Tibetan History in Period of Republic of China


In the year following the 191l Revolution, taking advantage of the chaotic situation in Tibet after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty, the British intensified efforts to separate Tibet from motherland.


The British Governor General of India made a special trip to Darjeeling for secret talks with the 13th Dalai Lama, offering munitions and expenses to assist Dasang Zhamdui, a close aide of the Dalai Lama, to sneak into Tibet, where he brought together a force of 10,000 Tibetan troops and militiamen to fight the Sichuan troops in Lhasa, Xigaze, Jamze and so on.


At the same time, the monks and laymen throughout Tibet were forbidden to contact the new government, cutting off the provisions of the Sichuan troops and Chinese officers stationed in Tibet. In the summer of 1912, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces sent troops to rescue the Sichuan troops besieged in Tibet. When they advanced to Jamda, however, the British came out and put pressure on Yuan Shi-Kai to stop their advance. The Sichuan troops stationed in Tibet, having broken up into several feuding factions, were surrounded by the Tibetan army and militia and gradually fell into dire straits due to lack of food and fading hopes of rescue.


Thereafter, through meditation by Nepalese officers in Lhasa, Zhong Yin and other leaders of the Sichuan army negotiated a ceasefire with Lunqen Qamqen, who had been sent by the 13th Dalai Lama. According to the agreement, the Sichuan arm handed over their weapons and returned to the hinterland via Jamze, Yardong and India, under the protection of Nepal and British officers. By the end of December 1912, Lian Yu, Zhong Ying and other officers, as well as their troops, had left Tibet.


The 13th Dalai Lama reined to Lhasa in the same month, and immediately took measures to punish the Living Buddha Demo and the monks in Daingyiling Monastery had supported the Sichuan troops and the Qing High Commissioner stationed in Tibet. Some monks in the Zhaibung Monastery and nobles were also punished due to their support for the Sichuan troops, while the l3th Dalai Lama promoted those who had fought against them.


Dasang Zhamdui was promoted to be Zhasa, succeeding the noble position of Galoon Cairong, who was killed for his pro-Chinese position. The 13th Dalai Lama also summoned a meeting of representatives of various counties and manors, soliciting opinions on future government affairs and reform measures in Tibet. During the discussion on ties with the newly established government in Beijing, most representatives, especially among the lower class of monks and populace, opposed Tibetan separation from the motherland. At the same time, facing the threat from the Chinese troops sent from Sichuan and Yunnan stationed east of Goinbo Jamda, the l3th Dalai Lama dare not make any rash move. On the relationship with the central government of the Republic of China, he wavered over the next step, not daring to launch the so-called Tibetan Independence project for total separation from the motherland.


The British government was unwilling to see the "Tibetan Independence" they had promoted being abandoned. So, they took action to convene the so-called Tripartite Conference. By taking advantage of the fact that Yuan Shikai, who was eager to gain foreign diplomatic recognition and international loans, as well as the direct contact with the local government of Tibet, the British government forced the Beijing government to participate in the tripartite with Tibet at the Indian hill resort of Simla.


The government of the Republic of China had no choice but to agree. Before the meeting, in the summer of 1913, the British sent Charles Bell, a political officer stationed in Sikkim, to Tibet to seek contact with Lon-chen Shatra, the representative sent by the Tibetan government to the Simla Conference. Bell negotiated with Lon-chen Shatra for three months, requiring the latter to bring all the documents he could collect in preparation for handling the representatives of the central government sent by the Republic of China.


Despite all their efforts, however, the British still feared that the Tibetan officials would waver when they met the representatives of the central government of the Republic of China. In order to maintain full control over the Tibetan representatives, they tried to check the activities of Tibetan officials in India, cutting off all opportunities for them to meet the central government representatives.


On October 13, 1913, the Tripartite Conference opened in Simla. Stirred up by the British, Lon-chen Shatra raised the slogan of "Tibetan Independence" at the start of the meeting. He also made other groundless demands including: Tibet wins independence and the treaty signed between China and Britain in Beijing in 1906 is invalid, The territory of Tibet covers Xinjiang north of Kunlun Mountain and Andingta, the whole of Qinghai, the western parts of Gansu, Sichuan, Dajianlu, as well as Ardunzi northwest of Yunnan, China is not allowed to station in Tibet, and Chinese businessmen are not allowed to enter the area without passports issued by Tibet.


