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 4 of 10 (pp. 174-176)

Imperial Benefice at Wutai shan

Now that we know what the imperial family expected of Wutai shan’s (Tibetan and Chinese) Buddhist practitioners, we will look at what the inhabitants of the mountain received in return.55 The pattern set by the Shunzhi emperor was followed throughout the seventeenth century. At the end of many of the ceremonies, the mountain’s monks, laity, soldiers, and common people all received imperial favor. Such benefice was recorded six times; a seventh time it was directed only at Tibetan and Chinese monks. At other times, a vegetarian meal was served at the completion of a ceremony.

The pattern of donations that preceded a ceremony is only attested in the Kangxi reign period. Generally the gifts offered consisted of money, various fabrics (including robes with the imperial insignia, the dragon, upon them), incense, and candles, Tibetan scarves (khatakkha btags, kada), and sometimes jewels, fruit, tasseled bridles, prayer flags, and imperially inscribed placards. Especially large offerings were made four times in conjunction with a particular ceremony. In addition, exceptional gifts to the monasteries were significant. On the emperor’s first visit, in 1683, each temple received two-hundred taels of silver. On this and other occasions the emperor disbursed over three-thousand taels of silver and nine-thousand taels of gold. These cash endowments do not include the expense of creating placards and stelae for over sixty sites, Buddhist images, imperially produced Buddhist canonical works, and frequent road repairs; nor do they include the regular allowance provided to the monks sponsored by the court.56 Taken together, these resources indicate that imperial patronage at Wutai shan was a serious matter, both to the court and to the community that received the benefice. The temples that we know were led by Tibetan Buddhists were most regularly and generously rewarded, thus elevating their status through very visible imperial sponsorship.

Table 2: Imperial Benefice to Wutai shan’s Inhabitants

The pattern set by the Shunzhi emperor was followed throughout the seventeenth century: at the end of a ceremony, the mountain’s monks, laity, soldiers, and [page 175] common people all received imperial favor. Such benefice occurred in the following years:

1655
1657
1683 (twice)
1690
1693
1698 The rewards were directed only at Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist monks.

The pattern of donations that preceded a ceremony is only attested in the Kangxi reign period. These offerings were made in the following years, usually in conjunction with a particular ceremony:

1674 Imperial guardsmen offered gold, silver, dragon robes, incense and candles and Tibetan scarves.57
1683 (twice)
1698
1698 The Kangxi emperor also enfoeffed Laozang Danba Gelong (Lozang Tenpa Gelongblo bzang bstan pa dge slong) as leader at Wutai shan and gave him a forty-eight-tael silver seal.

Exceptional gifts to the monasteries include the following items:

1683 Imperially inscribed placards given to all monasteries. All temples given two-hundred taels of silver; the seat of the lamabla ma leader of Wutai shan, Pusa Ding, was the exception, receiving one-thousand taels of silver. After the Kangxi emperor saw miraculous lights, three specific sites on the ridge tops were repaired with one-thousand taels of silver. The emperor gave three-thousand taels of gold for renovation of the buildings on the five terraces, and ordered Pusa Ding tiled in yellow, a color reserved for imperial buildings.
1684 Squad leader, ten cavalry and thirty soldiers sent to protect Pusa Ding.
1685 Second imperial monastery (Tailu Si) built with 3,108 taels of gold and staffed with lamabla mas.
[page 176]
1698 Pusa Ding given one-thousand taels of silver. Bishan Si and Shuxiang Si renovated with three-thousand taels of gold.58
1702-1708 Numerous Manchu governor memorials sent regarding rebuilding of monasteries and repair of roads.
1702 At Laozang Danba’s request, the imperial gift of a Tibetan Buddhist canon (fanshu zang jing) presented.
1705 At Laozang Danpa’s request, gilt images of bodhisattvas (to flank Mañjuśrī) and lion mounts (for Mañjuśrī) were delivered from the imperial household workshops.
1705/6 At the Laozang Danba’s request, the imperial gift of a second Tibetan Buddhist canon was presented.

The abundance and nature of the evidence for imperial support of Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai shan, preserved in the gazetteers and corroborated by other Qing government documents, indicate the importance the imperial family, and especially the Kangxi emperor, attached to this patronage. In addition, we now know why this support was forthcoming. The later (Confucian) assessment that support for Tibetan Buddhism was only for the purpose of controlling Mongols and Tibetans is nowhere supported in relation to Wutai shan patronage. Instead, the sources demonstrate another motive: the benefits that the imperial family sought (especially for longevity) from Buddhist ritual activity. This motive is found not only in the Buddhist gazetteers, but also in Manchu archival documents and, to a lesser extent, in the official Chinese records. For these reasons, we can now date significant Qing patronage for Tibetan Buddhism in China back at least to the reigns of the Shunzhi and Kangxi emperors.59


[55] See Table 2 for the years listed. I have not tried to extend the record beyond 1701, as the Qinding Qingliang shan zhi [Imperial Gazetteer of Clear and Cool Mountain] written in the Qianlong reign was not available to me when I was compiling this data.
[56] See Yen-ching Library’s Wang Benzhi, ed., Qingliang shan jiyao (post-1780), first volume, 67a.
[57] 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.
[58] Although references to these monasteries being associated with Tibetan Buddhist practice are only found in much later sources (1813 in the case of Shuxiang Si [see appendix list of gazetteers], and not until the 1930s in the case of Bishan Si [see Gray Tuttle, Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China (New York, NY: Columbia University Press, 2005), 214]) there was probably a gradual introduction of Tibetan Buddhist practices to these sites as a result of the early Qing patronage and support for Tibetan Buddhists.
[59] On such patronage in the Qianlong period, see Patricia Berger, Empire of Emptiness: Buddhist Art and Political Authority in Qing China (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2003).

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 ).