History of Chamdo

In ancient times, Chamdo prefecture was called “Kam” or “Kham” so that it could be differentiated from the Wei, Tsang and Ngari prefectures. Chamdo has a long history. The New Stone Age ruins, Kanuo Ruins and Lesser Enda Ruins excavated respectively in 1977 and 1980, indicate that human beings once lived in the region and some primitive forms of villages were formed as early as 5000 years ago. At that time, the local inhabitants had begun planting millets and raising pigs, supplemented by hunting foxes, gorals, and red deer. Chagyab County is the place where King Gesar fought with Jiongpa people for salts, as described in “Jiongpa”, a chapter from the Tibetan Epics of King Gesar. According to the traditional Tibetan geographical conception, Chagyab was also the Chagwab gang, one of the Six Dorkang gangs (gang is the old administrative zone in Tibet, approximately with the same area as the present village), which was famous for salt production. In Chamdo there are many architectural ruins, such as stone walls, stone steps, which, according to the local legends, were said to have been left over by “Jiongpa” people.

According to Mr. Ren Naiqiang, a famous Chinese Tibetologist, the present Chamdo was the center of politics, economy and culture of the East Woman State. During the Tupo Period (7th - 9th century), Chamdo prefecture was the location of the famous Eastern Woman State (Dongnu) and the Supi State. According to the 197th Volume of the Old Books of Tang, the Eastern Woman State refers to Western Chang. The State was customarily governed by queens, and had earned the name of “Eastern Woman” because there was a Western Woman State beside a lake to the west. The Eastern Woman State administrated about 80 towns, with the Ruoshui River flowing southward. People used Bullboats to cross the river. Cultural relics of the Eastern Woman State and Supi State can be found today.

In the 13th century, Tibet was under the reign of Yuan Dynasty. A marshal government office, namely Dorgangsi Pacification Commissioner's Office, was set up in Chamdo prefecture and Garze prefecture of Sichuan province. In the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Gelug Sect of the Tibetan Buddhism sprang up and gradually penetrated its influence into the Kham region, thus forming the Hotogtu, the reincarnation system of the Giant Living Buddha. The Ming government set up a Commander’s Office in Dorgang town and authorized the tribal chiefs and the Giant Lama to supervise it. At the end of the Ming Dynasty, the Chamdo region was under the control of the Gushri Khan of the Hoshot Mongo's Headman (Hoshot was a tribe of the Mongols). In the Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), the government authorized the Giant Living Buddha and Tusi (hereditary headmen) to govern their territories, both being responsible to officials sent to Tibet by the central government. Qing Dynasty set up grain supply stations in Chamdo and appointed civil officials and military officers there. 130 soldiers dispatched from Sichuan and Yunnan Province were stationed in the region to pass on the imperial edicts and protect the Giant Living Buddha in the Chambaling Monastery and the officials in the grain stations. At the end of the Qing Dynasty, Chamdo was named Chuanbian (meaning the border of Sichuan) after Zhao Erfeng changed the hereditary official system into the system of appointing officials with certain term of office. Zhao was appointed High Commissioner and concurrently Minister of the Borderland Affairs in 1908. During his seven years of rule over the Sichuan border, he persuaded the Qing court to transform the Tusi (local headman) system in the Kham area. The hereditary title was made an appointed one with a certain term of office. After the proclamation of the Republic of China in 1912, Chamdo became one part of Xikham Province. In 1918, the Tibetan government changed its name into Dormai Prefecture and divided the region into 25 zongs (zong was the old administrative zone in Tibet, approximately with the same area as the present county).

On October 19, 1950, the People’s Liberation Committee was set up in Chamdo Prefecture, which administrated 3 districts, i.e. the 13 zongs directly under the jurisdiction of the Chamdo Liberation Committee, the 10 zongs administrated by the 39-nationality and the 3 zongs and the brine pit area governed by the No.2 office in Bome district, and the 28 zongs in Zayul. In 1955, the Preparatory Committee of the Tibet Autonomous Region was established and it started to administrate Chamdo. The Commissioner Office of Chamdo Prefecture was set up in 1960.


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