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The 12th Dorje Phagmo of Tibet, 'Female Living Buddha' and Cadre: A Political Paradox?

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image of Inner Asia

This paper looks at the Samding Dorje Phagmo as an example of a minority nationality cadre who has been appointed to high positions in the Chinese administration in the name of her ethnicity, religious role and gender. Like most cadres who were co-opted from traditional elites she is unique because of her historical profile and role, but she embodies practices that are widespread among Tibetan cadres. Historically the Samding Dorje Phagmo was an important religious institution, established in the fifteenth century as the reincarnation of the tantric goddess Vajravārāhī. In the 1950s the 12th Dorje Phagmo was included among the members of the local religious elite by the newly-established Chinese rule. She is currently the Vice-president of the National People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region and a member of the National People's Political Consultative Conference. She is therefore one of the more senior Tibetan cadres and one whose career has been most long-lived. Her political practice shows that the contemporary Sino-Tibetan relationship is not always a clear-cut one of domination and resistance, or secular communist suppression of Buddhist beliefs and practices, but full of paradoxes.


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