Qing officials had misconstrued violent opposition to their civilising efforts as driven exclusively by deceitful lamas who had deluded the otherwise compliant Khampa commoners with superstitions, inciting them to oppose anything that threatened their preeminent position in society. These officials were emboldened by the unequivocal support of foreign officials and especially missionaries who shared a similar view of the lamas’ obstruction in Khams, though theirs was a civilising mission distinct from that of the Qing. Both perceived the Khampas as ‘muddle-headed’ and easily manipulated by the ‘evil’ lamas, who were in turn characterised as lazy and avaricious. This paper argues that the Qing’s misreading of the source of opposition to policies intended to enlighten the Khampas with filial burial practices and proper farming techniques was rooted in these long-held perceptions of the lamas, a misreading that persisted long after the Qing fell.
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