Kham Place Essay

Tibetan Renaissance Seminar > Week 7 > Kham

Kham Place Essay from the Tibetan Renaissance Seminar

Contributor(s): Alison Melnick, Chelsea Hall.


This essay is an attempt to bring together resources and references on the study of Kham, past, present and future. It is intended to be a constantly expanding and fluctuating document that interested collaborators are encouraged to augment.


Kham (khams), the easternmost region of Tibet, has long been considered a cultural border area between Central Tibet (Ü and Tsang) and western China. The borders of what is considered to be Kham run north and south along a paralell with the eastern edge of Nagchu (in the Jangtang region), and span the area to Dartsedo in the east. Dartsedo is considered the easternmost border between China and cultural Tibet. Shakabpa places the exact location of this division between Kham and China at an iron bridge in the town, but the different cultural groups come together throughout the whole region, making it immpossible to indicate an exact point of division between cultural Tibet and China (Shakabpa, pg. 2). The other major towns in Kham include Derge, Ganze, Chamdo, Litang, Batang (in central Kham), Gyegundo in the north, and Gyaltang in the south. The region has been divided into four different provinces of the People's Republic of China (PRC), these are the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in the west, Qinghai in the north, Sichuan in the east, and Yunnan in the south. There are currently 50 PRC counties that fall within the current borders of Kham. 16 counties fall within Sichuan province, 25 are in the TAR, 6 are in Qinghai, and 3 are in Yunnan province. While there have been borders drawn around what is today considered Kham, these borders have historically been far more malleable and the current lines to not necessarily reflect this historical fluidity. As Gardner says in his 2003 article, "Not until the Community takeover were khams pa territories subject o defined geographical boundaries." (Gardner, pg. 66) Today Kham includes some of the most populated areas of cultural Tibet.

The history of the region has been poorly considered by non-Tibetan scholars thus far (as evidenced in Alexander Gardner's 2003 survey article "Khams pa Histories: Visions of People, Place and Authority"). In his article, Gardner points out that, while the region has been included in multiple general histories of Tibet, Kham has never been the central focus of a scholarly book; he concludes that such a study is long-overdue. A significant aspect of Khampa history is the development of institutional religious practices in the area. Gardner emphasizes that institutional religion is of central importance to understanding the cultural, political, and economic aspects of a region's history (Gardner, pg. 65). In the case of Kham, religion is also extremely important to our understanding of group identities in the region. As Gardner explains, religious history constitutes "the major part of the available written historical record" of Kham (Gardner, pg. 61). It is therefore an extremely useful area of information from which to glean understanding about the region, especially when we consider the continual centrality of religion in Kham's social milieu. An understanding of Kham's history will also be instructional if we hope to fully comprehend both internal pan-regional Tibetan history and the history of Tibetan relations with her neighbors. It is true that while the organizers of many Khampa institutions have looked west to Central Tibet for identification and inspiration, Kham has also had its own central religious and political administrative centers. Gardner cites pre-Renaissance evidence of ties with the Tibetan imperial institution, and the important interactions between the two regions have continued to the present day.

During the Renaissance, the different schools of Tibetan Buddhism were in competition for influence in Kham. It was during this time that many monasteries were founded, and many Khampas traveled back and forth to Central Tibet, where they became leading monks and lay scholars (two examples of this phenomenon are found in the persons of Bari Lotsawa and Jangchub Sempa Aseng, see Davidson, pg. 277). Indeed, the Blue Annals is filled with accounts of scholars going to Kham to receive teachings and initiations. It is mentioned more than 80 times as a place to go for teachings, to found monasteries, and to "propagate the doctrine" (Blue Annals pg. 155). Kham was also a place of origination of teaching lineages, including "the lineage of Vairocana" as mentioned in the Blue Annals (pg. 158). It was during the Renaissance period that the first Karmapa, Dusum Khyenpa (dus gsum mkhyen pa) founded the Karma Kagyu monastery Karma dgon (in 1147). Likewise, this period saw the foundation of the Nyingma monastery of Kathog in Derge (the first Buddhist monastery in Kham), and the Bonpo monastery of sTeng chen (founded 1110).

Blue Annals References to Kham

Chapter 1

  • (R:34) In this country of Snows there exist three lineages of ordination : The first lineage: Ācārya Nāgarjuna, Bhavya, Śrīgupta (dpal sbas), Jñānagarbha (ye shes snying po), Śāntarakṣita (zhi ba 'tsho), and then (transmitted) through sba ratna. This lineage of bla chen dgongs pa rab gsal and other great teachers, has been transmitted in khams. In dbus and gtsang it has been handed down through klu mes and others. The second lineage: the lineage of rgyal ba'i shes rab of zhang zhung, the disciple of the three Pālas, who had been the disciples of Paṇḍita Dharmapāla. This line was called the "Line of the Upper Vinaya" (stod 'dul ba).

Chapter 2

  • dge ba gsal wished then to proceed to the residence of zhang chen po dge ba in dbus. On reaching glong thang 'jig rten sgron in Lower khams (mdo khams), he met at mang ra gyu mtsho a messenger sent by the king of dbus, who said: "A great famine has happened in dbus. Venerable Sir, you cannot go there. kwa 'ong mchog grags pa, who had studied extensively in Nepāl and India, has gone to khams." On hearing this, dge ba gsal went back. Then in the East, at lha rtse bhig tig, (C:91) in a monastic establishment containing numerous ancient images, he met kwa 'ong mchog grags pa, and studied with him for twelve years the mahāyāna Abhidharma, the commentary on the Śatasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā and the Bodhisattva bhumi.

