Who is Princess WenCheng (文成公主)

Who is Princess WenCheng (文成公主)

Princess Wencheng (Tibetan: Mung-chang Kungco; Chinese: 文成公主; pinyin: Wénchéng Gōngzhǔ; Wade–Giles: Wen-ch’eng Kung-chu; 620s – 680/2), surnamed Li, was a member of a minor branch of the royal clan of the Chinese Tang dynasty. Much of her life has been mythified and used for propaganda purposes. However the story of Princess Wencheng and Songtsän Gampo has been cherished by the Tibetans and the rest of the Chinese people ever since. As historical record is sketchy, most what is known about the story is legendary.

Princess Li Wencheng was the most famous and beloved queen in Tibetan history, alongside with Princess Bhrikuti for Nepal. In 641, this beautiful and intelligent princess Wencheng was granted by Emperor Taizong of Tang to King Songtsän Gampo of Tibet for an involuntary act of the emperor’s heqin (marriage alliance) policy, when she was still very young. She is popularly known in Tibet as Gyasa, or “Chinese wife”. She brought the Tibetans many of the scientific and agricultural advances of the Tang dynasty and is also credited with the introduction of Buddhism into the region. It was a famous peace-making marriage in the Tang Dynasty.

Nowadays, the statues of Princess Wencheng and Songtsän Gampo are still in the Jokhang Monastery. Songtsän Gampo had the Ramoche Monastery built for the Buddha statues that Princess Wencheng had brought with her. The princess herself also had the Jokhang Monastery built, and in front of it she and Songtsän Gampo planted some willow trees now known as tangliu (the Tang willow). Today, the original statue of Sakyamuni believed to be brought by Princess Wencheng is still enshrined in the center of the main hall of the Jokhang Monastery. The chamber where they spent their first married life is still kept intact in the Potala Palace.

Songtsän Gampo died in 650 when he was only thirty-four years old, while the Princess lived as a widow in Tibet for another 30 years until her death, and never returned to China. Generation after generation of poets have written numerous verses to eulogize her. Her story was adapted to various theatrical forms. Two traditional observations have been devoted to her: the fifteenth day of the fourth month of each Tibetan year (the day when Princess Wencheng arrived in Tubo) and the fifteenth day of the tenth month of each Tibetan year (the birthday of Princess Wencheng). When the days come each year, the Tibetan people will turn out in their best costumes to sing and dance to commemorate her.

Click here to know more about The Tale Of Princess WenCheng (Bridging The Two Cultures).

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