Imperial Patronage of Wutai shan: Rituals and Rewards
One of the earliest contemporary public monuments to the Qing court’s association with Tibetan Buddhists at Wutai shan is preserved in the 1687 stūpa inscription dedicated to Awang Laozang (from Ngawang LozangNgag dbang blo bzang) on Wutai shan.17 This man, despite his Tibetan-sounding name, was apparently a (Sinicized?) Mongol monk who had taken vows, along with five others, with the fifth Dalai Lama in 1653 when the Tibetan hierarch visited the Qing court.18 According to this inscription, the Dalai Lama had said that “Among these (six people) there is one who will be the master of Wutai [shan].”19 Thus, in 1659, when Awang Laozang [page 169] was made the supreme master (shangzhu) of Wutai shan to manage Chinese (Han) and Tibetan (Fan) affairs there, the Dalai Lama’s prophecy was fulfilled.20
Just what were these Chinese and Tibetan affairs that Awang Laozang was sent to manage? The earliest recorded imperial activity at Wutai shan dates from the year 1655, just two years after the Dalai Lama’s visit to the capital. In that year, the Shunzhi emperor (r. 1644-1661) sent an inner-court high official and a Da Lama doctor (e’muqi, emchiem chi) to lead forty monks (gelong, transliterating the Tibetan gelongdge slong) to the mountain to conduct a forty-day ritual to bless the dynasty and help the people (zhuguo youmin).21 Two years later, an imperial commissioner and Da Lama doctor led fifty monks to the mountain to conduct the same sort of rituals for one hundred days.22 Although the record of these activities was not printed until 1780, a 1657 Veritable Records entry described the court-sponsored activities of the monks at Wutai shan. The Manchu official, Soni, and the Court for Managing the Frontiers (Lifan yuan) memorialized the emperor regarding a lamabla ma’s request that temples throughout the empire recite scriptures.23 The Dalai Lama, Panchen Lama, and other monks in Tibetan regions, as well as lamabla mas resident in Shengjing (Mukden) were all said to be involved in reciting sutras. However, the lamabla mas of Wutai shan, and only those of Wutai shan, were specifically associated with reciting scriptures on behalf of (wei) the emperor and empress dowager and were to be given incense and candles, presumably to be used in association with the recitation ritual.24 Qing regulations dating from this year [page 170] indicate that such activities were to be done on a yearly basis.25 This particular ritual activity is confirmed in other sources for the years 1674 and 1698.26
Almost thirty years after imperial ritual activity began on the mountain, the first pilgrimage of the Kangxi emperor to the mountain marked the advent of another set of ritual activities. In 1683, the Kangxi emperor went to Wutai shan on two separate trips. In the spring, he sponsored the first of many ceremonies dedicated to the longevity of the imperial family.27 Upon his return in the fall, he again made offerings for prayers dedicated to the grand empress dowager’s longevity (wanshou wuliang).28 The latter ceremony was the most commonly listed ritual sponsored by the imperial family during the Kangxi reign.
Manchu archival records demonstrate that the emperor could be represented by his appointees (civil and religious) in these activities. A 1702 memorial from the Shanxi governor indicates that recitations were to be held a remarkable six times a month in relation to the emperor’s long-life (wanshou wuliang).29 In 1706, the governor specifically said that he prayed “on behalf of” (wei) the emperor. In the same year, he mentioned the purification and abstinence from meat and alcohol that he practiced in order to pray before the Buddhas at Wutai shan.30 In 1706, a [page 171] particular lamabla ma resident in the imperially-built temple of Terrace Foothill Temple (Tailu Si) also prayed on behalf of the emperor.31 This detail was only recorded in the Manchu archive, indicating that either the information was not available to the Chinese who recorded court affairs in the Chinese register, or, more likely, that such records were not deemed appropriate for the Chinese register of imperial affairs. Thus, on the basis of several different registers (Confucian court annals, Buddhist gazetteers, and Manchu archival documents), we can see that the relation between the imperial family and the religious activities of the Tibetan Buddhist monks at Wutai shan was a long and consistent one from the beginning of the dynasty’s entrance into China well into the Kangxi emperor’s reign.
