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View of the village of Taktser
View of the village of Taktser
Taktser is located on a hill in the northeast of the Tibetan Plateau
Taktser is located on a hill in the northeast of the Tibetan Plateau
Location of the village in Qinghai province
Coordinates: 36°22′41.1″N 101°51′57.2″E / 36.378083°N 101.865889°E / 36.378083; 101.865889Coordinates: 36°22′41.1″N 101°51′57.2″E / 36.378083°N 101.865889°E / 36.378083; 101.865889
Country China
Province Qinghai
Prefecture-level city Haidong
County Ping'an County
Township Shihuiyao Township
Elevation 2,843 m (9,327 ft)
Population (2009)
 • Total 256
Time zone China Standard Time (UTC+8)

Taktser or Tengster (Tibetan: སྟག་འཚེར།, ZYPY: Dagcêr, Place on the Heights; Chinese: 红崖)[1] is a village in the Western Chinese province of Qinghai (or the Tibetan cultural region of Amdo).

Taktser was originally an area of pasture land for the larger village of Balangtsa, about two hours walk away in the valley. Cattle were brought to feed on the fertile grazing lands in summer, which caused them to give very rich milk. Later, when people realized that this was also a good place to farm, permanent houses were built, and the village comprised about thirty cottages by the time Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was born.[2]

The village is on the route from Xining, which was the seat of local Chinese government administration, to Labrang Tashi Khyi, the largest monastery in the area after the famous Kumbum Monastery.[3]

Taktser is the Tibetan name of the village of Hongya (红崖村 Hóngyá Cūn, Hongaizi in the local dialect), together with 13 other villages forming the Shihuiyao Township (石灰窑乡), of Ping'an County, in Haidong Prefecture. Despite it being under centuries of Chinese-speaking environment, it still belongs to the Tibetan cultural region of Amdo. Taktser is not, as it is usually taken to be, in the proximity of the Kumbum Monastery, rather it is approximately 27 kilometres (17 mi) east of the monastery, and around 26 kilometres (16 mi) southwest of the town of Ping'an (平安镇, Tibetan: Bayan khar), which is also the seat of the government for the county of the same name.


Although the name of Taktser is a reminder of the times when the earliest inhabitants were Tibetan tribes, the Huis have been the main ethnic group in the area since the Qing Dynasty (1644).[4]

In 1935, the village, then under the control of Hui Chinese (Muslim) warlord Ma Bufang of the Republic of China (Ma clique), consisted of 17 households, 15 of which were Tibetan.[5] In 1985, there were 40 families [6] and in 2002 the figure rose to 50.[7]

In 2009, the village numbered 256 inhabitants. Over 70% of the 50 families have a television set and a land-line telephone. The village also features 10 mobile phones, 16 motorbikes, and one automobile, but is still isolated from the Internet.[8]

The birthplace of the 14th Dalai Lama[edit]

House where the 14th Dalai Lama was born

The village of Taktser gained fame as the birthplace of the 14th Dalai Lama in 1935.[9] It also saw the birth of his elder brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu, who was acknowledged by the 13th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the great lama Taktser Rinpoche.[10]

"The former residence of Hongya"[edit]

In her book "Dalai Lama, My Son. A Mother's Story", published in 2000, the 14th Dalai Lama's mother, Diki Tsering, reports on the cursory description that the 5th Reting Rinpoche gave of her household after seeing it in a vision: "there was a tree in the back yard and a stupa (...) at the doorway and (...) we had a small black-and-white dog and a large mastiff on the terrace (...), there were many nationalities in our home.".[11]

In 1954, the Austrian mountaineer Heinrich Harrer, who had the opportunity of speaking to Dzasa Kunsangtse, one of the monk investigators sent to look for the 13th Dalai Lama's reincarnation, describes the house as "a little Chinese peasant house with carved gables.".[12]

The same house is portrayed as "typically Tibetan" by Michael Goodman in 1986 (The way that was taken by the team went through a clearing from which the house, typically Tibetan, was clearly visible, a clearing where the 13th Dalai Lama had rested 30 years beforehand, noticing the beauty of the house.).[13]

To find a more substantial description of the house, one has to turn the biography, published in 1959, of the Dalai Lama's elder brother, Thubten Jigme Norbu. In it the exterior appearance and interior arrangement of the house are depicted in minute detail.[14]

The house was a rectangular, ground-level building, with its various parts arranged around a wide central courtyard. It had a rectangular flat roof. There were no openings in the outside walls, except for the doorway. In the roof there were three chimneys stacks and two air-holes. Around the roof were small gutters with spouts giving out into the courtyard. Over the entrance there was a socket fixed in the roof to take a 10-foot-high flagpole. The flag itself was inscribed with innumerable prayers.

The house was entered from the east side as this was the only side that afforded protection from the weather. A wide corridor led into the yard. To the right was the kitchen, which took up almost the whole eastern wing. In the northern wing was the best room, the altar room and the bedroom of the dalai Lama's parents, all connected with each other. The byre, the guest room and the store room were in the western wing, while the stable, the kennel and the sheep-pen were in the southern wing. The yard, the covered in-way and the stalls were paved with stone slabs. The rooms had wooden floors.

