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Beijing Review Archives
Special> China's Tibet: Facts & Figures> Beijing Review Archives
UPDATED: April 23, 2008 No.14, 1991
The Origin of the 14th Dalai Lama
Is Tibet a "Fully Functioning State"?
Bu Wen, Our Guest Commentator

The British Observer reported March 17,"The Dalai Lama disputes the British Foreign Office claim that Tibet is autonomous. In his opinion... (Tibet) from 1911 to 1950 had been a fully functioning state."

In making this remark, the Dalai Lama forgot his own origin and how Tenzin Gyatso, son of a peasant in China's Qinghai Province, became what he is today, the 14th Dalai Lama.

After the death of the 13th Dalai Lama in Lhasa on December 17, 1933, a soul boy, the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, was being sought in accordance with the accustomed religious rites. At that time, three soul boys were found. According to the regulations of the Qing government (1644-1911), the chosen soul boy had to be ratified by the Qing Court. The Regulations Concerning the Administration of Tibet, formulated by the Qing government in 1792 in order to strengthen the administration of Tibet, clearly stipulated that after the death of the Dalai Lama or Bainqen Lama, the soul boy should be decided through the drawing of lots if more than one were found. The names of all the soul boys discovered were to be written on tags in Chinese, Manchu and Tibetan languages and put into a special gold urn. The Qing government commissioner to Tibet would draw lots from the gold urn in the presence of representatives of both ecclesiastics and secular people; the chosen tag would hold the name of the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama or Bainqen Lama. This would then be reported to the Qing government for approval. This was the system of "drawing lots from the gold urn." The gold urn used at that time and in previous times is still intact today. The reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama was thus chosen through the drawing of lots from the gold urn.

For this, Regent Radreng, of the local Tibetan government, in the winter of 1938, wrote a report to Wu Zhongxin, chairman of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs of the nationalist government, then the central government. The report said "With regard to the method of participation of the representatives sent by the central government, it has been decided by the kasna the local Tibetan government) that after the arrival of the three soul boys, a ceremony of drawing lots should be held and that,in order for the confirmation to be widely accepted, the central government should send people to participate." In the report, Radreng also said that the central government was requested to order the Qinghai provincial government to urge Buddha Keutsang Rimpoche to accompany the Qinghai soul boy, referred to Tenzin Gyatso, the current 14th Dalai Lama, to go to Tibet. The nationalist government ordered Ma Bufang by telegram to provide the soul boy with an armed escort for his journey to Tibet and allocated 100,000 yuan for the escorted mission.

Tenzin Gyatso and his party set off from Xining in July 1939 and arrived in Lhasa without incident in early October. The Tibetan Kasha immediately sent a telegram to Chiang Kai-shek of the nationalist government reporting their safe arrival in Lhasa and indicated that the required ceremonies, such as having the soul boy's head shaved, conferring upon him his title and having him officially installed should be held on chosen auspicious days, and that reports on each activity would be immediately sent to the central government.

Thereafter, the local Tibetan government head, Regent Radreng, reported to the central government, saying that the Qinghai soul boy had distinguished himself by his extraordinary intellect and proposed that the formality of drawing lots from the gold urn could be omitted. On January 26,1940, in his letter to Wu Zhongxin, Regent Radreng declared that the Qinghai boy was warmly accepted as the reincarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama by the Tibetan ecclesiastics and secular people and by the upper and the lower classes. Since the masses were unanimous in their acceptance, there was no need to perform the ceremony of drawing lots from the gold urn, the soul boy should have his head shaved according to tradition and a report about the activity would be forwarded to the central government for the record. After receiving the letter from Regent Radreng, Wu Zhongxin sent a telegram the following day to the Executive Yuan of the nationalist government, then headed by Chiang Kai-shek, who in turn submitted a document on January 31 to the nationalist government, requesting the government to issue an order agreeing to omission of the confirmation ceremony, approve Tenzin Gyatso to be the 14th Dalai Lama and allocate funds for the official ceremony. On this basis, on February 3, 1940, Lin Sen, chairman of the nationalist government, issued an order by the nationalist government which read as follows:

"Order of the Nationalist Government

The Qinghai soul boy Tenzin Gyatso having distinguished himself by his extraordinary intellect, it being established through investigation that he is the incarnate 13th Dalai Lama and the confirmation formalities having been omitted, he is allowed to succeed as the 14th Dalai Lama and the order to this effect is hereby issued."

On February 22, 1940, when the 14th Dalai Lama was officially installed, the nationalist government, in accordance with previous regulations and the request of local Tibetan government, sent Wu Zhongxin, chairman of the Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, to attend the official installation ceremony.

The above-mentioned experience of the 14th Dalai Lama points out that the birth of the Dalai Lama as a local Tibetan leader at that time had to be reported to and granted ratification by the Central Chinese Government. It is therefore ridiculous to claim that Tibet had been a fully functioning state from 1911 to 1950. Facts fully prove that since the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century to 1911, after the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Tibet had always been under the sovereignty and administration of the Central Chinese Government.

Many other facts also prove that Tibet was a region under the administration of the Central Chinese Government between 1911 and 1950. For example, when the National Assembly (similar to a Western parliament) was convened by the nationalist government, the Tibet region, like other Chinese provinces, also sent representatives to attend the conference. According to the archives of the former nationalist government Commission for Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs, there were frequent exchanges of letters and telegrams between Tibet's Kasha and the office of the nationalist government in Tibet in regard to the dispatch of representatives in 1931, 1936, 1940 and 1946. These are all on record and supported by evidence. For example, historical archives indicate that when Regent Radreng and Dazha assumed office in succession after the death of the 13th Dalai Lama, their appointment was reported to the central government. The current Dalai Lama might not know these historical facts because he was too young at that time, but he can consult the relevant materials to have first-hand knowledge of the situation. On the basis of such historical facts, it is thus groundless for him to casually say that Tibet had been "a fully functioning state" after 1911.

(This article appears on page 4, No. 14, 1991)

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