The following is an offshoot of the main article on the status of Tibet.
Tibetan Buddhism in China
The Princess Bride
On a cliff at the eastern entrance to the Leba Valley of Yushu Tibetan
Prefecture, part of China's north-western Qinghai province, are a number of line
carvings that have been there for more than 1, 300
Su Bai, an expert in Tang Dynasty grotto art, an
archaeology professor with Beijing University, dated the carvings to the mid-7th
century, when Buddhism was first introduced to Tibet and then became prevalent
during the reign of Songtsen Gampo. In fact, the local
Tibetans say that they are the legacy left by the attendants of Princess Wen Cheng, who
accompanied her when she, in 641, left to marry that Tibetan king.
After an arduous journey up the Bayan Har Mountains that rise 5, 200 metres above sea level,
they crossed the Yangtze at Tongtian ("way to
heaven"), the river's upper reach to get to the lush Leba Valley. Here, the princess was so overwhelmed by the
that they spent a month there.
Wen Cheng is said to have brought some cereal seeds with her, and also showed
the local inhabitants techniques for growing vegetables and for milling flour. It is also said that
she left her footprints on the cliffs and people would come to worship them. 20 kilometres away, at the
valley's western entrance, is a small shrine named for the princess that lends
support to the legend.
The royal party reached the Batang Grasslands before entering Tibet
proper via Changdu.
Significance of This Type of Marital Alliance
It is remarkable in these times, when China maintains that Tibet was never a power of any importance, that open discussion and mention is made in Chinese media of the Songtsen Gampo - Wen Cheng alliance. It is a historical and political fact that highborn ladies were offered to the rulers of other nations only in an attempt to cement political and military alliances. And such women were married off only to princes of higher status for, in that region, it was the man's prerogative to choose.
Also, we know that the alliance was at the "request" of the Tibetan king. Furthermore, although the Tang emperor was, at first, loathe to accommodate the request, finally he was moved to comply.
In other words, desirous of friendly relations with a powerful neighbour, the Chinese emperor was somehow persuaded of the wisdom in marrying off an imperial daughter to the ruler of Tibet; not the other way around. Therefore, the marriage of Wen Chen to King Songtsen Gampo demonstrates a move on the part of the Chinese to placate and forge a tie with the powerful, independent neighbour that was Tibet.
And we should not overlook the fact that Wen-cheng was not the Tibetan ruler's principal queen. He had already espoused Belsa of Nepal, and was yet to marry 3 other women. All three were high-born Tibetans, the last of whom bore him a son.