The representatives of the central government of the Republic of China refuted the claims made by Lon-chen Shatra, insisting Tibet was an integral part of China, which had the right to station its officials in Lhasa and so on. Facing this situation, the British representative Henry McMahon and Charles Bell, worked behind the backs of the Chinese delegates to clinch a dirty deal with Xazha through a fixture of coercion and coaxing, promising that the British government would offer political and military help to Tibet in any war for independence with China.


Lon-chen Shatra, instigated by personal interests, agreed and put his signature on the map of the border between India and Tibet that had been delineated by McMahon, and later called the McMahon Line, leaving 90,000 square km of Chinese territory on the eastern flank of the Sino-Indian border under Indian jurisdiction. For many years, the British side lacked the courage to make this dirty deal public, only belatedly publishing a map showing the McMahon Line.


Meanwhile, Lon-chen Shatra dared not officially report to the l3th Dalai Lama about his deal with the British, and Tibet never approved the illegal territorial deal. After achieving their scheme, the British representatives stepped in as mediator at this time, introducing the pre-arranged "compromise" scheme, which divided China’s Tibetan-inhabited areas into "Inner Tibet" and "Outer Tibet". "Outer Tibet" included Ngari, U-Tsang and most areas of Kam, while "Inner Tibet" included Tibetan-inhabited areas in Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, which would be under the jurisdiction of the Chinese government.


The Chinese government was requested to recognize the autonomy of Outer Tibet and only have the right of nominal suzerainty over Tibet. Under the intimidation and threats of the British representatives, the Chinese representative Evan Chen had to sign the draft agreement, pointing out that it would be invalid without the formal approval of the Chinese government. But the delegates of the Chinese government refused to sign the formal agreement of the Simla Convention under the instruction of Yuan Shikai, who knew any such action would be strongly opposed by people of all walks of life.


The Chinese government also reiterated its position of refusing to admit the validity of the Simla Convention. Within a short while, the First World War broke out, and, with no time to devote to Eastern affairs, the British government had to announce the indefinite adjournment of the Simla Convention, so that the British imperialist scheme broke down. Therefore, the Simla Convention was illegal and invalid although it carried the signatures of the British and Tibetan representatives. Even the British government itself didn’t make the convention public until 1938, when the British India government quietly placed it in the ‘Collection of British Conventions’ it had compiled. With regard to the additional territory obtained from the "McMahon Line", the British did not dare to incorporate it into their map until 1960, when it could be seen in an Indian map, which showed that the British India government itself suffered bad conscience over the issue.


After the collapse of their aggressive scheme through the Simla Convention, the British moved to instigate the local authority of Tibet to develop military might. The British provided the Gaxag government of Tibet with modern armaments and established a military school in Jamze to help train Tibetan officers. Under the control of the British imperialists and separatists of the upper class of Tibet, the Tibetan troops, which once had valiantly resisted the British invasion, turned into an army under the instruction of the British imperialist and separatist forces. In 1917, 1920 and 1922, on several occasions, Tibetan troops launched large-scale attacks against the Sichuan troops stationed in the Kam area. The Tibetan troops occupied the bulks of the Kam area, and advanced into Dege and Ganze east of the Jinsha River. In l93l, Tibetan troops attacked the Yushu areas of Qinghai Province, but were defeated by local troops. At the same time, the Sichuan troops mounted a counterattack, forcing the Tibetans to retreat to the west of the Jinsha River. In the following year, the Tibetan troops and the Sichuan troops came to terms on a ceasefire and set the Jinsha River as their mutual boundary, leaving the disputes to be negotiated by the central government of the Republic of China and the Tibetan authorities.


