Songtsen Gampo (Tibetan: སྲོང་བཙན་སྒམ་པོ, Wylie: srong btsan sgam po, 569–649?/605–649?), also Songzan Ganbu(Chinese: 松贊干布 Sōngzàn Gānbù), was the 33rd Tibetan king and founder of the Tibetan Empire[a], and is traditionally credited with the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, influenced by his Nepali and Chinese queens, as well as being the unifier of what were previously several Tibetan kingdoms. He is also regarded as responsible for the creation of the Tibetan alphabet and therefore the establishment of Classical Tibetan, the language spoken in his region at the time, as the literary language of Tibet.
His mother, the queen, is identified as Driza Tökarma (Wylie: 'bri bza thod dkar ma "the Bri Wife [named] White Skull Woman"). The dates of his birth and when he took the throne are not certain. In Tibetan accounts, it is generally accepted that he was born in an Ox year of the Tibetan calendar, which means one of the following dates: 557, 569, 581, 593, 605 or 617 CE. He is thought to have ascended the throne at age thirteen (twelve by Western reckoning), by this reckoning c. 629.
There are difficulties with this position, however, and several earlier dates for the birth of Songtsen Gampo have been suggested, including 569, 593 or 605.
|Emperor of Tibet|
between 557 and 617
Zal-mo-sgang, 'phun-yul, Tibet (in modern Lhünzhub County)
|Spouse||Pogong Mongza Tricham|
Bal-mo-bza' Khri-btsun (aka Bhrikuti, from Nepal)
Gyasa Mung-chang (aka Princess Wencheng, from Tang China)
Mi-nyag-bza' Zhyal-mo-btsun (from Tangut)
Ri-thig-man (from Zhangzhung)
|Wylie transliteration||Srong-btsan sGam-po|
It is said that Songtsen Gampo was born at Gyama in Meldro, a region to the northeast of modern Lhasa, the son of the Yarlung king Namri Songtsen. The book The Holder of the White Lotus says that it is believed that he was a manifestation of Avalokiteśvara, of whom the Dalai Lamas are similarly believed to be a manifestation. His identification as a cakravartin and incarnation of Avalokiteśvara began in earnest in the indigenous Buddhist literary histories of the 11th century.
Some Dunhuang documents say that, as well as his sister Sad-mar-kar (or Sa-tha-ma-kar), Songtsen Gampo had a younger brother who was betrayed and died in a fire, sometime after 641. Apparently, according to one partially damaged scroll from Dunhuang, there was hostility between Sa-tha-ma-kar and Songtsen Gampo's younger brother, bTzan-srong, who, as a result, was forced to settle in gNyal (an old district to the southeast of Yarlung and across the 5,090 metres (16,700 ft) Yartö Tra Pass, which bordered on modern Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh in India). Little, if anything, else is known about this brother.
Songtsen Gampo's mother, the queen, is identified as a member of the Tsépong clan Wylie: tshe spong, Tibetan Annals Wylie: tshes pong), which played an important part in the unification of Tibet. Her name is recorded variously but is identified as Driza Tökarma ("the Bri Wife [named] White Skull Woman", Wylie: bri bza' thod dkar ma, Tibetan Annals Wylie: bring ma tog dgos).
Songtsen Gampo had six consorts, of whom four are considered "native" and two - the well-known ones - foreign. Highest-ranking was Pogong Mongza Tricham (Wylie: pho gong mong bza' khri lcam, also called Mongza, "the Mong clan wife", who is said to have been the mother of Gungsong Gungtsen. Other notable wives include a noble woman of the Western Xia known as Minyakza ("Western Xia wife", Wylie: mi nyag bza'), and a noble woman from Zhangzhung. Well-known even today are his two 'foreign' wives: the Nepali princess Bhrikuti ("the great lady, the Nepalese wife", Wylie: bal mo bza' khri btsun ma) as well as the Chinese Princess Wencheng ("Chinese Wife", Wylie: rgya mo bza'). These two wives are credited in Tibetan tradition in playing crucial roles in the adoption of Buddhism in Tibet and held to explain the two great influences on Tibetan Buddhism, Indo-Nepali and Chinese.
