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 5 of 10 (pp. 176-179)

The Audience of the Imperial Pilgrimages to Wutai shan

Now that it is clear that the Qing had a reason, beyond subordinating the Mongols, for supporting Tibetan Buddhism at Wutai shan, we must ask how and to whom they communicated their support of this prominent Buddhist site. Given the multitude of reliable source materials, it can easily be established that the Qing emperors went to some length to establish their patronage of Buddhism at Wutai shan as a public event, and not just a spectacle for the consumption of Mongolian Tibetan Buddhists. The emperors communicated their support in person, through visits to the site, and in writing, especially through the publication of gazetteers but also through the distribution of stelae and placards.

[page 177] One way the Kangxi emperor communicated his personal support of Wutai shan was by calling regional and local officials to witness his pilgrimage to the site. If the purpose of patronizing Buddhism at Wutai shan had been merely to demonstrate to the Mongols that the Qing were active sponsors of Tibetan Buddhism, then we would expect two things. First, Mongol princes and not Chinese or Manchu officials would be called to attend him, and second, he would only patronize Tibetan Buddhism. Neither of these situations was exclusively the case.60 In 1683, on the first Qing imperial pilgrimage to the mountain, the Shanxi governor and surveillance commissioner, as well as the local magistrate of Wutai County all came to pay homage to the emperor at Pusa Ding, the central temple of Mount Wutai and the temporary palace (Xinggong) of the emperor when on the mountain. They stayed with the emperor throughout his visit.61 Again, on the Kangxi emperor’s third pilgrimage to the mountain in 1698, the Shanxi governor, the provincial military commander (a man from the Hanlin Academy, and the Datong regional military commander came to pay homage to the emperor.62 This visit was exceptional in being marked by the presence of numerous Mongol princes.63 The emperor’s fifth and final visit to the mountain, in 1710, is the only other visit in which a man identifiable as a Mongol paid homage to the emperor.64 At this time, an imperial clansman and right-wing general, two vice-commanders-in-chief of banners (it is not specified whether Manchu, Chinese-martial, or Mongol), and the Guihua City commander-in-chief came to pay homage to the emperor. The latter figure can be probably be identified by his name, Wuji, as a Mongol.65 This meager Mongol [page 178] presence demonstrates the weakness of the contention that the patronage of Wutai shan might have been principally directed towards convincing the Mongols of Qing patronage of the Buddhist site.66

There are two interesting aspects to the specific registers of Wutai shan activity (whether Confucian Chinese, Buddhist Chinese, or Manchu bureaucratic). First, they reveal the bias of the producers, and second, they reveal the complicity of the emperor with these productions. In the context of the Confucian-centric Chinese court, the emperor was willing to allow the object of his attention on the mountain to be the common people, with almost all association to Buddhism erased from their persons.67 In contrast, the Chinese-language Buddhist-centric gazetteers inform us of radically different activity, equally sanctioned by the emperor, in the form of gifts and rewards being showered on Buddhist, especially the leading Tibetan Buddhist, establishments. In addition, in the privacy of Manchu communication from the Shanxi governor, Gali, a specifically Manchu perspective is revealed. Gali memorialized that gentry and commoners from throughout the province, led by a Chinese named Zhang Jishan, wished to establish a longevity (wanshou) stele pavilion at Pusa Ding (the emperor’s temporary palace on his visits) where the court’s Tibetan Buddhist monks recited sutras for the emperor and empress dowager’s birthdays. This, by the way, is clear evidence that lay Chinese Buddhists were well aware of the presence and importance of Tibetan Buddhist leaders at Wutai shan and their role in praying for the emperor’s longevity.68 And the governor’s thoughts on the matter again had nothing to do with Mongols. Instead, he commented that, “as people from all the provinces come to Wutai shan to offer incense,” having such a pavilion on the elevated site of the emperor’s monastery would cause people to look up with reverence for ten thousand years.69 To this expression of concern for what the Chinese saw when they went on pilgrimage to Wutai shan, the emperor gave the nod, with a simple acknowledgment that he has [page 179] received the information.70 This variety of audiences even within the Chinese-language source material suggests that Crossley’s valuable conceptions of constituencies based on language (Chinese, Manchu, Mongol, Tibetan and Uighur) needs to be further articulated, separating at least Chinese Confucians from Chinese Buddhists.71


[60] On the second point, see Köhle, “Why Did the Kangxi Emperor Go to Wutai Shan?” regarding the Kangxi emperor’s support for other parties at Wutai shan.
[61] Kangxi Diaries of Rest and Repose, vol. 2, 960-61, see also Kangxi Veritable Records, vol. 3, 1430, which omitted mention of the magistrate.
[62] Kangxi Veritable Records, vol. 5, 2781. This assemblage of persons is the closest I could find in the primary sources to the group of officials (Shanxi governor, Datong Regional Military Commander, and Daizhou Circuit Intendant) who were said to have been ordered to present tribute (jingong) in association with the presentation of a seal of command (tidu yin) of Mount Wutai to a Chinese monk versed in Tibetan Buddhism. See the annotations (not in Tibetan original) to Tuguan, Zhangjia Guoshi Ruobi duoji zhuan, tr. Chen Qingying and Ma Lianlong (Beijing: Minzu chubanshe, 1988), 304, n. 3.
[63] Vladimir Uspensky, “Legislation Relating to the Tibetan Buddhist Establishments on Wutai Shan during the Qing Dynasty,” paper given at the “Wutai Shan and Qing Culture” Conference at the Rubin Museum of Art (May 12th -13th, 2007), noted that the Kangxi emperor was accompanied by the Khalkha Mongol lamabla ma Öndür Gegen at this time, though this person was not recorded in the Qing dynastic sources. Köhle stated that the Jetsün DampaRje btsun dam pa Khutukhtu was also said to have accompanied the Kangxi emperor at this time (note 133 does not specify the source of this information), but Charleux noted that his attendance was not recorded in the Veritable Records of the Successive Reigns of the Great Qing Dynasty (Da qing li chao shi lu). If the source for this reference was a later biography of the Jetsün DampaRje btsun dam pa Khutukhtu, such a source might have sought to exaggerate the importance of its subject, by inventing a trip in the company of the emperor. See Isabelle Charleux, “Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan in the Late Qing Dynasty,” Journal of the International Association of Tibetan Studies, no. 6 (December 2010), http://www.thlib.org?tid=T5712; Charles R. Bawden, The Jebtsundamba Khutukhtus of Urga (Wiesbaden: O. Harrassowitz), 1961.
[64] On his second and third visits to the mountain no mention of officials coming pay homage is made in the relevant passages: Kangxi Veritable Records, vol. 3, 1493-95; vol. 5, 2516-17.
[65] Kangxi Veritable Records, vol. 5, 3223. As an aside, it appears that the King of Annam (annan guowang) sent tribute at this time and (his envoys) were banqueted according to regulations. It is unclear from the entry whether this event took place at Wutai shan, or just – as is more likely – contemporaneously.
[66] For Mongol nobles who accompanied the Jiaqing emperor in 1811, see Charleux, “Mongol Pilgrimages to Wutai Shan.”
[67] Köhle’s translation of excerpts of Gao Shiqi’s “Daily Record of Following in the Retinue of Kangxi’s Western Tour” makes this case quite well.
[68] At the conference in which these papers were presented, Susan Naquin brought up the important idea of competition between traditions at Wutai shan. This effort to put up such a stele at Pusa Ding might be an instance of such competition (Chinese lay Buddhist countering the Tibetan Buddhist activities), but it might equally be evidence of Chinese lay Buddhists working in concert with the Tibetan Buddhists who ran and staffed the monastery, toward the same goal of praying for the emperor’s longevity.
[69] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 261, no. 461. I am relying on a Chinese translation of a Manchu document in this case. I am assuming that the Chinese translator has carefully translated the term for province (I would expect Manchu golo), which should firmly indicate that the governor is referring to China proper rather the outer dependencies of the empire (Manchu, tulergi golo). In any case, no specific mention of appealing to the Mongols is made in this case. For a related reference to this pavilion, see Kangxi Veritable Records, vol. 5, 2781-82.
[70] Yishu Guan, ed., Kangxichao Manwen zhupi zouzhe quanyi, 261, no. 461. This is the translation of the vermilion rescript: “zhi dao liao.”
[71] Pamela Crossley, A Translucent Mirror: History and Identity in Qing Imperial Ideology (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 43-44.

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 ).