Friday, November 18, 2016

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

  Sumthrang Choje a family of religious nobility, 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 for some benefit.  I knew this fact since my childhood because of conversations with my father. Almost every family somehow has some blood relation to sumtrhang 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 Bemji 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 among the current generation of the descendants of great Terton Dorji Lingpa. She is 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 she recall 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 to construct a narrative before Dasho Jamyang to relate Sumtrhang-Bemji Kinship. 

For now, I am little enlightened of the genealogical relations of Sumthrang Chojey, Bemji 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 and the oral information.

Well, Bemji according to Dasho Lam Sangnga is established by Dung Lhadhar who was a son of Sey Guru, one of the Pema Lingpa's younger brother.  Lhadhar was so the grand son of Pha Dhondup Zangpo and also a disciple of Thugsey Dawa. Later this, lineage 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 Bemji Choejey known as Ashi Metog Mo becoming the Dungzin of Bemji 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 Bemji most probably because the Bemji Chojee that time did not have the male heir, therefore, a son from Sumthrang Chojee was invited into marriage for continuation.  

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

But 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 Bemji family establishment, becoming probably the first female heir to take over the family establishment of Bemji.

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 Chojee or Memey Garbo, for being a son of Chojee and for having served as a royal attendant to the queen respectively.  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 Chojee family to which my father belongs to. Memey Chojee 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.