Visualizing the Non-Buddhist Other: A Historical Analysis of the Shambhala Myth in Mongolia at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz, University of Bern

Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina. 2019. "Visualizing the Non-Buddhist Other: A Historical Analysis of the Shambhala Myth in Mongolia at the Turn of the Twentieth Century." Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (e-journal) 31: 33–57. https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-31/kollmar-paulenz.

Milarepa (Tib. Mi la ras pa), early 20th c. Source: "Mila boɣda-yin ijaɣur" (1915).
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Abstract

The huge Shambhala thangka preserved at the National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic, is allegedly of Tibetan origin and dates to the nineteenth century. The conventional depiction of the realm of Shambhala in this thangka shows some surprisingly unconventional details in the scenes that illustrate the battle between the infidels and the Buddhist warriors led by Raudracakrin, the last ruler (kalki) of Shambhala. These details hint at a possible Mongolian origin. This article examines the visual aspects of the Shambhala myth as depicted in the Prague thangka, paying special attention to the representation of the final battle and the so-called enemies of the dharma. By engaging with textual, visual, and performative sources that inform the Prague thangka, the author argues that the production of knowledge in the visual language of the thangka is tied to the emerging conditions of globality, incorporating local life-worlds in the context of religious encounters, trade relations, and political negotiations.

Keywords: Mongolia, Tibet, Shambhala, Prague thangka, Kālacakratantra, millennialism, Muslims, Islam, Westerners, alterity

Visualizing the Non-Buddhist Other: A Historical Analysis of the Shambhala Myth in Mongolia at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Introduction

A couple of years ago, during a visit to the National Gallery in Prague, my Czech colleague Luboš Bělka showed me a huge thangka in the possession of the Asian Collections of the museum. Both of us had already conducted extensive research about the Shambhala myth (Bělka 2004, 2009, 2014; Kollmar-Paulenz 1992–1993, 1994, 1997). Whereas he was particularly interested in the visual representation of Shambhala, my own research had probed into the historical and transcultural dimensions of the myth. Quickly the idea was born to join forces and uncover the multilayered art-historical, historical, and cultural dimensions of this as-yet-unstudied thangka. In his contribution to this special issue of Cross-Currents, Bělka provides a detailed description of the iconography of this unique painting. My article complements Bělka’s visual analysis by attempting to unravel the thangka’s historical and cultural implications. It intentionally does not present an art-historical analysis of the thangka.

The Prague thangka depicts the mythical kingdom of Shambhala and the apocalyptic battle that ensues at the end of times between the army of Shambhala and the army of the so-called enemies of the dharma. The circumstances of when, where, and by whom this thangka was commissioned are obscure. The Asian Collections of the National Gallery of Prague purchased it from a private owner, who could not—or would not—provide information about its origins.[1] In this article, I aim to shed light on the possible Mongolian origin of the painting by analyzing some of its visual aspects in the context of the cultural reception of the Shambhala concept in the Mongolian regions. First I introduce the reader to the literary sources upon which the Tibetan and later Mongolian understandings of the kingdom of Shambhala are built. Then I trace the development of the millennial vision of Shambhala as it was adapted and transformed to the Mongolian political and cultural settings of the eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. I close by paying particular attention to the representation of the ethno-religious “Other” in the scenes of the final battle and to the depiction of the enemies of the dharma. In this way, the Prague thangka serves as a focal point for this article’s cultural-historical analysis of the Shambhala myth in the Tibet-Mongolia interface.

Literary Sources

The tale of the kingdom of Shambhala somewhere to the north of Tibet, where the Kālacakra teachings are preserved and taught, have enjoyed widespread popularity in Tibet and the Mongolian regions (Kollmar-Paulenz 1992–1993). In Tibet, the earliest works (apart from the Kālacakratantra[2] and its commentaries)[3] that refer to or explicitly deal with Shambhala date back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.[4] During this period, the first guidebooks to the kingdom were also produced.[5] Some of the best-known Tibetan historical chronicles deal with the kingdom, like the Khé pé ga tön (Tib. mKhas pa’i dga‘ ston, Joyous feast of the learned) written around 1564 by the Kagyupa (Tib. bKa‘ brgyud pa) scholar Pawo Tsukla Tengwa (Tib. dPa‘ bo gtsug lag ‘phreng ba, 1503–1565) (1986, 1485–1493), or the chronicle of Pema Karpo (Tib. Padma dkar po, 1527–1592), the Chö jung ten pé pé ma gyé pé nyin jé (Tib. Chos ‘byung bstan pa’i pad ma rgyas pa’i nyin byed, The history of the dharma, the sun that causes the lotus of the teaching to open) of 1575 (Lokesh Chandra 1968, 205–226). The myth of Shambhala appears to have been immensely popular in greater Tibet, as the poem composed in 1557 by the Rinpung (Tib. Rin spungs) noble Ngawang Jigdre (Tib. Ngag dbang ‘jigs grags, ?–1597) shows (Ngawang Jigdre 1974). The most influential author whose texts on Shambhala had a lasting impact in the Tibetan and Mongolian regions was the ThirdPanchen Lama Lobsang Palden Yeshe (Tib. Blo bzang dpal ldan ye shes, 1736–1780). Among his collected works is the famous Shambha lé lam yik (Tib. Shambha la’i lam yig, Guidebook to Shambhala), which gives a detailed account of the route to the kingdom, the place itself, and its history.[6] Furthermore, during his stay in 1780 at the Qing Qianlong (r. 1736–1795) emperor’s court in Beijing, he wrote a wish-prayer (Mo. mön lam; Tib. smon lam) to be reborn in Shambhala. This prayer, titled Sham bha lar kyewé mön lam (Tib. Sham bha lar skye ba’i smon lam, Wish-prayer to be born in Shambhala),[7] was translated into Mongolian under the title Umaratu šambhala-yin oron-a törökü irüger orošibai (Wish-prayer to be born in the country of Northern Shambhala).[8] Numerous Mongolian, but also some bilingual Tibetan-Mongolian, copies of the prayer are held in various libraries around the world. This prayer may have triggered the veritable boom in literature on Shambhala that swept the Mongolian literary landscape during the nineteenth century. The interest of the nineteenth century stands in marked contrast to the eighteenth century, when Shambhala had not yet caught the attention of the Mongols, at least judging by the literary production. There is, however, visual evidence of the presence of the Shambhala myth in earlier times: Shankh Monastery[9] in today’s Övörkhangai Aimag houses a Shambhala thangka allegedly dating to the seventeenth century.[10]

