Friday, November 18, 2016

From Sumthrang to Bemji (Bonbi), Trakhar & Ugyenchoeling, a Genealogical Journey

  Sumthrang Choje, where my this life is born to have known to me as an acclaimed source of many families in Bhutan. I never use to talk nor do I try to tell people we are relatives because it is always uncomfortable as it sounded trying to find a way to relate.  I knew this fact since my childhood because of conversations with my father. Almost every family somehow has some blood relation to sumthing and ends up being one or the another our ‘Ngew’ or the relative.

Of many families that have a kinship relation to Sumtrhang, Bemji and Ugyenchoeling are among those families and Trakhar often came up in relation to the family line of Terton Pama Lingpa. I heard of the relation we share several years ago but I never understood how?  I did not know much of Bonbi Chojey but I knew this much that it may have its own history of origin different from Sumthrang. Ugyen Choling we know is the decedents of Terton Dorji Lingpa. The question was then, how did these families inter-relate?

I with Ashi Kunzang of Ugyen Choeling
Most recently since I joined Shejun, I had the privilege of meeting Ashi Kunzang the current descendent generation of the great Terton Dorji Lingpa and a prominent first female writer of Bhutan with many books to her name. While I could not ask her my self although I would want to, fortunately, Ashi came forward telling me that we are relatives and how a Sumthrang Chojey named Rinzin would visit them. But she could not provide much of the details too nor I could ask here much because I had nothing much to myself beyond what I knew little; ‘we are related.’  But I thought I would find out some day.

Again thanks to Shejun, last year I had the opportunity to visit Bemji for the first time and met Angay Tandin, who talked about Dasho Jamyang and his children but what she explained did not make sense because again I had nothing to fill in the puzzle and she did not have much to offer before Dasho Jamyang to relate Sumtrhang-Bemji Kinship. I am informed that Sumtrhang shared kinship with Ugyenchoeling and Bonbi.

For now, I am little enlightened of the genealogical relations of Sumthrang Chojey, Bonbi Chojey (Bamling Chojey), Trakhar and Ugyen Choling according to what I herd from my father and the Sumthrang’s most grateful Dasho Lama Sangnga's work of the Drukgi Nyorab.

Well, Bonbi was already an establishment of a Nyo clan with Dung Lhadhar a disciple of Thugsey Dawa and a son of Pema Lingpa's younger brother and Pha Dhendrup Zangpo's second son Guru having established the Bonbi Chojey. Later it was renewed yet again in around the 1800’s, when Sumthrang Chojey Sangnga Gyamtsho the youngest son of the 22nd Sumthrang Dungzin Damchoe Singye married a daughter of Bonbi Choejey known as Ashi Metog Mo becoming the Dungzin of Bonbi Chojey.
I with Aum Tandin of Bemji
who I believe must be a descendent of 
one of the three daughters of Chojey Sanga Gyatsho

Sangnga was sent to Bonbi most probably the Bonbi Chojey that time did not have the male heir, therefore; Sumthrang Chojey was invited into marriage.  

After this marriage in Bonbi, Sangnga Gyamtho Metog Mo had a son Tshewang Chojey and three daughters.

Tshewang Chojey married Kunzang Lhamo a daughter of Trakhar to take care of the Trakhar Nagtsang and give birth to two sons, Sonam Tobay and Dasho Jamyang, while one of the daughters took over the Bonbji family establishment. Bonbi seems to have several incidences where female took over the family inheritance.

In Trakhar Dasho Jamayng was gifted with two daughters, Phuntsho Choden and Pema Dechen, both became the queens to the second Druk Gyalpo born from Dechogma of Tamzhing Chojey family.  Dasho Jamyang also had two sons, the Chhumey Drungpa Goenpo Dorji and Sangay Dhendup born to Sangnga Mo of Chumey Chorten Nyingpo family.

From among the Chhumey Drungpa’s  children, his daughter Dorji Dema married the Ugyen Choling Dasho Kunzang Dorji from whom the current generation of Ugyen Choling family was born. Therefore the kinship genealogical journey from Sumthrang to Bemji to Trakhar and to Ugyen Choling.

In the past, these families hailed a great regarded to each other and often visited each other or became the host to one another. Angay Tandin recollected Sumthrang kins visiting their home in the past when she was younger and similarly  Ashi Kunzang would also recollect how Sumthang chojey Rinzin also known as Memey Garba in Ura, the younger brother of Sumthrang Dungzin Tsewang Tandin often visited Ugyen Choling and lived with them at times.  He was the last Sumthrangpa who had kept a close kinship with Ugyen Choling going by the account of Ashi Kunzang while Aum Tandin did not remember names of those who use to visit them at her younger age.

Chojey Rinzin a youngest of 27th Sumthrang Dungzin Tshewang Tandin’s siblings, served Gyel Yum Phuntsho Choden as a Garp at the royal court and he is often known by the Name Memey Chojey or Memey Garbo for being a son of Chojey and also having served as a Garbo or the royal attendant of the queen.  I remember, although quite kinder, where he would tell stories of how he worked at the service of the Gyelyum.  He is the only grandparent I have ever had a chance to be in a lap of a paternal  grand figure from Sumthrang Chojey family to which my father belongs to. Memey Chojey died in 1995 or 1996 (could not recollect the year).

Curtsy and Thanks to: My father, Drukgyi Nyorab for providing genealogical accounts and Lopen Khandu Shejun and Lopen Dorji Gyeltshen of CLCS for helping me with some names.


  1. thank you for sharing the important history of the inter relationship of all the three descendants clearly. Now I am also much clarified than before. I use to ask my mom how how Ashi Phuntsho Choden was related to Bemjee Choejee but it's great to learn that there are sumthrang choejee in relation too... 👍🏻👍🏻

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  3. Very beautiful write up and congrats on being able to fill the void. I am now encouraged to do a similar road trip to Ngatsang koche, Buli and Arunachal Pradesh where a very similar marriage/alliance was practiced. While the records would be sketchy, still I am hopeful because the practice of exchanging bride and grooms were practiced until as late as two generations ago - in our case. My family also, I was told, has the genealogical connection to the Dorling and Peling lines. My maternal great grandmother was referred to as Ashi and had to be treated as one and was the daughter of a choejay in Tawang/Bomdila who was brought as bride for my great grandfather - a descendent of Buli Tulku (he as his nephew). So finally we could discover ourselves long-lost cousins. HA HA HA.

    1. Thank you la sir, [May be Ata :)] its been long time since i wrote this and re-reading it was a difficult one, thank you for also prompting a little bit of refinement to it, because I wouldn't have read myself if it wasn't prompted by your visit. Besides, it was interesting and wonderful to know a little more about this entanglement. I definitely recall the name Buli Trulku emerging very often during conversation with my father. Thank you la.