Qing Dynasty: central government's sovereignty over Tibet becoming perfect
By Liu Wei, Co-trans: Fang Yinong, Han Jingjing
Qing Dynasty: central government's sovereignty over Tibet becoming perfect
Viewed from Tibet's history, whenever a new central government came into power, local Tibetan religious and administrative leaders would show to the central authority their submission. It was clear to them that he who won the central emperor's conferment first would be better able to sieze control of Tibet (seize the initiative to control Tibet).
At the end of the Ming Dynasty, the Mongolian Gushri Khan took control of Tibet. With his support, the Gelug Sect established the Gandan regime.
After the Qing Dynasty occupied China's central plains in 1644, the Gelug Sect went to Beijing in quest of approval from the central court before other sects. In the tenth year of Qing Emperor Shunzhi's reign (1653 AD), the fifth Dalai Lama went to Beijing to present himself before Emperor Shunzhi, who granted him a gold seal, a golden certificate and the title "Dalai Lama, Overseer of the Buddhist Faith on Earth under the Great Benevolent Self-subsisting Buddha of the Western Paradise".
From then on, the fifth Dalai Lama secured his leadership among various sects and groups of Tibetan Buddhism, and the convention is established that all the following Dalai Lamas have to win approval from the central government.
After the fifth Dalai Lama died, the then regent Sangyai Gyamco concealed the news from the Qing court until it was discovered 15 years later. Emperor Kangxi severely criticized him for his wrong doings and ordered him to hold the sitting-in-bed ceremony for the sixth Dalai Lama Cangyang Gyamco immediately. Meanwhile, conflicts intensified between the Mongols in Qinghai who had previously ruled Tibet and local Tibetan authorities.
During the turmoil, Sangyai Gyamco was killed by the grandson of Gushri Khan Lhabzang Khan, who was later killed by insurgent Zungar Mongols. Those upheavals shocked the Qing court, with Emperor Kangxi dispatching troops of more than 10,000 to crush the Zungar rebellion.
Emperor Kangxi came to realize that to govern Tibet effectively, he had to start from reformation of the governing system. He then abolished the Mongolian Khan's privileges over Tibet, and announced that the region be governed directly by the central court. The Emperor designated four Galoons (Tibetan aristocrats) to be in charge of Tibet's administrative affairs.
In the fourth year of the reign of Emperor Yongzheng (1727), the Qing court stationed four High Commissioners in Tibet, and defined the borders of Tibet and some Tibetan-inhabited areas, for example, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan.
In 1791, Korga troops invaded Tibet, seizing Rear Tibet and plundering the Tashilhunpo Monastery. Emperor Qianlong dispatched Fukang'an to lead troops of 17,000 soldiers to drive out the Korga invaders, who later pleaded to surrender. After the Qing troops withdrew to Lhasa, by the order of Emperor Qianlong, a Red-Hat Living Buddha who colluded with the Korgas was executed, and his sect disbanded.
Emperor Qianlong decided to take this opportunity to launch a reform of Tibet's theocratic system. He ordered Fukang'an and others to formulate regulations and rules for eternal implementation. Fukang'an had a meeting with the High Commissioners and the eighth Dalai Lama, and together they worked out a series of regulations and submitted to Emperor Qianlong for approval. In 1793 the 29-Article Ordinance for the More Efficient Governing of Tibet was promulgated, which reads:
1. The Emperor shall have a gold urn made. When searching for the reincarnated soul boy of the Dalai Lama, the Panchen Erdeni and other Grand Living Buddhas, related staffs shall write names of the candidates on ivory slates in Man, Han and Tibetan languages. The slates then shall be placed in the urn, and then Hutuktus (Grand Living Buddha) and Ambans (High Commissioner) shall draw a lot from the gold urn before the statue of Sakyamuni in Jokhang Monastery to determine the reincarnated boy.
2. Henceforward, foreign travelers and businessmen coming into Tibet and staff dispatched to foreign countries by the Dalai Lama shall show passports issued by the High Commissioners' Office for inspection.
