Warrior monk: guns, grenades, and the rise of the Ninth Panchen Lama on Sino–Mongol–Tibetan frontiers, 1924–1937

Huasha Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article revisits the Ninth Panchen Lama’s (Choekyi Nyima, 1883–1937) controversial exile in China and Inner Mongolia between 1924 and 1937. As the most renowned political dissenter of the then-nascent Tibetan state and the second most important religious leader for Mongolian and Tibetan Buddhists, the Ninth Panchen Lama played a significant role in the early-twentieth-century Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian political and spiritual worlds. Academic scrutiny of the Ninth Panchen Lama’s association with China has facilitated the scholarly understanding of the “subimperialist” policy that the Chinese Nationalist government devised to replicate the Qing Empire’s success in managing Mongol and Tibetan territories. Assisted by newly released sources and a shifting focus away from Chinese statesmen to the Tibetan monk, this article reassesses the power that the Ninth Panchen Lama wielded on the Sino–Mongol–Tibetan frontiers and his collaboration with the Chinese Nationalist government. This article argues that despite possessing many cosmetic features of the Qing-style relationship centering on the mutually agreed reinterpretation of an established status quo within a hierarchal framework, the alliance between the Ninth Panchen Lama and the Chinese Nationalist government was a venturesome entente based upon shared objectives that were audacious, contentious, and bore little resemblance to Qing precedent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-258
Number of pages29
JournalCritical Asian Studies
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was made possible with the help of Yonsei University New Faculty Research Seed Funding Grant and Yonsei University Research Fund 2021 (2021-22-0047). An earlier version of this article was presented at the Yonsei University Underwood International College HASS/Asian Studies Division Tenth Anniversary East Asia Workshop on December 11, 2021. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my discussant Soyoung Choi for her invaluable suggestions, to Henry Em and Michael Hope for their insightful questions, to my co-panelists Inhye Han and Frank Saunders Jr, and to the workshop’s organizer Tomoko Sato. My gratitude also goes to the two anonymous referees for CAS and Dr Robert Shepherd for their generous comments and suggestions. Thank you.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 BCAS, Inc.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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