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Ulaanbaatar: background

The settlement, that later became the capital city of Mongolia known variously as Khьree, Ikh Khьree, Da Khьree, Bogdiin Khьree, Khutagtiin Khьree, or Urga was, in the beginning, a simple camp established by Цndцr gegeen Zanabazar consisting of some yurts. The settlement moved many times. Although in the beginning other ‘cities’, such as Khowd, Uliastai and Khyagta were more important being Manchu administrative centers, the development of Цndцr gegeen’s camp over time to becoming the most important settlement in the country, the ’capital city’, is due to the importance of the successive jewtsьndamba khutagts (ĵebcundamba qutuγtu in Written Mongolian, Tib. rje-btsun dam-pa) or gegeens, bogds, bogd lamas, the Buddhist religious holy leaders or “Living Buddhas” of Mongolia, who resided there. In addition, Khьree itself became a Manchu administrative and Chinese commercial centre in the 18th century, which further increased its significant role among other monastic cities. Changes in its growth and development also have to be understood within the context of historical events, principally the Manchu domination, which lasted for centuries and the Chinese and Russian influences at the beginning of the 20th century. Mongolia did not become independent until 1911 when the Manchu Empire collapsed. At this time Khьree was called the 'capital city' (Niislel Khьree) for the first time. However, as it was the residence of the highest religious authority from its inception, it should be considered as the capital city or main center from the time of Цndцr gegeen on.

Manchu Overlordship

In 1691, a great part of Mongolia, the Khalkh territories, became a dependency of the dominant power in Asia, the Manchu Quing (Ching) dynasty (1644-1911). The western Kazakh and Oirad territories struggled to retain their independence. In fact, the struggle between the Khalkh Mongols and the western Mongols resulted in the Khalkhs asking the Manchu Quing emperor in 1691 to send troops to fight them. At this time, the Khalkh Mongol territory was divided into four aimags, each led by their khan (Tьsheet khan aimag, Sain noyon khan aimag, Zasagt khan aimag and Setsen khan aimag). Each aimag was subdivided into numerous smaller territorial units (khoshuu). Some parts of the territory had a different administration with a distinctive position as they were subordinated directly to monastic cities or monasteries. These areas and their inhabitants were called shaw’ nar (‘bondsmen of a monastery’ literaly: disciples’), who were independent from feudal lords and were entitled to many privileges. The Ikh shaw’ or ‘Great shaw’ had a key role in the life of Khьree as these areas and people were subordinated directly to the jewtsьndamba khutagt himself (and his ecclesiastical estate). The Manchu emperors, especially Kang-xi (1663-1722) and Qianlong (1735-1796) actively supported the spread of Buddhism. The emperors were known by their Mongolian names: Enkh amgalan (Kang-xi, 1663-1722); Tenger tetgesen (Qianlong, 1735-1796); Saishaalt yerццlt (Jiaqing, 1796-1820); Tцr gerelt (Daoguang, 1821-1850); Tьgeemel elbegt (Xianfeng, 1850-1861); Bьrent zasagch (Tongzhi, 1861-1874); Badruult tцr (Guangxu, 1875- 1908) and Khewt yos (Puyi, also known as Xuantong, 1909-1910). They created a nobility among the Mongolians giving titles such as wan, gьn, beis, beil, zasag and ranks for lamas such as shireet, nomiin khan to increase their influence in Mongolia. Many nobles and lamas chose Manchu princesses as their wives. Together with the jewtsьndamba khutagt, the Manchus worked to spread Buddhism in (the present areas of) Inner and Outer-Mongolia. Despite being the religious leader of the country, the jewtsьndamba khutagt had to refer important questions to the Manchu emperor, which could not be decided without the his 22 agreement. However, the Oirads in the western territory of Mongolia, resisted the Manchu conquest. However, by 1732 they too were defeated by the Manchus. One consequence of the oirads resistance was conflicts between them and the Khalkhs, which continued for centuries. Until 1911 the Manchus were present in Mongolia represented by governors, ambans (literary ‘great’ in Manchu language). Governors (Manchu and Mongol governors as well) were appointed not only in Urga but also in Khowd, Uliastai, Khyagt, where Manchus and Chinese settled in colonies.

