Gombo Namgye

Gombo Namgye (1799 – 1865) (Tibetan: མགོན་པོ་རྣམ་རྒྱལ, Wylie: mgon po rnam rgyal, THL: Gönpo Namgyal, sometimes, Gönpo Namgyel ; simplified Chinese: 波日·工布朗结; traditional Chinese: 波日·工布朗結; pinyin: bōrì gōngbù lǎngjiē), also known as Bulungwa (literally 'Blind Man'), was a Tibetan rebel leader from Nyarong who unified Nyarong, then all of Kham in a series of campaigns from the 1840s to the 1860s and warred against the Qing Dynasty and the Ganden Phodrang. While he was initially successful in evading his powerful enemies, he was eventually captured and killed, putting an end to his state of Nyarong.


Gombo Namgye was born in 1799 in Nyarong; his parents were from a lineage of local chieftains who ruled the middle of the Nyarong Valley; his father had refused to submit to Qing rule and had been killed for it.[1] The region of Nyarong was poor due to its isolation and inaccessibility, and its inhabitants made their living by raiding caravans and bandit activity.[2] Soon Namgye inherited the chieftainship from his parents, marking his entry into history.

Rise to powerEdit

By the end of the 1840s, Namgye had united the three chiefdoms of the Nyarong Valley, marking a break from its historical disunity. This was met with a Qing campaign into Nyarong, however, it was driven back. However, it soon became apparent that his ambitions were greater than this, as he soon attacked the Hor States, Derge, and Litang, as well as, in the words of Tibetan historian Yudru Tsomu, "harassing and plundering the domains of the Chakla king". To avoid Namgye's campaigns, especially due to his reputation for being merciless, states such as Golog, Nangchen, Serta, and Jyekundo, decided to submit to him. By the early 1860s, he was confident enough to impede trade linking Kham and Tibet.[3] However, his most infamous and alarming act to both the Ganden Phodrang and Qing governments was threatening to take his forces to Lhasa and enter the Jokhang. There he would steal two of holiest statues of Tibetan Buddhism and take him to his homeland, where he would install them and force pilgrims to travel there.[4] By 1860, he controlled almost all of Kham.

Defeat and captureEdit

These threats, along with the disruption of trade and the defeated Khampa rulers petitioning to get their land back, meant the Ganden Phodrang and Qing governments had to take action. As Aten, a refugee from Nyarong said:

Then, in the early nineteenth century, there rose a man in Nyarong who, through sheer ability and ruthlessness, united the whole of Eastern Tibet, drove the Chinese back to the border of the ancient emperors, and made the Manchu Emperor of China quiver in his satin shoes ... He failed only to conquer the province of Amdo, the extreme northern extent of Tibet. Otherwise he had taken back and united every inch of land within the frontiers established by the ancient Tibetan emperors ... The Manchu Emperor of China became enraged. This barbarian upstart, this petty chief of some insignificant Tibetan tribes, had in a few strokes deprived the Celestial Empire of the fruits of centuries of painful conquests and brainracking intrigues.[5]

The government in Lhasa was particularly worried about his conquest of Kham, which they thought could serve as a base for the conquest of all of Tibet. In 1863, the Ganden Phodrang government launched its campaign, mobilising forces in the middle of Tibet, in concert with Qing forces from Sichuan.[6] By 1865, continued defeat led to him being pursued into Nyarong, where he was trapped in a castle, which was then set on fire, killing him.[7]

Legacy and viewsEdit

After the death of Namgye, the Ganden Phodrang government took control of Nyarong, as well as influencing Derge and the Hor States, resulting in renewed conflict between Ganden Phodrang and Qing leaders, eventually culminating in Zhao Erfeng's expedition into Tibet. Due to Namgye's opposition to the Gandren Phodrang forming a parallel to the CCP's opposition to the 14th Dalai Lama, the Communist government has praised Namgye as a peasant leader and hero, based on their slogans of "where there is oppression there is resistance", despite his noble origins; this has resulted in hotels being built named after him.[8] Some historians contend that if Namgye's state had survived, it would have being more effective than the Ganden Phodrang at dispelling Chinese invasion.[9]


  1. ^ ""Nyarong County's Gonpo Namgyal" By Woeser". High Peaks, Pure Earth. October 12, 2011. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  2. ^ Powers, John; Templeman, David (18 May 2012). Historical Dictionary of Tibet. Scarecrow Press. p. 435. ISBN 9780810879843. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  3. ^ Ronis, Jann (September 8, 2011). "An Overview of Kham (Eastern Tibet) Historical Polities". The TIbetan and Himalayan Library. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  4. ^ Powers 2012, p. 435.
  5. ^ Goldstein, M.C. (1994). Change, Conflict and Continuity among a community of nomadic pastoralists—A Case Study from western Tibet, 1950-1990 (PDF). Hurst & Co. Press. ISBN 9788120813717. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  6. ^ Powers 2012, p. 435.
  7. ^ Ronis 2012
  8. ^ Woeser 2011
  9. ^ Powers 2012, p. 435.