By Jamyang Norbu
When Oscar Wilde declared that “the one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it”, he was probably attempting to provoke — épater les bourgeois
, as the French might say. Wilde lived in an age, the latter half of the nineteenth century, of assurance and certitude. Contemporary historians such as the German empiricist Leopold Von Ranke felt that through their work they could show “what had really happened”, while the English Catholic historian, Lord Acton believed that it would one day be possible to produce “ultimate history”.
Historian have now generally come around to the substantially less confident view — expressed by E. H. Carr of Cambridge — that “history is interpretation” necessitating periodic re-interpretation and hence rewriting or revision. Historical revisionism is the attempt to understand the past better through the reexamination of historical facts, with an eye towards updating historical narratives with newly discovered, more accurate, or less biased information. There is also a less respectable, one might even say a perverted, kind of revisionism called “negationism” (from the French le négationnisme
) a term first introduced by Henry Rousso, the specialist on WWII France (Le Syndrome De Vichy
, etc.) which describes the process of rewriting history by minimizing, denying or simply ignoring essential facts while exaggerating or overstating those supportive of one’s argument.
What made many in the Tibetan world stand up and pay attention to Professor Melvyn Goldstein’s A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Demise of the Lamaist State
, when it appeared in 1989 was the unmistakable impression the book gave — even in the preliminary flip-through-the-pages — that here was a radical reinterpretation of Tibetan history. This impression was heightened by the fact that there had been a fairly long hiatus in the appearance of political histories of Tibet. In fact, twenty-two years had passed since the publication of Tibet: A Political History,
Tsepon W.D. Shakabpa’s major work on Tibetan history, and twenty-seven since Hugh Richardson’s less ambitious but very useful Tibet and its History
. We did get Richardson and Snellgrove’s (as yet unrivalled) The Cultural History of Tibet
in 1967 and a smattering of monographs and works on the early history of Tibet, but not a major political history.
In contrast to Shakabpa’s and Richardson’s monumental but perhaps “dated” works, Goldstein’s history had been researched and written in the period following Deng’s “liberalization” when foreign tourists and academics could easily visit Tibet, and in Goldstein’s case even gain entry to some hitherto inaccessible sources of information on Tibetan history — though these were mostly interviews, not archival sources. So Goldstein’s work was greeted with genuine interest and even excitement, not only for the new information it contained, but also because unlike previous histories which had adopted the orthodox, or rather conventional point of view, this one seemed to promise a more warts-and-all approach to things.
Reviews were mixed. As expected, those from the left were ecstatic, Tom Grunfeld in China Quarterly
deeming it “Masterful…Careful, thoughtful and authoritative.” Others, especially those subscribing to a more Buddhist outlook, were tentative. Gareth Sparham in the Tibetan Review
criticized Goldstein for not appreciating the depth and sincerity of all Tibetans to their religion. An unexpected commentary came in a letter to the editor in the Tibetan Review
from Hugh Richardson, who had been Goldstein’s old professor at the University of Washington in Seattle. Richardson praised the book for its “research and lucid reportage” but described the book’s postscript as “shameful.” He went on to explain that “… all Goldstein has to say about events after 1951 is that ‘a series of complicated events’ led to the flight into India of the Dalai Lama and 80,000 Tibetans. His eyes are closed to the Tibetan rising in 1959 and the accompanying bloodshed and atrocities, to the imposition of a total military and civil imperialistic dictatorship, and to the savage destruction of the Cultural Revolution.” Richardson, like everyone else at the time, was not aware that Goldstein intended to write another book on subsequent events, so, that censure, though acceptable then, is perhaps not applicable now.
One of the first things that impressed me about Goldstein’s history of Tibet was its physical attractiveness — the high production value. The cover design alone was elegant and striking, compared to other books on Tibet. Most of the publications on Tibet that I could then obtain in India, Tibetan Library or exile-government publications and the reprints by Motilalal Banarasidas and others, were badly printed on inferior grade paper with bindings that invariably came loose after a few monsoons.
My admiration did not diminish on opening the book. The enormous labor that had gone into the work, the extensive research, the many interviews (some with people who had till then just disappeared into the Chinese gulag) were patently evident. There were also the unusually large number of photographs, some of which had not been published before, that contributed to the fullness of the narration. My first reading of the text, through “the lucid reportage”, as Richardson describes it, was an enjoyable experience. Many of the stories one had earlier heard about the members of the Tibetan ruling class, the lamas and the aristocrats,RELEVANCE IN HISTORY
On my second reading, after having satiated myself with the more titillating and scandalous details of the doings of the Tibetan ruling class, I began to feel a somewhat niggling sense of discomfort at details I had at first overlooked. Why were there two photographs (one full page) of the Reting regent’s alleged mistresses? I’d never seen full-page photographs of Marilyn Monroe or Judith Exner (the mistress of both President Kennedy and Mafia boss Sam Giancana) in any serious history of modern America. For the professional historian there is always the question of relevance if not, at least to some extent, of propriety, in including images or information that might not contribute to the historical narrative but might merely be judged as of salacious interest. There was also no evidence provided for one of the alleged mistresses (Mrs. Chogtray) of actually having been Reting’s lover, merely hearsay. Such incautious retailing of Lhasa tittle-tattle gave a tabloid feel to what was meant to be a historical study. Of course Goldstein was correct in mentioning Reting’s sexual indiscretions as they were the major reason for his abdicating the regency, but nonetheless, a lighter touch, something more than allegations and hearsay and perhaps one less photograph, might have been in order.
Goldstein further went into solemn recounting of such rumors as Demo Rimpoche being drowned in a large copper vat of water and Reting having his testicles squeezed. Shakespeare, in Richard III
tells us that the Duke of Clarence was executed by being “drowned in a butt of Malmsey”. It is now believed that this story may have started as a joke since the Duke had the reputation of being a heavy drinker. The Reting Regent’s reputation for not living up to his vow of celibacy may have similarly given rise to the gossip of the squeezed testicles. Such accounts may have their place in legend and drama but should not receive consideration in serious history. Till Goldstein no other historian (Richardson, Shakabpa et al
) had included such Lhasa gossip in their works, though I am sure they were well aware of the stories.
