Untangling a Mess of Petrified Noodles


THE NOODLE MAKER OF KALIMPONG by Gyalo Thondup & Anne F. Thurston

Politicians and celebrities around the world employ ghostwriters for their memoirs and screeds. So the autobiography of a prominent Tibetan political figure being ghosted (or co-written) should come as no surprise to anyone. What was unexpected about Mr. Gyalo Thondup’s archly titled The Noodlemaker of Kalimpong (NMK), was the fact of the co-writer (China specialist Anne Thurston) sticking a string of disclaimers at the beginning and end of the book as if she were advertising a dubious new pharmaceutical product rather than introducing a passable summer read.

She scatters references to “Rashomon” and the “unknowability of truth”, in the book’s introduction to prepare us for Gyalo Thondup’s bombshell accusations against many if not most figures of note in modern Tibetan history. It also allows her to issue a convenient neutrality disclaimer on the Tibetan issue with this expedient observation: “The Rashomon phenomenon pervades the history of modern Tibet”, which explains to her the “irreconcilable differences” in the official Chinese and Tibetan version of events. Thurston doesn’t consider the fact that the “unknowability of truth” about Tibetan history could equally stem from her ignorance of the subject, or the need for China specialists in general not to stray too far from Beijing’s version of Tibetan history.

But it is more than evident that Thurston has problems with Thondup’s version of modern Tibetan history and she plays it safe with this mild disclaimer: “The evidence Gyalo Thondup presents does not warrant the conclusions he draws”. Historian Tsering Shakya in a summary review for Foreign Affairs puts it more bluntly: “Thondup offers very few substantial revelations about Tibet’s recent history, and the book is marred by speculation that verges on conspiracy theorizing”. Shakya mentions Thurston’s questioning of the veracity of Thondup’s story, but Shakya also correctly points out that “… Thondup is one of the most important figures in the history of the Tibetan diaspora. For many years, Thondup was the go-to Tibetan interlocutor for foreign governments and China.”[1]

In fact, Gyalo Thondup (or GT as many English speaking exiles refer to him) is so important in the whole exile-Tibetan scheme of things, and has played a dominant and central role for such a long time, that merely writing another review or a rejoinder will really not serve to enlighten a new generation of Tibetans (and probably many in the previous generation as well) on a very important period of modern Tibetan history.

I thought it would be useful for the reader if I took certain issues raised in this biography that have most affected Tibetan national and public life, and laid out the various points of views which have not recevied much attention in governmental or even scholarly circles. The exception, perhaps, in academia is Prof. Carole McGranahan, who has taken up GT’s disputes with Khampa leaders including the Pangdatsangs, in some of her writings.[2] The substantial advantage that Gyalo Thondup has had in this respect is that he has outlived all, if not most of his political enemies, and so has, in a sense, managed to have the last word on nearly every controversy.

Since I will not be able to adequately cover all the controversies in this single essay, I think it would be more doable if I spaced out the whole project and tackled only one specific issue in every post, and that too on an occasional basis. It will allow me time to do some fill-in research and fact-checking.


The issue I want to take up in this essay is the death of Gyalo Thondup’s father, one of those seemingly minor and disregarded tragedies in a nation’s history from which far more consequential and unfortunate outcomes have devolved. I would like to explore how the death of the Royal Father (gyalyab chenmo), and Gyalo Thondup’s obsessive belief that he was murdered by a conspiracy involving most of the Lhasa aristocracy, probably impacted modern Tibetan history in the most negative and poisonous way, particularly during the critical years after the Dalai Lama’s establishment of the exile government in Dharamshala.

But before tackling the matter of the actual death of the Royal Father, it would perhaps help readers to have an understanding of the events leading up to that unfortunate incident. When the Yabshi family first arrived in Lhasa it was received enthusiastically by the populace.

Yabshi in Lhasa 2 copy
Yabshi in Lhasa. Front L to R: Phuntsok Tashi Takla (Tsering Dolma’s husband), Gyalo Thondup, Gyalyab Chokyong Tsering, Gyalyum Deki Tsering (holding Jetsun Pema), Tsering Dolma Takla, Deki Dolkar (Gyalo Thondup’s Amdo bride). Photo P.T. Takla.

It was a large extended family that included some cousins, an uncle, a bride (nama), a groom (makpa) and the Dalai Lama’s own grandmother. Some years ago I obtained this wonderful photograph of the old dowager, who was unable to leave Lhasa with the rest of the family in the chaos of March 1959.

HHDLGrandMother copy 2
Dolma Yangzom, His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s maternal grandmother. Photo Lhamo Tsering.

Everyone was thrilled with the child Dalai Lama, who by all accounts behaved with the most impeccable dignity. Richardson writes: “The composure and placid behavior of the child was remarkable”. Basil Gould: “… he conducted himself with grave, unsurprised, self-possession.” Once in a while, when the official or religious functions (zeygo) became overlong and tiring His Holiness would understandably cry or throw a fit and the Royal Mother had to be rushed to the Jokhang or the Potala, where she would take him to an anteroom and do what she had to do.

Child Dalai copy
“Soul child” Lhamo Dhondup, Kumbum 1939. Photo: Archibald Steele, China correspondent, Chicago Daily News.

Probably the first bit of “Yabshi” gossip that did the rounds of Lhasa society concerned the gyalyum chenmo or Royal Mother politely refusing to wear the formal costume of a Lhasa lady that she was entitled (and even required) to wear. She stuck to her traditional Amdo costume. Although the Gyalyum’s decision may have initially taken people by surprise, everyone grew to respect her simple authenticity and also her humility and gentleness. She was also a wonderful cook and it would be remiss of me if I did not mention the one occasion I was privileged to taste it, when I visited her son (and my classmate) T.C. (Ngari Rinpoche) at their residence, Kashmir Cottage in Dharamshala.

Gyalyum Chenmo cooking in a makeshift bamboo hut, perhaps at Swarg Ashram, Dharamshala?

In one of those Lhasa street songs (monlam chumae shay), which usually criticized the great and powerful, the Royal Mother is referred to as Gyalyum Jetsun Dolma or “Tara the Savior”:

Gyalyab Choskyong[3] Tsering/

Choskyong pheb-pheb, pheb-kyis/

Gyalyum Jetsun Dolma/

Chos-shom nang la shug shag/

The Royal Father “Oracle” Tsering

Is behaving as if he were possessed

The Royal Mother “The Savior Tara”,

Is sitting serenely in the Chapel.

In spite of their love for the Dalai Lama and affection and respect for his mother, the song reveals that the good citizens of Lhasa were well aware of the Royal Father’s shortcomings. He had a nasty temper and was given to publicly beating up people who he felt were not showing him enough respect. “He demanded that all mounted persons in the city, regardless of rank dismount and pay their respects to him, or risk being beaten by his servants.” This was unheard of in Lhasa where there were so many high officials, high lamas and VIPs from other places moving around the city, that people could not be expected to get off their horses for all of them. The Royal Father once even threatened to shoot the abbot of Drepung monastery who complained to him of his servants mistreating a Drepung subject.

A wise Tibetan scholar explained to me why the Royal Father’s outrageous behaviour might have its roots in the political world he had come from. In warlord-controlled Qinghai, having political power allowed you to beat up whoever you wanted, even cut off their heads, as Ma Bufang, the Muslim warlord had a reputation for doing. Traditional Tibet, on the other hand, though not modern or democratic, was ruled by customs and conventions, and crucially, a legal system, which though rough around the edges was definitely less capricious than warlord justice – or the present day Chinese legal system, for that matter. Hugh Richardson mentions that the old Tibetan legal system and the power of the aristocracy “… was not arbitrary and the subjects could appeal to the District Officer or directly to the Kashag or to the judges in Lhasa”[4]. People soon began to do just that about the Royal Father.

But the Royal Father’s venality was very much a personal character trait, and in a class of its own. He refused the manor-house the government first bestowed on the Yabshi family and demanded one of the largest Lhasa parks, Chansebshar[5], and funds and labor to construct a huge new mansion. He also demanded extra estates in addition to the ones given to him, and “refused to pay the usual taxes on his estates.”[6] Even when the extra estates he demanded were eventually given to him, he demanded more!

From a report by Rai Bahadur Norbu Thondup to the Foreign Secretary, Government of India: “… the Dalai Lama’s father is intefering too much with the affairs of the Government and is taking the law into his own hand. According to Norbu “… the Royal Father interferes in cases between creditors and debtors, re-trying the cases himself and threatening the magistrates in charge. For his services he charges exorbitant fees, accept bribes and makes a handsome profit for himself.”[7] Simply put he was running a “protection racket”.

The Royal father was also a “horse fancier” and reportedly demanded that people sell him horses he took a liking to, often at absurdly low prices. This inspired another irreverent song:

Ta zang dros den zhon nay/

Changsebshar la ma theg/

Gyalyab Tsiu mar poe/

Tsong shog, trod shog lab yong/

When you ride a fine horse with a good “amble”

Don’t ride by the Eastern Cool Willow Grove (Changsebshar)

The Royal Father “Red-face Tsiu-Marpo[8] deity”

Might say “Sell it!” or “Give it!”

A sick man riding to the British Mission hospital had his pony confiscated by the Duke for not dismounting and saluting him.

Finally everyones patience ran out. The National Assembly issued a detailed proclamation informing the public of the government’s more than generous endowment to the Dalai Lama’s family and the Royal Father’s greed and rapacity. It also proclaimed that if the Royal Father or any of his servants committed further offenses then the matter would taken up by the courts.

The Royal Father took the government’s efforts to restrain him badly and blamed the new Taktra Regency for his public humiliation. Regretably, he appears to have joined a conspiracy of former Reting Regent loyalists, plotting to overthrow the Taktra Regent and return Reting to power. More unfortunately and even treasonously, Reting and his supporters were seeking financial and military support from the Chinese government to realize their goal.

Lhasa, Regent und Beger
Reting Regent, Jampel Yeshi Gyaltsen (1912-1947) playfully examining skull of German anthropologist Bruno Beger, 1938. Photo Shaefer Expedition, Bundesarchiv.

The Royal Father may have contributed to this conspiracy through his personal connections with senior Guomindang (KMT) officials in Sining. The story of the Dalai Lama’s family being of humble peasant stock is, of course, the prevailing myth, but in actuality they were prosperous farmers and landowners with political connections to the KMT/Muslim warlord ruler of Amdo. That the oldest son of this family, Thupten Jigme Norbu, was installed as abbot of Kumbum monastery, one of the most important monasteries in the region, might be seen as an indication of this connection. Taktser Rimpoche candidly mentioned to me that as a child he did not recognize any of the objects placed before him when he was tested, but that he was chosen anyway. He mentions this in a book[9]. The Royal Mother told her granddaughter that the Sining warlord Ma Bufang was a family friend “…and would have used his powers to help us.”[10]

Gyalo Thondup and his brother Lobsang Samten were enrolled in one of the better schools, Tarkhang Laptra, for their elementary education. As adequate as these dozen odd schools in the city were to teach Lhasa children the basics of reading, writing and recition of prayers, the need for a modern educational system was clearly realized by the more enlightened members of Lhasa society. The government’s efforts to start an “English” school at Gyangtse under Frank Ludlow (1923), and in Lhasa under Colonel Parker (1944) being undermined by the monastic conservatives, is well known.

GT's school
Gyalo Thondup (in fur cap) at Tarkhang School, Lhasa, 1942. Photo Dolan/Tolstoy.

From the mid-thirties onwards, everyone who could afford it: aristocrats, merchants, Khampa residents of  Lhasa and others, started sending their children (both boys and girls) to English schools in India for a modern education. The Tibetan government sponsored ten students (five from the lay drungkor cadre and five from the tsedrung cadre) to study at St. Josephs College in Darjeeling.

