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1905 Tibetan Rebellion
Date 1905-1906
Location Sichuan, Yunnan
Status Qing Victory, Tibetan Defeat
Qing Dynasty Qing dynasty Tibet Tibetan Buddhist Gelug Yellow Hat sect
Commanders and leaders
Qing Dynasty Zhao Erfeng

Qing Dynasty General Wu Yi-chung
Qing Dynasty General Ma Wei-ch'i
Qing Dynasty Commandant in Chief Li Chia-jui

Tibet Tibetan Lamas
Qing military, New Army, Bannermen Tibetan tribesmen, Tibetan defectors from Qing army
Casualties and losses
All Lamas executed
Several Catholic Priests/Missionaries and many Christian converts killed

The Tibetan rebellion of 1905 in Yunnan province began with a series of attacks on Christian missionaries and converts and ended with the imperial Chinese government re-asserting control of the province.


Under pressure from foreigners, the Qing Dynasty government allowed Christian missionaries into Tibetan Buddhist areas in Yunnan province. The Tibetan Lamas had long defied the rule of the Qing authorities and officials, and the Qing dynasty fought against a rebellion of the Lamas around 1905. The Tibetan Buddhist Lamas attacked and murdered Chinese officials, French Roman Catholic Priests from Paris Foreign Missions Society such as Jean-André Soulié or Jules Dubernard, and Christian converts in the area, in retaliation for the missionaries' success at converting the natives to Catholicism. The Buddhist Gelug (Yellow) Sect was primarily responsible for the revolt and deaths.

Scottish Botanist George Forrest was the primary Western witness to the rebellion, having spent most of it trying to escape from Lamas intent on killing him. He wrote an account of the rebellion which was published in botanical related publications. In 1905, the Lamas started a revolt against the peasant converts from the monasteries. Chinese soldiers were sent to crush the revolt.[1]

Forrest wrote that the majority of the people in the Mekong valley in Yunnan were Tibetan. The Tibetan Buddhist Yellow Sect was the dominant power in the region, with their Lamas effectively governing the area. Forrest had a negative view of their reign, since they used "force and fraud" to "terrorise the... peasantry". The Lamas completely ignored the Imperial Qing authorities in the region.[2]

Attacks on Christian Missionaries and ConvertsEdit

The British invasion of Lhasa in 1904 had repercussions in the Tibetan Buddhist world. the Tibetan Lamas proceeded to revolt[why?] in 1905, massacring Chinese officials, French missionaries, and Christian Catholic converts.

The Lamas besieged Bat'ang, burning down the mission chapel, and killing two foreign missionaries, Père Mussot and Père Soulié. The Chinese Amban's Yamen was surrounded, the Chinese General, Wu Yi-chung, was shot dead in the Yamen by the Lama's forces. The Chinese Amban Feng and Commandant in Chief Li Chia-jui managed to escape by scattered Rupees[Clarification needed] (money) behind them, which the Tibetans proceeded to try to pick up. The Ambans reached Commandant Lo's place, but the 100 Tibetan troops serving under the Amban, armed with modern weaponry, mutinied when news of the revolt reached them. The Tibetan Lamas and their Tibetan followers besieged the Chinese Commandant Lo's palace along with local Christian converts. In the palace, they killed all Christian converts, both Chinese and Tibetan.[3]

George Forrest was residing at the Tzekou French Catholic Mission, which came under attack by the Tibetan Lamas. He fled through miles of mountains to flee the Tibetan Lamas who intended to "brutally" murder him.[4] Along his escape route, he took refuge with Chinese soldiers, but his party was discovered when they past by the Patang Lamasary after the Tibetans heard their presence, the Tibetans blew a "signal whistle" to alert everyone to their presence in the area.[5] Around the Mekong river every Catholic Priest was murdered by the Lamas; they even mounted a Father Dubernard's head on the Atuntze Monastery's gate.[6] Forrest was targeted by the Lamas, who pursued him until a Naxi "King"[Clarification needed] named Lee rescued him.