Goldstein also retails the historically irrelevant and spiteful canard of Gedun Chophel having an inflatable rubber sex doll in his possession. This slander was probably started in later years by conservative detractors of this outstanding but unconventional scholar, and gained currency since he had a reputation of being sexually active, and also perhaps because of Tibetan curiosity with foreign sexual customs. As proof of this charge Goldstein tells us that when directly asked about the doll, “Gedun Chompel turned away and did not reply; this indicates, in Tibetan style, that it was true, since he did not deny it.” It indicates nothing of the sort. Tibetans like other people might choose not to dignify such an absurd or insulting inquiry with an answer. This kind of spurious ethnological interpretation of Tibetan behaviour is extraordinary coming from someone who claims anthropology as his primary discipline. I am also fairly certain that such sex dolls were not commercially available in Europe and USA before the fifties, and certainly not in India even in 2008. In Britain it was illegal to import sex dolls prior to 1982. Not to play the amateur psychiatrist but one cannot fully avoid the hint of morbidity in Goldstein’s narrations of sex and degeneration in the Holy City: in his providing physical details of how Tibetan monks went about their homosexual practices, or in his interest in the matter of the squeezing of Reting’s testicles. Goldstein appears to have taken the trouble to consult medical expertise to see whether something like that could cause death.
Eventually, I ended up with the overriding impression that the book was not so much a history of a nation and a people, but rather the heavily documented though somewhat indiscriminate and arbitrary account of a small ruling class in Lhasa, particularly those members who spent their time largely plotting to overthrow each other, indulging in sexual escapades, or otherwise hopelessly mired in decadence and corruption.
There was little account of honourable service, sacrifice or courage, even where it would be not only have been relevant, but perhaps necessary to provide an accurate and balanced picture as it were, of events and personalities. Goldstein’s focus was fundamentally on events that could only be described as degenerate, fratricidal, or reprehensible – even shameful. He devotes nearly sixty pages to the Reting conspiracy and the subsequent Sera rebellion. The sub-headings in this chapter such as “ the Sera Che War” and “the Massacre at Reting Monastery” patently overstate what really happened. When it is now politically incorrect, or at least controversial, in American academic circles to use the term “massacre” to describe the killing of some thousand students and civilians at Tiananmen in 1989, the death of a dozen odd Tibetan soldiers at Reting monastery should perhaps be explained in a less sensational manner than as a “massacre”.
Richardson says of the “Sera Che War” that when government troops mounted their assault most of the monks had already left and only a few barricaded themselves inside the college (dratsang
) building. Shakabpa says that Tibetan troops “quelled the unrest among the monks” and “this threat of a civil war was ended.” Shakabpa does not concede the occurrence of a real civil war, stating merely that there had only been the threat of one. But Shakabpa’s objectivity can be questioned as he was personally involved in the conflict. Heinrich Harrer who was in Lhasa at the time calls the affair “a minor civil war” and I think that would be, on balance, as vigorous a designation as we could reasonably allocate to the affair.
After all, these events in Tibet were taking place under the cloud of a real and apocalyptically bloody civil war going on just across the border in China, where millions were being killed and wounded, and millions more, including women and children, the old and the infirm, were enduring starvation, disease and mass displacement. Even segments of the Tibetan population of Kham and Amdo had become caught up in the peripheral conflicts of the Chinese Civil War, and suffered as a result. We have to note that while the “minor civil war” in Lhasa lasted for about all of two weeks, the “Nationalist-Communist Civil War” (guógòng neìzhàn
) went on for twenty-four bloody years, from April 1927 to May 1950. To this day no armistice has been signed or the war actually declared over. In fact until Beijing successfully invades Taiwan or accepts the fact of Taiwan’s independence, this long conflict cannot, with any degree of certainty, be regarded as ended.
The French historian and scholar, Amaury de Riencourt, heard of the Reting affair in 1947 when he was in Kalimpong and Sikkim. But on traveling through Tibet and staying in Lhasa for five months he concluded that the impact of the two-week conflict on Tibetan society in general was not profound, nor extensive. He writes “On the whole, the plot and the limited trouble in a few lamaseries hardly made a ripple on the surface of the average Tibetan’s life.” Of course, de Riencourt’s observation does not come from any in-depth study, but it is nonetheless an informed, impartial and firsthand one. Interestingly, he tells us how the Chinese government inflated the affair in their news reports.
“The Chinese got hold of the trouble and blew it up into a major political crisis in Tibet. According to reports emanating from Shanghai and inspired by the Kuomintang, Mr. Chen (Shen Tsung-lien the Chinese representative in Lhasa.
JN) had played a major part in solving the crisis, whereas in fact he remained safely inside the walls of his embassy. But, once more, the Kuomintang Chinese had the attention of world public opinion since Tibet is unable to defend her cause in the international forum.”
It should be mentioned that when Shen Tsung-lien published his own work on Tibetan history and politics in the USA in 1953, he relegated what he calls the “Ra-dreng episode”  to a brief paragraph that assigned no undue significance to the affair.
I wish to emphasize that in no way do I think that the Reting affair was inconsequential. It was clearly damaging to Tibetan polity, and does require more serious study and discussion. But Goldstein’s excessive (and somewhat prurient) emphasis on the affair seems out of proportion to its actual social and political significance, especially when we have to balance it against other events that affected the Tibetan world during its “modernization” period.THE MISSING WAR
Sixty odd pages for “a minor civil war” seems especially disproportionate when we come to realize that Goldstein inexplicably passes over Tibet’s principal military victory in Eastern Tibet in just one paragraph. The war of 1917-18 was a major conflict in Tibetan history and the striking success of the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s modern army carried tremendous political significance. For the first time in about a thousand years Tibetan troops had decisively defeated an invading Chinese army. That the fighting was extensive, even desperate at times, can be gauged by the fact that three Tibetan generals, Dapon Phulungwa, Dapon Jingpa and Dapon Tailing, were killed in action in this war. Such comparisons are perhaps crude, but to an American academic writing on Tibetan history and choosing to gloss over the war of 1917-18 one might reasonably ask how many American generals have been killed in Iraq, or in Vietnam for that matter, to make those two conflicts significant in American history.
Casualties on both sides appear to have been high although exact figures are unavailable. An English account of the war mentions that at the siege of Chamdo more than half the Chinese garrison of about 1000 soldiers died, and the siege of Chamdo was only one of a number of engagements in this war. Shakabpa writes of the fighting before Chamdo, “After many months of fierce battles, Tibetan troops recaptured Rongpo Gyarapthang, Khyungpo Sertsa, Khyungpo Tengchen, Riwoche, Chaksam Kha, Thok Drugugon, Tsawa Pakshod, Lagon Nyenda, and Lamda.” Shakabpa tells us that after the fall of Chamdo, the Kalon Lama briefly rested his troops before marching on to fight at Markham, Draya, Sangyen, Gojo, and Derge, all of which “were liberated.”