But the Royal Father made secret arrangements to send Gyalo Thondup to China for a Chinese education. Hoover Institute scholar Hsaio-ting Lin writes that the Chinese representative in Lhasa, Shen Zonglian “…managed a covert trip for Gyalo Thondup and Phuntso Tashi, the Dalai Lama’s brother-in-law, to China. When the news eventually reached Lhasa of the arrival of the Dalai Lama’s family members in Nanking, both the Taktra administration and the British were extremely shocked and were alerted to Shen’s activities in Lhasa.”[11]

ChiangGT 2 copy 2
L to R: President Chiang Kai shek, Madame Chiang, Tibetan official Dzasak Lama Thupten Samphel and Gyalo Thondup in Nanjing, 1946. photo P.T. Takla

Gyalo Thondup writes that President Chiang Kai-shek personally paid for his education, “… all my expenses, a monthly allowance that allowed me to live in style, a three-bedroom house with a cook, servants and a car with a driver.” (NMK p.73) . Gyalo Thondup also mentions that when he left for China in 1946 he was carrying a message from the Reting Regent to Chiang Kai-shek, asking for Chinese government help for Reting to regain power in Tibet. Gyalo Thondup was seventeen, and probably not fully aware of treasonous nature of the message. But the justifications he provides in his book about Chiang Kai-shek being a good and wise man, and even supportive of Tibetan independence, underlines a running argument in the book. If he Gyalo Thondup did what he had to do, it was done for high-minded reasons and for the good for Tibet. If any of his opponents did the same (or were even just accused of it) they were criminals and traitors.

The Tibetan government might have known of this treacherous message to Chiang Kai-shek but they could not, of course, take any direct action against the Royal Father or anyone in the Yabshi family. To ensure that the Royal Father would not be able to involve himself in further misadventures a special manager, Darhan (Drongtse Labhar) Lhakyab, was placed in charge of all the Yabshi estates, accounts and finance. Some have referred to him as the estate manager, but he appears to have been more of a political “minder” and a strict one at that. He kept the Royal Father and other members of the family on a tight leash. This was a very humiliating period for the Yabshi and unfortunately Taktra officials could not refrain from rubbing it in whenever they could. It got so bad that even the Royal Mother’s access to the Dalai Lama was unnecesarily restricted. One kashag minister, the controversial and colorful Kabshoba, spoke out strongly against this humiliation of the Royal Mother. His defiance of the Taktra regency got him framed and imprisoned. A recently published biography[12] of the minister is a fascinating read on the politics of that period.

Yabshi manager copy
L-R: Kashag appointed Yabshi estate manager, Darhan (drungchi lhabar) Lhakyap, Dawa la (maid), Gyalyum Chenmo. photo Lhamo Tsering.

On April 14, 1947, an ultra-secret coded telegram was received by the Kashag in Lhasa from the Tibet Bureau in Nanking, revealing that Reting had sent an urgent message to his representatives in Nanking, requesting Chinese troops, military equipment and airplanes to help Reting overthrow Taktra. “Reting’s message apparently offered to accept Chinese overlordship, and some say, to cede to China contested Tibetan territory in Kham. The telegram also said that China had agreed to respond to Reting’s urgent request within five days.”[13] More than the earlier inept bomb-plot that everyone has heard or read about, this telegram propelled the Kashag to finally take action against the conspirators and the Reting Rinpoche himself.

Earlier that year (around the Losar celebrations of 1947) the Dalai Lama’s father passed away after a long illness. Of course, the Dalai Lama’s own personal physicians “…came regularly to the house and prescribed remedies, but nothing seemed to make him feel any better.”[14] His passing away seems to have been considered by everyone in Lhasa as an unfortunate but natural occurrence. There were no rumors of poison or foul play.

Tibetans love stories of political intrigue and skullduggery, especially where high lamas and officials are disposed of by poison. If there had been even a hint of suspicion about the Royal Father’s death, the rumor mills in the holy city would have been working overtime. We all know that the supposed murder of the Reting Regent in prison by poison or by having his testicles squeezed has been gossiped to death in Tibetan society, and even within the pages of Goldstein’s history – all with little or no evidence.  So why were there no rumors about the Royal Fathers death?

In none of the histories of modern Tibet written by Tibetan or Western historians: Tsipon Shakabpa, Tsering Shakya, K.Thondup, Hugh Richardson, or Warren Smith, is the murder of the Royal Father ever mentioned. Even in the relatively pro-Chinese histories by Tom Grunfeld and Melvyn Goldstein[15]– this juicy bit of unflattering gossip is entirely absent. Heinrich Harrer, who was fairly close to the Yabshi family, makes no mention of it in his famous travelogue. Even KMT historians Tsung-lien Shen[16], and Shen-chi Liu & Tieh-Tseng Li[17], all strongly pro Reting and anti Taktra, make no mention of the alleged murder of the Royal Father in their books on Tibetan history. The already mentioned Hsaio-ting Lin also does not.

The Dalai Lama himself has never written or spoken about his father being murdered. Anne Thursten appears to have discussed this with the Dalai Lama and she notes that the Dalai Lama was not convinced of Gyalo Thondup’s accusations. (NMK p.303)

The Dalai Lama’s older brother Thupten Jigme Norbu (Taktser Rinpoche) makes no mention of the alleged murder of his father in any of his writings. The Dalai Lama’s younger sister, Jetsun Pema, in her autobiography[18] gives a detailed account of the illness and passing away of her father, but makes no mention of poison or murder. She was actually by her father’s bedside when he died. The Dalai Lama’s mother expressed her doubts about her husbands manner of passing in an interview decades later [19]. At the time of her husband’s passing she did not share any suspicions about his death with anyone. And she had reasons not to. The Royal Father had suffered an almost identical illness back in  Amdo around 1935, unable to eat anything, “wasting away, turning into a skeleton” almost to the point of death. GT writes that he only just recovered, quite miraculously, when the Dalai Lama was born (NMK pp 14-20).

Gyalo Thondup was informed of his father’s passing at Nanking. He was asked by the Tibetan government to return to Lhasa to take up his father’s position and responsibility. But GT claims that he was warned of a plot by Taktra officials against him, so he chose to stay in China.  The Chinese had convinced themselves that the Taktra regency was strongly pro-British, and regarded the mysterious death of their “patriotic” Reting Regent (and laterve the “death” of the “patriotic” Royal Father) as a conspiracy by pro-British Tibetan officials under Taktra.

The Taktra Regent, Ngawang Sungrab (1874–1952)

There is absolutely no evidence to support the theory of Taktra being pro-British. In fact he was a rather grim, conservative old monk who did not even like having his photograph taken with English or other foreign visitors, which the Reting Regent enjoyed doing. The Taktra administration, especially his chanzoe-chenmo[20] (chief steward) was notoriously corrupt and tyrannical, but the Reting administration was equally corrupt and vindictive to its opponents and critics. Tibetan officials of that period have less negative memories of the Reting Regent because he was more given to partying and having a good time. Chinese dislike of Taktra probably stemmed from his administration’s initiative in 1942 to resurrect the Tibetan Foreign Office, and other sporadic efforts to assert Tibetan independence, which could be argued were too little and too late.

This conspiracy theory of the murder of Reting and the Royal Father was later taken up by the PRC and developed in their propaganda, not only in books and magazines but even, reportedly, in a TV docudrama. Reference to the murder of the Royal Father first appeared in a major PRC publication in 1959, where in a section on the history of Tibet, mention was made of how “ … in 1947 the reactionary imperialist ruling clique in Tibet headed by Taktra Regent, Lukhangwa, Surkhang (etc.)…put the patriotic Rabchen (Reting) Regent under arrest and murdered him. They also poisoned Chochotsering (Chokyong Tsering), father of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, who was closely related to Rabchen and had the interests of the motherland at heart.”[21]

So it is important that we get this straight. The first ever accusation of the Dalai Lama’s father being murdered by poison was made in the above PRC propaganda tract of 1959. There is nothing in Tibetan, English or Chinese before this. The first time Gyalo Thondup publicly spoke about this was in 1995 in an interview with an English writer.

GT himself provides no shred of evidence to back up his charge. In his book he claims that a junior manager of the Yabshi estate poisoned his father but conveniently leaves out his name (NMK p.66). The English writer, Mary Craig says that “GT claims to have seen the document that proves his father’s murder.”[22] GT also told Mary Craig that this person confessed to the Chinese during an interrogation. So the document was most probably the transcript of the confession, in official records. A copy was possibly obtained by GT from Chinese officials perhaps during one of his vists to China after 1979. After all the document was irrefutable proof of China’s propaganda claim that the “patriotic” Chochotsering was murdered by the reactionary pro-British clique in Lhasa. But GT doesnt reproduce the document or give us a single name.  Gyalo Thondup only goes into some detail when he discusses the ostensible poison used, but these details are fantastic even quite literally, mythical.


Murder by poison was not uncommon in old Tibet. I have mentioned in a previous post[23] that the Tomden fraternity, which carried out the jha-tor (not “sky burial” please) disposal of dead bodies by vultures, performed autopsies for the Lhasa courts when required. Traditional knowledge and experience of dissecting bodies made the Tomden familiar with symptoms of poisoning or other forms of unnatural death.

Tibetan medical literature[24] provides detailled descriptions of an extensive variety of poisons. Some standard Tibetan poisons mentioned are: aconite (tsen-dhug or bhonga nakpo), arsenic (bhala or bhabla), belladonna (dhuk thangdrom nakpo) and cyanide (kyursa ngonpo). These are generally quick acting and effective.

Gyalo Thondup ignores these and instead goes for the more fabulous “langchen nyonpa” or “mad elephant”, a herb he claims “shuts down the digestive system” and starves the victim to death, which also conveniently explains why it took forty-four days for the Royal father to die. But generally speaking such undetectable, slow-acting poisons as thalium or polonium are modern discoveries, the latter being used in the murder of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, in London.

GT’s own co-author Anne Thurston says she is not convinced by his story. “Other possibilities seem equally reasonable. Some, for instance, have noted the high incidence of esophageal cancer among Tibetans and the similarity of the symptoms of such a cancer to those of Gyalo Thondups’ dying father. And one cannot help but wonder why poison should take forty-four days to kill”(NMK p.303). From the American Cancer Society website “… loss of appetite before death is common in many cancer cases especially cancer of the bowel.”[25] We might recall GT’s own account of his father suffering a near terminal illness with identical symptoms in 1935.

Most Tibetans have heard and enjoyed such stories about the poison cult of Kongbo (dhukpa), certain wooden drinking bowls (phor-pa) having the power to detect poison, the turquoise on Mt. Hapori near Samye being an effective antidote for most poisons, and so on. The “Mad Elephant” drug belongs squarely in this category of Tibetan tall tales. I say this with some conviction as I have also come across a conflicting story about a similarly name mushroom (not herb) being a sedative powerful enough to calm a mad elephant. Goldstein in his history writes that when the official Lungshar had his eyes removed the “Langchen Nyonpa or Langchen Nyochou” drug was administered to sedate him.[26]

Yet I do not want to entirely dismiss Gyalo Thondup’s claim that his father was murdered by poison. I can well understand how traumatic it must have been for the Yabshi family to have the head of the family pass away, especially around the period when its principal patron, the Reting Regent, was powerless and later in prison. It would have been unnatural if members of the family, especially the Royal Mother, did not harbor suspicions about the death of her husband, and fears for the life of her son and the new Yabshi heir, Gyalo Thondup.

