March 28, 2012



As thematised by dGe-chos, ru is an archaic word for “army/regiment” (dmag). A general (dmag dpon) is called a ru dpon, a spear (mdung) is called a ru tshon (actually ru mtshon). Accordingly in the Imperial period, g.yas ru, g.yon ru, gung ru, and dbu ru were four military formations (dmag gi skor tsho bzhi), that accompanied the Empire on the right, left, front, and back sides (dGe.chos-3: 217).


  1. I always wondered why the orientation of the various ru ('horns') works only if you imagine a person facing south toward India. I'm not too clear on it, but it seems there were only three ru until sometime before 733. That was the time when no. 4, the ru-lag, was added (doesn't the name itself mean it was added on, or an added appendage?). I don't really recall encountering Gung-ru as one of the four ru, but if Dge-chos said so, there must be an interesting explanation. And didn't Sum-pa'i Ru became a 5th ru at some point? So it seems to me that the number increased from 3 to 5 over history, although it remained the custom to speak of 4?? Like I said, I'm not too clear on it.

  2. Hi D,

    Welcome back! The center, right and left wing formations in battle were pretty basic for the Roman army, as I understand it. There's a website that makes this very graphic:
    (scroll down a little bit)

    I wonder if no. 4, the ru-lag, might be the 'reserve' wing, as it was among the Romans.

    Maybe I am too fast to assume that the geographic conception exactly mirrors the battle formation. (Perhaps the geographic divisions took on a life of their own and developed without further reference to their original model?)

    There I go, speculating again.


  3. Dear Dan,

    I realize that I never responded to your previous comment; not that I had something valuable to add. In fact, I must confess my ignorance. It will be interesting to see if we find some other sources on gung ru. And gung (here) = dgung?

    Given the absence of mngon gsum tshad ma, we have no choice but to speculate, that is, given our intellectual curiosity or "desire to know" (shes 'dod).