Bonpo Canons & Jesuit Cannons











Bonpo Canons and Jesuit Cannons


On Sectarian Factors Involved in the Ch'ien-lung Emperor's Second Gold Stream Expedition of 1771-1776 Based Primarily on Some Tibetan Sources*




revised version, January 2009

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Note:  This work was originally published as, "Bonpo Canons and Jesuit Cannons:  On Sectarian Factors Involved in the Ch’ien Lung Emperor’s Second Gold Stream Expedition of 1771 to 1776 Based Primarily on Some Tibetan Sources," The Tibet Journal (Dharamsala), vol. 15, no. 2 (Summer 1990), pp. 3-28. 

The Tibet Journal version is preferred over its reprint in Alex McKay, ed., History of Tibet, Routledge-Curzon  (Richmond 2003), vol. 2, pp. 633-647.

However, the author prefers the present version over both of the previous publications.  I continue to use some old-fashioned spellings:  Szechuan instead of Sichuan, Peking instead of Beijing, and Ch'ien-lung instead of Qianlong.  I doubt anyone will be bothered by this.  I would like to use phoneticized Tibetan spellings, although I would have to make a glossary, then, wouldn't I?



*I would especially like to acknowledge the help and encouragement of Dr. Elliot Sperling, Michael Walter, and Nicola di Cosmo (all three of Indiana University, Bloomington), and of the Venerable Abbot of Sman-ri Gsar-pa, Sangye Tenzin Jongdong (Dolanji, Himachal Pradesh).  Thanks are also due to Dr. Samuel M. Grupper (Chicago) for many helpful criticisms and suggestions, and to Tashi Tsering (Dharamsala) and Dr. Lynn Struve (Bloomington), to whom I am also much indebted.




"There were in Rgyal-mo-rong [Bon-po] monasteries, including G.yung-drung Lha-sdings which was later destroyed by the army of the Emperor of China whereupon a Dge-lugs-pa monastery called Dga'-ldan was newly founded at Lha-lding.  Although a merely moderate [?] order prohibiting the Bon tradition was proclaimed, nowadays there seem to be quite a few Bon communities in Rgyal-rong, Tsha-kho, and so forth." [1]


Also, the Emperor of China was in those times said [by Thu'u-bkwan?] to be [a] true Mañjughoṣa.  The destruction of the Bon monastery[s] by the emperor's army and the proclamation of the order prohibiting the Bon tradition are to be understood as perfect signs that Bon is not the Buddha's teaching.  Mañjuśrīghoṣa would never destroy the Buddha's teaching.[2]



This logically unassailable argument was not put forward by the famous Dge-lugs-pa cleric Pha-bong-kha-pa Bde-chen-snying-po (1878-1941),[3] but is rather extracted from commentarial footnotes (mchan) to a polemical work attributed to him, said to have been written seven years before his death and then promptly hidden under his bed to be brought out only thirteen years later.[4] The footnotes were written by Ldan-ma Blo-bzang-rdo-rje, one of his disciples, in 1949.  The quote demonstrates that even over a hundred and fifty years after its occurrence, the Ch'ien-lung emperor's second expedition to the Chin-ch'uan ('Gold Stream') area known in Tibetan as Rgyal-mo-rong could still be mentioned in support of sectarian arguments.  It is this sectarian element, as reflected in the few Tibetan sources on the subject at our disposal, that will be the focus of this brief paper.


Before approaching the main subject, I should summarily outline some of the major happenings in Tibetan history before,  during and after the assertion of Manchu domination over Tibet, particularly those bearing on sectarian relations and Manchu imperial involvement in the same.  When another one of Pha-bong-kha-pa's overzealous disciples by the name of Zangs-dmar Rtogs-ldan tried, in 20th century Khams, to force a 'Brug-pa monastery to adopt Dge-lugs-pa rites,[5] he was not engaging in unprecedented procedures.  Indeed, the forcible conversion or destruction of monasteries, surely one of the most flagrant signs of intersectarian political rivalry, was already a fact of life before the mid-17th century when the Great Fifth Dalai Lama was beginning to gain power at the expense of his arch-rival, the Regent of Gtsang province, Karma-bstan-skyong, a supporter of the Karma-pa sect.  Karma-bstan-skyong (re. 1620-1642) enlisted the assistance of an alliance of Mongols who, under the leadership of Prince Arslan, entered northeastern Tibet in 1635 with some 10,000 troops to "wipe out the Dge-lugs-pa sect." [6]  Somehow dissuaded by Gushri Khan, Arslan went instead to prostrate at the feet of the Dalai Lama. 


In about 1638, it was learned through an intercepted letter that the Gtsang Regent was conspiring with his Bonpo ally, the king of Be-ri Don-yod-rdo-rje,[7] to eliminate the Dge-lugs-pa sect.  The Dalai Lama's administration sent a request to Gushri Khan to destroy the Bonpo king which he then did late in 1640, going on to subdue all of Khams and restore it to Central Tibetan control.[8]  Rather than return to his base in Amdo, Gushri decided to proceed against the Gtsang Regent.  After the subjugation of Gtsang in 1642, Gushri Khan invested temporal power over all Tibet in the Fifth Dalai Lama and his Regent.  Then, "in 1648, several Bka'-brgyud-pa monasteries were converted to the Dge-lugs-pa sect and the monks had no choice but to submit to the forcible change."[9]


In retrospect, there may be a tendency to think that the Rnying-ma-pa sect in particular was always in a state of rivalry or antagonism with the Dge-lugs-pa.  This was not the case during the time of the Fifth and Sixth Dalai Lamas when the newly founded Rdo-rje-brag and especially the monastery of Smin-grol-gling were under the direct patronage of the Dalai Lama and his Regent.[10]  In fact, the sectarian alignments of the period may be summed up in this quote attributed to the Regent Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho (evidently shortly after the death of the Great Fifth):


The Sa-skya-pa, Dge-lugs-pa and Rnying-ma-pa are victory banners of the Buddha's teaching; the Karma-pa, 'Brug-pa and Bon-po are the robbers and thieves of the Buddha's teaching.[11]


