|The Ninth Panchen Lama with Chiang Kai-Chek and 'Young Marshal' Zhang Xueliang|
During the first two decades of the twentieth century, the main factor which weakened the Tibetan State was the dispute between the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. The differences between the two Lamas were fully exploited by the Chinese to their own advantage. The British themselves were not innocent in the affair. The split between the Ninth Panchen Lama and the Thirteenth Dalai Lama began over a trivial matter of taxation, although it involved the important issue of national security and the financing of the army.
Between Simla Convention in 1913 until the early twenties, Tibet had been waging a constant war with China in Kham Province of Eastern Tibet. This war cost the Tibetan Government dearly. Even when the British provided arms and ammunition to Lhasa, the British had to be paid.
The Dalai Lama’s objective was to build a strong army for defence based on the British model of military training.
From the start two main ‘lobbies’ tried to oppose the changes; their objections were not only ideological, but primarily with regard to distribution of power and who would pay to raise the Army.
Things took a turn for the worse when it became clear that the monasteries would have to contribute from the revenue of their estates.
When the Tibetan Government in Lhasa decided to unilaterally tax the Tashilhunpo, the seat of the Panchen Lamas, for a quarter of the Army’s expenses, it provided the needed excuse to spark off the old dispute between Lhasa and the monastery. The question of taxation brought many other problems to the surface but the main one was the issue of the administrative autonomy of different provinces and the large estates in Tibet.
The Tashilhunpo administration regarded Lhasa’s decision to impose this new taxation as interference in its internal affairs: the Tashilhunpo considered itself a local government and resented being treated as a vassal by Lhasa. This may well have been one of the points, apart from collection of taxes that the Dalai Lama wanted to make: there was only one Government of Tibet, that of the Ganden Phodang headed by the Kashag with its seat in Lhasa.
Relations between Lhasa and Shigatse deteriorated when in 1917, Lhasa decided to levy a new tax on the Tashilhunpo’s estate in Gyantse district. Again the Panchen Lama’s administration informed Lhasa that since they could not afford to pay the tax, they would not pay it.
When the Panchen Lama took the matter to the British Government, the situation turned sour. The Panchen Lama then decided to leave Tibet for China. He made it a point to declare that “he did not want to further embarrass the Dalai Lama … [I am leaving] for a short period to make it easier for His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”
The Panchen Lama reached China in February 1924.
The Chinese were delighted to welcome him. He was received with full honours by the Emperor and although the Chinese were very much engaged in their own civil war, they felt confident that with the Panchen Lama’s card in their hand, they could again have a role to play in Tibetan affairs.
The departure of the Panchen Lama, who was highly revered by the Tibetan people all over the country, was considered a bad omen. He was known to all as a gentle and very erudite Lama. His departure somehow strengthened the conservative forces in Lhasa. The old habit of keeping Tibet closed to the outside world again prevailed.
The split between the two religious leaders was made full use of by the Chinese government to ensure its control over Tibet. The saga continued with the succeeding Dalai Lama (Fourteenth) and Panchen Lama (Tenth) and still continues today.
The differences between the two Lamas was symbolic of the division between those who thought that Tibet should assert its independence — build a strong Army and have an independent foreign policy — and those who believed in a more traditional relationship with China.
China Tibet Online recently published an article on the Ninth Panchen Lama's first visit to Nanjing, the seat of the National government.
“At the beginning of May 1931, the capital of the National Government, Nanjing, experienced spring rain. The mission of the Ninth Panchen Lama to Nanjing was to attend the nation’s most important meeting, the National Convention for the first time,” explained the website.
The arrival of the Panchen Lama in the Nationalists’ capital was described in detail: “the National Government has made extremely elaborate arrangements for the occasion. …The car [of the Lama] had ‘welcome’ characters; it was decorated with apricot yellow silk.” Inside the car, the seats were also covered with apricot yellow silk;” incense was burning around.
Ma Fuxiang, chairman of the Mongolian and Tibetan Committee, told the Panchen Lama as the latter arrived: "Despite the rain today, the number of people welcoming you are very large, a committee is coming to Beijing [to receive you]; the masses are also enjoying your presence."
The Ninth Panchen Lama answered with a smile: "Spring Rain is good."
The political activities of the Panchen Lama, who was for the first time in the capital soon became the focus of the media attention, observed the article.
On May 5, 1931, the opening ceremony of the National Convention took place. The Panchen Lama, who wore a yellow satin robe, sat in the guest seat; he was ‘dazzling’, according to a Chinese report; he declared that though he was far away from his people, he had to come for the grand meeting and meet the national representatives.
After the opening ceremony, the Ninth Panchen Lama went to visit the Sun Yat-sen Mausoleum and depose a wreath; he conveyed to the outside world his firm support for the ‘Five-Nation Republic’ concept.
|Ma Fuxiang, 'Young Marshal' and the Panchen Lama|
On May 16, during a military parade, the Ninth Panchen Lama was seen near Chiang Kai-shek “which is quite meaningful,” noted the article.