Chapter 3

  • In the time of king 'od lde, Atīśa (jo bo rje) was invited, and reformed the Doctrine. (C:98) In the time of the king's son rtse lde in the year Fire-Male-Dragon (me pho 'brug — 1076 A.D.) most of the great Tripiṭakadharas (sde snod 'dzin pa) of dbus, gtsang and khams assembled to a Religious Council (chos 'khor), which became known as the "Council of the Fire-Dragon Year" (me-pho 'brug gi chor 'khor). Each of them set in motion the Wheel of the Doctrine. (R: 69)
  • dags po dbang rgyal and khyung po grags se held a contest of preaching, having established their residences on the po ta ri and dmar po ri. Monks used to visit the religious schools of both (teachers). (F:4b) Though there exist an account that khyung po had studied the "Old Nyāya", and had left behind numerous disciples, it is not sure whether the "Old Nyāya", which had been studied by him, had not originated from khams or mnga' ris, from a translation of Devendramati's commentary by rma lo tsā ba. khyung po seems to have been a contemporary of po to ba. (C:99), (R: 71)
  • Its Lineage: The "Ten Men of dbus and gtsang" (dbus gtsang gi mi bcu), comprising klu mes and others, proceeded to khams, and received there ordination. On completion of their studies of the Vinaya, they again returned to dbus and gtsang. (C:106) lo and tshong having greatly increased the number of monasteries in gtsang, divided them into (groups) of Upper lo tshong and Lower lo tshong. rag si made converts in khams. sba took over dbu tshal, and 'bring took over khams gsum. klu mes having taken over kwa C:and other monasteries, preached the Vinaya. rngog byang chub 'byung gnas, gru mer tshul khrims 'byung gnas, glan ye shes shes rab, sna nam rdo rje dbang phyug (were) his four great disciples. (R: 77)
  • Now sna nam rdo rje dbang phyug : he was born at nyams dga' mo in the year Fire-Male-Mouse (me pho byi ba — 976 A.D.) as son of father sna nam jo sras (R:88) and mother sgrol ma, Lady of zhang (zhang lcam). When he was three, in the year Earth-Male-Tiger (sa pho stag—978 A.D.), (F:11b) the Doctrine of the Vinaya spread from khams to dbus. At eighteen, he took up ordination in the year Water-Female-Serpent (chu mo sbrul —993 A.D.) in the presence of klu mes at a place called ra ba zlum po ("Circular Enclosure"). (R: 87)
  • khu ston brtson 'grus gyung drung was born in the year Iron-Female-Hog (lcags mo phag — A. D.). He journeyed to khams with rngog legs pa'i shes rab and ‘bre chen po, and conducted extensive studies under jo bo se btsun. Having completed their studies, (C:123) they proceeded to dbus in the year which followed ‘brom ston pa's journey (F:13b) to mnga' ris. (R: 93)
  • From zhang onwards, his followers became known as the bka' chims phu bas or the “Lineage of Precepts" (man ngag brgyud). dar rje preached it to many in dbus and gtsang. Having aIso visited khams, he preached it there. Among his followers two schools are known to exist: the dbus lugs pa (the School of Ü (dbus)) and the khams lugs pa (the School of khams). The Commentary on the gsang ba snying po, composed by nyi 'od seng ge, was translated by the translator bai ro tsa na at the vihāra of 'og rdu thugs rje byams chen in khams. Thus the teaching of this Tantra appears to have belonged to the Lineage of the ācārya bai ro tsa na also. (C:141) (R: 108)
  • Among the four “BIack Spiritual disciples” of lha rje sgro sbug pa, the Great, the most excellent was lha rje lce ston rgya nag. His grandfather, called ‘phangs byang brtson, proceeded to khams, and then returned. He built the vihāra of skyi mkhar after the model of the vihāra of glong thang sgron me. (R: 126)
  • From jo mo myang mo he (lha rje lha khang pa) (F:12b) obtained an introduction into the system of the “Great Perfection" (rdzogs chen), as taught in khams, which was the essence of the heart of the ācārya a ro. From her also he heard precepts of the system.
  • In general, sangs rgyas dags chung had four sons and daughters. The eldest lho tsha bla ma skyabs, who was born in lho brag, felt disgusted with worldly life. Endowed with the faculty of prescience, he journeyed to khams, and there passed away. (R: 135)
  • The basic text of the "Mental" class (sems sde): he (zhig po) listened to the exposition of the 18 basic texts according to the methods of skor, rong, khams and fourteen other methods. He used to say that there were fourteen (methods) which should be taught. (R: 137)
  • Among the class of "Oral Precepts" (gdams pa snyan brgyud): he (jo sras) earnestly practiced the precepts of the skor method, those of the method of rong and those of the method of khams, together with explanatory notes. (R: 145)
  • sangs rgyas gong la ba pa of dags po heard it from him. He had many disciples in dags po proper, such as the bla ma gnyan and others. Having become the teacher of the Lord of gong gyo, he propagated the Doctrine in khams. (R: 155)
  • Though in general, it is possible to guess the number of disciples of the three zur (zur rnam pa gsum), as given by former (scholars) at gshar, and that of their innumerable followers, it is impossible to give their respective names and their clans. Those who became famous throughout khams, became known as the followers of the khams school (khams lugs pa), as stated in the commentary by rong zom. The preaching of the mdo and Māyā (sgyu 'phrul), together with the practice of initiation and meditation according to the Lineage of gtsang pa, (R:158) appears to exist even now in the hermitage of ka thog, near sbom po on the bank of the 'bri chu, founded by sga dam pa bde gshegs shes pa, a maternal cousin of dpal phag mo gru pa. According to what had been said above, the "Great Commentary on the gsang ba snying po" (gsang ba snying po’i rgya cher ‘grel pa) composed by the ācārya nyi ma’i ‘od kyi seng ge, had originated in khams. (C:200) Therefore one has to admit that the teaching of the Lineage of bai ro tsa na had also originated in khams. (R: 157)
  • A short while before that time, a learned scholar called ācārya Smṛtijñānakīrti came to khams, and translated several Tantras. He translated numerous Tantric commentaries, such as the Commentary on the Nāmasaṅgīti of tha ga na, and many sādhanas, such as the 'jam dpal gsang ldan, the ‘jig rten snang byed zla ba’i no pi ta, and others. He also composed several treatises on grammar. It is said that after his death, on being reborn in rong, he became this kalyāṇa-mitra. Some say: "A paṇḍita named a tsa ra (<ācārya) phra la ring mo came to khams. Having translated (into Tibetan) an extensive commentary on the gsang snying rgyud, he taught it. After his death, he reincarnated (R:161) as the kalyāṇa-mitra rong zom lo tsA ba.”
  • At Idan glong thang sgron ma there appeared an ascetic named a ro ye shes 'byung gnas, who possessed the secret precepts of the seventh link in the chain of the Indian Lineage, as well as those of the seventh link of the Chinese Lineage of hwa shang (ho shang). He preached the system to cog ro zangs dkar mdzod khur and to ya zi bon ston. These two taught it to rong zom. This (Lineage) is called the "(Lineage) of the 'Great Perfection' (rdzogs chen) according to the khams method. (R: 167)
  • The origin of (R:168) the religious system of ye shes zhabs (Jñānapāda), such as the Mukhāgama and other texts: The paṇḍita Śrī Siṃha studied under 'jam dpal bshes gnyen. bai ro tsa na heard the Doctrine from him. bai ro tsa na having gone to khams, taught it extensively there.
  • bai ro tsa na is said to have taught (the doctrine) on three occasions in khams: first he taught it to rgyal mo g.yu sgra snying po in the hermitage of the Nātha on the rock of rgyal mo rong; then he taught it to gsang ston ye shes bla ma at the hermitage of stag rtse mkhar of tsha ba rong; and to the beggar sangs rgyas mgon po at the hermitage of brag dmar rdzong of stong khung rong. (R: 170)
  • The god Vajrasādhu having sent a hail storm in khams, took away a hundred camel loads of grain, he (myang ting ‘dzin) levied a tax on the god. Having obtained (as tax) plenty of barley, he built the temple of dbu ru hzwa, in which he hid the precepts of snying thig. (R: 192)