The Mongolian interest in Shambhala is closely connected to the spread and rise in popularity of the Kālacakra teachings in Mongolia and Buryatia.[11] The Kālacakratantra is the most important tantra of the Gelugpa (Tib. dGe lugs pa) school, which has been dominant in the Mongolian regions since the late seventeenth century. The Kālacakra symbol already appears in the assembly hall of Kökeqota’s oldest temple, the famous Yeke Juu, founded in 1579.[12] During the eighteenth century, the Kālacakra teachings became increasingly popular,[13] and temples and colleges were established throughout the Mongolian regions.[14] In the early nineteenth century, many Mongolian and Buryat-Mongolian monasteries added a Dujnkhor datsan (Kālacakra college) to their learned institutions (Chimitdorzhin 2008, 152). It was due to the efforts of the Fourth Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu (1775–1813) that the Kālacakra teachings were introduced in the early 1800s in Ikh Khüree.[15] In 1806, he established a Kālacakra temple, the Dechingalaw temple, in Ikh Khüree to promote the Kālacakratantra (Lokesh Chandra 1964, fol. 101v–116v).[16] Since then, interest in the Kālacakra and Shambhala has never waned. Even as late as 1927, the Buryat Ganzhurba Gegen Danzan Norboev (1887–1935) produced a new guidebook to Shambhala, The Guru Yoga of the Ganzhurba Gegen: The Excellent Path to Shambhala (Chimitdorzhin 2008, 157). In Inner Mongolia, new Kālacakra colleges were established as late as the 1930s.[17] During that period, the Sixth[18] Panchen Lama Lopsang Chökyi Nyima Gelek Namgyal (Tib. Blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma dge legs rnam rgyal, 1883–1937) stayed at Buyan badaraɣuluɣči süme (also known as Beile-yin süme) in Ulančab league a couple of times, and on one occasion performed a public Kālacakra ritual that more than thirty-seven thousand Mongols attended.[19]

In the nineteenth century, the history and future vision of the kingdom was—as has been the case for long centuries in Tibet—included in historical works,[20] most notably the Mongolian chronicle Bolor toli (Crystal mirror), written by Jimbadorji between 1834 and 1837 (Heissig 1962; Puchkovskii 1957, 60–68; Damdinsüren 1977). Moreover, various authors composed wish-prayers to be reborn in the kingdom.[21] American scholar Johan Elverskog puts this increasing interest in the Shambhala myth into the broader context of shifting identities in late imperial China and maintains that the Shambhala legend served to sharpen the distance between the Buddhists and the Muslims in the Qing empire (Elverskog 2010). This divide was fueled by violent clashes between Buddhist Mongols and Muslim rebels that occurred in some Mongolian regions. One such incident happened in Alashan: in 1869, Buyan-i ündüsülegči süme was partly destroyed by Muslim rebels and more than three hundred monks were put to death. In 1877, reconstruction began, which included—perhaps as a reaction to the Muslim onslaught—the foundation of a Kālacakra college.[22]

However, the military aspects of the Shambhala myth seem to have already attracted special attention in the first part of the nineteenth century. In 1830, a Tsam dance that enacted the “war of Shambhala” (Mo. Šambala-yin dayin)—allegedly based on the Third Panchen Lama’s Shambha lé lam yik—was performed at Qamar-un Keyid Monastery (today’s Khamaryn Khiid) in the Gobi Desert. The famous Fifth Noyan Khutukhtu Danzan Ravjaa (1803–1857) played one of the “protectors of the dharma” in this performance (Heissig 1994, 195).[23] Such performative representations of Shambhala allowed the illiterate population to be included in the project of creating a Tibetan-Mongolian religious-political sphere, on the one hand drawing religious boundaries between different communities and, on the other hand, creating a future vision of an ever-extending Buddhist state founded on the rule of the dharma. Whereas, as far as we know, the enactment of the future vision of the battle between Buddhists and infidels by means of a dance performance must have been very rare,[24] visual representations were quite common. In the Mongolian regions, beautiful thangkas that have been preserved depict the kingdom of Shambhala in minute detail, especially the apocalyptic battle between the forces of its last ruler, Raudracakrin, and the army of his enemy, Kṛṇmati.[25]

The Shambhala Myth in Mongolia

Although the vision of Shambhala received equal attention among religious and secular elites in Tibet and Mongolia, there are important differences in terms of how Shambhala was received in the two regions. In Tibet, the Shambhala notion on the whole was not interpreted in a political or military way and did not have a political impact. Early Tibetan works about Shambhala stress its spiritual qualities whereas later works, especially wish-prayers, concentrate on the paradisiac nature of the hidden kingdom (Kollmar-Paulenz 1992–1993, 86). Political allusions were rather the domain of the beyul (Tib. sbas yul), the so-called hidden regions or valleys that form part of the terma (Tib. gter ma, “hidden treasure”) tradition and are closely related to the marginalized position of the Nyingmapa (Tib. rNying ma pa) in Tibetan political history.[26] The beyul promise a physical-cum-spiritual refuge in times of need. Contrary to the Shambhala vision, they do not contain an eschatological hope, a future to be realized. When a politicization of the Shambhala concept took place in Tibet in the later nineteenth century, it did have a Mongolian connection: during the period of the “Great Game” between Russia and the British empire, the Buryat monk Agvan Dorzhiev (1876­–1933)[27] allegedly talked the Thirteenth Dalai Lama (1876–1933) into believing that Shambhala was identical with tsarist Russia and that the tsar was to be identified with the ruler of Shambhala.[28] In this way he tried to ensure Tibetan political alignment with Russia.

From the mid-nineteenth century onward, the perception of Shambhala took on a more political and military dimension in Mongolia. The groundwork for this growing political potential of the Shambhala notion had already been laid during the late eighteenth century by the Third Panchen Lama’s wish-prayer to be reborn in Shambhala. The prayer focuses on the martial aspects of the myth, describing the last battle in detail. According to this prayer, the main impulse to be reborn in Shambhala is the desire to be “the first of the companions” of Raudracakrin, the last warrior king of Shambhala.[29] Furthermore, Bolor toli fuses the history of the Mongols with the country of Shambhala; by tracing the lineages of the first ruler of Shambhala, Sucandra, and of Chinggis Khan back to the Indian Shakyas, the lineage of the Buddha, it establishes a shared history connected by genealogical descent. Therefore, in the turbulent years of the Mongolian struggle for independence, the fictional relationship between the Mongols (as the people of Chinggis Khan) and Shambhala was exploited by the Mongols of both Outer and Inner Mongolia (Bawden 1989, 262–266), and revolutionaries like Sükhbaatar (1893–1923) could draw on the myth of the apocalyptic battle at the end of times. In a marching song for his troops, Sükhbaatar allegedly addressed his soldiers as warriors who were to be reborn in Shambhala (Rerikh 1974, 249).[30] The political use of the myth is perhaps the most telling difference in its reception in the two Buddhist countries, both of which shared this eschatological notion.[31]

The shift to the political is also noticeable in the structural composition of visual representations of Shambhala. In most Tibetan Shambhala thangkas, the eight-petaled lotus of the kingdom takes center stage and the battle is presented at the bottom, occupying a significantly smaller space in the composition than the kingdom itself.[32] In the majority of Mongolian thangkas, however, the kingdom itself is no longer the central focus but shifts either to the upper part of the composition or—as is the case with the nineteenth-century thangka preserved in the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques-Guimet (hereafter, Musée Guimet) (Rhie and Thurman 1996, 378–379)—occupies the right side, with the last battle portrayed on the left side of the painting. In that thangka the battle occupies slightly more space than the kingdom. The same reconfiguration of the composition is evident in the Shambhala painting that is part of the cosmological painting program of the Eastern Sunlight Hall at the Potala Palace, commissioned by the Thirteenth Dalai Lama between 1922 and 1924 (Chou 2014, 13–14). Whereas the kingdom itself is depicted in the upper right corner of the painting, the battle takes center stage. This “Mongolian” reconfiguration coincides with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s interest in the Shambhala myth, which was most possibly triggered by its political reinscription by Dorzhiev.[33] Furthermore, in the northeastern Tibetan region of Amdo, which since the eighteenth century had been an important stronghold of Gelugpa Buddhism and over the years had become increasingly attractive for Mongolian monks,[34] we notice a similar shift.[35] The reconfiguration stresses the agency of the Mongols who did not simply take over Tibetan Buddhism but actively created their “own” Buddhism, related to, but not identical with, Tibetan Buddhism. Although the Prague thangka is allegedly of Tibetan origin (an attribution I will discuss below), not only does it show the same Mongolian structure in its composition, but due to its huge size, the battle scene at the center catches the attention of the viewer to the exclusion of other scenes.

