‘Wounds of three generations’: a history of Ngaba under Chinese Communism
published by Kirti monastery in exile 2010
the Long March
On June 26 1935 the Red Army reached Chu chen, overcoming Tibetan resistance with superior numbers and weapons. The lHa steng monastery and its precious contents was destroyed. (This ancient monastery once had over 2000 monks. It was completely destroyed in the Cultural Revolution and only ruins and 2 Stupas remain now).
In 1935 the Red Army passed through dMu dge (毛尔盖), looting the Tibetan population and those killed and wounded were countless. The “dMu dge conference” was held there in August. After that the so-called Cuo Lujun army led by Zhu De and Zhang Guotao proceeded through Cog rtse, Kyom kyo ( 脚木足), Ja phug (茶堡) etc. wreaking plunder and havoc, and causing a terrible famine, as people were left with no supplies of grain and so on.
The Cog rtse ruler mounted resistance on several occasions, but was overcome and had to retreat to the high mountains as his kingdom was overrun. His palace was occupied by Mao Zedong and the Red Army general command.
The Red Army proceeded through mKhar sgo and lHa rgyal gling (刷经寺) to rNga ba. Under the command of the rMe’u rgyal po dPal mgon phrin las rab brtan, the minister mThu stobs, the commander Te’u te’u A sangs (he was executed in 1959), gYu rgyas rta ro and others mobilised all the forces of upper, middle and lower rNga ba, and took on the Red Army at the pass called Ro chu lung ba south of mTshan nyid monastery, at Thod pa ki li, Lab rtse’i chu khug, Glang ma’i thang shar, at lCags yus thang in sKya mgo and other places, in the course of which the rMe’u ru ma military commander rMe’u sgang tshags nor, the brother of A khu thabs mkhas, the 34th abbot of Ki rti monastery, Chu tshe mgo dmar and so on were killed, and minister mThu stobs was injured. Then the fighting went on sporadically, and for a few days they were able to hold out, but as more Communist troops started to catch up they were unable to hold them back any longer, and everyone, the farmers and the herders, and monks from all the monasteries fled to the high mountains carrying whatever they could, and remained there for the next four months. The Red Army went on to the main Ki rti monastery in Tsha kho, destroyed the Maitreya temple there, and tore down all the canvas paintings fixed to the walls in the assembly hall and elsewhere to use as seating, and all the moveable paintings too, destroying them all. They pulled the roofing off the dormitory buildings, using the beams and rafters as firewood.
Then they went on to A mchog mtshan nyid monastery, where they further wrought destruction of the buildings and looting of their sacred contents. The monks fled to an area called dGu khog, where they continued to hold their assemblies and classes, and the summer rains retreat also had to be held there that year. Reaching rNga ba, the Red Army destroyed the temples, assembly halls and dormitories of about 30 monasteries, sparing none. They wiped out all the property and grain supplies left in the villages.
The gDong ri Ki rti monastery and village lay along the way, so it suffered severe damage, to the buildings and their contents. At that time, the scholar ’Jam Blo bzang skal bzang and Nyob Blo bzang phun tshogs were in charge of the statues, books, Stupas and other precious contents of the monastery, and when they came back there they were seized by the soldiers and disappeared.
At that time, the Red Army commander Zhu De stationed himself in the assembly hall of the rNga ba ki rti monastery, and left something written on the wall there in Chinese and Tibetan, so that in 1958 they said (exceptionally) that the monastery could not be destroyed because it was “Zhu De’s residence”. But during the Cultural Revolution it was completely destroyed. When the rNga ba ki rti monks fled, they were pursued by Red soldiers, and sGo ’gab blo bsam and gSer sde rgya mtsho were killed on the side of the Rva ru pass.
Their names are remembered because they were among the respected senior monks, but many others were also killed. All those caught by the pursuers were killed. They pulled up all the floorboards in the assembly hall for firewood, and used every single canvas wall painting for tenting, seating, rain shelters and so on. Of the thousand prayer wheels around the monastery perimeter, only one survived, which the monks named ‘the rebel they spared’. Not a single statue was left undamaged, like the lifesize silver statue of Amitabha inside the Stupa that had its arms broken off. Not a single volume of scripture survived in the whole complex. All the copper urns (used to serve the monk assemblies) were used for shrapnel. So there was nowhere in the whole of rNga ba that was not plundered, looted and destroyed.