Tibetan troops at Riwoche with captured guns
We must also consider the local Khampas who were killed in this conflict. The young Tibetan historian K. Dhondup (whose untimely death in 1995 deprives us of one of the three volumes of his distinctive history of Tibet) wrote that, “Tibetans in Markham, Draya, Sangen, Gonjo and Derge etc. where the suppression was on the increase could wait no longer and started rebelling against the invaders. Poorly equipped and disorganized, they suffered terrible losses. Before long, Kalon Lama Jamba Tendar (the governor general of Eastern Tibet) was able to assist them and liberate and recapture all these areas.” Overall, if one included the deaths of Khampas (militiamen as well as civilians) we could at the very least be talking of quite a few thousand dead and wounded.
The victorious Tibetan army was advancing on the ancient Tibetan frontier town of Dhartsedo, then the capital of the new Chinese province of Sikang (carved out of Eastern Tibet), when the Chinese appealed to the British for mediation. Chinese officials and the business community in Dhartsedo and Batang were “completely panic-stricken” and “lost their heads”, though Tibetan residents there were understandably celebrating. Eric Teichman, of His Britannic Majesty’s Consular Service in Peking, was sent to Chamdo where after a number of talks with the Tibetan governor-general a treaty was finally signed at Rongbatsa. Tibetans gains in Chamdo, Draya, Markham and Derge were maintained, while Litang, Batang and Nyarong remained under Chinese control. Tibetans were confident that they could have taken back Dhartsedo and other historically and ethnically Tibetan areas under Chinese occupation, and felt that the British had pressured them into signing the treaty by threatening to cut off ammunition sales to Tibet.
However, even if not as complete as the Tibetans would have liked it to be, the victory was undeniably a momentous one. It was clear proof that a trained Tibetan army was capable of defending its own frontier against Chinese aggression, and together with the victory of 1912, provided the self-assurance and sense of historical validation that Tibetans needed to establish in themselves the concept of an independent Tibet as an enduring reality and not merely as a declaration or a desired ideal. Although the Tibetan army in Kham suffered a reverse in 1932, loosing the eastern half of Derge, the fact of the 1918 victory allowed Tibetans to remain in possession of a large portion of Kham till the Communist invasion in 1950.
It was not just the military victory, but the quality of the Tibetan leadership that appears to have appealed to the Khampas, and gained their loyalty. Jampa Tendar himself inspired respect bordering on awe. Teichman tells us that his orders were obeyed without question throughout Eastern Tibet (even in the Chinese administered areas). Most of the other officers appear to have conducted themselves with exceptional courage and dedication when leading their regular troops as well as Khampa militia into battle. One officer, a major from Lhasa, is celebrated to this day in a Khampa song:Rupon Anen Dawa, Ling kyi patul drawa
Menda si si lendu, namkey thok thang drawa
Major Anen Dawa is like a hero from the Ling epics
His Mauser pistol roars like thunder in the sky.
Teichman also tells us that the Tibetan commanders he met were cultured and relatively modern people who “… have in most cases visited India, carry Kodaks and field-glasses, sleep on camp beds and often wear foreign clothes, whereas the Szechuanese leaders know nothing of the world beyond the confines of their own province.” Teichman also noticed another relatively civilized aspect of Tibetan behavior absent in the Chinese.
“The Tibetans have undoubtedly behaved very well at Chamdo, treating their Chinese military prisoners with humanity and kindness … the civilian Chinese are at present moving freely about the town carrying on their usual business, each with a ticket on his arm, showing that he has been registered at the Tibetan headquarters.”
Kalon Lama Jampa Tendar, Governer General of Kham
In fact the overall legacy of this victory in Eastern Tibet, and the progressive administration that the Tibetan government installed in Chamdo and which was effective for at least two successive governor-generals, ensured the loyalty of the Khampas to Lhasa. The policy direction of Jampa Tendar’s administration can perhaps be gauged by the new official seal he had engraved after the victory. He incorporated his name Jampa meaning “love” and Tendar meaning “spread of religion” into the message of the new seal, which read in Tibetan: “gyal-khab jam-pae kyang, diki ki tempa dhar-pae thamga
.” The wordplay makes an exact translation difficult but could be roughly rendered as: “Rule the nation with love. The religion of happiness will prevail.”
Although later administrators proved incompetent and corrupt, Khampa loyalty and residual good will from earlier times even seemed to have survived till the Communist Chinese invasion. For instance the Khampa militia that fought side by side with the regular Tibetan units in October 1950 performed their duties heroically under the circumstances. The main Khampa leader, Khenchen Dawala, had striven to create a strong Khampa militia force in Eastern Tibet and his vital role was recognized officially. The Tibetan government radio operator in Chamdo, Robert Ford, says that, “After the Governor General he took precedence over every Lhasa official.” “The grand old man of Chamdo” as Ford describes him was one of the surviving Khampa leaders who had served with distinction under Jampa Tendar in 1918. But Goldstein makes no mention of this important personage in his account of the 1950 invasion at the end of his book.
Tibetans customarily refer to military events by the year in which they occurred. The British invasion is called the Wood Dragon War (shing-druk mak
). The expulsion of the Manchu forces in 1912 is called the Water Mouse Chinese War (chu-chi gya mak
). But Khampas probably felt that the 1918 victory was a turning point in their history for they speak of it grandiloquently as kalpa sa-ta
, or the “The New Age of the Earth Horse.” It was not just a war but a national liberation.
In a conversation on Goldstein’s coverage of this conflict, Alastair Lamb, the leading historian on Anglo-Tibetan relations, is said to have remarked that it was like writing a history of modern Europe and leaving out the First World War. A curious feature of Goldstein’s book is that in spite of the tremendous quantity of information that it contains, it somehow only serves to reduce events to the antics of a section of the small ruling class in Lhasa.THE STARTING POINT
Even Goldstein’s choice of a starting point in his history — the year 1912, adds, in a sense, to this not-so-subtle diminution of Tibetan history. Moreover it misrepresents the period of Tibet’s entry into the modern world, downplays the role of Tibetans in creating their own national identity and in initiating the modern period of their history. Bernard Lewis, the controversial but accomplished Princeton scholar of Islamic and Middle Eastern history, tells us of the manipulations by which “the misuser of history” can to a considerable extent serve his purpose by even a simple matter like the starting point.
