Lha-bzang Khan

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Lha-bzang Khan, the last Khoshut King of Tibet LhaBzangKhan.jpg
Lha-bzang Khan, the last Khoshut King of Tibet

Lha-bzang Khan (Tibetan : ལྷ་བཟང༌།, ZYPY : Lhasang; Mongolian: ᠯᠠᠽᠠᠩ ᠬᠠᠨLazang Haan; alternatively, Lhazang or Lapsangn or Lajang; d.1717) was the ruler of the Khoshut (also spelled Qoshot, Qośot, or Qosot) tribe of the Oirats. [1] He was the son of Tenzin Dalai Khan (1668–1701) [2] and grandson (or great-grandson) of Güshi Khan, [3] being the last khan of the Khoshut Khanate and Oirat King of Tibet. He acquired effective power as ruler of Tibet by eliminating the regent (desi) Sangye Gyatso and the Sixth Dalai Lama, Tsangyang Gyatso, but his rule was cut short by an invasion by another group of Oirats, the Dzungar people. At length, this led to the direct involvement of the Chinese Qing Dynasty in the Tibetan politics.

The SASM/GNC/SRC romanization of Tibetan, commonly known as Tibetan pinyin, is the official transcription system for the Tibetan language in the People's Republic of China for personal names and place names. It is based on the Lhasa dialect of Standard Tibetan and reflects the pronunciation except that it does not mark tone. It is used within China as an alternative to the Wylie transliteration for writing Tibetan in the Latin script within academic circles; Wylie transliteration is more commonly used.

Mongolian language language spoken in Mongolia

The Mongolian language is the official language of Mongolia and both the most widely-spoken and best-known member of the Mongolic language family. The number of speakers across all its dialects may be 5.2 million, including the vast majority of the residents of Mongolia and many of the Mongolian residents of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In Mongolia, the Khalkha dialect, written in Cyrillic, is predominant, while in Inner Mongolia, the language is dialectally more diverse and is written in the traditional Mongolian script. In the discussion of grammar to follow, the variety of Mongolian treated is Standard Khalkha Mongolian, but much of what is to be said is also valid for vernacular (spoken) Khalkha and for other Mongolian dialects, especially Chakhar.

Khoshut One of the Oirat Mongol tribes

The Khoshut are one of the four major tribes of the Oirat people. Originally, Khoshuuds were one of the Khorchin tribes in southeastern Mongolia, but in the mid-15th century they migrated to western Mongolia to become an ally of Oirats to counter central Mongolian military power. Their ruling family Galwas was the Hasarid-Khorchins who were deported by the Western Mongols.


Rise to power

Since the Khoshut invasion of Central Tibet in 1641-42, Tibet had been governed through a tripartite division of power. While the Dalai Lama was the supreme spiritual ruler, the Khoshut khan controlled the armed forces and carried the title of "Dharma king, Protector of the Faith". Executive power was delegated to a regent or desi who was originally a formal appointee of the Khoshut king. After 1655 the Khoshut kings were, however, rather weak figures who enabled the Fifth Dalai Lama to wield great personal influence. His death in 1682 was kept secret until 1697, and the desi Sangye Gyatso, rumoured to be a son of the Dalai Lama, governed Tibet. He entertained close contacts with Galdan Boshugtu Khan, the ruler of the emerging Dzungar Khanate of Inner Asia, with the aim of countering the role of the Khoshuts in Tibetan affairs. It was only in 1697 that the Sixth Dalai Lama was installed, to the great irritation of the Qing Kangxi Emperor who had been kept in the dark about the matter, and furthermore was an enemy of the Dzungar rulers. It was in this situation that Lha-bzang Khan came to power. According to the usual version of the events, Lha-bzang succeeded as Dharma king by poisoning his brother Vangjal (Tenzin Wangchuk Khan), who ruled in 1696-1697 or, more probably, in 1701-1703. According to an alternative study, he was peacefully enthroned on the recommendations of the Sixth Dalai Lama, since his brother was sickly. Before his enthronement he had lived his life in the nomadic area at the Kokonor Lake, and never visited Lhasa until 1701. [4]


The Chogyal were the monarchs of the former kingdoms of Sikkim and Ladakh in present-day India, which were ruled by separate branches of the Namgyal dynasty. The Chogyal was the absolute monarch of Sikkim from 1642 to 1975, when the monarchy was abolished and its people voted in a referendum to make Sikkim India's 22nd state.