The Fifth Dalai Lama is especially known for his study and practice of Rnying-ma teachings and rites.  Nevertheless, later on, in the early 18th century, there were two major suppressions of the Rnying-ma sect, one during the Dzungar invasion of 1717-1720 when both Rdo-rje-brag and Smin-grol-gling were more or less destroyed and Rnying-ma leaders executed; the second under Khang-chen-nas, the head of the newly constituted five-man council which was meant to take the place of the Regent.  In 1726, an edict by the Yung-cheng Emperor proclaimed that the Rnying-ma-pa (with the exception of those at Smin-grol-gling and Rdo-rje-brag) should be suppressed and monastic ordinations made the exclusive preserve of the Dge-lugs-pa.[12]   This order Khang-chen-nas (alone, it seems) took to heart, but it was strongly opposed by Pho-lha-nas "who was well known for his inclination towards the Rnying-ma-pa sect."[13]  In fact, Pho-lha-nas was in this only continuing the tradition of Rnying-ma-pa patronage under the Fifth Dalai Lama, holding especially Rje-btsun-ma  Mi-'gyur-dpal-sgron,[14] daughter of Gter-bdag-gling-pa and head of Smin-grol-gling Monastery during its reconstruction, in very high esteem. 

Throughout the first half of the 18th century, Manchu influence and power over Tibet had been asserted and reasserted.[15]  In 1750-1, there was an uprising against Manchu interference by the son and successor of Pho-lha-nas named 'Gyur-med-rnam-rgyal.[16]  It may be that the overwhelming political importance of this revolt overshadowed the preceding Chin-ch'uan expedition of 1747-9, since this, the first of two such expeditions, does not seem to be mentioned in Tibetan sources.[17]  But perhaps there is another reason for the silence.  Already in 1725, a new Manchu policy was formulated whereby the area of Khams would be split in two at the Chin-sha river.  The western half was left under central Tibetan administration while the eastern half was administered by a large number of petty chieftains given titles by, and under the general administration of, the Manchus.[18]  This left the central Tibetan administration in a peculiar position, lasting well into the 20th century, in which central Tibetan influence was often asserted over eastern Khams indirectly by way of the Dge-lugs-pa monasteries in the area.  'Gyur-med-rnam-rgyal petitioned the Ch'ien-lung Emperor to be allowed to send Dge-lugs-pa teachers into Eastern Khams.  His request was tabled for what would seem to be obvious political reasons.[19]  This is then, in brief, the general sectarian background for the events to be described, as well as for the arguments to follow.


Now, as a more specific background, we will need to discuss a little the Lcang-skya incarnate Rol-pa'i-rdo-rje 1717-1786) and his relationship to the Ch'ien-lung Emperor (1735-1796).[20]  Born in Kansu, as a child he was recognized as the reincarnation of the first Lcang-skya whose residence had been at Dgon-lung Monastery.  When he was about seven years old, Dgon-lung was burned to the ground by Chinese soldiers, and he was 'invited' to China where he received a multilingual (Tibetan, Manchu, Mongolian, Chinese and Sanskrit) education.  After a brief travel to Central Tibet in 1734-5, he returned to Peking to be made by the newly enthroned Ch'ien-lung Emperor into the highest Tibetan-style Buddhist dignitary of the Manchu court (Lama of the Seal: Tham-ka Bla-ma).  In this capacity, he began work on the Mongolian translation of the Tanjur and on his famous bilingual lexicon, the Dag-yig Mkhas-pa'i 'Byung-gnas; he also founded a monastic university in Peking for 500 monks.  Later on, he founded the first monastery for Manchu-speaking monks.  In 1745, he initiated the emperor as a conscious affirmation of their priest-patron relationship.  In 1758, he went for a second visit to Central Tibet for the recognition of the Eighth Dalai Lama.  In the 1770's, as battles were raging in the Gold Stream country, Lcang-skya was directing the translation of the entire Tibetan Kanjur into Manchu.  He was also translating the Śūraṅgama Sūtra from Chinese into Tibetan.[21]


One may well ask how, with only two brief visits to Tibet proper, Lcang-skya could truly be said to 'represent' Tibetans (apparently he was himself a Mongour) as the priest in the priest-patron relationship.  Perhaps the question would be badly phrased.  In his position as chief Tibetan Buddhist dignitary as well as confidant of the Emperor he was certainly able to influence the imperial mind toward policies in favor of the Dge-lugs-pa school of which he was a fervently devoted adherent.[22]  This fact, perhaps more than any other, emerges most clearly in Thu'u-bkwan's narrative of his involvement in the second Manchu expedition against the Gold Stream rebels north of Ta-chien-lu in what is now the A-pa Tibetan district in northern Szechuan.  So, without more ado, let us proceed to give a translation of that narrative which takes up following one of Lcang-skya's annual visits to Wu-tai Shan in 1772:



There was a governor (sde-dpon) who wielded power over a not insignificant part of the region of Rgyal-mo-rong, called by his subjects 'Rab-brtan King' (Rab-brtan Rgyal-po).  The local communities were not only daring and athletic, but also ferocious and cruel.  As the area was made of narrow, rugged ravines and surrounded by unfordable rivers, travel was most difficult.  All the philosophical schools (or 'sects', grub-mtha') with the exception of the Dge-lugs-pa were flourishing there, while the main court priest (mchod-gnas) was one devoted to the Bon religion.


A few territorial chiefs of the surrounding area, to rely on the bare reports of informants wanting bribes, were turning rebel.  Although the emperor had by degrees sent in armies, because of the inaccessibility, etc., the annual attacks were not met with success.  An [imperial] order came down to the Reverend Lama [i.e., Lcang-skya] that he should do acts of magic.  So the Lama, together with his ritual assistants (sgrub-grogs), for several days performed the sādhana of the great violent [action] Torma rite of She-Who-Wields-Power-over-the-Realm-of-Desire ('Dod-khams-dbang-mo).[23] 


On the 'launching day' ('phen nyin), the ritual weapon-tormas (gtor-zor) were placed outside.  When [it, the fire?] reached the point of the obelisk (rdo-ring), there was a continual buzzing and snapping.  As the great torma came down, a huge mass of flames broke into pieces and went in the direction of the enemy.  Everyone saw it.  It was told how a great flaming mass came down on the field of battle.  General A (A Jang-jun)[24] asked the Emperor about this and it happened to be at the exact time when the great torma was launched.


