Masking the Myth with Sophistry - An echo to the China Times' article "The Myths about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Issue” (Part 1)

Published:2013/2/26    10:00

(By the True Heart News interviewing team in Taipei) An assistant professor published an article on 2 Dec. 2012 entitled The Myths about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Issue in The China Times under the pen-name, Donghua. In his article, Mr. Donghua wrote: "Taiwan society is permeated with myths about the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan issue. Because of these myths, Taiwan’s mainstream media and political figures shower one-sided support for the Dalai Lama and his government-in-exile, drowning out all other viewpoints." Backed by the historical evidence and compelling arguments, Mr. Donghua’s incisive views and analysis dispelled much of the delusions that have been clouding the general public’s understanding about the Tibetan issue.

Donghua directly poked the weak spot of the Tibetan issue. Fearing that Donghua’s views would shake the myths that bolster its long-enjoyed false prestige, the Tibet Religious Foundation of H.H. the Dalai Lama responded vehemently. It published a rebuttal against Donghua’s Op-Ed in the "Comment on Current Tibet Affairs" column on its official website. While the author of this rebuttal article scrambled to uphold the three myths picked apart by Donghua, the historical evidence he cited did not add up and the arguments he set forth were far-fetched and incoherent. Not only did it fail to refute Mr. Donghua’s views, it actually laid bare the untenable weaknesses of his arguments and unwittingly reinforced Mr. Donghua’s conclusions.

For instance, one of the myths Mr. Donghua challenged was the biased historical perspective that has been employed to mislead the public, which “depicts the multiethnic China as an ethnically homogenous nation in order to undermine the legitimacy of modern Chinese governance over the ethnic minority regions after 1912.” However, historical accounts of China show that the current national maps of the territory of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China were inherited from the Qing Dynasty. This territory was not acquired by an expanding agricultural regime from the Central Plain of China. Rather, it was formed by the theocratic regimes of Old Tibet and the Western Regions (Xiyu) which, following the example set by Mongols during the Yuan Dynasty, sought to conquer the Central Kingdom and become upper class rulers of the Han Chinese. Tibetan politicians and people cannot claim innocence of this historical fact, nor is it necessary for them to resort to self-denial. Nonetheless, the Tibet Religious Foundation of H.H. the Dalai Lama denied the historical facts with four counterarguments, and claimed that “In the history of China, countries established by ethnic groups along the Chinese border are different from China.”

The first counterargument in the rebuttal states: “In AD 763, Tibetan (aka Tubo) troops took over the Chinese capital Chang’an and forced Tang Emperor Daizong to flee to Shanzhou. In 787, Tibet signed a peace treaty with the Tang Dynasty. Between 821 and 822, the Zhongbo Treaty was drawn up in the Changqing Alliance, which stipulated that Tibet and China were two equal sovereigns and confirmed the borders between the two countries. Steles engraved with the content of the treaty were erected in three locations: Lhasa (the capital of Tibet), Chang’an (the capital of China), and the borders of the two countries.” Zhang Gongpu, Chairman of the True Enlightenment Education Foundation comments that the Tang history cited above paints a biased picture of history and sidesteps all the detracting details. With a closer look of the full historical picture, this counterargument does not stand.

Chairman Zhang points out that it is widely known that the Tang Dynasty’s decline was first spurred by eunuch problems and party conflicts, but the unexpected turn was the “An Shi Rebellion.” While the secession of fanzhen (local generals) was the direct consequence of this rebellion, it also indirectly invited devastating foreign intrusions. After the rebellion of General An Lushan, the central government of Tang mobilized the troops stationed in the military districts of Longyou and Hexi, which were guarding its southwest border, to fight the insurgence in the Central Plain, leaving no defense at the borders.

