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

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

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


Ryosuke Kobayashi, Kyushu University
Alice Travers, Collège de France
Federica Venturi, Collège de France / UCLA

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.

Event venue possible with support of UCLA Library.

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