The 13th Dalai Lama

By Christian Schmidt

1876_____Ngawang Lobsang Thupten Gyatso, the 13th Dalai Lama, is born. During the quest for the reincarnation, the abbot selected travels to the holy lake of Lhamö Lha-tso. It is winter. After long meditation he sees the figure of a family in the shimmering ice; he can even see the house where the family lives. On the journey back to Lhasa he stops in the village of Perchode, where he discovers the very things he has seen in the lake. Upon investigation he learns that, in the night of his conception, the mother of the future Dalai Lama had dreamed of a garland of prayer flags stretching from Potala Palace to her house. Satisfied with their interrogation, the regent and the abbots visit the family and take them back to Lhasa where, two years after his birth, the boy is officially declared the 13th Dalai Lama. The “Ocean of Learnedness” will at last supply Tibet once again with an outstanding Dalai Lama, a powerful leader in matters both secular and religious. And, with Asia in a greater political uproar than ever, Tibet is in need of just such a figure.

1904_____The British invasion forces the Dalai Lama for the first time to leave his country for exile. He flees to Mongolia.

1908_____The Dalai Lama travels from Mongolia to Beijing to demonstrate his subjection to the Emperor. He refuses, however, to kowtow as expected, showing his respect merely by going down on one knee. Nevertheless he is obliged to submit to a new Chinese edict: Tibet is from now on to be considered a province of China. In return the Dalai Lama receives a new title and five railway cars filled with gifts.

1909_____The Dalai Lama returns to Lhasa in December. The situation is worsening.

1910_____In February the Dalai Lama must again flee. He withdraws through Sikkim to Darjeeling, where he asks for aid from the British, with whom he has been recently reconciled. Beijing once again declares the Dalai Lama’s dethronement.

1913_____In January the Dalai Lama returns. His entry into Lhasa turns into a triumph train. He has the remaining soldiers disarmed, proclaims Tibet’s sovereignty, and begins a series of national reforms: he abolishes the medieval system of dependencies obtaining among agricultural workers, forbids the monasteries to levy taxes, and makes physical mutilation as punishment illegal.

1933_____The 13th Dalai Lama dies in December at the age of 58.