Presented with this opportunity, the Tibetan nobles decided to launch a full-scale invasion of Tang in AD 763, resulting in the exile of Emperor Daizong and the fall of Chang’an, its capital city. Since then the Tibetan armies frequently plundered and ravaged the Guanzhong Plain as the Central Plain was embroiled in chaotic clashes among the fanzhen, leaving the western border undefended. (Note 1) Chairman Zhang comments that, although the Tibetans never established new regimes outside Tibet or within Chinese territory, they beleaguered China like bandits when China was in a precarious state. Tang history never denied the status of Tibet as a foreign feudal state, but rather Tang and Tibet were maintained, nominally and in formalities, an uncle-and-nephew relationship which was established by the two Tang princesses Wencheng and Jincheng, who were purposely married to Tibetan kings. The rebuttal article cited the above history to argue for “fact #1”: "In the history of China, the nations established by ethnic peoples along its borders are distinct from the Chinese state." However, this superfluous argument entirely misses the point. It serves no meaning other than politically inciting ethnic division to benefit the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile. In addition, the rebuttal used the words “In the history of China,” which obviously indicates the issue in concern is a Chinese issue. In that case, twisting words is unacceptable.

Note 1: Bo Yang, The Chinese History Outline, Vol. 2, Star Press (Taipei), 1st edition, May 1992. pp. 552-553.

In AD 787, Tibet finally signed a "peace treaty" with the Tang Dynasty; however, the proceedings of this treaty were far from peaceful. Emperor Dezong (Li Gua), the successor to Emperor Daizong, sought to make peace with the Tibetan troops. Yet Tibet considered this reconciliation an end to its fortune and was unwilling to cease its plundering. At the end, Tibet accepted Emperor Dezong’s treaty with a treacherous twist. In 787, Tang’s Prime Minister Hun-Yu met with his Tibetan counterpart in the city Ping Liang Chuan in Jingzhou to seal the treaty. As Hun-Yu entered the venue, a Tibetan ambush came from all directions. Fortunately, Hun-Yu grabbed a horse and fled, but all the other Chinese officials left behind were captured and brutally tortured. (Note 2)

Note 2: Bo Yang, The Chinese History Outline, Vol. 2, Star Press (Taipei), 1st edition, May 1992. p. 553.

After the ambush, Tibetan troops took the chance to charge into Longzhou, where they rounded up its residents and slaughtered all the old and infirm. Most residents had their eyes gauged and arms chopped off and were abandoned on roadside. Such savage cruelty exactly mirrored the way aristocrats treated the serfs in old Tibetan society. At the time, there still remained several tens of thousands of young men and women. They were forced to march westward. When they reached the Anhua Gorge, they were told: "You can bid farewell to your homeland in the east!" They wailed and howled. Several thousands of them threw themselves into the valley while the rest were sold into slavery. Chairman Zhang explains that he is just citing these historical accounts to make clear that China has not always played the role of an “aggressor” in its relations with Tibet. Ethnic conflicts or interactions have always been dynamic and volatile; the switch from friends to foes happens all the time and is simply inevitable, as Mr. Donghua stated in his article: "If people propose to drive out their aggressors, then the score will never be settled." Mr. Donghua’s insightful opinion bespeaks his high-mindedness and clemency. In comparison, the rebuttal article muddies the facts and advances divisive and embittering arguments. It goes without saying who is more credible. (Note 3)

Note 3: Bo Yang, The Chinese History Outline, Vol. 2, Star Press (Taipei), 1st edition, May 1992. p. 554.

The rebuttal states that “Between AD 821 and AD 822, the Zhongbo Treaty was drawn up in the Changqing Alliance, which stipulated that Tibet and China were two equal sovereigns and confirmed the borders between the two countries. Steles engraved with the content of the treaty were erected in three locations.” Here the rebuttal’s author seized on the opportunity, twisting the historical facts to suit and serve the standpoint publicized by Dalai’s regime in-exile. Chairman Zhang points out that, according to historical records, eight sessions were held between Tang and Tibet from 705 to 822. Since the eighth of these sessions was held between the first and second year of Changqing (821 to 822) of Tang Emperor Muzong, it was therefore called the Changqing Alliance. The steles erected as a result of these sessions were engraved in both Tibetan and Chinese and commonly referred to as the Changqing Steles or the “Nephew-Uncle Alliance Steles.” They were known as the “Nephew-Uncle Alliance Steles” because after Emperor Songtsän Gampo married to Princess Wencheng, all Tibetan emperors (Tsenpos) regarded themselves as nephews to Tang emperors and paid respects to the Tang emperors in the manner of son-in-laws. Therefore, the Tang Emperor Muzong and Tibetan emperor Tritsu Detsen were in an uncle-and-nephew relationship. Since Tritsu Detsen allied with Tang and set up the steles for the purpose of “continuing the good will between uncle and nephew,” thus the name “Nephew-Uncle Alliance Steles” appeared.