On July 22, 1905, the Tibetan Lamas killed the French Catholic missionaries[7] Père Pierre-Marie Bourdonnec and Père Jules Dubernard[8] around the Mekong.[9] A Chinese military mandarin informed Forrest on how exactly the Tibetans killed his friends. The Tibetans "disembowelled, beheaded and quartered" the body of Pere Bourdonné after he was shot to death. Chinese soldiers guarded Forrest from the Tibetans pursuing him.[10]

Jules Dubernard had been tortured for days by the Lamas.[according to whom?] His upper limbs were both fractured and restrained, he was secured on a stake, his eyes were gouged, his tongue, ears and nose severed, while he was living, his extremities were severed. The body parts of the French priests were sent by the Tibetans to be displayed at Lamaseries. Forrest lost a great deal of his scientific data, photographs and specimens of plants he was collecting.[11]

At the Atuntze Monastery the Tibetans mounted the decapitated heads of the French priests.[12]

At Cizhong Another Church was constructed after Tibetan mobs, under direction of their Lamas, wrecked the Christian mission.[13]

Retaliatory expeditionsEdit

The Chinese responded to the Tibetan rebellion with punitive expeditions. In the summer, the Sichuan Army under the command of Chinese General Ma Wei-ch'i launched the retaliatory "expedition" against the Tibetan Lamas and their rebels, crushing the Tibetan rebels at Batang, totally destroying their monastery. Tibetan Lamas and the Tibetan population around the area were subjected to execution, and dousing with fire. Tibetan leaders were beheaded. The bloody campaign of the Qing dynasty Han Chinese General and banner member Zhao Erfeng in Sichuan and Tibet was also a response to the Tibetan uprising. Zhao was killed by Chinese Republican revolutionary forces after the Xinhai Revolution. The Chinese military in Yunnan crushed the Tibetan rebels in Atuntze, the Chinese under Zhao took brutal measure to subdue the Tibetan population, and appoint Chinese officials to rule over them. Zhao besieged the remnant Tibetan rebels at Chantreng monastery.[9][14]

In the following year in 1906, the monastery fell to the Chinese forces, who used a deception to defeat the besieged. All Lamas were executed with the entire monastery razed. The Manchu Lien Yu was finally allowed to enter into his position as Amban of Tibet at Lhasa, due to Zhao's campaign in destroying the Tibetan rebels. Lien Yu was despised by the Tibetan population for his policies. Zhao Erfeng replaced the Tibetan chiefs with Chinese magistrates, beheaded the remaining Tibetan chiefs and eradicated the official position of "Chief", and the power of the Lamas and monasteries was curtailed.[15] After the Xinhai Revolution Lien Yu and his Chinese soldiers fled Tibet in 1912.

A Chinese commander ordered 10 Tibetan Lamas to be decapitated.[16]

A former Tibetan Khampa soldier named Aten, gave the Tibetan account of the war in his book, which does not match up with western accounts.[17] He claimed that the war started in 1903 when the Manchu Qing sent Zhao Erfeng to seize control of Tibetan areas, to control Batang and Lithang. Aten recounted Zhao's destruction of Batang, and claimed that Zhao used holy texts as shoeliners for his troops and that "Many Tibetans were executed by decapitation or by another typically Chinese method, mass burial while still alive." Aten also called the Manchus "alien conquerors".[18]

A letter was sent to officer Qiao with official seals, congratulating him for his defeat of the Tibetan rebels. It is currently in the possession of s stamp collector.[19]