In Mongolia, the popularity of the myth beyond Buddhist monastic circles has been closely connected to its political use. Here the abovementioned Danzan Ravjaa plays a prominent role. According to his autobiography,[36] Danzan Ravjaa very early on became interested in apocalyptic notions as described in the Shambhala vision of the last apocalyptic war against the infidels.[37] Danzan Ravjaa tells us that he built a Kālacakra temple in Khamaryn Khiid in today’s Dorno Gobi Aimag and wrote a prayer to be reborn in Shambhala. According to Altangerel, director of the Danzan Ravjaa Museum in Sainshand and takhilch (caretaker) of Danzan Ravjaa’s legacy, Danzan Ravjaa built a Shambhala temple at the site of today’s Shambhala Center.[38] In his entry for the year 1830, Danzan Ravjaa maintains that he received a prophecy “that I will [reincarnate] as the commander Sanjay Dorje Gyalpo and take under my command the soldiers and officers of the outer, inner and secret [places]” (Sardar 2007, 282). In the same year, he participated in the abovementioned Tsam dance Šambala-yin dayin. The connection between the Tsam dance and the notion of Shambhala has not yet been explored,[39] but we will see that the Prague thangka contains a visual feature that establishes a connection between the Shambhala imaginary and the Mongolian Tsam dance.

In today’s Mongolia, the notion of Shambhala receives a surge of popular attention. Danzan Ravjaa emerges as one of the key figures in this renaissance of a Shambhala concept that is nowadays strongly influenced by a globalized Buddhism. Particularly Chögyam Trungpa’s (1939–1987) vision of Shambhala, which differs significantly from the traditional concept, has had an ongoing impact on its reconfiguration (Rakow 2014). The Shambhala Energy Center[40] in Dorno Gobi Aimag—newly built near Khamaryn Khiid, a monastery founded by Danzan Ravjaa in 1821 (Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar 2009, 376)[41]—attracts visitors from all parts of Mongolia, especially Ulaanbaatar. Recently, it has also become a point of interest for Buddhists from Western countries, and pilgrimage tours led by renowned experts of the Kālacakra teachings are being organized to offer scholarly expertise and the opportunity to achieve spiritual goals.[42] Contrary to the Mongolian tradition of the past two hundred years, the visual representations of the Shambhala kings on the walls of the main temple building at the Shambhala Energy Center do not stress the martial aspects of the myth. Whether this is a sign of yet another shift in the reception of the Shambhala notion, integrating the Western notions of the myth (Kollmar-Paulenz 1997), remains to be seen.

Visual Representations of the Non-Buddhist “Other” in the Shambhala Paintings

Along with the textual sources of the Shambhala myth and its (alleged) performative enactments, the visual representations present important material upon which to draw in order to disentangle the complex social, political, and religious realities in the Mongolian and Tibetan regions of the late eighteenth to early twentieth centuries. The encounter and clash of different worlds, symbolically negotiated in the images of the apocalyptic war, simultaneously mirrored and shaped the political discourse of the time. Many Tibetan and Mongolian thangkas depicting the apocalyptic war of Shambhala clearly define the non-Buddhist “Other” as Muslim, using visual markers of religious identity in their depictions of the enemies of the dharma. In the Tibetan thangka preserved in the Museum der Kulturen in Basel and dated to the end of the eighteenth century (hereafter, the Basel thangka), the bottom right corner depicts a man butchering an animal (Essen and Thingo 1989, 203, 205). The Tibetans (and the Mongols) were well acquainted with the Muslim practice of slaughtering animals. The Kālacakratantra comments on the slaughtering methods of Muslim butchers (Newman 1998, 334), and during the Yuan dynasty, in 1280, the practice of halal meat turned into a political issue, when the Yuan emperor Qubilai Qaɣan (1215­–1294) decreed a rescript against it (Cleaves 1992). This marker of religious alterity was remembered by both Tibetans and Mongols through the widespread propagation of the Kālacakratantra, which identifies the lalo (Tib. kla klo, “infidel” or “barbarian”) with the Muslims.[43] Further, the visual identification of the non-Buddhist “Other” may well have coincided with the growing divide between Buddhists and Muslims in the late Qing empire (Elverskog 2010). On the one hand, the Qing treated its Muslim subjects on an equal level with other ethnic and religious groups. On the other hand, this political order was challenged in 1762, during the later years of the Qianlong reign, when the emperor issued the first anti-Muslim laws. Newly emerging intra-Muslim disputes, mainly about proper ritual practice, further fueled the anti-Muslim stance of the Qing government.[44] When the internal conflict between the Khafiyya and Jahriyya groups of ritual practitioners in the Chinese Muslim community erupted into a full-blown rebellion in 1784, the revolt was brutally suppressed, and the Qing strengthened its military presence in northwest China.[45] These changes brought peace for the next fifty years, but when the Qing forces withdrew to the south (due to the Taiping Rebellion in the 1850s), violence resumed in the northwest, which eventually led to the Muslim rebellions of the 1860s and 1870s (Kim 2004). Elverskog asserts that “in the wake of the Manchu conquest of Muslim Inner Asia in the eighteenth century and the subsequent Jahriyya uprising, the Mongols started for the first time to comment upon the world of Islam” (2010, 251). He argues that they began to distinguish sharply between Buddhists (Mongols, Tibetans, Manchu, Chinese) and Muslims, constituting the cultural “Other” along religious lines. In this political context, “the Mongols therefore started to use the Kālacakratantra’s myth of Shambhala in order to make sense of the present” (Elverskog 2010, 252).

As noted, in the wake of the Muslim rebellions in the second half of the nineteenth century, clashes between Mongols and Muslim rebel groups occurred quite frequently. In 1872, some four hundred Dungans sacked Khovd, and the Mongols were “estranged by the indifference with which the Muslims attacked all and sundry” (Bawden 1989, 174–175) and indiscriminately destroyed the Buddhist temple of Khovd and the Chinggis Khan sanctuary in Ordos. The recurring violence between the two groups fed the Buddhist notion of “enemies of the dharma.” Not surprisingly, the enemies in Shambhala thangkas of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are mostly marked as Muslims. In the Mongolian Shambhala thangka preserved at the Musée Guimet, we see in the left bottom corner the city of the enemies of the dharma, a mass of houses with arcades and domes reminiscent of Central Asian Muslim architecture.[46] A similar set of domed houses is depicted in a Tibetan thangka preserved at the Lhasa Museum, which also dates from the nineteenth century (Tibet: Klöster öffnen ihre Schatzkammern 2006, 421, cat. 79). A very detailed visual description of a city with mansions, mosque-like buildings, and gardens is also presented in a thangka preserved in the museum of Erdene Zuu Monastery (Frings, Müller, and Pleiger 2005, 374, no. 415).

