Gtsang po pa Dkon mchog seng ge/ Gtsang pa Bkra shis (?-1218/1219)

Gtsang po pa was a Tibetan from central Tibet. He was a disciple of the first Karma pa, Dum gsum mkhan pa (1110-1193). When his teacher was summoned by the Mi nyak king, Dkon mchog seng ge went in his place. He is most famous for being one of the later Imperial Preceptors (dishi 帝師) of the Mi nyak or Xia Dynasty, which is why he is also called Gtsang pa Ti shri (Ch. dishi), or "the one from Tsang, Imperial Preceptor." He was richly rewarded for his services and was permitted to send gifts and go on leave to his home monastery of Mtshur phu. In the end though, he died in the culturally Tibetan city of Liangzhou (Ling chu gser khab/ Byang ngos), in southern Mi nyag territory, where he had students.

His most important student was another central Tibet, named 'Gro mgon Ti shri ras pa (Protector of Beings, the Imperial Preceptor, Cotton-clad) Sangs rgyas ras chen (1164/1165-1236). Although originally trained in different branch of the Bka' brgyud tradition, the 'Ba' rom pa, he was a student of Gtsang po pa after he arrived in the Mi nyag realm in 1196/1197. He was thus the second and last of the ethnically Tibetan imperial preceptors to serve at the Mi nyag court. When the Mongols eliminated the Mi nyak dynasty, one of his students, a Tibetan native to the Mi nyak region named Gsang ba ras pa dkar po (The Secret One, Clad in White Cotton) Shes rab byang chub (1198/1199-1262) continued the 'Ba' rom pa Bka' brgyud tradition. He later met Qubilai Khan, creating a direct link between the Mi nyag tradition of imperial preceptors and the Mongol Yuan establishment of a position bearing the same title.

  • Ruth Dunnell. The Hsia Origins of the Yüan Institution of Imperial Preceptor. Asia Major. Third Series, Vol. 5, part 1, 1992, pp. 85-111
  • Elliot Sperling. “Rtsa-mi lo-tsā-ba Sangs-rgyas grags-pa and the Tangut Background to Early Mongol-Tibetan Relations,” in Per Kvaerne, ed., Tibetan Studies. Proceedings of the 6th Seminar of the International Association for Tibetan Studies, Oslo, 1994, pp. 801-824 & “‘Lama to the King of Hsia’” The Journal of the Tibet Society, vol. 7, 1987, pp. 31-50 [based mainly on an 18th century source that cites much earlier original sources now lost].

Entry by Gray Tuttle