Altan Khan


Altan Khan

Infobox Monarch
name =Altan Khan
title =Khan of Tumet


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father =Bars Bolud Jinong
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date of birth =1507
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date of death =1582
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Altan Khan (1507-1582; Mongolian: Алтан хан), whose given name was Anda, was the ruler of the Tumed Mongols [Stein, R. A. (1972). "Tibetan Civilization", pp. 81-82. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (paper).] [Richardson, Hugh E. (1984). "Tibet & its History. Second Edition, Revised and Updated", p. 41. Shambhala, Boston & London. ISBN 0-87773-376-7 (pbk).] and de facto ruler of the Right Wing, or western tribes, of the Mongols. He was the grandson of Dayan Khan (1464-1543), a descendant of Kublai Khan (1215-1294), who had managed to unite a tribal league between the Khalkha Mongols in the north and the Chahars (Tsakhars) to the south.

Consolidation of power

Borjigin Barsboladiin Altan was the second son of Bars Bolud Jinong, who had re-unified the Mongolian nobility in an attempt to regain the glory of Yuan Dynasty. Altan Khan ruled the Tümed and belonged to the Right Wing of the Mongols along with his elder brother Gün Bilig, who ruled the Ordos. After Gün Bilig's death in 1542, Altan became the de facto leader of the whole of the Right Wing and was given the title, "Tösheetü Sechen Khan."

When Bodi Alagh Khan, the legitimate ruler of the Mongols from the Chahar, died in 1547, Altan forced Bodi Alagh's successor Darayisung Küdeng Khan to flee eastward. In 1551 Darayisung made a compromise with Altan in exchange for giving the title "Gegeen Khan" to him.

Altan Khan, who controlled the Ordos region of the great loop of the Huang He or Yellow River was well placed to keep pressure on the Chinese and the Oirat Mongols in Tibet while developing both agriculture and trade. ["The New Encyclopædia Britannica", 15th Edition (1977), Vol. 12, p. 373.]

In 1571, Altan Khan was granted the title Shunyi Wang ("Obedient and Righteous King") from the Longqing Emperor (March 4, 1537- July 5, 1572), the 12th emperor of China (Ming dynasty).

Altan Khan also founded the city of Köke Khota (Hohhot, lit. 'The Blue City'), now the capital of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China. ["The New Encyclopædia Britannica", 15th Edition (1977), Vol. I, p. 275.]

Altan Khan, Buddhism and the Sonam Gyatso, the 3rd Dalai Lama

Altan Khan is particularly remembered for re-establishing ties between Mongolia and the religious leaders of Tibet. Altan Khan first invited the Sonam Gyatso to Tumet in 1569, but apparently he refused to go and sent a disciple instead, who reported back to him about the great opportunity to spread Buddhist teachings throughout Mongolia. [Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). "Tibet: An account of the history, religion and the people of Tibet", p. 218. Touchstone Books, New York. ISBN 0-671-20099-2 (hbk); ISBN 0-671-20559-5 (pbk).] In 1571, Altan Khan got the title Shunyi Wang ("Obedient and Righteous King") from Longqing Emperor (March 4, 1537- July 5, 1572), the 12th emperor of China (Ming dynasty). In 1573, Altan Khan took some Tibetan Buddhist monks prisoner. [Stein, R. A. (1972). "Tibetan Civilization", p. 81. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (paper).]

Altan Khan invited Sonam Gyatso to Tumet again in 1571 and this time he accepted the invitation, after some hesitation, although followers begged him not to go. Sonam Gyatso's party was met at Ahrik Karpatang in Mongolia where a specially prepared camp had been set up to receive them. Thousands of animals were given to him as offerings and five hundred horsemen had been sent to escort him to Altan Khan's court at Altan Khan's new capital, Koke Khota (modern Hohot). When they arrived there, they were greeted by over ten thousand people including Altan Khan dressed in a white robe to symolize his devotion to the Dharma. [Mullin, Glen H. (2001). "The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation", pp. 143-145. Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.] Altan Khan had Thegchen Chonkhor, Mongolia's first monastery, built there. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 144. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.] Also, the ruler of the Khalkha Mongols, Abtai Sain Khan, rushed to Tumet to meet the Dalai Lama. The Erdene Zuu monastery ( _mn. Эрдэнэ Зуу) was built by him in 1586, at the site of the former Mongol capital of Karakorum following his adoption of Buddhism as the state religion. ["Erdene Zuu Monastery" [http://www.mandal.ca/mongolia/e/Erdene_Zuu_Monastery.html] accessed 7th December, 2007.] This monastery is also often (wrongly) referred to as the first monastery in Mongolia and it grew into a massive establishment. In 1792, it contained 62 temples and some 10,000 lamas. [ [http://www.discover.mn/mongolia/visit.html] Accessed 7th Dec., 2007.]