On occasions such as this, the emperor granted the Lama gifts like a sitting cushion of bu-la-kan[25] for spreading out in winter (rgun, =dgun) time and a tā-hu[26] black fox-skin robe.


For several years thereafter, he needed to hurl tormas again and again by order of the emperor.  The unrest became somewhat greater and once when the weapon tormas were launched, many Bonpos had gathered at the summit of a very high mountain where they had previously done their prayers and worship.  They prepared the sacred objects and 'worship torma' (mchod gtor) and they were commencing a rite of the Bon tradition when, directly over a patch of ground very close by where there was a great camp with many Chinese soldiers, a fear inspiring black cloud with thunder and lightning was seen.  Then the Bonpos thought, "It seems that by our power a fierce lightning and hail storm is falling on the Chinese camp."


Then all of a sudden, a whirling dust storm, shaking the earth and sky, sent their ritual preparations in all directions and scattered (gtor) them.  A pitch darkness in which each person was invisible to the other enveloped them and a very strong wind with violent hail.


The Bonpos were overcome with fear and fled breathlessly for whatever folds in the mountains or natural rock shelters were available; they could do absolutely nothing.  As the sharpest soothsayers (ma-mo) of their assembly performed their auguries (mo), they fully comprehended that defeat had fallen upon them because of the very great ferocity of an angry goddess [i.e., 'Dod-khams-dbang-mo].


In the Lord Lama's dream, the wife of the territorial chief of Ong-nyod named Gzungs-skyid[27] together with many attendants, servants and soldiers, came before him asking him to grant her his blessing with the laying on of hands (phyag-dbang).[28] When he asked the chief's wife where she might be going, she replied, "I am going to do battle with the rebels of Tsha-kho."


The Lord thought in his dream, "I have not heard of a chief's wife going into battle.  So could it be that this is a messenger with orders from the Emperor?"


Shortly thereafter, the communities of Rgyal-mo-rong suffered defeat and their fortresses were emptied.  The chief, ministers and soldiers were all placed under Chinese hands and the entire countryside gradually went empty.  Concerning the magical portents (mthu rtags) on the field of battle, the Emperor spoke in the midst of the assembly of ministers, "This gradual victory over the enemy is not due only to our strength and might; it is rather because of earnest application to worship and devotion to Buddha's teachings, because of the magical power (mthu) which achieves actions ('phrin-las) by the Religious Defenders."[29]



Our narrator, Thu'u-bkwan, goes on (p. 592) to compare the Emperor's military success in Rgyal-mo-rong with his annexation of Dzungaria as well as his pacification of southwestern tribes near the Indian border.  The Emperor is called a true Mañjughoṣa and a Cakravartin (the ideal Buddhist universal monarch).  The magical powers of Lcang-skya are then compared to those of Rwa Lo-tsā-ba (10th-11th century),  "If faith in the wrong views of Bon had long survived, many creatures would have joined to sin" (p. 593).  His actions are justified by analogy with the doctor who employs drastic treatments such as moxabustion and phlebotomy in order to care for the sick.  After several unrelated digressions, Thu'u-bkwan returns to the subject of the Bonpos of Rgyal-mo-rong (p. 601):


The strong military forces of the emperor had exterminated all their opponents and gathered all the civilians of the area under their power.  Previously the Dge-lugs-pa had no great strength in that country aside from one or two communities belonging to monasteries which followed other sects (grub-mtha'), while Bon was very widespread.  The emperor issued a decree that the practices of the Bon tradition would no longer be permitted.  The Bon community monastery in the center of the country known as G.yung-drung Lha-sdings was demolished while the temples and other [buildings] were left standing.  There many monks gathered together and established a great religious community of Yellow Hats called Dga'-ldan-gling.  As the order came to the Lord Lama to send a good lama to them as a principal of scholastic subjects, he chose the Pundit Abbot Sangs-rgyas-'od-zer[30] and gave him detailed advice about what would be of benefit for advancing the teachings in those parts.


At the same time, the Emperor requested the Lord Lama to know in detail the origins and doctrinal positions ('dod-tshul) of the Bon tradition.  Lcang-skya told him about the histories of 'Ancient Sage Bon (Gshen Bon), 'Broken Bon' (Brdol Bon), and 'Transformed Bon' (Bsgyur Bon).  He explained to him how, because the name of the Teacher of Bon, Lord Shenrab (Gshen-rab), is a name for the Chinese Lao Tzu (La'o Kyun), Bon and the Chinese Taoists (Do'u-si) both came from a single source.


Later on, the Emperor asked Lcang-skya what were the religious sects of Tibet, whether or not they were all the Buddha's teaching, and in what way the Dge-lugs-pa might be better than the others sects.


The Supreme Lama [Lcang-skya] replied that, although there wery many different sects in Tibet, only four were widely spread--the Dge-lugs-pa, Sa-skya-pa, Bka'-brgyud-pa and Rnying-ma-pa.  While they were all equal in being the Buddha's teaching, there were ways in which they differed slightly in their respective positions regarding philosophy, contemplation and conduct.  While the progenitors of the other sects joined themselves to Indian pundits and practitioners (siddhas) and propagated only pure texts, teachings and practical precepts, later on a few of their followers could not grasp their statements and some slight corruption of mistakes and misunderstandings crept into their manner of expounding the philosophical views and so forth.  Then the Reverend Lama Tsong-kha-pa the Great, depending on the precepts of Mañjughoṣa, removed all the pollution by impurities of doubt, wrong realization and lack of realization among Tibetans.  He instituted the doctrinal tradition of the Ri-bo Dge-ldan-pa [Dge-lugs-pa] which is without even the slightest error as concerns its philosophy, contemplation and conduct for both sūtra and tantra.  In his writings were literary gems both profound and covering vast areas of learning, such as no one in previous generations of Tibetans could produce, conclusively interpreting the Buddha's intentions.


