Who Belongs to Tibet? Governmental Narratives of State in the Ganden Podrang

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The Ganden Podrang state of the Dalai Lamas maintained a complex and historically changing relationship to territory on the Tibetan Plateau, leading to extended contestations over history and sovereignty in the wake of the region's incorporation into the People's Republic of China in 1951. This article examines the historical development of the indigenous governmental concept of " Greater Tibet" from the seventh century to the final days of the Dalai Lama's rule in Tibet in 1959, through the lens of the Tibetan notion of the cholkha sum, or "three provinces". This term was originally part of Mongolian taxation policy in the 13th century, but was intimately linked by Tibetan authorities to the mythic sovereign territory of the seventh-ninth century Yarlung emperors of Central Tibet. This history was inherited by the authorities of the Dalai Lama's Ganden Podrang state (founded 1642). While the Cholkha Sum did not coincide territorially with the Dalai Lamas' political sovereignty (which was limited to Central and Southern Tibet), it was strongly associated with their religious and ritual suzereignty over Tibetan Buddhists, conceptualised in terms of the protectorship of Tibet's protector deity Chenresik, of whom both the Dalai Lamas and the earliest Buddhist king are seen as human manifestations. It was only during the period 1951-9, during widespread popular and guerrilla resistance to Chinese occupation and growing political loyalty to the Dalai Lamas that these two sovereign and suzereign domains became linked in Tibetan governmental discourse at Lhasa, creating "Greater Tibet" as a unified religious and political domain, and a basis for modern Tibetan nationalism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFacing Globalization in the Himalayas
Subtitle of host publicationBelonging and the Politics of the Self
EditorsGerard Toffin, Joanna Pfaff-Czarnecka
Number of pages23
ISBN (Print)9788132111627
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

Publication series

NameGovernance, Conflict and Civic Action
PublisherSage Publications Ltd.


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