On the 19th of May, the academic forum on the study of “the Belt and Road Initiative” and “the Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road” was held in Beijing, China. The general director, Zheng Dui, and the deputy general director, Li Decheng, of the China Tibetology Research Center, the Vice President of the Buddhist Association of Qinghai Province, China, Garwa Ngawang Zangpo, scholars from Southwest University for Nationalities, Tibet University, Sichuan Academy of Social Sciences, etc., as well as religious figures and news media person from Qinghai and Gansu, attended.
“The Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road—Based on the Research on the Ancient Post Road from Beijing to Tibet in the Yuan Dynasty” was a sub-project extended from “The Belt and Road Initiative and its Relationship with the Development of Tibetan Buddhism”, supported by the National Social Science Fund of China in 2017.
Ever since the concept of the “Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road” and its connotation and extension were proposed and defined for the first time, it has been highly valued by the Chinese academic community. In 2019, the expert group launched research work. Led by Garwa Ngawang Zangpo, the team re-walked the “Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road”, inspected important ancient caravanserais and temples along the Road (including those in today’s Beijing, Hebei, Shanxi, Henan, Shaanxi, Inner Mongolia, Ningxia, Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Tibet), conducted focus groups and interviews with experts from those places, as well as collected, organised, and analysed relevant information.
Edited by Zheng Dui and written by Garwa Ngawang Sangpo, “The Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road—Based on the Research on the Ancient Post Road from Beijing to Tibet in the Yuan Dynasty” was published by China Tibetology Publishing House in 2021. This publication further proves the long-lasting relationships and communications between various ethnic groups from Beijing to Tibet.
At the Forum, Garwa Ngawang Zangpo made a keynote speech entitled “The Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road, as the Four Bridges Linking Beijing and Tibet”. Garwa Ngawang Zangpo mentioned that, the Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road has been an important bridge carrying transportation, politics, culture, and ethnicity from Beijing and Tibet, and has substantial historical and practical meanings.
Specifically, the Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road intertwined with the Silk Road and the Ancient Tangbo Road, which greatly expanded and enriched road transportation in ancient China, highlights the broad connotation of today’s Belt and Road initiative, reflects the close relationships and communications between ethnic groups since ancient China, and shows deep cohesion and ‘centripetal force’ of the Chinese nation.
According to Garwa Ngawang Zangpo, in 1247, Köden, son of Mongolian Ögedei Khan, and Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltsen, a Tibetan spiritual leader and a Buddhist scholar, had the historically meaningful Liangzhou Talk in Liangzhou (now in Wuwei, Gansu, China). After then, Sakya Pandita wrote the “Sakya Pandita’s Letters to the Tubo People,” in which he highlighted the respect received from the Mongolian royal family for Tibetan religious beliefs and people, and subsequently made Tibet an administrative region under the central government of the Yuan Dynasty.
To strengthen the connection between the central government and various regions, and achieve the Great Unification of China, after Kublai Khan ascended the throne, he established 72 caravanserais from Dayidu Qota, the capital of Yuan Dynasty (now in Beijing), to Sakya Monastery in Shigatse, Tibet, along the Ancient Being-Tibet Road.
Since then, many aristocratic families from Mongolia and Tibet and those near the Yellow River settled along the Road. The relocation and development in new areas, as well as the difficulties experienced throughout this experience, made people from different geographical places and ethnic groups help each other and initiate relationships. Most importantly, it is also a reflection of the developments of the big family of, and a strong sense of community for, the Chinese nation.
On behalf of the China Tibetology Research Center, Zheng Dui presented the letter of appointment as an invited researcher of the Institute of Religious Studies of the China Tibetology Research Center to Garwa Ngawang Zangpo. Garwa Ngawang Zangpo said that he was honored to receive and accept the invitation and he would continue to do a good job in the exploration, protection, and promotion of national culture. Meanwhile, he hoped that the Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road could receive further attention from people from all walks of life, and one day, the Ancient Beijing-Tibet Road and major historical and cultural sites protected at the national level along the Road could be included in the World Heritage List.