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Damu emke dabala – “There Can Only Be One”: Tibetan-Mongol-Qing Discussions Concerning the Succession of the 5th Dalai Lama

Pages 181 - 187


Few events on the turn of the 17th century seem to today's viewer as confusing as the crises surrounding the succession of the 5th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Altogether three different persons were at times said to be his reincarnation. Although one can hardly find a detailed account of these events in the standard Chinese sources such as the Shilu, in the letters circulating between the main actors of those events – the Tibetans, the Qošot Mongols of Tibet and Kokonor, and the Qing – a lively discussion concerning the problems of the succession took place. Such letters can be found, among others, in the Manchu and Mongol language documents that went through the Grand Secretariat of the Qing. Here, issues of precedence and the recognition of a “true” (Manchu: yargiyan) Dalai Lama can be found together with disputes about the rights to collect dues. As this paper aims to show, a close reading of these letters may point to issues not obvious when consulting only the standard sources in Chinese.

大清國歷史上最神秘的一段之一就是西藏五世達賴喇嘛的繼承。雖然有三個不 同的投胎但是同時的爭論活潑及尖刻。這一項十六世紀中亞事變出生了許多用 藏文、蒙文、滿文以及中文寫的信函,以尋找正式的六世達賴喇嘛為題目。

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München / University of Munich

1 This brief article was conceived as a conference paper for the research colloquium: “Manchu Religion and Society”, held at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London in February 2010.

2 Zhongguo diyi lishi dang'anguan 中國第一歷史檔案館. Qing neige menggutang dang 清內閣 蒙古堂檔. Hohhot: Neimenggu renmin chubanshe, 2005. For this paper, only the Manchu versions of the letters have been read closely. A cursory glance on the Mongolian versions also included in the publication suggests a close correspondence between the letters. Nevertheless, a more thorough analysis awaits further examination. As suggested by Michael Weiers for Manchu/Mongol documents at the beginning of the 17th century, translators between the two languages were granted a certain leeway in their work to make the translated texts easier to understand for the addressee. Although written almost one century later, the same can also be assumed for the documents used in my paper. See: Michael Weiers. “Zur Stellung und Bedeutung des Schriftmongolischen in der ersten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts” in: Zentralasiatische Studien. Vol. 19, 1986. Especially pp. 48f. For further similar references by the same author, see p. 42, n. 5.

3 For an overview of the events narrated here see Luciano Petech. “Notes on Tibetan history of the 18th century.” T'oung Pao, 2nd series, vol. 52, 1966. pp. 261–292 and also L. Petech. China and Tibet in the early 18th century: History of the establishment of Chinese protectorate in Tibet. 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill, 1972. especially pp. 9–24. Brief biographies of the Dalai Lamas in question – except for the candidate of Lazang Han, who is not acknowledged as belonging to the incarnation line – can be found in Michael Brauen. The Dalai Lamas: A visual history. Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2005.

4 On the institution of reincarnations/hûbilgan, mainly concerning its economic dimension, see Robert James Miller. Monasteries and culture change in Inner Mongolia. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1959. pp. 91–93. An argument for the political origins of reincarnation in 14th-century Tibet can be found in Turrell Wylie. “Reincarnation: A political innovation in Tibetan Buddhism.” in Proceedings of the Csoma de Körös Memorial Symposium, ed. Louis Ligeti, Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1978. pp. 579–586.

5 See juan 263, pp. 3a, b of the Shengzu shilu. To be found in Qing shilu 清實錄. Vol. 6. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju chuban, 1985.

6 “[…] daci dalai lama i hûbilgan be . bancen takambi . bancen i hûbilgan be dalai lama takambi toktobure babe dergi amba enduringge ejen genggiyen i bulekušembi . ere julgeci toktoho kooli . huhu noor i jebele galai taijisa . dalai lamai hûbilgan be yargiyan seme uthai enduringge ejen de wesimbuhe be . mini gûnin de . baita dosirakû gese . tere anggala . enduringge ejen i hese . dalai lamai hûbilgan damu emke dabala . emdubei dalai lamai hûbilgan tuša[n]jici wajire inenggi akû kai seme hese wasimbuha . ferguwecuke enduringge ejen i hese sahangge umesi inu . […]” QNMD vol. 19, pp. 71f.

7 Maybe not only jealousy played a role in the grudging behaviour of Lazang's relatives. He was suspected of having come to power by poisoning his predecessor and brother (Petech, 1972, p. 9). But Borjigidai Oyunbilig, on the basis of archival material, convincingly argues that it was rather illness that took Lazang's elder brother's life. Wuyunbilige. “1705 nian Xizang shibian de zhenxiang 1705 年西藏事變的真相”. 中國西藏 Zhongguo Xizang. Vol. 3, 2008. pp. 82–91, see pp. 85f.

8 Man. tukdam, derived from the Tibetan. Literally meaning “meditation”.

9 “[…] daicing hošooci dalai lamai hûbilgan de siltafi acanar[a] baita deribure turgun . huhu noor de bisire sanyang jamsu i hûbilgan ama i tolgin de sanyang jamsu mini boode jihe . bi mujakû kundulehe seme tolgiha bihe . ne mini ere banjiha jui sanyang jamsu i hûbilgan inu seme gisurere de turgût . litang . k'ambu i gisun . dalai lamai hûbilgan juwe ojoro kooli akû . dalai lamai hûbilgan be bancen lama coijung juwenofi tukdam tuwaha songkoi yargiyan seme dergi amba ejen . dalai lama be fungnefi besergen de tebume wajiha kai . ere sanyang jamsu i hûbilgan . dalai lamai hûbilgan waka seme litang k'ambu . coohalafi afaha turgun be . geren gemu sambime . daicing hošooci dergi amba ejen i hese ci jurceme sanyang jamsu i hûbilgan be dalai lamai hûbilgan yargiyan seme dergi amba ejen i gosime bahabuha . […]” QNMD vol. 19, pp. 219f.

10 Kûtuktu, from Mong. qutuqtu, “holiness”, a title referring to important reincarnations in Tibetan Buddhism. For more information, see WANG Xiangyun. “Tibetan Buddhism at the Court of Qing: The Life and Work of LCang-skya Rol-pa'i-rdo-rje, 1717–86.” Ph.D. thesis, Harvard University, 1995. pp. 22f.

11 “[…] ememu hûlhi urse . lazang ni dalai lama . mini dalai lama seme memerengge silhidara mujilen wakao . ejen han i fungnehe . bancen kûtuktu . lamu [sic.] coijung ni tukdam tuwafi dahame turgunde . dalai lama obuha dabala . bi emu an i jergi niyalma adarame takambi . ere zungk'aba i šajin be wehiyere dalai lama be gûnin cihai siningge . miningge seme we salime mutembi . an i jergi niyalma gûnin cihai yabuci . urunakû ishunde efujere deribun ombidere seme gûnimbi . […]” QNMD vol. 19, pp. 191f.


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