My objection to the conspiracy story offered by Gyalo Thondup is not that it is fantastic and without evidence. Such conspiracy theories generally are. But his blanket accusation of the entire Tibetan government and the aristocracy as being “cruel and barbaric”  and the whole Tibetan system as being “without any law or justice” (NMK p.87) essentially parrots Chinese lies and fabrications that have been used extensively by China’s propagandists in the West to discredit Tibetan history and civilization, and delegitimize our national struggle. GT also goes on to accuse the Tibetan government of planning to murder not only him but even the Dalai Lama as well – once they had gotten rid of Gyalo Thondup. GT also insists that the historian Shakabpa (a loyal friend and partner who helped Gyalo Thondup set up his first political organization in Kalimpong) “…must have played a role in the demise of both my father and Reting (Regent).” (NMK p.150)

What can explain the near pathological intensity and excessiveness of Gyalo Thondup’s accusations, that made it difficult, if not impossible, for his own co-writer, his sister, brother and even the Dalai Lama to concur or support? Was it all in the end just a clumsy (perhaps subconscious) rationalization that GT concocted to justify the savage power struggle he inflicted on early exile society? A power struggle that destroyed the lives of many officials, leaders and common people and which castrated the exile government, making it ineffectual for decades.

To be taken up in my next post.


[1] Tsering Shakya, Review, Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/reviews/2015-10-20/noodle-maker-kalimpong-untold-story-my-struggle-tibet

[2] Carole McGranahan, Arrested Histories: Tibet, the CIA, and Memories of a Forgotten War, Duke University Press, 2010. Carole McGranahan, “On Social Death: The Spang mda’tsang Family and 20th Century History”, Trail of the Tibetan Tradition, Amnye Machen Institute, Dharamshala, 2014.

[3] Coincidentally the actual name of the Royal Father was “Choskyong” Tsering meaning an oracle or protecter deity.

[4] Changshep Shar is called the “Eastern Willow Park” in map by L.A Waddel. He mentions that it was used for “royal functions”. This was the second biggest park in Lhasa, just smaller than the Shugtri Lingka (Throne Park) just south of the Potala.

[5] In a letter to Mary Craig sent by Hugh Richardson, 12 December 1993. From her book cited below.

[6] A detailed account of the Royal Father’s transgressions can be seen in the India Office Library collection of reports of the British Mission in Lhasa. The most detailled reports are those from Rai Bahadur Norbu Thondup. These are quoted in Goldstein Vol I and Mary Craig’s biography cited below.

[7] cited in Mary Craig, Kundun, A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama, Harper Collins Publishers, London 1997.

[8] Tsiu-marpo or Tsiu-mara was the red face guardian deity and principal oracle of Samye monastery. The complexion of the Royal Father was reportedly also constantly flushed. Perhaps due to high blood pressure.

[9] Thubten Jigme Norbu; Colin M. Turnbull, TIBET : Its History, Religion and People, Pelican Books, London,1972

[10] Khedroob Thondup (editor) Dalai Lama My Son; A Mother’s Story, Diki Tsering, Viking/Arkana, New York, 2000.

[11] Hsaio-Ting Lin, Tibet and Nationalist China’s Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928-49, UBC Press, Vancouver, Toronto, 2006 p.186

[12] Jamyang Choegyal Kasho, In the Service of the 13th and the 14th Dalai Lamas, Choegyal Nyima Lhundrup Kashopa, Untold Stories of Tibet, TibetHaus, Germany, 2015.

[13] Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: Volume 1, The Demise of the Lamaist State, 1913-1951, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1991.

[14] Jetsun Pema, Tibet, My Story, Element Books, USA, 2001

[15] Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: Volume 2, The Calm before the Storm, 1951-1955, University of California Press, Berkeley, 2007. Gyalo Thondup interview on the murder of his father is on p.236.

[16] Hsaio-Ting Lin, Tibet and Nationalist China’s Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928-49, UBC Press, Vancouver, Toronto, 2006.

[17] Shen, Tsung-lien and Shen-chi Liu. Tibet and the Tibetans. California: Stanford University Press, 1953.

[18] Jetsun Pema, ibid.

[19] Khedroop Thondup ibid.

[20] For victims of the Taktra administration the Chief Steward of the Taktra regency took on the reputation of real boogey-man. This fearsome personality ended up a pathetic old monk at the old peoples home at Dalhousie, HP, picking up twigs and firewood by the roadside, according to my informant.

[21] Concerning the Question of Tibet, Foreign Language Press, Peking, 1959.

[22] Mary Craig, Kundun, A Biography of the Family of the Dalai Lama, Harper Collins Publishers, London 1997.

[23] Jamyang Norbu, “The Lhasa Ripper” Shadow Tibet

[24] Gyurme Dorje, Fernand Meyer (editors), Tibetan Medical Thangkas, Serindia Publications, London 1991.


[26] Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet: Volume 1


52 Replies to “Untangling a Mess of Petrified Noodles”

  1. Lol….first i thought JN would deal with Gyalo’s conspiracy to create his brother’s middle way. As soon as I started reading the piece, the skillful method employed to violent character traits of Dalai Lama’s father and the lie about his family as poor and simple farmer (Dalai Lama has been lying to westerners about poor family in Amdo), i realized that JN gonna do discredit the new kidra and protect the integrity of the old kudras! Yes, he did it in the end! Old kudras were not barbaric and uncivilized like Dalai Lama’s family, especially Dalai Lama’s family! Jamyang Norbu once accused some western scholars as building argument with enormous statistical datas that were not true! I kind of found JN ended up doing the same thing! Also JN’s personal grudge with Dalai Lama’s family fully disclosed! Well of course, giving the brainwahsed nature of Tibetan mind about indic Buddhism and Dalai Lama as reicarnation of Avolokitesvara, JN treated Dalai Lama with quite a nice word except indirectly expose DL’s lying talk about poor farmer’s fMily in a remote are of Amdo, by hiding connection to Ma Pu Fang and later with Chiang Kai Shek! Nice write up…….J! Can you name the “wise Tibetan scholar”? You accused DT of not mentioning few informants name which made you suspicious, in the same vein, how can your readers believe you Nd treat you differently? So you guys have different standard regarding telling truth? In conclusion, JN’s fanatic stance on his pseudo rangzen, he will skew any other version of history as lie even if it is true! His skill is no different from Chinese government! Anyway, looking for the next write up about the Gold theft by kudras! I predict kudras did not steal and never steal…..lol……people need to understand, JN was one of the kudra princling whose family’s fortune and political stance is in stark different to DL family, of course, cohBit with pseudo historian Shakapa who stole the work of Amdo Gendun Choephel!


  2. Another brilliant article, Jamyang! If anyone is responsible for researching and preserving an accurate Tibetan history, it is you! I am also thinking of your website on the 1959 revolt. Looking forward to the further articles on the GT story. As a note, Anne Thurston met with me twice in preparing her book. My only advice, not being as familiar as you with the inside story of GT, was to question all his assertions. Too bad she did not consult with you. I once questioned GT about his interpretation of Deng Xiaoping’s comment to him that “anything but independence could be discussed,” which has become an article of faith among Tibetans and the foundation of Dharamsala’s negotiation strategy. I imagined that by “independence” Deng meant the entire political issue of Tibet, based as it on the claim to a former independence. In other words, what he meant was that nothing about the political issue could be discussed. GT vehemently denied this interpretation, as did Lodi Gyari in another interview. However, the Chinese behavior in all dialogues would favor my interpretation.

  3. Comment censored? Lol….still talking about free speech and Chinese firewall? This kind of fucked mindest does not help in image of old benevolent kudras and their cruelty!


  4. Quite the informative write – up. Just like Mountain Phoenix, Angry Tibetan Girl, and now JN, it’s a pleasure to read various Tibetans and their take on Gyalo Thondup la’s book.

    About the father, even Kundun said he had a mean temper. And the more JN revealed the man, the less I cared even if he did get assassinated. Just as I would lose no sleep if crooked Hillary Clinton was indicted by the FBI and Loretta Lynch threw the book at her – I would merely feel that justice was finally served.

    Ofcourse, Justice, like, God, is never there when you have the most need for them.

  5. Thank you ! So wonderfully your research and insights ,,my best memory of GT is a visit to Tibet House some years ago now, in which he leaned forwards and told me ‘ ” , yes.continue your work on Tibetan culture , but when it comes to politics , leave that to us ..” We will take care if that ! I have disagreed with what I refer to as , the ” appeasement ” policy as conducted by Lodi Gyari as a basically failed effort ..from which much was expected , but nothing developed ,,,other the increasing pressure from the Chinese government …no wonder there are long tales as to what actually happened in the takeover of Tibet ,,,and the consistent destruction of it’s people , cultural traditions , way of life and land and resources ….

  6. Thank you JN la for another interesting bit on Tibetan history. The photos are great too. It’s always a pleasure to read your blog on any topic. How tsampa is eaten in different ways political intrigues and many more.

  7. Another fantastic writeup, Jamyang la. Great insight into the political intrigues of the time and if nothing else, The Noodlemaker of Kalimpong, managed to get the discussion started on many different interesting topics of the past.

  8. Things were kept all under hush when it came to Gyalo Thondup’s shady dealings, the murders, the imprisonments of exiles, the embezzlement with the CIA gold, the Gaydey Gold embezzlement, large unpaid loans of the independent Tibetan government, the abject greed and the numerous illegal activities of this very highly controversial man. I hope that now as time changes everything, that these all come out in public, so people really know what this man really was all about. Let me spell it out, HE WAS ALL AND ONLY FOR HIMSELF, just like his father, the Gyayab.

  9. Thanks for doing the research and compiling other opinions on this one incident from 1947. I agree with most of your conclusions and hope you’ll write more on Tibetan history.
    There are two things I want to contribute:

    1. This book (NMK) was financed by the son of GT (the doctor in Hong Kong) and he’s intelligent enough to know how the original manuscript was too bad to be published. That’s how Anne Thurston came in and in my opinion she did a good job as a historian. She’s banned from entering China anyway and has nothing to lose with her involvement. For the same reason she’s not going along with any Chinese propaganda position.

    2. The idea of Reting Rinpoche “selling” Tibet to the KMT would never have worked alone because of the civil war in China. On 20 July 1946 the civil war erupted again and by the spring of 1947 the KMT had not been able to gain any significant advantage. During the summer of 1947 the KMT had neither the troops, resources nor the material to occupy Tibet. It’s just another example of GT involved in a plot he could not control and with no chance to succeed.

  10. It is always enriching me every each time reading the precise hard work of Jamyang Sonam Norbu la in our “Buddhist” culture as inviting the abbot Jowo-rje-dpal-ldan-Atisha of Nalanda Buddhist University of India in 1040 to correct the corrupted Buddhist spiritual practice after the chaos of our Nation.
    In return I have no objection of recognizing Lhamo Dhondup of the great 13th Dalai Lama as privilege or a victim if I pronounce it in politically & I am very sure Lhamo grown up in the world of Bodhisattvas & connotation can be excitement.
    But my view on Lhamo’s choice of 13th is very unique in the terms of political sense by the great 13th since the part of Tibet was lost to or towards China as we call it: rGa-lde Bod-lde (that part of Tibetan pays their tax to China.) Moreover discovering Chinese Muslim warlord Ma Bufang was family friend & mission has to pay some of money to bring Lhamo in the pretext reincarnation of certain Lama.
    If my view was of vision it is very painful of not taking it seriousness to put it on first importance instead fighting of individual power between two regents & groups running after personal profits before the Nation.

    Thank you Jamyang Sonam Norbu la.

  11. For a reason i’m posting under GT noodle maker

    thinlay Zhika Sarpa,

    You have a problem with everybody. The Kudrak of past, Yabshis, Taklas, Jamyang Norbu, the people who follow his writings, Dardon Sharling, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, Chushi Gangdruk and i don’t know how many more you are against.

    You claim to be commoner and cry how no commoner has any chance to rise up yet you are angry that Lobsang Sangay is Sikyong. He rise from very humble family to the Sikyong post you know that. Dardon Sharling is a bright , young and very motivated woman to represent Tibet and you have problem with her. You have problem with Aukatsang. that is very clever cherry picking of GT’s beneficiary. And Enough with that commoner card. in exile everybody is a commoner. and commoner all likes money. thats it. if you are a commoner then everybody is a commoner i can guarantee you that.

