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Tibetan Resistance (Tibet)

Last modified: 2014-05-29 by zoltán horváth
Keywords: tibet | khamba guerillas | swords: crossed (blue) | dragon | snow lion | tiger | garuda | sword (flaming) | bathang | jha lithang |
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Khampa Guerillas

[Kampba flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007


I found a black-and-white photograph of a group of Khampa (or Khamba) guerillas, a band of Tibetans fighting the communist occupation forces in the eastern regions of Tibet. In the background is a flag, partially obscured by the soldiers. I don't know what exactly what it represents, but it looks like two crossed swords on a light background, with a dark border, with five round symbols of some kind. I'm not sure, but it looks as if at least one of the swords is surrounded by flame. There is some Tibetan writing on the right side (I can't see the left).
Thomas Robinson, 10 August 1998

(Editorial Note: a photo of this flag is in Dragonflags, No. 2 [dfs] attributed to the book In exile from the Land of Snows, John F. Avedon, New York, 1984.

The history of the Khamba (not Khampa) struggle is very complex. Several feudal principalities exist in the zone, and some of them probably have their own flag. The principalities armies joined the Khamba revolt. The colour of the Khambas soldiers is yellow.
Jaume Ollé, 11 August 1998

After the Chinese invasion of 1950, two resistance movements rose: the Chushi Gangdruk (four rivers, six ranges, the traditional name of Kham) and the Tensung Danglang Maggar (Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet). The first one was a group of Khampa, the people who live between Tibet and China. Before 1950, there were still several kingdoms which turned Tibet against China in order to remain "independent". Those kingdoms decided that Chinese were too dangerous for them and that they must fight the Chinese.
They finally joined the Tibetan resistance essentially made up of the Tibetan army and led by Andrug Gompo Tashi. They harassed Chinese troops from the kingdom of Mustang, Nepal, with the help of the CIA until 1974 when China forced Nepal to expel them. The CIA stopped help to them because the Sino-US relations improved. Their flag was yellow with two crossed blue swords, one of them being in fire. I saw another version in a book with 4 animals on the corners and two letters on both sides of the swords. I don't know what it is.
Corentin Chamboredon, 17 May 2005

Last year I had found a good picture of the Tibetan resistance flag, which show two blue crossed swords on a yellow field, but I had once seen another version of it with animals in the corners. And today, I found it! This a photograph showing Tibetan resisters during the 50's. The flag they display is still yellow with two swords, one of them being in fire. The animals are: on the upper fly, perhaps a tiger (or a mythical animal that I don't know) and the famous snow lion on the upper hoist. A dragon with clouds in the lower fly and a garuda in the lower hoist. The hoist is on right and there is a khatag on it. The original page is at: http://www.chushigangdrug.ch/geschichte/geschichte_formation.php
Corentin Chamboredon, 26 June 2005

I found new information in Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet by Mikel Dunham.
Chapter VI explains that in 1957 the founder of the group, Gompo Tashi Andrugtsang (a rich khampa trader), had called several leaders of the Tibetan resistance together in his home. After having chosen their name, the participants created a new flag. "On a yellow field, two drawn and crossed swords, one of them burning."
The yellow field is the color of their religion, Buddhism, and represent their will to protect it from the Chinese. The burning sword is Manjushri's weapon (he is the bodhisattva of Wisdom), who destroy the roots of ignorance. Ignorance is seen as the origin of communism. The drawn sword shows the bravery of Khampas warriors and their hereditary legacy: it is the only weapon they can make by themselves.
Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007


Bathang

[Bathang flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 24 March 2014

This second flag appears in Dunham's book Buddha's Warriors: The Story of the CIA-Backed Tibetan Freedom Fighters, the Chinese Communist Invasion, and the Ultimate Fall of Tibet (in black and white) and in Dalai Lama, My Son: A Mother's Story by Diki Tsering (in color). It is the same flag with red Tibetan script on it, and four mythical animals on the corners (a tiger, a snow lion, a garuda and a dragon). Dunham describes it as the regimental flag of Bathang, but a Tibetan-speaker translated the text for me. The text is Jha (on the left) and Lithang (right). It might rather be the Lithang regiment. Jha is the Tibetan name of the crane. These words could refer to a famous old poem written by the VIth Dalai lama, who could refer to the place of his future incarnation (Lithang) when he was taken away to China by Mongol soldiers.