On May 25, the Ninth Panchen Lama delivered a speech in the Grand Hall of the Central Party in Nanjing in honour of Sun Yat-Sen. In his speech, he declared: “Nine years have passed since I arrived in the mainland. I have come to the capital to see the political prosperity and the spirit of the National Assembly. I am optimistic about the future of the country. If the government loses Tibet [to the Tibetan government], I will inevitably be sad. I hope the government can use its political power to prevent this. I hope that the government will pay attention to the suffering of the frontier people.”
He clearly wanted Nationalist China to help him to return to Tibet.
He hoped that the Central Government would treat equally all ethnic groups in the country [China]. His sincere support to the central government deeply touched the government and the people, said a report.
Ma Fuxiang, chairman of the Mongolian and Tibetan Committee, wrote a secret report about this to the Central Committee on June 21, 1931.
The article also noted that the Panchen Lama was well-versed in teaching religion and that the Tibetans were deeply rooted in [Buddhism]: “In order to publicize the central government decrees and soothe the Buddhist people in the local lama temples, we plan to invite the special Panchen Erdeni to be the ambassador in Xuanhua, and to choose the appropriate location in Qinghai and Xikang provinces to organize all the administrative matters.”
Does it mean that the Nanjing government planned to have a separate administration outside Central Tibet to manage the affairs of the Land of Snows?
Probably because Nanjing promised to make internal arrangements, provide the necessary funds, and planned for the annual banquet of the Panchen Lama; the President of China had however to approve the details of these measures.
On June 24, the Ninth Panchen Lama, after his first visit to Nanjing “was highly praised by the National Government and given the highest reputation …because he respected the peaceful reunification. He was awarded the title of ‘Huguo Xuanhua Guanghui Yuanjue Master’ [the Grand Master who Protects the Country and Propagates its Values]”.
On the same day, the Panchen Lama wrote a letter to the top leaders of the National Government, in a deep and affectionate manner and self-humility; the commentary said: "There is nothing but a deep understanding of the country.”
On June 27, 1931, the Nanjing National Government sent an ambassador to meet the Panchen Lama: “the Ninth Panchen Lama complied with the customs of the Qing Dynasty, and sincerely thank the National Government for the recognition of his country [Tibet]” noted the report.
Then, the chairman and the members of the National Government took the seats: “The Ninth Panchen Lama went to the Chairman, exchanged khata, and then went to the interview room: “The Chairman [Chang kai-shek?] is seated, the inner long left seat, the chairman of the Mongolian Tibetan Committee, the right seat, the Panchen."
At 10 am in the morning on July 1, 1931, the Panchen Lama was awarded the title "Master of Protection of the People's Republic of China" in the Grand Hall of the Nanjing National Government.
Dai Jitao, Ma Fuxiang, Chen Guofu, Kong Xiangxi and other national government officials were present. The Panchen Lama wore yellow clothes: “When he slowly entered, he was accompanied by site military music to the auditorium.”
The ceremony was presided over by the acting representative of the National Government on behalf of the Chairman [Chiang?]; he delivered a speech and hoped that the Panchen Lama "will carry forward the light, and follow the government's intention." The Panchen Lama spoke of "Piously Praying for the Protection of the Country Based" and said: "There is only one religion, praying sincerely, and protecting [the nation]."
Photographer witnessed this important historical moment.
The National Government presented a gift to the Panchen Lama who stayed in a Guest House in the heavily guarded headquarters of the General Command: “It shows that the National Government attaches great importance to the safety of the Ninth Panchen Lama.”
After the ceremony was completed, "all the dignitaries and journalists shook hands with the Panchen Lama and congratulated him."
The article concluded by saying: “The high-standard courtesy and the respect for the patriotic Buddhist leaders at the national level further strengthened the patriotic heart of the Ninth Panchen Lama to fully safeguard national unity and territorial integrity.”
Incidentally, there is a photo of the Ninth Panchen Lama with Chiang Kai-shek and Zhang Xueliang known as the ‘Young Marshall’, who was the effective ruler of Northeast China and much of northern China after the assassination of his father, Zhang Zuolin (the ‘Old Marshal’).
During the 1936 Xian Incident, Zhang arrested and briefly imprisoned Chiang Kai-shek demanding that Chiang should start fighting the Japanese rather than the Communists (and have a United Front against the Communists). At that time, the Japanese had already taken over Manchuria. Zhou En-lai intervened and negotiated the release of Chiang Kai-shek. However, later Chiang turned the tables and got his revenge by arresting the ‘Young Marshall’ who remained under KMT house arrest till 1949 on the Mainland and later in Taiwan. Zhang eventually died in the US in 2001.
He is today a hero for Communist China …like the Ninth Panchen Lama.
The New Chinese Panchen Lama
Visiting the Mausoleum of the Yellow Emperor in Huangling, Yan'an, Shaanxi, Gyaltsen Norbu, the Eleventh Panchen Lama selected by China, recently offered baskets of flowers and a khata to the Huangdi Mausoleum. He purchased a 'prayer card' and wrote: "the prosperity of the motherland, national unity, and people's happiness," was his wishes.
He also said that patriotism and love education was in his heart: "Protecting the country and benefiting the people is my mission. No matter what kind of social position I am in, my initial mission will not change. I will always move in this direction."
He will soon be a hero in China too, like his predecessor.