The Creation of Inner Mongolia
Inner Mongolia was created as a separate entity from the rest of Mongolia by the Manchus, because the Mongols in this region submitted to the Manchus in the mid-seventeenth century, about 60 years before Khalkha, or what later became known as Outer Mongolia, did.
The boundaries of Inner Mongolia have changed many times. It is divided into two regions known as the Northwest and the Northeast, approximately encompassing each of the two wings of the “L” shape of the province. The Northwest is where Hohhot 呼和浩特, the capital, and Baotou 包头, the second major city, are located. The Northeast, now extending all the way to the border of Siberia near where the Buryat Mongols live, is the home of the Eastern Mongol tribes, namely the Chakhar in the south and the Khorchin in the center and north. The Northeast was traditionally included as part of Manchuria, and under the Japanese occupation, was part of the puppet state of Manchukuo 满洲国. The Mongols of the Northeast are referred to in Western literature as the Mongols of Manchuria.
The Northwest and Northeast Division
At present, the Inner Mongols of the Northwest look down on those of the Northeast as being very rough, crude and with no faith in Buddhism. They consider them to be completely Chinese. The Mongols of the Northeast say that they are more intelligent and industrious than those in the Northwest, whom they say are jealous of them. The Mongols of the Northeast have been more sympathetic to the communists than those in the Northwest since the Russian Communists liberated them from the Japanese, and the Chinese Communists liberated them from the Nationalists who had done little to fight the Japanese. The Stalinist Russians had destroyed many of the monasteries in the Northeast already in 1945, and many more were eliminated in the 1958 Anti-Writers Campaign.
In the very north of the Northeast, in the area around Hailar 海拉尔 near the Russian border, live many Buryat Mongols who fled there from Siberia after the Russian Revolution. They still maintain contact with the Russian Buryats. There is also a Buryat community in exile in Hohhot.
The Sinification of Inner Mongolia
Both divisions of Inner Mongolia have become almost completely Chinese. The Chinese outnumber the two million Mongols more than five to one, and have been there for well over a century. Unlike in Tibet, there has been much voluntary intermarriage with the Chinese. In the Northeast, up to one-third of the Mongols have intermarried or are the children of such marriages. The attraction for the Chinese is the possibility of having more than one child, while for the Mongols the gaining of a higher status in society and more economic possibilities. If a Chinese marries a Mongol, the couple keeps Chinese customs. Such Mongols and their offspring are known as Chinese Mongols. By contrast, if a Chinese marries a Muslim, they take on Muslim customs, particularly dietary restrictions, and so there is far less intermarriage there.
The Chinese Mongols and the wealthy pure Inner Mongolians in the cities have little cultural identity as Mongols or Buddhists. They follow Chinese customs and values, and are not interested in rebuilding the Buddhist monasteries or temples. Few even visit the existing temples. The nomads of the remote semi-desert areas are the only ones who seem to have faith in Buddhism, but they are very poor and cannot afford to rebuild or support the monasteries. This is in contrast with Amdo where, because the grasslands are much richer, the nomads are wealthy and are the main patrons of the monasteries.
The Situation of the Mongolian Language in Inner Mongolia
Most Inner Mongolians in the cities do not know their own language, nor do they even take an interest in their children learning it. This is similar to the situation in Amdo vis-à-vis the Tibetan language, although it seems worse in Inner Mongolia. There are Mongolian schools in the large cities, but the Chinese Mongols and pure Mongols who live there send their children to Chinese schools, with only nomads from the countryside sending their children to these Mongolian schools. Most city Mongols speak Chinese at home. Even if parents try to tell their children about Buddhism, most children in their twenties and younger never develop faith or interest because of the propaganda they receive in their Chinese schools. Chinggis Khan is about the only Mongolian person or thing that almost all Inner Mongolian youth admire.
Throughout Inner Mongolia, the Chinese authorities have posted bilingual signs, with the Mongolian written in the traditional script. Russia had outlawed this Mongolian script in Buryatia and influenced the Mongol authorities to outlaw it in Outer Mongolia as well, and replace it with Cyrillic. The Chinese use is purely for propaganda purposes, however. Even if the city Mongols knew Mongolian, the signs are written in such a way that the Chinese script is huge and legible from a distance, whereas the Mongolian is stylized and small. Only if someone is standing extremely close can he or she distinguish the Mongolian letters from each other.
Traditional Medicine in Inner Mongolia
The only aspect of Mongol culture that is flourishing and encouraged by the Chinese is traditional medicine, which is based on the Tibetan system. The Mongols have substituted certain local plants for ones that grow only in Tibet, and have added to the Tibetan system Mongolian massage. There are several large traditional medical schools, the main one being in the Northwest, the Institute for Mongolian Medicine at the Medical College of Inner Mongolia in Hohhot, with 600 students. In the Northeast, the main one is at the Scientific Research Center of Mongolian Medicine in Tongliao 通辽 There are major clinics both in Tongliao and in the far north of the Northeast, at Hailar.