To paraphrase the last two pages of this discourse:  Then the Emperor, who was already inclined toward the Dge-lugs-pa, was persuaded by this unprejudiced and straightforward discussion that the Dge-lugs-pa tradition was indeed better than the others.  Soon after, he issued to all Tibet and Mongolia a Golden Edict (Gser-gyi Bka'-lung) praising the Dge-lugs-pa, stating that it should be the chief tradition.


Thu'u-bkwan comments here that some of the Dge-lugs-pa of his day did not understand the import of the decree, deciding that it meant non-Dge-lugs-pa teachings were all wrong, that it would be better of they were to vanish without a trace.  Thu'u-bkwan quickly reminds us that this was in no way Lcang-skya's intention, that he himself was beyond sectarian limitations, that he dealt honestly with members of other sects, that he was, in fact, beyond even the sorts of attachments that lie behind sectarian sentiments.


Before going on, I should point out two lamentable shortcomings that may prejudice the outcome.  Firstly, due to my ignorance of those languages, I have not been able to utilize the much more voluminous Chinese and Manchu sources on the Gold Stream Expeditions.[31]  Secondly, I have not so far found any source which would clearly reflect the Bonpo side of the picture.  I have not noticed any indications in the literature that the Chinese and Manchu sources were even aware of the presence of Bon religion.[32]  For contemporary Bonpo sources, we are limited to information contained in colophons.[33]  These leave us only with an impression of the cultural achievements of Bonpos during one of the few times and places where they had the leisure and patronage necessary to produce woodblock printed books.  We know also that the famous 'New Bon' (Bon Gsar) master Kun-grol-grags-pa (b. 1700) was patronized (dates given are 1736 and 1757) by the king of Khro-chen Kun-dga'-nor-bu[34] who printed his works, at least one of which had been composed at the palace of the Rab-brtan king.[35]  In 1846, Kong-sprul saw a printed Bonpo canon in over a hundred volumes (which had been accomplished under the Khro-chen king) while travelling through the area.[36]  With such scant sources to lead us, we may scarcely guess if sectarianism formed any essential motive on the part of the Bonpo 'rebels' of the Gold Stream country.


Brag-dgon Zhabs-drung[37] gives some additional details about the kings of Khro-chen (giving the names of three:  Khro-bo-skyabs who gave his name to the area, Khro-bo-rgyal-mtshan, and Kun-dga'-nor-bu) and lists some monasteries later founded there before giving his own short narrative of the second Gold Stream Expedition, of which I will give a very provisional translation:


There were the capitals of Rab-brtan and Btsan-lha[38] facing the sunny side [of the mountain?] on the Chu-chen [=Great Gold Stream].  These two latter were of great strength and prowess and it is known that during the time of the Mongol kings they were not brought into subjection.  In the time of Emperor Ch'ien-lung (Chen-lung), General A Cang-jun [=A-kuei] and his army did battle for twelve years [!] and subjugated them.  There being no independently established capital, it was governed by several chiefs who were provided with seals [of office].  The realm of the Rab-brtan king was famed as a Bon holy place and the sound of the 'short sooooo' [bswoo thun, a sound made by participants in certain Tibetan rituals] came from the struggles of the river and the rocks.  A great monastery of Bon character, G.yung-drung Lha-steng, was transformed into a Dge-lugs-pa monastery by imperial order.  It was provided with a parapet and silver ornamentation and called Bstan-'phel-gling.[39]  A native of Gtsang province who studied at Sgo-mang college at 'Bras-spungs monastery named Sangs-rgyas-'od-zer was appointed as its first abbot.  This man was in the same class with Hor Skal-bzang-dngos-grub[40] and Rgya-ti-ka[41] and reached the pinnacle of learning.  When young, he was known as the 'pockmarked Gtsang kid'.  He served as abbot at Srad-rgyud.  Because when he arrived there, open force was being applied to bring the principal Bonpos under rule, the region was being destroyed.  He did a homa rite and things quieted down...[42]


I am happy that I do not need to go into great detail about the military aspects of the campaign; that is not my purpose here.  But neither would I like the task of identifying all the place names.  Even the Manchu generals had so much trouble relating the names found on their maps with those known to local people (including their guides) that they felt compelled to resort to the considerable linguistic expertise of Lcang-skya so that the names could be transcribed into Manchu script in such a way that they could make themselves understood when asking for simple directions![43]  This is perhaps just a small and rather interesting indication of the extent of Lcang-skya's involvement.


It may seem only curious and tangential, but actually (I hope to show) it is relevant to Lcang-skya's story that at least one representative of a rival religious sect had an important role in this Manchu war effort.  Besides the natural defences provided by the rugged terrain, the Gold Stream was protected by very tall and distinctive towers.  Kermit Roosevelt stumbled into the general area during his search for the habitats of the elusive Panda bear.


On the following day we crossed a 16,000-foot pass and dropped down into a valley.  For the first time we saw clusters of villages.  They were very small, not more than half a dozen houses each, but compact and well built of gray stone.  Each village had one or more big stone towers, some shaped like six-pointed stars, others square.  They were mostly in ruins.  The few still standing intact often had a cant like the leaning tower of Pisa, and gave a very unsafe appearance to the houses clustered beneath.  Questioning the natives as to their use or origin brought little result.  No one knew when they had been built.  They had just "always been there."  Some said they had a religious purpose, others that they were designed for defense.  Of one thing I am sure, the tribesmen who live in the valley now could not have raised them.[44]


With all the respect due to Kermit Roosevelt, we must say that these towers were designed most certainly for defense, a defense that might have been quite effective had it not been for the services of one Felix da Rocha (1713-1781), a Portuguese-born latter-day Jesuit in the permanent employ of the imperial court.  He not only directed the construction of the cannons to be used, perhaps designed for ease of transport in this rugged terrain, but he served as well as 'surveyor' or cartographer when they were actually in use, arriving at the front late in 1774 in time for the main assault on the Great Gold Stream (=Rab-brtan).[45]


This leads us full circle back to Thu'u-bkwan's narrative.  Employing a tired and mundane device of literary criticism, we may see that it opens with a problem and ends in a resolution of that problem.  The problem is the predominance of the Bon religion and the relative absence of the Dge-lugs-pa sect in the area.  The resolution is that a Dge-lugs-pa monastery is established there immediately after the war.  The way to the resolution of the problem is Lcang-skya's miraculous ritual deus ex machina.  Unfortunately, Thu'u-bkwan gives no indication of the locale where Lcang-skya's ritually generated pyrotechnics took their toll; we are told only that they occured on a mountain shortly before the defeat of the Bonpos (i.e., in the final march on G'ara'i).