  12. For ANGRY TIBET:

    Don’t divert readers from JN’s topic on GT’s “Noodle-maker”. You should have posted this in JN’s election-related article “Clarity of Commitment”.

    My issue with Sikyong was not his vision or leadership nor even his humble background, but his inaction on Sino-Tibetan negotiation. My issue with Sharling was not with her knowledge or capability, but her recent violation of constitutional provisions and electoral rules regarding Kalonship. My issue with Chushi Gangdruk was that I was not happy with the way the association is operating (and this is my outsider perspective). My mention of Aukatsang Jampa Kalden was in the context of his relation with GT (You cherry-picked Aukatsang and deliberately left out Nepal Lobsang Tsultrim and others in the list. A giveaway here!). If you think I’m cherry-picking, let the discussion run and I will give you the details as we progress further. So better not pull things from outside the forum or write things out of context.

    JN has put out an argument which concerns his own view on GT’s narration of recent Tibetan history, inappropriateness in presenting HH’s family as farmers, controversy surrounding death of HH’s father, and this unabating Reting-Taktra issue. That’s JN’s view and everyone can either agree or disagree with him.

    Like any Tibetan, I have so far stood against many anti-HH groups. I dearly respect and stand for His Holiness against anybody, but see no business to clear mess that GT or anyone creates. If GT supporters including Aukatsang (which you cherry picked from my list), Nepal Lobsang Tsultrim, or whoever wishes to rise in defense, you’re most welcome to argue, at least intelligibly. You cannot drag penniless and patronless commoners this time into the discussion.

    So, one is entitled to either agree or disagree with JN’s argument without diverting from the issue at hand.

  13. Thinly zhika sarpa

    Who do you think you are? saying that you have issue with this and that and not happy with this and that and so on…
    what entitles you to think that only you have HH’s best interest at heart? Are you any one of the elected officials?

    Jamyang Norbu, whatever may be, whether one agrees with everything he writes or not he is putting his name on it. got to respect that. you and i can write all we want but we are basically nameless. thats pathetic haha..

  14. Every Tibetans has right to know the facts….history that leds our fatherland in the hands of chinese…please mentioned more…..

  15. Thoroughly enjoyed the piece as always, as for the poison called “Langchen nyonpa” about which Jamyang Norbu la seems skeptical, may I add that there actually is a plant with the name Langchen nyon pa (glang chen smyon pa)in Tibetan medical literatures. It is a synonym for one of the two sub-kinds of Thangdrom karpo (thang phrom dkar po), also called snow thangdrom (gangs thang phrom) owing to its high altitude habitat. Its poisonous property and use as poison are not discussed in medical literatures in explicit terms, but its categorization as a kind of thangdrom and its synonyms such as Langchen nyonpa and Nangwa gugyur (snang ba dgu ‘gyur) referring to its hallucinating effects, make apparently clear that it is poisonous.

  16. Yonten Gyatos
    Thank you. It’s very interesting about the plant with hallucinatory qualities. I think we should give some to Shika Sarpa to tame his monkey mind.


    You say how dare I express any views on Tibet because I am not an “elected official”? Are you saying that Jamyang Norbu, who is not an elected official as far as I know, should not be writing this piece on GT’s Noodlemaker in the first place? There are no topics that JN has not touched. Is there a different set of statutes and conventions for us commoners?


    Only people with phobic, hallucinatory and schizophrenic problems will administer poison on somebody. I have screenshot your posting for future reference just to let people know how your postings have tone of criminality. Suggesting that I be administered poison tells how you have that tendency and this is not reflecting good on GT’s accusation on how Gyalyap was administered Langchen Nyonpa.

    Thank god, I am not in pre-59 Lhasa. Or else I could be summoned and Duhgood will deviously administer that horrible thing to me.

    I understand that 5 Days and only 16 comments will make even a blogger feel concerned about readership. But don’t drag non-related commoners like me into your aristocratic affairs for your rating sake.

  18. Please, also consult the autobiography of Phuntsog Tashi Takla. There is an interesting account of the events that led to the death of his father in-law supporting your view that he was not a murdered.

  19. Yonten gyatso la, thanks for the info on Langchen Nyonpa. Could you send me a link to the source. Or a copy of the textual page. Thanks.

    Wangpo la thanks for the tip about Takla’s bio. If you recall could you send me the page number. The bio is three volumes and thick!.

  20. YOGI | JULY 2ND, 2016 | 7:11 AM
    ZIKA ma-char @ 85:

    Are you insane? JN is a scholar and all his what you called “cherry pickings” are sourced – Chinese, westerners and Dalai Lama’s other family members’ biography.

    Make sure you are really drinking McDowell or rather a stiffer desi version in a McDowell bottle. I write in Tibetan for a living but have never come across such important part of our history that JN is telling us. I am extremely grateful to him.
    Like you, JN knows that in these day, we are preached to tell truth and be honest. But when the truth is about people of significance,you are blacklisted and called black sheeps of society. While people like you prefer to march singing praises JN and more and more intellectuals think it will not serve us well in the long term.

    History is repeating itself. New Khapshupas and new khunphen las have taken stage. U.S. and India really need to have a common and a very steady hand to right this sinking ship. Tibet is such an important card for them against China to let it self destruct.
    JN is one person for these two important nations to seek advice. And I am a Tibetan and a patriot but I am scared to death about the direction we are taking.
    Than you, JN for writing honestly.

  21. Any nation without a reliable record of history is dangerous. Unfortunately, Tibet was, is, and will be one without this essential requisite.

    And GT’s over simplistically authentic memoir for sure lacks basic true authoritative historical perspective comes as a rare gauntlet for historically bereft nationless Tibetans.
    May be our self-declared Monkey-Ogress decency speaks to it.

    Was Tibet not really ruled by Demons and Oracles (Wasn’t there a book by that name?. Who cares about Tibetans claiming to be the ferocious
    remnants of mighty religious kings who later caved in with the importation of India’s Buddhism, and the intra sectarian infighting, culminating in the great monasteries fighting the government in Lhasa.

    No wonder Tibet was ill prepared to defend itself when Mao’s revolution engulfed and invaded Tibet in 1959. Was it not in exile that Tibetan people got united as a people of country together in modern history>

    Perhaps it was a farce. For what followed, in the name of democracy, exiles towed with the idea of people power and exercised voting rights with gusto.

    At the time, when things should be gliding smoothly, came the unfortunate karmic brake. The last Sikyong and Chitue elections fiasco provide the much needed fodder to Gaden Phodrang and its allies to pull the plug.

    Sikyong LS is a sick captain of an sinking sheep without campus, and Chitue Tsogsur
    PT and Kasur DN got the nod from Gaden Phodrang, nonplussing both the CTA and Chitue Lhankhang.

    What is the latest: Sources in Washington DC claims that the Office of Tibet under Kayor is become dysfunctional. Remember, during His Holiness’ visit there, PT, as the new a designated new representative was rushed ahead to by pass and sideline poor Kayor.

    And now, sources say, Gaden Phodrang’s point man, Tsetn Samdup, handling the itinerary, has stayed back in DC to reorganize the whole thing.

    My sources claim that Tsetan was coupling with Kalden Lodo and Liby of Radio Free Asia. God know what their game plan is!

    A source in California say the pointman there, former Namgyal monastery monk (name!)is surely
    involved with some suspicious dealing involving
    His Holiness, is behind the Lady Gaga event with Holiness. For money for sure, and perhaps for sex, these former Namgyal monks will do anything, sources say.

    For those familiar, willingly or otherwise, with the Radio Free episode, will remember that after
    firing Ngago Jigme, Tsetam Samdup was one of names floated to replace him. No wonder, he was seen visiting Libby and Kalden Lodo with at Radio Free Asia and at other places.

    Let’s see things develop for good or bad.

  22. Lungshar : My father
    by Lhalu Tshewang Dorjee

    In it Lhalu Tshewang Dorjee writes that his father told them “When my eyes were about to be gouged out, I was given a medicine known as Langchen Nyonpa.”

  23. There are many references of all sorts, too many to name individually, so I would like to point you to an 18th century work known as Dri med shel phreng by Deumar Geshey Tenzin Phuntsok (dil dmar dge bshes bstan ‘dzin phun tshogs). It is perhaps the most comprehensive and treated as the go-to -reference for information on Tibetan materia medica. Here is the link to the full text, freely downloadable: https://www.tbrc.org/#!rid=W23762
    To read the section on different kinds of thangdrom (thang phrom) including the one in question, go to folio number 257:3-258:6.

  24. Zhika made me think about something that still disturbs me, and makes me kind of glad that I am an atheist, cos of one less hypocrisy I have to run away from.

    Some lay Tibetans make much ado about their piety, yet their conduct leave much to be desired.

    A Tibetan father I know, loves to show off his overly pampered, five year old prodigy. The kid can recite a litany of prayers at a sit. He is showered the most applause, and satisfied sighs, when he concludes, “may all sentient beings be free of suffering”, with that adorable baby babble.

    And the father is also immensely proud of his prayer room. He’ll literally drag you in there, either to flaunt a new novelty, or just the same room.

    In gathering conversations, his great passion is chatting about sports; the only religious talk we ever had usually revolve around whether the child might be a Tulku? Families and relatives assure him that it couldn’t be otherwise; why the little precious loves hanging out in the prayer room fondling holy relics all day instead of playing like normal children.

    One day I had to visit them again. I found the holy father and the future tulku son in the backyard, happily stomping on a colony of ants, crushing them to death.

  25. I think the tbrc.org is accessible to paid subscribers only. But thank you for the info Yonten Gyatso.

    @Zhika First off langchen ngonpa is anesthetic which is why I thought you need it to calm you. It’s no crime to administer appropriate medicine on a person with mental condition.

  26. JamNor la,

    Before I write, I would like to remind readers that “Duhgood”, “Angry Tibet”, “What Dreams May Come”, “Karze”, and “Yogi” are Online Tulkus of Jamyang Norbu Rinpoche. Study the pattern of contents, vocabulary, attitude, and silence of these Tulkus during the three-day Rangzen conference in the US. You’ll figure it out yourself. As these Tulkus are basically one, they confuse themselves with their individualities and fail to keep track of what each have said in their respective postings. So these postings read best with the basic understanding that they all come from one person.

    Shall I also remind JN that I am least concerned about his aristocratic concerns. Last time, some wise commentator on current issues wrote how TNTethong and Tseten Samdup Chokyabpa were shortlisted for RFA post. It instantly struck upon me of how things function in exile Tibetan society. It is a posh job and no commoners are educated and experienced enough to fill such positions. After all the attitude is still in pre-59 era: Commoners and subjects are second-class people and are only to be ruled and manipulated. This is the lens with which I look at JN and his antics.

    So I leave GT’s criticism on Tibetan aristocracy to the high blue-blooded breeds to tackle and will focus on only matters that concerns our leader: His Holiness.


    For those who think JN’s piece is a scholarly historical writing, I would redirect them to Reting’s side of the story. I bet, you’ll get a totally different picture. I say again, witnesses are still alive in PRC and a piece in English by JN can fool a handful in exile but it cannot cover the naked face of the truth, which is evasive to even the greatest of scholars. Tibetans have the right to both the halves and JN must honestly reveal to his readers where he as a member of an aristocratic family stand in this Reting-Takdra controversy. Be honest!

    Simply put, JN is presenting the Takdra version of Tibet’s recent history and is clearly defending his family side. His piece is only an attempt to diffuse GT’s version of the story. And don’t expect to get the whole truth even if you get the other half because the two sides are so conflicting in their narrative that they don’t make a whole.