White crane!
Lend me your wings
I will not fly far
From Lithang, I shall return

Corentin Chamboredon, 23 March 2007


Chushi Gangdruk

[Chushi Gangdruk flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 24 March 2014

I found a small color photograph of a flag of the Chushi Gangdrug, the Tibetan  Resistance. According to its desciption, this is the flag mentioned by Thomas Robinson in 1998. It is quite similar to the main flag : a yellow field, two crossed blue swords, one in flame, and there is the same text as shown on the Bathang flag. There is a red border which runs on the four sides, unlike the Tibetan "national" flag (whose yellow border doesn't run on the fly side). There are five white circles in the middle of the top border. I have no more details about this flag, and the contact form of the website doesn't seem to work.
Sources : http://glimpses-of-tibet.ch/images/Resistance_sm.jpg and http://glimpses-of-tibet.ch/chin_administr_.htm
Corentin Chamboredon, 10 August 2010

I believe the correct spelling is Chushi Gangdruk, as mentioned on their official website: http://www.chushigangdruk.org/
Also, Chushi Gangdruk is Tibetan a phrase meaning "land of four rivers and six ranges". Chushi Gangdruk was an organization of Tibetan guerrilla fighters who attempted to overthrow the rule of the People's Republic of China (PRC) in Tibet that began with the People's Liberation Army invasion of Tibet (19501951). Chushi Gangdruk now supports survivors of the Chushi Gangdruk resistance, currently living in India. The formation of the Chushi Gangdruk Defend Tibet Volunteer Force was announced on June 16, 1958. "Chushi Gangdruk" is a Tibetan phrase meaning "land of four rivers and six ranges," and refers to Kham. The group included Tibetans from the Kham and Amdo regions of eastern Tibet, and its main objective was to drive PRC occupational forces out of Tibet. While central and western Tibet were bound by a 17-point agreement with the People's Republic of China, the PRC initiated land reform in eastern Tibet (including Kham and Amdo) and engaged in harsh reprisals against the Tibetan land-owners there.
Under the direction of General Andruk Gonpo Tashi, Chushi Gangdruk included 37 allied forces and 18 military commanders. They drafted a 27-point military law governing the conduct of the volunteers. Their headquarters were located at Tsona, then later moved to Lhagyari.
Initially militia members purchased their own weapons, mainly World War II-era British .303 in, German 7.92 mm, and Russian 7.62 mm caliber rifles. Chushi Gangdruk contacted the US government for support. However, the State Department required an official request from the Tibetan government in Lhasa, which was not forthcoming. State Department requests were made and ignored in both 1957 and 1958.
Eventually, the US Central Intelligence Agency provided the group with material assistance and aid, including arms and ammunition, as well as training to members of Chushi Gangdruk and other Tibetan guerrilla groups at Camp Hale. Chushi Gangdruk also received aid from the government of the Republic of China in Taiwan, led by Chiang Kai-shek.
From 1960, Chushi Gangdruk conducted its guerrilla operations from the northern Nepalese region of Mustang. In 1974, guerrilla operations ceased after the CIA, given the realignment of Sino-American relations initiated by President Richard Nixon, terminated its program of assistance to the Tibetan resistance movement and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the previously ruling Gelugpa, taped a message telling the Tibetans to lay down their weapons and surrender peacefully.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chushi_Gangdruk
Some other flags are seen here:
http://www.chushigangdruk.org/gallery/photo05.html
http://www.chushigangdruk.org/gallery/photo11.html
http://www.chushigangdruk.org/gallery/photo10.htm
http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=30167500&op=1&o=global&view=global&subj=19708497479&id=1148475164 (b/w photo)
http://www.chushigangdrug.ch/geschichte/images/formation_2.jpg  (color photo of the previous image)
http://www.chushigangdruk.ca/photos/march_10.html
The coat of arms of the Chushi Gangdruk is seen here: http://www.chushigangdruk.ca/images/logo.JPG
For additional information please refer to: http://www.chushigangdruk.org/history/index.html
Esteban Rivera, 10 August 2010

