Tibetan and Himalayan Library - THL

THL Title Text
Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai Shan in the Qing
Gray Tuttle, Columbia University
JIATS, no. 6 (December 2011), THL #T5721, pp. 163-214
Section 3 of 10 (pp. 168-174)

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
[page 172]
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

[page 173]
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.


[17] “Qingdai lama jiao beike lu,” in Zhang Xixin, Qing zhengfu yu lama jiao (Lhasa: Xizang renmin chubanshe, 1988), 246-48. These texts were preserved in Princeton’s Gest Library, Qingliang shan xinzhi [New Clear and Cool Mountain Gazetteer] (1701), volume 7, 21b-26b. For a chronological list of relevant gazetteers, see Appendix 1.
[18] My thanks to Johan Elverskog (and David Robinson), who provided the following information on this figure: “David Robinson checked the Ming military records he worked on for the name Jia, and it turns out Mongols did have that Xing [surname]. Thus, in accord with the colophon of 1662/1721 gazetteer and his biography in the 1702 [edition] I believe he must have been Mongol.”
[19] For details on this encounter from the Fifth Dalai Lama’s biography see: Ngawang Lozang GyatsoNgag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho, Ngawang Lozang Gyatsö NamtarNgag dbang blo bzang rgya mtsho’i rnam thar (Lhasa: bod ljong mi dmangs dpe skrun khang, 1989 [1681]) 407, 415; Awang Luosang Jiacou, Wushi Dalai lama zhuan, trans. Chen Qingying and Ma Lianlong, Zhongguo bianjiang shi di ziliao conggan-Xizang juan (Beijing: Zhongguo Zangxue chubanshe, 1992 [1681]), 338, 343.
[20] Zhang, “Qingdai lama jiao beike lu,” 246. See Köhle, “Why Did the Kangxi Emperor Go to Wutai Shan?” for further evidence of the continuity of such positions from the Ming dynasty. The term Fan must have included Mongol Buddhists as well.
[21] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 17a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao [Summary of Clear and Cool Mountain] (post-1780), first volume (shang juan), 63a. I have translated xiujian daochang as “conduct a ritual” on the basis of Luo Zhufeng, ed., Hanyu da cidian (Shanghai: Hanyu da cidian chubanshe, 1995), vol. 10, 1078, the fourth definition of daochang, which speaks of a forty-nine day daochang done for an elderly lady at great expense. This definition emphasizes the religious activity rather than the locus of the religious activity. Although these two aspects seem almost inseparable in the Chinese, I can think of no fluent way to incorporate both ideas. Nevertheless, the meaning may well be something more like “established a field of religious activity [for the duration of] forty days.” The activity which occurs in these rituals is most likely that described in the first definition: “the recitation of scriptures and religious services.” Vague though this definition is, we will see elements of it confirmed and refined based on later sources, described below.
[22] Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63a.
[23] On Soni, see Arthur William Hummel, Orientalia Division Library of Congress, Eminent Chinese of the Ching period (1644-1912) (Taipei: Ch’eng Wen Publishing; New York: Paragon Book Gallery, 1970), 663.
[24] Shizu shi lu [Shunzhi Veritable Records], 1302-303.
[25] For similar arrangements made in the same year for the capital, see Da Qing hui dian li fan yuan shi li, vol. 5, volume 974, 2b, which records the written authorization (tizhun) regarding the Tibetan Buddhist monastics at court. For instance, starting in the Shunzhi reign, 108 lamabla mas were assigned to the Rear Yellow Temple (Houhuang si – the residence built for the Fifth Dalai Lama’s visit to the capital). This number was maintained by the Kangxi emperor (Da Qing hui dian li fan yuan shi li, vol. 5, volume 974, 3a).
[26] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 17b, 22b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63b, 66b. As Köhle (“Why Did the Kangxi Emperor Go to Wutai Shan?”) has shown, similar ritual activity by Tibetan Buddhists was supported in the late fifteenth century and probably continued on into the sixteenth century, so this too marked an element of continuity.
[27] At this time while he reconnoitered the way to prepare for escorting his grandmother, the grand empress dowager, to the mountain, he sponsored a three-day life-extending ceremony (yenshou wuliang daochang) to pray for the grand empress dowager, and then he made offerings for prayers to protect the grand empress dowager’s prosperity and long-life (fuqi yanmao shengshou wuliang). See Gest Library’s New Clear and Cool Mountain Gazetteer (1701), volume 3, 18a-18b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63b, 64a-65a. Only on this first occurrence was the emperor directly responsible for its initiation; otherwise, according to the gazetteers’ record, different members of the imperial family (an imperial prince twice and the empress dowager twice) would initiate this particular ritual activity. For the exceptional ceremonies, which were also largely concerned with imperial longevity, see Table 1.
[28] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 19a. According to Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 64a-65a.
[29] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi (Beijing: Shehui kexue chubanshe, 1996), 261, no. 460. These are Chinese translations of the unpublished Manchu original archives. Memorials written in 1702, 1704, 1707, and 1708 frequently discussed the recitation of sutras in relation to long-life (wanshou wuliang) prayers at both Wutai shan and other locations in Shanxi. Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi 261, 264, 407, 415, 508; nos. 460, 461, 468, 831, 859, 860, 1106.
[30] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 415, no. 859. In 1707, the Manchu governor visited Wutai shan to start the long-life sutra recitations on behalf of the emperor. Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 508, no. 1106. I have not examined the entire (1500-page) collection of these memorials.
[31] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 407, no. 831.
[32] I list the records in both Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701) and Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780). In all cases but one noted below, the Gest Library record is more complete.
[33] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 17a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63a.
[34] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 17a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63a.
[35] Shunzhi Veritable Records, vol. 3, 1302-303.
[36] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 17b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63b. The offerings were fairly standard and accompanied each ritual. Sometimes a specific amount was given to a specific monastery or individual monastic leaders.
[37] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 18a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 63b.
[38] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 18b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 64a-65a. The phrase daochang encountered in previous records does not appear in these Chinese translations of the Manchu.
[39] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 19a. According to Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 64a-65a, the latter ritual took place twice, in the second and ninth months; whereas the Gest Library edition does not have a separate entry for the ninth month. It seems to have collapsed the two visits into one entry.
[40] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 20b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 66a. She died over a month later. See also Jonathan Spence, Emperor of China: Self-portrait of K’ang-hsi (New York: Vintage Books, 1988 [1974]), 104-105.
[41] Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 66a.
[42] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 21a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 66a-b. See also Evelyn S. Rawski, The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998), 51.
[43] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 21b. Entry absent in Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780).
[44] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 21b-22a. Entry absent in Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780).
[45] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 22a. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 66a-b.
[46] Gest Library’s Qingliang shan xinzhi (1701), volume 3, 22b. Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 66b.
[47] The fact that the Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi edited edition (post-1780) did not report such events after 1698 suggests that it was based on the Gest Library edition, and that its compilers did not have access to the Manchu archives.
[48] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 261, 264; no. 461, see also nos. 460, 468. In relation to no. 461, see also Shengzu shi lu [Kangxi Veritable Records], vol. 5, 2782, which discussed the establishment of a longevity pavilion (jian wanshou ting yi zuo).
[49] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 407, no. 831.
[50] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 407, 415; nos. 831, 859, 860.
[51] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 415, no. 859.
[52] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 508, no. 1106.
[53] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 261, 264, 407, 415, 508; nos. 460, 461, 468, 831, 859, 860, 1106.
[54] Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 68a-71a.

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 ).

Bibliography Citation

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 ).