Golok rebellions (1917–1949)

The Ngolok rebellions (1917–1949) were a series of military campaigns against unconquered Ngolok (Golok) tribal Tibetan areas of Qinghai (Amdo), undertaken by two Hui commanders, Gen. Ma Qi and Gen. Ma Bufang, on behalf of the Beiyang and Kuomintang governments of the Republic of China. The campaigns lasted between 1917 and 1949.

Ngolok rebellions (1917-1949)
Result Republic of China victory
Defeat of Ngolok Tibetan tribes
Taiwan Republic of China Ngolok Tibetans
Commanders and leaders
Taiwan Chiang Kai-shek
Taiwan Ma Qi
Taiwan Ma Bufang[1]

National Revolutionary Army composed of

Several thousand Hui Chinese soldiers of the Qinghai Army
Tribal Ngolok fighters
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown
Gen. Chiang Kai-shek (right) meets with Hui commanders Gen. Ma Bufang (second from left) and Gen. Ma Buqing (first from left) in Xining in August 1942.

The WarEdit

Gen. Ma Qi was a Hui Chinese commander who joined the Kuomintang after the Northern Expedition in 1927–1928. His forces were composed entirely of Hui Chinese, organized in the Ninghai Army, which was then turned into a National Revolutionary Army division.

Battles for LabrangEdit

Ma Qi occupied Labrang Monastery in 1917, the first time non-Tibetans had seized it.[2] Ma Qi defeated the Tibetan forces with his Hui Chinese troops.[3] His forces were praised by foreigners who traveled through Qinghai for their fighting abilities.[4] The Labrang monastery had strong connections to the unpacified Ngolok Tibetan tribals who refused to submit to Chinese rule unlike the other Tibetans of Qinghai.[citation needed]

After ethnic rioting between Hui and Tibetans erupted in 1918, Ma Qi defeated the Tibetans. He heavily taxed the town for eight years. In 1925 a rebellion broke out, and thousands of Tibetans drove out the Hui. Ma Qi responded with 3,000 Hui Chinese troops, who retook Labrang and machine-gunned thousands of Tibetan monks as they tried to flee.[5] Ma Qi besieged Labrang numerous times but the Tibetans and Mongols fiercely resisted his Hui forces until Ma Qi gave it up in 1927.[6] However, that was not the last Labrang saw of Gen. Ma. The Hui forces looted and ravaged the monastery again. In revenge Tibetan Nomads skinned alive many Hui soldiers. One of the most common practices was to slice open the stomach of a still alive soldier and then put hot rock inside the stomach. Many hui women were sold to the ethnic Han and Kazakhs. Children were adopted by the Tibetans.[6]

Austrian-American explorer Joseph Rock witnessed the carnage and aftermath of one of the battles around 1929. The Ma Muslim army left Tibetan skeletons scattered over a wide area, and the Labrang monastery was decorated with decapitated Tibetan heads.[7] After the 1929 Battle of Xiahe near Labrang, decapitated Tibetan heads were used as ornaments by Chinese Muslim troops in their camp, 154 in total. Rock described how the heads of "young girls and children" were staked around the encampment. Ten to 15 heads were fastened to the saddle of every Muslim cavalryman.[8] The heads were "strung about the walls of the Moslem garrison like a garland of flowers."[9]

Ma Bufang's campaignsEdit

Ma Bufang, the son of Ma Qi, was a Kuomintang warlord who dominated Qinghai. He served as a general in the National Revolutionary Army and sought to expand the Republic of China's control over all of Qinghai, as well as bringing Tibet back into the Republic by force. When Ma Bufang launched seven expeditions into Golog, killing thousands of Ngolok Tibetans, the Republic of China government, known as the Kuomintang, supported him.[10][11]

Ma and his army exterminated many Ngolok Tibetans in northeastern and eastern Qinghai, and also destroyed Tibetan Buddhist temples.[12] During one such attack in 1941 Ma Bufang sent Chinese Hui troops to destroy Sekar Gompa monastery, killing their highest ranking Lama and 300 tapas. They sacked the compound, burning it to the ground, and sold all of the property for gold and silver.[13]

From 1918-1942 the Ma warlords waged intensive, violent war against the Ngolok tribal inhabitants of Golog. Ma Bufang also manufactured conflicts by giving pasture to Tibetan and Mongolian groups at the same time, which spread disunity.[14]

The Kunlun middle school was established by Ma Bufang, and it recruited Tibetan students, who were subjected to a harsh military life. Ma wanted to use them as translators as he expanded his military domain over land inhabited by Tibetans.[15]

During the pacification, a war broke out between Qinghai and Tibet. Tibet attempted to capture parts of southern Qinghai province, following contention in Yushu, Qinghai, over a monastery in 1932. Ma Bufang's army vanquished the Tibetan forces and recaptured several counties in Xikang Province.

Tibetan tribals in southern Qinghai revolted due to taxation against Ma Bufang in 1939-1941, but they were crushed by "suppression campaigns" and massacred by Ma Bufang which caused a major influx of Tibetan refugees into Tibet from Qinghai.[16]

Under orders from the Kuomintang government of Chiang Kai-shek, Ma Bufang repaired the Yushu airport in southern Qinghai Province, close to the border with Tibet, to prevent Tibetan separatists from seeking independence.[citation needed] Chiang also ordered Ma Bufang to put his Hui soldiers on alert for an invasion of Tibet in 1942.[17][18] Ma Bufang complied, and moved several thousand troops to the border with Tibet (1912–1951).[19] Chiang also threatened the Tibetans with aerial bombardment if they did not comply.