Chapter 4

  • Though it is generally said that Lord Smṛti had inaugurated the translation of the "New" Tantras , he did not translate them in dbus and gtsang. At a later date, he prepared in Khams numerous translations of the Mañjuśrināma sangīti , according to the method of the Saint Līlāvajra (sgeg pa rdo rje), the Śrīcatuḥpīṭha-mahāyoginītantrarāja-nāma , the Cycle of the Guhyasamāja (gsang 'dus) and other texts. Thus it seems that these (translations) (R:205) were earlier than the translations of Tantric texts made by the great lo tsā ba rin chen zhang po, for it is said that when 'brom ston pa attended on jo bo se btsun, he learnt the work of a translator from Smṛti.

Chapter 5

  • This 'brom: (his) family was bzher. His father (was named) rta gsum shu bzher, his mother (was called) khu lto gza' lan cig ma. He was born in the year Wood Female Serpent (sing mo sbrul – 1005 A.D.), at upper stod lungs. His mother died early. From his childhood he had a penetrating mind, and decided that it was better for him to go to some other place, than to quarrel with his step mother. So he went to gzhu, and studied reading and writing. While living there, he met jo bo se btsun who was journeying from khams to Nepāl and India (lho bal). Faith (in him) was born. (R: 251)
  • . 'brom defeated him in each word and he said: "I have heard that in khams there was a very learned upāsaka 'brom. Are you not him?" 'brom answered: "I may be him." The man was surprised, and pulling out from under himself a carpet, he requested 'brom to sit on it. He then presented him with a good horse with a bridle to which was attached a piece of silk , and offered him apologies for having accepted a salutation from 'brom, saying: "I shall be your supporter! You should establish a monastery at rwa sgreng and become my preceptor." 'brom replied: "I have no leisure now. I am going to mnga' ris to meet a paṇḍita! Later, if conditions permit, I shall become your priest, and shall establish a monastery at ra sgreng". (R: 253)
  • He read on one occasion the Abhisamayālaṃkara to an assembly of numerous hearers at snye thang. At that time he gave a brief outline of the text only, and since the people were not satisfied, the Master gave also an extensive exposition. This was written down by phya dar ston pa and became known as the "Prajñā pāramitā according to the method of khams" (phar phyin khams lugs ma) (R: 258)
  • According to the account of the siddha 'khon phu pa: "He himself was the next incarnation of nag tsho." Later nag tsho translated many texts, assisted by Jñānākara, the Nepālese Śāntibhadra, Kṛṣṇa Samayavajra (nag po dam tshig rdo rje) and others. The five special disciples of the Master were: the mahāpaṇḍita {262} pi to pa, Dharmākaramati, the Lion of the Mādhyamika, Mitraguhya (bshes gnyen gsang ba), Jñānamati and the paṇḍita Kṣitigarbha. Among his Tibetan disciples were: lha btsun pa, byang chub 'od, uncle and nephew, the great lo tsA ba rin chen bzang po, the ascetic gumi, nag tso tshul khrims rgyal ba, ston pa yang rab from glo bo, gung thang sgom pa tshul khrims, shes rab 'byung gnas, chag khri mchog of lho brag, btsun pa dge skyong, rgya brtson seng, dge ba'i blo gros, (F:10a) shAkya blo gros, tshul khrims 'byung gnas, lha chen po, gzus rdo rje rgyal mtshan; from Upper gtsang: the elder and the younger brag ston, leng and 'brog; from Lower gtsang: 'gar dge ba of rong, 'gos lo tsA ba, yol chos dbang, the three brothers, rdzing kha pa of gnam, bang ston, rngog; sum pa, sna nam, myang mi, mal shes rab sems pa, dpon chos rgyal, 'gos ston btsan, lhab mi chen po, sgro Ārya Byang tshul, seng ge rgyal mtshan of khu mdo, lha rje bsam gtan, zhang btsun yer pa ba, sgom pa dad bla ma, sum pa mthu chen, khu ston, rngog legs pa'i shes rab, 'brom ston pa rgyal ba'i 'byung gnas, rnal 'byor pa chen po, a mes byang chub 'byung gnas, whose real name was byang chub rin chen, dgon pa pa 'dzeng dbang phyug rgyal mtshan, the yogin shes rab rdo rje, phyA dar ston pa and byams pa'i blo gros. The last ones were known as the "Four or Five khams pa brothers."
  • The kalyāna mitra po to ba: was born in the year Iron Female Sheep (lcags mo lug – 1031 A.D.), and took up ordination in the presence of glang tshul byang of rgyal lha khang ('phan yul). For one year, he acted as the steward (gnyer ba) of the monastic community of brags rgyab ('phan yul). As his share as monk, he did not receive even the whey of curds. He performed the ceremony of mdo mangs, and thought of proceeding to khams, of hiding his name and origin, and of becoming a meditative ascetic. When he was 28, in the year Earth Male Dog (sa pho khyi – 1058 A.D.), he proceeded to rwa sgreng. There he obtained faith in 'brom and remained there. In this manner phu chung ba, po to ba and spyan snga ba (R: 264) became known as the "Three Brothers" (sku mched rnam gsum).
  • His chief disciples were rin chen sning po of stod lungs (near lha sa), lhab mi chen po, (R: 266) the kalyāna mitra mang ra and others. After him 'dzen dbang phyug rgyal mtshan became Abbot of the monastery (rwa sgreng). He acted as Abbot for five years including the above mentioed Earth Male Horse year (sa pho rta – 1078 A.D.). This dgon pa pa's family name was 'dzen, and his name was dbang phyug rgyal mtshan. On his leaving khams, he met the Master at nyan tsho.
  • The nine "Great Outsiders" were: from khams: rab kha ba, the Great; from dags po: sha pe gling pa, the Great, 'o thang pa, the Great, rgya ri ba, the Great; from gtsang – 'om thang pa, the Great, mu sman phyar, the Great, nya ga mo ba, the Great, ta, the Great, rnam 'phar ba, the Great, also named ngang tshang pa, the Great. The eight "Great Middle ones" were: dgon, the Great, chag mal pa, the Great, bkra shis sgan pa, the Great, dgyer sgom, the Great, khrom bzher, the Great, bul ba pa, the Great, bang ra ba, the Great and ku jol pa, the Great, who was also called dum bu ri pa, the Great. The three "Inner Spiritual Sons": gtsang pa rin po che rdo rje mi bskyod, rgya of ri mo can and snubs mchod gnas of phyag rje – the three. Further, gnyal pa ra ston, 'Ba' ril of gtsang, ke ru of gtsang, bkra shis sgan pa of lho, ngur pa gyung she, pha gtsang pa of grab, na mo ba of zhogs, ba lam pa bla ma, la mo ba, 'ba' le of Upper myang, gyor po ke tu, shAk gzhon of dol, gyu lung pa and many others. These (also) took charge of various monasteries and laboured greatly for the benefit of living beings.
  • Among them there was a kalyāṇa mitra belonging to the "Old" Tantra School named rdo rje gzhon nu who had five sons, and the eldest among them was rngog legs pa'i shes rab. The second was klu khri, the third – klu byang and the fourth – chos skyabs, the fifth – thub pa. Of these, the eldest rngog legs pa'i shes rab was ordained by 'Bnn ye shes yon tan. He went to khams to study the Piṭakas and became a disciple of the Master se btsun. (324)
  • His nephew rngog lo chen po 37a was born in the year Earth Female Hog (sa mo phag – 1059 A.D.) as son of chos skyabs. In his childhood he went to live with his uncle and studied much under him and spo chung ba tshul khrims shes rab, a disciple of gzus and others. Having acquired an excellent wisdom, his uncle became pleased with him. When he was 17, he was sent for study to Kaśmīra. He went there in the company of rwa lo, gnyan lo, khyung po chos brtson, rdo ston and gtsang kha bo che. When king rtse lde had invited most of the Tripiṭakadharas of dbus, gtsang and khams, and held the religious council of the year Fire Male Dragon (me pho 'brug – 1076 A.D.), he also attended it. rtse lde's son dbang phyug lde decided to become a supporter of rngog. (325)