Galdan Boshugtu Khan Mongol Khan

Choros Erdeniin Galdan was a Dzungar-Oirat Khan of the Dzungar Khanate. As fourth son of Erdeni Batur, founder of the Dzungar Khanate, Galdan was a descendant of Esen Taishi, the powerful Oirat Khan of the Northern Yuan dynasty who united the western Mongols in the 15th century. Galdan's mother Yum Aga was a daughter of Güshi Khan, the first Khoshut-Oirat King of Tibet.

Dzungar Khanate Former state

The Dzungar Khanate, also written as the Zunghar Khanate, was an Oirat khanate on the Eurasian Steppe. It covered the area called Dzungaria and stretched from the west end of the Great Wall of China to present-day Kazakhstan, and from present-day Kyrgyzstan to southern Siberia. Most of this area today is part of the Xinjiang autonomous region in China, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan. The Dzungar Khanate was the last major nomadic empire left from the Mongol Empire.

The murder of the regent

Legal Document of the Tibetan Ruler Lhabzang Khan. The seal is in mongolian ouighour script as Qoshots are Oirats. Lhabzang Khan Urkunde Dieter Schuh.jpg
Legal Document of the Tibetan Ruler Lhabzang Khan. The seal is in mongolian ouïghour script as Qoshots are Oirats.

The Sixth Dalai Lama turned out to be a talented but boisterous young man who preferred poetry-writing and the company of young women to monastic life. In 1702 he renounced his monastic vows and returned to lay status but retained his temporal authority. In the next year Sangye Gyatso formally turned over the regent title to his son Ngawang Rinchen, but in fact kept the executive powers. Now, a rift emerged within the Tibetan elite. Lha-bzang was a man of character and energy who was not content with the effaced state in which the Khoshut royal power had sunk since the death of Güshi Khan. He set about to change this, probably after an attempt by Sangye Gyatso to poison the king and his chief minister. [2] Matters came to their head during the Monlam Prayer Festival in Lhasa in 1705, which followed the Tibetan New Year (Losar). During a grand meeting with the clergy, Sangye Gyatso proposed to seize and execute Lha-bzang Khan. This was opposed by the cleric Jamyang Zhepa from the Drepung Monastery, the personal guru of Lha-bzang. Rather, the Dharma king was strongly recommended to leave for Kokonor (Qinghai), the usual abode of the Khoshut elite. He pretended to comply and started his journey to the north. However, when he reached the banks of the Nagchu River (north-east of Central Tibet), he halted and began to gather the Khoshut tribesmen. In the summer of 1705 he marched on Lhasa and divided his troops in three columns, one under his wife Tsering Tashi. When Sangye Gyatso heard about this he gathered the troops of Central Tibet, Ngari and Kham close to Lhasa. He offered battle but was badly defeated with the loss of 400 men. [2] The Panchen Lama Lobsang Yeshe tried to mediate. Realizing that his situation was hopeless, Sangye Gyatso gave up resistance on condition that he was spared and was sent to Gonggar Dzong west of Lhasa. However, the vengeful queen Tsering Tashi arrested the ex-desi and brought him to the Tölung Valley where he was killed, probably on 6 September 1705.

Monlam Prayer Festival

Monlam also known as The Great Prayer Festival, falls on 4th–11th day of the 1st Tibetan month in Tibetan Buddhism.

Lhasa District in Tibet, China

Lhasa or Chengguan is a district and administrative capital of Lhasa City in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. The inner urban area of Lhasa City is equivalent to the administrative borders of Chengguan District, which is part of the wider prefectural Lhasa City.

Drepung Monastery Drepung Manastırı

'Drepung Monastery, located at the foot of Mount Gephel, is one of the "great three" Gelug university gompas (monasteries) of Tibet. The other two are Ganden Monastery and Sera Monastery.