            ...the wooden city and stone forts of Sili were attacked, to force the way to Haryai [=G'ara'i] where Solobun's younger brother [i.e., Bsod-nams] commanded.  Cannon balls were showering into Sili like hail, the army drawing nearer and nearer raising wooden barricades for shelter at every step.  When quite near the city, they took advantage of a wind blowing into the city, to hurl into it quantities of burning material, attached to arrows from their cross-bows,--and in a short time Sili wooden houses were level with the ground.  Following up this success, a fortified hill was taken in December [1775], whereupon there was only between the army and Haryai, the strong hill of Margooshan, which commanded Haryai...  the whole army now pressed on Haryai...firing their great cannon day and night.[46]


If there is any marvelous conclusion to all this, it is in the irony that the protector goddess of the Dge-lugs-pa school would choose to display Her miraculous powers through the medium of Jesuit cannons against the patrons of one of only three [?] woodblock printed editions of the Bonpo canon.  There is irony also in the fact that the high cost of this punitive expedition was, at seventy million taels (over ninety-three million ounces) of silver,[47] a significant drain on a budget that would ultimately suffer from depletion over the next fifty years[48] so that the Ch'ing dynasty would never again approach the heights of its former imperial power.  But the largest irony is that, knowingly or no, Lcang-skya was able to make what was a political and cultural defeat for the Bonpos and a financial disaster for the Manchu rulers into a victory for Dge-lugs-pa sectarian politics.



Appendix A


See note 33, above.


//  // khri gtsug rgyal ba'i gsung rab rma med nyi ma 'bum shar 'di/ rab rgyal mi dbang nam mkha' rgyal pos dus mthar 'bar ba'i khyad/ rgyal khab bkwa rngom 'gyur med pho brang mkha' klong mchod khang du/ par bsgrub bkur bsti lhur len shing spre zla{7} tshes{14} bzang por grub/ de las byung dang bdag gzhan dge rtsa dri med ji snyed pa/ mtshan bcas mtshan med byas dang byed 'gyur de bzhin byed pa sogs/ ma bsngo 'dzad dang log bsngo stor zhing rgya chung skyon sangs nas/ pha ma'i thog drangs mkha' khyab 'gro rnams sangs rgyas thob phyir bsngo/ 'bum gyi lha tshogs mnyes pa'i byin rlabs rab rgyal gdung brgyud gang/ bstan 'gror phan bskyed srid mtha'i bar du brtan zhing bkra shis pas/  rgyal khams 'di dang gzhan du bde skyed rtag tu 'byung 'gyur nas/ thams cad ma lus rdzogs sangs rgyas pa'i go 'phang thob par smon/ brda dag pa ni dbra btsun tshe dbang nyi rgyal ming can te/ yi ge pa ni gseb bgro ye shes gtsos pa'i bcu phrag cig/ rkos pa khu rde rgyal mtshan 'go byas brgya tham zhu dag pa/  nyi shu las dpon sangs ston gnyis bcas sgrib sbyong tshogs rdzogs shog/  sad gyer mu ye shu bhaṃ swa sti sarba mangga laṃ//


Appendix B


See Footnote 35, above.


Since writing the preceding words, two important works by Kun-grol-grags-pa have come to my attention.  Both are kept, in the form of photocopies, at the Bonpo Monastic Centre in Dolanji.  The first is KUN-GROL-GRAGS-PA (1751, date of composition), a work in thirteen chapters giving a list of contents of the Bon Kanjur (which Bonpos call simply Bka') as it was woodblock printed by the Khro-chen King Kun-dga'-nor-bu (in fulfilment of the wishes of the Khro-chen King Tshe-brtan-dpal-'byor) in a total of two hundred and eighty-one volumes.  This work is not only a catalog, but incorporates a general history of Bon religion as well.  The catalog itself was composed at the wish of Rab-brtan King Nam-mkha', and at the Rab-brtan King's palace at Li-wer. 


The second work is the autobiography of Kun-grol-grags-pa divided into three titles (KUN-GROL-GRAGS-PA   A, B & C).  The first is the 'secret' autobiography; the second, the 'inner'; the third, the 'outer'.  Although I did not have the opportunity to study this lengthy work in detail (and it is about ninety percent made up of songs and visionary accounts), I would like to note a few interesting points.  His name at birth was A-bu Lha-kho.  At age five he went with his mother to do circumambulations of the holy mountain Bon-ri in Kong-po.  He received Bon teachings from several lamas together with his mother, receiving the name Nam-mkha'-tshe-ring (while being known under the name Nam-mkha'-thog-pa).  By his sixth year he had been recognized as a reincarnate lama, and at his first monastic tonsure ceremony he received the name G.yung-drung-bstan-pa'i-rgyal-mtshan.  At age seven he was already susceptible to supernatural visions.  For instance, once when he was sitting on the top of his house, more than twenty pigeons alighted on the roof, promptly transformed into human children and danced around him (B: 7v).