Chapter 6

  • 330 - 6.1.4 shes rab ‘bar of ‘bre

shes rab 'bar of 'bre, the best of the lo tsa ba's disciples, visited the monastery of skyegs gnas rnying and others. He preached extensively both the Sūtra of the Prajn͂͂āpāramitā and the śāstras (i.e. commentaries). It is said, that during his teaching, the gods used to come down to hear his exposition. In his teaching he followed the tradition of the Prajn͂͂āpāramitā as taught during the period of the early spread of the Doctrine and which had been preserved in khams. While he had numerous disciples, the Lineage of Teaching was mainly held by byang chub ye shes of ar. He taught till a very old age at gnam rtse ldan (near rwa sgreng) and other monasteries. During this period, he also acted as abbot of rgyal lha khang, and also composed many expositions on the Prajn͂͂āpāramitā and its commentaries (śāstras). The Tibetan traditional interpretation of the basic text of the Prajn͂͂āpāramitā is mainly based on the expositions by 'bre and ar. khu ser brtson, though he had met 'bre, followed mainly the tradition of ar in his numerous detailed, medium and abridged commentaries on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra and its commentary.

  • 338 - bu ston rin po che brought the (original) copy of the bstan 'gyur from snar thang and excluded from it all duplicate texts, for the original snar thang copy contained all the texts available at that time. He classified the texts which had remained unclassified, as well as added about a thousand new texts. This (new) copy (of the collectiqn) was deposited at the vihāra of zha lu. From this copy the ācārya nam mkha' rgyal mtshan prepared a new copy at the fort of rin spungs and deposited it at the monastic college of rtses thang. From this copy (new copies were prepared) and deposited at gong dkar and gdan sa thel. Hereafter, khams pas having copied each of them separately, took them to khams. These served as originals for (other) copies prepared in khams. A copy was prepared by the Dharmasvāmin mthong ba dun ldan pa. In dbus, a copy (of the Collection) wa prepared by dun ben sha ba. At 'tshur phu, the Dharmasvāmin rang byung ba prepared a copy written with the dust of precious stones.
  • 345 - 6.3.1a The lineage of the mngon pa kun btus (Abhidharmasamuccaya) Part I. The continuity of teaching of the Abhidharmasamuccaya in the "Abode of Snows" (Tibet): The Buddha, Maitreya (byams pa), Asaṅga (thogs med), Vasubandhu (dbyig gnen), Sthiramati (blo brtan), Pūrṇavardhana (gang spel), the Kashmirian Jinamitra, ka ba dpal brtsegs, cog ro klu'i rgyal mtshan, (R:345) zhang ye shes sde. The latter taught the system to lha lung dpal gyi rdo rje, nam nang zla ba'i rdo rje, dbas rgyal ba ye shes. The first two obtained realization as a result of their meditations. dbas, because of a popular revolt in dbus, had to leave for khams. The following have been his disciples: grub rgyal ba'i ye shes, gru mchog gi ye shes, se btsun, gar mi yon tan gyung drung, khu ston brtson 'grus gyung drung, rwa khri bzang 'bar, rgya tshul le and li bdud rtsi grags.

Chapter 7

  • 355 - Later when the paṇḍita Kumārakalaśa (gzhon nu bum pa) came by invitation to dbus, he expounded the Vajraśekharatantra to mar pa rdor yes of smon gro, khams pa rgwa ston and yam shud klu chung, using a translation made previously by the paṇḍita Karmavajra and zangs dkar gzhon nu tshul khrims at 'dam, and the original Sanskrit text used by Kumārakalaśa. zangs dkar lo tsa ba acted as translator. Then when they came to lha sa, an upāsaka named gnyal pa nyi ma shes rab heard on three occasions (the exposition) of the Vajraśekharatantra from the lo tsa ba and the paṇḍita, and took down many notes. zangs dkar (lo tsa ba) and ntyi ma shes rab (R:355) visited later Nepāl.
  • 372 - The ācārya Buddhajn͂͂āna later settled in Vajrāsana and its neighbourhood, and is known to have built a new temple there and to have made large offerings (to it). In Tibet the system of ye shes zhabs (Jn͂͂ānapāda) was first introduced by the Great Translator rin chen bzang po. The latter preached it to his disciples and it was handed down through their Lineage. The paṇḍita Smṛti also taught extensively the system of Buddhajn͂͂āna in Khams. The ancient ācāryas Buddhaguhya (sangs rgyas gsang ba) and Buddhaśānta (sangs rgyas zhi ba) had been also direct disciples of Buddhajn͂͂āna. Books composed and translated by them also belong to the system of Jn͂͂ānapāda (Buddhajn͂͂āna).
  • 386 - cog ro chos kyi rgyal mtshan, was born in the year Earth Male Mouse (sa pho byi ba - 1108 A.D.) in Lower khams . At the age of 19, he came to the (F:15b) school of rgya dmar (stod lung). This Earth Mouse year is the Mouse year which preceded the Iron Tiger year (lcags stag - 1110 A.D.) in which dpal phag mo gru pa was born. He studied the Pramāṇaviniścaya (tshad ma rnam nges) and the teachings of the school known as Mādhyamaka-Svātantrika (dbu ma rang rgyud), and became a learned man. At the age of 24, he taught the Pramāṇaviniścaya.
  • 395 - The story of this dpyal family was as follows: A minister of the Dharmarāja khri srong lde btsan had three sons. The king used to call them: the 'White', the 'Black' and the 'Piebold', and thus their descendants began to be known as the: "White, Black and Piebold dpyal". Most of the early descendants had been excellent kalyāṇa-mitras belonging to the "Old Believers" (rnying ma pa). Of these, dpyal 'byung gnas rgyal mtshan having collected much gold, presented the gold to the owners, and bought Smṛti out who had become a shepherd. After that Smṛti amassed a large fortune. When the paṇḍita preached at bres, a shower of gold and turquoise fell. Though he was requested to stay (F:19a) on, he did not listen and proceeded to khams.