Qing influences and the question of the Dalai Lama

With this feat Lha-bzang was acknowledged as king, gyalpo tripa. He also carried the courtesy title of Jingis Khan, and is usually known by that name among European visitors. His position was not entirely secure, and he resorted to some acts of violence; thus he killed the head of the Sera Ma College and flogged or imprisoned several persons in the Tsang region. Meanwhile, the Kangxi Emperor was eager to gain a degree of influence in Tibet, for the reason that the hostile Dzungar khans adhered to Tibetan Buddhism. If the Dzungar elite secured the support of the Dalai Lama it would affect the loyalty of the Mongols under Qing suzerainty. Lha-bzang Khan on his side looked for support with the Qing court and sent a report about the civil war of 1705 to the emperor, who approved his actions. As a reward for ridding him of his old enemy the desi, Kangxi appointed Lha-bzang Regent of Tibet (Chinese :翊法恭顺汗; pinyin :Yìfǎ gōngshùn Hàn; literally: 'Buddhism Respecting, Deferential Khan') . [5] The emperor considered the Sixth Dalai Lama to be spurious and asked Lha-bzang to send him to Beijing. The king realized the possible reaction among the Tibetan population which still largely adhered to the libertine hierarch, but finally resolved to comply with the request. Accounts differ as to whether the king was sincerely offended by the Sixth's scandalous behavior, or he merely used it as an excuse. [1] [6] He summoned a clerical meeting and asked the lamas to disavow the Dalai Lama as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara. The lamas, however, refused to agree and stated that Tsangyang Gyatso was the true Dalai Lama in spite of his shocking behaviour. They did, however issue a declaration that the spiritual enlightenment no longer dwelt in the young man.

Ü-Tsang Union of Ü and Tsang kingdoms in central Tibet, do not include Amdo (Qinghai) and Kham (Xikang) nor Ngari (western region, former Guge kingdom)

Ü-Tsang or Tsang-Ü, is one of the four traditional provinces of Tibet, the other being Amdo in the North-East, the Kham in the East and the Ngari in the North-West. Geographically Ü-Tsang covered the south-central of the Tibetan cultural area, including the Brahmaputra River watershed. The western districts surrounding and extending past Mount Kailash are included in Ngari, and much of the vast Changtang plateau to the north. The Himalayas defined Ü-Tsang's southern border. The present Tibet Autonomous Region corresponds approximately to what was ancient Ü-Tsang and western Kham.

Tibetan Buddhism body of Buddhist religious doctrine and institutions characteristic of Tibet

Tibetan Buddhism is the form of Buddhist doctrine and institutions named after the lands of Tibet, but also found in the regions surrounding the Himalayas and much of Central Asia. It derives from the latest stages of Indian Buddhism and preserves "the Tantric status quo of eighth-century India." It has been spread outside of Tibet, especially due to the Mongol power of the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), founded by Kublai Khan, that also ruled China.

Simplified Chinese characters standardized Chinese characters developed in mainland China

Simplified Chinese characters are standardized Chinese characters prescribed in the Table of General Standard Chinese Characters for use in mainland China. Along with traditional Chinese characters, they are one of the two standard character sets of the contemporary Chinese written language. The government of the People's Republic of China in mainland China has promoted them for use in printing since the 1950s and 1960s to encourage literacy. They are officially used in the People's Republic of China and Singapore.

The dethronement of the Dalai Lama

Lha-bzang Khan now took action and brought out the Dalai Lama from the Potala Palace on 11 June 1706. Sixteen days later, he was declared deposed and was told of the emperor's order by the Chinese envoy. As he departed for Beijing, an angry crowd attacked the escort, freed the Dalai Lama and brought him to the Summer Palace at Drepung. The palace was soon surrounded by Khoshut troops and Dalai Lama let himself be taken to avoid a general massacre. Drepung was nevertheless stormed and sacked. The Dalai Lama was again sent towards the imperial court but died by the Kunga Nor Lake in Qinghai on 4 November. Rumours had it that he was murdered, but official accounts state that he died from illness. The king then found a monk from Kham, Ngawang Yeshe Gyatso, born in 1686, who was proclaimed the true reincarnation of the Fifth Dalai Lama (being a Seventh, according to Stein, or a new/real Sixth, according to Smith [7] and Mullin [1] ). This person was in fact believed to be the son of Lha-bzang Khan himself. He was however enthroned without consulting with the religious authorities. Tibetans as well as Lha-bzang's Khoshut rivals strongly rejected the would-be Dalai Lama. Kangxi recognized Lhazang's choice, but hedged his bets considering the opposition from other Khoshuts and from the Tibetans. After some time a boy was discovered in Lithang in eastern Tibet who was believed to be the reincarnation of Tsangyang Gyatso. The boy, later known as Kelzang Gyatso was recognized by Güshi Khan's youngest son Tashi Batur (1632-1714) and another Khoshut prince called Amdowa. Kangxi showed interest for the boy although he did not recognize him yet. After 1715 he lived under imperial protection in Kumbum. [8]

Potala Palace was the chief residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India

The Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China was the residence of the Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India during the 1959 Chinese invasion. It is now a museum and World Heritage Site.