The continuous wars the Tibetan separatist forces launched with the support of the British imperialists imposed a heavy burden on the Tibetan people, despite Tibet extending its territory eastward a few hundred kilometers. The local Tibetan authority levied more taxes and corvee labor on the people, and forcing some to join the army, further impoverishing people’s life. In 1920, the British imperialist Bell went to Lhasa, and instigated the l3th Dalai Lama to expand the army to more than 17,000 men. Bell also proposed to set up a police bureau and engaged British officers to train the Tibetan police force. Arms expansion called for financial input, which touched off the opposition of monks and laymen as well as the general populace. At that time, it was reported that the monks of the Three Monasteries in Lhasa of the Gelug Sect were bent on killing Bell. In order to protect him, the 13th Dalai Lama sent his troops to suppress the revolt, leading to conflicts between the Tibetan troops and the monks of Zhaibung Monastery. In the end, Bell had no choice but to leave Lhasa.


In 1923, another conflict broke out between the troops of the Gaxag government and the monks of the Tashilungpo Monastery of the Gelug Sect due to the issue of raising taxation. The 9th Panchen, chief leader of the Gelug Sect, was forced to leave Tibet and went to Beijing via Qinghai and Gansu provinces. All these facts show that the attempts of the separatist forces to split Tibet from the motherland by force were doomed to break down as they ran counter to the will of the Tibetan people.


The British did everything possible to plot "Tibetan Independence" by taking advantage of the chaotic situation of Tibet after the collapse of the Qing Dynasty. However, the blood relationship Tibet had maintained with the mother land for ages could not be broken. In 1919, on the instruction of the central government of the Republic of China, Gansu Province sent its special envoy Zhu Xiu to Tibet to meet the 13th Dalai Lama, who expressed his feelings in the following way: "It was not my original intention to be pro-English. I did so because the Qing imperial commissioner went to extremes. I appreciate that the central government sent its special envoy to Tibet. I hope the Chinese President will send a fully empowered delegate to Lhasa to settle the issue. At the same time, I will fully support the Chinese nation and seek harmony between the five nationalities. With regard to the draft of Simla Convention, it may be revised."


In 1921, the l3th Dalai Lama sent Gongior Zhongnyi, one of his close aides, to Beijing to serve in the Yonghe Lama Temple. In 1929, the Kuomintang set up the National Government in Nanjing, and the 9th Panchen Erdeni, who had been forced to flee to China’s hinterland in 1923 because of conflicts with the 13th Dalai Lama, took the lead in sending people to congratulate Chiang Kaishek on the founding of the new government. With the approval of the Nanjing government, the Panchen Office was set up in Nanjing. The l3th Dalai Lama sent Gongjor Zhongnyi to Nanjing with a letter expressing his desire to restore a formal relationship with the central government. The Nanjing government sent Gongjor Zhongnyi back with a letter written by Chiang Kaishek himself, soliciting opinions of the Dalai Lama concerning the restoration of the relationship between Tibet and the central government.


In 1930, Gongior Zhongnyi returned with the Dalai Lama’s reply, and he was officially appointed as the resident representative of Tibet in Nanjing. In 1931, with the consent of the Nanjing Government, Tibet established the Dalai Lama Office in Nanjing, a formal organization for the local government of Tibet to deal with the central government. In the same year, the National Parliament promulgated the Provisional Constitution of the Republic of China for the Period of Political Tutelage. The Tibetan representatives were also invited to participate in the conference. The 13th Dalai Lama and the 9th Panchen divided over the issue of the number of delegates, the former insisting that all Tibetan delegates should be sent by him, while the latter sought equal distribution. After mediation by the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, it was agreed that the Dalai Lama would send six delegates led Gongjor Zhongnyi, while three non-voting delegates including Chochen Nyima were also invited to attend the conference; meanwhile, the Panchen could send four delegates led by Lobsang Chochen, and five non-voting delegates including Shaozhang. The 9th Panchen himself went to Nanjing for the conference, and delivered a speech to the third members meeting of the New Asia Association entitled Tibet, An Integral Part of China’s Territory.