The 6 divisions of upper rNga ba tried to resist with hand-to-hand fighting, but were outnumbered and had to flee. Eight people including rDor shar’s dGe slong brother, bSod rgyam, Yi go and Sher rgyam were killed by Red soldiers. When they fled, dPon mo dPal chen don grub mtsho of the ruling rMe’u family had their palace, and all the grain and other property they could not carry, set on fire, saying that otherwise it would be captured by the Red Army and used to sustain them for a long time. Even some village houses were burned down in this way. They spent 4 months up in the mountains. While the Red Army was staying in rNga ba, Zhang Guotao defied the Party’s orders, and led his Cuo Lujun army through A ’khyam (下阿坝) and Rong wam (茸安) in lower rNga ba down to ’Bar khams, and after that the Tibetans started to return to their homes.
But then in 1936, just like before, the no.2 and no.4 Fangmen armies made their way from dKar mdzes to ’Dzam thang, looting, burning and killing, and in the 6th month advanced into rNga ba. The rNga ba people, both farmers and herders, all put up resistance but were overwhelmed, and once more were obliged to leave their homes behind and take refuge in the mountains. The second time there were no major battles, but there were many terrible stories of homes being looted and destroyed. The first year they had fled before the harvest, and the second year they had no chance to plant many crops, and the Red Army stole whatever stores they had.
From the end of August 1935 until the autumn of 1936 the no.1, no.2 and no.4 Fangmen armies passed through Ban yul, dPal skyid (巴西), A skyid rong (阿西茸), Chos rje (求吉) and Bab bzo in (present day) mDzod dge county causing irreparable losses through looting and destruction, and killing many Tibetans. They held their dPal skyid conference at dPal skyid ban yis monastery in September that year, and looted and destroyed many monasteries and homes in the area.
Tibetans put up brave resistance to the Red Army at a historically famous defensive point in The bo (迭部), a defile called La rtse’i khog, and managed to block their advance. This was recorded in a book by the Long March veteran Hu Pingyun. Subsequently the Chinese government erected a memorial pillar at the spot, but it is not known how many Tibetans lost their lives there, or other details. When the Red Army marched through Zhing ra sde ba region of The bo, the population fled into the forest and the mountains, but some of the youths sprung an attack on them when they stopped there. They managed to kill quite a few soldiers armed just with knives, axes and spears, and captured a few alive, who they threw off the cliffs between Zhing ra sde ba and ’Og shod sde ba.
At sTag tshang lha mo and other monasteries in mDzod dge, the monks fled, and buried many of the statues and sacred objects from the monasteries in the forest, and the village people also fled in apprehension of the Red Army’s arrival, but the army never actually came there.
The ravages of the Long Marchers caused the first ever famine in the history of the mDo smad region, when people were forced to eat leaves, grass and charcoal to survive.
Kirti tshang dang ’brel ba’i ngag rgyun lo rgyus nyams myong rgan po’i gtam phreng
Interview no.1: Ja tshogs sprul sku Blo bzang don grub (1924-2001)
Kirti Jepa Datsang 2003
Oral accounts of the elders related to the history of the Kirti lineage/ interview with Jatsok Tulku Losang Dondrup
(p.25) “A khu ’Jam dbyangs used to tell me to concentrate on reading the scriptures, because there was nothing else for me to worry about. There was no problem of food, clothing and shelter. It didn’t used to be like this. We didn’t know if we would run out of Tsampa or of firewood. If there was enough of one, there was not enough of the other. Not only that, but when the Communists came on the Long March they destroyed our scriptures. We even reached the point of missing the (commonly) memorised texts. You don’t have any problems at all. So study the scriptures!
The Red Army came twice and attacked the monastery, and they destroyed sacred images and burned all the scriptures, so the scholar monks faced serious problems to get the books they needed. At that time, all the symbols of body (statues), speech (scriptures) and mind (Stupa-s etc) were destroyed, and only one of the many prayer wheels around the perimeter survived. The monks called it “the rebel they spared” (“Thos thar”).
