One of the most salient features of traditional political life in Tibet was the intense and pervasive competition for power and prestige that took place within the ranks of the politically relevant, particularly within the aristocratic lay-official segment of the government. Plots, disputes, and confiscations were key elements in the dynamics of the system. Although this competition appears, synchronically, to be part of a stable circular process, when the Tibetan political system is viewed diachronically, the apparent stability is seen to be part of a larger, ongoing process of change. Thus, while it is possible to analyze the “structure” of this competition from a synchronic point of view, a diachronic perspective is necessary to understand the forces which have generated it, as well as the overall nature of the system.

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