Mongols in World History | Asia for Educators

'Phags-pa (1235-1280)'

'Phags-pa, a Tibetan Buddhist lama of the Sa-skya sect, became one of Khubilai Khan's closest advisers. The two men met around 1254, and Khubilai was very impressed with the young monk. Within a short time, Khubilai became 'Phags-pa's patron and 'Phags-pa, Khubilai's religious confidante.

'Phags-pa assumed the responsibility of instructing Khubilai and his principal wife, Chabi, in the precepts of Buddhism — and he was so successful that Chabi soon became an ardent Buddhist.

Acknowledging the importance of his service, Khubilai offered 'Phags-pa the title of State Preceptor in 1260 and Imperial Preceptor in1270. Eventually the Great Khan commissioned 'Phags-pa to write a book on the basic tenets of Buddhism for his son, to develop a script that could be used for many of the languages in the Mongol domains, to engage in a debate with Daoists about the merits of the two religions, and to rule over the monasteries in Tibet — and eventually — to govern Tibet.

The script 'Phags-pa developed, known as the "Square Script," never achieved wide popularity, but was used on paper money, seals, passports, and porcelains.

Related Web Link:
View different examples of the Square Script itself and a sample of it used in text.

More on 'Phags-pa:
Central Tibet and the Mongols, by Luciano Petech
• "Tibetans in Yuan China," by Herbert Franke