Probably out of spite, during the Long March the Chinese soldiers did whatever bad things they could. In my house, we used to have a Co ne bka’ ’gyur. During the 13th Dalai Lama’s time a definitive edition was made, but before that there was probably none better than the Co ne edition...even the paper was special. The script was even more elegant than the Lhasa edition, with images of offering deities and all, it was a wonderful thing. We had long, medium and short Prajnaparamita scriptures written in a mixture of silver and gold. And there were many Tangka paintings in my shrine room. When we returned from Shor ma (place of refuge), not a single book was left in place. The Chinese had made a toilet by piling up a large quantity of books and placing wooden beams on top, and many pages had footprints in the middle and so on, so everyone got the idea that the Red Chinese were coming deliberately to smash sacred objects and extinguish Buddhism.
In the 2 years that the Red Army fought (in rNga ba), on earlier and later occasions, they severely disrupted the monks’ studies and material provisions. Most fled to Shor ma, and when they held assemblies, not everyone had even a cloak to wear. Thanks to the kindness of the then disciplinarian from (sTag tshang ) lha mo, A khu ’bring ba bsam gtan tshang, some monks had iron tea bowls and some had porcelain, but there were hardly any with their regular things?? They had no tea cauldron, so they borrowed one from mKhar mda’ dgon.
No serious damage was done to the economic condition of the country in general, tea services and offerings were better than before, probably because the common people realised how the monks were suffering. Coming down when it was too cold in the high mountains, even a structure without doors or windows seemed warm and cosy. They tried to maintain the teaching programme, assemblies and so on as before, thinking that this was the mercy of the three jewels, but anyway the Chinese caused major problems to the material conditions for the practice of religion. It was like that just in my household, and the situation all over rNga khog would be beyond accounting... (p.28)
Before the Communists came to full power in 1959, when I offered Mang ja (tea service) there were 1,700-1,800 participants within the monastery.
At the time of the Long March (1935-36) I was 9 and 10 years old, or maybe 11 and 12. There were two incursions in rNga yul, one coming from rNga stod going down, one from rNga smad going up. When they were coming up, soldiers went to block their way as soon as their approach became known, but there was no time to stop them, they say. The rMe’u rgyal po, queen etc, came while the monastery assembly was being held, to explain that (war was being waged) for the sake of (protecting) religion and for the wellbeing of the country. “We will see if we can block the Chinese advance, and think we can. But if not, we will have to flee to the mountains for refuge. The monks and the elders can make Puja. The villagers can fight. Monks who can return to their native villages should do so. Those with no native community nearby should stick together. Whatever happens, a monk cannot even throw a stone at the Chinese, much less use a weapon. If we fight it is for the defence of religion, not just the country. Monks who do so would later face punishment when they return to their native area. Everyone should keep this in mind!” They said “Let’s see if we can beat them. Probably we can. To be killed is not the end.”
It seems they were outnumbered. At that time they had no big guns or anything, no automated weapons. The Tibetans had useless guns, for which they made the bullets themselves. They fled to mGo log, to Phyi ’brog, Khro kho, and upper and lower Rong mtshams, carrying whatever they could, and only after 5 or 6 months, when there was word that the Chinese had left, they returned home. When they fled to the mountains, the fields had been planted, but when they returned, the whole harvest was gone, (even) the leftovers were dry, it is said. That time, the Chinese army didn’t starve. The next year, the Chinese “came down” (into rNga ba from the north), and they fled again. Like the previous year, the Tibetan forces could not stop them and they came down. That time, we also went through upper rNga ba and fled to mGo log. As we were fleeing up the sunny side of the rNga valley, the Chinese army was coming down the shady side. They came towards us in a dark swarm like a herd of Yak, down the far side of the valley. After a while, night fell, and there were huge fires. Later, when they had taken over the villages in the centre of rNga ba, they sent out pursuers, and there were battles with each group of pursuers.