A massive program of translating Tibetan (and Sanskrit) ["The New Encyclopædia Britannica", 15th Edition (1977), Vol. 12, p. 374.] texts into Mongolian was commenced with the letters beautifully written in silver and gold and paid for by the Dalai Lama's Mongolian devotees. Within 50 years virtually all Mongols had become Buddhist, with tens of thousands of monks, who were members of the Gelug order, loyal to the Dalai Lama. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 144. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.]

Sonam Gyatso's message was that the time had come for Mongolia to embrace Buddhism, that from that time on there should be no more animal sacrifices, the images of the old gods were to be destroyed, there must be no taking of life, animal or human, military action must be given up and the immolation of women on the funeral pyres of their husbands must be abolished. [Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). "Tibet: An account of the history, religion and the people of Tibet", p. 219. Touchstone Books, New York. ISBN 0-671-20099-2 (hbk); ISBN 0-671-20559-5 (pbk).] He also secured an edict abolishing the Mongol custom of blood-sacrifices. [Stein, R. A. (1972). Tibetan Civilization, p. 82. Stanford University Press, Stanford California. ISBN 0-8047-0806-1 (cloth); ISBN 0-8047-0901-7 (paper).] "These and many other such laws were set forth by Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso and were instituted by Altan Khan." [Mullin, Glenn H. (2001). "The Fourteen Dalai Lamas: A Sacred Legacy of Reincarnation," p. 146. Clear Light Publishers, Santa Fe, New Mexico. ISBN 1-57416-092-3.]

Sonam Gyatso publicly announced that he was a reincarnation of the Tibetan Sakya monk Drogön Chögyal Phagpa (1235-1280) who converted Kublai Khan, while Altan Khan was a reincarnation of Kublai Khan (1215-1294), the famous ruler of the Mongols and Emperor of China, and that they had come together again to cooperate in propagating the Buddhist religion. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 146. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.]

It was Altan Khan who first translated the second part of the name of Sonam Gyatso (Gyatso means 'Ocean') into the Mongolian word 'Dalai', which also means 'Ocean'. As a result, Sonam Gyatso became known as the 'Dalai Lama' which, since then, has been used as a title - frequently (and wrongly) translated into English as "Ocean of Wisdom". However, according to Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, it was originally just a simple translation of a name. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 143. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.] The title was applied retrospectively to the first two Dalai Lamas, making Sonam Gyatso the third in the lineage, and he is commonly referred to as the Third Dalai Lama.

Military exploits

Altan Khan used his military strength to threaten the Ming Dynasty China. He led raids into China in 1529, 1530 and 1542 returning with plunder and livestock. In 1550 he crossed the Great Wall and besieged Beijing setting the suburbs on fire. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 141. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.] In 1552 Altan Khan gained control of the remains of Karakorum, the old Mongol capital. ["The New Encyclopædia Britannica", 15th Edition (1977), Vol. 9, p. 601.] The Chinese emperor was forced to grant special trading rights to the khanate, after signing a peace treaty with him in 1571, allowing it to trade horses for silks, which further strengthened it economically. The Chinese also granted him the title of Shunyi Wang ("Obedient and Righteous King"). ["The New Encyclopædia Britannica", 15th Edition (1977), Vol. I, p. 275.] [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 143. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.]

Death

Altan Khan died in 1582, only four years after meeting with the Third Dalai Lama. He was 74 or 75 years old at the time. [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", p. 146. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.]

uccession

Altan Khan was succeeded by his son Sengge Düüreng who continued to diligently support Buddhism, and two years later the 3rd Dalai Lama made another visit to Mongolia. On his way, he founded the monastery of Kumbum at the birthplace of the great teacher and reformer, Tsongkhapa. By 1585 he was back in Mongolia and converted more Mongol princes and their tribes. The Dalai Lama was again invited to visit the Ming emperor and this time he accepted but fell ill and died in Mongolia while returning to Tibet. [Norbu, Thubten Jigme and Turnbull, Colin M. (1968). "Tibet: An account of the history, religion and the people of Tibet", p. 220. Touchstone Books, New York. ISBN 0-671-20099-2 (hbk); ISBN 0-671-20559-5 (pbk).] [Laird, Thomas (2006). "The Story of Tibet: Conversations with the Dalai Lama", pp. 146-147. Grove Press, N.Y. ISBN 978-0-8021-827-1.]

Altan Khan's grandson, Yonten Gyatso, was selected as the 4th Dalai Lama.

See also: Altan Khan of the Khalkha ("Altan" in this instance is a title) refers to a later set of Mongolian rulers who possessed a smaller area in the northwest of Mongolia about a century later.

Footnotes


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