|Research Project on the Sculptural Art of Densatil|
In former times the Lang (Rlangs) clan had its stronghold in Eastern Tibet. In the first half of the 13th century one of the notable personalities of this clan named Tragpa jungne (Grags pa ’byung gnas, 1175-1256) travelled to central Tibet, where he studied and later became abbot of the newly established monastery of Densatil. In about that time, a branch of his family settled down in central Tibet. During this time the Mongols were in the process of introducing an administrative system in Tibet dividing it in several myriarchies. This signalled the beginning of the Phagmo trupa (Phag mo gru pa) as a political entity. While lay members of this family took up the responsibilities of the administrative posts based at the place of Neudongtse (Sne’u gdong rtse), other members who had chosen a religious career successively occupied the abbot’s chair of Densatil.
In the first half of the 14th century the Phagmo trupa under Jangchub gyeltsen (Byang chub rgyal mtshan) came into conflict with the Sakyapa (Sa skya pa), the then leading religious school and political power in Tibet. He emerged victorious from this confrontation and established the Phagmo trupa as Tibet’s new hegemonial power. His successors consolidated this position but by the middle of the 15th century had allowed it to significantly weaken due to internal rivalries. This gave the opportunity for the Rinpungpa (Rin spungs pa), a governor’s family dependent upon the Phagmo trupa, to establish themselves on the political scene.
At the beginning they influenced the policy of the Phagmo trupa to their own benefit and by the end of the 15th century they ruled Tibet in their own name. The Phagmo trupa ruler Ngawang tashi tragpa (Ngag dbang bkra shis grags pa, 1488-1563/64) challenged them and attempted to restore the former position of the Phagmo trupa. This was but a partial success.
After his death the Phagmo trupa family, which at that time was branched in two side-lines, faded into political insignificance. Judging from the available evidence, it seems that that by the 17th century the Lang family had ceased to exist in Central Tibet.
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