History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu

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Tang Dongjiebu is a legendary figure in Tibetan history. As an eminent monk of the Shangpa Kagyu Sect, he is versatile and has left footprints in many fields such as Tibetan art history, architectural history, and Tibetan medicine.

History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu Tang Dong Jeb

In terms of culture and art, Tang Dongjiebu is the originator of Tibetan opera in Tibet. He founded the first troupe in Tibetan history – “Embarrassing Opera Troupe” , which made Tibetan opera, a performance form integrating speaking, singing, dancing and playing, spread. to date.

In terms of architecture, he built 58 iron chain bridges on the rivers and rivers in Tibet throughout his life, which made great contributions to the transportation of various places, and was honored as the “Iron Bridge Living Buddha” .

In terms of medicine, he developed stomach medicine “Zhumu” and other prescriptions, which are still used by Tibetan medicine.

As the embodiment of creativity, wisdom and power in the minds of the Tibetan people, what experiences does Tang Dongjiebu have?

Tang Dongjiebu (1385-1464), a Tibetan in the Ming Dynasty, was born in Renqinding Village, Duobai Township, Angren County, Shigatse. When he was young, his family was poor, and he made a living by shepherding sheep. When he became an adult, he joined the Tibetan army and also ran a small business. After cutting off his hair and becoming a monk, the master gave the monk the name “Zunzhu Sangbu” .

Because of his assiduous study and erudite thinking, he soon became a well-known, accomplished scholar and Taoist, and was honored by everyone as “Tang Dongjiebu” (meaning “king of the thousand miles of plain”).

History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu Tangdong Jebutangka

With the support of everyone, Tang Dongjiebu is not aloof, and his childhood dream is always on his heart.

Due to Tibet’s vast territory, high mountains and dangerous waters, transportation is extremely underdeveloped. Tang Dongjiebu wanted to build bridges over rivers when he was very young.

After he became a monk, he traveled around to study, and his personal experience strengthened this sense of mission. He felt that it was necessary for him to change the great inconvenience caused by the blockage of the river to the production and life of the Tibetan people.

But the construction of the chain bridge required iron and money, and Tang Dongjiebu did not have these two things, so he began to seek alms everywhere. On the way, he discovered that Tibetan people like to watch musicals.

So he invited seven sisters from the Baina family in Qiongjie County, Shannan, who looked like celestial beings and were good at singing and dancing, to form a singing and dancing team.

He combined biographies in Buddhist classics with folklore and fairy tales to create a performance art form that combines character with dance and singing.

The past single dance of gods gradually became dramatic and separated from religious rituals, forming the embryonic form of Tibetan opera art.

In addition to personally teaching the girls to sing his own works, he designed various styles of costumes to increase the expressiveness of the drama.

Once the troupe was launched, it was loved by Tibetan people everywhere. Wherever the troupe went to perform, the surrounding people flocked to it.

History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu Tibetan opera performance

All the income from the performance was invested in bridge design, metal smelting and labor recruitment.

As the bridge continued to be built, Tang Dongjiebu and his troupe became more and more famous, and officials from all over Tibet began to be willing to fund his bridge-building efforts.

Day after day, year after year, and hard work, he finally built more than 20 iron chain bridges, more wooden bridges and ferries on the Yarlung Zangbo River, Lhasa River and Nianchu River.

When he was 79 years old, the gray-haired Tang Dongjie came to Qushui. He said to the people around him: “The opportunity has come, and it’s time for me to build the Qushui Iron Cable Bridge. This is the largest and most difficult bridge to build. It is the most important bridge in my life. Last wish.”

In order to build the Qushui Iron Cable Bridge, he first met Tibetan officials near Lhasa to ask them for alms, and he also personally met Nedong, the king’s capital of the Pamzhuba Dynasty, and met the supreme leader Nedong King, asking him to lend a helping hand.

Officials from all over the country were touched by Tang Dongjiebu, who was wearing a white pulu monk skirt, yak wool Tibetan blanket, hair and beard as white as snow, and teeth that had fallen out of his mouth, and donated a lot of money to support him.

History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu

Tang Dongjiebu piled the iron lumps collected from various places in the Quwori Senpu Cave. Started to make iron chains and hoops by hand.

The first iron ring and the first iron cable of the Qushui Iron Chain Bridge were cast as sacred objects by later generations and enshrined on the altar of the Iron Chain Bridge Temple.

Residents and blacksmiths in the surrounding four villages and eight towns heard that he was going to build a bridge in Qushui, and they all came to help with blacksmith stoves and blacksmith tools.

The raging fires of dozens of blacksmith furnaces turned the river red. After several months of hard work, the iron rings were connected into four very long iron cables, each of which was as thick as the arm of an eight-year-old boy.

After the iron chains were assembled, people from all over the country, vagrants and beggars, monks and nuns in monasteries, fishermen and hunters all rushed to the Yarlung Zangbo River to volunteer to build the bridge. The singing and chant on the bridge construction site resounded together.

At the foot of Daga Village and Quwori Mountain, two huge bridge piers were built with stone giants on both sides of the river, and four iron chains were fixed to the bridge piers. Lay wooden boards on the iron cables and bind them firmly with cowhide and ropes.

In this way, the Qushui Iron Cable Bridge, which was originally thought to be impossible to build, flew across the Yarlung Zangbo River.

Tang Dongjiebu’s last wish came true, and he was very happy to have completed his merits. He sat on the bridgehead of the chain bridge and melted away.

History丨The originator of Tibetan opera and the master of bridge building——Tang Dongjiebu Sculpture by Tang Dongjiebu

In Tibetan monasteries and homes of Tibetan people, one can often see the statue of Tang Dongjiebu enshrined in white beard and white eyebrows, with a serene, amiable demeanor and holding an eight-section iron chain.

In many Tibetan opera performance venues, audiences who watch the opera first offer a khata in front of Tang Dongjiebu’s portrait to show their gratitude.

In the hometown of Tang Dongjiebu, there is even a traditional ceremony. Whenever everyone watches Tibetan opera performances, they have to bring some green oil and wool, and these gifts are given to the troupe to rub the green oil and wool on the iron chain. In order to preserve the chain bridge built by Tang Dongjiebu and make it stainless, it expresses everyone’s gratitude and nostalgia for Tang Dongjiebu.

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