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Aspects of the Contact between the Sixth Panchen Lama and the British East India Company

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This paper summarizes previous research on the contacts between the sixth Panchen Lama of Tibet and the British East India Company (EIC). Extensive research has been done on the archives and travelogues written in English, yet further attention needs to be paid to the significance of these contacts to the Panchen Lama’s historic visit to the Qing court around the same time. Although little is available in Chinese and Tibetan sources on this event, important questions have yet to be raised and discussed. Drawing upon what has been done on this topic, the author makes further use of Tibetan materials and the catalog of Manchu archives in the First Historical Archive of China, and concludes that the plan and efforts for the EIC to open its trade route to China through Tibet were essentially based on wishful thinking or false hope without thorough understanding of Tibet or Qing court, or the delicate relations between the two. Even though the EIC’s late 18th century efforts through the Hindu merchant monk Gosain Purangir were in vain, examining the many contacts between the sixth Panchen Lama and the EIC and Purangir’s trip to Beijing provide a novel perspective on the relations between Tibet and the Qing court in the second half of the 18th century. This inquiry also demonstrates that during the same period, Tibet was not a land of isolation; on the contrary, it was an integral part of “the pre-modern globalization” process.

10.3868/s020-001-012-0011-8
/content/journals/10.3868/s020-001-012-0011-8
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/content/journals/10.3868/s020-001-012-0011-8
2012-01-01
2016-12-07

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