The region under the administration of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs (Xuanzheng Yuan) within the Yuan dynasty.

The Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs,[a] or Xuanzheng Yuan[b] (Chinese: 宣政院; pinyin: Xuānzhèng Yuàn; lit. 'Court for the Spread of Governance') was a government agency of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty of China to handle Buddhist affairs across the empire in addition to managing the territory of Tibet.[7] It was originally set up by Kublai Khan in 1264 under the name Zongzhi Yuan[c] (simplified Chinese: 总制院; traditional Chinese: 總制院; pinyin: Zǒngzhìyuàn) or the "Bureau of General Regulation", before it was renamed in 1288.[9]

The bureau was set up in Khanbaliq (modern Beijing) and was named after the Xuanzheng Hall where Tibetan envoys were received in the Tang dynasty. In the Yuan dynasty, Tibet was managed by the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs, separate from the other Yuan provinces such as those established in the former territories of the Song dynasty. While no modern equivalents remain, the political functions of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs might have been analogous to the India Office in London during the British Raj. Besides holding the title of Imperial Preceptor or Dishi, Drogön Chögyal Phagpa, the fifth leader of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, was concurrently named the director of the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs.[citation needed]

One of the department's purposes was to select a dpon-chen ('great administrator', a civilian administrator who governed Tibet when Sakya Lama was away), usually appointed by the lama and confirmed by the Yuan emperor in Beijing.[10] Tibetan Buddhism was not only practiced within the capital Beijing but throughout the country.[11] Apart from Tibetan affairs, the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs managed the entire Buddhist clergy throughout the realm (whether they were Han Chinese, Tibetan or Korean etc.), and supervised all temples, monasteries, and other Buddhist properties in the empire, at least in name.[12] According to scholar Evelyn Rawski, it supervised 360 Buddhist monasteries.[13] To emphasize its importance for Hangzhou, capital of the former Southern Song dynasty and the largest city in the Yuan realm, a branch (行, Xing, "acting") Xuanzheng Yuan was established in that city in 1291.[14] In public and official meetings, Tibetan Buddhism was practiced alongside Han Buddhism.[11]

The Lifan Yuan (also known as the Board for the Administration of Outlying Regions and Office of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs etc.) was roughly a Qing dynasty equivalent of the Xuanzheng Yuan, instituted by the Qing Empire for administering affairs in Tibet and other border regions.[15]

See also

Similar government agencies


  1. ^ The name used by historians.[1][2][3] It is also sometimes referred to as a "Commission"[4] or an "Office"[5] for Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs.
  2. ^ Alternatively rendered as Hsüan-cheng Yüan.[6]
  3. ^ Alternative spellings include Tsung-chih yüan.[8]


  1. ^ Rossabi 2009, pp. 193–194.
  2. ^ Twitchett, Franke & Fairbank 1978, pp. 606–607.
  3. ^ Franke 2014, p. 397.
  4. ^ Blondeau & Buffetrille 2008, pp. 14–15.
  5. ^ Twitchett, Franke & Fairbank 1978, p. 487.
  6. ^ Rossabi 2009, p. 194.
  7. ^ Blondeau & Buffetrille 2008, p. 47.
  8. ^ Rossabi 2009, p. 143.
  9. ^ Rossabi 2009, pp. 143, 194
  10. ^ Norbu 2001, p. 139.
  11. ^ a b Charles Orzech, Henrik Sørensen, Richard Payne, Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, p.548
  12. ^ F. W. Mote. Imperial China 900-1800. Harvard University Press, 1999. p.483
  13. ^ Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions, p.244
  14. ^ ars orientalis, p9
  15. ^ Xiaolin Guo, State and Ethnicity in China's Southwest, p.29


  • Blondeau, Anne-Marie; Buffetrille, Katia, eds. (2008), Authenticating Tibet: Answers to China's 100 Questions, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24464-1
  • Franke, Herbert (2014). "Tibetans in Yüan China". In John D. Langlois Jr. (ed.). China Under Mongol Rule. Princeton University Press. pp. 296–329. ISBN 978-1-4008-5409-7.
  • Laird, Thomas (2007), The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama, Open Road + Grove/Atlantic, ISBN 978-1-55584-672-5
  • Norbu, Dawa (2001), China's Tibet Policy, Routledge, ISBN 978-1-136-79793-4
  • Petech, Luciano (1990), Central Tibet and the Mongols: The Yüan-Sa-skya Period of Tibetan History, Istituto italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, ISBN 978-88-6323-072-7
  • Rossabi, Morris (1983), China among Equals: The Middle Kingdom and Its Neighbors, 10th-14th Centuries, University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-04383-1
  • Rossabi, Morris. Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times (1989) Univ. of California Press. ISBN 0-520-06740-1
  • Smith, Warren (1996), Tibetan Nation: A History Of Tibetan Nationalism And Sino-Tibetan Relations, Avalon Publishing, ISBN 978-0-8133-3155-3
  • Sperling, Elliot (2004), The Tibet-China Conflict: History and Polemics, East-West Center Washington, ISBN 978-1-932728-12-5
  • Twitchett, Denis C.; Franke, Herbert; Fairbank, John King (1978). The Cambridge History of China: Volume 6, Alien Regimes and Border States, 907-1368. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-24331-5.
  • Wylie, Turrell V. (June 1977), "The First Mongol Conquest of Tibet Reinterpreted", Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, 37 (1): 103–133, doi:10.2307/2718667, JSTOR 2718667