In his early twenties he received the name Nam-mkha'-ye-shes, and some of his works are signed with this name, or its Zhangzhung language equivalent Mu-la-ha-ra.  At age twenty-five or so he paid a visit to Lhasa, giving us a report about the recent Dzungar invasion (B: 29v.3).  In about 1730, he went to Rgyal-mo-rong and met the famous New Bon master Sangs-rgyas-gling-pa Byang-chub-rdo-rje-rtsal (1705-1735).  Several of the latter's rediscovered teachings are preserved in the Chicago Field Museum (nos. 61.00, 96.00 and 355.00).  He may be considered (although perhaps Sprul-sku Mi-shig-rdo-rje, born 1650, deserves the title more) the founder of the New Bon trend of which Kun-grol-grags-pa became the most celebrated exponent.  Sangs-rgyas-gling-pa, who was already under the patronage of several royal courts in Rgyal-mo-rong, 'recognized' (a ceremony involving enthronement and crowning) Kun-grol-grags-pa, bestowing on him this name by which he would subsequently be best known.  Immediately thereafter, Kun-grol-grags-pa began to be in demand at the local courts of Rgyal-mo-rong, and even further afield--the King of Be-ri, Tshe-dbang-dar-rgyas, was one of those who received spiritual empowerments at his hand.  In 1735, he became the court priest of a king named Bstan-'dzin-nor-bu (B: 113r). 


This being an autobiography, there is of course no mention of his death.  The latest date I noticed there was 1740.  There are dates given in colophons to his other works as late as 1757.  We therefore still have no way of knowing if he was still active during the second Gold Stream Expedition.  In any case, he had been very active in the area and quite closely involved with the local ruling dynasties.


Kun-grol-grags-pa is even author of a grammatical work of which the Field Museum (no. 530.00) possesses a nearly complete woodblock copy.  The work, entitled Brda'i Bstan-bcos Legs-par Bshad-pa Rin-po-che'i Za-ma-tog Bkod-pa, seems to be little more than a re-edition of a similarly titled work written in the sixteenth century by Zhwa-lu Mkhan-po Rin-chen-chos-skyong-bzang-po (TAUBE no. 2676).


What is perhaps important to realize in this context is that the New Bon spread in the Gold Stream area by Sangs-rgyas-gling-pa and Kun-grol-grags-pa was slightly peripheral to the mainstream Bon traditions, and remains so to this day.  In ritual, the New Bon accepted and adapted many rediscovered cycles of the Rnying-ma school, while on the level of history, they began to incorporate the Rnying-ma traditions concerning "Guru Rinpoche" Padmasambhava.


We should add one important observation in an early twentieth century Bon history (MKHAS-GRUB-LUNG-RTOGS-RGYA-MTSHO, n.d.: p. 102r) that both Sangs-rgyas-gling-pa and Kun-grol-grags-pa had patron-priest relationships with the kingdoms, or 'chiefdoms' (dpon-khog) of Rgyal-mo-rong.  It was, of course, this same relationship that held between Lcang-skya and the Ch'ien-lung Emperor.






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RAŚIDONDUK, S. and VEIT, Veronica, 'Neun weitere in Deutschland befindliche Porträts verdienter Offiziere der Ch'ienlung Zeit'.  Zentralasiatische Studien, vol. 9 (1978), pp. 543-591.

ROOSEVELT, Theodore & Kermit, Trailing the Giant Panda.  Charles Scribner's Sons (New York 1929).

ROSS, John, The Manchus or the Reigning Dynasty of China: Their Rise and Progress.  Houlston & Sons (London 1880).

ROWBOTHAM, Arnold Horrex, Missionary and Mandarin:  The Jesuits at the Court of China.   University of California Press (Berkeley 1942).

SHAKABPA, Tsepon W. D.,  Tibet: A Political History.  Yale University Press (New Haven 1973).

SMITH, E. Gene, 'Introduction'.  Contained in:  THU'U-BKWAN (1969: I 1-12, plus 2 appendices).

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[1]Here the author is citing Thu'u-bkwan.  For the source of the quote, see THU'U-BKWAN (1984: 389).

[2]LDAN-MA (1977: 173-4).  Mañjughoṣa and Mañjuśrīghoṣa are names of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom Mañjuśrī with whom the Manchus were identified for reasons of near homonymy, so it would seem.

[3]This Pha-bong-kha-pa (for there have been several in Tibetan history) is also sometimes named Byams-pa-bstan-'dzin-phrin-las-rgya-mtsho, a name given him by Phur-bu-chog, tutor to the Thirteenth Dalai Lama. 

[4]LDAN-MA (1977: 11).

[5]BEYER (1973: 239).  According to Tashi Tsering (Dharamsala), this "Zangs-dmar Rtogs-ldan" must be identical to the figure better known to Tibetans as Brag-g.yab Rtogs-ldan or 'Jam-dbyangs-blo-gros (his monastic name), who lived from 1888 to 1941.  His biography, by Rgya-ra Sprul-sku Blo-bzang-bstan-'dzin-chos-kyi-dbang-phyug (who died about 15 years ago in Assam), is entitled Rje Bla-ma Chos-kyi Rgyal-po Rin-po-che Mtshan Brjod-par Dka'-ba Rje-btsun 'Jam-dbyangs-blo-gros-dpal-bzang-po'i Zhal-snga-nas-kyi Rnam-par Thar-pa Cung-zad Cig Gtam-du Bya-ba Baiḍūrya'i Mgul Rgyan.  It exists in the form of a 40 folio woodblock print in the personal possession of Tashi Tsering.  There is naturally nothing said here about forcible conversions of monasteries, but several passages point to his strong sense of Dge-lugs-pa supremacy, such as the speech near the end (folio 33 recto) about the perfection and truth of Dge-lugs-pa monasteries in Central Tibet, contrasted with Eastern Tibet (Mdo-smad) which is full of wicked teachers who follow the Chinese Hashang and the Bon Teacher "Shes-rab" (he means Gshen-rab).

[6] SHAKABPA (1973: 103).  This and the following paragraph is almost entirely based on SHAKABPA.

[7]For the Fifth Dalai Lama's story of the Be-ri king, see DALAI LAMA V (1981: 243).

[8]SHAKABPA (1973: 107).

[9]SHAKABPA (1973: 113).  Spellings of Tibetan names here and elsewhere have been made to conform to the Wylie system for the sake of consistency.