    In “Freedom in Exile”, HH wrote that he was born in Taktser, which was a “poor settlement of around 20 families” leading a “precarious living because of the rough climatic condition”. HH never explained what he meant by “poor settlement” and what poverty equivalence scale HH was using in that context. Unlike Central Tibet, where lands were generally owned by central ruling aristocratic families, their extended families, and monasteries, HH’s family owns a leased land in Amdo. Not bound by feudo-aristocratic system but by loose allegiance to local rulers, HH’s family are common “land-owners”, something that is not in JN’s dictionary. Even GT spoke well of his family. In “Noodlemaker”, GT said that when he was born, his father LD thanked god Palden Lhamo and prayed that GT “would be a farmer, managing the family business”. So they must have a business, and the concept of wealth and poverty is relative. Read the inverted commas as quotes and not as signs expressing sarcasm.

    Elaborating the first chapter “Farmer’s Son” from his memoir “My Land and My People”, HH bares it all in “Freedom in Exile”. His Holiness wrote: “My parents were small farmers: not peasants exactly, for they are not tied to any master; but they were by no means nobility. They leased a small amount of land and worked it themselves.” HH even lists the animals, goats-sheep, yaks, horses and even chickens his family owned. HH wrote how at times “a year’s work went to ruin due to heavy hailstorms or to drought” and when the crops were good, his “father would exchange the season’s surplus for tea, sugar, cotton cloth, a few ornaments, … and horses.” So without a standard economy scale or point of comparison, it is impossible to say if HH’s family is rich or poor with any exactitude.

    Does JN have clear account of HH’s family wealth, in RMB, Dollars, or even local Amdo economy standards? Hope JN does not mean HH’s family manages a Swiss account since the 30s. What is JN’s definition of richness or poorness? Simple. For JN, HH’s family is rich because they own a leased land. This is based on JN’s simple pre-1959 Lhasa view: If you own a land, you are rich. If you are a commoner bound to servitude with no owned land, you are poor and doomed. So what point is he desperately trying to prove by saying that HH’s family is rich without any statistical or numerical account of their wealth or reference to any standard economy equivalence scale? Is he trying to character assassinate HH for uncommitted lies and deceit? If he thinks his argument is scholarly, bring out the numbers so that we can study and compare.


    Death by poisoning is GT’s version of his father’s tragic death. Either GT is lying or GT is revealing a truth that Tibetan ruling power and manipulation have caused him to suppress it till this day. Personally, GT is no doubt a controversial figure, but this characterization cannot be used to stump everything he says. I see even some western scholars adopting this unfair approach. One might allege that GT could be lying 90% of the times. Does this not say he is at least 10% truthful? Who knows GT could be truthful in his account of the circumstances surrounding his father’s death? Who can prove that GT, an important albeit controversial figure, speaks nothing but lies?

    Poison is not unheard of to us Tibetans. Many HH’s have died young and scholars of Tibetan History, I was told, suggest that they were poisoned. Need I ask who poisoned them? Chinese? In an earlier posting, Pasang Yonten (I found that PY is a medical expert) wrote, “Its (Langchen Nyompa) poisonous property and use as poison are not discussed in medical literatures in explicit terms, but its categorization as a kind of thangdrom and its synonyms such as Langchen nyonpa and Nangwa gugyur (snang ba dgu ‘gyur) referring to its hallucinating effects, make apparently clear that it is poisonous.” Then under a pen-name, Duhgood replied suggesting that I be administered this Mad-Elephant poison. Does such statement not reflect the mentality of the old world riddled with poison politics? Such antagonistic statement by a Tibetan to another Tibetan only support’s GT’s claim that his father could have been poisoned because some still seem to have such tendency. When I charged Duhgood for this criminally-tainted remark, he changed the herbal property from ‘poisonous’ to ‘anesthetic’. What a cheat!

    JN draws a conclusion that HH’s father could not have died by poisoning on the basis that no western scholars have mentioned this. This is obviously so because they are real scholars and they don’t write what they don’t know with any boorishness. They don’t know if HH’s father really died of poisoning and they don’t say so. Scholarly rule is simple here. None of these scholars as far as I know have categorically said that HH’s father ‘did not’ die of poisoning either. Even GT is aware of this “natural death” story and calls it “the official version”, meaning the version of the ruling Tibetan class to which JN is a stakeholder. If at all, one or two western scholars have mentioned of natural death they have only cited the official source without the knowledge of GT’s version. If these western scholars revisits the death story, I am certain that they will lend their ears to GT’s version too regardless of its proveablity. They are real scholars and just don’t write things out of thin air.

    JN was adamant at proving HH’s father died a natural death or due to illness. He even suggested cancer of the stomach. When did JN become a doctor and how did cancer got into his mind? Anyone from the medical line, educate me. Is cancer of the stomach the most probable diagnosis for someone dying from stomach or digestive problems? Why is JN, without any direct access to the patient or his health record, pushing “stomach cancer” story? What autopsy report did JN refer to come to this conclusion that HH’s father did not die of poisoning? What special medical qualifications does JN have to telepathically diagnose HH’s father’s illness as stomach cancer? Or did Dr. JN travel by time machine to uncover all these “facts”?


    JN presented HH’s father as having a gargantuan greed for “land, wealth, horses… ” (Thank God! HH’s father liked only horses and had no desire for innocent girls”. I heard that higher horny blue-blooded breeds would demand that local innocent belles come to “offer” them “Chang”! HH’s father at least did not do this. Only demanded horses be sold at cheaper price, if what JN’s storyline holds any water.)

    When HH’s family was living peacefully in Amdo, and in a “prosperous state” according to JN, why the heck did the ruling people invite HH’s family all the way to dry, parchy Central Tibet? What promises of “land, wealth, property, and other things” did ruling class then make to have HH’s family supplanted from the native Amdo? Who put HH under virtual house arrest in the Potala, according to your piece, denying access to even Gyalyum Chenmo? Was he intended to be puppeteered? Was the old ruling class unhappy that the young reincarnation began to chant democracy in tune with O mani pame hum? Does JN touch these topics?

    To make it look real, JN even quoted “street” songs? Let me ask this to you? Who do you think compose these “street” songs? Do ordinary Tibetans have the balls to poke fun at the ruling class? Were commoners equipped with adequate literary devices to compose such impactful songs? Where from did YOU hear the song? Dig further, and you’ll find that these “street” songs originate from within the ruling class who circulate them during picnics at one of those Lingkas?

    Tell me one thing. What promises did ruling Tibetan class make to HH’s father to supplant the family to Lhasa? How much did they eventually give him? Give me statistics of land, animals property so that we can compare? If what HH’s father demanded was more than what was promised, may be HH’s father could be called greedy. Universally, someone being greedy IS an opinion, and IS NOT a fact. Anyhow, before we do that, give us statistics and more info to compare, and only then I’ll buy your “greedy” argument. If you don’t have the statistics on what was promised and what was actually given to HH’s family, don’t claim your writing to be objective and scholarly.


    Did I read that Taktser Rinpoche told you personally how he was chosen as a Tulku even after a divination mismatch? Are you implying that TR is not a real Tulku? By quoting TR and talking about HH’s family link with local warlord, are you questioning the authenticity of HH’s discovery as reincarnation of the Great Thirteenth? What’s your intention behind all these?

    Taktser Rinpoche has long passed away. Do you have any written or recorded evidence in audio or video from TR? If you have a proof, I will retract this question. If not, after JN dies, do you you think it would be okay if I said that JN personally confided to me that he earned $50,000 per month from the PRC to create dissension within the exile Tibetans? Would I need any proof to make such statements, since you don’t seem to need any proof for your negative characterization of TR and HH’s family in your “deep thought-provoking objective scholarly” history of Tibet!


    Your intention was not to write about poverty, Tulkuship, or greed. It was other more incriminating things that GT has written about Tibetan aristocrats and their manipulations. You are not fair and courageous enough to even discuss them here, because washing your dirty linen in the plain sight of us commoners is unthinkable. So you beat around the bush with these cowardly accusations against HH and his family. All low blows and empty punches.


    On HH’s 81st Birthday. I prayed for His Holiness for his long-life and good health! As a Tibetan Buddhist, I want HH to be with us Tibetans for as long as he can. I am fanatic and religious in that way! So be it.

    I can’t say anything about what you think of HH. Last time, in Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hx45CKENWQc @ 15:06), you ironically offered a Khata to HH’s photo. Why would an atheist do that? Spiritually, as an atheist you hold no value for Chenresi; Politically, you think HH is failing Tibetans with his MW and other Tibet policies. So why all these drama? Now I can connect the dots and see why your family secured the director position of Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts for you. Because it all ultimately boils down to acting and you’re an impeccable, oscar-worthy actor!

    You also poked fun at Tibetans’ piety calling yourself a scholar who China and India must seek counsels. Just think! How can someone who cannot impress even a handful of exile Tibetans impress the world’s two most powerful nations!



  27. #18 Wangpo, mention PT Takla’s autobiography. I checked it out. In Vol I, pg 236 Takla disputes the account by KMT assistant representative in Lhasa, Ting Shi Tang, who wrote that the Yapshi makpa (P.T. Takla) had claimed that the cause of the Duke’s death was unclear and that the true cause could not be discovered. Takla disputes Tang’s assertion by mentioning that he was in China when the Duke died, but he later learned that the Duke became ill after consuming some pork at a country estate, and in spite of receiving the best traditonal medical treatment he passed away after about a month. Takla makes absolutely no mention of poison or any kind of unnatural death.

  28. 1. Zhika I didn’t know about any Rangzen conference and if I knew it’s in the area I live I would have done my best to attend it. I am glad you are informed enough to know about it though.

    2. In the quest for information on langchen nyonpa I made the mistake of reading about what goes into Tibetan medicine. Fleshes of strange animals and bodily fluid of animals and humans. Ugh. I will never take another Tibetan medicine after reading finding out what goes into them.

    3. Thank you Yogi for the link to David Brook’s article. People like Zhika, the chelas of authorities, should read it to understand why dissent is necessary for democracy.

  29. #15 Yonten Gyatso. Thanks for the medical info. The additional info provided by #23 SonamT about Tsepon Lungshar telling his son that the drug Langchen Nyonpa was used when he was blinded, confirms that this drug was a pain-killer or sedative. Yonten Gyatso’s speculaltion that it could have been a hallucinogin is also quite possible because that is the kind of side-effect that such drugs have. Could such a drug also be a poison? Probably in large enough quantities. But since it didn’t kill Lungshar, but just sedated him I don’t see why it should have killed the Duke.

  30. Advertisement

    A Factual Account of the Tibetan Government’s Gold and Silver
    By Email[Thursday, April 23, 2015 22:54]
    By Paljor Tsarong

    A 72 year old Dasang Dadul Tsarong arrested by the Chinese for leading the armed “rebellion” against the Chinese. He returned to Lhasa from India in early January 1959 to persuade the Dalai Lama to leave Tibet (from Chinese documentary film Putting Down the Rebellion in Tibet, 1959)

    In a book just published, Mr. Gyalo Thondup says that when my father Dundul Namgyal Tsarong, alias George Tsarong was looking after the Tibetan government’s gold and silver most of the money was lost or stolen. He says that it is still a mystery but suspects that Tsarong may have taken the money.[1] This brief but fully documented account shows that Mr. Gyalo Thondup’s allegations are all false and describes exactly what happened to the Tibetan Government’s treasures.

    Brief Account of the Tibetan Government’s Gold and Silver

    In the first week of December 1959 Mr. Thondup called Tsarong to Calcutta and told him that the Tibetan government had decided to sell its gold and silver and that Tsarong was appointed as his assistant. He asked Tsarong to arrange air and ground transport and storage areas, which he did. The gold and silver were being brought down from the Gangtok Palace in Sikkim where it had been lying since the time the Tibetan government had it shipped there in 1950. When the gold and silver arrived at Calcutta airport they were taken under police escort as everything was done with the consent of the Government of India. All the gold was stored in bank safe deposits. The boxes of silver were stored at Calcutta’s Bara Bazaar under the supervision of Gyalo Thondup’s man Tashi Tsering.[2] Soon the silver ingots and coins were smelted and made into bars and their fineness stamped at the Indian government mint at Alipore, Calcutta.

