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Some families found it necessary to 'drop out' of the system, passing their estates to the monastic segment in return for a guaranteed income, thus further reducing the available estates. While it stimulated aristocratic involvement in trade as an alternative source of wealth, Goldstein concludes that the system tended to increasingly impoverish lesser aristocratic families and ultimately could not have survived the inevitable consequences. It was thus the case that while Western imperial nations, embodying modernity in the sense of science and technology and building on sound political and economic foundations, were rapidly developing wider horizons and seeking raw materials for material development, the Tibetan Buddhist state was becoming less dynamic and increasingly insular, and was maintaining an economic system that was outdated and even fundamentally unsound.

Ritual, State and History in South Asia: Essays in honour of J. C. Heesterman (Leiden: Brill, 1992), pp. 275308. E. Lo Bue, 'Iconographic Sources and lconometric Literature in Tibetan and Himalayan Art', in T. ), Indo-Tibetan Studies: Papers in Honour and Appreciation of Professor David L. Snellgrove's Contribution to Indo-Tibetan Studies, Buddhica Britannica series continua II (Tring, UK: Institute of Buddhist Studies, 1990), p. 177. A point that Toni Huber has emphasized; see T. Huber, The Cult of Pure Crystal Mountain: Popular Pilgrimage and Visionary Landscape in Southeast Tibet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

In this instance the problem of the interregnum between the death of the ruler and the maturity of his successor was partly solved by concealing the death of the 5th from the Chinese until 1697. During the fifteen- year period of subterfuge, the Regent Sangye Gyatso (Sangs-rgyas rgyamtsho: 1653-1705) maintained his rule, holding to the pretence that the incarnation was in religious retreat. Such a device, almost incomprehensible in modern understandings, suggests both the remoteness of the political sphere from the wider populace and the rarefied nature of the religious court.

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