Songtsen Gampo's heir, Gungsong Gungtsen, died before his father, so his son, Mangsong Mangtsen, took the throne. His mother is sometimes said to have been a Chinese princess (Wylie: kong jo) but this is thought to be highly unlikely. His mother was most probably Mangmoje Trikar (Wylie: mang mo rje khri skar), who is mentioned in the Genealogy found in the hidden library in the caves in Dunhuang, the Tibetan Annals, which list the names of the Tibetan emperors and the names of their consorts who bore future emperors, and the clans they came from).
Some accounts say that when Gungsong Gungtsen reached the age of thirteen (twelve by Western reckoning), his father, Songtsen Gampo, retired, and he ruled for five years (which could have been the period when Songtsen Gampo was working on the new constitution). Gungsong Gungtsen is also said to have married 'A-zha Mang-mo-rje when he was thirteen, and they had a son, Mangsong Mangtsen (r. 650-676 CE). Gungsong Gungtsen is said to have only ruled for five years when he died at eighteen. His father, Songtsen Gampo, took the throne again. Gungsong Gungtsen is said to have been buried at Donkhorda, the site of the royal tombs, to the left of the tomb of his grandfather Namri Songtsen (gNam-ri Srong-btsan). The dates for these events are very unclear. According to Tibetan tradition, Songtsen Gampo was enthroned while still a minor as the thirty-third king of the Yarlung Dynasty after his father was poisoned circa 618. He is said to have been born in an unspecified Ox year and was 13 years old (12 by Western reckoning) when he took the throne. This accords with the tradition that the Yarlung kings took the throne when they were 13, and supposedly old enough to ride a horse and rule the kingdom. If these traditions are correct, he was probably born in the Ox year 605 CE. The Old Book of Tang notes that he "was still a minor when he succeeded to the throne."
The current head of the Royal House of Tibet and king in exile is a direct descendant of the Dharma kings  and crowned King of Tibet by Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama  is His Majesty King Lhagyari Trichen Namgyal Wangchuk The King lives in the United States and travels the world speaking out for the human and religious rights of the Tibetan people, under the occupation of the People's Republic of China.
Songtsen Gampo is said to have sent his minister Thonmi Sambhota to India to devise a script for Classical Tibetan, which led to the creation of the first Tibetan literary works and translations, court records and a constitution. After Thonmi Sambhota returned from India, Songtsen Gampo stayed in a cave for three years with Thonmi Sambhota to learn whatever he had learned in India.
Songtsen Gampo moved the seat of his newly unified kingdom from the Yarlung Valley to the Kyichu Valley, site of the future city of Lhasa. The site itself was originally a herding ground called Rasa ("the place of goats") but the name was changed to Lhasa ("the place of gods") on the king's founding of the Jokhang Temple. The name Lhasa itself originally referred simply to the temple precincts.
He is also credited with bringing many new cultural and technological advances to Tibet. The Jiu Tangshu, or Old Book of Tang, states that after the defeat in 648 of an Indian army in support of Chinese envoys, the Chinese Emperor, Gaozong, a devout Buddhist, gave him the title variously written Binwang, "Guest King" or Zongwang, "Cloth-tribute King" and 3,000 rolls of multicoloured silk in 649 and granted the Tibetan king's request for "silkworms' eggs, mortars and presses for making wine, and workmen to manufacture paper and ink."
Traditional accounts say that, during the reign of Songtsen Gampo, examples of handicrafts and astrological systems were imported from China and the Western Xia; the dharma and the art of writing came from India; material wealth and treasures from the Nepalis and the lands of the Mongols, while model laws and administration were imported from the Uyghurs of the Turkic Khaganate to the North.
Songtsen Gampo is traditionally credited with being the first to bring Buddhism to the Tibetan people. He is also said to have built many Buddhist temples, including the Jokhang in Lhasa, the city in which he is credited in one tradition with founding and establishing as his capital, and Tradruk Temple in Nêdong. During his reign, the translation of Buddhist texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan began.
