877 CE

Tubo, the Tibetan Empire founded by Songtsen Gampo, collapsed after a civil war.

The country split into four, and the situation lasted for 400 years.


Each region was governed by different religious schools, mainly Nyingma, Kadampa, Kagyu, and Sakya.

Rulers of each region paid tributes to the Mongolian Empire.



Genghis Khan set out on a plan to conquer the world.


In the next seven years, he led 200,000 Mongolian troops and swept through Eurasia.

Form Vienna in the west to Bianliang by the Yellow River in the east, from the cold Russian Plain in the north to the desert in the Arabian Peninsula, more than half of Eurasia was under the control of the Mongolian Empire.


Genghis Khan supposedly called himself “the flail of God”.



In the second year after he returned to his empire, Genghis Khan launched an attack on the Hexi Corridor, planning to seize the country of Western Xia founded by the Tangut people, and then attacking the Central Plain.

When Western Xia was on the verge of defeat, Genghis Khan passed away after sustaining injuries from falling off a horse.

The Mongolian troops still seized control of the Hexi Corridor, and Western Xia was destroyed.

After the death of Genghis Khan, the four regions of Tubo stopped paying tributes to the Mongolian Empire.



The Mongolian Empire and the Southern Song eliminated the state of Jin.



The Mongolian troops didn’t stop marching just because their khan was dead.

They launched their second military campaign in Europe.

At the same time, the remaining Mongolian troops moved south into Southern Song.


One of the armies was led by Godan, the second son of Ogedei.

Godan attacked Sichuan first, but his troops were met with strong resistance.


So he turned to the state of Dali in the southwest and planned to come back for Sichuan afterwards.

But to do that, he needed to get rid of Tubo first.



Ogedei, son of Genghis Khan and the new khan of the Mongol Empire, gave Gansu, Qinghai and other areas to Godan.

Godan became the military commander of the Hexi Corridor at the age of 29.



Godan sent a team of Mongolian cavalry into Tibet. The army fought its way from Qinghai to northern Tibet.


However, for the next two years, the army didn’t launch any attacks.


The leader of the cavalry, a general called Doord Darkhan, met up with the religious leaders. He gained an in-depth understanding of the Tibetan politics and religions.

Even though the country was split politically, a unified culture based on Buddhism was quietly developing.



Ogedei, khan of the Mongol Empire, suddenly passed away after an illness.

The attacks on Southern Song were halted temporarily.

Godan left Sichuan and returned to the Hexi Corridor.


Doord Darkhan also left Tibet, having learnt that Tibet, due to its high altitude and inclement weather as well as the local separatism, would be hard to defend even after conquering it.

He wrote a letter to Godan, detailing the situation in Tibet and suggesting that Godan give up trying to conquer Tibet by force. He advocated negotiations instead.


Godan agreed to his suggestion, and arranged a negotiation at Liangzhou.

He also followed Doord Darkhan’s suggestions and extended the invitation to the Kadampa, Taklung, Drigung, and Sakya schools.


The participant from Sakya, Sakya Pandita, was said to be a learned scholar.

Sakya Pandita was the fourth leader of the Sakya school, was called Palden Dondup before he took the tonsure and became a monk.

In the year 1206, the 25-year-old Palden Dondup became a student of an Indian monk.

He also learnt from various other Indian and Tibetan scholars, studying poetry, medicine, and calendar-making.

The name “Sakya Pandita” meant “great scholar”.


He was the first one in the history of Tibetan Buddhism to earn this honorific.

A scholar came to debate with Sakya. The one who lost the debate would join the winner’s religion.

Sakya won the debate. The scholar converted to Buddhism, and became a student of Sakya.

Sakya was respected by the leaders of various schools of Buddhism in Tibet.

But he wasn’t the Mongols’ first choice for a peace negotiation.

Chen-nga Rinpoche from the Drigung school was. However, he was 65 years old. He recommended Sakya to the Mongols.

Godan decided to invite Sakya to Liangzhou.



Godan sent a general to deliver a personally written letter to the Sakya Monastery, inviting Sakya to Liangzhou.

The letter was politely worded, yet filled with veiled threats.


Though the Sakya school was not as influential as the other schools, it was one of the earliest to practice unification of politics and religion. Other schools focused more on the study and dissemination of Buddhism rather than politics.


Sakya accepted the invitation. He was 63 years old then.


He handed over management of political and religious affairs to his students, while he brought two of his nephews on the journey.

Phagpa was 10 years old.

Chakna Dorje was 6 years old.



Sakya and his group set off for the Hexi Corridor, visiting prominent religious and political leaders in Tibet along the way. He sought their opinions and gathered a list of terms and conditions to be laid out during the negotiation with the Mongol Empire.

There were some schools who didn’t want Sakya to go to Liangzhou. Sakya spent a lot of time trying to persuade them.

The journey took him and his group two years.



Sakya finally entered the Hexi Corridor and arrived at Liangzhou.

By this time, Liangzhou had been under the Mongol Empire’s rule for over 20 years.


Buddhist monks could be seen everywhere.

Godan was in Mongolia, celebrating the enthronement of his older brother, Guyuk.



Godan returned to Liangzhou.


He met with Sakya, and was impressed by the monk’s sincerity and dignity.


In August that year, an important discussion was held at the Huanhua Temple outside Liangzhou.

Tubo, represented by Sakya, pledged allegiance to the Mongol Empire.


Godan expressed willingness to convert to Buddhism, and authorised the Sakya school to oversee the political and religious affairs of Tubo.


After the talk, Sakya wrote a letter to persuade the other schools in Tubo to accept Mongolian rule.

This set the groundwork for Tubo to be incorporated into the territory of the Yuan Empire later on.

Sakya decided to stay in the Hexi Corridor to spread Tibetan Buddhism. Sakya’s two nephews stayed with him.

Godan invited him to live at the Huanhua Temple and renovated it. Sakya attracted a lot of followers. At one time, there were over a 1,000 monks at the temple.


The Mongols believed in Shamanism, but during the military expeditions of Genghis Khan, the Mongols were introduced to Taoism, Christianity, and Islam.


Godan was genuinely interested in Tibetan Buddhism, and viewed Sakya as his religious advisor.


The young Phagpa studied Buddhism under his uncle. He interacted with the son of Godan and other members of the ruling class.



70-year-old Sakya appointed Phagpa as his successor before passing away.


Phagpa was 17 years old. He became the leader of the Sakya school as well as the abbot of the Sakya Monastery.


Phagpa built a stupa for his uncle in the Huanhua Temple. The temple eventually became the biggest Tibetan Buddhism temple in Liangzhou.

Godan passed away in the same year.

In July that year, Mongke ascended the throne, and re-launched military campaigns.



Kublai, the younger brother of Mongke, led 160,000 troops and 500,000 warhorses to Ningxia.

Kublai met with Phagpa.



Phagpa left Liangzhou and followed Kublai, becoming his religious advisor.



Kublai, who’d become the khan of the Mongol Empire, sent Phagpa and his younger brother back to their hometown, Tubo, to assist in management of the area.



A regional administrative structure was set up in Tubo, similar to that of other provinces in China.



38-year-old Phagpa was made Imperial Preceptor by Kublai. He became the highest ranked administrative officer in charge of Tubo affairs.



Kublai changed the name of his empire to Yuan.


The Yuan Empire attacked Southern Song, reunifying China.

The Tibetan Plateau was formally incorporated into Chinese territory.



46-year-old Phagpa passed away in Tibet.

But the influence of Tibetan Buddhism continued to spread, gradually replacing Shamanism.


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