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The Rise of Gönpo Namgyel in Kham

The Blind Warrior of Nyarong

Yudru Tsomu

Hardback
eBook
This book examines the ascendancy of a minor nineteenth-century Tibetan chieftain Gönpo Namgyel who hailed from Eastern Kham, a frontier region situated between the power centers of Central Tibet and Qing China. For most of the nineteenth century, Gönpo Namgyel dominated the politics of Kham and posed a serious challenge to both the Qing and Lhasa regimes. The study explores the dynamics of local and national politics, as well as the tensions over power and authority between the two power centers.

Drawing upon both Tibetan and Chinese primary sources, the study sheds new light on the governance and polity of the Kham region, enhancing our understanding of Sino-Tibetan conflicts regarding Kham from the nineteenth century, up to the mid-twentieth century.

The book focuses on local events, rather than seeing history as shaped solely by the power centers. The rise of Gönpo Namgyel is situated within the context of the local politics of Kham while taking into consideration its relations with mid-nineteenth century Qing and Central Tibet. It further explores the social-cultural milieu that gave rise to this charismatic and controversial chief. A series of questions emerge concerning traditional historiographical practice, including the historical practices of Chinese and Tibetan scholars as well as approaches to the history of China and Tibet by Western scholars.

Probing into history from a local perspective adds a new dimension to the study of nineteenth-century Sino-Tibetan relations. This research reveals that there is no single force determining history, nor are persons in the periphery mere passive observers of national events. The kings, governors, and chieftains in Kham were active in shaping their own regional identity and asserting their own terms in relation to the two power centers, demonstrating that the peripheries are equal partners in central-periphery relations, rather than passive recipients as has commonly been represented in earlier historical narratives.
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Lexington Books
Pages: 406Size: 6 x 9
978-0-7391-7792-1 • Hardback • December 2014 • $116.00 • (£75.00)
978-0-7391-7793-8 • eBook • December 2014 • $110.00 • (£75.00)
Yudru Tsomu is associate professor at the Center for Tibetan Studies, Sichuan University.
Chapter 1: Kham in the Nineteenth Century: Land, People, and Politics
Chapter 2: Crisis of the Centers: Qing China and Central Tibet
Chapter 3: Nyarong: The Iron Knot of Tibet
Chapter 4: The Blind Man from Nyarong
Chapter 5: The Making of Gönpo Namgyel
Chapter 6: Conquering Kham
Chapter 7: The Final Siege
Chapter 8: Contention over the Sphere of Influence in Kham
Yudru Tsomu's book, The Rise of Gönpo Namgyel in Kham: The Blind Warrior of Nyarong, is a vitally important and inspiring work that represents a new standard not only for Eastern Tibetan history, the focus for events in the book, but also for the study of border regions of the Tibetan cultural world more generally.... Yudru Tsomu's vivid representation of Gönpo Namgyel's career greatly enriches our understanding of Kham's history through her attention to myriad source materials and local histories, and is therefore invaluable to scholars of Tibetan history and culture,especially working on frontier areas. Her accessible writing style and lively evocation of key events makes her work appropriate for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, as well as general audiences interested in Tibetan history and culture.
Asian Highlands Perspectives


The Rise of Gönpo Namgyel in Kham: The Blind Warrior of Nyarong is a masterful depiction of culture and society of eastern Tibet (Kham). Shedding the narratives of both Lhasa and Beijing, Tsomu Yudru adopts a regional perspective to bring to life one of the most famous personages of the Tibetan plateau in the nineteenth century, Gönpo Namgyel. Tsomu’s gift lies in her unerring ability to trace his remarkable path to power that fused religious, cultural, and political traditions to his own ends, but also in her scholarly determination to reveal the remarkable implications of his rule through a regional lens. This is a brilliant study that utilizes sources from Tibetan, Chinese, and European sources yet creates a history that rarely, if ever, has been told in such elaborate detail and attention to local perspectives. It speaks to scholars working on frontier relations, historians of comparative colonialism, experts of Tibet, China and Buddhism, and the history of borderlands.
David Atwill, Pennsylvania State University


Dr. Yudru Tsomu has written a superbly crafted book that not only introduces Gönpo Namgyal, who has achieved a mythical status in Tibetan oral history, but provided the first comprehensive history of Kham, a region and territory that has been seen as on the margins of China and Tibet. The details provided in the book show a fascinating account of rise of minor chieftain in Kham who challenged the Lhasa government and the Qing. The book convincingly challenges the perception of the traditional Chinese and Tibetan views of history of Kham as an appendage to larger national narratives. Dr. Tsomu provides powerful research and a brilliant use of new Tibetan and Chinese languages sources that tell her story.
Tsering Shakya, the President of International Association for Tibetan Studies, University of British Columbia


Yudru Tsomu has written a fascinating account of the rise and fall of a charismatic leader in 19th-century Eastern Tibet, a leader whose power was perceived as a serious threat to the Qing Dynasty in Beijing as well as the Tibetan Government in Lhasa, both of which felt compelled to march against him. In skillfully telling this story she presents readers with a view of 18th and 19th century Eastern Tibet in its larger context, situating Tibet’s history within that of the Qing and Qing history within that of Tibet. This is an innovative and significant work, the fruit of intense research. It adds valuable new information to our understanding of Tibet’s social and economic history and we are indebted to Yudru Tsomu for it.
Elliot Sperling, Indiana University


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