Chapter 8

  • 410 - His son the ācārya seng ge sgra was born in the (R:410) year Wood-Female-Sheep (shing mo lug 1235 A.D.) when his father was 31. He died at the age of 74 in the year (F:5b) Earth-Male-Ape (sa pho spre’u 1308 A.D.) His younger brother the bla ma rin chen bzang po was born in the year Water-Female-Hare (chu mo yos 1243 A.D) when his father was 39. He studied the doctrine under his uncle gzi brjid and at the age of 10 preached himself the Doctrine. At the age of 18, he was ordained as novice at zul phu. At the age of 33 he received full monastic ordination in the presence of the upadhyāya zul phu ba chos grags dpal, the karma-ācārya 'od zer dpal and the secret preceptor (gsang ston) ye shes dpal. He studied the Doctrine with his father, the ācārya rdo rje rin chen, the ācārya bzang mo ba 'phyong po ba and the ācārya rin gzhon. When he was 27, the bla ma gzi brjid passed away. After completing the funeral rites (of gzi brjid), he became abbot. He visited khams and toured (the province) for two years. He became a preacher of yang dgon sgom sde of 'tshal pa and priest of the royal household. He prepared a copy of the bka' 'gyur written in gold. (During his tenure of office) the temples and monastery increased (in size). He honoured and supported numerous monastic congregations, headed by those of spel bzi, zul and skyor (zul phu and skyor mo lung). He gave to all the interconnected monastic establishments of dbus and gtsang their respective shares. He was known as a manifestation of mar pa and the excellence of his life knew no measures. When he was 42 in the year Wood-Male-Ape (shing pho spre'u 1284 A.D.) rang byung rdo rje was born. When he was 48, in the year Iron-Male-Tiger (lcags pho stag 1290 A.D.), bu rin po che (bu ston) was born. He laboured greatly for the benefit of living beings and died at the age of 77 in the year Earth-Female-Sheep (sa mo lug 1319 A.D.).
  • 411 - rin chen bzang po's younger brother, the ācārya chos rdor was born in the year Fire-Male-Horse (me pho rta 1246 A.D.) and died at the age of 66 in the year Iron-Female-Hog (lcags mo phag 1311 A.D.). The eldest of (R:411) his five sons, the ācārya chos kyi rgyal mtshan was born in the year Water-Female-Sheep (chu mo lug 1283 A.D.). When he was 37, bla ma rin chen bzang po passed away. He himself died at the age of 77 in the year Earth-Female-Hog (sa mo phag 1359 A.D.). He went to Khams and there gathered numerous disciples, including the rin po che of ri bo che and others. Journeying as far as dar tshe mdo (Ta tsien lu on the Sino-Tibetan border), he received large offerings and sent them to spre'u zhing (near gyangtse), where he acted as abbot. Having met the yar klungs lo tsa ba grags pa rgyal mtshan, he heard from him the rdo rje phreng ba. (F:6a) The inmates of spre'u zing possess till this day the uninterrupted Lineage of the Vajramālā.
  • 416-20 - mar pa then visited lho brag. 'tshur's (F:8a) name was dbang gi rdo rje. Though his disciples were numerous, the chief among them were: ro mnyam rdo rje, a native of khams, mgon gad pa kIrti and ches ston bsod nams rgyal mtshan. Now khams pa ro mnyam rdo rje: He proceeded to India in search of the Guhyasamāja. He was anxious to listen to its exposition by Master mai tri pa, but the latter had died, and because of this he was unable to meet him. Because of his inability to find another teacher who could expound (the Guhyasamāja to him, he thought of studying it under mar pa and therefore returned to Tibet. On his way, he met two a tsa ras (<ācārya) and asked them: "You two, where are you going?" They replied: "We are going to attend (the exposition of the text) of the Guhyasamāja by 'tshur". He understood then that Master mar pa had passed away. He then studied the Tantra under 'tshur in company with 'khon gad pa kIrti. 'tshur bestowed on them the (Guhyasamāja) Tantra together with the precepts. khams pa composed a commentary on the Tantra (Guhyasamāja) according to the system of 'tshur. He appears also to have composed a treatise on the rite of initiation according to his commentary. The text appears to be identical with the text on the rite of maṇḍala composed by the ācārya Nāgārjuna (klu sgrub). In connection with this (R:417) text, he also wrote a summary (spyi dor) of the (Guhyasamāja) commentary which had been composed by Master mar pa. This "Large" gnyis med rnam rgyal was believed by chag lo tsa ba, bu ston and others to be a spurious text written by later Tibetan scholars, and some had even said that it had been composed by rgya pho ba lung pa. However, in the (R:418) commentary on the Guhyasamāja written by khams pa ro mnyam, there are quotations from the "Large" gnyis med rnam rgyal, so in any case it could not have been composed by rgya pho ba lung pa (who lived after ro mnam). This 'khon gad pa kIrti attended for a long time on man ra seng ge rgyal mtshan, and was a learned disciple in the Guhyasamāja according to the method of Nāgārjuna. He thought: "If I could only obtain its precepts, I would then practise meditation." He then heard that 'tshur possessed the hidden precepts and went to see him. He brought as presents a horse and some provisions, but (as his presents were not considered adequate), he was not allowed to meet ('tshur) during the day, and only met him at dusk. (Inside the cell) he saw a corpulent bla ma, and as soon as he saw him, a strong faith, which did not distinguish between Heaven and Earth, was born in him. He offered him the horse and some pigment. Later he practised meditation according to the Pañcakrama and attained the mystic trance during which he understood all external objects to be of an illusory nature (māyā-upāmā-samādhi). He had also visions of numerous spheres of Buddhas and taught (the system) (F:8b) to bya khang pa bsod nams rin chen. bya khang pa and 'khon were brothers from one mother. He first attended on bya khang pa, but later he had faith in 'khon, and received from him the hidden precepts of the Pañcakrama. He pleased 'khon who told him: "This hidden precept of mine is similar to a horse tied up for feeding. It is similar to a hog digging violently in summer! I, the Teacher, having become Master of the Doctrine, must bestow it on you!" In this manner 'khon gladly bestowed precepts on him and pronounced an oath (saying, that the precepts were complete. In ancient times Nepalese and Tibetan teachers used to give an oath on the completion of the bestowing of hidden