Table 1: Imperially Sponsored Rituals at Wutai shan 32
|1655||Inner-court high official and the Da Lama doctor (e’muqi, emchiem chi) led forty monks (gelong, from the Tibetan gelongdge slong) to the mountain to conduct a forty-day ritual to bless the dynasty and help the people (zhuguo youmin).33|
|1657||Imperial commissioner and Da Lama doctor led fifty monks to the mountain to conduct a one-hundred day ritual to bless the dynasty and help the people (zhuguo youmin).34|
|1657||Soni and Court for Managing the Frontiers memorial honored lamabla ma’s request that temples throughout empire recite scriptures. Wutai shan lamabla mas specifically associated with reciting scriptures on behalf of the emperor and empress dowager.35|
|1674||First notice of sponsorship of specific ritual since 1657. Ritual to bless the dynasty and help the people (zhuguo youmin).36|
|1683||First visit by an emperor since the Yuan dynasty. On three separate occasions, the Kangxi emperor gave money for: 1) a three-day life-extending ceremony (yenshou wuliang daochang) to pray for the grand empress dowager,37 2) prayers to protect the grand empress dowager’s prosperity and long-life (fuqi yanmao shengshou wuliang),38 3) prayers for long-life (wanshou wuliang).39|
|1687||Life-extending ceremony (yenshou wuliang daochang) sponsored for the unwell grand empress dowager, who was being attended by the Kangxi emperor.40|
|1687||After the grand empress dowager died, a compassionate grace ceremony (ci’en daochang) was sponsored for her.41|
|1690||The empress dowager sent offerings for a forty-nine-day long-life ceremony (wanshou wuliang) to protect the Kangxi emperor.42|
|1693||An imperial prince sent offerings for a long-life ceremony (wansui wanshou wuliang daochang) to protect the Kangxi emperor.43|
|1693||The seventh prince (Yinsi, b. 1681) sent offerings for a long-life ceremony (wansui wanshou wuliang daochang) to protect the Kangxi emperor.44|
|1693||The empress dowager sent offerings for a forty-nine-day long-life ceremony (wanshou wuliang) to protect the Kangxi emperor.45|
|1698||The Kangxi emperor made offerings to establish a three-day ceremony to protect the dynasty and enrich the people (huguo yumin).46|
Manchu Memorials Recording Activity Not Registered in Chinese Gazetteers of Wutai shan 47
|1702||Memorial from Shanxi governor: recitations were to be held every month on new and full moon as well as days 3, 7, 17, 27 in relation to the emperor’s long-life (wanshou wuliang).|
|1702||Manchu governor memorialized regarding the recitation of sutras in relation to long-life (wanshou wuliang).48|
|1706||LamaBla ma prayed on behalf of emperor.49|
|1706||Manchu governor memorialized three times regarding the recitation of sutras in relation to long-life (wanshou wuliang).50|
|1706||Manchu governor practiced ritual purification and abstinence from meat and alcohol in order to pray before Pusa Ding’s (and each temple’s) Buddhist images.51|
|1707||Manchu governor visited Wutai shan to start the long-life sutra recitations on behalf of the Kangxi emperor.52|
|1707||Manchu governor memorialized three times regarding the recitation of sutras, most often in relation to long-life (wanshou wuliang).|
|1708||Numerous Manchu governor memorials with regard to the recitation of sutras, most often in relation to long-life (wanshou wuliang).53|
What gets special attention in the Chinese-language gazetteers are the extraordinary instances in which the imperial family members sponsored particular ceremonies for the benefit of others (most often for the empress dowagers and the emperor, but also occasionally for the empire and its people). Although no ritual activities or offerings to the mountain’s temples are mentioned for the Yongzheng emperor’s (雍正, r. 1722-1735) reign, it may be that patterns established earlier were merely repeated on an on-going basis without meriting regular mention. The records for the Qianlong emperor’s (乾隆, r. 1735-1796) reign also did not mention any such rituals, though many offerings (including maṇḍalas) were made to monks and monasteries on the mountain.54 As special notices of ritual activity in the gazetteers ends with the 1698 visit of the Kangxi emperor, while the rituals continue [page 174] to be performed with some regularity (as recorded in the Shanxi governor’s Manchu memorials in the table above), I suspect that regulations were set in place that continued these activities indefinitely. Although explicit references to lamabla mas as leaders of such rituals are rare, the fact that Tibetan Buddhists were in charge of all activity at the mountain bears repeating and will be discussed in more detail below.
Note Citation for Page
Gray Tuttle, “Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai Shan in the Qing: The Chinese-language Register,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): , http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5721 (accessed ).
Note Citation for Whole Article
Gray Tuttle, “Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai Shan in the Qing: The Chinese-language Register,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 163-214, http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5721 (accessed ).
Tuttle, Gray. “Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai Shan in the Qing: The Chinese-language Register.” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2011): 163-214. http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5721 (accessed ).
- Historical Introduction
- Imperial Patronage of Wutai shan: Rituals and Rewards
- Imperial Benefice at Wutai shan
- The Audience of the Imperial Pilgrimages to Wutai shan
- Alternate Registers: Imperial Literary Production Devoted to Wutai shan
- Non-Tibetan Head LamaBla mas as Leaders of Wutai shan
- Appendix 1: Wutai shan Texts List
- Appendix 2: Prominent Tibetan Buddhists at Wutai shan in the Shunzhi and Kangxi Reigns
- Appendix 3: Tibetan Titles/Names for Qing Emperors (phonetics underlined)
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