Gyalo Thondup

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Gyalo Thondup
Gyalo Thondup in 1948 or 1949, standing in front of a large window of the Dalai Lama's family house, Yabshi Taktser, in Lhasa. He is wearing a woollen robe and felt boots. The bottom part of a bird cage can be seen at the top of the image.

Gyalo Thondup (Tibetan: རྒྱལ་ལོ་དོན་འགྲུབ, Wylie: rgyal lo don 'grub; Chinese: 嘉乐顿珠; pinyin: Jiālè Dùnzhū), born c.1927,[1] is the second-eldest brother of the 14th Dalai Lama. He often acted as the Dalai Lama's unofficial envoy, and was involved in various political controversies around the Tibetan diaspora.[2]

Early life[edit]

In late fall of 1927,[1] Gyalo Thondup was born in the village of Taktser[3] Ping'an District, Qinghai province. In 1939, he moved with his family to Lhasa.

In 1942, at the age of 14, Thondup went to Nanjing, the capital of Republican China, to study Standard Chinese and the history of China. He often visited Chiang Kai-shek at his home and ate dinner with him.[4] "In fact, young Gyalo Thondup ate his meals at the Chiang family table, from April 1947 until the summer of 1949, and tutors selected by Chiang educated the boy."[5] In 1949, he married Zhu Dan, the daughter of a Guomindang general.

Political involvement[edit]

In 1949, before the Communist revolution of that year in China, Thondup left Nanjing for India via British Hong Kong. "Gyalo Thondup... was the first officially acknowledged Tibetan to visit Taiwan since 1949. Taipei Radio announced the meeting between President Chang Kai-shek on 21 May 1950."[6] Fluent in Chinese, Tibetan and English,[5] he "later facilitated semi-official contacts between the Tibetan-government-in-exile and the Republic of China (ROC) as well as with the People's Republic of China (PRC) government in 1979."[6]

United States activities[edit]

In 1951, he traveled to America and became the main source of information on Tibet for the United States Department of State.[7] America's Central Intelligence Agency promised to make Tibet independent from China in exchange for Thondup's support in organizing guerrilla units to fight against the People's Liberation Army, an offer which Thondup accepted.[4][8][9] Thondup maintains that he did not inform the 14th Dalai Lama about the CIA's actions,[10] and this support ended after the 1972 Nixon visit to China.

Later career[edit]

With the permission of the Dalai Lama, Thondup met Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping in 1979 for open political talks, which Thondup terminated in 1993, feeling them to be useless.[4] In the 1990s, Thondup made several official visits to China, acting as the Dalai Lama's unofficial envoy.[2] In recent years, Thondup has repeatedly stated that dialogue is the only way to achieve progress with China.[11] In 1998, the Central Tibetan Administration (the political arm of the Dalai Lama's anti-China diaspora faction) criticized Thondup for not letting the Dalai Lama know about the CIA's involvement in Tibet.[10] Over a decade later, Thondup accused his sister-in-law's father of embezzling money from the Central Tibetan Administration.[12]

See also[edit]


  • (with Anne F. Thurston), The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of the Dalai Lama and the Secret Struggle for Tibet, PublicAffairs, 2015


  1. ^ a b Thurston, Anne F. (2015). The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle for Tibet (1st ed.). Gurgaon: Random House India. p. 16. ISBN 978-81-8400-387-1.
  2. ^ a b "Dalai Lama's Older Brother Visits China". Voice of America. October 26, 2009.
  3. ^ Thurston, Anne F. (2015). The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong: The Untold Story of My Struggle Tibet (1st ed.). Gurgaon: Random House India. p. 11. ISBN 978-81-8400-387-1.
  4. ^ a b c "Gyalo Thondup: Interview Excerpts". The Wall Street Journal. Feb 20, 2009.
  5. ^ a b 1953-, Laird, Thomas, (2006). The story of Tibet : conversations with the Dalai Lama. Bstan-ʼdzin-rgya-mtsho, Dalai Lama XIV, 1935- (1st ed.). New York: Grove Press. p. 288. ISBN 9780802143273. OCLC 63165009. "From the 1950's until today, Gyalo Thondup, who speaks fluent Chinese, Tibetan, and English, has occasionally been sought out by Taiwanese, Chinese, British, and American officials in an attempt to contact the Dalai Lama. Beginning in 1946, Chiang Kai-shel groomed him for this role. In fact, young Gyalo Thondup ate his meals at the Chiang family table, from April 1947 until the summer of 1949, and tutors selected by Chiang educated the boy.CS1 maint: extra punctuation (link)
  6. ^ a b Dotson, Brandon; Gurung, Kalsang Norbu; Halkias, Georgios; Myatt, Tim, eds. (2009). Contemporary visions in Tibetan studies: Proceedings of the First International Seminar of Young Tibetologists. Chicago: Serindia Publications. p. 158. ISBN 9781932476453.
  7. ^ Goldstein, Melvyn (2007). A History of Modern Tibet: The Calm Before the Storm, 1951-1955. University of California Press. pp. 236–240.
  8. ^ On the CIA's links to the Dalai Lama and his family and entourage, see Loren Coleman, Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti (London: Faber and Faber, 1989).
  9. ^ Sautman, Barry (1 March 2010). "Tibet's Putative Statehood and International Law". Chinese Journal of International Law. Oxford University Press. 9 (1): 127–142. Indeed, after the 1962 war, B.N. Mullik, India's Intelligence Bureau Chief, told Gyalo Thondup, the Dalai Lama's brother and a top CIA asset, that India supported Tibet's “eventual liberation”. Italic or bold markup not allowed in: |journal= (help)
  10. ^ a b "Tibet rules out Lama links with CIA". The Indian Express. October 3, 1998. Archived from the original on November 5, 2013.
  11. ^ "Former Minister Gyalo Thondup Says Weiqun Ignorant of Deng's statement on Tibet". Voice of America. Retrieved 3 November 2013.
  12. ^ Mishra, Pankaj (2015-12-01). "The Last Dalai Lama?". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-12-15.
Political offices
Preceded by
Kalsang Yeshi
Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration
Succeeded by
Tenzin Tethong