precepts. This custom still exists in some parts of Amdo and Khams). bya khan pa practised them and attained the māyā-upāma-samádhi, and his male 419 organ was drawn inside (according to a Tantric belief the drawing inside of the male organ caused the uṣīśa or protuberance on the crown of the head to come forth). At the time of his death a protuberance appeared on the crown of his head. He said on his deathbed: "Do not cremate my body !" The body was accordingly placed in the chapel of thur la, facing westwards (towards srad). Due to this auspicious omen, conditions (on the neighbourhood) became peaceful and no harm arose, whereas formerly people used to say: that rgya mkhar stod (name of a place) could not stand up against the horsemen (i.e. robbers) of srad." He taught to tshul khrims skyabs of thur la, who became learned in all the Sūtras and Tantras. For 12 years he sat on a mat meditating without putting on his belt (i.e. he did not go out of his cell) and developed supernatural powers (siddhi). Having attained steadfastness in the degree of Utpannakrama, he had vivid visions of gods. Signs of the Sampannakrama degree manifested themselves and be became expert in the recitation of the Vajra formula (rdo rje bzlas pa). All external objects appeared (to him) illusory and his mind constantly dwelt in a state characterized by brilliancy. He dwelt in the trance of Yuganaddha (zung jug), which drove away all thoughts of differentiation. He was living like a Buddha. He taught the system to than pe ba 'phags pa skyabs. The latter on receiving ordination, studied hard (lit.”till the ground seemed red"). Then having perceived, the meaning of both the Utpannakrama and Sampannakrama degrees, and excellent mystic trance and understanding were born in him. At the time of his death, many wonderful 420 signs took place, such as three circles of rainbows (which were observed) surrounding his house and others.
  • 465 - After the lapse of two years, sgam po pa died in the year Water-Female-Hen (chu mo bya 1153 A.D.). After the cremation of his remains, sgam po pa's heart was found in (tshul khrims snying po's), hand. He built a golden caitya (bkra shis sgo mangs) to enshrine the relic. He also did some construction work on old chapels (mchod khang) and meditative monasteries (sgom sde). After that he proceeded towards gsang phu and gathered there about a hundred monks. There he had a vision of Hevajra accompanied by nine goddesses (dgyes rdor lha dgu). He reported the matter to gnyal ston, who requested him to, show him the vision, and was able to see it also. After that he was invited to stod lungs (north of lha sa) by the sthavira shes rab grags and founded the monastery of 'tshur lha lung. He gathered (R:465) round himself a large group of monks from dbus, gtsang and khams. When he came to lha sa, he thought that because of internal feuds there, the jo khang was falling in ruins and that he would be able to repair it. In his dream, he saw the Master sgam po pa who asked him: "Are you leaving me behind?" The image of the Lord Śākya shed real tears, and he remained there, repaired the temple, and adorned it with rich ornaments. After that he proceeded 27b towards yar 'brog and other monasteries which were suffering from internal disorders, and acted successfully as mediatorand pacifier.
  • 475 - .6 The first incarnation series Karmapa (sprul pa’i sku’i rim pa dang po’i skabs. Chengdu 563; Roerich 473). i. dus gsum mkhyen pa: The Master sgam po pa's greatest disciple dus gsum mkhyen pa: He was a Bodhisattva of the Blessed Kalpa (Bhadrakalpa) who after the Blessed Maitreya was (predestined) to become the Tathāgata Siṃha (seng ge; the sixth of the Thousand Buddhas). As stated in the Saddharma-puṇḍarīka, all the Buddhas of the Blessed Kalpa after having attained Supreme Enlightenment, were again to manifest themselves as Bodhisattvas. For this reason, the number of births of these Bodhisattvas (of Bhadrakalpa) is difficult to ascertain (R:474) even by Bodhisattvas, who had attained the Tenth Stage (chos sprin). Because they were already Buddhas, I shall relate here only the well known parts of his birth story: Formerly (he had) been Prajñālaṃkāra, a disciple of Nāgārjuna (klu sgrub). Then Kāmadhanu, a (F:31b) disciple of Saroruha (mtshe skyes). After that (he had been) one named Dharmabodhi in South-Western Jambudvipa, who had obtained the siddhi of Avalokiteśvara. After that (he had been) rgyal ba mchog dbyangs (a Tibetan, one of the 25 chief disciples of Padmasambhava), who had been a minister of the religious king (dharmarāja) khri srong lde btsan, had been initiated by the ācārya Padma (sambhava), and had obtained supernatural powers (siddhi) of Śrī Hayagrīva. In later times he became the kalyāṇa-mitra po to ba rin chen gsal. After his death, he reincarnated as dus gsum mkhyen pa, who was born in the Snow Range of tre shod in Lower khams (mdo khams) in the year Iron-Male-Tiger (lcags pho stag 1110 A.D.). His father was sgom pa rdo rje mngon, a yogin devotee of Yamāntaka, and his mother lha thog gza' sgang lcam ming 'dren, a natural yoginī. He and dpal phag mo gru pa were born in the same year. He was given the name of dge 'phel. He received from his father the mantra called "The Heart of rang 'byung rgyal mo" (a name of Ekājaṭī of the rnying ma pa sect), and propitiated the goddess, and soon after that obtained supernatural powers (siddhi) of the goddess. Having met bla ma rgya gar bai ro and dpal 'dzin he heard from them many hidden precepts. He also obtained the propitiation rite (sādhana) of Mahākāla (mgon po) and propitiated the deity. He made a clear imprint of his hand and foot on a rock. At the age of 16, he received ordination in the presence of the upādhyāya tre bo mchog gi bla ma, aged 70, a disciple of rngog lo tsa ba, and an ordained disciple of rngog legs pa'i shes rab and the ācārya chag seng ge grags, and was given the name of chos kyi grags pa.
  • 479 - In his fiftieth year he proceeded to khams and stayed at skam po gnas nang. Then he went to tre (tre bo in khams) and gathered round himself about a thousand monks. He acted as mediator during internal disorders in that country.
  • 486 - He gathered round himself about five hundred monks in khams, and preached the Doctrine to them. He exhibited his magic powers as far as the country of ljang%, and prohibited hunting.
  • Having reached khams, he quelled numerous feuds in khams. 492