Цndцr Gegeen Zanabazar, the 1st jewtsьndamba khutagt: Establishment of Цrgцц as his Camp

According to the Golden Annals (Lokesh Chandra, The Golden Annals of Lamaism, 79r-93r) the 1st jewtsьndamba khutagt, Luwsan dambii jaltsan (Tib. blo-bzang bstan-pa'i rgyal-mtshan) or Цndцr gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1723) was the most influential person in the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia and for its flourishing from this time onward. Цndцr Gegeen Zanabazar was born in 1635, as a descendant of Chinggis khan. He was a grandson of Awtai khan (1534-1589) who founded Erdene zuu, the first monastery in Mongolia in 1586 near to Ццdei Khaan’s capital, Kharakhorum (present Kharkhorin). According to legend, the camp where Цndцr Gegeen lived as a child, was established in 1639 in Shireet Tsagaan nuur (present Bьrd sum, Цwцrkhangai aimag). After studying in the biggest Tibetan monastic universities, he received initiations from the 5th Dalai Lama and from the 4th Panchen Lama becoming a prominent Buddhist master and artist. He was recognized by the 5th Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Tibetan master Jonon Taranatha (1575-1634), who was a famous writer and historian, the last great representative of the Tibetan Jonangpa (Tib. jo-nang-pa) sect. He was given the title of jewtsьndamba khutagt (Tib. rje-btsun dam-pa) by the 5th Dalai Lama. He also received a seal, numerous presents and fifty Tibetan lamas to help him to organize religious life and to found monasteries in his homeland, Mongolia. Pozdneev published the Russian translation of a Mongolian chronicle, called Erdeniyin erike (Pozdneev, A. M., Mongol’skaja Letopis’ “Erdeniin erihe”. Materialy dlja istori halhi 1636-1736. Sankt-Petersburg 1883). Referring to this valuable source, which is the first account of Urga concerning its early history and re-locations, Pozdneev emphasizes the following data (Mongolia and the Mongols, pp. 44-45.): In 1651 Цndцr gegeen, on returning from Tibet, founded ‘bras-spungs dge-rgyas gling with seven aimags (on the aimags see details below) at the “nomun yikhe khьree” (Nomiin Ikh Khьree). The exact location of this first residence is unknown. Its design was based on the Tibetan Drepung monastery (Breiwen/ Bereewen, Tib. ‘bras-spungs), which was founded by ‘Jam-dbyangs chos-rje in 1416. Pozdneev draws the conclusion that the phrase Цrgцц (‘residence, palace dwelling’, цrgцge in written Mongolian) refers to this place as the residence of Цndцr Gegeen (who before his travels to Tibet had resided in Shireet Tsagaan nuur, although there does not appear to have been a palace for him there). Urga, the name cited for Mongolian capital in many Western sources derives from the Russian pronunciation of the word, цrgцц. So it was that the city of the jewtsьndamba khutagt became known by this name outside Mongolia. Цndцr gegeen founded Shankh Monastery (later called Baruun Khьree) around 1650 and he also enlarged the nearby monastery Erdeni zuu. In the lifetime of Цndцr gegeen, his camp consisted of his palace and some yurts. With the establishment of the assembly hall it became a place of worship, with ceremonies and services held. Pozdneev claims (p. 44.) that in 1651 the population surrounding the palace (Цrgцц) was divided into seven territorial units or districts (aimag). Initially, the aimags had names with a specific meaning, like Sangiin aimag (‘aimag of the treasury’), Zoogiin aimag (‘aimag 23 of food’), Jasiin aimag (‘aimag of the financial and administrative unit’), Darkhan emchiin aimag (‘aimag of the honoured doctor’), Anduu nariin aimag (aimag of the Tibetans from Amdo district), Цrlцgььdiin aimag (named after the nunny or nurse (цrlцg ekh) of Цndцr gegeen or after his general (цrlцg)) and Khььkhen noyonii aimag (‘aimag of the Noble Lady’ ie. Цndцr gegeen’s wife). According to the Short history of Mongolian Buddhism (G. Diwaasambuu, D. Taiwansaikhan, Mongoliin burkhan shashnii tььkhen toim, p. 89.), Цndцr gegeen created separate aimags for each of the Nyingmapa, Sakyapa and Karmapa sects, as all had been followed in Mongolia in this era. According to Sereeter (p. 9.), four new aimags were added during Цndцr Gegeen’s old age to the original seven: Shьteenii aimag, Setsen toinii aimag, Bargiin aimag, and Bandidiin aimag (See details of the aimags under entry 942). In 1654 Цndцr Gegeen Zanabazar moved to the KhentiiMountain area where he laid the foundations for a great assembly hall (tsogchin, Tib. tshogs chen), which was called Riwogejigandanshaddublin (Tib. ri-bo dge-rgyas dga’-ldan bshad-sgrub-gling). This settlement became known as Zььn Khьree (‘Eastern Khьree’ (also known as Sardagiin khiid)), while Shankh, the previous residence of Цndцr Gegeen, which is in today’s Цwцrkhangai aimag, became known as Baruun Khьree (‘Western Khьree’). From 1706 onwards, Цndцr gegeen’s camp became known as Ikh Khьree (Written Mongolian: yeke kьriyen, Tib. hu-re chen-mo). The Mongolian word khьree means circle, ring, district or fenced-off territory, monastery or, in this case, a monastic city with its buildings situated in a circle or U-shape. He also established a retreat in Khangai Mountain, near his first home, called E-Wam dga’-khyil in Tibetan, or Duwkhan/Tцwkhцn (Tib. sgrub-khang). [In 2004 this was included on the list of the World’s Cultural Heritage Sites, together with other sites in the Orkhon valley.]

