An Historical Tragedy---The Fall of the Tubo Kingdom

Ming Xin, Ed.

PureInsight | June 14, 2004

[] Today's Tibet was once known as Tubo in ancient China. It was Songtsen Gampo that first established the powerful Tubo Kingdom and became the first Tsanpo ("Tibetan King" in Tibetan) in the Tubo Kingdom. The Tubo Kingdom once became so powerful under Songtsen Gampo's reign that Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty was willing to marry one of his daughters, Princess Wencheng, to the then Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo in AD 641.

Princess Wencheng journeyed to Tibet with a statue of Buddha Sakyamuni, and once in Tibet set about building the Buddhist monasteries in Lhasa. Artisans accompanying the princess were involved in the construction of monasteries, and accompanying Buddhist monks began translating Buddhist scriptures. Buddhism thus spread to Tibet. The three greatest Tibetan Kings, including Songtsen Gampo (6l7-698 A.D.), Trisong Deutsen (742-798 A.D.), and Tri Ralpachen (806-841 A.D.), were all devout Buddhists and did many things to promote Buddhism in Tibet. Buddhism thus became prevalent in Tibet. With the rise of Buddhism in Tibet, the Tubo Kingdom became increasingly powerful and its military power almost became comparable to that of the Tang Dynasty. In 836 A.D., the Tibetan King Tri Ralpachen was assassinated by his brother Lang Dharma, who was then installed as King. Lang Dharma believed in Bon and objected to Buddhism. During his reign, there was a severe and widespread persecution of Buddhists and Buddhism was extinguished in Tibet. In 846 A.D., Lang Dharma was assassinated, the Tubo Kingdom collapsed, and Tibet became a decentralized assortment of principalities struggling for power. Today let's look at this historic tragedy in more detail.

Tri Ralpachen was the third great religious king of Tibet. His father, Saenaleg, had five sons: Tsangma, Lang Dharma, Tri Ralpachen, Lhaje and Lhundup. The eldest son became a monk and the last two died during their childhoods. Lang Dharma was the fourth son. According to Tibetan historical records, Lang Dharma was a man who "liked meat and alcohol". He was "fierce, belligerent, and didn't have the heart for helping others." He was most notoriously known for his attempt to exterminate Buddhism in Tibet simply because he favored shamanism (or Bon in Tibetan.)

After Lang Dharma assassinated his brother Tri Ralpachen and seized power, he destroyed Buddhist monasteries, slaughtered monks and forced them to live secular lives and often conscripted them into the army. He banned all Buddhist activities and ordered his henchmen to remove Buddhist statues from monasteries, disfigure them by hammering nails into them, and throw them into the river. He also ordered the statue of Sakyamuni that Princess Wencheng had brought to Tibet to be thrown into the river, but it ended up being buried underground instead because it was too difficult to move it to the river. Because Princess Wencheng introduced Buddhism to Tibet, Lang Dharma created a slanderous lie about Princess Wencheng, telling the Tibetans that she was a Rakshasi reincarnated in order to achieve his goal of tarnishing Buddhism. [Note: In Hindu mythology, the Rakshas are a group of usually evil beings who are often in opposition to the gods, and to ordinary humans. The female form of the term is generally Rakshasi.] He ordered them to replace the frescoes of Buddha's in the Buddhist monasteries with those of Tibetan men drinking and partying. He also destroyed all the Buddhist scriptures in Tibet. Only a small number of Buddhist scriptures survived.

The consequences of the persecution of Buddhism was a period of about five generations during which there was a degree of social and cultural decline and confusion. Some historians attribute the persecution to concern over a decline in political authority. Lang Dharma, who had assassinated his own brother Tri Ralpachen, also died by assassination in Lhasa in 842 A.D., due to his ruthless persecution of Buddhism. The Tubo Kingdom, established in 127 B.C., collapsed with the death of Lang Dharma, the last of the Tsanpos (Tibetan Kings).

After Lang Dharma's death, his two concubines, with the support of imperial kinsmen and others, fought for the throne for their sons and split the imperial court in two. During the rule of Lang Dharma's grandsons, the two imperial courts suffered attacks from the populace and slave uprisings. The Tubo Kingdom, which once rivaled the Tang Dynasty, the zenith of all Chinese dynasties in terms of culture, wealth and military power, thus collapsed with the last Tibetan king, Lang Dharma, due to his ruthless persecution of Buddhism.

Since the collapse of the Tubo Kingdom, Tibet has been devoid of a powerful kingdom. All successive Tibetan kingdoms, such as Burang Kingdom, Guge Kingdom and Ladakh Kingdom, came under the jurisdiction of the Chinese dynasties, subordinate to the Pacification Commissioners General Office. The Tibetan culture has thus declined.

This is just one of many cases in Chinese history in which ancient monarchs who disrespected Buddha or persecuted Buddhism suffered from severe consequences and brought their people to the same tragic fate. Today Jiang Zemin is persecuting Falun Dafa, a Buddha school cultivation practice, and goading the Chinese people into becoming his accomplices. Do we leave the Chinese people to the same fate as the people in the perished Tubo Kingdom? Or should we teach them this valuable lesson from history and advise them to remedy the sin they have created?

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