Introduction to the Mé Kingdom of Ngawa

Metsang (dme tshang) is located in Ngawa county (rnga ba, Aba xian).

The person who ruled Metsang was called Mé Gyelpo (dme rgyal po), meaning the king of Mé. At the beginning, the king ruled only Mé Ruma Tsowa (dme ru ma tsho ba) in Ngawa Marma (rnga ba mar ma). Later Metsang’s territory expanded. The neighboring communities and tsowa (tsho ba)[1] came under Metsang through their submission, marriage and warfare. Under the king there were ministers who served as chief advisors on internal affairs and relations with the outside. The ministers made sure that the king’s orders were followed. Usually the positions of the ministers were hereditary, but capable ordinary people who won the trust of the king would be appointed as the ministers, too. Under the ministers, there was a lower level of leadership called göpo (rgod po) and they were recommended to the king based on their abilities by the elderly. Tsomi (tsho mi) was the lowest level of leadership working at the village level.

There was a nyerwa (gnyer ba) or a manager responsible for managing the affairs within and outside of the village as well as the village properties. Nyerwa was chosen by göpo and made official by the king. The village militia officer (makpön, dmag dpon) or the person leading the village militia was also recommended based on the person’s courage and intelligence by göpo. Generally, each village had one militia officer. Large villages normally would have two officers, while the small villages had only one officer and often the village leader was the officer. However, the militia positions were temporary because once a war was over their authority was also gone.

During the heyday of Metsang, under the king there were thirteen ministers. The upper, lower and middle divisions of Metsang had two militia officers each, and Mé Ruma had two officers, eight banner officers (makpön dardzin gyé, dmag dpon dar ‘dzin brgyad), and 100 bapön (sba dpon), whose function is unclear. Each of the three divisions of Metsang had four sub-divisions. These twelve subdivisions were considered as Metsang’s “inner villages” (nangdé, nang sde). According to their economic circumstances, the households were divided into five categories, namely yangrap (yang rab), khyimrap (khyim rab), khyimdring (khyim ‘bring), khyimta (khyim tha), and yangta (yang tha). Based on their economic status, the families were required to provide various services and duties such as taxes.

The lhadé (lha sde)[2] villages of Kirti Monastery (ki rti dgon) did not belong to Metsang and they were not subject to the king of . Nevertheless, the king helped Kirti Rinpoche (ki rti rin po che) rule these lhadé villages. The relationship between the king and Kirti Rinpoche was one of chöyön (mchod yon, or priest and patron), and it was established around 1760 during the reign of King Tséwang Kyap (tse dbang skyabs), who invited the fifth Kirti Rinpoche to his home and made offerings.


Hor gtsang ‘jigs med, Mdo smad lo rgyus chen mo las sde tsho’i skor glegs bam dang bo [The first volume of sde tsho (communities and tsho ba) in The Greater History of Amdo], Library of Tibetan Works & Archives. Dharamsala, India. 2009. Pp 141—178


[1] Tsowa (tsho ba) in Amdo is a social unit made up of a number of households living together in one place. There are two types of tsowa in terms of whether the households in tsowa are related by blood or not. One type is that all the households in tsowa are related by blood. This is the same as clan that is understood in English. However, this type of tsowa is rare in Amdo nowadays.

[2]  Lhadé (lha sde) refers to villages, which support the monasteries by giving donations. Most monasteries have lhadé e.g, Rongwo lhadé (rong bo lha sde, or the lhadé of Rongwo Monastery). These lhadé villages do not have a particular name and they are simply called lhadé. Usually tawa (mtha' ba) villages are poor and dependent on the monastery, whereas  lhadé villages are better off and the monastery is dependent on them. One translation for lhadé is “parish.”