Tibetan plaque, Yarlung dynasty, 600-800 (Collection Al Thani, Paris)
It has been suggested that this article should be split into articles titled Yarlung dynasty and Pre-Imperial Tibet. (discuss) (February 2024)

The Yarlung dynasty (Tibetan: བོད་ཀྱི་གདོད་མའི་མངའ་མཛད།; Chinese: 雅礱王朝), or Pre-Imperial Tibet,[1] was a proto-historical dynasty in Tibet before the rise of the historical Tibetan Empire in the 7th century.

The early Yarlung dynasty rulers are more mythological than factual, and there is insufficient evidence of their definitive existence.[2]


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The Yarlung dynasty ruled presumably from 95 BC, which was situated on south-east Tibetan Plateau which included the areas of Yarlung, Kongpo, Nyangpo, Powo.[3] The early history of the dynasty comes largely from local folklore and mythology.

The debate is still on-going concerning who among the traditional forty-two kings attributed to the dynasty are real and who are mythical. According to folklore, Nyatri Tsenpo and his six immediate successors ascended to heaven by a "sky rope", so the location of their tombs are not to be found. The tomb of the eighth king Digum Tsenpo, however, has been found and is located in Kongpo, in U-Tsang.

The first mention of the dynasty outside Asia was in "Geography" by Claudius Ptolemy (87-165 AD). The country was named as "Batai" derived from the Tibetian word "Bod"

Tibet was traditionally fragmented into various local polities until Kings Tagri Nyensig and Namri Songtsen (570-620) unified the plateau after a series of wars and revolts. Namri Songtsen would later establish a capital in the Kyichu valley which would form into the Rasa settlement. Successive rulers would continue to expand the settlement and build a royal castle on mountain Marpori overlooking what would later be named the city of Lhasa, Tibet's traditional capital.

During the reign of Songtsen Gampo, Tibet briefly became one of the main powers in Central Asia. His reign saw multiple developments in Tibetan society such as the establishment of a structured system of land use, the formal creation of state funds, the division of the emergent empire into six provinces, and the reorganization of the military. He is also the patron of Tibet's writing system, giving Thonmi Sambhota the task of inventing and developing what would become the Tibetian script which he created after closely studying various Indian scripts. The script is believed to be based on both the Brahmi and the Gupta script.

The integration of the Qiang, Sumpa, Asha and other Tibetian tribes in the north-eastern periphery began in 7th century. In 634, Tibet attacked Dangsyan. On 12 September 638, Tibet invaded a village in Xuizhou district which was inhabited by Dangsyan.

In December 640, the Tibetan dignitary Tontsen Yulsung brought five thousand liangs of silver and hundreds of gold objects to Chang'an.

Songtsen Gampo would eventually abdicate and rulership passed on to his son Gungsong Guntsen, but at age eighteen he would die, forcing Songtsen Gampo to once again take the throne. It is believed that an internal power struggle would occur at this time.

The northern territories of Burma (modern-day Myanmar) are believed to have been annexed by the Tibetan empire at this time as well as Nepal by 640.

In 663, Tibet defeated and occupied Tuguhun.

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See also


  1. ^ Beckwith, Christopher I. (1977). A Study of the Early Medieval Chinese, Latin, and Tibetan Historical Sources on Pre-Imperial Tibet. Indiana University PhD Dissertation.
  2. ^ Haarh, Erik: Extract from "The Yar Lun Dynasty", in: The History of Tibet, ed. Alex McKay, Vol. 1, London 2003, p. 147; Richardson, Hugh: The Origin of the Tibetan Kingdom, in: The History of Tibet, ed. Alex McKay, Vol. 1, London 2003, p. 159 (and list of kings p. 166–167).
  3. ^ Kuzmin, Sergius L. (2011-01-01). Hidden Tibet: History of Independence and Occupation. Library of Tibetan Works and Archives. ISBN 978-93-80359-47-2.