Namri Songtsen

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Namri Songtsen (Wylie: gnam ri srong btsan),[1] also known as "Namri Löntsen"[citation needed] (Wylie: gnam ri slon mtshan) (570?–618?/629) was, according to tradition, the 32nd King of Tibet of the Yarlung Dynasty, which until his reign ruled only the Yarlung Valley. He expanded his kingdom to rule the central part of the Tibetan Plateau. His actions were decisive in the setting up of the Tibetan Empire (7th century), to which he can be named co-founder with his son, Songtsen Gampo.


Namri Songtsen was a member of the Yarlung tribe, located to the southeast of Lhasa, in the fertile Yarlung Valley[2] where the Tsangpo (known in India as the Brahmaputra) supported both agriculture and human life. The Tibetan plateau was, at this time, a mosaic of clans of mountain shepherds with simple nomadic organizations[2] where intertribal fighting and razzia sorties are part of the local economy.[3] Each clan had several chiefs. These clans had few material and cultural exchanges according to topography, climate, and distances, which means that each clan, located in a specified network of valleys, had its own culture with little in common with other clans.[2] These "proto-Tibetans" were isolated from relations with the outside world, though some mountain groups to the east in Sichuan, Qinghai and the 'Azha kingdom dwelt in border areas contiguous with, or within, the Chinese empire.[4] Early Chinese sources appear to mention proto-Tibetan peoples in a few rare cases, if the Qiang and Rong do indeed refer to them.[5] This changed dramatically by the beginning of Tang Dynasty, the Tibetan kingdom becoming a powerful player in the military history of Eastern and Central Asia.

Several Tibetan historical accounts say that it was in Namri Songtsen's time that Tibetans obtained their first knowledge of astrology and medicine from China.[6] Others associate the introduction of these sciences with his son.[7] In the period, knowledge of these and other sciences came from a variety of countries, not only from China,[8] but also from Buddhist India, Byzantium,[9][10] and Central Asia.[11]

Upbringing and life[edit]

Around 600, Namri Songtsen, one of the several Yarlung tribal chieftains, become the uncontested leader of the several Yarlung clans. Using shepherd-warriors he subdued the neighbouring tribes one after another. Expanding his rule to all of modern Central Tibet, including the Lhasa region[2] allowed him to rule over many groups, and to begin the establishment of a centralized and strong state, with skilled troops who gained experience in their many battles in the early 7th century. This formed an important base for the later conquests by his son, which unified the whole of the Tibetan plateau.[2] According to Beckwith, Namri Songtsen sent the first diplomatic missions to open relations with China, in 608 and 609.[12]

Assassination and succession[edit]

Namri Songtsen was assassinated by poisoning[citation needed] in 618 or 629/630, by a coup d'état[citation needed] which finally failed, being crushed by Namri Songtsen's son, who developed his heritage, completing the submission of the Tibetan plateau, and, according to later histories, introduced a unified legal code, a Tibetan writing system, an archive for official records, an army, and relations with the outside world.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stein (1972), p. 298.
  2. ^ a b c d e Kolmaš, 1967, p.5
  3. ^ Robert Brainerd Ekvall, Fields on the hoof: nexus of Tibetan nomadic pastoralism,Waveland Press, 1983 pp. 52-3.
  4. ^ Kolmaš, 1967, p.?
  5. ^ Kolmaš, 1967, p.2 : The 羌 (Qiang) and 戎 (Rong) appear on oracle bones as early as the 13th and 12th century BC.
  6. ^ Bsod-nams-rgyal-mtshan (Sa-skya-pa Bla-ma Dam-pa),The clear mirror: a traditional account of Tibet's golden age, tr. McComas Taylor and Lama Choedak Yuthok, Snow Lion Publications, 1996 p.90.
  7. ^ Rolf Alfred Stein, Tibetan Civilization, Stanford University Press, 1972 p. 51.
  8. ^ Jean-Claude Martzloff, A history of chinese mathematics, Springer 206 p.110.
  9. ^ Dan Martin, 'Greek and Islamic Medicines' Historical Contact with Tibet: A Reassessment in View of Recently Available but Relatively Early Sources on Tibetan Medical Eclecticism in Anna Akasoy, Charles Burnett, Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (eds.)Islam and Tibet: Interactions Along the Musk Routes, Ashgate 2011,pp.117-144, p. 128.
  10. ^ Christopher I. Beckwith, 'The Introduction of Greek Medicine into Tibet in the Seventh and Eighth Centuries,' in Journal of the American Oriental Society, 99:2 (1979) pp. 297-313.
  11. ^ Henk Blezer et al., 'Brief Outlook:Desiderata in the Study of the History of Tibetan Medicine,' in Mona Schrempf (ed.) Soundings in Tibetan medicine: anthropological and historical perspectives, Brill, 207 pp. 427-437, p. 430 n.5.
  12. ^ Beckwith, C. Uni. de l'Indiana Diss. 1977


  • Josef Kolmaš, Tibet and Imperial China, A Survey of Sino-Tibetan Relations up to the End of the Madchu Dynasty in 1912. Occasional paper No. 7, The Australian National University, Centre of Oriental Studies, Canberra, 1967. Page 7-11/67. (lire en ligne, appuyer sur F11 pour l'affichage plein écran)
  • Stein, R. A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization. Faber and Faber, London; Stanford University Press, Stanford, California. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7.

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Tagbu Nyasig
King of Tibet
Succeeded by
Songtsän Gampo