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Princess Wencheng (Tibetan: Mun Chang Kungchu; Chinese: 文成公主; pinyin: Wénchéng Gōngzhǔ; Wade–Giles: Wen-ch'eng Kung-chu; 628–680/2[1]), surnamed Li, was a member of a minor branch of the royal clan of the Tang Dynasty (daughter of Li Daozong, the Prince of Jiangxia).

Wencheng
SongstenGampoandwives.jpg
Statues of Songtsen Gampo (centre), Princess Wencheng (right), and Bhrikuti of Nepal (left)
Born628
Died680 or 682
Songtsen Gampo
Full name
Family name: Li (李)
Given name:

In 641[1] Princess Wencheng married King Songtsen Gampo of the Tibetan Empire.[2] She is popularly known in Tibet as Gyasa, or "Chinese wife".[3]

Ancient Scholars credited Princess Wencheng for introducing Chinese culture to Tibet,[4] whereas Nepalese sources credit Songtsen Gampo's Nepalese wife, Bhrikuti for introducing Buddhism.[5][6] The Ancient Tibetan historians consider both Princess Wencheng and Bhrikuti as physical manifestations of the bodhisattva Tara,[7] although the historical veracity of Bhrikuti is still debated among scholars.[1][8]

Contents

Prelude to the marriageEdit

In the spring of 634 on an official state visit to Imperial China, Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo fell in love at first sight and had relentlessly pursued the princess hand by sending envoys and tributes but was refused.

Finally in 635/636 Royal Tibetan forces was deployed, attacking and defeating the peoples of Tuyuhun who strategically lived near around the Lake of Koko Nor in present-day Qinghai, impeding an trade route into Imperial China. News of Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo attack on Songzhou quickly spread from the ground to the Royal Courtiers and Emperor Taizhou despatched his Militia and defeated Songtsen Gampo army, causing Songtsen Gampo’s retreat. He then sent an written expressed apology to the Tang Emperor. The Tang Emperor upon seeing Songtsen Gampo’s sincerity, then agreed to marry the princess to the Tibetan king.[9]

Cultural importanceEdit

 
Wencheng's and Bhrikuti's legacy—Jokhang in Lhasa—founded to house statues of the Buddha which each bride brought with her dowry.

The King of Tibet, Songtsen Gampo and Princess Wencheng’s union brought hopes of promoting a harmonious, matrimonial relationships between the peoples of Tibet and China.[10] It is commonly known that his marriages of states to Princess Wencheng and Bhrikuti brought sacred images of Gautama Buddha and Buddhism in which ultimately led to the construction of the Jokhang the city of Lhasa.

Princess Wencheng’s life is so popular that fictional genre romance writers included her in their novels such as the Maṇi bka' 'bum and the famed historiographies of Rgyal rabs Gsal ba'i Me long.

In addition Princess Wencheng brought with her promises of trade agreements, maps on the Silk Road and a substantial amount of dowry which contained not only gold, but fine furniture, silks, porcelains, books, jewelry, musical instruments, and medical books.[10] Additionally but more importantly, Princess Wencheng arrived with new agricultural methods. This included the introduction of seeds of grains, and rapeseed, other farming tools and advice on how to increase Tibetan agricultural productivity in the region. Princess Wencheng was also credited for introducing Tibet with other skills in metallurgy, farming, weaving, construction, manufacturing of paper and ink as well as developing the Tibetan alphabet and writing system.

 
Statues of Songtsen Gampo with Princesses Wencheng and Bhrikuti in Gyantse

Along side with his spouses, it is believed that Songtsen Gampo also played a major role in promoting Tibet's technical and social progress by establishing the capital city of Lhasa whose strategy was built on purposely seeking new ways to introduce new cultures into his kingdom which had then gained ground and prospered.

Princess Wencheng was revered for being one of the brides who brought in much needed positive Chinese culture to the peoples beyond their borders - expanding their civilization with culture and knowledge.

Tradruk Temple in Nêdong is also connected with Princess Wencheng: a thangka embroidered by the Princess is kept in one of its chapels.

Wencheng's legacy and influence lives on. Generations of poets continue to write countless verses to praise her doings. Two traditional days, the fifteenth day of the fourth month and the fifteenth day of the tenth month of each Tibetan year, are marked by singing and dancing in her honor. Historic relics such as the statues of Songtsen Gampo with Princess Wencheng are still worshiped and displayed for all to see along the trail of their wedding trip as well as in the Potala Palace at Lhasa.[11]

FootnotesEdit

  1. ^ a b c Warner (2011), p. 6.
  2. ^ Slobodník (2006), p. 268.
  3. ^ Dowman (1988), p. 41.
  4. ^ Powers (2004), p. 32.
  5. ^ Laird (2007), p. 35.
  6. ^ Powers (2004), p. 35.
  7. ^ Powers (2004), p. 36.
  8. ^ Powers (2004), p. 170.
  9. ^ Powers (2004), p. 168.
  10. ^ a b "The Marriage of Wencheng", Women in World History Curriculum.
  11. ^ Jay (2014), p. 205.

References and further readingEdit

  • Beckwith, Christopher I. (1987). The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Dowman, Keith (1988). The Power-places of Central Tibet: The Pilgrim's Guide. London and New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul. ISBN 0-7102-1370-0.
  • Jay, Jennifer W. (2014). "Li, Princess Wencheng". In Lee, Lily Xiao Hong; Wiles, Sue (eds.). Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Tang Through Ming, 618–1644. M.E. Sharpe. pp. 204–205. ISBN 978-0-7656-4316-2.
  • Laird, Thomas (2007). The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama. Grove Press. ISBN 978-0-8021-4327-3.
  • Peterson, Barbara Bennett (2000). Notable Women of China. M.E. Sharpe. ISBN 978-0-7656-1929-7.
  • Powers, John (2004). History As Propaganda : Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China: Tibetan Exiles versus the People's Republic of China. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-803884-9.
  • Richardson, Hugh E. (1965). "How Old was Srong Brtsan Sgampo" (PDF). Bulletin of Tibetology. 1 (2): 5–9.
  • —— (1997). "Mun Sheng Kong Co and Kim Sheng Kong Co: Two Chinese Princesses in Tibet". The Tibet Journal. 22 (1): 3–11.
  • Slobodník, Martin (2006). "The Chinese Princess Wencheng in Tibet: A Cultural Intermediary between Facts and Myth". In Gálik, M.; Štefanovičová, T. (eds.). Trade, Journeys, Inner- and Intercultural Communication in East and West (up to 1250). Bratislava: Lufema. pp. 267–276.
  • Warner, Cameron David (2011). "A Prolegomenon to the Palladium of Tibet, the Jowo (Jo bo) Śākyamuni". In Bue, Erberto Lo (ed.). Proceedings of the Tenth Seminar of the IATS, 2003. Volume 13: Art in Tibet: Issues in Traditional Tibetan Art from the Seventh to the Twentieth Century. BRILL. pp. 3–17. ISBN 90-04-15519-8.