  • 500 - Then the great Emperor tho gan the mur (Toyon% Temür, d. 1370 A.D.) and his son having heard of the fame of the Dharmasvāmin, sent many Mongol and Tibetan envoys to him, such as the ding hu dben dpon and the sde dpon dkon mchog rgyal mtshan and others, with an Imperial command and great presents from the royal prince 'i li ji inviting him to visit (the Imperial Court). Mindful of the great benefit for living beings, the Dharmasvāmin left 'tshur phu on the 20th day of the fifth month of the year Earth-Male-Dog (sa pho khyi 1358 A.D.), aged 19. When a lightning struck at gnam, snying drung and other places, without doing harm to either the inhabitants, or their cattle, he understood it to be an auspicious omen. At the court of the Emperor and in the countries of the North he laboured extensively for the benefit of others, as well as composed numberless treatises. After that he returned to kar ma, where he showed that his usual preoccupations were not disturbed (by such journeys), etc. The regional chiefs of khams received him well and attended on him. They begged him to remove the threat of locusts (cha ga ba) and immediately he removed it. After that he proceeded to tre and composed a treatise named the chos kyi gtam dam pa dges pa'i sgron ma. When he visited kam C:gling (Kanchou in Kan-su), there appeared near the preacher's chair (F:43a) (chos khri) a flower unseen previously in that region, with a hundred stalks springing up from one root, each stalk having a hundred flowers, each flower having a thousand golden leaves with a red centre and yellow stamen. All onlookers (R:501) on seeing it became filled with amazement. The region was afflicted by plague. He subdued the disease for many years. When he had reached ga chu he received another invitation from the Emperor, but thought that a change (gyur bzlog) of events was imminent. Journeying through the country of tsha 'phrang nag po, he reached the mi nyag rab sgang. He arranged for a twenty five years' truce in the war between sgo and ldong. When he was residing on the mountain of 'an 'ga bo, many officials came to him with an invitation from the Emperor, among them shes rab gu shrI and others, who brought with them large presents. He then proceeded towards Amdo (mdo smad). (500)
  • 504-5 Further, he offered silver lamps and a considerable sum of money for the maintenance of eternal votive lamps in the vihāras of Lower khams, such as the monastery of kar ma and others. (504-5) From there, the Dharmasvāmin proceeded towards kar ma and preached the Doctrine extensively. Then he proceeded to Upper and Lower khams, and stayed there. (505)
  • 507 - At the age of four, while staying at stag rtsa with the Dharmasvāmin mkha' spyod pa, he heard the initiation rite of the Vajramāla (rdo rje phreng ba), the "Six Doctrines" of nA ro (nA ro chos drug), the Cycle of Mahāmudrā (phyag chen), the Ṣadaṅga yoga (of the Kālacakra, sbyor drug). At the age of seven, in the year of the Horse (rta lo 1390 A.D.), he received ordination at rtse lha sgang in the presence of the mahā-upādhyāya bsod nams bzang po and the ācārya mahāupadhāyāya yon blo ba, and was given the name of chos dpal bzang po. At the age of 18, in the year of the Serpent (sbrul lo 1401 A.D.), he proceeded towards Lower khams.
  • 508 - karmapa V - He slowly journeyed towards khams, maintaining the interest of others on his way to the Imperial Court. (R 508)
  • 511 - After that, he proceeded towards khams, and visited cham la kha owned by a family from mi nyag, and there protected the interest of others. Wishing to found a monastery there, he intended taking some land from (his) relatives, but they did not agree to give it up. One day, he, having taken a pair of oxen and a plough, ploughed a furrow round the plot of land on which (he intended) building the monastery, and said: "Inside of this (furrow), I am the master and shall build a monastery." Others were unable to resist it. Had the ploughman been a disciple of his, he would have been killed by the relatives. There he founded (the monastery) of zur mang. He protected disciples and gathered (round himself) numerous priests. (R511)
  • 514 - He went to khams and met the bla ma (mkhan chen pa) at kar ma'i yang dgon.
  • 515-516 - He then journeyed gradually towards kong po and laboured extensively for the benefit of others. After that 516 he visited 'ol kha bkra shis thang (tsa ri) via dags po. The mahā-upādhyāya bsod bzangs pa sent a sedan-chair (do li ) to receive him, and he manifested the manner of proceeding there. dbang grags pa rgyal mtshan offered him tea. He (the Dharmasvāmin) attended on the sprul sku chos dpal ye shes, the Dharmasvāmin rong po (rong chen pa) and others, and manifested the manner of studying with them. In short, he visited the regions of khams, kong po, dags po, various places in Tibet, and various localities of Central khams, and numberless were his labours for the salvation of living beings.
  • 522 - His next reincarnation (was) bkra shis grags pa who was born in Lower khams in the year Iron Male Ape (Icags pho spre'u 1200 A.D.) as son of father 'phags pa rta mchog gi rnal 'byor pa . dbang phyug legs pa and mother sgrol ma 'tsho.
  • 551 - Then having left Lower khams, he proceeded as far as zi ling mkhar (Hsi-ning, in Ch'ing hai Province), and caused all living beings to expect the end of phenomenal existence (saṃsāra).
  • 564 - Those which had originated from dpal stag lung thang pa are said to have greatly spread throughout the lands of dbus and khams. skal ldan ye shes seng ge taught to bsnubs Vinayadhara. g.yam bzangs pa and mtha' rgyas (founded by him) increased in size. In khams, the Dharmasvāmin dmar pa having founded the sho dgon monastery, gathered there about 2000 monks.
  • 565 - nyag re se bo having met ‘gro mgon (phag mo gru pa), obtained spiritual realization, journeyed to khams, and there founded the monastery of gles dgon, and manifested many signs of supernatural power. He was said to have been kar ma pa shi, and this was admitted by kar ma pa shi himself.
  • 595 - lho rin po che grags pa yon tan was born in the year Fire Female Hog (me mo phag 1347 A.D.). He obtained hidden precepts from the Dharmasvāmin rol pa'i rdo rje and others. He spent his time in meditation only. He became the spiritual teacher of the lho pas of Upper khams, and (thus) became known as lho rin po che. He passed away at the age of 68.
  • 652 - iv. Founding of ri bo che and death