However, the cultural and religious “Other” is not exclusively imagined in terms of Islamic alterity. The extant textual and visual sources present a more complex picture. The textual evidence unanimously supports a sharp divide not between Buddhists and Muslims, but rather between Buddhists and non-Buddhists. The Subud erike (Pearl rosary) of 1835 speaks about the “different kinds of barbarians” (Mo. lalowa-nar-un eldeb jüil-ten) (Gonchugjab 1965, fol. 12r8),[47] and most probably does not refer to Muslims—who are consistently addressed in this chronicle as qotong[48] (Gonchugjab 1965, fol. 13v1, 16v11–12)—but to non-Buddhists in general.[49] Whereas the visual representation of the non-Buddhist “Other” in the Shambhala thangkas of Mongolian provenance mostly affirms the Muslim configuration of the religious “Other,” the Prague thangka points to a more complex construction of alterity beyond the dichotomic model of Buddhist insider and Muslim outsider. In contrast to the religion-specific visual “othering” of the enemies of the dharma in the Shambhala paintings discussed so far, the Prague thangka characterizes the hostile army in quite a different way. The soldiers wear blue uniforms consisting of buttoned jackets and European-style trousers. The provenance of these uniforms is puzzling. They do not resemble Tibetan, Mongolian, or Chinese garments of the time. The trousers in particular point to European—possibly Russian or Western European—clothing. The buttoned jackets worn by the foreign soldiers are reminiscent of Russian formal dress of the late nineteenth or early twentieth century, as an early photograph of the Russian Buddhologist E. E. Obermiller (1901­–1935) shows (Bazarov 2008, 139). Furthermore, other contemporary Mongolian paintings always portray Europeans in uniform.[50] Therefore, we need to take into account Mongolian encounters and interactions with people of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, including Christians and Chinese sectarian movements that thrived in nineteenth-century China. Indeed, Islam was not the only foreign religion with which many Mongols were familiar to a certain degree in the waning years of the Qing dynasty. Christian missionaries were present in the Mongolian territories from the early nineteenth century on. In 1829, the Chinese Lazarist priest Mathieu Sué (1780–1860) established the first mission house beyond the Great Wall, to which the French Lazarist Joseph-Martial Mouly (1807–1868) was assigned. One of his fellow missionaries was Joseph Gabet (1809–1853). In 1844, Mouly sent Gabet and a second Lazarist, Évariste Huc (1813–1860), to “les Mongols nomads du Nord,” the Khalkha Mongols, where they were supposed to start a mission (Thevenet 1999, 178–180).[51] Apart from the Catholic Lazarists and their successors, the C.I.C.M. missionaries, Protestant missionaries were active in the Mongolian countryside.[52] But the most intensive interactions with non-Buddhists (apart from the Muslims) took place with the Russians, who had maintained trade relations and diplomatic contact with the Qing empire since the eighteenth century.[53] Their trade routes went partly through Mongolian territory via the border town Kiakhta. In 1851, the Russians pressured the weakened Qing government into abolishing the trade restrictions imposed on non-Muslim merchants and were granted the privilege of paying lower custom duties to the Qing officials on the Russian-Qing borders (Chan 2016, 268). After the conclusion of the Treaty of Beijing (Weiers 1979) in 1860, a trading company was established in Ikh Khüree, and a small colony of Russians, most of them merchants, settled there. A Russian consulate opened in 1861,[54] and a Russian Orthodox church was built from 1869 to 1870. The Russians also had their own cemetery in Urga (Teleki 2015, 24).[55] Thus, with its diverse denominations the Christian religion was locally known to many Mongols, though interactions between the Mongols and Christian missionaries were sometimes tense. In the Otoɣ Banner of Ordos, Mongol nobles leased banner land and salt lakes to Chinese merchants and the Catholic mission at Boro Balɣasun, which led to social unrest. Unsurprisingly, local Mongols assisted in anti-Christian attacks during the Boxer movement in 1900. The suppression of the Boxer Rebellion involved troops from eight nations, including the United States. Thus, the buttoned jackets worn by the enemies of the dharma may have even been inspired by the uniforms of the U.S. troops.[56]

Concepts of identity and alterity are never fed by just one differential marker, such as religion in this case. Ethnicity, imagined in a deeply primordial sense as a stable attachment to a community that is distinguished by common ancestry, territory, and culture is another important factor to discursively construct the “Other.” As we do not know the Prague thangka’s exact place and date of origin, notions of ethnic belonging may well have informed the visual representation of the so-called enemies of the dharma. In the late nineteenth century, ethnically framed violent conflicts were common ii in some Mongolian territories. For example, in 1891, Chinese rebels of the Jindandao sect launched massive pogroms against Mongols in southeastern Inner Mongolia. The conflict lasted for two months, during which tens of thousands of Mongols were killed and many Buddhist temples, along with Christian churches, were burned to the ground. One hundred thousand Mongols in the Tumed Left Wing Banner were forced to leave their homes, and the slogans raised in the violent clashes addressed ethnicity rather than religion (Borjigin 2004, 50). The violence and the ethnic overtones of the Jindandao pogroms had a long-lasting impact on the Mongolian-Chinese relations. Twenty years later in faraway Urga, the Eighth Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu (1870­–1924) sent a Mongolian delegation to the Russian court to request assistance in the Mongolian quest for independence from the Qing empire. The petition to the tsarist government drew explicitly on the memory of the Jindandao pogroms to impress the urgency of the matter: “In the 17th year of Guangxu, Chinese who settled and engaged in agriculture in Inner Mongolia’s Josotu and Jo’uda Leagues revolted suddenly and indiscriminately slaughtered lamas and lay people, men and women, old and young, and burned many houses. If the same thing repeats, it would be our greatest suffering” (Borjigin 2004, 54). Moreover, the prophecies (Mo. lungden) of the Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu (Sarközi 1992, 128; Kollmar-Paulenz 2013, 278–279), which circulated in the Mongolian regions, repeatedly addressed the presence of the Chinese settlers in the Mongolian lands as one characteristic of the “time of degeneration” (Tib. snyigs ma’i dus) of the Buddhist dharma, calling for their physical annihilation. This violent aspect in the production of the ethnic “Other” may well have had significant influence on the Shambhala paintings of the period.

