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Was Tibet a part of 'China' during Ming dynasty?


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#1 bayonet

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 10:17 AM

Whether Tibet is part of Ming territory or not is arguable. Some argu that the Ming emperors had conferred kings or Living Buddhas on the Tibet lords especially the 1st Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and the Tibetans paid tribute regularly to the emperors in Beijing. Ming also set several administrative institutions in Tibet to deal with the local affairs. However, others protest that Tibet was independent at that time. The Ming has very little impact on the internal affairs of Tibet. Those institutions set by Ming gonvernment are no more than agents. What is your opinion? I d like to hear.

Feel free to combine or delete it if there are similar threads talked before.

#2 MingTaoHui

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 03:06 PM

Tibet was independent. There was a relationship between the two, but the government was free of the Chinese. Therefore, by definition, it was politically indeendent. The 1st Dali Lama may or may not have been placed there by the Chinese, but thats like saying, becuase we instituted the Shah, we controlled Iran (we didn't.)
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#3 Pax Americana

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Posted 31 December 2007 - 07:01 PM

Whether Tibet is part of Ming territory or not is arguable. Some argu that the Ming emperors had conferred kings or Living Buddhas on the Tibet lords especially the 1st Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and the Tibetans paid tribute regularly to the emperors in Beijing. Ming also set several administrative institutions in Tibet to deal with the local affairs. However, others protest that Tibet was independent at that time. The Ming has very little impact on the internal affairs of Tibet. Those institutions set by Ming gonvernment are no more than agents. What is your opinion? I d like to hear.

Feel free to combine or delete it if there are similar threads talked before.



There is really no straight answer to this. Perhaps at certain periods during the Ming dynasty, Beijing had more influence than at later periods. This is true for other dynasties as well and not just with Tibet but the tribes in the Mongolian plains, southwest and the northeast. Remember imperial China was an empire, thus its influence fluctuated even within a dynasty. Also, the concept of independence and political jurisdiction was more opaque than how it is defined in the modern world. Even today we see a number of exampes, Hong Kong and Macau are part of the China but yet they have great degree of autonomy, also there is the endless debate on the status of Taiwan.

Edited by Pax Americana, 31 December 2007 - 07:05 PM.


#4 jhf0551

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 12:59 PM

There is really no straight answer to this. Perhaps at certain periods during the Ming dynasty, Beijing had more influence than at later periods.

Agree. "Sovereignty" is just a modern concept. In Ming, "Wei-Suo" Policy (卫所制) is considered a kind of "sovereignty" over minority groups.
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#5 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 01:50 PM

This subject is rather amusing, since PRC historians tend to gravitate towards the belief that Tibet was not only part of Ming China, but the Ming upheld and perpetuated the old Yuan Dynasty system of appointments. From what I've seen, almost every other historian of other nationalities disagree, and state that Ming title granted to Tibetans were not only nominal, but were not a continuation of the Mongol Yuan policy. This is because, before the Ming existed, the Phagmodru myriarchy overthrew the Sakya regime in the 1350s, the latter of which was established by Kublai Khan as a sort of viceroy government over Tibet, with his most trusted lama Drogön Chögyal Phagpa at the head. Furthermore, the Ming court granted the title of "King" to pretty much anyone who walked in the door of the palace, and did not care for appointing the same sect that the Mongols had favored; in fact, the Ming haphazardly granted dozens of lamas the title of "King" and did not recognize one sole authority as the Mongols had. After all, Tibet was in the middle of an ongoing civil war between the Yellow Hat, Red Hat, and other lamaist sects. It is interesting at this point to mention that the Mingshi does not even mention the Yellow Hat sect, and for a very good reason: it would have deeply embarrassed and demoted the reputation of the Yongle Emperor. In the second volume of History of Tibet (2003), in the chapter entitled "Lama Tribute in the Ming Dynasty", historian Turrell V. Wylie writes on pages 469-470:

Even more important to the contention that the Ming policy cannot be regarded as one of renewing official appointments is the case of Chos-rje Shākya Ye-shes, a personal disciple of Tsong-ka-pa, founder of the Yellow-hat Dge-lugs-pa sect. The Yung-lo Emperor repeatedly invited Tsong-ka-pa to come to court, but he declined. Tsong-ka-pa finally sent his disciple, Chos-rje Shākya Ye-shes, in his stead. On his first visit to the court, this disciple was given the title of "State Teacher"; the same title originally given the Phagmo-gru ruler of Tibet. On a later visit to the court, this disciple received the title of Ta Tz'u Fa Wang ("Great Compassionate King of the Buddhist Law") from the Hsüan-te Emperor.