    The selling of the silver and the gold started at the end of 1959 and the proceeds were put into the Mercantile Bank. Tsarong sent detailed accounts of all transactions to His Holiness’ Private Office. The accounts were sent in the names of Gyalo Thondup and Rimshi Tsarong[3] since Mr. Thondup was the person responsible for the project. Space does not permit me to go into detail suffice it to say that a number of investments were made. These were in companies such as Hindustan Motors, Indian Cable Company, G.M.C Company, Rotas Cement and other companies through L.K. Somani and Abdulla Ganjee. There were loans to Jetmull Bhojraj Bank and Tea Estate. Interest amounts received, sums given to His Holiness and all expenses are detailed. Those interested should see the accounts described in the notes.[4]

    With large sums of money in banks and many investments, Tsarong knew a Trust had to be formed for tax reasons. He consulted his lawyers and briefed His Holiness. On February 4, 1964 His Holiness signed a legal document giving Tsarong the authority to form the Trust.[5] This authority was in addition to the legal document in which His Holiness appointed Tsarong as his Constituted Attorney.[6] The Dalai Lama’s trust in Tsarong was unquestioned as the document clearly states that whatever Tsarong did was the same as if the Dalai Lama himself had done it. Mr. Thondup now completely twists the facts saying that since Tsarong was dishonest a Trust was set up and managed by Rinchen Sandutsang, an honest official. As the document shows, the Dalai Lama entrusted Tsarong to set up the Trust. Mr. Thondup says, “Whatever… money we (emphasis mine) were able to retrieve was put in the Dalai Lama’s trust…” Mr.Thondup writes as if he was now involved in retrieving the money and setting up the Trust. As will be shown below, it was Tsarong who was involved in retrieving the money for the Dalai Lama’s Trust.

    The money from the sale of the gold and silver earned 3% interest for short term deposits.[7] The newly created Exile Government needed immediate cash, so long term fixed deposits were not feasible. Tsarong was under pressure to look for higher yielding investments which meant more risks. As the documents show, most of the investments were successfully yielding interest except for two in Badla shares. These were investments through Jetmull Bhojraj who were bankers, tea estate owners, miners and store chain owners and Somani Brothers of Calcutta’s Chittaranjan Avenue, Brokers and Dealers in company stock and shares. Documents show that they paid interest for a few years but failed after that.[8]

    Since Somani’s investments were guaranteed by Jetmull, Tsarong was now continually chasing Jetmull for the money through endless letters, telegrams and phone calls. A brief excerpt from Jetmull’s K.K. Sukhani says, “My dear Tsarong Sahab..[sic]. Out of one hundred promises I have failed each and every one…but please Sahab [sic] I request you with folded hands to keep my request to allow me time till 10th September… giving my final proposal IN WRITING and this will be the final thing. This will cover Somani also… Please do write to me….”[9]

    On September 1 1965 Jetmull’s D.D. and P.C. Sukhani wrote to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Briefly, the letter said that Tsarong had advanced the money but after the death of their father disputes had arisen among the family members. It also says, “We assure you, Your Holiness that your sacred money is safe and repayment with full interest will be completed in two to three years time.”[10]

    Jetmull continued to repay small amounts but Sushil Kumar Somani did not and was sued. The court case was rather uncomfortable for Tsarong since His Holiness’ name would appear as the plaintiff since the money legally belonged to him and his Trust. The court case Suit No 730 of 1969 of the Calcutta High Court was titled His Holiness Jetsun Ngawang Losang Tenzin Gyatso the Dalai Lama and Others Vs Sushil Kumar Somani and Others.[11] Of course Tsarong won the case for the Dalai Lama’s Trust. The fact that Tsarong, as the legal representative of the Dalai Lama, had to go to court to recover the money clearly shows what happened to the money.

    Mr. Thondup says that he sent a detailed report to the Private Office on what happened to the money; probably implicating Tsarong. He said he did not get a reply from the Private Office. He is very lucky he did not get a reply. The Dalai Lama knows everything since Tsarong had met him countless times regarding the work and had sent detailed accounts to the Private Office since 1960 onwards.

    Mr. Gyalo Thondup brings up another matter regarding a safe deposit box. When Tsarong left his job in 1970 he handed the keys to the empty safe deposit box to Mr. Thondup, his boss. Thirty years later Tsarong was getting bills for the box. He wrote to the Private Office to inform them on the matter and also wrote to Mr. Thondup. Mr. Thondup now found a great opportunity to mislead and cast doubts on Tsarong’s character by saying that Tsarong was trying to implicate him for taking money from the box. Tsarong had already made it known to the Private Office that the safe was empty. Mr. Thondup then says, “But I knew nothing about any safety deposit box and had no key.” However, a document signed by Gyalo Thondup shows that he took out various amounts of gold from the Safe Deposit, Calcutta.[12]

    Mr. Thondup also states that Tsarong “…used some of the the money to invest in a pipe factory… run by some Tibetan businessmen.” He writes as if Tsarong did it all on his own and that he or the Private Office knew nothing about it. He says the company failed because of mismanagement. So here is the truth.

    In 1959 Prime Minister Nehru had suggested to the Dalai Lama that Tibetans should pool their resources and invest in some enterprises. This was taken seriously by the Tibetan Government and Mr. Thondup also asked Tsarong to look into this matter. Tsarong consulted Mr. J.S. Mehta of the Ministry of External Affairs on starting certain industries. According to a letter, Mr. Thondup himself had written to Mr. Mehta regarding this matter.[13] After many consultations with the industry department a decision was taken to start a steel factory to produce cast iron spun pipes. A collaboration contract was made with Hore Fornue and Company in Belgium.

    Tsarong named the company Gayday Iron and Steel Company, headquartered at Calcutta’s 25 Ganesh Chandra Avenue. He purchased some 250 acres at Hirodhi, Bihar where a large factory was to be built complete with railway lines. About 10 Lakh Rupees of the Tibetan Government money was invested. Private investors both Tibetan and others accounted for about Rupees 15 Lakhs, and an 11 Lakh loan was taken from the State Bank of India. Over the years the factory was built and production begun and the Dalai Lama also visited the factory and gave his blessings.[14]

    Nevertheless, the factory was plagued with problems and maintaining a successful production became more and more difficult. At the broad level it was India’s problem. The License Raj[15] and India’s socialist policy and bureaucratic red tape suffocated business. Also West Bengal and Calcutta had become nerve centres of violent movements, frequent strikes and monster rallies of the Naxalites and the CPI and the CPI (M), the two competing communist parties; and this hurt the company. It took years to finalize things and by time the machines arrived, prices had shot up and the Belgium collaborators impatient and furious and they never sent their engineers. Once the parts arrived it took forever to get them released from the Babus of the Calcutta customs. As the company grew there was more work, and more technical experts had to be hired, resulting in ever more expenses.

    Though these various political and economic struggles impacted business, it was really the October 1962 Chinese invasion of India which had the most immediate impact on the company. The stock market crashed and few bought company shares. The State Bank was also hesitant to loan more money to the company. The invasion lasted only a month, but its effect on the economy was much longer. These were also the reasons that contributed to the failure of the investments mentioned earlier.

    With increasing expenses and a very few buying shares in the company, Tsarong convinced the Bihar Government, the Industrial Development Bank of India (IDBI) and the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) to underwrite[16] the shares.

    In the summer of 1966 Tsarong went to the United States to see if he could get some money from the State Department. The matter was followed up through William Strangward and his law firm in Cleveland, Ohio; but nothing came of it. The company struggled on producing pipes but was always short of money. Finally, Tsarong had no choice but to ask His Holiness’ help. On October 19, 1968 the Dalai Lama wrote to the Deputy Prime Minister Moraji Desai asking for financial help for Gayday Iron and Steel Company. On November 1968 the Deputy Prime Minister replied saying that the IDBI is prepared to advance Rs. 35 Lakhs but they wanted the right to appoint their own Directors.[17] They said that the company’s problem was due to inexperienced management. That was not the problem however, because even with experience directors nominated by the IDBI, the company struggled on and finally closed in 1978. Father had resigned in 1970.

    Gyalo Thondup Slanders the Tsarong Family

    Mr. Thondup now tries to malign Tsarong through the method of vilifying earlier generations of the Tsarong family. He says that the original Tsarong (Minister Wangchuck Gyalpo) was assassinated since he was “too pro-Chinese.” Mr. Thondup does not mention that the Dalai Lama appointed Tsarong to look after things at Lhasa while His Holiness and his entourage escaped to India. This was in 1910 when Lhasa itself was occupied by Chinese troops. As far back as 1904, Minister Tsarong believed in rapprochement with the Chinese as opposed to a more independent course of action with outside support. Does this sound familiar today? Yes, Tsarong was more than one hundred years ahead of those who today espouse a similar policy towards China.

    Mr. Thondup also says that George Tsarong’s father Tsarong Dasang Dadul (hereafter Tsarong) was a big thief. He says that Tsarong was just some commoner and became part of the aristocracy when he married into the Tsarong household. Mr Thondup forgets that Tsarong was already a Letsenpa, a Fifth Rank government official in 1908, many years before he married into the Tsarong family.[18]

    Mr. Thondup tries to portray Tsarong as someone who was going to be tricked by the British into starting a military coup in Tibet. He says that Tsarong was invited by the British Governor General and the Dalai Lama was sort of suspicious and so he sent Lukhang to spy on Tsarong. The truth is that Tsarong was not invited by the British. The Dalai Lama had granted him a pilgrimage cum work leave and the day he left home for India he stopped by to see the Dalai Lama. They spent many hours discussing and on that day Tsarong and his family only managed a journey of 5 miles when the daily average ride was close to 20 miles. Tsarong spoke to the Dalai Lama about inspecting Norbu Tsukyi mint near Sikkim and then going to India to speak to the British about military training.[19] According to a letter sent by the Kashag to the British, the ministers wrote that Tsarong is also presently in India and that he might also remind them of the need to levy customs duties to support the Tibetan military.[20] So Tsarong was also on official duty and that is why Lukhang was sent. Every cabinet minister was appointed a Gakpa, an ADC who must accompany the minister wherever he went and Lukhang was Tsarong’s ADC.

    Mr. Thondup also says that when Tsarong and his military entourage returned from India the Dalai Lama sent a messenger near Phari Dzong demoting Tsarong as Commander-in-chief. The fact is that Tsarong never left or returned to Lhasa with a military entourage but travelled with his wife, his 4 year old son, nanny Ani Chungkyi and a few servants. Tsarong was relieved of his Commander-in-chief position when he arrived at Chushul, near Lhasa. Mr. Thondup forgets to mention that the government demoted all the senior officers of the Tibetan army including Tsarong to satisfying the conservatives who were against Tsarong’s modernization programs. [21]

    Mr.Thondup also says that the Dalai Lama removed Tsarong as minister of the Kashag and “Henceforth, he was nothing more than an ordinary official” and “… Tsarong was never given another official appointment.” The fact is that the Dalai Lama never removed Tsarong from the Kashag and he continued to be a minister for many years after that. In 1931 the Dalai Lama officially appointed Tsarong to assist Thubten Kunphel at the Drapchi Office. Tsarong continued to be a high ranking official with Dzasa rank; same Third Rank as the ministers. Tsarong was also the most outspoken and senior-most leader in the National Assembly until the 1959 Uprising. In 1954, the government under the present Dalai Lama appointed Tsarong to head the Development Office (Zuktrun Lekhung) in which he worked till the end.