Apart from the ambiguous ethnic attribution of the uniforms applied in the Prague thangka, the enemy warriors are distinguished by headgear shaped in the form of a raven. This feature is not so rare: in the Basel thangka and in the wall painting of Taktsang Lhamo Kirti (Tib. sTag tshang lha mo kirti) Monastery in Amdo,[57] the soldiers of the enemy army also wear raven hats. The same headgear is also present in the Mongolian thangka from the Musée Guimet. I suggest that the raven hats take up the well-known symbolism of the Tsam dance, which was very popular in the Mongolian regions up to 1937, when the Khüree Tsam was performed for the last time in Outer Mongolia under Communist rule. Right from the start of the Mongolian Tsam, a raven makes its appearance, symbolizing impurity and pollution, according to the late Mongolian scholar Byamba Rinchen (Forman and Rintschen 1967, 110). The raven dancer is also prominently featured in the famous painting of the Khüree Tsam by the Mongolian artist Damdinsüren.[58] Thus, in the Prague thangka, the alterity of the military adversaries of the Dharma-king of Shambhala is ethnic as well as religious: the European-style military uniforms hint at a possible (not further specified) foreign ethnic origin, whereas the raven hats remind the viewer of the “impure” raven dancer in the Tsam dance, marking the soldiers as the religious (but not conclusively Muslim) “Other.”

A Mongolian Origin of the Prague Thangka?

The interaction and cultural transfers among Tibet, Mongolia, and the Qing and Russian empires are not only obvious in the strange uniforms of the hostile forces described above but also in the weapons and armor on display in the painting. The enemies of the dharma swing swords with long, curved, single-edged blades. Such swords were already in use in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries in Ilkhanite Iran[59] and were well known in Tibet, having probably been transmitted by the Mongols.[60] Both parties in the Prague thangka use matchlock muskets (Tib. me mda‘, literally, “fire arrow”). Firearms like the ones depicted in the thangka have been in use in Tibet since at least the seventeenth century, possibly even earlier. They arrived in Tibet probably via Bhutan, and perhaps Guge, where they have been documented as early as the 1630s. Matchlock muskets are rarely seen in other Shambhala thangkas.[61] In the Prague thangka they are fitted with a leather strap or string by which the gun may be carried on the back. The fighting spears that the warriors swing are found in both Tibetan and Mongolian cultural regions. The spear is very long with a double-edged blade, and the shaft appears to be made of wood. Tufts of red string or silk are slung between the shaft and the spearhead. One of the Shambhala warriors swings a standard with what looks like a Mongolian spearhead. Both parties protect themselves with domed cane shields that were in use in Tibet throughout the fifteenth to eighteenth centuries. There is, however, evidence that they were still being used at the beginning of the twentieth century, as documented by a photograph taken during the British Younghusband “expedition.”[62]

Wooden carts like the one seen in the Prague thangka appear in both Tibetan and Mongolian Shambhala paintings. A very similar cart is depicted, for example, in the abovementioned painting of Shambhala preserved at Shankh Monastery.[63] In the Prague thangka, a typical Mongolian feature is displayed in the two tiny ger (yurts), which symbolize Kalāpa, the capital of Shambhala. The ger are by no means arbitrary; they are used as visual markers of Mongolness. They “Mongolize” the Tibetan visualization of Kalāpa, which is usually represented as a Chinese- or Tibetan-style temple. This “Mongolization” through the visual use of ger is not unique to the Prague thangka. Indeed, it was a well-established visual index to denote Mongolness at the turn of the twentieth century. We find a poignant example in an illustrated Mongolian manuscript of the biography of Milarepa (Tib. Mi la ras pa, ca. 1040–1123)[64] that dates to the early twentieth century.[65] In this manuscript, the saint himself is often portrayed in the typical Tibetan iconic manner of holding his hand to his ear, yet at the same time his life story is transported to a Mongolian setting, evoked by the frequent visual occurrence of ger rendered with much attention to detail (figure 1).

According to information provided by the National Gallery in Prague (see Bělka 2019), the Shambhala thangka originated in Tibet and was painted during the nineteenth century. On closer inspection, however, its provenance is not so clear. Although some details discussed above, like the weapons and the armor, cannot be confidently assigned to a Tibetan or Mongolian origin, others, like the Mongolian ger symbolizing Kalāpa, point to a Mongolian origin for this unique thangka. Furthermore, the European-style uniforms that mark the foreignness of the enemies of the dharma strengthen this hypothesis. As has been described, the Mongols had constant trade and diplomatic relations with the Russian empire and were familiar with European dress codes. This familiarity translated into the visual depictions of foreigners in Mongolian paintings, in contrast to Tibetan thangkas of the same period.[66] And, lastly, the structure of the thangka’s composition reflects the Mongolian reconfiguration, relegating the kingdom to the upper half of the composition and the battle to the center. Taken together, these are strong arguments for a Mongolian provenance of the painting.

Figure 1. Milarepa (Tib. Mi la ras pa), early twentieth century. Source: Mila boɣda-yin ijaɣur (1915). Used with the kind permission of Professor Richard Ernst, Winterthur (Switzerland).

Conclusion

The Prague thangka was created in a historical environment characterized by social and political change and upheaval. Its vision of the Buddhist kingdom of Shambhala and the last battle between the Buddhist armed forces and their non-Buddhist adversaries reflects the changing world of the Mongols in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The Mongols were never isolated from their surrounding countries; on the contrary, they were active players in a network of political, economic, and cultural connections that wove together China, Inner Asia, Russia, and Western European countries. These connections formed and transformed Mongolian social life-worlds during that time. The deep social transformations that Mongolian society underwent were shaped by its integration into the world economy and political order. The production of knowledge in the visual language of this particular thangka is tied to the emerging conditions of globality, incorporating local life-worlds into the context of religious encounters, trade relations, and political negotiations. The knowledge presented in the Prague thangka is thus a product of, and a response to, local conjunctures. Finally, the visual representation of the divide between the Mongols as Buddhists and their religious “Others,” be they Muslims or other non-Buddhists, served to confirm the place of the Mongols in the Mahāyāna Buddhist cosmological world order. More concretely, by covering their landscapes with Kālacakra temples and colleges, the Mongols transformed their geographical space into a Kālacakra mandala,[67] identifying Mongolia, the country directly north of Tibet, with Shambhala.[68] Russia ceased to be a candidate for identification with Shambhala; Mongolia itself had turned into the mythical kingdom, and it was the task of the Mongols to defend it against the enemies of the dharma.

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Snelling, John. 1993. Buddhism in Russia: The Story of Agvan Dorzhiev, Lhasa’s Emissary to the Tzar. Shaftesbury, UK: Element Books.

Steppenkrieger. 2012. Steppenkrieger: Reiternomaden des 7–14 Jahrhunderts aus der Mongolei [Warriors of the steppe: Horseback nomads of the seventh–fourteenth centuries from Mongolia]. Bonn: LVR-Landesmuseum.

Teleki, Krisztina. 2008. “Bogdiin Khüree: Monasteries and Temples of the Mongolian Capital (1651–1938).” PhD diss., ELTE University, Budapest.

———. 2015. Introduction to the Study of Urga’s Heritage. Ulaanbaatar: Admon.

Tersék. 1976. Collection of Tibetan MSS and Xylographs of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös. Budapest: Magyar Tudományos Akadémia Könyvtára.

Thevenet, Jacqueline. 1999. “The Catholic Mission to Inner Mongolia before the Arrival of the C. I. C. M. Fathers.” In Antoine Mostaert (1881–1971): C. I. C. M. Missionary and Scholar, edited by Klaus Sagaster, 177–184. Louvain: Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation, K. U. Leuven.

