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Tibet's history during Yuan Dynasty

(2009/05/22)

    Yuan Dynasty: Tibet was officially incorporated into China's territory as an inalienable part of the motherland

    It has been over 700 years since Tibet was officially incorporated into China's territory in the Yuan Dynasty.

    After the collapse of the Tubo Kingdom, without a unified regime, Tibet had been in wars and turmoil for over 400 years. The Yuan Dynasty not only incorporated Tibet into China's territory but also saved the Tibetan people from the ceaseless wars.

    In the early 13th century, Genghis Khan established the Mongol Khanate. After conquering Western Xia and the Western Regions, Godan, Genghis Khan's grandson, began to march into Central Asia. Godan's base camp was stationed in Liangzhou, present-day Wuwei in northwestern China's Gansu Province.

    Having learned some information about the Tibet Plateau from some defeated Tibetan leaders of Gannan Prefecture, Godan led troops in attacking the north of the Lhasa River Valley via Gansu and Qinghai provinces. Dorta Nagpo, commander of the troops, reported to Godan, saying that Tibet boasted a vast land and abundant livestock. Although there were several Buddhism sects, Tibet had no unified regime. Therefore it was a good opportunity to subject the region under their jurisdiction.

    Godan then asked which sect was the most influential. At that time, the Phagdru Kagyu Sect and Sakya Sect were the two most influential ones, but the leader of the former was unwilling to leave Tibet. Considering this, the general answered that since the Sakya Sect held a milder stance, it was possible to negotiate surrender with them.

    Then, Godan wrote a letter in the name of the Mongolian Khan and sent Dorta Nagpo to take the letter to Rear Tibet to summon Sapan, leader of the Sakya Sect, to discuss about Tibet's submission to Mongolia.

    At that time, the Phagdru Kagyu Sect was the most influential one in Anterior Tibet, namely, the area around the Lhasa River Valley, while the Sakya Sect was the most influential in Rear Tibet. Gongkhar Gyeltshen, leader of the Sakya Sect, was a prestigious Buddhist monk with a large number of disciples.

    Upon receiving the letter, Gongkhar Gyeltshen agreed to discuss the issue. Having arrived at Lhasa, he first met with the leader of the Phagdru Kagyu Sect and analyzed submission conditions of different sects.

    After two years' trudge, Gongkhar Gyeltshen and his nephew Pagba finally arrived at Liangzhou in 1246 and met with Godan in the following year. During his stay in Liangzhou, Gongkhar Gyeltshen sent letters to the leaders of different sects in Tibet, advocating submission to Mongolia for the sake of the future of Buddhism and the Tibetan ethnic group.

    In 1251, Gongkhar Gyeltshen died in Liangzhou and his nephew Pagba took over his triton and Kivara patra. After Kublai Khan established the Yuan Dynasty in 1264, the Central Government of the Yuan Dynasty set up the Xuanzheng Administration to handle the religious affairs and ethnic affairs in Tibet. Later on, Pagba returned to Tibet and was granted the right to handle political and religious affairs there. In this way, the Central Government conferred on the Sakya Sect the right of governance in Tibet, from where the theocracy system originated.

    In the early period of the Yuan Dynasty, China had twelve provinces. Tibet, instead of being a province, was directly governed by the Xuanzheng Administration of the Central Government with 13 wanhu (administrative division). Government officials above the wanhu level shall be designated by the emperor himself, while other Tibetan officials under the wanhu level shall be recommended by the leader of the Sakya Sect for approval of the emperor.

    The Central Government of the Yuan Dynasty exercised all-round administration over Tibet, such as sending Mongolian troops to Tibet, three checks on the registered permanent residence, encouraging the implementation of the laws and regulations of the central government, establishment of a tax system and 17 daks linked to inland areas. All this showed that Tibet has been part of China since 700 years ago.

    Pagba created the Mongolian language based on the Tibetan language. Since the Central Government of the Yuan Dynasty governed Tibet via the administration of the Sakya Sect, the Sakya Monastery was well maintained, with a south hall and a north one. Featuring the architectural characteristics of the Yuan Dynasty, the monastery has more Tibetan historical records and Buddhism scriptures than any other monastery.



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