Yangchen the Great
Timeline: Great Empires

Painting of Empress Yangchen

Empress regnant of the Tibetan Empire
842 – 882

Predecessor Langdarma
Successor Tenzin Gampo

"Reincarnation of Buddha"
822 – 922

Predecessor Unknown
Successor Unknown

High Priestess of Tibet
842 – 882

Predecessor None,position established
Successor Tenzin Gampo

Empress regnant of the Yarlung Dynasty of China (claimed)
850 – 882

Predecessor None (Zhu Zhou as Emperor of the Second Zhou Dynasty)
Successor None (Chan Zhou as Emperor of the Second Zhou Dynasty)
Born 822
Died 922 (aged 100)

{at least thought so}Lhasa

922 (aged 100) {{{Disappeared}}}
Spouse Lì Zeng Gampo
Imperial House Yarlung Dynasty
Father Langdarma
Mother Khri bTsun
Issue Tenzin Gampo,

Lhamu Gampo, Lhamo Gampo

Religion Tibetan Buddhism
Sometimes we must make great sacrifices, to achieve our goals
~ Yangchen

Empress Yangcheng the Great (Full title :"Her Holiness, the most reverend Empress, the astonishing Queen of Tibet, she who brings glory to Tibet, she who makes the flowers blossom, Empress Yangchen the Great") was Empress regnant of the Tibetan Empire from 842 to 882.


Early life

Yangcheng Gampo was born as the daughter of Emperor Langdarma and Empress Khri bTsun. She was born in 822 in the Potala Palace in Lhasa. As a princess of the Imperial Family she was not allowed to go outside the palace. She learned manners and history of Tibet under guidance of a High Lama with her brothers and sisters. She grew up in the palace and she was doomed to spend her whole life in the palace and to be forgotten in history. However, in 838 they went on a diplomatic mission to Nanjing in China. Yangchen met Li Zeng, son of a nobleman and noblewoman. They spent much time together, sharing each other's feelings and understand them. Soon they were in love. They spent three months there before the family returned to Lhasa, but not before she promised Li to return. In 841 her father was assassinated without appointing a successor. When her brothers were fighting for the throne, she had a vision of Buddha telling her to bring peace and prosperity to the world. She took her chance to change her destiny and she was crowned Empress regnant of Tibet on September 24, 842. She married Li on the same day and he was crowned Emperor Consort.

Empress regnant

Early reign

She banished her brothers and sisters to India to make sure that she wasn't betrayed. She immediately set out to consolidate the Empire. She was selfish and cruel during her early reign. She attacked Emperor Devapala of the Pala Empire and vassalized it. She warned Emperor Devapala that either he would be her servant or he had to flee. She reorganized the Empire and brought order. She also conquered parts of Kazakhstan, Northern China, Mongolia, Afghanistan and Pakistan and treated the subjugated people harshly. She also claimed that she was Buddha and she claimed the Mandate of Heaven. During her early reign there was a large rebellion that wanted to bring down the regime. The rebellion escalated and reached Lhasa, the Potala Palace was set on fire and relics were destroyed. Empress Yangcheng ordered her armies to brutally slay the revolters! Tens of thousands were killed and Yangchen had an epiphany. She realized that she was a cruel person and killed many innocent people. She changed her ideals and she started a new era of peace.

Middle reign

She started a new period of peace and prosperity in which Tibet became the most powerful and greatest Empire on Earth. To forgive Emperor Devapala, she gave him back his land, but on one condition that he would have to marry her daughter, Lhamo Gampo. She allowed freedom of religion and changed the law so that all people were equal. Although she had not become a pacifist, she always gave peaceful negotiations the priority. She built numerous monasteries, temples and reconstructed the Potala Palace. She encouraged artists and scientists to live in the capital city of Lhasa and started a golden age for the Tibetan Empire.

Late reign

In her late reign she made many diplomatic missions to various countries. Lhasa had become the largest city on earth by 882 with more then one million inhabitants. The power and influence of Tibet reached far continents and some leaders such as Simeon I, Al-Mutawakkil, Pope Agatho and Indravarman I even met Yangchen and visited Lhasa. She also started trade with Europe with the Silk Road. Empress Yangchen the Great abdicated in 882 in favor of her son Tenzin Gampo Yarlung. In 883, Li Zeng died. The Empress was inconsolable and her health began to suffer from it. Yangchen lived in the Potala Palace until her death. She reached nirvana at the age of 90 while meditating, accepting everything from the past and she found peace once again.


At the age of 100, official sources say she peacefully died on her deathbed in her sleep, seriously ill with her family at her side. She was cremated and her ashes were put in an urn and buried at the Potala Palace. But there is mystery whether she died or not, some people think she survived and still does today inside a cave in the Himalayas.


Yangchen was the greatest leader that Tibet ever had. She expanded the Empire greatly. She built many shrines and temples. She brought peace and prosperity to the Empire. The people were happy and satisfied. There were no wars or rebellions. Today, many people still honor Empress Yangchen for her accomplishments. She is a well revered person in Tibet. She is also a Buddhist saint (Bodhisattva).


  • Yangchen has the longest known full name in Tibetan history: "Yangchen Shabdrung Jetsun Pema Sengdroma Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Künga Nyingpo Gendun Songtsen Khri Nyatri Namri Singe Gunsrong Drakpa Lozang Sangye Tripti Tenzin Tegchen Dharma Siddharta Ngechen Zeng Gyatso Gampo"
  • Yangchen's husband, Li Zeng is a distant relative of Empress Wu Zetian of China, who shares similar traits with Yangchen.
  • While spending her holiday in China she had trouble learning to eat with chopsticks. Hence, her dislike of chopsticks.
  • Her favourite meal is "Noodles" according to one of her writings.
  • Despite being a peace loving person, she always carries a sword with her and is not afraid to defend herself, she was also a formidable fighter.
  • Yangchen is revered for her great wisdom. A few of her sayings are: "Not conquests, not victory, not pride, not greatness, not nothing is the most important. The most important thing is to do what you like and have fun" and "Nothing is impossible. Look at me, I was a lowly princess, destined to be forgotten, but I changed my destiny. You just have to believe, to do and dare to take risks"
  • In the Tibetan Chronicles it is stated that Empress Yangchen visited Shangri-la. She describes it as "an enormous and astonishing city high in the mountains, hidden from the rest of Earth and heaven on Earth". She places it in the western Himalayas, the precise location remains unknown. The Tibetan Imperial Archives are not opened to the public nor scientists. The Tibetan government acknowledges the existence of Shangri-la, but refuses to disclose its precise location. It is unlikely that its precise location will ever be revealed.
Preceded by:
Empress regnant of Tibet
Succeeded by:
Tenzin Gampo