When word came that the Chinese had left and we returned to our homes, there were 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 Chinese soldiers lying dead in every corner. After a while, you got used to it and no longer saw them as scary or repulsive. Some were all dried out. There were some stragglers, and some (Tibetans) threw stones at them, but others told them not to, for mercy’s sake. There were a few in our village, and they say one of them committed suicide (by jumping) in our well. They must have been driven to desperation by hunger. That time, of the thousand or more prayer wheels around the (Kirti) monastery perimeter, only one remained. The monks gave it the name “The one that got away”. Not a single statue was left. The arms of the silver Amitabha statue in the great Stupa had been broken off. Not a single intact volume of scripture remained in the entire complex. We had a copy of the Co ne bka’ ’gyur in our house, and that was gone too. That is how they carried on during that time.
Q. How long did the Red Army stay? Were householders still living in the villages during that time?
They stayed 3 or 4 months. When we fled to the mountains it was springtime, the time when (barley) shoots are growing. It is harvested when it has grown long enough to sway in the wind. They had taken all the cattle, leaving none. I was at least ten years old at the time. There were no householders in the villages, all had fled. There was a nun called “Jomo Chu ’thung ma” (‘the water drinking nun’) living in a hermitage on the mountain above our place. She was not able to flee, and she was not killed, but had been shot, and her shoulder broken. Those able to get away did so.
Q. Apart from destroying the sacred contents, what did they do to Kirti monastery? Were monks attacked or killed?
They didn’t actually burn down buildings. They set fire to the wooden floor of the assembly hall and there was extensive fire damage inside. Not a single wall painting (wall-mounted canvas sections) was left in the assembly hall. The pursuers who came up to the pastures had used the canvas to make tents, and as waterproof clothing. All the copper tea cauldrons had been smashed. It was said they used them to make bombs. They made elementary hand grenades, cast bronze with a hemp string tail, and there were all kinds, those that exploded and those that did not. It seems they were able to make elementary rifle bullets.
Yes, there were dead and wounded. sGo ’gab Blo bsam and gSer sde rgya mtsho, two monk brothers, were killed by pursuers on the side of the Ra ru pa’i lab rtse (pass). Those two were extremely dignified, with reddish shaved heads. They are known because the older monks remember them as important people, but many more must have been killed whose names are not known. The pursuers would kill any fugitives they caught. At that time the pursuing troops were so poor that they went on foot. They didn’t have cars or even mules, much less aircraft. There was extremely heavy rain that summer, so the pursuing troops didn’t get all that far.
Q. Is it a true story, about mKhan po bDud ’dul tshang meeting the Red Army on the road?
Yes. When mKhan po bDud ’dul tshang was passing through Gur skos mkhar nang, a narrow valley with two mouths, and met the Chinese, they were up in a little side valley. He was quite old too. He hid there with a group of people including A khu dkon me, Rig tshul, sKu tshab sGang chos brtson ’grus and Sangs rgyas. The Chinese were coming and going nearby, but never saw them. He said “Now we can’t stay in the monastery, but there is no need for me to go from here. I think this Phur ba of mine can handle a few Chinese”. He really did not fall into their hands.
gDong khu tshang fled to rNga gsib rong kha, and the Chinese pursued and arrested him. He was a bit lame in one leg, maybe because his tutor beat him as a child, and he was fat, and the soldiers beat him with their rifle butts as they led him along, and on the way, when he could no longer walk, they threw him in a pit. His nephew is the old Lama who is a little bit dumb. He came waving his arms and saying “Friends! Don’t do this! The A lags cannot walk further and has been left behind. So why are you going on? “You too should pretend you can’t walk, and they will leave you behind”, they told him. As soon as the old Lama did this, they beat him with their rifle butts, and after a few blows they left him be. His companions, Blo sher and so on, were all young monks. They brought them to Kirti monastery. At first it was like imprisonment. Then they started to send them out to gather dry dung for fuel. At first it was nearby, then further and further away, and eventually those two were able to get away. A lags gDong sku tshang was not pretending, he really could not walk. He loaded two bullets in a gun, pointed it at his chest and pulled the trigger twice, but the bullets wouldn’t fire.