Re-location of the Capital and the Formation and Development of the Aimags Within it

For over 100 years after its inception, the capital did not settle in one place. Up to 1855 it moved 28 times. It was known under various names in different periods of Mongolian history, such as Khьree [Monastic city], Ikh Khьree [Great monastic city], Nomiin Ikh Khьree [Great monastic city of the Teaching], Da Khьree [Great monastic city], Khutagtiin Khьree [Monastic city of the khutagt], Niislel Khьree [Monastic capital], Bogdiin Khьree [Monastic city of the bogd], then Ulaanbaatar, Niislel khot [Capital city]. According to Dendew (p. 10.), the city of the jewtsьndamba khutagt was called Khaanii цrgцц between 1639-1706, Bogdiin Khьree or Ikh Khьree khot between 1706-1911 and Niislel Khьree between 1911-24. Pьrew shows a sketch of the re-locations of Ikh Khьree over time (Pьrew, Ulaanbaatar 360, p. 12.) that correspond with many other sources. Thus the residence (i.e. the capital city) of the jewtsьndamba khutagts was situated in the following places in order: Shireet tsagaan nuur or Цrgцц (1639), Khцshцц tsaidam (1640), Sardagiin khiid (1654) Цgцц__________mцr (1688), Inner-Mongolia (1690), Tsetserlegiin Erdene Tolgoi (1700), Daagandel (1719), Usan Seer (1720), Tamir (1722), Jargalant (1723), Iween gol, Ugtaal Jargalant (1724), Khujirtbulangiin Jargalant (1729), Burgaltai (1730), Sцgnцgцr (1732), Terelj (1733), Uliastai (1734), Khьi Mandal (1736), Khuntsal (1740), Ьdleg (1742), Цgццmцr (1743), Selbe (1747), Uliastai (1756), Selbe (1762), Khьi Mandal (1772), Selbe (1778), Tolgoit (1839), Selbe (1855). From the reign of the 2nd jewtsьndamba khutagt (1729-1757) the city was called Khьree. During this time eleven new aimags were added to the eleven founded by Цndцr Gegeen, to give a total of 22. The capital settled in the area of present day Ulaanbaatar in 1778. That is in the Tuul valley surrounded by the four holy mountains: Bogd khan uul, Songino uul, Chingeltei uul 24 and Bayanzьrkh uul. Since this time the capital has been named as Ikh Khьree khot (Yeke kьriye qota in Written Mongolian). It moved west to Tolgoit, near Songino Mountain, in 1839 but than moved back again in 1855 to settle permanently, on its present site, on the bank of Selbe River. The main temple and the residence of the jewtsьndamba khutagt, which was called YellowPalace (Shar ordon, ‘Yellow ’) or ‘The Yellow Palace or zone of the Bogd’ (Bogdiin shar ord/ Bogdiin shar bьs) was on the right bank of Selbe River in the Eastern area (Zььn Khьree) of the capital, which, according to Banzragch (p. 15.), measured 720Ч720 ald (1 ald=1.6 m). This area became the administrative centre of the capital as well as the main residence of the jewtsьndamba khutagt. The Western part of the settlement, occupied by Gandan, came into being at the beginning of the 19th century. It became the centre for philosophical Buddhist studies (though it served as dwelling for some years to the 5th jewstьndamba khutagt). Due to the many re-locations of the capital, the original sites of some of the buildings i.e. where they were established for the first time, cannot be deternined. Between the period the capital settled in the area of today’s Ulaanbaatar and 1903, eight new aimags were added to the 22 making 30 in total. The aimags were residential and economic units, where people originating from the same territories in Mongolia lived together. Ikh Khьree, being the religious centre and the residence of the religious leader and, later, a commercial centre, played a significant role among the 61 large monastic complexes throughout Mongolia. (See Rinchen map 43.) The population and the number of lamas in Ikh Khьree increased throughout the centuries.