The inscription on the Skar cung Pillar (erected by Ralpacan, who ruled c. 800-815) reports that during Songtsen Gampo's reign, "shrines of the Three Jewels were established by building the temple of Ra-sa [Lhasa] and so on." The first edict of Trisong Detsen mentions a community of monks at this vihara.
Songtsen Gampo was adept at diplomacy as well as on the field of battle. The king's minister, Nyang Mangpoje Shangnang, with the aid of troops from Zhangzhung, defeated the Sumpa in northeastern Tibet circa 627 (Tibetan Annals [OTA] l. 2).
Six years later (c. 632/633), Myang Mang-po-rje Zhang-shang was accused of treason and executed (OTA l. 4-5, Richardson 1965). Minister Mgar-srong-rtsan succeeded him.
The Jiu Tangshu records that the first ever embassy from Tibet arrived in China from Songtsen Gampo in the 8th Zhenguan year, or 634 CE. Tang dynasty chronicles describe this as a tribute mission, but it brought an ultimatum demanding a marriage alliance, not subservient rituals. After this demand was refused, Tibet launched victorious military attacks against Tang affiliates in 637 and 638.
There is some confusion as to whether Central Tibet conquered Zhangzhung during the reign of Songtsen Gampo or in the reign of Trisong Detsen (r. 755 until 797 or 804 CE). The Old Book of Tang do seems to place these events clearly in the reign of Songtsen Gampo, for they say that in 634, Yangtong (Zhangzhung) and various Qiang peoples "altogether submitted to him." Following this, he united with the country of Yangtong to defeat the 'Azha, or Tuyuhun, and then conquered two more tribes of Qiang before threatening Songzhou with an army of (according to the Chinese) more than 200,000 men (100,000 according to Tibetan sources). He then sent an envoy with gifts of gold and silk to the Chinese emperor to ask for a Chinese princess in marriage and, when refused, attacked Songzhou. According to the Tang annals, he finally retreated and apologised, and, later, the emperor granted his request, but the histories written in Tibet all say that the Tibetan army defeated the Chinese and that the Tang emperor delivered a bride under threat of force.
Early Tibetan accounts say that the Tibetan king and the king of Zhangzhung had married each other's sisters in a political alliance. However, the Tibetan wife of the king of the Zhangzhung complained of poor treatment by the king's principal wife. War ensued, and, through the treachery of the Tibetan princess, "King Ligmikya of Zhangzhung, while on his way to Sum-ba (Amdo province) was ambushed and killed by King Srongtsen Gampo's soldiers. As a consequence, The Zhangzhung kingdom was annexed to Bod [Central Tibet]. Thereafter the new kingdom born of the unification of Zhangzhung and Bod was known as Bod rGyal-khab." R. A. Stein places the conquest of Zhangzhung in 645.
He next attacked and defeated the Tangut people who later formed the Western Xia state in 942 CE), the Bailang, and Qiang tribes. The Bailan people were bounded on the east by the Tanguts and on the west by the Domi. They had been subject to the Chinese since 624.
Around 639, after Songtsen Gampo had a dispute with his younger brother Tsensong (Wylie: brtsan srong), the younger brother was burnt to death by his own minister, Khasek (Wylie: mkha' sregs), possibly at the behest of the emperor.
The Old Book of Tang records that when the king of 泥婆羅, Nipoluo ("Nepal"), the father of Licchavi king Naling Deva (or Narendradeva), died, an uncle, Yu.sna kug.ti, Vishnagupta) usurped the throne. "The Tibetans gave him refuge and reestablished him on his throne [in 641]; that is how he became subject to Tibet."
Sometime later, but still within the Zhenguan period (627-650 CE), the Tibetans sent an envoy to present day Nepal, where the king received him "joyfully", and, later, when a Tibetan mission was attacked in present-day India by then minister of emperor Harshavardhan who had usurped the throne after emperor Harshavardhan's death around 647 AD, the Licchavi king came to their aid. Songtsen Gampo married Princess Bhrikuti, the daughter of King Licchavi.
