fairness and this typical hate filled post after post about kudrak is simply not the whole picture. AM I asking too much?

  94. NewGen + Daveno: We should not brand all Kudraks negatively. Like everyone else there are people who are good and bad as well, but to brand a whole class of people as “evil” for the wrong doing of a few is painting with a broad brush. Quite simply, you are inciting racial segregation and definately hate and discord among Tibetans, as the reds have committed. In all fairness, there might have been a few estate holding aristocratic families as well as the large monastic estates that misused their powers. In fact, much of the abuses of Kudraks that are talked about were actually committed by their appointed “chandzos” or managers while the landlords lived in Lhasa. These “chandzos” who were commoners themselves, oppressed their own fellow countrymen, hence giving a bad name to their landlords, who often had no direct hand in the management of their “shigha” or estate. This is not an apology or a cover up for the Kudraks, but a fair and honest assessment of what I have researched and beleive to be true. I was once very critical of the Kudraks myself and truely thought such rumours were true. Being born in exile in Dharamsala as a TCV student, the anti Kudrak sentiment is heard everywhere with no hard information or evidence to support such statements. I wanted thus to find out for myself if such fantastic rumours had any truth. I did discover that many of the rumours surrounding the Kudraks were fabricated and perpetrated by highly influential men in the exile government during the sixties, when former aristocrats were marginalized, and so were many of the heads of other religious sects and resistance leaders who fled and faced imprisonment. The fingers actually all pointed to one man who is still alive in exile and in his old age who is responsible for these gross distortions against a certain class or sects of the Tibetan people in exile. It is unfortunate that such rumours linger among the young and old today, in settlements, schools and monastaries in such a filthy way that it reminds me of the very same propagandas the communists in Tibet have perpetrated, to pit our people against one another in a class warfare, to break us apart.

  95. Mark Tatz (no. 42, above) mentioned Wylie’s role in the making of the English (1967) version of Shakabpa’s history. In his Hundred Thousand Moons (p. xliii of the author’s preface) he says himself that Wylie “assisted in putting the book into the customary form.” But more interesting to me, at least, he credits both his children and one Mr. Ruskin Bond, a noted Anglo-Indian author with assisting in the translation of it. Look here:

  96. Tsering dorjee, There is no hate, just the facts that may seems hatred at the receiving end.
    If you are asking for fair treatment, the act committed should have been fair and motivationally altruistic to begin with.

  97. Shakabpa once delivered a long lecture running over almost a month in Gangkyi mainly targeting CTA staff. The audio record which the Tibetan Library of Works and Archives has compiled into two DVDs are being sold from the Library these days. A true precious collection and a storehouse of information and wisdom.

  98. Merry Christmas to all! Tenzin Tsundue la, had the privilege of speaking with you for a while at the Bookworm shop about a year ago – good to hear from you!

  99. Nyinje,

    You’re one ego maniac and from what I am hearing from folks in Dhasa, you are a little screwed up in the head.


  100. so great to knowing some thing on the Shagapas srid-dhong-rgyal-rab. But while i remember that many were saying that this modern Tibetan history was actually wrote by Gedun choephel and Shagapa who did only editions of that. as while we are looking for the biography of Gedun choephel that at end of the his life he himself as annoying to much by tricks and tortures that he experiences by those Ku-drags. also while he was dying he has nothing left his belongings rather then a old box of papers and inside books where they have many his literature and among them one of the Sri dong rgyal rab also inside that box. so actually there have many clues of evidences that it is belonging to Gedun choephel ……

  101. The Shakabpa lectures are now available online for download:

    The.Shakabpa.Lectures.1985.No.1-BodKyiBangzhoe torrent download…/3483388-The-Shakabpa-Lectures-1985-N…Cached

    The Shakabpa Lectures 1985 No 2-BodKyiBangzhoe – Audio …

  102. Jamyang la, Thank you for the excellent analysis of Shakapa’s book. As always you inspire and help us see things better. I will surely get the book and the lecture CD. As for the comment by this pompous buffoon, Tenzin Nyinjey, we are ashamed of his type. He is disgraceful. There are some like him in our society who suffer from crab mentality and never has anything good or encouraging to say. Really tired of these people.

  103. i was under the impression that the chella were all gone , sadly these are still alive showing their dhangyang teeth whenever possible.