  • PD-icon.svg This article incorporates text from East India (Tibet): Papers relating to Tibet [and Further papers ...], Issues 2-4, by Great Britain. Foreign Office, India. Foreign and Political Dept, India. Governor-General, a publication from 1904 now in the public domain in the United States.
  1. Amateur gardening, Volume 90. 1973.,+harass+the+Chinese+troops+who&dq=In+1905+the+lamas+in+this+remote+corner+where+China.+Tibet+and+India+merge+under+the+magnificent+mountain+barrier+were+in+revolt+They+poured+down+from+their+mountain+monasteries+to+terrorise+the+peasants,+harass+the+Chinese+troops+who&hl=en&ei=xKQLTsSmCoPz0gHwybylAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Cornell University)
  2. Philip S. Short (2004). In pursuit of plants: experiences of nineteenth & early twentieth century plant collectors (illustrated ed.). Timber Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-0-88192-635-4. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  3. Great Britain. Foreign Office, India. Foreign and Political Dept, India. Governor-General (1904). East India (Tibet): Papers relating to Tibet [and Further papers ..., Issues 2-4]. LONDON: Printed for H. M. Stationery Off., by Darling. p. 17. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Harvard University)
  4. Holly Kerr Forsyth (2007). Holly Kerr Forsyth. ed. The Constant Gardener (illustrated ed.). The Miegunyah Press. p. 70. ISBN 978-0-522-85432-9. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  5. Gardeners chronicle & new horticulturist. Haymarket Publishing. 1910. p. 325. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Cornell University)
  6. National Geographic Society (U.S.) (1927). The National geographic magazine, Volume 50. National Geographic Society.. p. 167. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  7. Mission-Thibet (fr)
  8. Royal Horticultural Society (Great Britain) (1996). The Garden, Volume 121. Published for the Royal Horticultural Society by New Perspectives Pub. Ltd.. p. 274. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Cornell University)
  9. 9.0 9.1 Eric Teichman (1922). Travels of a consular officer in eastern Tibet: together with a history of the relations between China, Tibet and India. University Press. p. 248. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from the University of California)
  10. Gardeners chronicle & new horticulturist. Haymarket Publishing. 1910. p. 344. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Cornell University)
  11. Philip S. Short (2004). In pursuit of plants: experiences of nineteenth & early twentieth century plant collectors (illustrated ed.). Timber Press. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-88192-635-4.,+whilst+the+two+heads+were+stuck+on+spears+over+the+lamaserie+of+the+town+of+Atuntze&hl=en&ei=-_EMToSdCsG50AGz0YW2Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=amongst%20the%20various%20lamaseries%20in%20the%20region%2C%20whilst%20the%20two%20heads%20were%20stuck%20on%20spears%20over%20the%20lamaserie%20of%20the%20town%20of%20Atuntze&f=false. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  12. Gardeners chronicle & new horticulturist. Haymarket Publishing. 1910. p. 344.,+whilst+the+two+heads+were+stuck+on+spears+over+the+lamaserie+of+the+town+of+Atuntze&dq=amongst+the+various+lamaseries+in+the+region,+whilst+the+two+heads+were+stuck+on+spears+over+the+lamaserie+of+the+town+of+Atuntze&hl=en&ei=-_EMToSdCsG50AGz0YW2Dg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=2&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAQ. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from Cornell University)
  13. Himalayan Club (2005). The Himalayan journal, Volume 61. Oxford University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-19-568150-5.,+and+in+the+following+year+a+new+church+was+rebuilt+in+Cizhong+3+km+north+from+Tsekou.+The+story+began+in+1846,+when+the+Pope+Gregoire+XVI+decided&dq=In+1905+the+mission+station+was+set+on+fire+and+destroyed+by+the+Lamas+and+Tibetan+mobs,+and+in+the+following+year+a+new+church+was+rebuilt+in+Cizhong+3+km+north+from+Tsekou.+The+story+began+in+1846,+when+the+Pope+Gregoire+XVI+decided&hl=en&ei=hecMTtnmF6Ho0QHJicnBDg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  14. travels of a consular officer in eastern tibet. CUP Archive. p. 21. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  15. travels of a consular officer in eastern tibet. CUP Archive. p. 22.'s%20indefatigable%20spirit%201906&f=false. Retrieved 2011-06-28. 
  16. John Macqueen Cowan, ed (1952). The journeys and plant introductions of George Forrest, V. M. H.. Pub. for the Royal Horticultural Soc. of Oxford Univ. Press. p. 252. Retrieved 2011-06-28. (Original from the University of Michigan)
  17. (Aten was not present during the war, he was giving a historical account in his book)
  18. Jamyang Norbu (1986). Warriors of Tibet: the story of Aten, and the Khampas' fight for the freedom of their country. Wisdom Publications. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-86171-050-8.,+or+Chinese+Muslim+horsemen+(formerly+soldiers+of+the+warlord,+Ma+Pu+Fang),+and+were+mounted+on+the+sleek,+powerful+horses+from+the+grasslands+of+Sining.+I+lay+there+in+the+gully+drowsing+fitfully&hl=en&ei=4S3nTbKrIYmugQeBqrH8Cg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CCoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=chao%20er%20feng&f=false. Retrieved 2011-06-01. 
  19. Geoffrey Flack's stamp collection from Tibet

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