Changkya Rölpé Dorjé

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Changkya Rölpé Dorjé
LineageChangkya Khutukhtu
Other nameslcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje
Senior posting
ReincarnationChangkya Ngawang Losang Chöden

Changkya Rölpé Dorjé (1717-1786) was a principal Tibetan Buddhist teacher in the Qing court, a close associate of the Qianlong Emperor of China, and an important intermediary between the imperial court and Inner Asia.[1][2] He also oversaw the translation of the Tibetan Buddhist canon into Classical Mongolian and Manchu. He also was involved in the compilation of a quadrilingual set (Chinese, Manchurian, Mongolian, and Tibetan) and supervised the translation from Chinese into Manchurian, Mongolian and Tibetan of the entire Śūraṅgama Sūtra completed in 1763; the Tibetan translation is currently preserved in a supplement to the Narthang Kangyur.[3][4][5][6][7]


Birth and early education[edit]

Changkya Rölpé Dorjé was born on the 10th day of the fourth (Hor) month of the Fire-Bird year (1717) in Wuwei (formerly known as Liangzhou) near Lanzhou in Gansu.[8][9] At an early age he was recognized by the first Jamyang Zhépa as the incarnation of the previous Changkya Kutuktu of Gönlung Jampa Ling monastery (佑宁寺) in Amdo (now Qinghai), one of the four great Gelug monasteries of the north. At his investiture the Kangxi Emperor sent Kachen Shérap Dargyé as his representative.

In 1723, soon after the death of Kangxi, the new ruler, Yongzheng (r. 1722-1735) was just establishing his authority, Mongol tribesmen claiming the succession of Güshi Khan, together with their Amdo Tibetan allies and supported by some factions within the monasteries, rose up against the Qing in the region of Kokonor. Yongzheng insisted on violent reprisals and in Amdo the Manchu army, destroyed villages and monasteries believed to have sided with the rebels including in 1724 Gönlung.[10][11] However the emperor ordered that the seven-year-old Changkya incarnation not be harmed but brought to China as a "guest". At the Yongzheng Emperor's court, he was raised and educated to serve as an intermediary between the seat of Manchu power and the Buddhists of Amdo, Tibet and Mongolia.[12] Rölpé Dorjé's monastic teachers included Zhangshu Kachen Shérap Dargyé; the second Thuken Hotogtu, Ngakwang Chökyi Gyatso and Atsé Chöjé Lozang Chödzin.[13]

Changkya Rölpé Dorjé and his teachers realised that in order for the Gelug teachings to flourish in China and Manchuria they would need to be available in Chinese, Mongolian and Manchu and so he began the study of those languages. One of his fellow students was Prince Hungli, who became his friend [14][15] — and eventually the Qianlong Emperor (r. 1735-1796).

He also took an interest in Chinese Buddhism and thought that their principle philosophical views had close similarities with those of the Yogachara (Tibetan: སེམས་ཙམ་པ) school. He was also apparently the one who came up with the notion that Dampa Sangye, the Indian founder of the Pacification (Tibetan: ཞི་བྱེད།, Wylie: zhi byed, THL: Zhijé) school in Tibet who supposedly also visited China, and Bodhidharma were the same person.[16]

Exile of the 7th Dalai Lama[edit]

The Third Changkya, Rolpe Dorje

In the late 1720s Polhané Sönam Topgyé mounted a successful campaign to take control of Tibet and the Seventh Dalai Lama was exiled, leaving Lhasa at the end of 1728. The Manchu ambans in Lhasa, representatives of the Yongzheng emperor, arranged for an invitation to the Paṇchen Lama Lozang Yéshé to travel to Lhasa, which he reluctantly did, in October 1728. Polhané granted him dominion over most of Tsang and Ngari, forcing him to cede the eastern part of the region to Lhasa.

In 1729 after the Panchen Lama sent a letter and numerous gifts to the Yongzheng emperor, Rölpé Dorjé obtained permission from the emperor for his monastery Gönlung Jampa Ling to be rebuilt.[17]

First Visit to Tibet[edit]

In 1732 the Panchen Lama petitioned the Emperor to enable the Seventh Dalai Lama to return to Lhasa. When the petition was granted in 1734 Rölpé Dorjé was ordered by Yongzheng to accompany the 7th Dalai Lama to Lhasa. This trip gave Rölpé Dorjé the opportunity to study with the Dalai Lama as well as to make offerings at Lhasa's major monasteries and to present gifts from the emperor. In 1735 Changkya and the Dalai Lama went on to Tashi Lhunpo Monastery in Shigatse to pay his respect to Lobsang Yeshe, 5th Panchen Lama (1663-1737), where he took both his initial and final monastic vows under the Panchen Lama's supervision.

