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Who was Tsangyang Gyatso?

Back in the year 1697, a rather unusual Dalai Lama lived in Lhasa's Potala Palace, the chief residence of all Dalai Lamas until the 1950s. This 6th Dalai Lama, also known as Tsangyang Gyatso, had - besides his political work - composed many songs and poems, famous still today, not only in Tibet.

Since he was young, writing was his passion but his works often opposed the principles of Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, he had enjoyed his simple life before he was enthroned and basically rejected the livestyle of a monk and rather enjoyed his life as a playboy, drinking, singing and having relations with girls. When he became the 6th Dalai Lama, he was already 15 years old.


White crane!

Lend me your wings

I will not fly far

From Lithang, I shall return



After he became the Dalai Lama, his life changed dramatically and he was never really able to enjoy or accept it fully. During day time, he was the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of all Tibetan people. During the night, he used to escape from the Potala Palace, secretely meeting his lover. Unfortunately, the monks found that out and killed her.

I incline myself

To the teachings of my lama

But my heart secretly escapes

To the thoughts of my sweetheart


In 1706, the Manchu Army entered Lhasa, they arrested Tsangyang Gyatso, claiming that he was not a "real" Dalai Lama. Officially, he died under mysterious and unknown circumstances shortly after. Still, there is a theory that he benefitted from his kidnapping and he led a happy life from then on. Anyway, Tsangyang Gyatso's love poems were left and are popular still today.


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