“One has to start somewhere if one is going to write a book or an article or give a lecture on an historical topic, and the choice may in some measure predetermine the result. Any starting point is necessarily in some degree artificial. History is a seamless garment; periodization is a convenience of the historian, not a fact of the historical process. By choosing carefully, one can slant history without any resort to actual falsehood. For example, a writer on relations between the United States and Japan can start with Hiroshima, or he can start with Pearl Harbor. Even precisely identical narratives of events would look very different, if they start with one or the other.”
The Great 13th Dalai Lama at Calcutta
Goldstein’s starting point for A History of Modern Tibet
is the return of the 13th Dalai Lama to Lhasa in 1912 from his exile in British India. This does, at first, seem like a logical point to start a history of modern Tibet. It is from this period, Goldstein informs us that Tibet’s efforts at reform and modernization begins. We are also given to see that this modernization is near exclusively British in influence, and that even the new military and nationalist faction of the Tibetan leadership were pro-British and in fact influenced by the British.
One of the dominant theories of modern Tibetan history maintained by pro-Chinese or leftist historians is that the concept of an independent Tibetan nation state came about at the beginning of the twentieth century largely as a creation, a “construct”, of British imperialist design, formulated and put in place by such colonial officers as Charles Bell, Basil Gould and Hugh Richardson, to create a buffer state between British India and China (or even Russia). Chinese historians subscribe to the first half of the theory but reject the “buffer state” part, insisting that the British were seeking an outright separation of Tibet from the Chinese motherland. On the whole, this is the version of modern Tibetan history that can be effectively presented “without any resort to actual falsehoods” — if one starts one’s narrative from 1912.
But if one goes further back in time to let us say the year 1876, we are confronted with a scenario where Tibet is demonstrating an assertive, even aggressive “nationalistic” spirit against what its leaders then perceived (fairly correctly) as the collusive design of Imperial Britain and Imperial China in undermining Tibet’s freedom and integrity.
In 1876 Great Britain and Imperial China signed the Chefoo convention, one article of which permitted the British to send an exploratory mission through Tibet. China regards this convention as one of the “unequal treaties” imposed on it by the West, yet that particular article on Tibet evolved into a mutually profitable complicity between it and Britain. Since Tibet had not been consulted, the “Tibetan parliament” refused to allow British entry to Tibet. According to Alastair Lamb “… the Chinese chose to rebuke the Tibetans for their opposition to a mission which the Emperor had authorized; and as a gesture of defiance to the Chinese, the Tibetans closed the passes from Chumbi to Sikkim and reinforced Lingtu.”
In this act of defiance to Britain and China, Tibetans erected a fortification at Lingtu (or rather Lungthur) thirteen miles into what the British regarded as Sikkim territory. To demonstrate their resolve the Tibetans garrisoned the fort with nine hundred soldiers. According to L. A. Waddell the Tibetans actually invaded Sikkim “and advanced to within sixty miles of Darjeeling, causing a panic in that European sanitarium.” The British sent two thousand soldiers and artillery under Brigadier Graham to expel the Tibetans. Artillery bombardment and infantry charges finally drove Tibetans back from Lungthur. “But the Tibetans, despite their primitive equipment…” Lamb tells us “…were not dismayed by this show of force.
In May they attempted a surprise attack on the British camp at Gnatong and nearly succeeded in capturing the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, who was visiting the frontier; they were repulsed with severe losses.”. Waddell also mentions that the Tibetans fought fiercely and showed “great courage and determination.” Waddell acknowledges that an additional cause for the Tibetan “invasion” might have been the British annexation of Sikkim, which the Tibetans regarded as legitimately in their sphere of influence. In spite of the major setback at Lungthur the Tibetans stubbornly refused to acknowledge Britain’s right to send a mission to Tibet, nor China’s right to grant permission for such a venture.
Tibetan intransigence brought the British around to the conclusion that it was perhaps wisest for it sacrifice the “problematical gains in Tibet” (as a secret foreign office memo claimed) especially since by not challenging China’s pre-eminent position in Tibet, Britain secured China’s formal recognition of its rule in Burma. Earlier, China had regarded Burma as a tributary state but Britain had, in three successive wars, fully taken over the country by 1885. The formal recognition of British rule in Burma, gained for the Manchu court Britain’s reciprocal recognition of China’s claims to Tibet.
A government publication (Sikkim Gazetter
) gives a clear picture of the official British view of Tibet at the time. “Who will deny that it would be a piece of surpassing folly to alienate a possible ally in China by forcing our way into Tibet in the interests of scientific curiosity, doubtfully backed by mercantile speculation.”. Alastair Lamb adds “It was in this frame of mind that the Indian government hoped to settle the future relations between British India and China without reference to the Tibetans.”
Shatra sha-pe at Darjeeling
Tibetans were deliberately kept out of all the conventions and discussions that took place in those years between the British and the Chinese concerning Tibet or Sikkim. In 1893 when the Trade Regulation talks (to be appended to the Sikkim-Tibet convention) were being held in Darjeeling, the Tibetan cabinet sent a cabinet minister, a sha-pe
, the young Paljor Dorjee Shatra to keep and eye on the proceedings. Shatra’s presence appears to have been resented by the British and he was “permitted to suffer an insult” (Lamb). What is known is that a number of British officers dragged him off his horse and threw him into a public fountain in the Chowrasta square. Another account says that Shatra’s servant was the victim. The incident has been represented in all English accounts as an unfortunate prank by high-spirited subalterns, but old Tibetan residents of Darjeeling believed that it was a deliberate act by the British to humiliate the Tibetans for their “insolence”.
Tibetan defiance of Britain and China has in most studies to date been downplayed as a consequence of superstition and ignorance; from purported Tibetan fears that the British would destroy their religion. That this resistance could perhaps have arisen from a spirit of Tibetan nationalism has never seriously been considered. Sometimes this attitude is covertly disdainful: Tibetans were not “developed” or “sophisticated” enough to be nationalistic. Most studies on this subject have generally gone along with the conventional academic premise of nationalism and national identities in Asia and Africa as merely following “models” already formulated in Europe or America and imposed on, or adopted by, such colonized lands.
Of course, such theories are now regarded as exclusionary and incomplete, and the view of Asian nationalism as being “imagined, or invented” have pretty much been dismissed by experts on the subject as Partha Chatterjee (The Nation and Its Fragments
) and Prasenjit Duara (Rescuing History from the Nation: Questioning Narratives of Modern China
) who offer us more complex and nuanced views of Asian nationalism where indigenous historical, cultural and even religious factors are no less relevant to its evolution than merely the influence or machinations of European or American colonial and imperial powers.