Tibet: Klöster öffnen ihre Schatzkammern [Tibet: Monasteries open their treasure troves]. 2006. Exhibition catalogue. Munich: Hirmer.

Tsedendamba, S., L. Lkhagva, and Sh. Soninbajar, eds. 2009. Mongolyn süm khiidiin tüükhen tovchoon [Short history of Mongolian temples and monasteries]. Ulaanbaatar: Admon.

Tsultemin, Uranchimeg. 2016. “Cartographic Anxieties in Mongolia: The Bogd Khan’s Picture-Map.” Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (e-journal) 21: 66–87. https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-21/Tsultemin.

Tsyrempilov, Nikolay. 2011. “The Open and Secret Diplomacy of Tsarist and Soviet Russia in Tibet: The Role of Agvan Dorzhiev (1912–1925).” In Asiatic Russia: Imperial Power in Regional and International Contexts, edited by Uyama Tomohiko, 216–234. Abingdon, UK: Routledge.

Tuttle, Gray. 2005. Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China. New York: Columbia University Press.

Ul’ianov, Dambo. 1913. Predskazanie Buddy o Dome Romanovykh i kratkii ocherk moikh puteshestvii v Tibet v 1904–1905 gg [The prophecy of the Buddha about the house of the Romanovs and a short summary of my travels in Tibet in the years 1904–1905]. St. Petersburg: Tsentr tipolit.

Vanchikova, Tsymzhit P. 2008. “Istoriia buddizma v Zabaikal’e do 1945 goda” [The history of Buddhism in Transbaikalia up to 1945]. In Zemlia Vadzhrapani: Buddizm v Zabaikal’e [The world of Vajrapani: Buddhism in Transbaikalia], edited by Tsymzhit P. Vanchikova, 28–49. Moscow: Dizain. Informatsiia. Kartografiia.

van der Kuijp, Leonard. 2004. The Kālacakra and the Patronage of Tibetan Buddhism by the Mongol Imperial Family. Bloomington: Indiana University.

Waddell, L. Austine. 1905. Lhasa and Its Mysteries with a Record of the Expedition of 1903–1904. London: John Murray.

Wallace, Vesna A. 2001. The Inner Kālacakratantra: A Buddhist Tantric View of the Individual. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

———, trans. 2004. The Kālacakratantra: The Chapter on the Individual Together with the Vimalaprabhā. Translated from Sanskrit, Tibetan, and Mongolian by Vesna A. Wallace. Introductory remarks by Robert A. F. Thurman. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies.

———. 2011. The Kālacakra Tantra: The Chapter on Sādhanā Together with the Vimalaprabhā Commentary: A Study and Annotated Translation. New York: American Institute of Buddhist Studies.

Weiers, Michael, ed. 1979. Die Verträge zwischen Rußland und China, 1689–1881: Faksimile der 1889 in Sankt Petersburg erschienenen Sammlung mit den Vertragstexten in russischer, lateinischer und französischer sowie chinesischer, mandschurischer und mongolischer Sprache [The treaties between Russia and China, 1689–1881: Facsimile of the collection published 1889 in St. Petersburg with the treaty texts in Russian, Latin, and French as well as Chinese, Manchurian, and Mongolian]. Bonn: Wehling Reprints.

Zhang Yisun. 1985. Bod rgya tshig mdzod chen mo [Big Tibetan-Chinese dictionary]. Beijing: Mi rigs dpe skrun khang.
 

About the Author

Karénina Kollmar-Paulenz is Professor and Chair of the Institute for the Science of Religion and Central Asian Studies at the University of Bern.
 


[1] For more details, see Bělka (2019).

[2] See the Parama-ādibuddhoddhta-śrī-kālacakra-nāma-tantrarāja (Ligeti 1942–1944, 1:2). For the Kālacakratantra, see Wallace (2001). Partial translations of the tantra are provided by Newman (1987), Andresen (1997), and Wallace (2004, 2011).

[3] The main commentary is the Vimalaprabhā (Stainless light), Tengyur (Tib. bsTan ‘gyur), no. 2064. The Vimalaprabhā was supposedly composed by Puṇḍarīka, the second king of Shambhala; this mythical authorship illustrates the close connection of the root texts of the Kālacakra tradition to the land of Shambhala.

[4] The sDom pa gsum gyi rab tu dbye ba (Analysis of the three vows) of Sakya Pandita Kunga Nyingpo (Tib. Sa skya paṇḍita kun dga’ snying po, 1182–1251) (1968, 5:297–320). For the passage about the kingdom of Shambhala, see folio 32r6–32v3. The Dus ‘khor chos ‘byung rgyud sde’i zab don sgo ‘byed rin chen gces pa’i lde mig (The most precious key that opens the door to the profound meaning of the tantras, the history of the Kālacakra dharma) of Butön Rinchen Drub (Tib. Bu ston rin chen grub) (1965, 53ff) describes the journeys of Indian pandits to Shambhala.

[5] Menlungpa (Tib. Man lung pa), who was born in the year 1239, wrote the Shambha la pé lam yik (Tib. Shambha la pa’i lam yig, Guidebook to the land of Shambhala), which served as a source text for the guidebook by the Third Panchen Lama. This guidebook has been partly translated by Laufer (1907). See also Bernbaum (1985, 37–39, 87–88, n63–80). We do not know exactly when the famous Kalāpāvatāra (Tib. Ka lā par ‘jug pa, The entry to Kalāpa; preserved in the bsTan ‘gyur, no. 149) was written. It was translated from Sanskrit into Tibetan as late as the seventeenth century by the Tibetan historian Tāranātha (1575–1634).

[6] I used a xylograph of the text that was kindly sent to me many years ago by the late Professor Käthe Uray-Köhalmi. It is described in detail by Tersék (1976, 87–80). This text consists of two parts: the first contains a detailed account of India; only the second, smaller part describes Shambhala. The Panchen Lama made extensive use of his new knowledge of India, acquired through his conversations with George Bogle (1746–1781), the representative of the East India Company who visited Tashi Lhunpo (Tib. bKra shis lhun po) in the 1770s. The Shambha la’i lam yig was written in 1775. The German scholar Albert Grünwedel (1915) prepared a translation, but it contains many errors and should be consulted with due caution. Elverskog (2006, 200n28) mentions one “History of the Shambhala country” (Mo. Sambala-yin oron-u teüke orosiba), a manuscript that, according to him, is the translation of the Third Panchen Lama’s guidebook, or at least “a Mongolian work paralleling his guidebook [composed in 1828]” (Elverskog 2006, 140).

[7] See Longdol Lama Ngawang Lobsang (1963). For a translation, see Schubert (1953).

[8] Heissig (1961, 259, cat. 483) describes the work. The Department of Mongolian and Tibetan Studies in the Institute of Asian Studies at Bonn University preserves a copy of the text as Signature X 15/44. Different versions of this wish-prayer are known and have been translated (see Bawden 1984–1985 and Kollmar-Paulenz 1994).

[9] A short history of this monastery, also known as Baruun Khüree, is given in Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar (2009, 545).

[10] See note 63.