Inner Mongolians in Liaoning Province
There is one region where Inner Mongolians live that is an exception to this trend of little interest or faith in Buddhism. This is the area around the three cities of Fuxin 阜新, Beipiao 北票 and Chaoyang 朝阳, in the southern part of present-day Liaoning province 辽宁省, formerly Jehol province 热河省, of southern Manchuria. Tibet is called in Chinese "Xizang 西藏," Western Treasure-house, and this area was called by the Manchus "Dongzang 东藏," or Eastern Treasure-house. The main monastery is the Mongolian Gegen Sum in Jiumiao 旧庙, about 30 km from Fuxin, headed by Wu Rinpoche, who works at the Government Buddhist College in Beijing 北京. The local Inner Mongolians are renovating it and at present there are 32 Inner Mongolian monks there, studying Tibetan and Mongolian, and doing rituals. From an architectural point of view, the most beautiful monastery in the region is Huining Si 惠宁寺 near Beipiao, but it is now a museum and has only one monk.
Current Situation of Buddhism in Inner Mongolia
Before 1958, there were approximately 700 monasteries in Inner Mongolia. All but 36 were destroyed, and none have been renovated. Of these 36 present monasteries, seventeen are in the Northwest and nineteen in the Northeast. Of the 2,800 Inner Mongolian monks at present, 1,600 live in the Northwest and 1,200 in the Northeast. The monasteries are run mostly like museums, and although there are young monks, the level of study is extremely low. At best, they learn to read Tibetan and chant rituals and prayers. There is no study of debate anywhere in Inner Mongolia or Liaoning Manchuria.
There is only one actual school for monks in Inner Mongolia, the Government Buddhist College at Hohhot. This was started in 1989 by the local government, not the Panchen Lama. It has 40 students and 3 teachers. The teachers are old Inner Mongolian monks, not trained in Beijing. They offer a three-year course simply in Tibetan and the classical Mongolian languages, and in Leninism. Although they use the tenth chapter of "Bodhisattvacharyavatara" as a language text, there is no formal study of Dharma and no debate. The only serious place, other than in Amdo, where Inner Mongolians can study the meaning of Dharma, although still not debate, is at Puning Si 普宁寺 (dPal-chen norbu gling) at Chengde 成德 (formerly Jehol), the former summer residence of the Manchu emperors northeast of Beijing in present-day Hebei province 河北省, formerly Jehol province of Manchuria. This monastery also receives government support, but is unique among government-sponsored Buddhist institutions in that Leninism is not part of the curriculum. Inner Mongolians also can study to a lesser extent at Yonghe Gong Temple 雍和宫in Beijing.
Unlike the so-called "monks" in Outer Mongolia and Buryatia who have wives and drink vodka, the monks of Inner Mongolia for the most part are not married. Some seem, however, to drink beer. Some lay Inner Mongols even serve beer to monks when they invite them to a meal in their home.
Manchu Support of Tibetan Buddhism
The Manchu emperors supported Tibetan Buddhism among the Mongols and put on a show of following it themselves in Beijing, Chengde and Wutaishan 五台山 (Ri-bo rtse-lnga). They even commissioned the translation of the Chinese Buddhist canon into Manchu, calling it the Manchu Kanjur, and pretended it was translated from Tibetan. Nevertheless, they did not allow the Manchu people to adopt Buddhism in either its Tibetan or Chinese form. The emperors felt that the Manchus should be primarily soldiers, and that Buddhism would take able-bodied men away from the army. They encouraged the Manchus to follow their traditional shamanism.
The emperors built only two actual Manchu monasteries for Manchu monks. The mother of the Qianlong 乾隆 emperor had a dream at Wutaishan of Manjushri coming to the Manchu court. As a result, her son built Manjushri monasteries for Manchu monks in the Fragrant Hills 香山 north of Beijing and at Chengde. They were both called Shuxiang (Manjushri) Si 殊像寺, and both are currently museums. The Mahakala temple (Chin.: Shisheng Si 实胜寺) in Shenyang 沈阳 (formerly Mukden), the pre-imperial Manchu capital, was never a monastery, but only a temple for offerings, manned only by Inner Mongolian monks. Some Manchus in Beijing and Chengde did have faith in Tibetan Buddhism, as they do now, but this was rare. Thus when one speaks of Buddhism in Manchuria, one is always referring to the Buddhism of the Inner Mongolians of the Northeast.
There are pictures of the Panchen Lama in every monastery I visited in Inner Mongolia, but hardly any photos of His Holiness. This is not due to lack of faith, but lack of access to such photos.