When Yongzheng died in 1736, Rölpé Dorjé had to give up his plans to study under the Panchen Lama and returned to Beijing. Both the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama offered him religious statues and other significant gifts as parting presents.

Lama of the Qianlong Emperor[edit]

18th-century statue of Rolpe Dorje

In 1744, the Qianlong emperor decided to transform the Yonghegong Palace in Beijing into a Gelugpa monastery as well as an Imperial Palace. This became the residence of Changkya and many other important incarnations from Amdo and Mongolia and the centre for the Qing to manage Tibetan Buddhist affairs and control local authorities in Mongolia, Amdo, Tibet and other areas which followed Tibetan Buddhism.

In 1744, Qianlong also indicated to Rölpé Dorjé that he wanted to receive private religious teachings and Rölpé Dorjé first taught him the commentary on how to take refuge in the three jewels as well instructing him in Tibetan grammar and reading. Later, Qianlong requested teachings on the bodhisattva path and Rölpé Dorjé taught him the commentary of the Graduated Path (Lam Rim) by Vajradhara Kunchok Gyaltsen, together with a commentary by the previous Changkya, Ngawang Losang Chöden. "By studying these two texts, Qianlong developed great faith (gong ma thugs dad gting nas khrungs) and made a commitment to practice daily, which he kept despite his busy schedule" [18]

In 1745, after Rölpé Dorjé completed a retreat, the Qianlong emperor asked him for the tantric teachings and empowerment (abhisheka) of his yidam, Chakrasamvara. As the disciple and requester of the abhisheka, the emperor had to gather all the necessary materials and equipment. Rölpé Dorjé conferred on the emperor abhisheka the five deities Chakrasamvara according to the lineage of the Indian siddha, Ghantapa. During the initiation, Rölpé Dorjé as vajra master sat on the throne and the emperor knelt to receive the initiation according to the prescriptions for disciples.[19] The emperor offered 100 ounces of gold with a mandala (symbolizing the universe) to receive the initiation. After the initiation, Qianlong said to Rolpai Dorje, "Now you are not only my lama, you are my vajra master."[20]

In 1748, Rölpé Dorjé made his first trip back to Gönlung Jampa Ling, his monastery that he had left as a child, and at his request the monastery was granted an Imperial Plaque which was installed above the entrance to the main assembly hall.[21]


In 1757, went to Tibet

In 1760, returned to China

In 1763, Father died

Trouble with the Bönpo in

In 1792, Qianlong, who had been the generous patron, friend and dedicated student of Rölpé Dorjé, sought to assure his Chinese subjects that foreign priests exercised no influence over him. His Pronouncements on Lamas (Lama Shuo) preserved in a tetraglot (Chinese, Manchu, Mongol, and Tibetan) inscription at the Yonghe Temple in Beijing, Qianlong defends his patronage of the "Yellow Hat" (Gelug) sect from his Chinese critics by claiming that his support had simply been expedient: "By patronizing the Yellow Sect we maintain peace among the Mongols. This being an important task we cannot but protect this (religion). (In doing so) we do not show any bias, nor do we wish to adulate the Tibetan priests as (was done during the) Yuan dynasty."[22]


  • Purchok Ngakwang Jampa (ཕུར་ལྕོག་ངག་དབང་བྱམས་པ་) (1682—1762)[23]
  • Atsé Chöjé Lozang Chödzin (ཨ་རྩེ་ཆོས་རྗེ་བློ་བཟང་ཆོས་འཛིན་)[24]
  • Thuken 02 Ngakwang Chökyi Gyatso (ཐུའུ་བཀྭན་ངག་དབང་ཆོས་ཀྱི་རྒྱ་མཚོ་) (1680—1736)[25]
  • Chepa Tulku 02 Lozang Trinlé (ཆས་པ་སྤྲུལ་སྐུ་བློ་བཟང་འཕྲིན་ལས་)[26]
  • Dalai Lama 07 Kelzang Gyatso (ཏཱ་ལའི་བླ་མ་བསྐལ་བཟང་རྒྱ་མཚོ་) (1708—1757)[27]
  • Paṇchen 05 Lozang Yéshé (པཎ་ཆེན་བློ་བཟང་ཡེ་ཤེས་) (1663—1737)[28]