[11] For the history of the Shambhala myth in Buryatia, see Bělka (2004, 2009, 2014).

[12] This temple is already mentioned in the anonymous chronicle Erdeni tunumal neretü sudur (Sutra called jewel-like translucence) (Jorungɣa 1984, fol. 52v). Isabelle Charleux (2006, 45–49) describes its foundation in detail.

[13] This does not mean that the Kākacakra was not known before that date in Mongolia. The acquaintance of the Mongols with the Kālacakra and its mythical origin in Shambhala, a country north of Tibet, dates back to the thirteenth century (see van der Kuijp 2004).

[14] To mention just one of these foundations: around 1749, the First Dujngqur bandida blama (1695–1763) established a Kālacakra college in Aɣui yeke onol-tu süme (also known as Badɣar coiling süme) in the Ulančab league (see Charleux 2006, catalogue CD-ROM, Ulaɣancabu.pdf, no. 63).

[15] Teleki (2008, 64–68) gives a very detailed account of the establishment of the temple and the introduction of the Kālacakra teachings in Ikh Khüree.

[16] See also Tenpa Tenzin (Tib. bsTan pa bstan ‘dzin, 1917–2007) (2003, 2:417): “In the Fire-tiger year, the foreign year 1806, he founded the temple of Dechen Kalapa [Tib. bDe chen ka lā pa] and established a Kālacakra college [dus ‘khor grva tshang].” See Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar (2009, 112) and Berger and Bartholomew (1995, 181).

[17] For example, Buyan-i ündüsülegči süme in Alashan (see Charleux 2006, CD-ROM, Alashan.pdf, no. 26).

[18] In the counting that starts with Khedrup Gelek Namgyal Palzang (Tib. mKhas grub dge legs rnam rgyal dpal bzang, 1385–1438), this is the Ninth Panchen Lama.

[19] Charleux (2006, CD-ROM, Ulaɣančabu.pdf, no. 74).

[20] The catalogue of the Mongolian State Library (1937, 175) lists a couple of them, for example, Šambala-yin qaɣan-u učir (About the kings of Shambhala) (51 fols.) and Šambala-yin 25-duɣar qaɣan-u lalo-nar-i nomoɣadqaqu teüke (History of how the infidels will be subjugated by the twenty-fifth king of Shambhala) (18 fols.).

[21] Some Mongolian wish-prayers are listed in the catalogue of the Mongolian State Library in Ulaanbaatar; cf. Kollmar-Paulenz (1992–1993, 96). The collection of Tibetan and Mongolian manuscripts and block prints of the Swiss collector Richard Ernst (Kollmar-Paulenz 2009) includes a short wish-prayer of two folios that the Eighth Bogd Gegen composed in Tibetan under the title Byang phyogs shambha lar skyel [sic] ba’i smon lam (Wish-prayer to be born in Northern Shambhala) (Eighth Bogd Gegen. n.d.).

[22] Charleux (2006, CD-ROM, Alashan.pdf, no. 26).

[23] Heissig quotes Danzan Ravjaa’s biography, which was not at my disposal when I was writing this article. The reference to the Šambala-yin dayin remains obscure; see Kollmar-Paulenz (2017, 1308).

[24] I do not know of other dance performances of the battle of Shambhala in the Tibetan or Mongolian regions. However, in San Bejsijn Khüree the Kālacakra Tsam was performed from 1879 onward (see Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar 2009, 424).

[25] See Vanchikova (2008, 34–35) for an example from the Buryat regions.

[26] Although the literature about the beyul is vast, a comprehensive overview about the diverse beyul in the different regions of the Himalayas and Tibet remains to be written. Toni Huber (1999) edited an anthology of important papers on Himalayan and Tibetan sacred places. Geoff Childs (1999) provided a brilliant analysis of the ties of the beyul notion to Tibetan politics. For the relationship of the beyul imaginary to Mongol overlordship in Tibet, see Kollmar-Paulenz (2008, 716–719).

[27] On Agvan Dorzhiev, see Snelling (1993). Dorzhiev acted as the Thirteenth Dalai Lama’s political advisor. He wrote an autobiography that is deeply rooted in the Tibetan intellectual tradition and has been published in facsimile and translated into Russian (Dorzhiev 2003). On Dorzhiev’s role in Tibetan-Russian relations, see Andreev (2006, 77–105) and Tsyrempilov (2011).

[28] The alleged connection of Buddhism and the Russian empire is also elaborated in a work written by the Kalmyk lama Dambo Ul’ianov, who allegedly draws a straight genealogical line from the Buddha to the house of the Romanovs (Ul’ianov 1913). Unfortunately, I have not been able to get hold of a copy; however, the work is often mentioned by my Russian colleagues, including Andreev (2006, 456). According to Andreyev (2001, 354–355), when Ul’ianov was in Lhasa in 1905, he distributed among Tibetan monks a booklet that contained information about the world’s biggest states and maintained that Russia was the realm of Shambhala. Ul’ianov mentioned these efforts of pro-Russian propaganda in his report to the Main Staff of the Ministry of War. Today the report is preserved in the Russian State Archive for Military History (see Andreyev 2001, 349n1).

[29] Umaratu šambhala-yin oron-a törökü irüger orosiba, fol. 5r13–14 (translation in Kollmar-Paulenz 1994, 173–174).

[30] I could not, however, find independent confirmation of Rerikh’s statement.

[31] The utilization of the Shambhala myth to political ends was, however, in no way a uniquely Mongolian prerogative. In the 1930s, the Japanese made use of the myth to strengthen their position in the newly established state of Manchukuo, and the Mongols were told to search for the realm of Shambhala in Japan (see Bawden 1989, 262). The myth of Shambhala was also present in Republican China when in 1931 Chinese Buddhists invited the Panchen Lama to preside over a public Kālacakra ceremony that explicitly related to the messianic and military aspects of Shambhala. As Tuttle asserts, “The Beiping Kālacakra had been especially organized to deal with current difficulties the Chinese were experiencing” (2005, 170). Thanks to Uranchimeg Tsultemin for drawing my attention to this aspect of the Shambhala reception.

[32] The thangka formerly preserved in the collection of Gerd-Wolfgang Essen and today held in the Museum der Kulturen in Basel serves as a good example of this composition; see the illustration in Essen and Thingo (1989, 205).

[33] Tuttle (2005, 169–171) describes a similar political use of the Shambhala myth by the Republican government in China in the 1930s.

[34] According to Andreyev (2001, 353–354), at the turn of the century in Buryat Buddhist circles there was widespread belief that the center of Tibetan Buddhism would move from Lhasa to Labrang (Tib. Bla brang) in Amdo.

[35] In 2005, my colleague Daniel Berounský of Charles University, Prague, documented two wall paintings in Amdo monasteries that focus on the final war of Shambhala. The kingdom of Shambhala is also depicted in these paintings, albeit quite small in their upper left corners.

[36] According to Hamid Sardar (2007, 260), the original in Uyghur-Mongolian script has not survived, but two Khalkha-Mongolian versions exist. To my regret, they were not available to me at the time of writing this article. In the following, I therefore rely on Sardar’s explanations.