The Chinese Princess Wencheng, niece of the Emperor Taizong of Tang, left China in 640 to marry Songtsen Gampo, arriving the next year. Peace between China and Tibet prevailed for the remainder of Songtsen Gampo's reign.
The Jiu Tangshu adds that Songtsen Gampo thereupon built a city for the Chinese princess, and a palace for her within its walls.
However, according to Tibetologist John Powers, such accounts of Tibet embracing Chinese culture through Wencheng are not corroborated by Tibetan histories.
Songtsen Gampo's sister Sad-mar-kar was sent to marry Lig-myi-rhya, the king of Zhangzhung. However, when the king refused to consummate the marriage, she then helped Songtsen Gampo to defeat Lig myi-rhya and incorporate the Zhangzhung of Western Tibet into the Tibetan Empire in 645, thus gaining control of most, if not all, of the Tibetan plateau.
Following the visit by the famous Chinese pilgrim monk Xuanzang to the court of Harsha, the king ruling Magadha, Harsha sent a mission to China which, in turn, responded by sending an embassy consisting of Li Yibiao and Wang Xuance, who probably travelled through Tibet and whose journey is commemorated in inscriptions at Rajagrha - modern Rajgir – and Bodhgaya.
Wang Xuanze made a second journey in 648, but he was badly treated by Harsha's usurper, his minister Arjuna, and Harsha's mission plundered. This elicited a response from Tibetan and Nepalese (Licchavi) troops who, together, soundly defeated Arjuna's forces.
According to the Tibetan Annals, Songtsen Gampo must have died in 649, and, in 650, the Tang emperor sent an envoy with a "letter of mourning and condolences". His tomb is in the Chongyas Valley near Yalung, 13 metres high and 130 metres long.
| Emperor of Tibet
605 or 617?–649
Ani Tsankhung Nunnery (Chinese: 阿尼仓空寺; pinyin: Ā ní cāng kōng sì) is a nunnery of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism in the city of Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China.
It was built in the 15th century on a site that had been used for meditation by the 7th century Tibetan king Songtsen Gampo. The nuns support themselves through alms and manufacturing items such as clothing and printed texts.Bhrikuti
The Licchavi Princess Bhrikuti Devi, known to Tibetans as Bal-mo-bza' Khri-btsun, Bhelsa Tritsun ('Nepali consort') or, simply, Khri bTsun ("Royal Lady"), is traditionally considered to have been the first wife of the earliest emperor of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo (605? - 650 CE), and an incarnation of Tara. She was also known as "Besa", and was a princess of the Licchavi kingdom of Nepal.
Even though the historicity of Bhrikuti Devi is not certain, and no reference to her has been found among the documents discovered at Dunhuang, "there are increasing indications supporting this hypothesis." There were certainly very close relationships between Tibet and Nepal at this period and, "Such a mythological interpretation discredits in no way the historical likelihood of such a marriage...." Many Tibetan accounts make Bhrikuti the daughter of Amshuvarma (605-621 CE), co-ruler and successor of Śivadeva I. If this is correct, the marriage to Songtsen Gampo must have taken place sometime before 624 CE. Acharya Kirti Tulku Lobsang Tenzin, however, states that Songstän Gampo married Bhrkuti Devi, the daughter of king "Angsu Varma" or Amshuvarma (Tib: Waser Gocha) of Nepal in 632.According to some Tibetan legends, however, a Nepali king named Go Cha (identified by Sylvain Lévi as "Udayavarman", from the literal meaning of the Tibetan name) was said to have a daughter called Bri-btumn or Bhṛkuti."Udayavarman" was most likely the same king we know as Udayadeva, the son of Śivadeva I and later, the adopted son and heir to Aṃshuvarmā. He was also thought to be the father of Narendradeva (Tib: Miwang-Lha). If this is accepted, it means that Narendradeva and Bhrikuti Devi were brother and sister.