[10]In 1670, the Fifth Dalai Lama ordered Gter-bdag-gling-pa (1646-1714) to 'restore' Smin-grol-gling, but before this time the monastery seems to have been unknown.  Certainly, if this was not its 'founding', it was its rise to glory.  For the restoration order, see NGAG-GI-DBANG-PHYUG (1982: I 110).  The Dalai Lama V and Gter-bdag-gling-pa often exchanged teachings, neither one being exactly definable as the 'student' of the other.  A footnote found in the biography (ibid.: I 235) states that he was privy to the secret of the Dalai Lama's death.  In general, he was a frequent visitor to the Potala, gave initiations at the enthronement of the regent Sangs-rgyas-rgya-mtsho in 1679 (ibid.: I 195-8) and he was very active in the recognition and training of the Sixth Dalai Lama.

[11]SMITH (1970: 21).  Just a few decades prior to this statement, one might have changed the 'Brug-pa into "victory banners" and replaced them in the list of "robbers and thieves" with the Jo-nang-pa.

[12]PETECH (1950: 92).  Petech gives a translation of the Tibetan text of the edict.

[13]SHAKABPA (1973: 142).  Unlike PETECH (op. cit.), Shakabpa does not downplay the Rnying-ma-pa loyalties of Pho-lha-nas.  Neither Petech nor Shakabpa are clear about what specific measures Khang-chen-nas brought against the Rnying-ma sect.

[14]She is the "princess of the family of Rig-'dzin Gter-chen Chos-kyi-rgyal-po" who could not be identified by PETECH (1950: 95).  Also called Shes-rab-sgron-ma (this name was given to her by Dalai Lama VII), and Smin-gling Rje-btsun, she lived from 1699 to 1769.  Her recently republished biography written in 1782 is a rich and so far untapped source for the political events of the period.  See KHYUNG-PO-RAS-PA (1984: especially pp. 106 ff. for comments on Khang-chen-nas and Pho-lha-nas).  We might note here also that Pho-lha-nas saved the life of the Rdo-rje-brag Incarnate (Rdor-brag Rig-'dzin) under the Dzungars (PETECH 1950: 47).

[15]MARTYNOV (1983: 216-7) gives a neat nine-point outline of the stages of Manchu subjugation of Tibet.

[16]By his name alone we may know of his father's Rnying-ma connections, since 'Gyur-med was generally given as the initial part of the name when Gter-bdag-gling-pa named people (following common practice of giving part of one's own name; among Gter-bdag-gling-pa's names is 'Gyur-med-rdo-rje).  Just for this reason, there were many people so named during this period.

[17]By "Tibetan sources" I mean biographies of contemporary Dge-lugs-pa hierarchs where I searched in vain for the slightest reference.

[18]KOLMAŠ (1968: 38).  See also STEIN (1972: 88).

[19]PETECH (1950: 188).

[20]The information in this paragraph is drawn from SMITH (1969), the introduction to the biography of Lcang-skya Rol-pa'i-rdo-rje contained in THU'U-BKWAN (1969: I).  Another biography by the brother of Lcang-skya has been reproduced and studied in KÄMPFE (1976), but it contains no unique information on the Gold Stream Expeditions.

[21]For an article on Lcang-skya's translation of this sūtra and events surrounding it, see STAEL-HOLSTEIN (1936).  For other references to this sūtra, see KAPSTEIN (1989).  Kapstein's work is also an interesting study on an eighteenth century controversy with strong sectarian elements, and would be profitably read together with the present paper.

[22]On the priest-patron relationship during the Manchu period, see GRUPPER (1984).

[23]Another name for Dmag-zor-ma, a Buddhist form of the Indian goddess Devī (=Lha-mo).  BEYER (1973: 53-4) supplies a drawing of Dmag-zor-ma and says that she is the principal female protective deity of both the Dge-lugs-pa and Sa-skya-pa sects.  He translates her name as "Magic Weapon Army."

[24]His Chinese name is A-kuei (1717-1797).  A biographical sketch is supplied in HUMMEL (1943: 6).  In 1773, he was made commander-in-chief of the expedition.  Previously, he had been second in command.

[25]Probably a Manchu word, but not yet identified.

[26]A Manchu word for a particular sort of fur coat with the fur on the outside (see "dahū" in NORMAN 1978: 52).  Samuel Grupper (personal communication, Sept. 4, 1987) tells me that this is actually a loan word of Mongolian origin.

[27]I have been able to identify neither the place nor the name.

[28]There is a very interesting discussion of phyag-dbang in THU'U-BKWAN (1969: IX 661-2).

[29]This passage translated from THU'U-BKWAN (1969: I 589-592).

[30]He is most certainly the Sangs-rgyas-'od-zer called "abbot of Yung-he-gung" listed among the disciples of Lcang-skya.  See SMITH (1969: appendix II 6).  There is more about him elsewhere in this paper.

[31]Some of this literature has been utilized by HAENISCH (1922 & 1935), HUMMEL (1943), RAŚIDONDUK & VEIT (1978: XII), ROSS (1880: 496 ff.) and TAFEL (1914: II 212-274).

[32]It is perhaps worthy of note that PARKER (1886: 299), apparently basing himself on Chinese sources, refers to the people of Chin-ch'uan as "Musulmans."

