An Introduction to Huaré (dpa' ris, Pari)

Where is Huaré?

Huaré (dpa’ ris, “Pari” in standard Tibetan pronunciation) is an important cultural region located in northeastern Tibet, or Amdo (a mdo).

In the Huare zang zu shi lue (Brief History of the Huaré Tibetans, Gansu Minzu chubanshe, 1998), Qiao Gaocairang, Li Chengseng and Zhouta (Tib. ‘brug thar) explain that Huaré refers to the region that includes the present-day counties of Ledu, Huzhu, Datong, Menyuan (in Qinghai Province), Tianzhu, Su’nan and some parts of Weiwu, Yongdeng, and Gulang (in Gansu Province). Geographically, Huaré is located in the northeastern part of the Tibetan Plateau, and it covers the north and south sides of the eastern end of Qilian Mountain. Tsenpo Tenzin Trinlé's (btsan po bstan ‘dzin ‘phrin las) early nineteenth-century ‘dzam gling rgyas bshad (Vast Explanation of the World), described two parts of Huaré: Amdo Huaré, which is synonymous with the region described above, and defined by him according to the location of the main monasteries of the region; and Lower Pari (dpa' ri smad), which included the main monasteries of Minhe (Tib. bka' ma log or "Kamalok") county (btsan po nomonhan ‘jam dpal chos kyi bstan ‘dzin ‘phrin las, ‘dzam gling rgyas bshad. Lhasa: Bod rang skyong ljongs spyi tshogs tshan rig khang, 1986, 110-111).

Huaré Tibetans

Huaré Tibetans call themselves Bö Karpo (bod dkar po), meaning “white Tibetans.” The above authors have calculated that in 1996 the Tibetan population in Huaré was 166,734. Although there are different stories about the ancestry of Huaré Tibetans, most people agree that they are descended primarily from the Tibetan troops sent to the frontier during the Tibetan imperial period, some Tibetan tribes that migrated to the east, as well as through intermarriage with other local people such as the Qiang, Tuguhun (土固浑) and Han. Qiaogao Cairang, Li Chenseng and Zhouta claim that the earliest Tibetans came to the Huaré area in 699 when Zangpo and Mang Buzhi took their tribes to settle in today’s Tianzhu and Gulang. However, Dorzhi (dor zhi) has challenged the assumption that before that period there were no Tibetans in this region. In the huare zhes pa’i ming dang huare bod rigs kyi mched khungs la dpyad pa (1996), Dorzhi argues that Tibetans lived in this area much earlier by asserting that the Qiang people were actually ancestors of the Tibetans. He says: “The historical sources from the Zhou Dynasty 3000 years ago mention that Qiang people lived around Nu mtsho/mtsho sngon” (p.6). According to him, the Chinese word for Tibetans, Zangzu (藏族), was a later invention that first appeared in Yuan Dynasty.

Who Ruled Huaré?

The Huaré region became Tibetanized in the seventh century when the Tibetan King Songtsen Gampo (srong btsan sgam po) established a powerful Tibetan empire. In the mid-eighth century, at the peak of their power, Tibetans occupied Hexi and Longyou (陇右). In 764, Tibetans took over Liangzhou (today’s Weiwu City in Gansu) and directly ruled the area for about a hundred years. As a result, the area became predominantly Tibetan. Later in the ninth century, the unified Tibetan empire fell apart and various regional polities began to emerge. A local polity was established in the Huaré region, particularly in the Hexi Corridor north of the Nanshan range. In 861 the Tang took Liangzhou back, but the Tibetans continued to control the area by paying tribute to the ruling power until the early Song period. In the early Northern Song period, a Tibetan polity was again formed in Liangzhou. This Tibetan polity, with Liangzhou at its center, was called the Six Tibetan Valleys of Huaré  (Tib. huare bod lung drug, Ch. Liangzhou liu gu fan bu, 凉州六谷蕃部). The authors of the Huare zangzu shilue state that this polity was fundamental in shaping the Huaré we know today. From the late Tang to the Northern Song, a Tibetan family named Zhepu, (Tib. rje bo, Ch. Zhepu shi jiazu, 折逋氏家族) ruled the area. The three authors mentioned above argue that the Song did not have their own administrative system in place, even though they established Xiliang prefecture (Xiliang fu, 西凉府) in Liangzhou. Instead, they simply used the approach of “using ‘barbarians’ to rule ‘barbarians’” (Ch. yi yi zhi yi, 以夷制夷); in other words, they used Tibetans to rule Tibetans. In 1003, the Song put a Tibetan named Pen Lodrö ('phen blo bros, Ch. Panluozhi , 潘罗支) in charge of the area, but he died soon thereafter. His death, caused by an accident, started an internal power struggle within Xiliang prefecture, and Tibetan power began to decline. In 1015, the six Tibetan groups of Liangzhou were overthrown and they were forced to join Jiaosiluo’s (Tib. Joselak, jo sras lags, 997-1065) regime in Tsongkha (tsong kha). After that, the Xixia (Tib. Minyak, mi nyag) dynasty controlled Liangzhou for 190 years. According to Dorzhi, the Xixia was primarily made up of a group of Tibetans called the Dongchang (ldong spyang, Ch. Dangxiang, 党项). He argues that their cultural practices, religious beliefs, language and clothing show that they were Tibetan.