Capital Forming Activities of the Jewtsьndamba khutagts

Pozdneev gives details about the gradual elevation of Urga and its formation into the main administrative center (pp. 45-46.) in Mongolia. He claims that at the time of Цndцr gegeen’s death, Urga was considered preeminent among the monasteries of Mongolia. The next incarnation of Цndцr gegeen was born in Mongolia, but further incarnations were all born in Tibet and, after being elevated to the throne in Beijing, with the approval of the Manchu emperor, resided in Mongolia as religious leader of the country. According to the Golden Annals (98r-99v) the 2nd jewtsьndamba khutagt, Luwsan dambii donme (Tib. blo-bzang bstan-pa'i sgron-me, 1724-1758) founded a tantric assembly (jьd, Tib. rgyud) called Dechenshanaglin (Tib. Bde-chen gsang-sngags gling) in 1739, and the first philosophical assembly (tsanid, Tib. mtshan-nyid) in 1756 based on the philosophical view of the Tibetan Gomang philosophic monastic school (Goman datsan, Tib. sgo-mang grwa-tshang) of Drepung monastery. Pozdneev claims that the 2nd jewtsьndamba khutagt was elevated to his throne in 1729, and Urga became his principal residence. According to him, in 1754 the first office was established in Khьree to supervise the subordinated people’s (shaw’ nar, ‘bondsmen’) affairs, and their administration was commended to the shanzaw/shanzodwa (the head of the Erdene shanzodwiin/shanzudbiin yaam, Administration of Ecclesiastical Estate). The position was first occupied by lama Sьndьw Dorj, who was appointed with the title of setsen toin. However, Sereeter claims (Sereeter, p. 124.) that he occupied the position from 1754 till 1764 as the fourth erdene shanzodwa and that he had the rank of chandman’ setsen toin. As the khutagt founded the first philosophical school in Mongolia in 1756 he had the sole rights to confirm the degree to those lamas who completed the courses and took the exams. According to the Golden Annals (99a) the 3rd jewtsьndamba khutagt, Ish dambii nyam (ye-shes bstan-pa'i nyi-ma, 1758-1773) founded a medical monastic school in Khьree, called Erdene emch (Tib. sman-pa grwa-tshang) in 1760. Pozdneev adds that after the death of the 2nd jewtsьndamba khutagt in 1758 Huang-ti emperor issued a command considering the office of shanzodwa: “Although the shandzodwa Sundub Dorje (Sьndьw Dorj) is present in the 25 Khьree for the supervision of the teachings and sevices, one man is not enough for the administration of all the lower shabinar (Written Mongolian form for shaw’ nar). For this reason it is commanded that the Khalkh tusalakchi chiang-shьn (Khalkh: janjin, ‘vice general’) Sanji Dorji (Sanzaidorj) be summoned, and let him, in overseeing the Khьree, administer well all the hutukhtu’s shabinar. …” Due to this command a Mongol amban (governor) was appointed in Ikh Khьree. In 1761 a second amban was appointed for the same purpose, a Manchu one. According to the Golden Annals (101v-116v) the 4th jewtsьndamba khutagt, Luwsan tьwden wanchug jigmed jamts (blo-bzang thub-bstan dbang-phyug 'jigs-med rgya-mtsho) (1775-1813) after studying in Tibetan monastic universities, founded an astrological monastic school (Tib. rtsis-pa grwa-tshang) in Khьree in 1789. He was a highly intelligent and well qualified lama, attaining the agramba (Tib. sngags-rams-pa) degree, the doctor of vajrayana tantric studies. He founded the Dechingalaw temple (Tib. bde-chen bskal-pa) for the ceremonies of Kalachakra (Dьinkhor, Tib. dus-’khor) in 