The inscription on the steles included the pledges carved out during the Changqing Alliance, such as “…proposed the states to be treated as one, forming an alliance of great peace…” and “…as the states are considered now as one, great peace is thus agreed upon.” The term “nephew and uncle” or “uncle and nephew” appeared four times in the inscription. The inscription also includes the wording that “Tibetan’s tribute offering must abide by the etiquette appropriate for uncle and nephew relationship.” The Chairman explains that “states as one obviously means the two states are not in opposition; the relationship of “uncle and nephew” is governed by the code of ethics, which obligates that the offering and receiving of tribute between Tibet and Tang must follow the etiquette appropriate between superior and inferior. How could this be called “equality between two sovereigns”? This counterargument presented by the Tibet Religious Foundation of H.H. the Dalai Lama is untrue and misleading, employing deceitful interpretations and distortion of historical facts to justify its stance. How could this be called credible and convincing?

The rebuttal’s second counterargument for “Fact #1” is that “The Jurchen Jin occupied northern China while the Song Dynasty retreated to southern China (south of Yangtze River).” Chairman Zhang says that this fact is recognized by Chinese scholars, historians, as well as all Chinese people and ruling regimes in history. Nobody ever tried to deny it or hide it. Even the officially compiled Twenty-Four Histories includes the histories of Liao and Jin Dynasties. It is both needless and pointless for the Dalai Foundation to use this as an argument. In fact, Chinese people never resent the fact that China was once ruled by foreign ethnicities. Not only did the Liao and Jin people not distinguish themselves from Chinese, they even actively assimilated themselves into the mainstream culture of Han Chinese, injecting new blood into Chinese culture as a whole. Ironically, the rebuttal’s second argument confirms Mr. Donghua’s statement that these territories of China were not the result of the expansion of an agricultural regime from the Central Plain, but the outcome of foreign powers’ participation in the ruling of China, and becoming the upper class rulers of the Han Chinese. “Rivers and oceans never exclude smaller streams and thus achieve their greatness.” Chairman Zhang remarks that this attitude toward foreign rulers highlights the magnanimous bearing of China as a great nation since its ancient days.

The third counterargument is that “the historians who compiled the ‘History of the Yuan Dynasty’ did not regard either Tibet or Mongolia as part of China.” Chairman Zhang remarks that this argument actually underscores the emphasis on the purge of falsities and preservation of facts in the Chinese tradition of keeping historical records as well as the incorruptible candidness of historians. During the Yuan Dynasty, Tibet, the Han Chinese and Southern Chinese (according to the classification of the Yuan system) were overtaken by the Yuan Empire; therefore, like Mongolia, they were regarded as the territory of the Great Yuan Empire. Chairman Zhang says the discussion of “which is a part of which” would be illogical and meaningless if we ignore historical evidence.

The fourth counterargument set forth is that “the official history of the Ming Dynasty (Mingshi) did not include Tibet in its territory.” Chairman Zhang points out that historical record cannot be handled like literary rhetoric, where the parts can be taken to represent the whole. The territory of Ming Dynasty should not be defined according to the domain it covered when its founding emperor Hongwu had just established rule, as this does not represent the territory the Ming Dynasty controlled in its heyday. Under the reign of Emperor Yongle, the Ming Dynasty’s national strength peaked and enjoyed the largest territory in its history. Tibet was not only included in its territorial map, but even under the administrative control of the Ming court, who employed the policy of “title conferment” to solidify the Tibetans’ loyalty.

