Promoting the Mountain
The reasons why the Mongols considered Wutai Shan to be the most sacred place to visit on earth are many – the ancientness and pan-Asian Buddhist character of the pilgrimage, the particular promotion of the mountain during the Yuan dynasty, the importance of the cult of Mañjuśrī in Buddhist Mongolia,14 the promotion of the mountain by the early Manchus, linked with the cult of the emperor-Mañjuśrī,15 and by the Mongolian and Tibetan clergy affiliated to the Qing court. But what were the means of propaganda used on the common Mongolian herders?
David Farquhar stressed the importance of the Mongolian guide-books (γarcaγ, karchakdkar chag) as a major instrument of promotion of the holy mountain for the Mongols.16 The first guide-book of Wutai Shan in Mongol was written by Lobsang Danjin (Lozang Tenjinblo bzang bstan ’jin\, seventeenth century), at the request of Awang Laozang (阿王老藏, Ngawang Lozangngag dbang blo bzang, 1601-87), the first head ruling lama of Wutai Shan.17 It was published in Beijing in 1667 or, more probably, 1721. Farquhar showed that it was one of the first block-prints made in China for the Mongols and assumed it was supported by the imperial court to promote the mountain.18 This book had a very large circulation and was still available in the early twentieth century.19 However, the guide-books were read by a minority of learned Mongols and were probably not the main means of promoting Wutai Shan.
A second means was the wood-block images of Wutai Shan such as the Cifu Si image dated 1846, which was widely circulated, recarved, and copied on other supports (silks, mural paintings). It was exported to Outer Mongolia: Dr. G. J. Ramstedt’s Finnish expedition purchased one print in 1909 at UrgaÖrgüge (Yeke Küriye) in a Beijing shop, “an agency representing the Wutai Shan monasteries,” along with sixty-three brightly colored tangkathang ka probably made on the mountain.20 The print preserved in the Museum of the Mission of Fathers of Scheut (C. I. C. M.) in Belgium was probably purchased in Inner Mongolia.21 In 1874, only thirty-two years after the first print, the image was re-carved on new wood-blocks, probably somewhere in China, and other similar style wood-blocks also exist.22
The Cifu Si image of Wutai Shan, by giving an easily decipherable panorama, helped spread knowledge of the mountain. It could at the same time be used as a guide-map,23 a model for painters, a souvenir, an object of worship comparable with the paintings of famous monasteries found in Mongolian monasteries,24 and even the locus of a surrogate pilgrimage. According to the Chinese inscription, the pilgrimage to Wutai Shan and the act of seeing this map are two means of listening to and preaching the dharma of Mañjuśrī and ensure blessings, happiness, longevity, and deliverance from all calamities and diseases in this life.25 By worshipping the map the pilgrim could even make a more complete pilgrimage than the original.26
The Mongolian gazetteers and the Cifu Si image were made widely available to the Mongols, but the promotion of the mountain was mostly done in the field, through the oral accounts of pilgrims and monks, the tales of miracles, visions and encounters with Mañjuśrī, and the advices and prescriptions given by learned lamabla mas and reincarnations who encouraged Mongols to undertake the pilgrimage to cure an illness. Besides, the numerous monks from the Wutai Shan monasteries who traveled around, gathering funds for restoration work or new construction, spread the fame of Wutai Shan throughout Mongolia and even in Buryatia with such persuasion that after their visit, the Mongol donors often made a vow to make a pilgrimage to the mountain. These lamabla mas, in charge of the treasury of a [page 281] monastery or of a reincarnation, organized annual collective fund-raising expeditions, setting off with carts and tents; others traveled alone and were called wandering monk.27 They left the mountain in the spring and returned before winter. As noted by the missionary James Gilmour, “these expeditions are numerous and indefatigable, and perhaps there is no tent, rich or poor, throughout the whole length and breadth of the eastern half of Mongolia, which is not visited by such deputation every year. These collectors penetrate even beyond the bounds of the Chinese empire, and carry off rich offerings from the Buriats, who compared with Mongols are wealthy. Food, tea, skins, cattle, money, all are eagerly received […].”28 Fund-raising lamabla mas from LabrangBla brang, Gönlung Jampa LingDgon lung byams pa gling and other AmdoA mdo monasteries also criss-crossed Mongolia, and found Mongol herders generally wealthier than Tibetans.
The Wutai Shan wandering monk were held in great esteem by Mongol families. Going from yurt to yurt, they delivered a speech about the monastery where they came from, the temples and stūpa they had to repair, asking for the great compassion of the donor and telling them of the infinite merits they could obtain. They brought small gifts – silk they bought in Beijing, clothes for the children, silk scarves, statues from the mountain, charm (adis, adhiṣṭhāna),29 as well as children’s shoes for childless families as a promise to bring them children. Like other wandering badarci, they also brought news and stories.30 Once they had gathered enough funds, they returned to Wutai Shan, sometimes with large sums of money, gold and silver, driving before them up to two thousand sheep and hundreds of horses.31 They usually sold some of these animals in the towns they went through.32 Those who traveled to Eastern Inner Mongolia went via Beijing,33 where they purchased various artifacts to take to Mongolia, and on their way back, they exchanged part of the gifts they had received for silk in Beijing. Wutai Shan lamabla mas who traveled in Mongolia for other purposes, such as to take back home ill or tired pilgrims, also received many gifts from Mongol families on the way.34
The Mongol donors whose names were entered in the subscription list gained good merit through the act of donation, and were to think that they had created connections with Wutai Shan. They had established a particular relation, a special link with a specific monastery, so that when they went to the mountain, they would then be welcomed to that monastery “as old acquaintances by those who experienced their hospitality in the desert, and were the recipients of their pious gifts.”35 These fund-raising expeditions certainly played an important role in the spread of knowledge of the mountain and were therefore a living advertisement for Wutai Shan.
Note Citation for Page
Isabelle Charleux, “Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan in the Late Qing Dynasty,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5712 (accessed ).
Note Citation for Whole Article
Isabelle Charleux, “Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan in the Late Qing Dynasty,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 275-326, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5712 (accessed ).
Charleux, Isabelle. “Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan in the Late Qing Dynasty.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 275-326. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5712 (accessed ).
- Popular Wutai Shan
- Promoting the Mountain
- The Mongolian Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan
- The Natural Numinous Features of the Wutai Shan Pilgrimage
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