Yeshe Gyatso (1686-1725) was a pretender for the position of the 6th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Declared by Lha-bzang Khan of the Khoshut Khanate on June 28, 1707, he was the only unofficial Dalai Lama. While praised for his personal moral qualities, he was not recognized by the bulk of the Tibetans and Mongols and is not counted in the official list of the Dalai Lamas.

Güshi Khan Mongolian Khoshut prince and Tibet King

Güshi Khan was a Khoshut prince and leader of the Khoshut Khanate, who supplanted the Tumed descendants of Altan Khan as the main benefactor of the Dalai Lama and the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. In 1637, Güshi Khan defeated a rival Mongol prince Choghtu Khong Tayiji, a Kagyu follower, near Qinghai Lake and established his khanate in Tibet over the next years. His military assistance to the Gelug school enabled the 5th Dalai Lama to establish political control over Tibet.

The governance of Lha-bzang Khan

A major calamity struck the country in 1709. Tsang and Toh (West Tibet) suffered a severe earthquake which destroyed houses and killed lots of people. The central authorities sent relief to the afflicted areas, but this was insufficient and several towns had to be abandoned. [9] In his foreign policy Lha-bzang had to cope with Chinese ambitions to turn his kingdom into a protectorate. The Manchu official Heshou was sent to Tibet in 1709 with the mission of supervising the king and watch against dissatisfied elements in society. Moreover, he collected geographical data used by European Jesuits in imperial service to draw accurate maps of the country. Nevertheless, the Qing commissioner was not supported by any Chinese troops, and was recalled in 1711. This left Lha-bzang Khan supreme in Tibet for the moment. A war with Bhutan broke out in 1714. Lha-bzang led the operations in person, invading Bhutan with three columns. However, he scored but limited success and soon withdrew the troops. The unsatisfactory result did not improve his standing in Tibet. The same may be said about his interest for the Catholic missionaries who visited Tibet in his reign, foremost among them Ippolito Desideri, whose anti-Buddhist rhetoric he sometimes seemed to endorse. In fact, Tibetan sources indicate that Lha-bzang was a pious Buddhist who had a good understanding of sutras and tantras. He built a new assembly hall at the Sera Monastery, moved the Urgé College that his ancestor Güshi Khan had established in Dam, and supported a new tantric college. He favoured the various monastic schools without discrimination, in particular the dominating Gelugpa school. [10] In spite of such tokens of piety, the adverse attitude of the Buddhist clergy undermined his position.

The Manchu are an ethnic minority in China and the people from whom Manchuria derives its name. They are sometimes called "red-tasseled Manchus", a reference to the ornamentation on traditional Manchu hats. The Later Jin (1616–1636), and Qing dynasty (1636–1912) were established and ruled by Manchus, who are descended from the Jurchen people who earlier established the Jin dynasty (1115–1234) in China.

Bhutan Landlocked kingdom in Eastern Himalayas

Bhutan, officially the Kingdom of Bhutan, is a landlocked country in South Asia. Located in the Eastern Himalayas, it is bordered by Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Sikkim state of India and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, the Arunachal Pradesh state of India in the east, and the states of Assam and West Bengal in the south. Bhutan is geopolitically in East Asia and is the region's second least populous nation after the Maldives. Thimphu is its capital and largest city, while Phuntsholing is its financial center.

Ippolito Desideri Italian tibetologist

Ippolito Desideri or Hippolyte Desideri was an Italian Jesuit missionary and traveller and the most famous of the early European missionaries to visit Tibet. He was the first European to have successfully studied and understood Tibetan language and culture.

