Home  »  Tibet Travel Guide  »  History of Tibet  »  Songtsen Gampo

Songtsen Gampo

Songtsän Gampo (Wylie: Srong-btsan sGam-po, 605 or 617? - 649) was the founder of the Tibetan Empire (Tibetan: Bod; Chinese: 吐蕃, Tubo/Tufan), by tradition held to be the thirty-third ruler in his dynasty. In the Chinese records, his name is given as Qizonglongzan.

The dates of his birth and when he took the throne are not certain. In Tibetan accounts, it is generally accepted that he was born in 617 (one year before the founding of the Tang Dynasty, when Gaozu of Tang became emperor of China). He is thought to have ascended the throne at age thirteen (twelve by Western reckoning), by this reckoning c. 629 CE.

There are difficulties with this position, however, and several earlier dates for the birth of Songtsän Gampo have been suggested, including 569, 605 or 593. The question must remain open.

Early life and cultural background

It is said that Songtsän Gampo was born at Gyama, in Maldro (a region to the northeast of modern Lhasa), the son of the Yarlung king Namri Songtsen. The book The Holder of the White Lotus says that it is believed that he was the reincarnation of the Buddhist saint Avalokiteshvara, and thus the Dalai Lamas are his reincarnation. He is also said to have had webbed hands and feet, a deformed face and odd skin; the early Tibetans saw him as a god and enthroned him.