We do have some fairly detailed historical accounts of Narendradeva. The (Jiu) Tangshu, or Old Book of Tang, records that when the king of 泥婆羅 Nipoluo Nepal, the father of Licchavi king Naling Deva (or Narendradeva), died, an uncle (Yu.sna kug.ti = Vishnagupta) usurped the throne. "The Tibetans gave him [Narendradeva] refuge and reestablished him on his throne [in 641]; that is how he became subject to Tibet."It is not known exactly when Bhrikuti married Songtsen Gampo, but it was presumably about the time that Narendradeva fled to Tibet (c. 621 CE), following Dhruvadeva's take-over of the throne (who, according to an inscription dated in 623, was ruling jointly with Jiṣṇugupta.)Daklha Gampo Monastery
Daklha Gampo Monastery (Dwags lha sgam po), also romanized as Daglha Gampo, is a Kagyu Tibetan Buddhist monastery founded in 1121 CE by Je Gampopa (1079-1153), the disciple of the famous and much-loved bodhisattva, Jetsun Milarepa (c. 1052—c. 1135) It is located in Gyatsa County in the old district of Dakpo in southern Tibet on land sanctified as a geomantic power-place ('head of the ogress') by the first Tibetan emperor, Songtsen Gampo (605 or 617? - 649), and made a repository of terma by Padmasambhava.Gar Tongtsen Yulsung
Gar Tongtsen Yulsung (Tibetan: མགར་སྟོང་བཙན་ཡུལ་སྲུང༌།, Wylie: mgar stong btsan yul srung, 590-667) was a general of the Tibetan Empire who served as Lönchen during the reign of Songtsen Gampo. In many Chinese records, his name was given as Lù Dōngzàn (Chinese: 祿東贊) or Lùn Dōngzàn (Chinese: 論東贊); both are attempts to transliterate the short form of his title and name, Lön Tongtsen.Gungsong Gungtsen
Gungsong Gungtsen (Wylie: gung srong gung btsan) was the only known son of Songtsen Gampo (605 or 617? – 649), the first Tibetan Emperor.Gyama Palace
Gyama Palace or Gyama Mingyur Ling in Maizhokunggar County, Lhasa, Tibet, now ruined, was built by Namri Songtsen in the 6th century as the new capital of the expanding Tubo kingdom. His son, Songtsen Gampo, was born there but later moved the capital to Lhasa. The palace is now in ruins.Jambay Lhakhang
The Jampa Temple (Tibetan: བྱམས་པ་ལྷ་ཁང, Wylie: byams pa, THL Jampé Lhakhang) or Temple of Maitreya is located in Bumthang (Jakar) in Bhutan, and is said to be one of the 108 temples built by Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in 659 CE on a single day, to pin down an ogress to earth forever.Mangsong Mangtsen
Mangsong Mangtsen (Tibetan: མང་སྲོང་མང་བཙན), Trimang Löntsen or Khri-mang-slon-rtsan (r. 650–676 CE) succeeded to the throne after the death of his grandfather, Songtsen Gampo, and was the second emperor of the newly created Tibetan Empire.
As Songtsen Gampo's only son had died early, he was succeeded by his infant grandson Mangsong Mangsten. Real power was left in the hands of the minister Gar Tongtsen (Mgar-srong-rtsan, or sometimes just mGar).Old Tibetan Chronicle
The Old Tibetan Chronicle is a collection of narrative accounts and songs relating to Tibet's Yarlung dynasty and the Tibetan Empire. The three manuscripts that comprise the only extant copies of the Chronicle are among the Dunhuang Manuscripts found in the early 20th century in the so-called "hidden library" at the Mogao Grottoes near Dunhuang, which is believed to have been sealed in the 11th century CE. The Chronicle, together with the Old Tibetan Annals comprise Tibet's earliest extant history.Pabonka Hermitage
Pabonka Hermitage (Pha bong kha), also written Pawangka, is a historical hermitage, today belonging to Sera Monastery, about 8 kilometres northwest of Lhasa in the Nyang bran Valley on the slopes of Mount Parasol (Dbu gdugs ri) in Tibet.