Therefore it might be worthwhile to note the contents of the talks that two British officials, Nolan and Claude White, had at Yatung in November of 1895 with a Tibetan monk official (tsedrung
) Tenzin Wangbo, after it was discovered that the Tibetans had knocked down and destroyed a number of British boundary pillars on the Sikkim border and again established an armed outpost at Giaogong, which the British regarded as being inside Sikkim territory. Alastair Lamb writes that “Nolan concluded from his talks with Tenzing Wangpu (Tenzin Wangbo) that the Tibetan outpost at Giaogong symbolised a spirit of Tibetan nationalism, greatly reinforced by the recent coming of age of the 13th Dalai Lama. The Tibetans, Tenzing Wangpu said, did not feel bound by a treaty which had been negotiated on their behalf by Britain and China and they would not discuss the frontier as defined in that treaty. They were willing, however, to discuss the frontier with reference to Tibetan maps; but Tenzing Wangpu emphasized that ‘Tibet would not give up land merely because required to by the Convention.’”
L.A. Waddell who was living in Darjeeling around this period had a number of conversations with the Tibetan minister Shatra sha-pe
. It was probably from him he learned of a new spirit of nationalism that had arisen in Tibet due to public resentment at the collusion of the Demo regent with the Chinese Ambans in Lhasa. Patriotic officials believed that the two parties were plotting against the young 13th Dalai Lama, and they feared that he might suffer the fate of the last four Dalai Lamas who died very young in “a mysterious manner” to the advantage of the Chinese Ambans and the regents. Waddell concluded that:
“The present Dalai Lama has been permitted to become an exception to this rule, through the influence of the national party which has risen up in Tibet in veiled revolt against the excessive interference by the Chinese in the government of the country. This national party saved the young Dalai from the tragic fate of his predecessors, and they rescued him and the Government out of Chinese leading-strings by a dramatic coup d’ etat. (in which the Demo regent was overthrown and imprisoned and the Amban neutralized
Waddell was impressed by Shatra and felt that by not recognizing him “in a way befitting his high rank” and by excluding him from the official discussions the British had “missed an excellent opportunity” to gain Tibetan trust. Waddell found Shatra “a most refined and well-informed gentleman, and well disposed towards the British. Shatra told Waddell that he had wasted his time in Darjeeling but that he would like to take back to Lhasa a summary of British “criminal, police and civil codes”, which had much impressed him. He desired to reform the legal system in Tibet (many features of it imposed by the Manchus) that followed such Chinese practices as torturing suspects until they confessed to their crimes, which the young minister found objectionable.
It should be noted that Tibetan defiance of British and Chinese imperial ambitions was consistently maintained for three decades in spite of the loss of Tibetan life and British and Chinese hostility. In fact till 1904 and the Younghusband expedition, Tibet’s aggressive nationalistic policy did not change.
The British invasion force with its repeating rifles, maxim heavy machine guns and (according to Tibetans) unalloyed treachery, massacred seven hundred Tibetan country levees at Chumi Shengo, in the space of a couple of hours. “Despite this withering attack, the Tibetan forces fell back in good order, refusing to turn their backs or run, and holding off cavalry pursuit at bayonet point”. A couple of thousand more Tibetans died for their “fatherland” (phayul
) in subsequent battles at Samada, Gangmar, Neyning, Zamdang, and most significantly at Gyangtse, where the Tibetans actually besieged the British force for a time before the conflict ended and the British marched into Lhasa and forced a treaty on the government in August 1904.
Tibetans can legitimately view the events from 1876 to 1904 as the first chapter in their modern history. Most accounts of this period, largely written by British officials or scholars tend to downplay native resistance and nationalism and ascribe them instead to Tibetan obstinacy and superstition, or more generously to a misunderstanding between the two sides. There has never been a study of the origins of modern Tibetan nationalism or national identity stemming from this period, nor a review of the factors that could have caused or influenced it. Something like this is long overdue. I offer a few speculations of mine on the origins of these developments in modern Tibetan history.
It is possible that the 13th Dalai Lama and his officials were influenced by the spirit of modernization, social reform and nationalism that was beginning to spread throughout Asia towards the end of the 19th century. For instance in India there was the Bengal Renaissance and in Manchu China the Self Strengthening (Ziqiang
) Movement and the Tongzhi restoration. But almost certainly the Meiji Restoration, which transformed Japan from a feudal into a modern state, inspired the young Dalai Lama as it did other reformers and nationalists in India, China, South-East Asia and the Middle East. We know that the young 13th Dalai Lama was interested, even fascinated by Meiji Japan. Considering his own problems with the Manchu court, China’s crushing defeat in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894 must have piqued his interest. He sent a notable scholar, the geshe, Tsawa Tritul and two other Tibetans to study in Japan, long before he sent the four Tibetan boys to study in England. When His Holiness was in Peking in 1908, he arranged to visit Japan, but had to cut his plans short because of the death of the Manchu Emperor.
When Sir Charles Bell wrote that he was “the first European who had visited Lhasa at the invitation of the people themselves” he was probably unaware that the Dalai Lama had earlier invited two Japanese, Tada Togan and Aoki Bunkyo to visit and stay in Lhasa. Tada, a religious scholar, studied in Lhasa for ten years, while Aoki translated military manuals, and Japanese textbooks and books on education in general that he obtained from Fujitani in Calcutta. He was also “principal advisor on foreign affairs” providing His Holiness with a “news bulletin summarized from Japanese press despatches and English newspapers. Another Japanese, a veteran of the Russo-Japanese War, and an instructor at a military college at Tokyo, Yasujiro Yajima, was put in charge of training the largest unit of the new Tibetan Army. This was before the British system was introduced. On the death of the emperor Meiji on 30 July 1912 the Dalai Lama sent a message of condolence to Japan. According to a leading writer on Japan-Tibet relations, “He (the 13th Dalai Lama) had admired what the emperor had stood for as the progressive leader of an independent Asian Buddhist nation.”
Yet, it should be noted that the earliest influence that unleashed the dormant nationalist and reforming energy of the 13th Dalai Lama and other leading Tibetans (as Shatra) was not exactly foreign. It appears to have come very early in the young Dalai Lama’s life, and from someone closer to home, the Buriat lama, Agvan Dorjiev.
