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The Lungshar Delegation and Britain in 1913

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Focusing on the Letters of the 13th Dalai Lama

image of Inner Asia

In modern Tibetan history, it is fairly well known that in 1913 the 13th Dalai Lama appointed Lungshar Dorje Tsegyal as chaperon for four Tibetan boys to travel to Britain for a modern education. Less well studied are the letters the 13th Dalai Lama wrote for the King, Queen and ministers in Britain, which he had Lungshar take with him to London and which asserted the ‘rang btsan’ of Tibet, which today translates to ‘independence’. Through a comparative analysis of the original letters written in Tibetan and the letters that the 13th Dalai Lama sent to other countries, I will show how the Lungshar delegation was an important component of the overall diplomatic strategy designed by the 13th Dalai Lama after the demise of the Qing Dynasty. Based on comparative study between the Tibetan letters and the British translations, I will show that officials of British India, at the beginning of the 20th century, did not necessarily use ‘independence’ as the fixed parallel translation of ‘rang btsan’. This first analysis of the original Tibetan language letters sheds new light on the conceptual discrepancies in modern terminologies between the Tibetan and English languages that could have influenced the negotiations that took place between Tibet and Britain.

Affiliations: 1: Harvard-Yenching Institute Cambridge (ma)USA


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