In it, he not only proved with historical facts that Tibet had been an integral part of China’s territory, but also urged the local government of Tibet to restore the relationship with the central government for the latter to exercise sovereignty over Tibet. The 9th Panchen further called for unity of all nationalities over China to resist imperialist aggression. In July, the National Government conferred an honorific title on the 9th Panchen and bestowed on him a jade certificate of appointment and jade seal of authority. In December 1932, the National Government once again invited the 9th Panchen to Naning. This time, he was officially appointed "the Pacification Envoy of the Western Areas", consulting with the National Government on Tibetan affairs and the issue of his return to Tibet. In April 1933, the 9th Panchen sent the Living Buddha Anqin to Lhasa to meet the 13th Dalai Lama, who expressed a welcome for the Panchen’s return and promised to return hand the districts that were formerly under the Panchen’s jurisdiction.


However, on the thirtieth day of the tenth month of the Tibetan calendar, the 13th Dalai Lama fell ill and died, leaving the issue of the Panchen’s return pending. In accordance with traditional ways, the local government of Tibet telegraphed the National Government about the death of the l3th Dalai Lama, and the 9th Panchen was also informed. The National Government issued an order to give an honorific title of "Great Master" to the l3th Dalai Lama and held a memorial meeting for him. The 9th Panchen went from Inner Mongolia to Nanjing to attending this ceremony and served as a committee member of the National Government for it. He then went back to Inner Mongolia and thence to the Tar Monastery via Arlashan and other places, to plan his return to Tibet.


After the demise of the l3th Dalai Lama, a struggle broke out among the ruling class of Tibet. The representatives of the Three Monasteries in Lhasa of the Gelug Sect and other religious and secular officials held a meeting, at which decided to dismiss Galoon Cairong Dasang Zhandong, and Commer Longsha. At the same time, they captured Gong Peila, the close assistant of the 13th Dalai Lama, creating a severe blow for the pro-British elements.


According to the system handed from the Qing Dynasty, they agreed that Living Buddha Rezhen Gyainbei Yeshe Danzhen Gyaincain should serve as Prince Regent, and Namtun Gonggar Wangcho should serve as Silun, the first Galoon in charge of government affairs of the Gaxag Government. The National Government approved the nominations. At the same time, it also sent to Lhasa the special envoy Huang Musong, who conferred the title of Great Master on Living Buddha Rezhen in the name of the National Government. Huang Musong, who also carried an official memorial oration to the 13th Dalai Lama, consulted with the Gaxag Government concerning the issue of restoration of formal relations. When he left Tibet, the local government permitted some of those who had accompanied him to remain behind to form an office to provide a point of contact between Tibet and the central government.


On seeing that the relationship of the local government of Tibet with the central government was tending to improve, the panicky British side also demanded the right to set up an office in Lhasa, which was agreed by the local authorities. In the meantime, the Gaxag Government gave special treatment to Rabnong Bardo, an officer in the British office in Tibet, letting him have the opportunity to attend all kinds of ceremonial functions. Thus, the contacts of the Gaxag Government with the National Government came under close British surveillance.



As the l3th Dalai Lama had passed away, more and more monks and laymen, as well as the populace throughout Tibet, called for the return of the 9th Panchen Erdeni. In March 1935, he presented to the National Government his plan to return to Tibet via Qinghai, and sought special funds and an armed escort from the National Government, as well as instructions from the latter concerning the pacification and construction of Tibet after his return. In June, the government approved the plan.


At that time, the representatives of the Xigaze areas, the Three Monasteries in Lhasa of the Gelug Sect and the Gaxag Government had arrived in the Tar Monastery, urging the 9th Panchen to set out. However, the British imperialists tried to sabotage the return, as they feared that the relationship of the local government of Tibet with the National Government would be further improved as a result. The British Embassy in China protested, claiming that the National Government would contravene the Simla Convention if they sent troops to escort the 9th Panchen to Tibet. The Chinese government immediately pointed out that the protest was unwarranted as the Simla Convention was invalid because it did not carry the official signature of the Chinese government.


The British then sowed dissention in Tibet by arguing that, although the 9th Panchen was to be welcomed, the troops sent by the Chinese government should be prevented from entering Tibet. Stirred up by the British, some of the ruling class of Tibet trumpeted the claim that the 9th Panchen was not allowed to enter Tibet with armed forces. The British Embassy in China made several protests to try and create a feverish atmosphere. The 9th Panchen reached Yushu in Qinghai Province, and negotiated with the Gaxag Government repeatedly concerning related issues. Thereafter, the representatives of the local government of Tibet dropped their objection to the Chinese troops entering Tibet, but stipulated they had to do so through Nagou, and all had to leave again within five months. The negotiations dragged on until June 1937, when the War against the Japanese Invasion broke out, leaving no agreement.