Dorjiev’s vital role in modern Tibetan history has thus far not been sufficiently acknowledged, thanks in large part to British reports and accounts, which invariably relegate him to the role of a sinister Russian spy. He first came to Lhasa in 1873, to study at Drepung monastery where he obtained his geshe
degree. Dorjiev, whose Tibetan name was Ngawang Lobsang, must have been an extraordinarily gifted scholar since he became one of the seven tsenshab
s or debating partners of the young Dalai Lama. In 1888 he became a confidant and tutor to the Dalai Lama and for the next ten years served as his “inseparable attendant”. In turn His Holiness looked upon him as his “true guardian and protector”.
The young Dalai Lama may have had virtually no knowledge of the outside world or of the workings of international politics, but his tutor, according to Dorjiev biographer John Snelling, “… was very much a man of the world: comparatively well-educated, well traveled In Central Asia, and moreover a person of intelligence, acumen, charm and character.” One European witness who met him at the time testifies that his ‘science, energy and, and above all, the vivacity of his mind … predestined him to become a great statesmen or a great adventurer.”
Dorjiev’s “modern, progressive turn of mind” gained from his extensive travels. He visited St. Petersburg as the Dalai Lama’s envoy, and also Paris, London, and major cities in India and China. He was in the thick of the politics of the period, facing not only the opposition of the powerful ultra-conservative clique in Lhasa but also the hostility of the British who saw him as a Russian spy. It is now generally accepted that he was no foreign spy but a patriot who strove tirelessly and openly to create a Mongolia and Tibet independent of China. It might be mentioned here that Dorjiev was the one of the main authors of the Tibet Mongolia Treaty signed on 29th of December 1912, that clearly demonstrated the independent status of the two nations. The original document in Mongolia has recently been discovered and I received a photographic copy of it just a couple of months ago.
Tibet-Mongolia Treaty of 1912
This is not the place for a detailed discussion of this enigmatic personality, but it should be said that his was a significant role in shaping the young Dalai Lama’s independent and progressive views — and hence in shaping the history of modern Tibet. John Snelling mentions that in a discussion with the “eminent historian of Central Asia”, Alastair Lamb, he was told that “… if Dorjiev had not appeared when he did, the course of Tibetan history would indeed have been very different.”
Finally, we should perhaps not discount the possibility of Tibet’s “nationalist” spirit being awakened by examples from within its own past. For instance, the Phagmodrupa king, after overthrowing Mongol rule in Tibet (ten years before the Chinese overthrew the Mongol Yuan dynasty) consciously attempted to create a new non-Mongol national identity reflecting the early Imperial period of Tibetan history. The harsh Mongol penal code was rejected and laws derived in part from the imperial period, adopted. The Phagmodrupa revived ancient customs and “during the New Year celebration high officials had to wear the costumes of the early kings.” The second Phagmodrupa king sponsored Tsongkhapa’s Monlam festival in Lhasa, which became the largest festival in the Tibetan calendar and attracted thousands of pilgrims and worshippers from all over the country and beyond. Although the Monlam is a great religious festival, it also has important historical and military aspects, presented in grand and colourful pageants and parades that serve to inculcate in the Tibetan public a sense of its history and identity.
All these diverse influences, models and personalities that contributed to the creation of the modern Tibetan nation state are singularly absent or glossed over in Goldstein’s account. And he can do that without straying too far from the truth, since he begins his history in 1912, after the British gained a diplomatic foothold in Tibet, and then made sure Tibetans didn’t interact with anyone else.
Goldstein does provide an introductory précis of events before 1912, but does not establish their significance to the modernization of Tibet. In fact the events from this period that Goldstein emphasizes are those characterized by superstition, magic and degeneration. Goldstein describes the Demo “affair” where the old regent (or rather his brothers) attempted to assassinate the young 13th Dalai Lama through black magic, but were exposed and imprisoned. Goldstein recounts largely unsubstantiated “rumours” of Demo “being killed by being immersed in a huge copper water vat until he drowned”, but inexplicably fails to mention that the Dalai Lama rejected the decision by his cabinet to execute the perpetrators. This is historically important as it is the first known instance of the Dalai Lama’s rejection of capital punishment. The consistency of His Holiness’s stand on this issue led to the establishment of the landmark legal decision of his reign, which I wrote about in a previous essay:
“In 1913 the 13th Dalai Lama officially banned capital punishment and other forms of “cruel and unusual” punishments; possibly making Tibet one of the first countries in the world to do so. Switzerland abolished capital punishment in 1937; Britain in 1965 and France guillotined its last criminal in 1981. In the United States, especially Texas, even being underage or mentally retarded is no guarantee of not being sent to the “chair,” or whatever is on offer. In China they are, of course, going at it as if there were no tomorrow. An Amnesty International press release of 2001, stated that “More people were executed in China in the last three months than in the rest of the world for the last three years.”
Goldstein discusses the creation of the modern Tibetan army and police force under British auspices and mentions the technical assistance provided by the British for the new telegraph line, but not that the Tibetans paid for everything. He also mentions, in passing, the construction of the hydroelectric plant in Lhasa. When Goldstein discusses the modernization that took place after 1912 he is unfailing in drawing attention to the British influence, and also in trivializing much of the developments as “… the adoption of “Western (British) uniforms, dress and customs such as sweet tea, shaking hands, and playing tennis and polo…”
Goldstein overlooks modernizations and reforms undertaken by the Tibetans themselves. On the eighth day of the first month of the Water-Ox year (a month after the signing of the Mongolia-Tibet Treaty) the Great Thirteenth declared Tibet’s independence. In this historical proclamation he also stated that individual Tibetan farmers would be allowed to take over and cultivate all vacant land available, and that they would not be taxed for the first few years of cultivation. This declaration also contained an environmental protection clause where His Holiness stressed the need to preserve various trees and bushes and also plant many more throughout Tibet.
Sir Charles Bells writes about a major debt relief scheme that the 13th Dalai Lama created to aid Tibetan farmers. Bell even mentions the establishment of a new meat market in Lhasa where meat was sold under sanitary conditions. Probably copied from British India, not only was the premise of the market inspected daily for cleanliness but also the meat, or rather individual carcasses, were examined by the city magistrates and required a seal of approval before sale.
A project was also created under the drokyi dhodam
office to provide interest free loan of grain to needy farmers. If farmers repaid with freshly harvested grain an extra one measure in ten (kamcha chuzur
) had to be included to make up for moisture weight. The Dalai Lama also issued edicts to all district headquarters in 1920 for the establishment of primary schools. A directive was also issued to all districts to investigate oracles and fortune-tellers, to prevent exploitation of the common people, and to stop oracles from possession by a deity (lhab-dur
) in such cases.
