Songtsen Gampo - Tibetan King
Songtsen Gampo - Tibetan King
Songtsen Gampo, the 33rd ruler of the Tubo Regime in Tibet, is an important Tibetan King in Tibet history and is considered to be the real founder of the Tibetan Empire ( known as Tubo Regime in Tibet history). His contribution to the unity of the Chinese nation and his influence in establishing lines of communication between Tibet and China are part of his great legacy.
It is said that Songtsen Gampo was born at Gyama in 617, in Maldro (a region to the northeast of modern Lhasa), the son of the Yarlung king Namri Songtsen. The book The Holder of the White Lotus says that it is believed that he was an incarnation of the Buddhist Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, of whom the Dalai Lama are similarly believed to be a manifestation of. He is also said to have had webbed hands and feet, a deformed face and odd skin; the early Tibetans saw him as a god and enthroned him. His identification as a cakravartin or incarnation of Avalokiteśvara began in earnest in the indigenous Buddhist literary histories of the 11th Century.
Greatly influenced by his father, Songtsen Gampo has shown the singular gift since childhood. At the age of thirteen, he acceded to the throne after his father was poisoned. He established Tubo slavery regime and moved the capital to Luosuo (today's Lhasa) after he quelled the rebellions from all parts of the region. Because of his efforts, Tibet was finally unified. By making laws, regulations and tax systems, and by fostering the development of farming and stockbreeding, Tibet prospered.
At the time he took the throne, the Tibetan people did not have a writing system and kept records by tying knots. To address this, Songtsen Gampo sent sixteen nobles including the minister Thonmi Sambhota to India to study Sanskrit and writing. They created a spoken and written language, and translated the Buddhist doctrines into this new language. This contribution helped to preserve, transmit and develop the Tibetan culture.
Songthen Gampo celebrated successes in battle expanded the Tibetan empire deep into Nepal and Tang Dynasty, and it was during these battles that he gained an appreciation of the neighbouring cultures. As a reminder of the great empire that Songtsen Gampo ruled, a large pillar still stands before the Potala palace in Lhasa, erected during his reign, on which is inscribed the agreement between the Tibetan and Chinese rulers to respect each other's borders. He studied Chinese, became skilled in the art of leadership, and most importantly, he adopted sacred codes of conduct from Buddhist scripture. Under his rule, sacred practices began to replace the shamanistic practices of the Bonpos.
This great Tibetan King's marriage to two Princesses respectively from Nepal and Tang Dynasty was widely circulated. In 639, after he married Princess Chizun of Nepal, he proposed a marriage to the Tang Dynasty. In 641, the Emperor Tang Taizong sent Princess Wencheng to marry this great Tibetan king. Both the two princesses were said to introduce Buddhism to Tibet. Princess Wencheng also brought with her a wide array of advanced cultural and technological ideas of Tang Dynasty, which further promoted the economic and cultural development in Tibet.
Unfortunately, this great Tibetan King died of an illness in 650, at the age of thirty-four. Emperor Tang Gaozong, the son of the Emperor Tang Taizong, bestowed upon him the honorary title of "The King of Xihai Jun". A stone statue of him was placed next to Zhao Ling, the Mausoleum of the Emperor Tang Taizong. This high honor commemorates the friendly relationship between the Tang and Tubo Empires. It is said that Songtsen Gampo was buried in Yumbu Lakhang in southeast Tibet.