3. Gold coins with the inscription of "Treasure of Qianlong " in the front face, title of the Emperor's reign in the edge and Tibetan in the back should be forged. The High Commissioners should send Han officials to inspect the quality of the coins together with Galoons.
4. Establish a regular army of 3,000 men: 1,000 shall be stationed in Anterior Tibet, another 1,000 in Rear Tibet, 500 in Gyantse, and 500 in Tingri. The Daibens (guard) of Anterior Tibet shall be supervised by the Youji (army officer with the rank of lieutenant-colonel), and Daibens of Xigaze, Gyantse and Tingri, the Dusi (army officer) of Xigaze.
5. Regarding the army organization, under the Duiboin there should be Jiaben (company commander), Ruben (battalion commander), and Dingben (platoon commander), etc. The High Commissioners and the Dalai Lama shall select young and promising soldiers, appoint them, and issue certificates to them.
6. Each of the drafted and transferred soldiers shall be granted grain of two dan (unit of measurement, 1 dan roughly equals 60 kilograms) and five dou (unit of measurement, 1 dou roughly equals 6 kilograms) annually. The Dalai Lama shall issue licenses to reduce and exempt their corvee.
7. Regarding the army's equipment, half will be equipped with muskets, thirty percent shall use bows and arrows, and twenty percent, blades and spears. Drills shall be held often.
8. Earnings and expenditures of the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni shall be audited by the High Commissioners in spring and autumn each year.
9. Districts of Kyirong, Rongxia and Nyalam shall be exempted from paying corvee for two years, Tsongka, Tingri, Karda, one year. Tax arrears before the year of Iron and Swine (name of the year according to Tibetan calender) shall be remitted in both Anterior and Rear Tibet.
10. The High Commissioners are empowered to make sure that Tibetan affairs are handled properly. They enjoy the same status as the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni, and together they shall consult about and handle government affairs. Officials and staff below the rank of Galoon, including the Living Buddhas, whatever their titles are, are all subject to the High Commissioners.
11. In case of a vacancy for Galoon, the High Commissioners and the Dalai Lama shall select from the Daibens, Zibens (lay official in the Financial Office), and Qiangzuos (steward) after reviewing their performance in their official careers. The High Commissioners and the Dalai Lama shall then submit together two name lists for the Emperor to choose from. Officials below the rank of Galoon shall be appointed by the High Commissioners and the Dalai Lama, who shall also issue certificates written in the Man, Han and Tibetan languages.
The Panchen Erdeni and the High Commissioners should consult together about the appointment of officials of the Tashilumpo Monastery.
12. When the Dalai Lama and Panchen Erdeni are still alive, their relatives shall not be involved in government affairs.
13. The High Commissioners shall conduct two tours every year in spring and autumn to inspect troops in Anterior and Rear Tibet, and shall investigatge and penalize Han officials and Duiboins for bullying and exploiting the people.
14. Replies by vassal states such as Korga, Bhutan and Sikkim shall follow formats formulated by the High Commissioners. The handling of major border issues shall follow instructions of the High Commissioners. Foreign tributes should also be submitted to High Commissioners for inspection. No Galoon is allowed to correspond with vassal states without permission.
15. In Kyirong, Nyalarm and other districts adjoining Korga, which serve as key transport posts, boundary tablets shall be erected to restrict mutual entries and exits.
16. Henceforward the Zongbens (governor) of Bianzong (border district) shall be selected from Daibens of Xiaozong (minor districts) and army commanders. Their performance shall be reviewed three years after the appointment, and they shall be promoted if they prove to be qualified and demoted otherwise.
17. Any soldier with a combat capability has a chance for promotion to Dingben and even Duiboin through a step-by-step process no matter whether he is born a noble.
18. The Dalai Lama, High Commissioners and the Grand Living Buddha Jilong shall consult over the appointment of Kanbu (abbot), and together they shall issue and seal the certificate.
19. Government procurement shall be made fairly.
20. Rice and salt taxes shall be levied in Kyirong and Nyalarm, and the amount of taxes not to be raised without the High Commissioners' permission.
