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ʾPhags-pa Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan

ʾPhags-pa Blo-gros-rgyal-mtshan (c.1235–80). One of the five leading figures of the Sa-skya order of Tibetan Buddhism. He was a prolific author who addressed a wide range of topics, engaging also in correspondence with Mongol princes in which he summarized Buddhist teaching. In 1244, when his uncle, Sa-skya Paṇḍita, was summoned to serve in the Mongol court, ʾPhags-pa went with him. As a result of this, the Sa-skya order was delegated to rule over Tibet, but ʾPhags-pa was kept by the emperor of China, Kubla (Qubilai) Khan, to ensure Tibet's submission to Mongol rule. He so impressed the emperor with his Tantric skills (which eclipsed those of the court shamans) that he was made instructor of the court and ruler (in absence) of Tibet. The pattern of relationship between China and Tibet was thus established which is known as yon mchod, ‘patron and priest’, and which was overthrown by the Chinese annexation of Tibet. The emperor is protector of the lama and through him, by extension, of the land, and the leading lama of Tibet (in due course, the succession of Dalai Lamas) is the spiritual advisor and guarantor of rites to the emperor. For the complexity of this relationship, see also PANCHEN LAMA.

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