Then we have the establishment of the Lhasa Medical Centre (Mentsikhang)
in 1916. One hundred and fifty students, selected from the army, monasteries, and various districts were trained for nine years in traditional Tibetan medicine. On completion of their course, they were to return and provide medical care in their respective areas.
The Medical Centre also undertook to combat the serious problem of infant mortality. For this the “Child Care and Welfare” (chipa nyerchoe
) project was initiated. Every magistrate throughout Tibet received instructions to register the birth of all children in the district. The information was sent to the Medical Centre in Lhasa where a horoscope and appropriate medicine was prepared for every child. “These would be sent to all the ninety-six dzongs
or districts of Tibet” a Tibetan lady notes in her memoirs. She also mentions that “Khyenrab Norbu the famous scholar of medicine and astrology compiled a book called Chipa Nyarcho
which dealt solely with the care of infants and their well-being.”
Though the science of this childcare service was wholly traditional and its scope perhaps confined by the limitations of government resources, it might be mentioned that the service was provided free to all Tibetan children under the jurisdiction of the Lhasa government. The son of a district magistrate of Kyirong, told me that even some years after the Communist takeover, he remembered that the infants of Kyirong regularly received their individual horoscopes and little bags of medicine from Lhasa.
Goldstein discusses the Tibetan government’s failure to start an English school at Gyangtse and Lhasa, due to the opposition of the “monastic segment”. But he makes no mention of the fact that many individuals in society, realizing a western education as vital to their own and to their country’s future, sent their children to English schools in Darjeeling and Kalimpong. I have managed to draw up a (still incomplete) list of one hundred and sixty students who studied in about eight English medium schools in the greater Darjeeling district. The interesting thing is that although most of them were of the aristocracy many were children of merchants and commoners. A famous professional gambler (a commoner) of Lhasa sent his adopted son to study at St Augustine’s school in Kalimpong. About thirty-six of the students on my list are girls. The cost of this education was a considerable financial burden on the families, but clearly they regarded it is important and worthwhile.
What this seems to indicate is that in spite of the obstacles that conservative monastic forces had put in the way of government efforts at modernization, a growing number of individual families were moving, on their own initiative, in the direction of modernization and reform. It is a mistake for a historian to see things exclusively, or even largely, in terms of the achievements (or failures) of governments or rulers, in making historical evaluations. Movements in society at large and development of social trends — all the ordinary but rich details of human history — should, as the French annales
school of historians taught us a hundred years ago, matter as much (if not more) in the study of history.
One reason perhaps for Tibetans being able to afford expensive English education for their children might be explained by the dramatic spurt in economic growth that took place in Tibet in the late thirties and forties. With Australia cut off by the Japanese navy, demand for Tibetan wool in the US created considerable prosperity, not only for the merchants involved, but also for the nomad suppliers and for everyone else concerned on the trade routes. I went over a document a week ago on the Tibetan wool trade that provided quite unexpected and extraordinary figures for the size of this trade. I am unable to locate the document right now but will include it in future versions of this essay.
The Second World War also provided a major financial impetus to the opening-up of Tibet to Western commercial products. Tibetan merchants bought consumer goods and luxuries in India and sold them at considerable profit in South Western China where the Nationalist government was holding out against the Japanese. Everyone along the trade route, aristocrats, peasants, muleteers, inn-keepers and the big merchants profited from this trade. According to Peter Goullart then living in Lijiang in northern Yunnan, a main terminus on the trade route, this caravan traffic was a “unique and spectacular phenomenon.”
The director of the Rolex Company actually visited Kalimpong in the forties to investigate the unexpected demand for his watches in this remote corner of the world (from where it was being reshipped to Lhasa) “… and was astonished to discover that it was but a little village town.” Nothing like this economic boom happened in Mongolia, East Turkestan, Ladakh, Bhutan or even Nepal.
Could this sudden prosperity have contributed to a moral decline in the aristocracy and the theocracy? At least one older Tibetan scholar told me that the new wealth in the official class and the falling-off in discipline and traditional virtues, might account for the poor performance of the Tibetan army in 1950 in contrast to 1918. I was also told that this economic growth and subsequent infusion of money into the monasteries and labrangs created, if not degeneration, then at least a laxity in monastic discipline and corruption. Could the Reting scandal have an underlying, if peripheral, economic causality? Goldstein’s failure to investigate, or consider, even partially, such economic and social explanations for the “demise of the Lamaist State” is a great weakness in his work.
Ultimately, all that the eight hundred and ninety odd pages of Goldstein’s hefty book succeeds in doing is make Tibetan history small, provincial and without real significance. The lasting impression that this huge compilation of highly selective narratives and information leaves us (although Goldstein is careful not to say it outright) is that China’s conquest of Tibet was inevitable, that Tibet died of its own inherent contradictions (as a Marxist historian might put it) and China’s invasion of Tibet and the subsequent death and destruction in that country was merely incidental and not any fault of China’s.HISTORICAL INEVITABILITY?
I do not insist on it, but it seemed to me that even the subtitle of the book, Demise of the Lamaist State
pushes forward this tacit thesis of Goldstein’s work. One meaning the Oxford English Dictionary
provides for the term “demise” is a case of a death which occasions the transfer of power, sovereignty or an estate. Roget
provides such synonyms for the term as “decease” “passing away”, sleep, eternal rest, etc. The term appears to be generally used in the context of a country when the transition is a gradual one and involves a variety of causes generally involving decline in leadership, economic chaos, social unrest and internal conflict. So one could correctly speak of the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but it would definitely be wrong to speak of the demise of Czechoslovakia when it was invaded by Nazi Germany, or for that matter, Tibet when it was invaded by Communist China. A more suitable or precise term to describe what happened to the “lamaist state” would be “murder” or “destruction”, or better yet “obliteration”.
I don’t think it would be quibbling to insist on such a distinction. Following Italy’s invasion of Ethiopia in 1936, Harold Macmillan (then a back-bencher) wrote a letter to The Times
, protesting the craven behavior of the British and French foreign ministers (Hoare/Laval) in appeasing Mussolini and in implying that the whole thing was as much the fault of the Ethiopians as the Italians. Macmillan’s concluding sentence really hits home: “I have never attended the funeral of a murdered man, but I take it that at such a ceremony some distinction is made between the victim and the assassins”.