21. Corvee-free licenses shall be revoked, and all kinds of corvees shall be equally shared. The Dalai Lama and the High Commissioners shall, after mutual consultation, issue licenses to exempt those meriting preferential treatmentfrom the corvee.
22. The detailed register of the Grand Living Buddhas and lamas under the Dalai Lama's jurisdiction shall be handled in duplicate, with one copy sent to the High Commissioners' Office and the other to the Dalai Lame for inspection.
23. When Mogolian Khans wish to come to Tibet to greet Tibetan Living Buddhas, the Commissioner in Xining shall write an official letter to the High Commissioners. The High Commissioners shall then issue passports and also send an official letter to the Commissioner in Xining for reference.
24. Grand Living Buddhas going out on personal affairs shall not engage ula (unpaid or forced labor), but when they go on business trips, licenses to use ula shall be issued by the High Commissioners and the Dalai Lama.
25. Fines and properties forfeited from convicts shall be registered and handed over to the High Commissioners' Office. Lawsuits whether made by government officials or lay people shall be settled in accordance with laws.
26. The Gaxag (Cabinet of Ministers) shall dispatch appropriate officers to Gongbo carrying official documents of the High Commissioners' Office to manufacture ammunition needed in the yearly maneuvers.
27. A retired Galoon or Duiboin shall turn over his mansion and manor to his successor.
28. The salary of Living Buddha and lamas shall not be paid in advance.
29. Overdue taxed shall be collected before the deadline expires, and taxes on the families which flee to villages in Tibet from elsewhere should be reduced or exempted.
The 29-Article Ordinance contains stipulations concerning Tibet's politics, military affairs, diplomacy, religion, and judicature, etc. As a result, prince regents were abolished, and the High Commissioners enjoyed the same authority and power with the Dalai Lama, and four Galoons (one lama and three seculars) would exercise the Dalai Lama's powers. In the present day the 14th Dalai Lama's "government-in-exile" in India continued to call itself "Gaxag".
According to the 29-Article Ordinance, the ranking of government officials below the Dalai Lama should refer to that of the Qing court. Those below the level of Galoon were co-nominated by the Dalai Lama and the High Commissioners and appointed by the emperor.
Emperor Qianlong stipulated that both the Dalai Lama and the High Commissioner had a decisive say as to Tibetan affairs, but neither of them enjoyed dictatorial power. The Ordinance also specified that a Tibetan army shall be established in accordance with the military system of the Qing Dynasty, and definations were also made in connection with the system, rules, number, stationing places, expenses, and training of the Tibetan army.
A total of 39 tribes in northern and eastern Tibet were placed under the jurisdiction of the High Commissioners, and the Gaxag had no say over those tribes. Chieftains of the tribes were hereditary, the High Commissioners were to approve the inheriting of chieftaincy, and the emperor would confer titles of nobility to their successors.
A very important part of the 29-Article Ordinance is the introduction of the system related to drawing lots from a gold urn in deciding the reincarnations of Grand Living Buddhas. There were various kinds of Living Buddhas in Tibetan Buddhism, with some being serior and some inferior.There were many cases involving secret deals behind closed doors in appointing Living Buddhas.
To change this, Emperor Qianlong personally devised the system of drawing lots from a gold urn. The process goes like this: supervised and presided over by the High Commissioners, a specially made gold Bum-pa (urn) is placed in front of the statue of Sakyamuni Buddha; the names, time and places of birth of the candidates for the reincarnations of the Dalai Lama, Panchen Erdeni and other Grand Living Buddhas shall be written in Man, Han and Tibetan languages on ivory slates, and the slates shall be placed in the urn; then one of the slates is to be drawn out in the presence of those attending the ceremony; the result of the drawing shall be later submitted to the emperor or the central government for official approval.
Viewed from the extent of contents and the strictness of rules, the 29-Article Ordinance is undoubtedly a legal document exemplifying the Qing Dynasty's complete sovereignty over Tibet. Meanwhile, it is also the most complete statute book (code document) of the Qing court's governing of Tibet. In pursuance of the 29-Article Ordinance, the Qing Dynasty had governed Tibet effectively for more than 200 years.