Chos-rje Shākya Ye-shes was just one among the many disciples of Tsong-ka-pa, yet he received a title with the pompous designation of "King". Presumably, he was then regarded as being on the same religious plane as the hierarchs of the Black-hat Karma-pa, the Sa-Skya-pa, and others who also were given the title of a "King".

Again, it is impossible to regard the title bestowed on Chos-rje Shākya Ye-shes as a "renewal of appointment" made by the Mongol emperors. The reformation movement that led to the rise of the Yellow-hat sect did not begin until after the fall of the Mongol dynasty, consequently no member of that sect could have been appointed to office by the Mongol court.

At this point it is important to note that neither the name of the Yellow-hat sect or that of its founder, Tsong-ka-pa, appear in the official history of the Ming Dynasty. The reason for this is provided by Li Tieh-tseng himself, who wrote that "In China not only the emperor could do no wrong, but also his prestige and dignity had to be upheld at any cost. Had the fact been made known to the public that Ch'eng-tsu's repeated invitations extended to Tsong-ka-pa were declined, the Emperor's prestige and dignity would have been considered as lowered to a contemptible degree, especially at a time when his policy to show high favours toward lamas was by no means popular and had already caused resentment among the people. This explains why no mention of Tsong-k'a-pa and the Yellow Sect was made in the Ming Shih and Ming Shih lu."

Such censorship of the official history of the Ming dynasty distorts the true picture of the period. It is clear, however, that the Ming emperors were not continuing the lama policy of the previous Mongol dynasty. Beginning with Khubilai Khan, the Mongol emperors had appointed a Sa-Skya lama as "Imperial Teacher" to serve as the viceroy of the Mongol-imposed government in Tibet. When the last Sa-Skya lama to hold that title died in 1358, the Sa-Skya regime had already been overthrown and the office of the "Imperial Teacher" fell into disuse. Although the Mongols had focused their support singularly on lamas of the Sa-Skya sect to rule Tibet, the Chinese emperors rewarded all who came to court regardless of sectarian affiliation. Since the Ming emperors were not following the Mongol practice, their lama policy must have been based on another consideration.


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#6 Howard Fu

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 03:35 PM

This subject is rather amusing, since PRC historians tend to gravitate towards the belief that Tibet was not only part of Ming China, but the Ming upheld and perpetuated the old Yuan Dynasty system of appointments. From what I've seen, almost every other historian of other nationalities disagree, and state that Ming title granted to Tibetans were not only nominal, but were not a continuation of the Mongol Yuan policy. This is because, before the Ming existed, the Phagmodru myriarchy overthrew the Sakya regime in the 1350s, the latter of which was established by Kublai Khan as a sort of viceroy government over Tibet, with his most trusted lama Drogön Chögyal Phagpa at the head. Furthermore, the Ming court granted the title of "King" to pretty much anyone who walked in the door of the palace, and did not care for appointing the same sect that the Mongols had favored; in fact, the Ming haphazardly granted dozens of lamas the title of "King" and did not recognize one sole authority as the Mongols had. After all, Tibet was in the middle of an ongoing civil war between the Yellow Hat, Red Hat, and other lamaist sects. It is interesting at this point to mention that the Mingshi does not even mention the Yellow Hat sect, and for a very good reason: it would have deeply embarrassed and demoted the reputation of the Yongle Emperor. In the second volume of History of Tibet (2003), in the chapter entitled "Lama Tribute in the Ming Dynasty", historian Turrell V. Wylie writes on pages 469-470:



Eric (En Rui)

Hi Eric,
Great post!
Just one thing, I think Mingshi was edited in Qing. All 24 histories are edited in later dynasties.