When one discusses the Russian revolution one can legitimately point to the mistaken policies and the failings of the Czar and the Imperial government as creating the conditions for the revolution to happen. But we have to be clear that Tibetans did not create the conditions for the invasion to happen. Yes, they could certainly have been better prepared militarily to face the invasion, but they did not cause the invasion. There is a world of difference between the two. Pre-war Poland and Czecholovakia were, no doubt, countries with their own share of failings, but no legitimate historian has to date attempted to use these to explain away or justify the Nazi invasion.
We might even note that the Poles had near parity in troops to the Germans, and the Czechs not only had a strong military but one of Europe’s major arms industries. What did the Tibetans have? According to Goldstein some 3,500 regular soldiers on the Chinese border. Red China on the other hand, had, in the autumn of 1950, some five million men under arms. I am not saying that Tibetans could not have held back the invasion. Many Tibetans believe that we could have. How realistic that belief may be, is debatable, but it should be clear that the immediate and outstanding cause of “the demise of the Lamaist State” was the violent military invasion of Tibet by Communist China’s overwhelmingly superior military force, and not the moral or political failings of the Tibetan ruling class or society.
Goldstein’s effort to shape his history to demonstrate Tibet’s fate as historically inevitable in the manner of Tsarist Russia is, of course, absurd. However much one may disagree with, or even condemn, the old Tibetan political system it would be patently dishonest to pretend that there was any significant social unrest or major internal conflict within Tibetan society at the time. Yes, there is the question of stagnation in terms of the inherent conservatism of a system that had to wait for its ruler to attain his majority to begin formulating and acting on policy. But the critical factors that usually contribute to the collapse of a regime or empire, such as economic disruption, agricultural failure, or even runaway inflation (as in the case of the Weimar Republic and Guomindang China) were in Tibet only remarkable by their absence. In 1947, a European traveler to Tibet noted that currency brokers in Phari were insisting that the (British Indian) rupee was inflated and “worth less than the more stable Tibetan currency.” In fact, on the eve of the 1950 invasion Tibet was functioning quite satisfactorily, probably better than many European nations in that immediate post-war period.
Economically Tibet was doing remarkably well as I noted earlier, and politically, with the creation of the Tibetan Foreign Office, Radio Lhasa, and attendance at the Afro-Asian conference, it was taking its first small steps to joining the global community. Even the monastic conservatives were beginning to realize the value of modernization and Western education. In 1947 when the Tibetan government decided to sponsor the education of ten students at St Josephs College in Darjeeling, monk officials insisted that five students be from their fraternity. Even monasteries and labrangs
were beginning to change. Reting monastery sent a dozen boys to the Kumudini Homes School in Kalimpong to receive a modern high school education. I met a retired Indian intelligence officer at Shillong who told me that he had been one of those selected students.
Furthermore, with the Reting crisis receding from public memory and with the approaching majority of an attractive and intelligent young Dalai Lama — the choice of incarnation being completely uncontroversial, even happily unanimous — one can say with some confidence (without resorting to counterfactual history) that if not for the Chinese invasion, Tibet would have gradually changed and reformed (albeit with some inevitable hiccups on the way) and perhaps even democratized its government, as Bhutan is setting out to do so today.
Tibet had, in fact, moved on the path of change and reform earlier than other Himalayan nations. The historian Alex McKay has pointed out that the image of “forbidden Tibet” was a myth and that far more Westerners visited Tibet before the Chinese invasion of 1950 “than traveled to Himalayan kingdoms such as Bhutan, Zanskar, or even Nepal.” Of course, the number of visitors was small, but the comparison is made only to underscore the above projection.NOTES & REFERENCES
 E.R. Hooton, The Greatest Tumult: The Chinese Civil War 1936-49, Brassey’s (UK), 1991.
 Amaury de Riencourt, Lost World Tibet, Key to Asia, Victor Gollancz, London 1950.
 Tsung-lien Shen & Shen-chi Liu, Tibet and the Tibetans, Stanford University Press, California, 1953.
 K. Dhondup, The Water-Bird and Other Years, A History of the 13th Dalai Lama and after, Rangwang Publishers, New Delhi, 1986.
 Not a single unit deserted the field, mutinied or surrendered. A number of these units attached to Tibetan regular forces fought against incredible odds and some were completely wiped out. In Chamdo town one unit appears to have looted the residency, after the governor general had left, but that according to Robert Ford was caused by the Khampa’s anger for not having been provided with transport as had some of the regular Tibetan units, and had rightly felt they were being deserted by their leaders. But then Ford tells us that when General Muja’s retreating force subsequently passed through Chamdo, morale was raised in the town and order restored.
 Discussion with Tsering Shakya.
 Bernard Lewis, From Babel to Dragomans. Page 389.
 Alastair Lamb, Britain and Chinese Central Asia, The Road to Lhasa 1767 to 1905, Routledge and Keegan Paul, London, 1960. Pg 180.
 L.A. Waddell, Lhasa and its Mysteries, London, 1905.
 Lamb, Ibid. Pg 186.
 Ibid Page 203
 Conversation with my late great-grandmother, Tsinze Dolma, a lifelong resident of Darjeeling. My family owned the Bellevue Hotel, immediately behind the fountain. JN.
 ibid pg 215
 British Expedition to Tibet, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Younghusband_Expedition
 Berry Scott, Monks, Spies and a Soldier of Fortune: The Japanese in Tibet, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1995.
 Markov.S., ‘Tibetskye Chetki” (“Tibetan rosary”). P 101, Prostor (Alma-Ata), No 1, 1976.
 Ular Alexander, ‘The Policy of the Dalai Lama’, pg 42-43. Contemporary Review, No 87, January-June 1905
 Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D. Tibet: A Political History, Yale University Press, 1967.
 Conversation with my mother Lodey Lhawang, nee Tethong.
 Maja Tsewang Gyurme, interview 14 March 1992, Dharamshala.
 Yuthok Dorjee Yudon, House of the Turquoise Roof, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca NY., 1990.
 Drakton Jampa Gyaltsen, conversation in Dharamshala in 1997.
 D.S. Kansakar Hilker, Syamukapu; the Lhasa Newars of Kalimpong and Kathamandu, Vajra Publications, Kathamandu, 2005.
 O’Balance, Edgar., The Red Army of China, Faber & Faber , London, 1962.
 Ibid. Amaury de Riencourt
 Alex McKay, Tibet and the British Raj; The Frontier Cadre 1904-1947, Curzon Press, 1997 Surrey.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.