    Tsarong was in India a few months before the 1959 Uprising but returned to Tibet to propose to His Holiness that he should leave Tibet. The Dalai Lama confirmed this in one of my interviews with him.[22] When the Lhasa uprising began the people of Lhasa choose Tsarong as one of their leaders as they had full trust in him, and respected his experience as a former and successful commander-in chief of the Tibetan army.

    As a people’s representative, Tsarong soon learned that the Dalai Lama had escaped from Lhasa because Minister Surkhang’s letter to the assembly said so. The assembly wanted Tsarong to stay and guide them. He did so fearlessly. A few assembly delegates immediately fled to India right after that meeting adjourned. Tsarong set up his HQ at Shol and attempted to direct the fighting in Lhasa. After enduring continuous Chinese artillery fire for two days, he was captured and imprisoned at Chinese Military Headquarters Prison. He died a few months later under mysterious circumstance. His fellow prisoners believed that the Chinese had him quietly killed in prison so that he could no longer serve as an inspiration for resistance.

    Mr. Thondup continues his denigration of this great Tibetan hero and says that Hisao Kimura, a Japanese spy, “told me” that Tsarong kept a printing press in his house to print money and that explains why Tsarong got so rich. Hisao Kimura’s biography has nothing but high praise for Tsarong saying that “Tsarong represented the best of the old generation of Tibetan nationalists.” and that he was “known for his open-mindedness … and was always attempting to introduce new scientific innovation in conservative Lhasa”. Kimura concludes: “I held this man in the deepest respect.” [23] There is not a single word about Tsarong keeping a printing press in his own home.

    Anybody who knows anything about how traditional Tibetan Government offices functioned will see that what Mr.Thondup says is just not possible. Printing the paper money of Tibet was a big operation that just could not be done at home. The Drabchi Office which printed Tibet’s currency was headed by Thubten Kunphel, the 13th Dalai Lama’s chensel [24] and the most powerful official of his time. He was assisted by many officials. One of them was Tsarong with Dzasa Third Rank. There were other Fourth Rank officials with Rimshi, Tsepön and Drunyichemo designations. Below them were fifteen other Fifth Rank officials and a large staff under them.[25]

    To print money the senior officials discuss procurement of the materials such as papers, ink colours, spare machine parts, the quantity to be printed and even minute details as the colour and design of the money. They take their memorandum to the Kashag and a document is drawn up. This document must be submitted to the Regent/Prime Minister’s Office and from there to the Dalai Lama, who makes changes if any in red ink and marks it as “Seen”.

    Only then can the Kashag give the order to Drabchi office to print money or order materials.

    Technologically, Drabchi Office had numerous machines for lathe work, stamping, rolling and printing machines. Electricity was supplied from the Dhodey Hydroelectrical Station which had a substation at Drabchi with an AC motor driving a DC 220 volt motor.

    Various items necessary for printing were kept in storerooms and looked after by Fifth Rank officials. Every evening the storerooms were locked and sealed. All office seals and printing seals were locked in a seal box. Every morning a senior officer comes to inspect the seals. Only then can the storeroom be opened. The daily accounts book, the seal box, etc, can are only opened when all the senior officials have gathered. The office had calligraphers; scribes specially recruited from Aye in Southern Tibet for any work regarding the writing of texts and numbers for printing. The above account proves, without any doubt, that no single individual in Tibet could ever print money.

    Nevertheless, Mr. Thondup says that Tsarong got rich by printing money at home. Now it is common knowledge how Tsarong made money. Tsarong engaged in traditional trade and business just like the traders and monastic institutions. Tsarong shipped wool to India and brought back cloth, dye and numerous other items. Like large traders and monastic institutions Tsarong also loaned money. From the eastern frontier Tsarong was involved in the tea trade and bought horses and guns from Sinning.

    Tsarong also bought boxes of coral and amber from an Italian dealer in Calcutta and Rolex and Omega watches from Mr. M.L. Bhatia of J. Bosek and Company on Calcutta’s Chowringhee Street. Heinrich Harrer mentions in his book about helping Tsarong write letters to these companies. Not far on the same avenue was the jewellery shop of M.Walters from whom Tsarong bought diamonds, sapphires, ruby and emeralds for family use and for sale. Tsarong also bought much jewellery from Bombay. From Calcutta Tsarong also bought bicycles, BSA motorcycles, jeeps, a Land rover and even a Bedford Truck. He sold some of these. That’s how Tsarong got rich.

    What more can I say on Mr. Gyalo Thondup’s defamatory statements about two generations of the Tsarong family? Let me just conclude by stating how unfortunate it is that the Dalai Lama’s older brother should make such derogatory and baseless accusations against two of the Dalai Lama’s own trusted and loyal officials: one who served him in exile in the most difficult of times, and the other who saved the life of the 13th Dalai Lama, and fought and died in 1959 to ensure that the 14th Dalai Lama escaped to freedom.

    [1] Gyalo Thondup and Anne F. Thurston, The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet, (Vintage Books, 2015) See pages 214-219 on the Tibetan Government’s gold and silver and on Tsarong.
    [2] Goldstein Melvyn, William Siebenschuh, and Tashi Tsering, The Struggle for Modern Tibet, (M.E. Sharpe, 1997), 58
    [3] Rimshi means Fourth Rank
    [4] Account 1959-61, Account 1962, Account 1963-65. These and all other documents of George Tsarong have been sent to various institutions and libraries, including the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Songtsen Library and to various interested individuals.
    [5] Document HHDL Trust, February 4, 1964
    [6] Tsarong’s February 8, 1963 letter to the Government of India, Excise Inspector shows that Tsarong was the Constituted Attorney of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
    [7] See the Accounts in Note 4
    [8] Ibid.
    [9] K.K. Sukhani Letter, August 9 (1964), pages 1-4.
    [10] Jetmull September 1, 1965.
    [11] Document July 22, 1969. Tsarong interview, 2000, Dharamsala.
    [12] Safe Deposit, February 12, 1961. Signed memorandum of Gyalo Thondup and Tsarong.
    [13] Gyalo Thondup letter 3-10-1960
    [14] Dundul Namgyal Interview, Dharamsala, 2000.
    [15] Under the License Raj few got licenses to do business and the government had total control over the economy.
    [16] An underwriter buys company shares and sells them to investors.
    [17] Deputy Prime Minister’s Letter 11-11-1968
    [18] Tsarong Dundul Namgyal, In the Service of His Country, (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1989), 21. Tsarong Interview, 2000, Dharamsala.
    [19] Ibid, page 74.
    [20] Goldstein, Melvyn C, A History of Modern Tibet 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989, page 86.
    [21] Ibid. Page 135-138
    [22] Dalai Lama Interview, Dharamsala 1994
    [23] Hisao Kimura, Japanese Agent in Tibet (As Told to Scott Berry), (London: Serindia, 1990), 195-197.
    [24] A personally favored official.
    [25] Since Drabchi office was started in 1931 there were also others officials appointed, as the usual service term was 3 years. On the Drabchi Office see 1) Tsarong Dundul Namgyal, Interview, 2000, Dharamsala. Tsarong also worked in Drabchi Office from 1948-1955. 2) Laja Thubten Tempa Rang myong drang brjod kyi zin bris Dharamsala: Department of Information and International Relations 2003 and 3) Grwa bzhi glog ‘phrul las khungs in Bod kyi lo rgyu rig g.nas dpyad g.zhi rgyu cha bdams bsgrigs Vol. 13 No 4, page 71.

    The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.



    It was without a doubt that my late “uncle” George Tsarong was pretty far sighted and several steps ahead of the game so to speak, considering the fact that we Tibetans were emerging out of middle ages cocoon and landing head first into the abyss of the 20th century. The early sixties was a most stressful and hectic time for Tibetan escaping out of Tibet with barely the clothes on their backs, but Kungno Tsarong had seen what was in store for Tibet and had prepared himself before Lhasa fell to the Chinese army. However, instead of packing his family and leaving for a distant land to escape from all the chaos around him, he chose to stay and help the government and the people.

    I claim no blood relation to the great man except by association as a part-time adopted child. A little known fact about his contribution, other than his greater works, was he visited the “Nursery for Tibetan Refugee Children” in Dharamsala in 1960 and sponsored two children a boy and a girl and assisted with their admission into the prestigious English medium school, known as Dr Graham’s homes. And fortunately for me, I happened to be one of the lucky children.

    For several years since being admitted to Dr Graham’s homes school, I did not have any contact with his family but between 1965 to about 1968 winter, the other child, Nima Chodon and I were regular part of the Tsarong family. Summer holidays were spent at his mansion in Kalimpong and winter holidays in Calcutta (now known as Kolkata). The most memorable times I can recall during my stay in Calcutta were the times I spent with his son Paljor. My closes link to Kungno Tsarong was through Paljor la, as he was the youngest child and regularly stayed home for his holidays.

    It was through Paljor la, that I learned that Kungno Tsarong had a great fondness for football and other games, which I now learned had morphed into his love for cricket. “Uncle” was not a very gregarious man, he was soft spoken and not once in my entire time with his family did I hear a raised voice or show of anger. I was not particularly close, considering the fact that he was a very busy man and hardly had time even for his own family. However, when he did have some time off from his busy schedule, in the evenings after his day at the office, he would occasionally play his harmonica and tap dance to old familiar tunes. Those were happy times and he was without a doubt most musically inclined.

    Alas, his name may not be listed among the roster of Tibetan heroes, like his father before him yet, the thankless tasks that he has performed for Tibet are no mean feats. And for what he has done for me I thank him sincerely from the bottom of my heart. With his status and influence and five children to boot he did not have to add to his burden. It was just something he did in his gentle and unassuming way, without after or forethought of the consequences.

    As an afterthought, I wonder if he ever said to himself, “was it worth it?” Whatever the case may be, I am sure there are many who are thankful and appreciative of all his efforts. I know for a fact that I am. And like the British character from the novelist, John Le carre’s stories, Dandul Namgyal Tsarong has finally come in from the cold.

    Farewell dear Uncle, Godspeed and May you bathed in golden light of Buddha’s compassion! And to the rest of the family, I offer my deepest heartfelt condolences. We have one life to live and I was honoured to have been a tiny part of his wonderful life.

    Thank you!

    Gyalpo Tsering

  32. Now it is unfortunate the highly controversial Gyalo Thondup has attempted to defame the family of Tsarong. This family particularly has been highly respected for their contributions to Tibet and acknowledged by numerous well known authors, historians and scholars of Tibet. George Tsarong and some officials of the time had kept the matter of the missing gold confidential as it involved the Dalai Lama’s brother, and hence His Holinesses family.

    The truth has finally come out after more than 50 years compelling the Tsarong family to reveal the facts, after Thondup’s outrageous allegations in his recent memoirs. Thondup claims that he did not know of any “safety deposit box and had no key” to the gold. In refutation, Paljor Tsarong has listed in detail countering all of the lies Thondup fabricated in order to wipe himself clean of the embezzlement.

    Thondup’s accusations has back fired and now has himself entangled. The Tsarong family has responded to these unfounded allegations seemingly with strong facts. The most important piece will be the document that Tsarong has cited revealing Thondup taking out the gold on numerous occasions, and each time signed by Thondup himself. That “smoking gun” is in the possession of the Tsarong family, will need to be disclosed to vindicate the family of Thondup’s charges.

    Finally, Thondup says that he went to His Holiness to confess that he was holding up certain “truths” that needed to be told. He uses the Dalai Lama’s permission as if His Holiness approved of the slander on Tsarong by saying “you have served Tibet all your entire life,” the Dallai Lama replied. ” You must open up.” Did His Holiness actually give the nod? Or did Thondup unawares open up a “can of worms” on himself?

  33. It must have been pretty expensive to start up an exile community from scratch what-with so many mouths to feed, and bodies to cloth, shelter, educate, etc… I like to believe a lot of the gold and silver went into that. But, just in case – if you ever find yourself eating noodles in Kalimpong, do keep an eye out for any gold nuggets that might be hiding in the soup.