Q. Was the great Stupa damaged at that time?
It wasn’t actually demolished, but they took all the sacred objects and left it gutted. I already mentioned the silver Amitabha. The central square platform of the dome that was filled with Tsatsa (clay votive tablets) was also smashed. They made piles of earth inside and outside the monastery so that the doors could no longer be opened, turning it into a fortification. It seems that there was a Chinese commander staying above the assembly hall, and they put up kind of battlements to make it impenetrable. On the upper floor of the assembly hall they painted a slogan with blue paint in a mixture of Chinese and Tibetan, in both scripts: ‘Sa chen po shis tsang nas’. Apparently it meant to say that they were on their way to take the whole country as far as lHa sa. I don’t know if that is true, but it was written in very crude letters on the upper storey (wall). It seems the general Zhu De was there at the time. He is supposed to have said “Last time when our Red Army came here, you all fled. But you left behind everything to eat and drink. We were in a bad way, so those things really helped us. Now I will repay that kindness. I will do whatever I can to help you.”
Q. Is it true that the rMe’u rgyal po’s palace was set on fire?
Yes, it was. The family themselves did it. There was a protector(?) It was when the chief’s mother was acting as leader. She must have requested a divination asking whether it would be good to set it on fire. In the end when they decided to do it, they went into the assembly hall and lit a butter lamp, not a big one, but it sent out a long, long flame. They took that as a sign, and set the building on fire.
Nga’i pha yul gyi ya nga ba’i lo rgyus (The tragedy of my homeland) by Tenzin Pelbar
Dharmshala: Nartang publications (DIIR) 1994
In the summer of 1936, the ‘Red Workers and Peasants Army’ of the Chinese Communists reached dMu dge (Maoergai), near Zung chu (Songpan). Calling themselves “Liberators of the proletariat and destroyers of all systems of exploitation”, they stole large quantities of grain from Tibetan households in the area. This enraged the Tibetans, who fought against them. When the Red Army soldiers approached the village of dBo to in Chu nag lung, they were ambushed by the villagers, led by bKra shis ’bum, many were killed, and their Russian-made rifles captured. They sheltered in a defensible gully and continued fighting for a few days, then retreated. A few days later, the village was surrounded by 2000 Chinese soldiers, and they burned 27 village houses to the ground. They killed 118 Tibetans, including bKra shis’bum and his nephew rNam rgyal thar. The latter had seized two guns from the hands of the aggressors and was charging fearlessly up to the Chinese gun emplacement when he was shot down. Klu rgyal ’bum killed quite a few soldiers by firing out from a window on the middle storey of a three storey house, but the Chinese responded by throwing grenades, he was injured, and fell into their hands. Later, they tied his hands behind his back, hung him from a beam in one of the houses and lit a big fire under him, burning him alive for all to see. Nam mkha’ ’bum and his 12 family members, sKal bzang don grub and his 15 family members, and rGya mtsho rgyal and his 18 family members were all killed and their houses burned down, as were many others. Others who were surrounded by soldiers stabbed themselves with their own knives before they could be killed, and some women hung themselves in their houses. The soldiers bayonetted the villagers to death, A mes ’tsho and Gling sman ’tsho were run through nine times over. bKra shis ’bum, his parents, son and daughter, and wife Gling dar sman were all killed, leaving no family successor.
Part I: Eat the Buddha!
Part I: Eat the Buddha!
Part IV: Documents issued by the central CCP Leadership
(Click File - Download as to select pdf format)
 The first of two ‘Soviet’s, or ‘Tibetan Peoples’ Republics’, was established at Chu chen (Ch; Dajin/ Jinchuan) in Gyalrong, although not until November 1935, when the 4th Front army was returning south to Sichuan. It lasted only until June 1936, when PLA troops left the region at the end of the Long March. See Foundation of two Peoples’ Republics during the Long March of the Red Army http://cpc.people.com.cn/GB/64162/64172/64915/5699869.html
 This was the version of events approved in the official history. Similarly, according to the Abbreviated histories of Dzogé’s Buddhist monasteries by the historical research unit of Dzogé county CPPCC, 1999 (p.365-6), it was in the great assembly hall of dPal skyid pad yul monastery (in the east of present day mDzod dge/ Ruorgai county), in September 1935, that Mao announced his troops’ departure for Gansu, dividing the two armies. It was there too that he composed and distributed his Address to Red Army fighters.