The Fifth Dalai Lama Gains Power
over Tibet

Just as historical buildings in Lhasa are becoming sparser by modern development, so are accounts of Trode Khangsar’s origin. A short chronology and a background of the key figures here will clarify the events leading up the founding of Trode Khangsar. The Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso (1617-1682), was the first Dalai Lama to hold temporal power in Tibet. Earlier in his life the influence of the short-lived empire in the neighboring region of Tsang (gtsang) exerted its control over central Tibet (dbus) and was at odds with the affairs of the Gelug sect in both regions (AOK, 32-39).

The Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, was Mongolian and his incarnations came to be revered by the Mongolians. Sonam Rabten was the Fifth Dalai Lama’s associate7 since his recognition at childhood (FDL, 256). He sought the help of the Qoshot Mongols to intervene in the situation in Tibet (HPP, 447). Eventually the Mongol leader Gushri Khan came to Tibet and proceeded to overthrow the king of Tsang, Karma Tenkyong Wangpo (kar ma bstan skyong dbang po), in 1642.

Effective power was granted from Gushri Khan, who retained the title of “King of Tibet,” to the Fifth Dalai Lama through appointment of various governors8 (sde sri) (HPP, 448). The Fifth Dalai Lama traveled to China to meet with the Qing Emperor in 1652 which sealed his recognition of sovereignty9 (FDL, 263). Other military campaigns went eastward to Kham and seized control of Ngari, Western Tibet from Ladakh’s control (TGF, 13). As a result, the provinces of Central Tibet, Kham, Tsang and Amdo all came under the control of the newly-created Tibetan government, called the Ganden Phodrang, under the leadership of the Dalai Lama.

7 The term “associate” is used due to the number of roles he assumed in his relation to the Fifth Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government, Ganden Phodrang. Ahmad’s translation of Desi Sangye Gyatso’s biography of the Fifth Dalai Lama notes that Sonam Choepel, who is also called Sonam Rabten, was present when the Dalai Lama first came to Drepung when he was 6 years old. He was also the treasurer for the Fourth Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, at the end of his life, which led Sonam Choepel to be involved in recognizing his successor.

8 According to Richardson, the title “king of Tibet” was kept by the Gushri Khan and his descendents who provided armed protection to the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lama was to be the spiritual leader and appointed various governors (sde sris) to manage the state affairs. It appears these various roles were never clearly defined and as a result most likely lead to the Qoshot Mongolian resumption of power in Tibet by Qoshot Lhazang Khan, a descendent of Gushri Khan, overthrowing and killing Desi Sangye Gyatso over 50 years later.

9 Again this is a sensitive interpretation of the significance of this event. On one hand, its significance is downplayed by those who assert Tibet’s independence over China. On the other hand, it is an event that clearly indicates the Fifth Dalai Lama’s rise to sovereignty.