The Ganden Phodrang and the Qing Administration

The different strata of Tibetan society under the direct Ganden Phodrang rule have been analysed so far only in a fragmentary way. Above all, archival material, which should be the primary source for any historical study on Tibetan societies prior to the Chinese occupation of Tibet, is nearly untouched in this regard. The digitised material at hand provides rich sources in particular for the socio-economic and legal study of the lower social strata, as well as religious elites and the monastic institutions under the Ganden Phodrang rule. It further illuminates the kind and intensity of the Qing court’s influence on Tibetan society. Three major topics will be examined in detail:

A. The socio-economic system under the dGa’-ldan pho-brang

With the help of the historical documents from the entire period under consideration (17th–20th centuries), the life of Tibetan peasants and nomads will be analysed under aspects like mobility, marriage, ownership, land use, taxes, debts, legal disputes, the impact of the economic system on Tibetan monasteries etc. (This component will dovetail with the research to be conducted by Alice Travers.)

B. The influence of the Qing Emperor on Tibetan society
This includes the question of the political control of the religious elites by the emperor and the imperial government institutions, in particular the Lifanyuan. It further covers the efforts by the Qing court and its representatives in Tibet to reform the socio-economic system in Tibet. This topic will be illustrated by two studies:
a) The efforts of the Ambans Song Yun (1752–1835) and He Ning (1794–1801) to improve the social situation of the common people in Tibet.
b) The Qing’s control of the Tibetan system of reincarnation.

C. A study of the socio-political reorganisation of East Tibet under the dGa’-ldan pho-brang government and direct Qing rule
In the 17th century East Tibet came under the control of the Ganden Phodrang government and its Mongolian allies. The situation changed again with the expulsion of the Zungars from Central Tibet in 1720 and the war in Amdo 1723–24. From then on Far East Tibet with its petty kingdoms and lama states fell under the direct control of the Qing governors. Even after this point, however, the Ganden Phodrang exerted a certain degree of influence in Far East Tibet. The period and degree of influence of the Ganden Phodrang in East and Far East Tibet will be analysed mainly on the basis of Tibetan archival material.

The results will be of particular relevance for the broader discussion on Tibet and its fate in the twentieth century, as the project will provide a deeper and more nuanced picture of Tibetan societies than is currently the case. However, it should be emphasised that the legal status of Tibet according to international law is a different issue with which this project will not be concerned.