[37] The English “infidel” or “barbarian” translates into the Tibetan term kla klo (Mo. lalo), from the Sanskrit mleccha. Mleccha literally denotes somebody who speaks an unintelligible language (see Mayrhofer 1963, 699). Etymologically, it does not have a religious connotation. In Tibetan texts, the term is rarely used to designate Muslims exclusively. In the Kālacakratantra, however, the term kla klo designates the Muslims as a specific religious group with common markers (see Orofino 1997, 717–724). In later Tibetan texts, the term took on a general ethnic and religious connotation. It was used to designate non-Tibetan and non-Buddhist peoples. The common Tibetan definition of lalo nesu kyewa (Tib. kla klo’i gnas su skye ba), “to be born in a barbarian land where the Buddha’s doctrine does not exist” (Rigdzin 1986, 312), combines geographical and religious markers of identity. See also the definition in Zhang (1985, 40). The term was also used in this unspecific meaning in the Tibetan law codes of the sixteenth century, the Zhal lce bcu drug (Sixteen codes of law); see in particular the sixteenth law code titled Kla klo mtha’ `khobs kyi zhal lce (Law about the barbarians and the people at the borders) (Meisezahl 1973, 227).

[38] Interview by my colleague Mungunchimeg Batmunkh and me, July 26, 2016. I could not find independent verification of the statement. On Altangerel, see Sardar (2007, 258). The American Buddhist monk Konchog Norbu, apparently drawing on local tradition told to him by Altangerel, states that the original site was completed in 1854. See “Shambhala Rises Again in the Mongolian Gobi” (http://www.mongolia-web.com/content/view/733/2/).

[39] The literature on the Mongolian Tsam does not mention this particular version of Tsam. See Forman and Rintschen (1967) and Erdeni (1997).

[40] This is its English name; in Mongolian it is called Shambalyn oron (Shambhala place).

[41] The original site was destroyed in the 1930s. Today’s reconstruction is, “[according] to Z. Altangerel, the primary steward of Danzan Ravjaa’s legacy…an exact replica of Danzan Ravjaa’s layout, using updated building material” (http://www.mongolia-web.com/content/view/733/2/).

[42] For example, the Jonang Foundation hosted a “Kalachakra Pilgrimage to Mongolia” in 2014 (https://jonangfoundation.org/blog/kalachakra-pilgrimage-mongolia-vesna-wallace), and in 2015 the Santa Barbara Institute for Consciousness Studies offered a “Kalachakra Tour in Mongolia.” Both educational travel programs were led by the well-known scholar Vesna Wallace. The main attraction of the tours was “Shambhala Land” in Dorno Gobi Aimag. For a recent study of the pilgrimage site, see Kollmar-Paulenz (2017).

[43] Cf. note 37.

[44] The conflict developed over the proper performance of dhikr, the ritual invocation of God: the Khafiyya (“silent ones”) claimed that it had to be performed silently; the Jahriyya (“vocal ones”) claimed it had to be performed aloud. Lipman (2006, 99–101) provides a concise description and analysis of this conflict.

[45] Although the Qianlong emperor was the first to put discriminatory statutes into effect, his example was not unanimously followed by his successors (see Lipman 2006, 92).

[46] Compare the Mongolian Shambhala thangka in Berger and Bartholomew (1995, 180, no. 45). This thangka shows the traditional structural composition of the eight-petaled lotus in the center and the last battle in the lower part of the painting. In the right bottom corner, a city with Oriental-style houses marks the origin of the enemy army.

[47] I used the facsimile reproduction provided in Heissig (1965, 1–70). See also Elverskog (2007) for a transcription and translation of the chronicle.

[48] The Mongolian term qotong denotes an inhabitant of Turkestan and more specifically a Muslim.

[49] For a general evaluation of Muslim-Mongol relations in the late Qing, see Elverskog (2010, 243–260).

[50] See, for example, “One Day in Mongolia,” by the Mongolian artist Sharav (1869–1939), which depicts a shamanic ritual in a tent in the upper left section. Among the people watching the performance of the shaman is a Western man in military uniform. For a detailed analysis of this famous painting, see Tsultemin (2016). Other renderings of Europeans in Mongolian paintings of the time include “The Green Palace,” also ascribed to Sharav, which depicts three European men in uniform in the top section. I thank Uranchimeg Tsultemin for pointing out these details. For more on this painting, which is preserved at the Bogd Khaan Palace Museum in Ulaanbaatar, see Lomakina (1974, 124–142). 

[51] Huc and Gabet did not stay in Outer Mongolia but went on their famous journey to Lhasa, from where they were expelled by the Qing authorities. They never returned to Mongolia (see Huc 1924).

[52] In the 1870s, the Scottish missionary James Gilmour (1843–1891) roamed the Mongolian countryside in the manner of a Buddhist badarči lama, a mendicant, itinerant monk (Gilmour 1883).

[53] Diplomatic contacts with Russia had commenced much earlier (see Slesarchuk 1996 and Pochekaev 2018).

[54] Andreev (2006, 134) provides a historical photo of the Urga consulate.

[55] A general appraisal of the Russian merchant colony in the early twentieth century may be found in Endicott (1999).

[56] Compare the uniforms in the photograph of the U.S. Army Signal Corps personnel in China during the Boxer Rebellion in Raines (1996, 102).

[57] Daniel Berounský kindly shared a photo of the painting with me.

[58] The 1966 painting is on display in the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Art in Ulaanbaatar.

[59] Such swords were used in Ilkhanite Iran by swordsmen on horseback (Rossabi 2002, 13; Komaroff and Carboni 2002, 272, no. 136).

[60] Compare the curved sword from Tibet (possibly fifteenth or sixteenth century) in LaRocca (2006, 172–173, no. 74).

[61] I found them only in the Basel thangka and the thangka from the Musée Guimet.

[62] See the photograph in Waddell (1905, opposite p. 172).

[63] According to tradition, this monastery, also known as Baruun Khüree, was founded by Zanabazar in 1647 (Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar 2009, 545). Until now, I have not had access to this thangka, but the catalogue to the exhibition Steppenkrieger (2012, 349, no. 23) shows the section with the wooden cart.

[64] For more on Milarepa, see Quintman (2014).

[65] The manuscript—Mila boɣda-yin ijaɣur (Origin of the holy Mila, 1915)—is described in Kollmar-Paulenz (2012).

[66] Although the Tibetans also had contact with Europeans in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, to my knowledge they did not depict Westerners in their paintings.

[67] Kālacakra temples and colleges were established throughout the Outer and Inner Mongolian regions. To mention but a few: Khamaryn Khiid, Olon Khüree, and San Bejsijn Khüree (all in Dorno Gobi Aimag) (see Tsedendamba, Lkhagva, and Soninbajar 2009, 376, 381, and 424, respectively); Yamun süme (Buyan arbidqaɣči süme) in Alashan (Charleux 2006, CD-ROM, Alashan.pdf); Banjin Juu (Shajin-i irügeltü süme) in Ordos (Charleux 2006, CD-ROM, Ordos.pdf), or Čaɣan oboɣ-a süme in Sili-yin ɣool (Charleux 2006, CD-ROM, Sili-yin.pdf).

[68] Van der Kuijp (2004, 54) has already suggested such an identification in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.