China and Tibet Under Manchu Rule

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During the Manchu-led Qing Dynasty, which lasted from 1644 to 1911, several Tibetan monks held court appointments in the Beijing capital. After the fifth Dalai Lama paid tribute to the Qing emperor in 1652, he received the title of "Buddha of Great Compassion in the West." For most of its rule, the Qing central government officially recognized the political and religious authority of both the Dalai and Panchen Lamas. From the early 19th Century until the dynasty's collapse, Chinese rulers were principally occupied with managing the encroaching Western powers.

Tibetan Perpective

There was a recurring Manchu influence in Tibet following the enthronement of the seventh Dalai Lama. In 1720, the Manchus stationed a garrison in Lhasa alongside a Tibetan council of ministers. The garrison was withdrawn in 1723, allowing Tibetans to be the sole administrators of Central Tibet. By 1726, however, tensions arose among the council of ministers in Lhasa. The senior and junior ministers were at odds over policy issues, and this tension culminated in civil war where the senior minister Pholhanas emerged victorious.

Because of Tibet’s internal strife, the Manchus reestablished their presence in Tibet with a military garrison in Lhasa. Two resident Manchu officials, or Ambans, were in charge of the garrison, and the Dalai Lama was sent to Garthar. Additionally, a new council of ministers was set up. Pholhanas, however, had the real authority. He had such power that he did not recall the Dalai Lama. In fact, Pholhanas kept the Dalai Lama in a harness. Even when the Dalai Lama did return from Garthar, Pholhanas retained authority by maintaining ties with the Manchus and showing troop strength.

Following Pholhanas’ reign, the Dalai Lama assumed both spiritual and temporal power of Tibet in 1751. The Dalai Lama took power in the Kashag, or the new council of ministers. This new council, however, proved to be weak largely because of the council’s design in which everyone was to check each other and no one was to assume overall responsibility. Therefore, the Dalai Lama’s political life was plagued by difficulties.
Scholar's Perspective

During the reigns of the Kangxi, Yongzheng, and Qianlong emperors, many eminent Tibetan monks held positions of power in the Qing court, acting as intermediaries for the emperors to exert influence on Tibetan and Mongol populations. One of these strong relationships linking Tibetan clergy and the Manchu court, notable for its duration and closeness, was the connection between the emperors and the Lcang-skya Living Buddha. The Buddha’s third incarnation, Lcang-skya Rolpavi-rdorje, enjoyed a particularly intimate friendship with the Qianlong emperor. He received the emperor’s personal respect and served as both advisor and assistant to the royal court on issues related to Tibetan, Buddhist, and Mongol affairs.

Lcang-skya Rolpavi-rdorje’s many responsibilities in the Qing government underscore his close affiliation with the Chinese government and his authority as a representative of the Tibetan people. The official court post was first granted to the second Lcang-skya Living Buddha during the Kangxi reign. Kangxi held the second Lcang-skya Living Buddha in high esteem after the lama led military victories over the Mongols in Qinghai. When Rolpavi-rdorje was of age he immediately gained high status at court and began paying regular tributes to the Chinese emperors (Qianlong ascended to the throne shortly after Rolpavi-rdorje gained his title). Amongst his accomplishments were supervising the construction of monasteries; recruiting and training monks; translating Buddhist scriptures and compiling a Mongolian-Tibetan dictionary of Buddhist terms; and acting as emissary for the Qing court to Tibetan and Mongolian territories. In all, the relationship between Qianlong and Lcang-skya Rolpavi-rdorje was a substantial one marked by mutual respect.
Chinese Perspective

With the beginning of the Qing Dynasty in 1644, China's effective power over the Tibetan region surpassed that of the Ming and the Yuan. During this period, both the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Erdeni ruled Tibet. Over the years, Tibetan nobles and monks traveled to the imperial court in Beijing, where the Qing emperor would bestow upon them a seal of authority documenting his endorsement and authentication of their respective titles and positions. These proclamations, in turn, led to an increase of political power back home due to the emperor's official approval of his Tibetan subjects.

One of the most important developments of the Qing was the Imperial Ordinance of 1793. The 29 articles of the law laid out a system for the Amban, the office through which the imperial court governed Tibet, regarding such issues as administrative affairs, foreign affairs, border defense affairs, religious affairs, systems of personnel affairs, judicial affairs, and finance and tax. The order led to important steps in Tibet's growth as a province of China, such as the coining of money, the establishment of an army, and documenting all Living Buddhas and Lamas. Power ultimately rested in the hands of Beijing officials, although Tibetan leaders did play an integral role in ruling.

While the dynasty also had troubled times, including various uprisings in high levels of Tibetan government against the Qing, and an invasion by the Nepalese, the most damaging events were brought upon the region at the end of the era by British imperialists. Thus, despite minor setbacks until this point, the years of the Qing dynasty served only to strengthen China's control of the Tibetan area.


7th Dalai Lama (1708-1757):
born Kelzang Gyatso, a great scholar and poet, he was enthroned in the Potala Palace in 1720. In 1728, he was moved from Lhasa so that he had less influence on the Tibetan government. In 1751, he came back to Lhasa to preside over the Kashag.

Ambans: a high official in the Qing imperial government. Ambans were introduced in Tibet in 1727, and were used to influence Tibetan politics.

Emperor Kangxi (1654-1722): emperor of the Qing Dynasty for 61 years, making him the longest reigning Chinese Emperor in history. He was known as a man of great military and intellectual ability. During his reign, China saw great prosperity and growth.

Emperor Qianlong (1711-1799): fourth Qing Emperor to rule ever China, he reigned from 1735-1796. During his reign he was unrelentingly conservative and sinocentric. The Qing Dynasty began its demise during his reign.

Emperor Yongzheng (1678-1735): third Qing Emperor to rule of China, he ruled from 1722-1735. His main goal was to create an effective government at minimum expense, and he used military force in order to protect his dynasty. He is often considered to be despotic.

Imperial Ordinance of 1793: comprised of 29 acts, an order that placed the Ambans in absolute charge of financial, diplomatic and trade matters in Tibet.

Kashag: a four-man Council of Ministers presided over by the Dalai Lama created in 1751. The original design was largely ineffectual because everyone was to check each other and no one was to assume overall responsibility.

Panchen Erdeni: otherwise known as the Panchen Lama. The Panchen Erdeni is one of the two highest ranking lamas within the gelugpa tradtion along with the Dalai Lama.

Pholhanas: effective ruler of Tibet from 1733-1747. In the 1720s, he was a senior minister in the Council of Ministers whose interests rested with the Tsang. His interests led to conflict with the junior ministers and civil war emerged. He emerged victorious and became effective leader of Tibet. During his reign, he kept the Dalai Lama at bay and maintained ties with the Manchu.