On the Tibetan plateau, Kangrinboqe is a world-recognized sacred mountain and is considered the world’s center by Tibetan Buddhism, Hinduism, and primitive Tibetan religions. During the Zhengguan period of the Tang Dynasty, Songtsen Gampo, the ruler of the Tubo Dynasty who rose in the Yarlung Zangbo river valley, was defeated after invading the border of the Tang Dynasty. To reconcile with the Tang Dynasty for generations and to live in peace, he begged for a marriage.
The frontier needed stabilizing, and the Chinese and Tibetan people had to be saved from war. Emperor Taizong of the Tang Dynasty chose his gentle, elegant, and noble royal daughter, Li Yan’er, and gave her the name Princess Wencheng to marry the King of Tubo.
Before her departure, Princess Wencheng kowtowed in front of the Imperial Palace and thanked the grace of the emperor. Emperor Taizong said: “Wencheng, you have a long path ahead of you. As a princess married to the Tubo, you shall make it your responsibility to reconcile the two countries, to promote the culture of Tang, and to educate the barbarians.
“When the two countries repair, promote the humanities of heaven and educate the barbarians. You shall not concern about your benefits; instead, hold Tang and Tubo people’s happiness in your heart. I have instructed the King of Jiangxia and other associates to escort you into Tibet. Do you have any other needs, Wencheng?”
Wencheng replied: “Thank you, Your Majesty, for your grace. Wencheng has no other request; I will repay Father’s kindness with this body.”
The party of Princess Wencheng to Tibet was huge, and the dowry given by the Emperor of the Tang Dynasty was even more precious and abundant. The golden statue of Sakyamuni is still enshrined in Lhasa (land of the gods) in the Dazho Monastery.
Princess Wencheng was accompanied by a group of Tang scribes, musicians, agricultural technicians, construction craftsmen, and the accompanying handmaidens. After several months of arduous trek, Princess Wencheng arrived at the origin of the Yellow River in Qinghai Province, where rich grass and water source took place, along with the long-awaited Tubo King.
The Tubo King was subdued by Princess Wencheng’s dignity and elegance. He held a grand wedding in Lhasa, the capital of the Tubo dynasty. The people celebrated with songs and dances, and the capital city was an ocean of joy.
Over time, Princess Wencheng took great care of Songtsen Gampo’s daily life. She made food, drink, and silk clothes during the Tang Dynasty. When Songtsen Gampo ate the exquisite food made by the princess and put on the fitting Tang clothing, he was amazed and respected and loved the princess of the Heavenly Kingdom even more. Princess Wencheng also often taught Songtsen Gampo Chinese; when there was nothing to do in the court, she often played Tang dynasty music on her pipa. She told him Chinese anecdotes, which made Songtsen Gampo deeply fascinated by Tang culture.
With her knowledge and insight, Princess Wencheng carefully observed the people of Tubo. She made various rational proposals aligned with the country’s situation to help the king govern, particularly significant decisions that would determine the country’s fate. Although Princess Wencheng had Songtsen Gampo’s trust and reliance, she did not seek fame and treated her subjects well. She was universally praised by the ministers of the Tubo dynasty and benefited the Tibetans in general.
Although Princess Wencheng was beautiful and wise, she attracted intense jealousy of the grand concubine of Songtsen Gampo. The concubine paid serious money to a sorcerer to harm the princess. However, since the princess was righteous, compassionate, and kind, she benefited from the protection of the gods. The grand concubine not only did not injure the Princess but had herself punished by the gods. She suddenly got a strange disease, which made her see evil spirits around her in the daytime, and she couldn’t sleep at night. It made her weakened day by day; breathing became so difficult, as if there were stems in her throat.
After Princess Wencheng heard about it, she consulted a Chinese doctor who came to Tibet with her. When she understood the truth, the doctor said: “This disease is easy to cure, but the medicine is hard to get!” The princess said: “May I ask what the medicine is? The doctor hesitated, and after the princess’s urgings, he said: “We need to use the blood of the golden branch and the jade body as the medicine.” The princess bowed her head in contemplation. Shortly after leaving, she returned with a bowl of blood and said: “I am a princess with a golden body, and this is my blood, which is the medicine. Please prescribe the medicine and treat the grand concubine.”
Upon knowing the reason for her recovery, the grand concubine burst into tears and rushed to Princess Wencheng for forgiveness. The princess said: “We are sisters; this is the way it should be. I wish you a speedy recovery.” The grand concubine was touched deeply and was speechless.
Since the princess settled in Tibet, the King of Tubo gave her two handmaidens to adapt to highland life as soon as possible. One of the girls was forced to steal a piece of gold jewelry from the princess for her father’s medical treatment that they could not afford. After the incident, her skin was supposed to be peeled as the punishment for stealing expensive accessories set by the Tubo Dynasty law. Princess Wencheng, with compassion, however, forgave the maid for her crime and sent a doctor to cure her father’s illness, to free. These two anecdotes were widely circulated among Tibetans.
Every few months, the princess would visit ordinary Tibetans’ homes to understand their plight, care for their lives, and give them all the help she could offer. The people regard the princess as a heavenly being because of her noble character.
A bad custom in Tubo was that if the elderly parents were incapacitated, they could be abandoned in the wilderness and left to fend for themselves. Princess Wencheng came across this custom when she was visiting. After thinking about it, she advised Songtsen Gampo: “What is the basis of my country?” Songtsen Gampo replied: “Buddhism.” “Then why is there the cruelty of abandoning parents in the wilderness and watching them die?” Songtsen Gampo replied: “This custom was established in ancient times.”
The princess said: “People are born by their parents; if they do not pay respect to their parents and do not take care of them before their deathbed, how are they different from animals and beasts? God and Buddha created all things, and all things have laws to follow; everything is in the heavenly principle.
“Working against the principles can not only lead one person to die but also destroy a whole country, and there are countless examples in the past and present to prove it. As the ancients say, ‘the subjects obey the kings; the sons obey the fathers; the wives obey the husbands…these are humanity’s moralities. If you do not follow the way of humanity, you are not human and will be destroyed by heaven. Such a country is also contrary to the will of God and will not last long. I hope Zanpu rethinks about this and order the people to change this bad custom. When we obey the will of God and reassure the hearts of the people, our dynasty will last for thousands of years.”
The King of Tubo pondered for a long time and decided: “What the princess said is right. I will immediately promulgate a decree the family of the elderly shall enable to enjoy a peaceful old age, with their children and grandchildren carefully serve, until the end of life. “
Thus, the princess saved countless people with the righteousness of Buddhism and became more beloved by the people. Princess Wencheng sent artisans to participate in the design and construction of Dazhao Monastery and Xiaozhao Monastery. She also sent her agricultural technicians to Tibet to teach the Tibetans how to open lands, cultivate, and raise silkworms and textiles. These skills greatly enriched and improved the lives of the Tibetans.
The King of Tubo accepted the Princess’ proposal to send noble sons as envoys to Chang’an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty, to learn about Tang culture and bring it back to Tubo. During her forty years in Tibet, Princess Wencheng made every effort to improve Tubo’s economic, cultural, political, and military capabilities, making it a vital border state for the Tang Dynasty.
After entering Tibet, Princess Wencheng significantly improved the standard of living and quality of life of the Tubo dynasty people, promoted the social progress of the Tubo dynasty; and strengthened the frontier of the Tang Dynasty. The Tibetan people regarded the princess as a god. After she died, Tibetans built the Princess Wencheng Temples in Yushu, Qinghai, and Lhasa to commemorate her, and their incense continues to this day.