After the fall of the Six Tibetan Valleys of Huaré, Jiaosiluo, who was a direct descendant of the Tibetan King Langdarma (glang dar ma), established a powerful polity in the eastern part of Qinghai in the Tsongchu river valley. During this time period, Huaré came under the rule of Jiaosiluo. When he died, his three sons ruled their own areas and fought each other for power. After his last son Dongzhan died in 1100, Jiaosiluo’s polity came to an end. 


From the Five Dynasties period (Ch. Wu dai, 五代) to the early Song dynasty, the Six Tibetan Valleys of Huaré ruled Liangzhou. During this period, the Nyingma (rnying ma) sect and the Bön (bon) tradition took root here. When the Minyak/Xixia came to rule Liangzhou, they promoted Buddhism and it developed even more. In 1159, the Minyak emperor Ren Xiaozong invited the founder of the Kagyü (bka’ brgyud) sect to come and disseminate his teachings, and so Tsang Zangpo (gtsang bzang bo) came and became the main lama. Monasteries such as Chengtian Si and Dayun Si were built. For the next two hundred years, under the rule of the Xixia, other sects, not just the Nyingma and Kagyü, became popular.  During the Song and Yuan dynasties, the Kagyü sect spread in this area. The second, third, fourth, and fifth Karmapas (karma pa) carried out their missionary activities and built some influential monasteries such as Karma Ritrö (karma ri khrod, Ch. Bailing si) and Tajé Gön (rta rjes dgon, Ch. Mati si). However, during the Yuan dynasty the Kagyü sect was replaced by the Sakya (sa skya).

In 1226, the Mongols seized Liangzhou. In 1236, the Mongol prince Gödan (Ch. Kuoduan) stationed himself there.  In 1246, at Gödan’s invitation, Sakya Künga Gyeltsen (sa skya kun dga’ rgyal mtshan), who was also called Sakya Pandita, arrived in Liangzhou with his two nephews, Pakpa Lodrö Gyeltsen ('phags pa blo gros rgyal mtshan) and Chakna Dorjé (phyag na rdo rje). During the four or five years he spent in Liangzhou, he built four monasteries including Shar Trülpé Dé (shar sprul pa'i sde, Ch. Baita si), Lho Wangdé (lho dbang sde, Ch. Jinta si), Nup Pemodé (nub pad mo sde, Ch. Xilianhu si), and Jang Gyatsodé (byang rgya mtsho sde, Ch. Beihaizang si). Later when Pakpa became the “imperial preceptor” (Ch. dishi, 帝师), the Sakya sect gained dominance and grew rapidly. Many monasteries that had previously belonged to the Kagyü and Nyingma sects were converted to the Sakya tradition.

During the Ming Dynasty, Tsongkhapa (tsong kha pa) initiated the Geluk (dge lugs) sect, and it became widespread. In the late Ming and early Qing, many monasteries were built in Huaré. Except for a few, the majority were Geluk monasteries. To this day, the Geluk sect has remained dominant in this area.

To sum up, the general religious history of the region shows that the Bön tradition came first to Huaré followed in chronological order by the Nyingma, Kagyü, Sakya, and Geluk sects. To some extent, this development pattern reflects the different time periods when these sects were dominant. However, it does not seem to be the case that all the monasteries in Huaré have developed in this way. In fact, the histories of the monasteries sometimes tell a different story. For example, Chöten Tang Monastery (mchod rten thang, Ch. Tiantang Si) is a major monastery in Tianzhu. Originally it was a Bön monastery, and was built during the Tang emperor Xianzong’s reign (806-822). In 1360, the fourth Karmapa passed through there on his way to Beijing. He built a stupa (or chöten, mchod rten) there, and the monastery was converted to the Kagyü sect. In 1639, the monastery was converted to the Geluk sect, and it has remained so to this day.


Btsan po nomonhan ‘Jam dpal chos lyi bstan ‘dzin ‘phrin las. ‘dzam gling rgyas bshad. Lhasa: Bod rang skyong ljongs spyi tshogs tshan rig khang. 1986.

Qiao Gaocairang, Li, Chengseng, Zhou ta [‘Brug thar]. Huare zangzu shilue [Brief History of Huaré Tibetans]. Lanzhou: Gansu Minzu chubanshe. 1998.

Dor zhi dgong drug snyems blo. “Huare zhes pa’i ming dang Huare bod rigs kyi mched khungs la dpyad pa.” In dor zhi gdong drug snyems blo’i dpyad rtsom phyogs bsgrigs [The Collected Essays of Dor zhi gdon drug snyems blo]. Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 1996.

Tianzhu zang zu zi zhi xian wei yuan hui. Tianzhu zangchuan fojiao siyuan gaikuang [Summary of the Tibetan Buddhist Monasteries of Huaré]. Tianzhu Xian: Zhongguo ren min zheng zhi xie shang hui yi Tianzhu Zangzu Zizhixian wei yuan hui. 2000.