  34. We all know that TibGov gold and silver were clearly embezzled by authorized people, possibly in collaboration with fake investors and bankers. Gyalo says it is Tsarong; Tsarong and his descendants say it is Gyalo.

    Ironically WHAT DREAMS MAY COME is suggesting that golds and silver were used to “start the exile govt. from a scratch…with so many mouths to feed, and bodies to cloth, shelter, educate, etc…”

    We Tibetans have been exploited for generations and people like WHAT DREAMS MAY COME are behind this. Let us, Tibetan brothers and sisters, allow ourselves be exploited one more time to help change the course of this gold-vanishing story. Let us all pretend that the gold and silver were used to feed us and that wheat, sugar and milk powder we received as aid from RedCross and USAid in 70s were paid by Gyalo and Tsarong families, with the same gold and silver in question. Let us play this deaf-n-dumb role-play one more time.

  35. Haha … Seriously, what the hell are you smoking Zika? I am exploiting the Tibetan people? Really?? A nobody like me? At least my ego thanks you.

    How can my broke ass self possibly have anything to do with gold and silver and rich men’s intrigues, when I only heard about such gossips few years ago? If I fancy some of that gold could have been used for the good of the exile community, how does that make me a tyrant? This is just more false equivalence nonsense, which, along with other logical fallacies I notice, fill up your verbiage when you attack others. You are quite entertaining with that glib attitude and the facile presumptions. But your melodramas also reveal an underlying cynicism and negativity your shallow lip service to His Holiness can’t quite hide.

    I don’t know anything about the gold and silver, or what happened to it. I was merely speculating, just as you did when you said, “We all know that TibGov gold and silver were clearly embezzled by authorized people,…..”

    You might be right… You would easily convince me if you could produce some concrete evidence; believe me, I am amenable to evidence. Without it, what hope for clear insight in this matter? What we have left are mule-loads of opinions. And in the arena of opinion, mine is as good as yours.

    You assert with some confidence the gold and silver were, “clearly embezzled”, whereas I was more tentative stating: “I like to believe”.

    The reason why I like to believe is because of His Holiness. I could well believe His Holiness pouring some of that smelted gold into the creation and the maintenance of the exile community, especially early on. In matters of money, His Holiness has always been quite generous. Sure I could be wrong, often aware of it, that is why I deliberately wrote, “I like to believe”.

    Now will no doubt come the inevitable “Kundun didn’t know” defense and thereby try to remove him from the equation. Some Tibetans, in order to protect His Holiness from any controversy, will play Kundun the fool and make him seem like he has no clue what is going on around him, as if he popped out of nowhere 20 minutes ago, innocent as a new born babe but with holes in his socks and a head that need shaving.

  36. It was Gyalo who embezzled the Gaydey Gold. Tsarong was made a scapegoat. Not only do people in the know, know this to be true, even the official who worked with Tsarong; Sadu Renchey whose recent memoir does not implicate Tsarong. It is well known in the Chushi Gandruk circles, of Gyalo’s high handedness and embezzlement of gold biscuits meant for the Muatang operations. The details are listed in the published book that was put out by the Chushi Gangdruk decades ago, and was lifted off the book stands by Gyalo’s men. Before anyone tries to distract or make incorrect statements, please do your research and find out for yourself.

  37. Why our leaders are not speaking on the demolitions of Larung Gar monk’s residence by Chinese to halve the population of monastic community at Larung Gar. Chinese have even started to lie (they are renovating) after it was reported international media while we are forever patient to the Chinese oppression even after 66 years. Thousands of monks will be not only homeless but more importantly, have no place to study.

  38. It is fair to say the Reting Regent was not alone in looking east for help, if indeed he did. A precedent was set when the Qianlong Emperor–at the urging of Tibetan lamas –sent Fuk’anggan commanding 70.000 troops to fight the Gurkhas back in 1789. On their side, the Nepalese requested the British to provide them with Howitzers to fight the Qing Empire–and both Tibet and Nepal paid a strategic price for seeking outside help.
    Reting’s contemporary (and student), Pabongkhapa Déchen Nyingpo cozied up to the extremely wealthy Chinese warlord and opium gangster Liu Wenhui 刘文辉 in the 30’s and 40’s trying to establish a sort of Gelug hegemony. Another example was Geshe Sherab Gyatso, who eventually became an exiled official in the Chinese Buddhist Association. And then there was the unnamed opportunist who provided logistics to the invaders: René de Nebesky-Wojkowitz writes of an early 50’s motorcade up from Calcutta to Kalimpong :
    “The first cars in the column are decorated with Chinese flags; they are brand new American vehicles, bought for the occasion by a wealthy Tibetan merchant. He is manifestly hoping to find grace in the eyes of Tibet’s new masters by a display of loyalty.” This motorcade was witnessed by three Europeans, Prince Peter of Greece, Harrer and the Czech de Nebesky-Wojkowitz.

    Perhaps more relevant to recent times, by all appearances we now have Ganchen Lama funneling CPC funding all over the world to any Tibetan who have no moral qualms about taking easy lucre.

  39. ” Our leaders” ? Question: What do ” our leaders” care more?
    1. we are not seeking Democracy.
    2. World peace
    3. Getting song composed in their name.
    4. Seeking photo ops
    5. Lharung Ghar monks and nuns becoming homeless.

    I never pictured that 50 + years of struggle where millions of our people with their sweat and blood kept the flame of our freedom struggle will turn to this pathetic state.

  40. I see on Tibetsun, Laden Tshering Samdup la wrote an article hyping Religion (specifically Tibetan Buddhism), and while I respect his effort, I felt he got it all wrong when he condescended, “science is just a toddler trying to catch up with religion”, and “It’s not known why so much emphasis and importance is given to “scientific basis”, when scientific theories themselves have no basis and are being continuously disproved.”

    It seems this gentleman hasn’t even discovered Karl Popper and the falsifiability method yet, so failed to realize that older theories are replaced by better and more explanatory theories, but its not like one theory replacing anther one COMPLETELY, its mostly around the edges. No, to him, Dalton, Rutherford, Bohr and Max Planck were all completely wrong! Wrong as the Piltdown Man.

    Here, we might ask, if the author is right, why is NASA still following Newton’s Laws when we have Einstein? Haha Even Einstein got to his lofty celeb status standing on the shoulders of giants, which he and other great scientists have often credited.

    Instead of framing it as Us against Them, why not commingle Science and Tibetan Buddhism into an overlapping magisteria? Unite them, instead of creating more divide. I believe there is a precedence for this since both Buddhist lit. and Scientific lit. make much ado the importance of critical thinking. We should take our cues from His Holiness who befriends scientists, not burn them. If done right, we could create a society free of bodysnatchers (JN’s hilarious take on superstition) and atheists. lol


  41. Just read, Yuthok’s Rejoinder to the Noodle Maker by Jigme Dorji Yulhok on TPR. Seems this guy has the inside scoop. Edifying, and well written (with sources and citations).

    And this interesting quote from Kundun about his older brother, Gyalo Thondup,“He did some good things, but he also made many mistakes. He is stubborn and he creates controversy wherever he goes.”


  42. Gyalu Thondu ko deepa ku. The man has caused so much rift among our religious schools and people. We know of the gold he stole for the Mustang operations for his own benefit. The murders he ordered on so many of our soldiers by surrounding them and shooting them in Lo Menthang. The lies, the deceits, the murders, the thefts and the grabbing of power in exile – all go to show the man is a devil. Not to be trusted and sympathizes with the communists deep down in his horrible heart.

  43. Chinese invasion of Tibet was certainly a catastrophe for Gyalo Dhundup and other aristocracy clans who lost a privilege of ruling a nation, a royal right acquired by birth without having to struggle to earn. But for ordinary common mango tibetans, its neither loss nor much gain too. Either way – having invaded or not – both equally appears insignificant and immaterial. Either ways is bad for some reasons. Either ways is good too for some other reasons. Have we mango tibetan been exposed to the kind of modernized world and got education in the way we had if the invasion hadn’t occurred? Royal clans who lost the privilege of ruling a country, though deprived of such a royal right, but they continued living a high profile comfort level life even after invasion. Invasion in no way made those clans’ life miserable in the way it has done to common Tibetans’ life.

  44. Therefore the so called “Tibet Issue” is in reality, no matter with what colors it is painted, nothing more or less than a tug-of-war struggle between two syndicates ventures’ greed to rule a nation or nations. Common people – both chinese and tibetans are useful tools to achieve their this goal – the goal of ruling a nation – definitely not to serve the people in return, but to place themselves at par with Gods- and in some case even above Gods !!! Those wolfs hungry to rule nation can conveniently trade off country and people for anything and everything if the terms are met to their satisfaction. Country and people are valuable materials for trading while the government is the company for institutionalizing the operation of business of politics. All sorts of good to hear mantra like; preservation of religion and culture, human rights protection, genocide crimes from Titet’s side and their counterpart kins from Chinese side like civilisation, liberation, upliftment, medernization all like other sorts are just FRONT, FRONT and FRONT…!!!

  45. Kunchok, for all the carp spuing out of you should change your name to KUP-OO-GUNG. If it is all the same to you, why do you care? Just shut up and get lost!

  46. Please don’t compare modern day democracy and standards with old Tibet. A lot of folks seem to forget that old Tibet, despite it’s imperfections treated it’s people much better off than it’s surrounding neighbours. Even today, in countries like India, Nepal and the like treat it’s people with no human dignity. The Dalits in India still fighting untouchability and face widespread discrimination. More than 18 million Indians live in modern slavery from domestic to sexual to bonded and child labour. Our own Tibetans refugees folks living in India exploit their Indian servants and treat them as modern day slaves. Only as recent as 2000, the Nepal government abolished Kamaiya system of bonded labour, but in spite such abuses still continue in many modern. The world at one time was ruled by Kings and Monarchies, and hence one should not see old Tibet through the lens of modern day democracies.

  47. Finally got The Noodlemaker of Kalimpong, and was reading it in the bath. Although I am just getting into it, I’ve already experienced a Rashomon moment.

    In the Introduction, Anne Thurston (co-author) wrote, “Gyalo Thondup may be suspected of a less rigorous adherence to the prohibition against taking the life of any sentient being than his staff. One afternoon while staying at the compound, I was startled by a loud noise that was unmistakably gun fire. Running outside, I saw my host pointing a rifle in the direction of the jungle. A large family of monkeys was invading his papaya trees, which where then laden with fruit. Gyalo Thondup was firing into the air to scare the monkeys away.”

    But, in chapter 6, titled, My Family’s New Life, Gyalo Thondup tells about the time when he was just a kid, how he came home one time to find a flock of crows attacking and killing his pet rabbits. “I quickly fetched a rifle and began shooting at the birds.” “Most of the crows survived, but all of the rabbits died.”

    Ending with – “My failed attempt to kill the crows is the only time in my life that I have used a gun against sentient beings.”

    OK. On another front. Why is the Tibetan National Congress(TNC) seen as some huge threat to the prevailing political institutions in exile that no self respecting org. wants anything to do with them? I recall the VP of TYC bringing up the good name of Jetsun Pema la as one justification, so may be I should ask her? lol

    “Among the nine resolutions discussed and deliberated on the final day of the meet, the resolution to not have relations with the Tibetan National Congress, another NGO that also strives for complete independence for Tibet and started by Independence proponents based abroad, on an organizational level received a mathematical majority with 79 votes out of the total 140.”


  48. I trust U-tsang people. Most of the Old Kudraks were great!

    Old Tibet was bad primarily because of the powerful Lamas. Kudraks are the scapegoat.

    Without this JN’s article, i wouldn’t know all these historical facts. If i don’t agree i will read all the source he cited. Didn’t know Mahbufang was a friend!


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