1806, and re-named the tantric school, which was founded by the 2nd jewtsьndamba, as Badma yogo (Tib. pad-ma yo-ga). Furthermore, in 1807 he established Shaddublin/Shaddьwlin (Tib. bshad-sgrub gling) (Rinchen 937) in a valley on the outskirts of Urga, as a place for meditation. In 1809 he founded the second philosophical monastic school (choir, Tib. chos-grwa) in Gandan next to the previous one in Khьree, based on the philosophical views of Losel Ling monastic school (Losalin datsan, Tib. blo-gsal-gling grwa-tshang) of the Tibetan Drepung monastery. In 1786 a decree was issued in Peking according to Pozdneev (p. 46.), which gave right to the Urga ambans to make final decisions considering the administrative affairs of Tьsheet khan and Setsen khan aimags. Pozdneev concludes that with this final event in the elevation of Urga, besides being a religious center and the center of learning, Urga became the highest civil authority. Furthermore, Urga became a commercial center with Chinese merchants establishing permanent residences in the city and returning home only to bring fresh wares. According to the Golden Annals (117r-120r) the 5th jewtsьndamba khutagt, Luwsan tsьltim jigmed dambii jaltsan (Tib. blo-bzang tshul-khrims 'jigs-med bstan-pa'i rgyal-mtshan, 1815-1841) renewed the two philosophical monastic schools in 1837 giving them the names Dashchoimbel (Tib. bkra-shis chos-’phel) for the first one and Gьngaachoilin (Tib. kun-dga’ chos-gling) for the second one. Pozdneev confirms (p. 76) that in 1809 two large temples were built in Khьree for philosophical studies, with the lama students dwelling in a separate section of the city that later became known by the name of Gandan. The two philosophy temples were situated next to each other. Gandantegchenlin temple (Tib. dga’-ldan theg-chen gling) and the palace of the 5th jewtsьndamba khutagt were built in 1838 in front of them. During the 5th’s reign, the Maitreya temple to house the statue of Maitreya, the future Buddha, was erected behind the main assembly hall. Furthermore, palaces like Gьngaadejidlin palace (Rinchen 922) and Pandelin (Rinchen 923) were established. In this time about 10,000 lamas belonged to Ikh Khьree. Both the 6th jewtsьndamba khutagt, Luwsan baldan jaltsan or Luwsan dambii jaltsan (Tib. blo-bzang dpal-ldan rgyal-mtshan or blo-bzang bstan-pa'i rgyal-mtshan, 1843-1848) and the 7th jewtsьndamba khutagt, Agwaan choiji wanchug prinlei jamts (Tib. ngag-dbang choskyi dbang-phyug 'phrin-las rgya-mtsho, 1849-1868 or 1850-1870) died before they reached adulthood. As for the relics of the jewtsьndamba khutagts, relic temples were built to house their funerary stupas. Amarbayasgalant monastery (in the present Selenge aimag), with its isolated and calm atmosphere, was built to the honour of the 1st jewtsьndamba khutagt by the Manchu emperor and became a kind of retreat or summer monastery of subsequent jewtsьndamba khutagts. The wooden relic temple of the 1st and the 4th jewtsьndamba khutagts still stand there, but the relics disappeared during the purges. The relic temples of the 2nd, 3rd and 6th 26 jewtsьndamba khutagts were built in the area of Dambadarjaa monastery (see Rinchen entry 939) but these were also destroyed during the purge. The temples which housed the stupas of the 5th, 7th and 8th khutagts still exist in Gandan though again their stupas were destroyed (see Rinchen entry 912).

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