In August, as the Chinese were suffering from the Japanese invasion, the British once again made protests concerning the 9th Panchen’s return to Tibet. The National Government then ordered him to stay in Yushu and shelve his plan to return to Tibet. The 9th Panchen, plagued with depression when his wishes could not be realized, fell ill and died in Yushu on January 1, 1937.


After the Living Buddha Rezhen served as the Prince Regent, he went to locate the reincarnation soul boy of the 13th Dalai Lama. One day, he went to the Qoikegyi Monastery to enjoy the scenery of the adjacent lake, and had an inspiration that the soul boy would be born in the east. Then, in the autumn of 1936, Living Buddha Rezhen organized some people into three groups to head respectively for he southeast of Tibet, the Kam areas and Qinghai in the search. Among them, Gecang, the living Buddha of the Gyizha Cang of the Sera Monastery and Keimo Soinam Wangdui, a secular official who was later one of five Tibetan representatives at the negotiations for peaceful liberation of Tibet in 1951, went to Qinghai and visited the 9th Panchen in Yushu for help and direction.


This was in January l937, when the latter was still in negotiation with the local government of Tibet concerning his return to Tibet. The 9th Panchen introduced them to the situation of the Tar Monastery and several intelligent boys he had seen in the region. The 9th Panchen also wrote to Ma Bufang, head of the Qinghai Government, asking him to provide care and protection for Living Buddha Gecang’s activities. After nearly two years’ hard work, the Living Buddha Gecang finally found an intelligent boy called Lhamo Toinzhub in Hongya Village of Qijiachuan of Ping’an County.


The Living Buddha Gecang took the boy together with his relatives to the meeting hall of the Qinghai government. Before Ma Bufang and other senior officials a ceremony was held for the boy to recognize articles left by the late Dalai Lama. The boy was then selected as one of candidates. Living Buddha Gecang proposed to take the boy to Lhasa, but Ma Bufang wouldn’t agree. Other Hotogtus of Qinghai stuck to the precedence set for the 7th Dalai Lama that the boy should first live and study in Tar Monastery, then, he could be escorted to Tibet after the local government of Tibet and the central government had reached agreement.


The Gaxag Government then filed a report to the National Government stating that they had found three candidates to succeed the late Dalai Lama, and asked the central government to send a special envoy to preside over the lot-drawing ceremony. The National Government, viewing it as a good opportunity to improve relations with the local government of Tibet, cabled to Ma Bufang and ordered him to escort the whole family of the located soul boy into Tibet, with an allocation of l00, 000 Silver Yuan to cover the expenses of the escort. Acting in accordance with the demand, Ma Bufang sent Commander Ma Yuanhai and his troops to escort the soul boy into Tibet.


They arrived in Lhasa early in October l939. As early as the previous March, the National Government sent Wu Zhongxin, chairman of the Committee for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, as the special envoy to preside over the ceremony of drawing lots and enthronement for the reincarnated boy of the late Dalai Lama. In December Wu Zhongxin reached Tibet via Chongqing. The Gaxag Government, as well as monks and the general populace warmly welcomed him. But, at that time, there were several divided opinions on the issue of the confirmation of the soul boy The Prince Regent stuck to the idea that the soul boy found in Qinghai was the reincarnation of the l3th Dalai Lama, while Silun Namtuin disagreed.


After discussions by religious and secular officials, the position of Namtuin was revoked and the Prince Regent exercised full control of political and religious affairs in Tibet. When Wu Zhongxin went to Tibet, only one soul boy from Qinghai was said to have been located instead of the three reported before. What’s more, it seemed that the monks and laymen had accepted the soul boy located in Qinghai as the true incarnation of the l3th Dalai Lama.