In fact, when dealing with Tibetan words, one learns quickly that spelling is very relative. The pronunciation of a letter can vary according to the tone (if the dialect has tones...) or the position in the word. In this case, the final K may be in fact pronounced as a very light G. See the following links for more details (and/or headaches...). But that's quibbling.
http://www.thlib.org/reference/transliteration/#essay=/thl/phonetics/all/
http://www.thlib.org/reference/transliteration/#essay=/thl/ewts/all/
Corentin Chamboredon, 10 August 2010


"Dorjes"

The roundish objects that form the handles of the sword are dorjes. The dorje is a thunderbolt weapon, a spiritual weapon important in Buddhist iconography, and especially so in the Vajrayana school followed in Tibet. Here is a link to the very informative Wikipedia article, which uses the Sanskrit term vajra for this weapon. As noted there, it appears in the arms of Bhutan.
David Phillips, 19 January 2014

I didn't mention the dorjes on the handle, because I wasn't really sure if the swords actually had them. The photos I saw were not clear enough. Those crossed swords are a religious symbol and I found a depiction of it in a book, which I used to make the gif, but did they really appear on the Tibetan resistance flag ? I can't be sure.
Corentin Chamboredon, 25 January 2014


Tibetan Resistance Flag

[Chushi Gangdruk flag]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 24 March 2014

I found another flag of the Tibetan resistance on Michael Dunham's website.
The flag is a mix of the different flags shown above. It uses the same layout as the main flag : a yellow field with two blue crossed swords (one surrounded by flames), except that the burning sword is directed toward the fly. There are four animals in the corners : what I think to be a garuda in the upper left, a dragon in the upper right, a tiger in the lower right and probably a snow lion in the lower left. Between the dragon and the tiger, there is a symbol. I think this is the kalachakra symbol. The flag has a red border except on the fly side, so maybe the flag wasn't fully displayed, but if that was the case I think the animals would be partially hidden. Above the swords, there is a red "Ka" letter (ཀ).
You can see some of these flag in a video where Michael Dunham also speaks.
In Carole McGranahan's book, Arrested histories: Tibet, the CIA and Memories of a forgotten war (2010, Duke University Press) we can read :
"there were thirty-seven organized units of varying size, grouped by pha yul (Lithang, Derge, Nyarong, and so on) names corresponding to the letters of the Tibetan alphabet - for example, "ka", "kha", "ga", "nga"." The pha yül (Tibetan for country / homeland) units grouped people who came from the same places.
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 March 2014


Tibetan resistance veterans associations

[Tibetan resistance veterans associations]
image by Corentin Chamboredon, 27 March 2014

The veterans associations also use a slightly different flag. It is orange with a decorated scroll beneath the swords, which contains the words "Dokham Chushi Gangdruk" in Tibetan script (མདོ་ཁམས་ཆུ་བཞི་སྒང་དྲུག་). Dokham is an older word for the whole Eastern Tibet area.
Sources :
http://belgium4tibet.wordpress.com/2012/10/04/wanneer-de-dalai-lama-opriep-de-wapens-neer-te-leggen-betekende-dat-het-einde-van-de-guerillastrijd/
http://belgium4tibet.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/dsc_0033.jpg
http://www.chushigangdruk.org/gallery/conferencealbum/photoindex01.html
http://www.chushigangdruk.ca/apps/photos/
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 March 2014

The swords are black and their hilts have the same color as the field.
Corentin Chamboredon, 27 March 2014


A final word about the different names one can encounter when reading about the Tibetan resistance.
- The Chushi Gangdruk, as I have already explained in previous contributions, arose in 1956 in Eastern Tibet, an area which had experienced communist reforms before they reached central Tibet. The first resistants were mainly traders. This organisation couldn't maintain its position in its homeland because of the increase of Chinese military and heavy losses. Lots of its fighters retreated to Lhasa. It formally ceased its operations in 1959.
- The Mimang Tsongdu (People's Assembly) was an organization made up of non-elite Lhasa inhabitants who protested against the Chinese forces and their occupation in 1952. The Tibetan government had to disband it this same year in order to avoid a severe Chinese repression.
- The Tensung Danglang Magar (Volunteer Freedom Fighters for Tibet / Voluntary Force for the Defence of Dharma) included parts of the two previous organizations. This organization continued to fight against the Chinese after 1959 and until 1974 with help from the CIA, even if the name Chushi Gangdruk was, and is still, better known.
Corentin Chamboredon, 13 March 2014