Founded by Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century, it is currently the largest and most important of the Sera hermitages and is the starting point for the “Sixth-Month Fourth-Day” (Drug pa tshe bzhi) of the Sera Mountain Circumambulation Circuit (Se ra’i ri ’khor) pilgrimage.Princess Wencheng
Princess Wencheng (Tibetan: Mun Chang Kungchu; Chinese: 文成公主; pinyin: Wénchéng Gōngzhǔ; Wade–Giles: Wen-ch'eng Kung-chu; 628–680/2), surnamed Li, was a member of a minor branch of the royal clan of the Tang Dynasty (daughter of Li Daozong, the Prince of Jiangxia).
In 641 Princess Wencheng married King Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire. She is popularly known in Tibet as Gyasa, or "Chinese wife".Ancient Scholars credited Princess Wencheng for introducing Chinese culture to Tibet, whereas Nepalese sources credit Songtsen Gampo's Nepalese wife, Bhrikuti for introducing Buddhism. The Ancient Tibetan historians consider both Princess Wencheng and Bhrikuti as physical manifestations of the bodhisattva Tara, although the historical veracity of Bhrikuti is still debated among scholars.Sino-Tibetan relations during the Tang dynasty
During Tang dynasty rule in China (618–907), Chinese and Tibetan forces had many battles, although there were also years of peace.
The Old Book of Tang recorded the first ever embassy from Tibet arrived in China from the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo in the 8th Zhenguan year or 634 CE. Tang chronicles describe this as a tribute mission, but it brought an ultimatum demanding a alliance through marriage, not subservient rituals. When Emperor Taizong of Tang refused a marriage alliance, Songtsen Gampo sent an army to attack the Chinese frontier city of Songzhou in 638, which was the first military conflict between the rising Tibetan Empire and the Chinese Tang dynasty. After a Tang army inflicted heavy casualties on the Tibetans in a night-time attack, Songtsen Gampo withdrew. He sent emissaries and tributes to Tang capital Chang'an to apologize, and to again request marriage. Taizong decided to give Songtsen Gampo a distant niece, Princess Wencheng, in marriage. The peace held for the remainder of the reigns of Taizong and Songtsen Gampo, although Tibet would pose major military threats for most of the rest of the Tang period.
In 763 AD, the Tibetans captured Chang'an in 763 during the midst of the Anshi Rebellion, which saw Tang China devastated by a massive Turkic uprising. However, the incursion was soon defeated.There is some confusion as to whether Central Tibet conquered Zhang Zhung during the reign of Songtsen Gampo or in the reign of Trisong Detsän, (r. 755 until 797 or 804 CE). The records of the Tang Annals do, however, seem to clearly place these events in the reign of Songtsen Gampo for they say that in 634, Yangtong (Zhang Zhung) and various Qiang tribes "altogether submitted to him." Following this he united with the country of Yangtong to defeat the 'Azha or Tuyuhun, and then conquered two more tribes of Qiang before threatening Songzhou with an army of (according to the Chinese) more than 200,000 men (100,000 according to Tibetan sources). He then sent an envoy with gifts of gold and silk to the Chinese emperor to ask for a Chinese princess in marriage and, when refused, attacked Songzhou. According to the Tang Annals, he finally retreated and apologised and later the emperor granted his request.Thonmi Sambhota
Thonmi Sambhota (Thönmi Sambhoṭa, aka Tonmi Sambhodha;, Tib. ཐོན་མི་སམྦྷོ་ཊ་, Wyl. thon mi sam+b+ho Ta; b. seventh cent.) is traditionally regarded as the inventor of the Tibetan script and author of the Sum cu pa and Rtags kyi 'jug pa in the 7th century AD. Thonmi Sambhota is not mentioned in any of the Old Tibetan Annals or other ancient texts, although the Annals does mention writing shortly after 650. Roy Andrew Miller has written a number of articles arguing that Thonmi is an entirely ahistorical person.