The Prince Regent Rezhen requested the central government to abandon the lot-drawing ceremony in accordance with the precedent of the 13th Dalai Lama and approve the soul boy as the l4th Dalai Lama. Facing such a situation, Wu Zhongxin persisted in examining the soul boy on behalf of the central government, deciding whether he was qualified to be exempted from the lot-drawing ceremony.


Then the local government of Tibet should officially file a report to the central government for exemption of the lot-drawing ceremony by stating the reasons why the soul boy located in Qinghai was the authentic reincarnation of the late Dalai Lama. Prince Regent Rezhen finally agreed to this requirement and Wu Zhongxin then examined the soul boy. In February 1940, according to presentation of the Gaxag Government, the National Government issued an order to exempt the drawing-lot ceremony for the reincarnation of the late Dalai Lama, and approve the soul boy Lhamo Toinzhub to be enthroned as the l4th Dalai Lama.


The National Government also allocated 400,000 Silver Yuan to finance the enthronement ceremony. On February 15, in the Great Hall of Xidelin Monastery in Lhasa, Wu Zhongxin, on behalf of the National Government, bestowed the title of Great Master upon the Living Buddha Rezhen, plus a gold certificate of appointment and the gold seal of authority. In the meantime, Wu Zhongxin also awarded a second colorful jade medal to the Prince Regent, and a third colorful jade medal to the four Galoons of the Gaxag Government.


At that time, the British India government told Basil J. Gould, the British official in Sikkim, to rush to Lhasa. He arrived under the pretence of “viewing the ceremony", but he was actually sent there to monitor Wu Zhongxin and undermine the prestige of the Chinese government in Tibet. Under his instigation, a small number of officials of the Gaxag Government proposed that Wu be seated in front of Rezhen at the ceremony in a position equal with the Silun officials. This would place his seat in the same row as the seat of the British representatives, obviously aimed at reducing the position of the central government’s representative.


Wu Zhongxin sternly warned the Gaxag Government and insisted that he had come as the central government’s representative and was in charge of Mongolian and Tibetan affairs. With the support of the Living Buddha Rezhen, the Gaxag Government had to give up its plan. On February 22, a grand ceremony was held in the Potala Palace to enthrone the l4th Dalai Lama. Wu Zhongxin was seated to the left of the l4th Dalai Lama, facing south, indicating a position at least equal to that of the High Commissioner stationed in Tibet in the Qing Dynasty.


The ceremony was attended by some 500 officials, including the Prince Regent, officials at various levels in the Gaxag Government, such as Silun, Galoon and so on, various Hotogtus, representatives of the Three Monasteries in Lhasa of the Gelug Sect, representatives of the central government’s of National Government as well as that from Nepal and Bhutan in Lhasa.


Gould, the representative sent by the British India government, however, did not attend as his scheme on the seating arrangement to downgrade the Chinese government’s representative had broken down. On March 8, the local government of Tibet cabled Lin Sen, the president of the National Government, and Chiang Kaishek, the chairman of the Military Affairs Committee as follows: "The Central Government sent Wu Zhongxin, chairman of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, to come in person (for the ceremony of enthronement of the 14th Dalai Lama). Mr. Wu also gave us handsome presents on behalf the central government. We thank the central government very much for its kindness. With regard to the Chinese Resistance War against the Japanese Aggression, we are holding a grand ceremony to pray for the success of the central government."


Thereafter, the Gaxag Government sent Zhasa Arwang Gyaincain to Chongqing as a special envoy to express their thanks for the central government’s support and concern on the confirmation and the enthronement ceremony for the l4th Dalai Lama.


Wu Zhongxin left Lhasa in April of 1940. During his stay in Tibet, he succeeded in persuading the Gaxag Government to establish a Tibet Office of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. At first, Wu Zhongxin proposed to Prince Regent Rezhen the establishment of an official bureau of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, but he suggested an easily acceptable name, considering the sabotage of the British side in instigating some kind of opposition among the upper ruling class of monks in Tibet. If the proposal was voted down in the meeting of religious and secular officials, it would damage the prestige the central government had already gained in Tibet. Therefore, after the approval of the National Government, the Tibet Office of the Commission for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs was set up, headed by the director of the Commission for the Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, who entered Tibet with Wu Zhongxin..


About kchew

an occasional culturalist
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