  • Tukwan Lobzang Chokyi Nyima (1737-1802)
  • Konchok Jigme Wangpo (1728-1791)


Changkya Rölpé Dorjé's collected works (gsung 'bum) consist of seven large volumes containing nearly 200 individual texts.[29][30] He also supervised and participated in the translation of the Kangyur into Manchu (108 volumes) and the entire Tengyur (224 volumes) into Mongolian.

Some of Changkya Rölpé Dorjé's most well known works include:

  • The Presentation of Philosophical Systems (གྲུབ་པའི་མཐའ་རྣམ་པར་བཞག་པ་གསལ་བར་བཤད་པ་ཐུབ་བསྟན་ལྷུན་པོའི་མཛེས་རྒྱན) in 3 sections[31]


  • Berger, Patricia (2003). Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press. ISBN 0-8248-2563-2.
  • Bernard, Elisabeth (2004). "The Qianlong emperor and Tibetan Buddhism". In Millward, James A.; Dunnell, Ruth W.; Elliott, Mark C.; et al. (eds.). New Qing Imperial History: The making of Inner Asian empire at Qing Chengde. Taylor & Francis e-Library. pp. 124–135. ISBN 0-203-63093-9.
  • Dung dkar blo bzang 'phrin las (2002). Dung dkar tshig mdzod chen mo (v. 1). Beijing: China Tibetology Publishing House. pp. 798–799. ISBN 7-80057-540-3.
  • Illich, Marina (2006). Selections from the life of a Tibetan Buddhist polymath: Chankya Rolpai Dorje (lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje), 1717-1786 (Ph.D.). Columbia University. ISBN 978-0-542-52421-9.
  • Illich, Marina (2003). "Imperial Stooge or Emissary to the Dge lugs Throne? Rethinking the Biographies of Chankya Rolpé Dorjé.". In Cuevas, Bryan J.; Schaeffer, Kurtis R. (eds.). Power, Politics, and the Reinvention of Tradition:Tibet in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries. Leiden: Brill. pp. 17–32. ISBN 978-90-04-15351-6.
  • Martin, Dan (2009). "Bonpo Canons and Jesuit Cannons: On Sectarian Factors Involved in the Ch'ien-lung Emperor's Second Gold Stream Expedition of 1771-1776 Based Primarily on Some Tibetan Sources (revised version)". Tibetological. Retrieved 27 July 2014.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Samuel, Geoffrey (2012). Introducing Tibetan Buddhism. Introducing World Religions. Abingdon: Routledge. p. 249. ISBN 978-0-415-45664-7.
  2. ^ "Changkya Rolpé Dorje". Rigpa Wiki. Rigpa. Retrieved 2014-07-16.
  3. ^ von Staël–Holstein, Baron A. (April 1936). "The Emperor Ch'ien-Lung and the Larger Śūraṃgama Sūtra". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 1 (1): 145. The translation of the sutra were begun in A.D. 1752 and finished in A.D. 1763.
  4. ^ Chai Bing (柴冰) (March 2014). "Qián lóng huáng dì 《 yù zhì léng yán jīng xù 》 mǎn、hàn wén běn duì kān jí yán jiū" 内蒙古大学学报(哲学社会科学版)-乾隆皇帝《御制楞严经序》满、汉文本对勘及研究 [Journal of Inner Mongolia University (Philosophy and Social Sciences)- The Qianlong Emperor's "Foreword to The Royal Translation and Compilation of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra": Research and Comparison of the Manchu Language and Chinese Text]. DOC88.COM. Vol. 46 No. 2 (in Chinese). p. 88. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 乾隆皇帝在位时间,曾将其译成藏、满、蒙、汉文四体合璧本。 [During the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, the Emperor ordered the translation of the Śūraṅgama Sūtra into Tibetan, Manchu language and Mongolian and combined with the Chinese into a four language compilation.]
  5. ^ von Staël–Holstein, Baron A. (April 1936). "The Emperor Ch'ien-Lung and the Larger Śūraṃgama Sūtra". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 1 (1): 145. Whenever there was the possibility of a doubt [the correct translation] was quickly fixed by advice from the state teacher (or National Preceptor) [8b] Lcan-skya Hu-thog-thu (also known as the Third Changkya Khutukhtu Rölpé Dorjé) and [the question] settled.
