The history of Bhutan | Bhutan before unification | Until the establishment of the state | Eastern Bhutan

Eastern Bhutan

The sources on the history of eastern Bhutan between the 11th and 17th centuries are extremely scarce, and those that do exist, were written long after the actual events happened. Historical events were only handed on orally from generation to generation of the royal families.

According to these oral histories, the area was split up among various small kingdoms. During the ninth century Prince Tsangma, a member of the Tibetan royal family, supposedly visited Bhutan. He is seen as the progenitor of the five most important local clans. Numerous small, independent kingdoms were ruled by members of these clans.

Towards the end of the 16th century a new hierarchical structure started developing alongside that of the clans, namely that of the clerical aristocracy, the Chöje*, founded by high clerics.

Up to the start of the 17th century most of the members of the Chöje* belonged to the Nyingmapa school, who were mostly descendants of Pema Lingpa.

The beginning of the 17th century saw the emergence of three Chöje* of the Drukpa school. They were the descendants of the Shabdrungs father, Tenpe Nyima (1567-1619), who undertook extensive trips in eastern Buthan.

Most of the rulers of these small kingdoms seem to have been bitter opponents of the Drukpa, since they knew precisely that they would lose all their power under a Drukpa hegemony. Despite this fact some did support the Drukpa, thereby hoping that they would be able to dispose of some of their old rivals.

The history of Bhutan
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.  .  Bhutans early history
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.  Shabdrung Ngawang ..
.  The monarchy
Bhutans religion
Gods and Sacred ..

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Bronze with fire-gilding, painted; 18th century; H: 16,5 cm.; loan from the Paro National Museum
Tenpe Nyima (1567-1619) was the son of the 17th prince abbot of the Drukpa Kagyupa school in Ralang/Tibet. He made several trips though Bhutan and this helped his son, Shabdrung Ngawang Namgyel, to settle down more easily in Bhutan after his escape from Tibet.