After that (R:652) he proceeded to khams in the year Fire Female Mouse (me pho byi ba, 1276 A.D.). At the age of 26, he founded ri bo che. Until the present day it is the greatest monastery in khams. In my opinion, sangs rgyas yar byon had probably seen the beginning and the end of these events, and had instructed the two nephews to act as abbots. He passed away at the age of 46 in the year Fire Male Ape (me pho spre'u, 1296 A.D.).

  • 663ix. Relationship with the Mudra from zangs ri

On another occasion he again took as his mudrā a woman from zangs ri. "That was improper", thought he, and then told the woman : "Don't follow me!" but she followed him, and so he fled to khams. Travelling via sgam po, he met the ācārya sgom pa. From myang po he proceeded to nags shod. He was presented with many offerings, but did not accept them, saying: "I am not a seller of the thigh- bone of a bka' 663 brgyud pa" . Later, the mudrā from zangs ri came to khams in search of the Venerable One, but died on the way. In the vicinity of zla dgon there was a forest which (when seen from afar) had the form of a woman, and she became the fairy of this forest. * 712 ii. Youth: At the age of eighteen, he had to practise meditation and magic for three years in order to counteract enmity shown by his father's relatives, and succeeded in finally crushing it. After this he proceeded towards Khams, and at the age of twenty-three he took up the vow of observing the five precepts of moral conduct (śiīas) in front of the ācārya blo ston. There he practised for one year the mngon spyod (abhicāra; exorcisms). At the age of twenty-four, the blessing due to his meritorious deeds was brought forth, and he saw in a dream that an oblong shaped animal resembling a snake came out of his nose after a severe bleeding, and disappeared in the direction of the Western quarter. A thought occured to him in his dream: "I have associated with you for a long time, but now we shall not meet again."



  • Qinghai: 6 counties
  • Szechuan: 16 counties
  • Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR): 25 counties
  • Yunnan: 3 counties


Monasteries and Nunneries


  • Founded in 1147 by the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa (see below).


  • ka thog rdo rje ldan
  • Located in Derge, Kahthog is one of the first Buddhist monasteries in Kham. The monastery was extremely important for the propagation of institutional Buddhism in Kham.
  • Kapstein on the teachings being given at Kathok: "Kathok had its own distinctive tradition of doctrinal learning, reaching back to the Nyingmapa lineages that had been active during the period between the fall of the old dynasty and the eleventh-century revival. The hallmarks of the system were the analysis of the entire range of Buddhist teaching in terms of nine progressive approaches to the highest enlightenment called vehicles (theg-pa, yana), and a special emphasis on the three highest vehicles, those of esoteric tantras, particularly as these were embodied in the teachings of the Guhyagarbhatantra (The Tantra of the Secret Nucleus), the Mdo dgongs-pa 'dus-pa (The Sutra Gathering All Intentions), and the highest contemplative teachings of the Nyingmapa, those of the Great Perfection (Rdzogs-pa chen-po)."

sTeng chen

  • Bonpo monastery founded in 1110.

Lontang Drolma

  • Eleventh century temple in Kham which is cited in the Blue Annals as a place of hidden (and later revealed) treasure (Blue Annals, pg. 227).

Pilgrimage Sites



Ethnic Groups

Please see Clans and Tribes Organization Essay for a general overview.

While it is considered to be a border region between Central Tibet and cultural China, Kham's history reflects its self-identified centrality and the complex conceptualized identity of the people in the area. One of the most interesting cultural aspects of Kham is that it has always been a region where multiple ethnic communities interact and influence each other. There are many ways that the region's culture is markedly different from that of Central Tibet. The history of Kham reflects a strong regional identity that was frequently combined with a westward focused interest on taking part in Central Tibetan cultural, social, and political institutions. Thus, while the region has its own strong identity separate from that of other areas, many of its religious practitioners and scholars have at times looked to Central Tibet for identity and inclusion in these institutions. Likewise, their central Tibetan counterparts looked to Kham for teachings and as a ground for spreading Buddhist doctrine.

Jowo Setsun (jo wo se btsun, 1004-1064)

  • "Moreover, the Be’u-bum sngon-po specifies that Po-to-ba himself learned of the (c-I) debate from on Jo-bo Se-btsun, a rather obscure figure from Eastern Tibet (Khams) who, however, is known to have been an early teacher of Atisha’s most renowned Tibetan disciple, the great ‘Brom-ston Rgyal-ba’i ‘byung-gnas (1004-1064)" (Kapstein, 214 n. 11).

Khampa Sengé

Karma Chakmé

  • "Karma Chags-med, the author of the latter(…Phyag-rdzogs-zung-’jug), who hailed from Nang-chen in Khams, was active during the first half of the seventeenth century.” (Kapstein, 262 n. 41)

Nyangrel Nyima Özer

Phagmodrupa Dorje Gyelpo

(phag mo dru pa rdo rje rgyal po)

The Karmapas

Please see Karmapa for more information

Literary Works and Oral Traditions

History of the Dharma in Eastern Tibet (mDo Khams smad kyi chos 'byung)

  • composed by Khampa Sengé

Zhe-chen chos-’byung

  • traditional account of lineages in Kham


  • composed by Karma Chags-med

The Epic of Gesar

The Limitless Ocean Cycle (rgya mtsho mtha' yas kyi skor)

  • composed by Karma Pakshi, although authorship is mistakenly attributed to the third Karmapa as discussed above.
  • "…a collection of treatises that taken together present an exceedingly thorough survey of the nine vehicles…of the Nyingmapa school. The author's perspective, though, is one who has very close ties to the new translation schools that arose after the tenth century, the Kagyupa in particular." (Kapstein, 97)

dus gsum mkhyen pa'i zhus lan

  • Written by Gampopa in response to the questions of the Karmapa Düsum Khyenpa.

Treasure Texts (gter ma)


external link: THDL Timeline Database


The annual horse exhibition festival has been held in Litang for over 1000 years.

coming soon…more content!!


Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan Renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the Rebirth of Tibetan Culture. Columbia University Press, 2005.

Gardner, Alexander "Khams pa histories: Visions of People, Place and Authority" in Tibet Journal, Vol. XXVIII, No. 3 Autumn 2003. (Review of Proceedings of IATS 9, edited by Lawrence Epstein, and a state of the field survey regarding western scholarship on Kham.)

Kapstein, Matthew T. The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism: Conversion, Contestation and Memory. Oxford University Press, 2000.

Roerich, George N. The Blue Annals Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi 1996 (Reprint)

Shakabpa, Tsepon W.D Tibet: A Political History New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967.