AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 464

[ China and Inner Asia Sessions, Table of Contents | Panels by World Area Main Menu ]

Session 464: Sex, Laws, and Incarnate Lamas: New Approaches on Mongolia’s 1911 Declaration of Independence

Organizer: Christopher P. Atwood, Indiana University, USA

Chair: Tatsuo Nakami, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Japan

Discussant: Narangoa Li, Australian National University, Australia

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Mongolia’s declaration of independence from China’s Qing Dynasty. Until recently, interpretation of the significance of that event and the long, but ultimately successful path to international recognition of Mongolia as a separate nation, has been blocked by nationalist and ideological divisions. Interpretations focused narrowly on the legitimacy of the Mongolian independence. Since the 1980s, Mongolia’s independence has finally become uncontroversial and the archives have been open to a full range of scholars, both Mongolian and international. New perspectives are emerging that deepen the political history of the event, raise new problems not previously considered, cast old paradigms in a new light, and bring entirely new disciplines to bear on Mongolia’s declaration of independence. This panel will present some of these new perspectives. O. Batsaikhan’s reviews new research on the narrative history of the Mongolian declaration of independence, highlighting the role of Mongolia’s supreme incarnate lama, the Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu, known as Bogda “Holy One.” Christopher Atwood explores the integration of Mongolia’s substantial ethnic Chinese community by the new government, an issue silenced by previous racially-based nationalist readings of Mongolian history. Tachibana Makoto takes the previous focus on diplomacy and recasts it as a question of intellectual history, documenting how the Mongolian history assimilated the Western practice of international law. Finally Ts. Uranchimeg show how esoteric erotic images commissioned by the Eighth Jibzundamba, long suppressed by previous scholars and art historians, served as prophecies of the up-coming conflicts and bloodshed of independence.

The Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu and Mongolia’s Declaration of Independence in 1911
Batsaikhan Ookhnoi, Independent Scholar, Mongolia

This paper is drawn from a large-scale study elucidating the origins, processes, and culmination of Mongolia’s National Revolution of 1911, and the role that the Eighth Bogda (“Holy One,” also titled Jibzundamba Khutugtu and after 1911 the Bogda Khaan “Holy Emperor”) had played in that fateful event. Although by origin Tibetan, the Eighth Bogda became the father of Mongolia’s national revolution. The presentation will focus on the following points: 1. Reconsidering issues related to Mongolia’s national revolution of 1911, one of the most important events in Mongolia’s history 2. An account of the role the arrival of the 13th Dalai Lama in Mongolia in 1904 played in the Mongolian declaration of independence. 3. A description of the political maneuverings that led up to the Mongolian national revolution of 1911. The Eighth Bogda’s first accepted the proposal made to him in a letter from the Sain Noyan, Prince Namnangsürüng, through his letter, called meetings and consultations of princes and high ranking lamas in Mongolia’s capital of Khüriye, and finally sent a group of now-known people to seek assistance from the Russian Emperor. Participants in these activities included princes and high ranking lamas of the four Khalkha aimags and Yekhe Shabi (the personal estate of the Jibzundamba Khutugtus). Together this paper gives all-around interpretation on the political role that the Eighth Bogda (Jibzundamba Khutugtu) played in the origin, processes and triumph of Mongolia’s national revolution of 1911.

Chinese Merchants and Mongolian Independence
Christopher P. Atwood, Indiana University, USA

How to handle the Han Chinese diaspora has been a crucial question for newly independent states in twentieth century Southeast and Inner Asia. Dominating commerce, suspected of disloyalty, and of unclear citizenship, Chinese residents have posed policy dilemmas for independent governments animated by an ideology of ethno-nationalism. In Southeast Asia, results of this encounter have ranged from cultural assimilation and partial integration into the indigenous elite in Thailand and the Philippines, to recognized status as a tolerated minority in Malaysia, to episodes of violent massacre and expulsion in Indonesia and Vietnam. In Mongolia after the 1911 declaration, a similar question was posed, which ended with the almost complete assimilation of the Chinese community. This relatively peaceful assimilation is all the more surprising considering the violent opposition by Mongolian debtors to Chinese merchants, the strongly racial tone of Mongolian national identity, and the often strained relations between Mongolia and China. In this paper I will examine the earliest stage of policy by the Mongolian government toward Han Chinese residents, in light of a 1912 government document regulated taxes on Chinese merchants. This document sheds light on the number of Chinese merchants in early independent Mongolia, and challenges the usual narrative of unappeasable conflict between them and Mongolian nationalists in the twentieth century.

Mongolian Independence and International Law
Makoto Tachibana, University of Tokyo, Japan

Among the regions that had been under the rule of the Qing dynasty, Mongolia is the only independent nation not included in “China” today. Past explanations of this fact have focused on how Mongolia achieved independence due to the international relations among Russia, China and Japan. Although this explanation is persuasive in part, the diplomatic activities and policy of the Mongols should also be examined. In fact, Mongolia conducted several negotiations with Russia and China after the declaration of the independence. But diplomatic negotiations presume as their most important precondition, a shared framework of international law. This principle should apply to the case of Mongolia, but it has not been discussed sufficiently in the field of the Mongolian history. It is thus an important question as to how the Mongols understood and used international law in the process of their independence movement. The Wanguogongf the Chinese translation of Henry Wheaton’s Elements of International Law, was one of the most influential works in the introduction of international law into Asia Iand brought from there into Japan, Korea and Vietnam. It is highly significant therefore that the Mongolian translation of Wanguogongfa, named Tümen ulus-un yerüde-yin čaghaja, has been discovered and published recently in Mongolia. Moreover, my research has documented how the Mongolian government actually used this text when negotiating with Russia. This paper will clarify how the new Mongolian government used international law in its negotiations in the early 20th century.

The Bogda Gegen’s Visual Prophecy in Early Modern Mongolia
Uranchimeg Tsultem, University of California, Berkeley, USA

Well-known Tibetologists such as Janet Gyatso (1998) and Donald Lopez (2005) have argued that in a Buddhist religious context, visual images serve as models and aid to develop visualization skill, and that art in Tibetan Buddhism means the “body of the Buddha.” However, a number of paintings produced in early twentieth century by Buddhist monks under commission from the Mongolian lama and ruler the Eighth Jibzundamba, the Bogda Gegen (1870-1924) resist such interpretation. The Bogda Gegen’s court artists painted several images that are inexplicably problematic, both confusing and very esoteric. They depict sexual intercourse between the same and opposite genders, phallic games, and sado-masochistic pleasure and pain in ways both clever and disturbing. Why would a Buddhist ruler and his monk-artists produce such profane imagery? Are these paintings a self-reflective “Dharma mirror,” according to Bogda Gegen’s writings, to “critically observe your own deeds....?” This paper argues that these images while seeming to follow the conventions of Buddhist art were not really intended for visualization purposes. Analyzing these paintings in conjunction with the Bogda Gegen’s lüngden (Tib. lung ston) or prophetic texts, I argue that these complex images prophesy a redemptive path through the impending destructive years of territorial and cultural conflict across Inner Asia that would ultimately culminate in the establishment of the socialist regimes. Buddhist images here project visions of the future and the protection of the people that support those of the Buddhist ruler’s prophetic texts.