Dzungar invasion

According to one version, a number of clerics and officials, resentful of Lha-bzang Khan's grab of power, sent a letter to the court of the Dzungar Khanate in western Mongolia, asking the ruler Tsewang Rabtan to avenge the death of Sangye Gyatso. This is somewhat doubtful, since a contemporary source makes clear that Tsewang Rabtan did not like the murdered desi. [11] More important were the strategical interests of the Dzungar elite. If they were able to conquer Tibet and place the boy Kelzang Gyatso on the throne of Lhasa, they might enlist the support of the Tibetans and Khoshuts in their enterprises against the Qing Empire. The parts of Mongolia under Manchu domination could then be attacked on two fronts, helped by the great authority of the Tibetan Buddhist institutions. [12] In 1714, Lha-bzang anyway received a message from Tsewang Rabtan. There were many marital connections between the Khoshut and Dzungar princes, and Tsewang Rabtan was married to Lha-bzang's sister. [13] Now the Dzungar lord proposed that his daughter may marry Lha-bzang's son Ganden Tenzin. Lha-bzang consented in spite of some doubts about Dzungar intentions. However, when Ganden Tenzin arrived to the Dzungar lands to pick up his bride, he was seized and kept prisoner by Tsewang Rabtan. [14] After three years, in 1717, the Dzungar ruler appointed his brother Tsering Dondup to invade Tibet with an army of 7,000 cavalry, after having executed Ganden Tenzin. The horsemen did not take the usual route through the Kokonor region, but rather invaded via Yarkand and from there entered north-western Tibet. It was quite an astonishing feat which took the Khoshut regime by complete surprise.


Lha-bzang Khan was staying in the Dam region when he heard about the unexpected invasion. At this time he was an old man, overweight and a heavy drinker. [15] His able officer Pholhane suggested the king guard the pass between Dam and Lhasa with musketeers, but Lha-bzang preferred to meet the enemy on the open plain. Meanwhile, Dzungar spies spread the word that they had come to avenge the death of Sangye Gyatso, return power over the country to the Tibetans themselves, and expel the "false" Dalai Lama Ngawang Yeshe Gyatso. This had effect. The troops of Lha-bzang were defeated and withdrew to Lhasa which was hastily put in a state of defence. The city was besieged by the Dzungars and eventually stormed on a dark night at the end of November. Treason helped the enterprise since ladders were dropped down the fortified walls. The king withdrew to the Potala after most of his loyal troops had been massacred. He then sent his other son Surya to fetch reinforcement in Kokonor, but the prince was captured by the invaders. [16] Seeing that everything was lost, the king rode out from Potala in the night of 3 December 1717 with a handful of followers, desperately trying to escape. However, his horse was stuck in the mud and fell down. [17] The fallen ruler engaged the pursuing enemy in fierce hand-to-hand combat. Eleven Dzungars fell by his hand before he was cut down. [6] Meanwhile, a smaller Dzungar force of 300 attempted to retrieve Kelzang Gyatso from Kumbum, but was defeated by Kangxi's troops. The Dzungars, initially welcomed by the Tibetans amidst expectations that they would free them of Lha-bzang and enable the installation of Kelzang Gyatso, lost Tibetan goodwill quickly by looting Lhasa and persecuting the Nyingma. [18]

Glenn Mullin portrays Lha-bzang Khan as a pious man who cultivated Tibetan religious authorities in every way possible, who was nevertheless rejected by the Tibetans because he was the first foreigner in almost 500 years to rule Lhasa. [19] He is described as "a most liberal prince, very enlightened, and broad-minded in matters of religion, extremely fond of foreigners, and an administrator of rare wisdom." [20]

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  1. 1 2 3 Mullin 2001, p. 274
  2. 1 2 3 Petech 1972, pp. 9 ff.
  3. Smith 1997, p. 121
  4. Schwieger 2015, p. 116.
  5. Cordier & Pelliot 1922, p. 33.
  6. 1 2 Stein 1972, p. 85
  7. Smith 1997, p. 122
  8. Smith 1997, p. 123
  9. Shakabpa 1967, p. 134
  10. Shakabpa 2010, p. 410.
  11. Shakabpa 2010, p, 414.
  12. Barfield 1992, p. 289.
  13. Adle and Habib 2003, p. 180.
  14. Shakabpa 1967, p. 134-5
  15. Van Schaik 2011, p. 139.
  16. Shakabpa 1967, p. 136
  17. Van Schaik 2001, p. 139.
  18. Smith 1997, p. 124
  19. Mullin 2001, pp. 274-5
  20. Cordier & Pelliot 1922, p. 32.


Preceded by
Tenzin Wangchuk Khan
Khan of the Khoshut Khanate
Protector-ruler of Tibet

1697 or 17031717
Succeeded by
Tagtsepa (Dzungar occupation)