"According to Tibetan tradition, Songsten Gampo sent a young man of the Thönmi or Thumi clan, Sambhoṭa son of Anu (or Drithorek Anu), to India (in 632?) with other youths, to learn the alphabet. The pattern chosen was the script of Kashmir. At all events, the ancient annals of Tun-huang record against the year 655 that 'the text of the laws was written'. It is staggering to realize that, in a couple of decades, not only was the Tibetan alphabet invented, but the script had been adapted to the Tibetan language by a highly complicated orthography, and used for the writing of documents. Thönmi is also said to have composed, no doubt later on, a very learned grammar on the Indian pattern."Of the students sent to India, Thonmi Sambhota, said to have been the fourth of seven wise ministers of the emperor Songtsen Gampo, was the only one to return to Tibet. It seems that the Tibetan script he devised, in what is believed to be Pabonka Hermitage was based on the Brahmi and Gupta scripts which had been in use in India since c. 350 CE.King Songtsen Gampo is said to have retired for four years to master the new script and grammar and then made many translations including twenty Avalokitesvara texts. Other translators quickly added to the corpus of Buddhist translations. The "Six Codices of the Tibetan constitution" were drawn up and court records, genealogies, legends and poetry were preserved in writing.Tibetan Empire
The Tibetan Empire (Tibetan: བོད་ཆེན་པོ, Wylie: bod chen po, "Great Tibet") existed from the 7th to 9th centuries AD when Tibet was unified as a large and powerful empire, and ruled an area considerably larger than the Tibetan Plateau, stretching to parts of East Asia, Central Asia and South Asia.
Traditional Tibetan history described the exploits of a lengthy list of rulers. External corroboration is available from the 7th century in Chinese histories. From the 7th to the 9th century a series of emperors ruled Tibet. From the time of the emperor Songtsen Gampo the power of the empire gradually increased over a diverse terrain. By the reign of the emperor Ralpacan, in the opening years of the 9th century, it controlled territories extending from the Tarim basin to the Himalayas and Bengal, and from the Pamirs to what are now the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Yunnan.
The varied terrain of the empire and the difficulty of transportation, coupled with the new ideas that came into the empire as a result of its expansion, helped to create stresses and power blocs that were often in competition with the ruler at the center of the empire. Thus, for example, adherents of the Bön religion and the supporters of the ancient noble families gradually came to find themselves in competition with the recently introduced Buddhism. The empire collapsed into civil war in the 840s.Tibetan attack on Songzhou
The first military conflict between China and Tibet occurred in 638. In the early 7th century, the westward conquests of the Chinese Tang dynasty brought it into contact with the rising Tibetan Empire. When Emperor Taizong of Tang refused a marriage alliance, the Tibetan emperor Songtsen Gampo sent an army to attack the Chinese frontier city of Songzhou (松州, in modern Sichuan). After a Tang army inflicted heavy casualties on the Tibetans in a night-time attack, Songtsen Gampo withdrew. He sent emissaries and tributes to Chang'an to apologize, and to again request marriage. Taizong decided to give Songtsen Gampo a distant niece, Princess Wencheng, in marriage. The peace held for the remainder of the reigns of Taizong and Songtsen Gampo, although Tibet would pose major military threats for most of the rest of the Tang period.Tsetang
Zêtang, also Zedang or Tsethang, is the fourth largest city in Tibet and is located in the Yarlung Valley, 183 km (114 mi) southeast of Lhasa in Nêdong District of Shannan, Tibet Autonomous Region of China. As capital of Shannan City, it "...exercises direct control over the affairs of 13 counties: Gongkar, Tranang, Nedong, Changye, Tso-me, Lhodrok, Nakartse, Zangri, Chutsum, Lhuntse, Tsona, Gyatsa and Nang."Zêtang has been the capital of the Yarlung region since antiquity and was the seat of the ancient emperors of Tibet and, as such, a place of great importance. In the 19th century, it is said to have comprised some 1,000 houses, a bazaar, a gompa and a fort.As the capital of Shannan, it is the second-largest settlement in the historical Ü-Tsang region. It lies at an elevation of 3,100 m (10,200 ft) above sea level and has a population of approximately 52,000 persons. It is only about 4 km (2.5 mi) to the northeast of the town of Nêdong and they have now essentially merged into one city.Zêtang is situated near the flank of Mount Gongbori (3,400 m (11,200 ft)) where many ancient ruins are located. It is known as the cradle of Tibetan's civilization. Samye, Tibet's first monastery, is located only 30 km (19 mi) from Tsetang and was founded in 779 CE by King Trisong Detsen.