From Snow Lion and Dragon

Relations between Tibet and China continued during the Ming dynasty, but unlike their Yuan predecessors, the Ming emperors (1368–1644) exerted no administrative authority over the area. Many titles were given to leading Tibetans by the Ming emperors, but not to confer authority as with the Mongols. By conferring titles on Tibetans already in power, the Ming emperors merely recognized political reality


Edited by Howard Fu, 11 April 2008 - 03:48 PM.

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#7 Borjigin Ayurbarwada

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 05:28 PM

Only Qing Hai was under some political supervision by the Wei Suo. I honestly don't understand how the PRC could claim Ming sovereignty over all of Tibet, it is just a weak argument, even as a political propaganda. The Ming even had more influence in both name and fact over states like Korea.

Furthermore, Tibet was never made into a Yuan province. Yuan's control over Tibet was similar to Tang's control over northern Mongolia. It is based on jimi rule by appointing local rulers to govern the other tribes.

Edited by warhead, 11 April 2008 - 05:34 PM.


#8 Non-Han Nan Ban

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 05:50 PM

Just one thing, I think Mingshi was edited in Qing. All 24 histories are edited in later dynasties.


This is a good point. The Mingshi was fully compiled by 1739, during Qianlong's early reign. We could speculate as to why the Qing editors, compiling a government-sanctioned and overseen history, chose also to ignore the Yellow Hat sect and episodes such as this. Perhaps besmirching the name of Yongle while showing the reality of Tibetan relations was not in their best interest, especially when their sovereign Qianlong had ambitions for Tibet and, like all Chinese emperors, could turn to historical precedent (such as the reign of Yongle) to legitimate Qing presence and influence in Tibet.

Also, the Snow Lion and Dragon quote was valuable. Thank you for sharing.

Only Qing Hai was under some political supervision by the Wei Suo. I honestly don't understand how the PRC could claim Ming sovereignty over all of Tibet, it is just a weak argument, even as a political propaganda. The Ming even had more influence in both name and fact over states like Korea.

Furthermore, Tibet was never made into a Yuan province. Yuan's control over Tibet is similar to Tang's control over northern Mongolia. It is based on jimi rule by appointing local rulers to govern the other tribes.


Which is why I think you'd find the argument of PRC historians Wang Jiawei and Nyima Gyaincain amusing. Quick! Can you read 30 or 40 pages of their book and find holes in their argument? :P

http://books.google....gC2xpTM#PPP3,M1

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#9 大泽升龙

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 06:35 PM

Whether Tibet is part of Ming territory or not is arguable. Some argu that the Ming emperors had conferred kings or Living Buddhas on the Tibet lords especially the 1st Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama, and the Tibetans paid tribute regularly to the emperors in Beijing. Ming also set several administrative institutions in Tibet to deal with the local affairs. However, others protest that Tibet was independent at that time. The Ming has very little impact on the internal affairs of Tibet. Those institutions set by Ming gonvernment are no more than agents. What is your opinion? I d like to hear.

Feel free to combine or delete it if there are similar threads talked before.


I don't think Ming was a part of China then. The modern concept of "China" was conceived ~100 years ago.

#10 Yun

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Posted 11 April 2008 - 08:54 PM

The modern concept of "China" was conceived ~100 years ago.


'Cina' or 'China' has been a foreign name for part or all of present-day China for a long, long time, probably starting with the Indians and Central Asians. I think what you mean is that the idea of 'China' (Zhongguo) as having fixed boundaries throughout history is a modern construct. That is correct. In fact, we can even trace the origin of that concept to Tan Qixiang's team of historical geographers who produced the first Historical Atlas of China between the 1950s and 1980s. They decided that the fixed boundaries of 'China' corresponded to the size of the Qing Empire at its height (i.e. the present-day PRC and ROC-Taiwan, as well as Mongolia and the part of Siberia ceded to Russia), because this was the natural maximum extent of expansion that could be achieved based on cultural and economic interactions between different peoples within 'China'. Of course, this argument is inherently teleological and the status of Mongolia and eastern Siberia would become tricky. But Tan Qixiang resolved the latter problem by saying that the loss of these natural parts of 'China' was a result of Russian and Soviet imperialism and that China would not try to claim them back.