[33]I should not fail to mention the one colophon that was the beginning of my interest in the present subject.  In the Chicago Field Museum's Berthold Laufer Collection of Tibetan woodblock prints and manuscripts are several printed pages from the first volume of the longest version of the Khams-brgyad, the so-called "Bonpo Prajñāpāramitā" (in 16 volumes).  I took with me to the Bonpo Monastic Centre in Himachal Pradesh photocopies of the colophon page.  The Abbot Ven. Sangye Tenzin Jongdong took such a strong interest in this text that he took the trouble to show it to three members of the Bonpo community who had come from Rgyal-mo-rong.  However, none of them were able to identify the king mentioned in the colophon or his royal palace, Bkwa-rngom.  The abbot pointed out to me that the "rab rgyal" found there is an abbreviation for "rab-brtan rgyal-po" and that the syllables "rab" and "brtan" are hidden in the text.  It is most likely that the "wood monkey" date given corresponds to the year 1764.  The Nam-mkha' mentioned in the text is the Langk'a of Manchu-Chinese sources (TAFEL 1914: II 225), the king of Rab-brtan.  He died during the second expedition, but his son and successor Bsod-nams was publicly burned alive in Peking thereafter.  The Bkwa-rngom palace (pho-brang) or 'royal fort' (rgyal-khab) is most likely the G'ara'i of Manchu sources, one of the three principal palaces ("powrang" =pho-brang) of Rab-brtan (local pronunciation, 'Rardan') which TAFEL (1914: II 226) identifies with a place known in Tibetan (according to Tafel's spelling) as "Guar nge."  An alternative spelling, Ka-rnge, does in fact match this pronunciation closely (see KUN-GROL-GRAGS-PA [B], fol. 52r.4:  Rab-brtan Rgyal-po'i Pho-brang Ka-rnge Dung-mkhar-rdzong).  That Nam-mkha' (=Langk'a) had resided at G'ara'i in the 1740's is confirmed in HAENISCH (1935: 268), and it was in this same place that his son ultimately surrendered in 1776.  I give for the sake of Tibetan-language readers the text of the entire colophon (Chicago Field Museum no. 339.00) in Appendix A, below.  I have underlined proper names as well as the date and the two 'hidden' syllables.

[34]This Kun-dga'-nor-bu is mentioned in HAENISCH (1935: 280-1) under the spelling Gungg'a Norbu.  Khro-chen is an area also known as Khro-skyabs (Cosgiyab in HAENISCH 1935: 280), Khro-bcu, Khro-chu, and so forth, in the upper reaches of the Great Gold Stream (Ta Chin-ch'uan), one of the 18 principalities of Rgyal-mo-rong.  Kun-dga'-nor-bu died in 1773 during the second expedition (RAŚIDONDUK & VEIT 1978: 580).

[35]See KUN-GROL-GRAGS-PA (1979: I 169) for a colophon stating that he composed the work at the palace of the king of Rab-brtan.  The Khro-chu king--the name Kun-dga'-nor-bu or some variant of the same is often given--is mentioned about 18 times in colophons to the various texts.  I know of no full-length biography of Kun-grol-grags-pa, but if such exists it could be expected to yield important information for present purposes.  Kun-grol-grags-pa may very well be the "court priest" mentioned in THU'U-BKWAN's narrative.  Another colophon states (see KUN-GROL-GRAGS-PA 1985: 152) that the work was composed in 1751 [just after the first Gold Stream Expedition!] at a G.yung-drung Rdzong-chen in Li-wer (=Le'uwei, the main town at the center of Rab-brtan) in Chu-chen Rabrten (i.e., Rab-brtan, for which Chu-chen is just another name).  For further discussion, see Appendix B.

[36]See KVAERNE (1974: 19) and KONG-SPRUL (1973: 190).  Kun-grol-grags-pa was also involved in the production of the Bonpo canon (KARMAY 1975: 189).  The Khro-chen king was a near neighbor of the Rab-brtan king, and both were patrons of the Bonpo sect.  See TAFEL (1914: II 224) where the Khro-skyab (Tschoskiab) king is called the third most powerful king in Rgyal-mo-rong after the Rab-brtan and Btsan-lha kings.

[37]BRAG-DGON ZHABS-DRUNG (1974: IV 532 ff.).

[38]Rab-brtan (Rardan) TAFEL (1914: II 223 and 224 note 1) identifies as an old name of Chu-chen (which is equivalent to the central section of the Great Gold Stream) while Btsan-lha (=Btsan-la) is the Small Gold Stream (Hsiao Chin-ch'uan).  Thus, this sentence would seem to be misleading.

[39]Thu'u-bkwan (as translated above) called this same monastery Dga'-ldan-gling.  This monastery was located only a small distance upstream from G'ara'i.  A modern Bonpo historian lists this along with some other monasteries which were changed from Bonpo to Chos-pa (see DPAL-TSHUL 1972: II 635-6).

[40]A Hor Skal-bzang-dngos-grub is listed among the disciples of Lcang-skya (SMITH 1969: appendix II 5).

[41]This is probably the Rgya-tig Smon-ram-pa Blo-bzang-don-grub listed among the disciples of Lcang-skya (SMITH 1969: appendix II 5).  He served as abbot of Dgon-lung monastery (Lcang-skya's home monastery) from 1743-6 (THU'U-BKWAN 1969: II 25).

[42]Translated from BRAG-DGON ZHABS-DRUNG (1974: IV 533-534).

[43]HAENISCH (1922: 71-2).  This work by Haenisch is itself a kind of gazeteer of the area, but only occasionally gives local pronunciations or Tibetan literary forms of the place names.

[44]ROOSEVELT (1929: 117 ff.).  See also TEICHMAN (1922: 66 n. 1).

[45]DEHERGNE (1973: 223) and FU (1966: 274).  HUMMEL (1943: 7) says, "Their stone forts would perhaps have been impregnable had A-kuei not made use of cannon, constructed under the direction of the Portuguese missionary, Felix da Rocha."  Father Rocha was once arrested in Peking for distributing Christian reliquaries and images (ROWBOTHAM 1942: 204).  More interesting information on him may be found in KRAHL (1964).  After the expedition was concluded, he intervened with the authorities on behalf of a Catholic priest imprisoned in eastern Szechuan.  For this story, see NOUVELLES LETTRES (1818), vol. I, pp. 248-257.  This same volume (pp. 286-288 et passim)  gives some account of the war in Chin-ch'uan.

[46]ROSS (1880: 506).

[47]HAENISCH (1935: 298), HUMMEL (1943: 8) and ROSS (1880: 507).  The expense of the expedition is attributed to its length and to the fact that it was carried out almost entirely by Manchu bannermen, rather than Chinese or local people (who would have been much cheaper to employ).

[48]HUMMEL (1943: 370).  The total expenditures for military expeditions during the Ch'ien-lung era are estimated at about 200 million taels.