The 14th century monastery of Tsetang, Ganden Chökhorling, was originally Kagyupa but was taken over by the Gelugpas in the 18th century. It was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s but has been restored since. Ngamchö is also a Gelugpa monastery and contains the bed and throne of the Dalai Lama and has a chapel devoted to medicine. The Samten Ling and Drebuling monasteries of the Sakyas still remained in 1959 but have since been destroyed and mostly built over. There is, however, the reconstructed Gelugpa Sang-ngag Zimche Nunnery, in the ruins of Samten Ling with a 1000-armed statue of Chenresig (Avalokiteshvara) said to have been made by Emperor Songtsen Gampo (605 or 617? - 649 CE).The town supposedly dates back to the founding of the Tsetang Gompa in 1351 which became an important centre of learning.One of three caves in the mountainside to the east of the town is said to be the birthplace of the Tibetan people who resulted from the mating of a monkey and a beautiful cannibal ogress.
About 5 km (3.1 mi) south of Zêtang is Changzhug Monastery founded during the reign of Songtsen Gampo and about 10 km (6.2 mi) further is Yumbulagang which, according to legend, was built as a palace for the first king, Nyatri Tsenpo, and was the first building in Tibet.
There are several hotels and a guesthouse in Zêtang.Uesu Gewog
Uesu Gewog (Dzongkha: དབུས་སུ་), or Üsu is a gewog (village block) of Haa District, Bhutan. The name means "Central Gewog". In 2002 it had an area of 67.7 square kilometres and contains 199 households.Valley of the Kings (Tibet)
The Valley of the Kings or Chongye Valley branches off the Yarlung Valley to the southwest and contains a series of graveyard tumuli, approximately 27 kilometres (17 mi) south of Tsetang, Tibet, near the town of Qonggyai on Mure Mountain in Qonggyai County of the Shannan Prefecture.
The site possesses eight large mounds of earth resembling natural hills that are believed to contain eight to ten buried Tibetan kings.
"According to Tibetan tradition all the kings from Dri-gum onwards are buried at ‘Phyong-rgyas, but as the site now presents itself, there are just ten tumuli identifiable as the tombs of all the kings from Srong-brtsan-sgam-po to Khri-lde-srong-brtsan, including two princes . . . ."
Other sources, however, have indicated that there are actually nine mounds rather than eight or ten. The kings believed to be buried at the site include Songtsen Gampo (the founder of the Tibetan Empire), Nansong Mangsten, Tridu Songtsen, Gyangtsa Laban, Tride Tsugtsen, Trisong Detsen, Muni Tsangpo and Tritsu Detsen.Zugne
Zugne is a village in Bumthang District in central Bhutan, located south of Jakar and east of Gyetsa on the Chume River in the Chume Valley. The village is noted for its weavers with scarves tied to their heads in the Bumthang style. They weave woolen yatras on pedal looms and also make belts. It has two notable workshops along the main road, the Thogmela and the Khampa Gonpo which make brightly colored textiles.
The village has a small temple, Zugne Lhakhang, with a statue of Vairocana and the temple is said to have been established by the great Tibetan Emperor Songtsen Gampo in the 7th century. Additional paintings were added to the temple in 1978 by Lam Pemala, a venerable monk of Zugne.
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