  6. ^ von Staël–Holstein, Baron A. (April 1936). "The Emperor Ch'ien-Lung and the Larger Śūraṃgama Sūtra". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 1 (1): 146. cf. Footnote 30: (volume KI of the Mdo division of the Narthang Kanjur is of course printed in black letters.) – the Tibetan version of my xylograph seems to be identical with the Tibetan version of the quadralingual edition.
  7. ^ Even though von Staël–Holstein call this tripitaka the Narthang Kanjur, I believed it is known as the Peking (Beijing) Kangyur in today's usage. The early print editions of the Peking Kangyur were printed in vermilion ink. Later printings and any supplements would have been printed in black ink. Cf. von Staël–Holstein, Baron A. (April 1936). "The Emperor Ch'ien-Lung and the Larger Śūraṃgama Sūtra". Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. 1 (1): 146. Prince Fu-ch'üan, the chief editor of the A.D. 1700 Kanjur edition, reports that in preparing the edition, he acted on orders from the emperor K'ang-hsi to complement 補 the Kanjur. The emperor Ch'ien-lung venerated the emperor K'ang-hsi as a model ruler, and followed his grandfather's example whenever possible.
  8. ^ Smith (2001) p.135
  9. ^ Deng Jianxin (邓建新) (March 2007). "Zhōng yāng mín zú dà xué - Èr shì、sān shì zhāng jiā dí zhèng zhì chéng jiù yǔ wén huà gòng xiàn" 中央民族大学-二世、三世章嘉的政治成就与文化贡献 [Minzu University of China-The Second and Third Changkya's Political Achievements and Cultural Contributions]. DOC88.COM (in Chinese). p. 36. Retrieved 2017-12-06. 三世章嘉,名亚西月毕蓉梅,亦名若必多吉,生于康熙五十六年(1717)正月,甘肃凉州人。 [The Third Changkya's name was Ya-xi-yue-bi-rong-mei and was also called Ruobiduoji (Rölpé Dorjé). He was born in the first month of 1717 (in the western calendar it should be February 1717) in Liangzhou, Gansu Province.]
  10. ^ Sullivan(2013) p.50
  11. ^ Sullivan(2013) p.321 ff
  12. ^ Kapstein, Matthew (June 2013). "The Seventh Dalai Lama, Kelzang Gyatso". The Treasury of Lives. Retrieved 24 July 2014.
  13. ^ Smith (2001) p.136
  14. ^ Bernard (2004)p.124
  15. ^ A summary of Changkya's and Qianlong's relationship can also be found in Chayet, Temples de Jehol, pp.60–64
  16. ^ Smith (2001) p.137
  17. ^ Sullivan(2013) p. 341
  18. ^ Bernard(2004) pp.124-5
  19. ^ See: Thu'u bkwan Chos kyi Nyi ma. lcang skya rol pa'i rdo rje rnam thar [=The Biography of Lcang skya Rol pa'i Rdo je]. Quoted in: Illich (2003) p.5
  20. ^ Bernard(2004) pp.125-6
  21. ^ Sullivan(2013) pp.341—348
  22. ^ Lopez, Donald S. Jr. (1998). Prisoners of Shangri-La. The University of Chicago Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-226-49310-5.
  23. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  24. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  25. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  26. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  27. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  28. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  29. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  30. ^ "Buddhist Digital Resource Center".
  31. ^ 1.རུབ་པའི་མཐའ་རྣམ་པར་བཞག་པའི་ཐུབ་བསྟན་ལྷུན་པོའི་མཛེས་རྒྱན་ (སྟོད་ཆ) [grub pa'i mtha' rnam par bzhag pa'i thub bstan lhun po'i mdzes rgyan (stod cha)] (in Tibetan). Dharamsala: Library of tibetan Works and Archives.[permanent dead link]

External links[edit]

Religious titles
Preceded by 3rd Changkya Khutukhtu
1717 – 1786
Succeeded by