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Buddhism and Violence in Asia: The Case of the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period (1642–1959)

Buddhism and Violence in Asia: The Case of the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period (1642–1959)

Schigatse, tibetisches Militär mit Dzong, Truppenparade, Ernst Schäffer, © Bundesarchiv., 1938/1939, 135-S-17-14-39. ("Shigatse, Tibetan army with castle, military parade.")

Friday, November 1, 2019
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Charles E. Young Research Library Presentation Room

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Alice Travers, CNRS, CRCAO: TibArmy’s Recent Research Developments on the Theme of Buddhism and the Military in Tibet

Ryosuke Kobayashi, Kyushu University: Militarization of Dargyé Monastery: Contested Borders on the Sino-Tibetan Frontier during the Early Twentieth Century

Federica Venturi, CNRS, CRCAO / UCLA: His Holiness’ Army: Some examples from the Documents of the Fifth and Thirteenth Dalai Lamas

The existence of an army in Tibet during the period of rule of the Dalai Lamas (1642–1959) is not a well known fact, as the roof of the world is generally celebrated as a peaceful realm, far removed, in its supposed isolation, from the mundane concerns and anxieties of the rest of the world. However, not only such an army did exist, but it also operated and was overseen well within the parameters of the Buddhist government of which the Dalai Lamas were the spiritual and temporal heads, the Ganden Phodrang.

In order to better understand the role of the Tibetan army during this crucial historical period, in which the greater part of the Tibetan plateau was united under a single religio-political leader of immense charisma, this panel aims to examine the rapport between the Buddhist government of the Dalai Lama and its army from multiple viewpoints. Questions considered will include:

What ideological basis were used to justify the recourse to warfare? In which occasions? How aware were the Dalai Lamas of the operations of the army? Why and how were religious hierarchs integrated into the administration and even command of the army? And finally, how were monasteries, especially the ones near the contentious boundary with China, strategically involved by the Lhasa government to play a political and military role in border conflicts?

On the occasion of the publication of the first collection of articles dedicated to these topics (Buddhism and the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period, 1642–1959, Cahiers d’Extreme Asie 27) the output of an ERC-financed project dedicated entirely to the study of the Tibetan army (https://tibarmy.hypotheses.org), the panel will offer a synthesis of the latest research on this matter.

Ryosuke Kobayashi is a lecturer at Kyushu University in Japan and specializes in modern Tibetan history. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Tsukuba in Japan. He was a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Research Fellow (PD) at Toyo Bunko from 2010 to 2013. He was a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow for Research Abroad as well as a visiting scholar at the Weatherhead East Asian Institute, Columbia University from 2014 to 2016. He was at Harvard-Yenching Institute from 2016 to 2017 as a visiting scholar. His research interests include the local history of Kham, otherwise known as eastern Tibet, and the foreign policies of the Tibetan government in the early 20th century.

Alice Travers is a permanent researcher at the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), in the East Asian Civilisations Research Centre (CRCAO, UMR 8155, Paris), where she has been mainly working on the social history of Tibet in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and on the history of the Ganden Phodrang army. She is the Principal Investigator of the ERC-funded TibArmy Project (ERC Starting Grant 2015 n° 677952) “The Tibetan Army of the Dalai Lamas, 1642-1959”. She has published several articles on the Tibetan aristocracy, on the Ganden Phodrang administration, the intermediate classes of Central Tibet and on military history. She has co-edited several books, the most recent ones being Commerce and Communities: Social and Political Status and the Exchange of Goods in Tibetan Societies (with Jeannine Bischoff; Berlin: Bonner Asienstudien Band 16, EB-Verlag, 2018) and Buddhism and the Military in Tibet during the Ganden Phodrang Period, 1642–1959 (with Federica Venturi, Special issue of the Cahiers d’Extrême Asie, vol. 27, 2018).

Federica Venturi is a researcher attached to the ERC-funded “TibArmy” Project at the CRCAO, CNRS in Paris, and a visiting scholar in the Department of Anthropology at UCLA for the 2019-2020 academic year. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Central Eurasian Studies at Indiana University and er interests center around various aspects of Tibetan history, including the sanctioning of violence for political reasons by Tibetan Buddhist hierarchs and how the interrelation of politics, economics and religion affected the history of holy places in Tibet. She has published several articles and a monograph on Tibetan holy places, as well as articles on different aspects of the Tibetan army, most recently as co-editor (with Alice Travers) of the first collective volume of the TibArmy project.

Event venue possible with support of UCLA Library.

Sponsor(s): Program on Central Asia, Center for Buddhist Studies