A former Tibetan Khampa soldier named Aten who fought Ma Bufang's forces gave an account of a battle. He described the Chinese Muslims as "fierce". After he and his troops were ambushed by 2,000 of Ma Bufang's Chinese Muslim cavalry, he was left with bullet wounds and "had no illusions as to the fate of most of our group", the majority of whom were wiped out.[20][21] Aten also asserted that "the Tibetan province of Amdo" was "occupied" by Ma Bufang.[22]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2016-08-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  2. ^ Charlene E. Makley (2007). The Violence of Liberation: Gender and Tibetan Buddhist Revival in Post-Mao China. University of California Press. p. 73. ISBN 0-520-25059-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  3. ^ University of Cambridge. Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit (2002). Inner Asia, Volume 4, Issues 1-2. The White Horse Press for the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge. p. 204. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  4. ^ Frederick Roelker Wulsin, Mary Ellen Alonso, Joseph Fletcher, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, National Geographic Society (U.S.), Peabody Museum of Salem, Pacific Asia Museum (1979). China's Inner Asian Frontier: Photographs of the Wulsin Expedition to Northwest China in 1923 : From the Archives of the Peabody Museum, Harvard University, and the National Geographic Society. The Museum : distributed by Harvard University Press. p. 43. ISBN 0-674-11968-1. Retrieved 2010-06-28.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ James Tyson; Ann Tyson (1995). Chinese Awakenings: Life Stories from the Unofficial China. Westview Press. p. 123. ISBN 0-8133-2473-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  6. ^ a b Paul Kocot Nietupski (1999). Labrang: A Tibetan Buddhist Monastery at the Crossroads of Four Civilizations. Snow Lion Publications. p. 90. ISBN 1-55939-090-5. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  7. ^ Dean King (2010). Unbound: A True Story of War, Love, and Survival (illustrated ed.). Hachette Digital, Inc. ISBN 0-316-16708-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  8. ^ Paul Hattaway (2004). Peoples of the Buddhist World: A Christian Prayer Diary. William Carey Library. p. 4. ISBN 0-87808-361-8. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  9. ^ Gary Geddes (2008). Kingdom of Ten Thousand Things: An Impossible Journey from Kabul to Chiapas (illustrated ed.). Sterling Publishing Company, Inc. p. 175. ISBN 1-4027-5344-6. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  10. ^ Uradyn Erden Bulag (2002). Dilemmas The Mongols at China's Edge: History and the Politics of National Unity. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 54. ISBN 0-7425-1144-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  11. ^ University of Cambridge. Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit (2002). Inner Asia, Volume 4, Issues 1-2. The White Horse Press for the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit at the University of Cambridge. p. 203. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  12. ^ David S. G. Goodman (2004). China's Campaign to "Open up the West": National, Provincial, and Local Perspectives. Cambridge University Press. p. 72. ISBN 0-521-61349-3. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  13. ^ Andreas Gruschke (2004). The Cultural Monuments of Tibet's Outer Provinces: The Qinghai Part of Kham. White Lotus Press. p. 77. ISBN 974-480-061-5. Retrieved 2010-10-28.
  14. ^ Yeh, Emily T. "Tibetan Range Wars: Spatial Politics and Authority on the Grasslands of Amdo" (PDF). p. 509. Retrieved 31 October 2010.
  15. ^ Lauran R. Hartley; Patricia Schiaffini-Vedani (2008). Modern Tibetan Literature and Social Change. Duke University Press. p. 36. ISBN 0-8223-4277-4. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  16. ^ Hsaio-ting Lin (1 January 2011). Tibet and Nationalist China's Frontier: Intrigues and Ethnopolitics, 1928-49. UBC Press. pp. 113–. ISBN 978-0-7748-5988-2.
  17. ^ Lin, Hsiao-ting. "War or Stratagem? Reassessing China's Military Advance Towards Tibet, 1942–1943". Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ David P. Barrett; Lawrence N. Shyu (2001). China in the Anti-Japanese War, 1937-1945: Politics, Culture and Society. Peter Lang. p. 98. ISBN 0-8204-4556-8. Retrieved 2010-06-28.
  20. ^ Rab-brtan-rdo-rje (Ñag-roṅ-pa.) (translated by Jamyang Norbu) (1979). Horseman in the Snow: The Story of Aten, an Old Khampa Warrior. Information Office, Central Tibetan Secretariat. p. 134. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  21. ^ Jamyang Norbu (1986). Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten, and the Khampas' Fight for the Freedom of their Country. Wisdom Publications. p. gbooks says 46, (the actual paper says 146). ISBN 0-86171-050-9. Retrieved 2011-06-01.
  22. ^ Jamyang Norbu (1986). Warriors of Tibet: The Story of Aten, and the Khampas' Fight for the Freedom of Their Country. Wisdom Publications. p. 63. ISBN 0-86171-050-9. Retrieved 2011-06-01.