Imperial Preceptor

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Drogön Chögyal Phagpa, the first Imperial Preceptor of the Yuan dynasty.

The Imperial Preceptor, or Dishi (simplified Chinese: 帝师; traditional Chinese: 帝師; pinyin: Dìshī, lit. "Teacher of the Emperor") was a high title and powerful post created by Kublai Khan, founder of the Yuan dynasty.[1] It was established as part of Mongol patronage of Tibetan Buddhism and Yuan administrive rule of Tibet. The title was originally created as the State Preceptor or Guoshi (simplified Chinese: 国师; traditional Chinese: 國師; pinyin: Guóshī, lit. "Teacher of the State") in 1260, the first year of Kublai Khan's enthronement. In that year he appointed the Sakya lama Drogön Chögyal Phagpa to this post and soon placed him in charge of all Buddhist clergy; in 1264, He founded the Bureau of Buddhist and Tibetan Affairs and appointed Phagpa as the first director of this important new agency. The lama was offered nominal rule over all Tibet and also supervised Mongol relations with the Buddhist clergy; in 1270, Phagpa became Imperial Preceptor (Dishi) when the title was renamed. As Imperial Preceptor, he was authorized to issue letters and proclamations to the temples and institutions of Tibet, and he advised the Emperor regarding official appointments in Tibet. Kublai Khan dispatched the lama to Tibet in 1264 to help persuade his people to accept Mongol rule. A member of the Sakya sect, acting as Imperial Preceptor and residing in China, supervised the Buddhist clergy throughout the empire, the Mongols also selected a Tibetan official titled dpon-chen to live in and administer Tibet. This pattern of religio-political relations prevailed for the remainder of the Yuan period, after the overthrow of the Mongol Yuan dynasty by the Chinese Ming dynasty, Yuan titles such as Imperial Preceptor were revoked, replaced with titles of lesser status.


  1. ^ The Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art. By John C. Huntington, Dina Bangdel, Robert A. F. Thurman, p45

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