So, according to Tan Qixiang's reasoning, Tibet was a part of China from 1368 to 1644 even if it was never a part of the Ming Empire, since the Ming Empire did not cover all of 'China'. As for whether Tibet really was never a part of the Ming Empire, previous posts have already addressed that.
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#11 Borjigin Ayurbarwada

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Posted 30 November 2008 - 10:43 AM

This subject is rather amusing, since PRC historians tend to gravitate towards the belief that Tibet was not only part of Ming China, but the Ming upheld and perpetuated the old Yuan Dynasty system of appointments...the Phagmodru myriarchy overthrew the Sakya regime in the 1350s, the latter of which was established by Kublai Khan as a sort of viceroy government over Tibet,

I think this argument only holds weight with regard to Qinghai, then eastern Tibet. The Duo Gan Dusi established there had some authority over the locals and the Ming held regular tributary contact with the rulers in the region, granting titles and appointing positions to successive generation and even intervening militarily at times. The Phagmodru had much of whats today the Tibetan autonomous region so Ming continuation of appointment of Yuan officials would have no meaning since they already lost power in the region. I consider a region only truly subject to another if the locals themselves recognize the subjugation, and in the case of U Tsang, evidenve indicate that these nationalist Tibetan rulers did not consider themselves as acting on behave of the Ming court.

Edited by Borjigin Ayurbarwada, 30 November 2008 - 10:47 AM.


#12 orangejuice

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 11:03 PM

I'm sorry ,I have to correct some one ,Tibet was a part of China in Ming dynasty is defenite, there are some much material evidence , but some west people doubt the <Mingshi> , said it onle service for the Qing rule, well , if Qing made the fake evidence that Tibet was a part of Ming , how can they made so much evidence ? otherwise, please some one try to reference the <Ming tai zu shi lu> was worte in Ming dystany , there are some much words say that Tibet is a part of Ming .
btw , please don't use the modern west sovereignty thinking to think about China ,especial ancient China , even in nowday, the China not full control the HongKing and Macau ,they still rule by themselves , can you say HongKong and Macau not a part of China ? so please do not use west thinking to think about China , west and China growth by different history ,different culture

Edited by orangejuice, 09 May 2010 - 11:06 PM.


#13 JamyangNorbu

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 11:46 AM

I think this argument only holds weight with regard to Qinghai, then eastern Tibet. The Duo Gan Dusi established there had some authority over the locals and the Ming held regular tributary contact with the rulers in the region, granting titles and appointing positions to successive generation and even intervening militarily at times.


I believe these practices also extended to the Eastern portions of khams.
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#14 tjoa

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 02:34 PM

I don't know if this is relevant but some linguists have put Chinese in the group of languages known as Tibeto-Burman.

#15 Borjigin Ayurbarwada

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Posted 10 May 2010 - 10:15 PM

I'm sorry ,I have to correct some one ,Tibet was a part of China in Ming dynasty is defenite, there are some much material evidence , but some west people doubt the <Mingshi> , said it onle service for the Qing rule, well , if Qing made the fake evidence that Tibet was a part of Ming , how can they made so much evidence ? otherwise, please some one try to reference the <Ming tai zu shi lu> was worte in Ming dystany , there are some much words say that Tibet is a part of Ming .
btw , please don't use the modern west sovereignty thinking to think about China ,especial ancient China , even in nowday, the China not full control the HongKing and Macau ,they still rule by themselves , can you say HongKong and Macau not a part of China ? so please do not use west thinking to think about China , west and China growth by different history ,different culture


Chinese materials are meaningless when the Tibetan materials of the time did not confirm any part of it. The only material evidence we have for an alleged Ming control over central Tibet is that there was a Wusi Zang Duwei that was established over it and the supervisor of Tibet was a Wei Suo general who resided in Gansu. The fact that there are no Chinese administrative structure established anywhere near central Tibet nor did Chinese soldiers set foot in it shows that this administration is no more than a propaganda. Tibetan sources of the period never even mentioned the name of the Ming general nor the Wusi Zang Duwei. In fact, the Phagmodru regime that ruled central Tibet at the time was quite nationalistic, it tried to implement many administrative functions dating from the Yarlung period in an attempt to strengthen Tibet. Surely, if Tibet recognized Ming rule, it would have been clearly recorded, as Tibetan sources clearly do for the Qing period. (Biographies of kings such as Polhane even referred to the Qing emperor as lord of all the Tibetan people)




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