H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s royal maternal lineage can be traced all the way back to the legendary king Genghis Khan. Born to Mongolian Princess Torgut Noyen, Dewa Nimbo, Tsem Rinpoche’s Mongolian name is Prince Iska Minh.
Rinpoche’s father Lobsang Gyatso, a great supporter of H.H. the 14th Dalai Lama and a great disciple of H.H. the Panchen Lama, was managing a Tibetan school for refugees in Taiwan during the 1960s when he met Rinpoche’s mother, whose family had escaped to Taiwan from Mongolia. The school educated the Tibetan children in Taipei, preserving the Tibetan culture, religion, writing and language. Because of this work, H.H. the Dalai Lama would often grant audiences to Rinpoche’s father to find out the latest happenings in the school. H.H. the Dalai Lama was naturally very interested in the progress of these children and was very pleased with Rinpoche’s father for this work. Rinpoche’s father has since retired but Tsem Rinpoche is very proud of his father for serving H.H. in this manner.
Rinpoche’s father and mother became romantically involved, however, his mother was unaware that his father already had a wife and children in Tibet. Rinpoche’s parents separated even before he was born and the shame of having an illegitimate child was too great for his mother, who gave Rinpoche away immediately after his birth.
The Extended Family
Note: This following section includes extracts from a longer article by Carl Barkman. Read the original article here.
Prince Palta, the administrative ruler of Xinjiang Province during the early 20th century was Tsem Rinpoche’s great grandfather. A man of both Chinese and Oirat-Mongolian origin, Prince Palta studied military science in Tokyo from 1906-1908 before becoming the governor of the vast Altai region in China. In 1917, he became a senator of the Chinese Republic, with great knowledge about Chinese history and culture, and an impressive command of English and Japanese.
Prince Palta wanted his four children to receive both an Oriental and a Western education. In 1915, at his request, Tsar Nicholas II granted his eldest son, Mingyur Wang, admission to the Russian officers’ school for the nobility in St. Petersburg. Returning to Beijing three years later, he dedicated himself to increasing the well-being of his people together with his wife, Queen Dechen. In 1949, he fled with his family to Tibet, and thence to India, from where he emigrated to Taiwan. He briefly served as a member of parliament there and died in 1975.
Mingyur Wang’s daughter, Dewa Nimbo, who is Rinpoche’s mother, studied in the U.S.A., married an American of Oirat-Kalmyk origin, and has two children. Her brother lives in Taipei and has become a Chinese author, calling himself Min Huk Hueay or David Minh.
Princess Nirgidma, Prince Mingyur Wang’s sister and Tsem Rinpoche’s grand-aunt, spent her early youth in the encampments of the nomadic Torghut people in Central Asia, one of the largest tribes of the Oirat-Mongols. She received a Western and Chinese education at the French nuns’ school Sacré Cœur in Beijing and later studied a wide range of subjects in Paris and Brussels, including political science, literature and music. When this princess, then a ravishing beauty, arrived in Paris, she easily won the hearts of men with her sharp mind, charming manners and incredible warmth.
Married to a French diplomat Michel Breal, the consul-general of the former Chinese capital, she spoke French, English, Chinese and Russian fluently, and stood out as an authority on culture, both oriental and western.
Tsem Rinpoche’s grand uncle, Tseren-Dorje, was sent to Germany for his higher learning, later he returning at the beginning of the Second World War to teach German at the Catholic University of Beijing.