16th Century Guge

The Guge Kingdom ruled Tibet for hundreds of years, and by the 16th century was probably the largest town in the country.

The similarities between Tibetan Buddhist and Catholic rituals led the Goan Jesuits in the early 17th century to suppose that Tibet might have been a lost home of the Christian Religion, and possibly the kingdom of Prester John. In 1603 an expedition under one Benedict de Goes set out from India, but missed Tibet entirely and perished somewhere in the Gobi. Twenty one years later in 1624 a second expedition, this time under Father Antonio de Andrade and Manuel Marques, crossed the Himalayas via Badrinath and the Mana Pass, but did not descend into Tibet. A month later they made another attempt, this time reaching the Guge Kingdom, where they gained the trust of the king and set up a Christian Church.

In 1630 the Tibetan Lamas, enraged at the Jesuit's encroachments on their religion, enlisted the Ladakhi Army to invade Guge and overthrow the king. The Jesuits were imprisoned and eventually expelled from Tibet. In 1640 Manuel Marques led another mission to the Guge Kingdom, which was intercepted by Tibetans. Marques was captured and was never heard of again. The Guge Kingdom, its king and royal family dead, collapsed - the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin, who visited in the early 20th century, found sixteen inhabitants. The ruins remain there still on a bluff above the Sutlej - above is my imagining of what the place must have looked like.


Sources Being:

"A Mountain in Tibet", Charles Allen, Abacus Books, London, c. 1982

"Trans Himalaya: Discoveries and Adventures in Tibet Vol. 3 " Sven Hedin, Gian Publishing House, New Delhi, 1990 Reprint

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©2006 Hannibal Taubes