  104. I believe Shagabpa-lak who is an enlightened aristocrat, one who has served and guided the Tibetan refugees, written a great history on Tibetan history second to none, with his good looks and affluence, has painfully brought jealousy to haters likes Daveno + Tenzin Ningjey. They seem to me like yesterday chellas of GT, and are a shame and embarassment to our society. The good news is that there are so few like them among a sea of good Tibetans who know how to differentiate between good and bad.

  105. @ Daveno: “kyakpa nang la dzogu gyu na, tema kharo ray”…

    “Chap sang nang la yupai Daveno.. gutse gutse machez..nyang mai theychak shou yongs”.

  106. Tibet: A Political History, by Tsepon Shakabpa, News Tibet, July, 1986 Volume 21 #1, The Office of Tibet, 107 East 31 st. Street, New York, NY 10016, Potala Publications,
    Book Review by Tenzin Dolkar,

    Originally published by Yale University Press in 1967, the reissuing of Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa’s definitive history of Tibet in it’s complete version is an event worthy of celebration by historians and members of the public who rightly think it important that history be written by a participant in the action and by someone who is well travelled in the region, a scholar, and native to the country. Mr. Shakabpa, possessing all these qualities, enjoys great prestige among his fellow Tibetans. In May of 1985 the Kashag (Tibetan Cabinet) of the Tibetan Administration-In-Exile honored him at a special ceremony and presented him with a commendation that said in part, “In appreciation of his distinguished service for the independence of Tibet, we would like to specially honour him as a great exponent of the political history of Tibet.” This rare, formal statement is of significance because his historical works, this English version and the subsequent two longer volumes of history in Tibetan, have been under continuous attack by Peking Chinese since publication.
    In an interview, Mr. Shakabpa says, in refutation of recent Chinese statements, ” The Chinese fail to give any source for their allegations. Besides, the reply commits mistakes regarding simple matters.” In truth, Mr. Shakabpa directly challenges the basis of Chinese claims to Tibet, a matter of some importance in their propaganda war to convince the world of the legitimacy of their domination of Tibet. A fierce debate has raged for years about Tibet’s history between exiled Tibetans and the ensconced Chinese. The Chinese have issued a plethora of statements and booklets on Tibet’s history, all dedicated solely to ensuring China’s sovereignty over the area.
    Far from losing timeliness since its first publication, Mr. Shakabpa’s book has gained impact and importance. Tibetans rely on TIBET: A POLITICAL HISTORY as the single available English language collection and discussion of Tibetan history. Because of the addition of original Tibetan sources, it surpasses Hugh E. Richardson’s or Charles Bell’s works, although these function as useful companion volumes in that they replicate in full some documents only incompletely given in Mr. Shakabpa’s book.
    If might makes right, then Mr. Shakabpa’s volume has lost all relevance and all possible readers. But if its new publisher is not mistaken, this cherished work of Tibetan scholarship is more relevant than ever and there is an audience willing to buy and read this book and to formulate its own ideas about the truth or untruth of Tibet. Truth has been and still appears to be the sole power to influence Tibet’s present situation and eventual fate for the better.

  107. I have been going through all the comments and it is very enriching to go through various openions expressed here. I would like someone come up and write book review of some books written by Gedun Choephel like JN did for Shakabpa.

  108. Jamyangla – why was this “Sokchay” dress worn by shagapa not worn today by Tibetans? I saw many being worn in the old pictures of Tibet, but note this dress is now worn by Sikkimese and Ladakhi people. I also hear about a ban imposed by our exile government on this particular dress in the early sixties for clear reasons I am not sure. I have been told though that this dress was Mongolian in origin, and the current official “Chopchen” dress originated from China.

  109. Solving the plagiarism debate could be an interesting project for someone academically inclined and highly literate in Tibetan. This sort of thing is done all of the time in other languages. There must exist other samples of Shakabpa’s writing: letters etc. These documents could be analyzed and compared with the book in terms of spelling, grammar etc, using proven scientific methods.
    Mr Norbu’s school yard bully style bigoted comments regarding a writer with superb Tibetan language skills who came to a different conclusion combined with the fawning tone of the article point to a lack of objectivity and credible evidence to back up the opinions expressed is lacking.

  110. I think his dissertation or formal speech exhorted in Dharamsala on Tibetan history is evidence alone of the historians great ability. As a member of the Parliament at the time, I can attest that Kungno Shagabpa was an extra ordinary man of knowledge and wisdom without any prejudice. The tapes are out there, and I request people to listen to it without passing any such judgements on this great man of Tibet.

