An Overview of Batang

As with its neighbor Litang (li thang), one of the primary routes for communication, trade, and military convoys between China and central Tibet runs through Batang (’ba’ thang). In the thirteenth century the Mongolian Yuan Dynasty established garrisons in Batang and later the Dalai Lama’s Ganden Palace (dga’ ldan pho brang) government established large monasteries in the region. In 1703 the Ganden Palace in Lhasa sent two governors (called “depa,” sde pa) – one junior and one senior – to Batang to select local elite, supervise corvée labor, and levy taxes for their own livelihood. The two chiefs from Lhasa died of illness in Batang and were replaced by indigenous leaders, who converted the office of governor into a hereditary post. In 1728 the reigning governors were made headmen (土司 tusi) within the Qing imperial system. From this point on their duties grew to involve overseeing trade and collecting taxes for the Qing. In the first decade of the eighteenth century the Qing became more aggressive in its dealings with Batang and major uprisings broke out between 1704-06, resulting in the massacre of many monks and the execution of the two governors, thereby bringing an end to the Tibetan polity of Batang.