A more recent account of the home comes from Rudy Kong in Dragons, Donkeys, and Dust: Memoirs from a decade in China, published in 2010. Kong visited the home in 2001 and described "a living room of bare concrete that contained nothing more than simple wooden furniture. On the tables and walls were old black and white family photos. In the photos we could see the young child Tenzin Gyatso, who would be pronounced an incarnation of Buddha himself and become the God-King of the Tibetans: the Dalai Lama."[15]

Kong continues: "The next room, we were told, was the room where His Holiness was actually born, and in the room a large prayer wheel, the size that one finds around the perimeter of large Tibetan monasteries, perhaps one metre in diameter, stood directly in the centre. The prayer wheel was draped in alternating yellow and white kata scarves. Several thankas, Buddhist paintings, hung on the filthy walls. The room contained nothing else."

Kong, an agnostic, described the experience of being in the home as "powerful and overwhelming" and was brought to tears.

A Monastery of the 4th Karmapa[edit]

The monastery of Shadzong Ritro was founded in the 14th century by the 4th Karmapa.

Standing on a mountain peak 7 km from Taktser, the monastery of Shadzong Ritro was founded by the 4th Karmapa (1340–1383) at the beginning of the 14th century. It is in this monastery that the 4th Karmapa conferred the first vows to Tsongkhapa (1357–1419). At the time of this ceremony, the Karmapa cut a wick of hair of the child, then sent it on a close boulder of the cave where he lived, creating a crack in the rock. A Juniper exhaling an odor of human hair and still visible these days would have grown from it.[13] At the time of his return from China, the 13th Dalai Lama, stayed for a while in this monastery, finding the place magnificent, and gazing at the house of his next reincarnation,[16] a detail the monks remembered.[17]

According to Thubten Jigme Norbu, in 1949, by the end of the Chinese Civil War, plundering hordes controlled by the Communists, robbed and destroyed what they could not take, burning the buildings of Shadzong Ritro.[18]


  1. ^ Thubten Jigme Norbu, Heinrich Harrer, Tibet is my country, London: Wisdom Publications, 1986, p. 21 : "The meaning of 'Tengtser' is 'place on the heights' ; that is to say something like 'mountain village', or 'upper village'.")
  2. ^ Thubten Jigme Norbu, Heinrich Harrer, Tibet is my country, op. cit., p. 22.
  3. ^ Tibet is My Country: Autobiography of Thubten Jigme Norbu, Brother of the Dalai Lama as told to Heinrich Harrer, p. 21. First published in German in 1960. English translation by Edward Fitzgerald, published 1960. Reprint, with updated new chapter, (1986): Wisdom Publications, London. ISBN 0-86171-045-2.
  4. ^ The 14th Dalai Lama's road to treason (1), People's Daily Online, April 23rd, 2008.
  5. ^ Thomas Laird, The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, 2007, p. 262.
  6. ^ Cf Qinghai Province, Surrounded by Natural Beauty ; figure taken from the Chinese Statistical Yearbook 1985.
  7. ^ John Gittings, Half a century of exile cannot crush Tibetan dreams, guardian.co.uk, February 8th, 2003.
  8. ^ Yu Zheng, An enigmatic paradox - How a layman sees the Dalai Lama, China View, Marc 13th, 2009.
  9. ^ "China keeps tight lid on riot-hit areas". Agence France-Presse. Philippine Daily Inquirer. 2008-03-24. Retrieved 2008-03-24. .
  10. ^ Taktser Rinpoche: reincarnate lama and brother of the Dalai Lama, Obituary, TimesOnLine, 16 septembre 2008.
  11. ^ Diki Tsering, Dalai Lama, My Son. A Mother's Story, edited and introduced by Khedroob Thondup, Hermondsworth, Viking Arkana, 2000.
  12. ^ Seven years in Tibet, translated from the German by Richard Graves; with an introduction by Peter Fleming; foreword by the Dalai Lama, E. P. Dutton, 1954, (ISBN 0874778883). "When the regent, after long prayers, came to the water and looked in its mirror, he had a vision of a three-storied monastery with golden roofs, near which stood a little Chinese peasant house with carved gables."
  13. ^ a b Goodman, Michael H. (1986), The Last Dalai Lama, Shambhala Publications, Boston, Massachusetts.
  14. ^ Thubten Jigme Norbu, Heinrich Harrer, Tibet is my country, op. cit., pp. 22-24.
  15. ^ Kong, Rudy (2010). Dragons, Donkeys, and Dust: Memoirs from a decade in China. Vancouver: Bing Long Books. pp. 197–98. ISBN 978-0-9813003-2-0. 
  16. ^ Roland Barraux, Histoire des Dalaï Lamas, Quatorze reflets sur le Lac des Visions, Albin Michel, 1993. Réédité en 2002, Albin Michel, ISBN 2-226-13317-8.
  17. ^ Gilles van Grasdorff, Hostage of Beijing: the abduction of the Panchen Lama, Shaftesbury, Dorset ; Boston, Mass., 1999.
  18. ^ Thubten Jigme Norbu, Tibet Is my country, autobiography dictated to Heinrich Harrer in 1959, and updated with a new essay in 1987 (ISBN 0861710452) and 2006 (ISBN 1425488587)


  • Matthias Hermanns, Mythologie der Tibeter. Magie. Religion. Mysterien, 1955, Neuausgabe Mythen und Mysterien, Magie und Religion der Tibeter, Essen o. J., S. 202. ISBN 3-88400-112-4
  • Andreas Gruschke: The Cultural Monuments of Tibet’s Outer Provinces: Amdo, Band 1, Bangkok 2001, ISBN 974-7534-59-2 - [1]
  • Andreas Gruschke: Diederichs kompakt - Dalai Lama. Kreuzlingen - München 2003, ISBN 3-7205-2461-2