Guoshi (国师)

This is the title that kings and emperors gave to the great monks and lamas. The first Guoshi of the history was in China; in 550, the king of Beiqi (北齐) bestowed the title to a great lama, Fachang (法常). Afterward, while Chinese dynasties had relationships with Tibet in Yuan, Ming and Qing era China, they bestowed the titles of “Fawang (法王)”, “Wang ()”, “Daguoshi (大国师)”, Guoshi (国师), and so on.

“Guoshi” can be interpreted as "State Preceptor.” The most influential and popular “Guoshi” in Yuan period was Phags pa, and Bsod names bkra shis had been bestowed with a title of “Guoshi” by the Ming Court in Ming dynasty. Some Chinese historians argue that Chinese empires’ bestowing these titles to the Tibetan lamas represents Chinese empires’ having power over Tibet from the Yuan dynasties. However, according to Hangyu Kim’s “Sino-Tibetan Historical Relationship” (Seoul, 2003), it can be also viewed as cultural exchange, rather than vertical power structure of politics or diplomacy.

  • Hangyu Kim, “Sino-Tibetan Historical Relationship” (Seoul, 2003)