  111. Dear Jamyang la,

    I just re-read the introduction that you wrote for your book Shadow Tibet, and it moved me, as it did when I first read it years ago.

    It even made me realize at times I have taken for granted, and thus failed to acknowledge, all the good work that you have done for the progress of our society, and the positive influence your writings even have had in my life. So, I am here to express my gratitude to you and your work, which have inspired and taught me a lot about life and our struggle.

    But I’m especially writing this message to you to express my sincere apology for behaving so bad with you by writing some of those nasty comments on your blog, especially my response to your article on the late Shakabpa’s historical work, Bod kyi Srid don rGyal rabs, particularly taking potshots at your ‘poor grasp of Tibetan literature.’

    I know you have a large heart (Khogpa chenpo) not to take what I wrote too ‘seriously,’ and regard it as a naive eccentricity on the part of a young Tibetan exile, but I am definitely obliged to acknowledge the disrespect that I showed to you and express sorry for it.

    Having said this, I still believe that the greatest ever modern historian of Tibet is Gendun Chophel (the white annals), followed by Shakabpa (the political history of Tibet), and both no doubt have done tremendous service in helping reawaken in us our consciousness as Tibetans.

    But I agree with you when you said that GC admirers shouldn’t create a personality cult out of him, while at the same time it is important that some of the readers of your blog should realize the importance and greatness of Gendun Chophel, and the injustice meted out to him in ‘old’ Tibet. Through this way, we can achieve a true internal reconciliation, and unity, and avoid the sort of vulgar ‘mini class conflict’ we witnessed during the Kalon Tripa elections, pitting a so-called ‘Kudrag’ (Tethong-la) against a so-called ‘commoner’ (Lobsang Sangay-la).

    Whether GC or Shakapba is the greatest historian of Tibet is beside the point, what practically matters at this critical hour is that all of us have to work in unity to resist Chinese occupation and regain independence for our homeland. Of course, in this regard, I personally have a long way to go, to learn a lot given my relatively young age; in other words, I still need to reawaken my consciousness fully, and I am sure in this I can continue to learn from your service, as I did from the talk you recently gave in Dharamsala, and the interview you did for Bod kyi Dus Bab.

    Once again I express my apology for being so mean and disrespectful.

    Best wishes and may all of us walk the true path of freedom and dignity.

  112. Such heart-warming words from Nyinjey-laa! Now I wonder who has the bigger heart. Nyinjey-laa’s definitely seems to have enlarged since we last heard from him. It helps our faith that human minds can change and transform and expand. Really! Thank you.

  113. The Library in Dharamsala has stopped issuing the cd’s on Shakabpa’s 1985 lectures. I could not procure one as they do not issue it anymore without any reason provided.

    Some have suggested that CTA has deliberately stopped the dissemination of these lectures which is in direct conflict of it’s MWA policies.

    Jamyangla, please makes these available online so that it may accessible to us and those interested.

  114. This audio should be made available on Tibetan government or NGO website. This is a definitive history of Tibet. Its also a good learning tool for Tibetan language.

    If there is intellectual property right issues it should be price low enough so that average Tibetan can afford it.

  115. Kungno Shakabpa’s audio interview is now available online. The audio was conducted by Gelek Rinpoche, at Shakabpa House in Kalimpong, 1983.

    Aside from the information Melvin Goldstein has used in his book, there is a fascinating wealth of historical details that has been left out. About five sets of high quality audio is online, and highly recommended for an education on history.

  116. Kudos to JN and all the commentators here. I have read everything and am of course deeply inspired. I have a well-thumbed copy of A Political History which I have used to great effect editing articles on Wikipedia about relevant subjects. Now I have ordered a copy of ‘1,00,000 Moons’ as well! I also managed to obtain the 2 MP3 CD’s of the 1985 lectures mentioned, from the Library, which are now in my possession. These lectures need to be transcribed, edited and published in Tibetan, and also translated and published in English, Hindi, Chinese etc. Who is interested to join this project?

  117. The CDs are still available from the Library. I bought a set. Now who would like to assist in the publication of these please get in touch with JN. The tapes need transcribing, editing and so forth, then published in Tibetan in the best possible way, then translating into English and publishing again like that. It’s a massive project. But worth it. Read what JN says about it. Thanks, hope this will work out and be useful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *