Mongolian Monasteries and Their Tragic Past


Buddhism has deep roots in Mongolian culture and history. Historians believe the first "contact" between Buddhism and Mongolia was made in the first millennium AD. Since then Buddhism has been cast out and introduced back multiple times. During the Mongolian Empire era, it was the de facto state religion of Mongolia. Even going as far as developing a new language integrating both Tibetan script and Mongolian script. After the Mongol Empire fell the Mongolians returned to the shamanic traditions. Since then until 20th-century, Mongolian Khans trying to get the support of Tibetan Buddhism established head of many schools.


During early 20th-century Ikh Huree, as Ulaanbaatar was then known, was the seat of the preeminent living Buddha of Mongolia (the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, also known as the Bogdo Gegen and later as the Bogd Khan), who ranked third in the ecclesiastical hierarchy after the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. In the 1920s, there were about 110,000 monks, including children, who made up about one-third of the male population, although many of these lived outside the monasteries and did not observe their vows. About 250,000 people, more than a third of the total population, either lived in territories administered by monasteries and living Buddhas or were hereditary dependents of the monast