For instance, after the establishment of the Ming Dynasty in 1368, it adopted the “title conferment” policy and appointed various titles such as “Princes,” “Princes of Dharma,” “Empowered State Tutor” to the influential political leaders of the different sects of Tibetan lamas. The succession to these titles required approval of the emperor, who would send delegates to preside over the conferment ceremony. During this time, Tibet saw the rise of the Gelug Sect, to which the two tulku lineages - the Dalai Lamas and the Panchen Lamas - belong. The third Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso paid tribute to the Ming court and was granted the title of “Dorjechang (Vajradhara Dalai Lama).” As for the governance of the Tibetan region, the Ming court largely carried over the administrative system of the Yuan court. It set up the "Dbus-Gtsang Itinerant High Commandery," the "Mdo-khams Itinerant High Commandery" and the "E-Li-Si Army-Civilian Marshal’s Office" to handle civil and military administration in inner and outer Tibet as well as the Qamdo and Ngari areas respectively. Evidently, Tibetan affairs were treated as the domestic affairs of the Great Ming Dynasty.

Chairman Zhang further points out that not only the Dalai Lama and Panchen Lama of the Gelug Sect received titles from the Ming emperors, even the leader of the Kagyu Sect did as well. The fifth Karmapa was bestowed by the Yongle Emperor with the title of "Great Treasure Prince of Dharma” together with a valuable “Black Crown.” Since then the Kagyu Sect has been called the "Black Hat Sect." The Black Crown was handed down to and worn by the heads of the Kagyu Sect, who have been historically referred to as the “Black Hat Sect Karmapas.” Now still, this article of imperial bestowment is still cherished as a heritage and is even sometimes fought over during power struggles. On a side note, the identification of the Seventeenth Karmapa has been the subject of controversy because both "Urgyen Trinley Dorje” and “Trinley Thaye Dorje" were enthroned as the seventeenth “Great Treasure Prince of Dharma.” Neither of them is ceding their leadership nor are they recognizing each other. In conclusion, all these historical facts prove that Tibet has long been an inseparable part of Chinese territory since the Ming Dynasty.

The Qing Dynasty inherited the territorial map of the Ming Dynasty and continued to rule over the whole of China. Citing Mr. Donghua’s article, Chariman Zhang says: “As demonstrated by historical records, not only were the official territorial boundaries of the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China inherited from the Qing Dynasty (rather than being gained through invasions of foreign lands), but also, even the largest territory the Qing Dynasty ever controlled in its history did not exceed the traditional territorial boundary of old China.” The Chairman says that this directly and indirectly proves the fact that, historically, China has always been governed and developed by different ethnic groups together - contrary to the biased perspective constructed by Japanese and a small number of Western scholars, which imagines China to be an ethnically homogenous country of the Han Chinese. They completely overlook the facts that the Qing court had more than once sent troops to ward off the Gurkhas’ invasions of Tibet and that the administration of Dalai Kashag XIII sought assistance from Qing court when the British in India were harassing Tibet.

The Chairman reproves the rebuttal for its attempt to distort historical facts in order to echo those biased views, which seeks to undermine the legitimacy of the present Chinese government’s ruling over the regions populated with minorities. The author of the rebuttal has made himself a willing tool for the ambitious regime of the Dalai Lama to segregate China. However, this segregation is only in the political interest of a few individuals or groups. Besides openly violating the current constitutions of both the Republic of China and the People’s Republic of China, it also deviates from the true wishes of today’s residents of Tibet. Its motive was essentially not much different from the imperialists who intended to split up China hundred years ago.

These arguments are groundless, yet the author still attempted to cover up these outdated myths with lies; it indeed reveals a mindset which is in fact far trickier than the polemics. The public should take great caution not to be misled by such sophistry and untruths.

Editor's Note:

This article is an English version of the Chinese edition published on

January 31, 2013.

Quote 2: The original cited article has been closed. Please refer to the backup screenshot of the original linked webpage as follows: Click here (a copy by using