Important Monasteries in Inner Mongolia
The following monasteries are located in the Hohhot area of the Northwest:
(1) Shiretu Juu (Chin.: Yanshou Temple 延寿寺), with 21 monks, three of whom are from Amdo and one of whom is a Kokonor Mongol. This seems to be the most serious monastery in the Northwest. The young monks study Tibetan, memorize texts and recite the Lama Chopa every day, and occasionally the rituals of Yamantaka. Kha-ngon Rinpoche (mKha'-sngon rinpoche), the Deputy Head Lama of Inner Mongolia, has his offices at the monastery. Ulan Rinpoche, the Head Lama of Inner Mongolia, has his offices elsewhere, but I could not learn where.
(2) Ikh Khure (Tib.: Byang-chen Chos-'khor-gling, Chin.: Dazhao Si 大召寺), founded by Altan Khan and the Third Dalai Lama, with 25 monks, including sixteen young ones, also studying Tibetan and memorizing rituals and prayers. This was the first Gelug monastery in Inner Mongolia. It has a Nechung Gonpa (gNas-chung dGon-pa) next to it.
(3) Tengaling (bsTan-dga'-gling, Chin.: Wusitai Damiao 乌斯太大庙), with ten monks, run mostly like a museum.
(4) The Government Buddhist College (Tib.: Nang-bstan slob-grva, Chin.: Fojiao xuejia 佛教学家), next to the previous monastery described above.
(5) Palden Tashi Pendeling (Tib.: dPal-ldan bKra-shis Phan-bde-gling, Chin.: Dalama Miao 大喇嘛庙), about 150km northeast of Hohhot, in the desert grasslands 70 km from Siziwangqi 四子王旗. Previously it had 1,000 monks and two datsang divisions: Tsen-nyi (mTshan-nyid) for debate following the Jamyang Zheypa textbooks and Gyu-pa (rGyud-pa) for tantra, including Kalachakra. Now it has only old monks, none less than 70 years old. Seventeen live there and when they do pujas six times a month, about 100 old monks come from the surrounding area. Although the people in the tiny village around the monastery have no faith in Buddhism, the herdspeople do have faith. There are no young monks because there is no financial or material support to house or feed them. The large Turbit Gonpa nearby has been completely destroyed.
(6) Wangyefu Miao 王爷府庙, on the way to Dalama Miao, with five monks and some tantric rituals.
In the Baotou area of the Northwest:
(1) Padkar (Tib.: Pad-dkar, Chin.: Wudang Zhao 五当召), run as a museum, with 30 monks, most of whom have wives and drink alcohol and just work as room attendants at the monastery. They are very rough, with many from the Northeast. I saw one monk physically attack and injure a Chinese tourist who took an illegal photo inside one of the temples. Previously there were 1,000 monks and five datsang divisions: Tsen-nyi for debate, Gyu-pa for tantra, Du-kor (Dus-'khor) for Kalacakra and astrology, Menpa (sMan-pa) for medicine and Dul-wa ('Dul-ba) for vinaya. It was famous as having the highest scholarship and standard of study in all of Inner Mongolia. At present, there is no study and no tantric rituals. This is the most physically intact monastery left.
(2) Ganden Sheriling (Tib.: dGa'-ldan Shes-rigs-gling, Chin.: Shouhui Miao 受惠庙), in the Ordos region inside the loop of the Yellow River, about 150 km south of Baotao, and 7 km from the Chinggis Khan mausoleum, south of Dongsheng 东胜. This monastery is the main one dedicated to the cult of Chinggis Khan as a Dharma protector, and has 30 old monks doing tantric rituals, and no young monks. The communist authorities block young monks from joining the monastery and tried to close it. Although the authorities built a Disneyland-like mausoleum nearby to Chinggis Khan for propaganda and tourist purposes, they obviously do not want his cult to become too big, in case it fans Mongolian nationalism. Previously this monastery had 80 monks with one datsang division, Tsan-nyi for debate following the Jamyang Zheypa textbooks. In the past, there were five monasteries in the area, but now this is the only one left. The others were destroyed in 1964. It has only one building, a small temple. The main monk is a traditional Tibeto-Mongolian doctor from a family line of doctors, and received his medicine from a small Mongolian medical clinic in Dongsheng.
(3) Mergen Gonpa, near Urad Qianqi 乌拉特前旗 to the west of Baotao, which has merely a room in a house where old monks meet to perform tantric rituals.
(4) Maidar Sum (Chin.: Meidai Zhao 美岱召) to the east of Baotao, with no monks, only workers, and run like a museum.
Monastic sites in the Northeast:
(1) At Dolonor (Chin.: Duolun 多伦), the ruins of Baruun (West, Right) Sume, also known as ShaIa (Yellow) Sume (Chin.: Shanyin Si 善因寺), and of Dzuun (East, Left) Sume or Koke (Blue) Sume (Chin.: Huizong Si 汇宗寺). These were the two divisions of the home monastery of the Jangkya Hutukhtus and constituted the most politically important monastery of Inner Mongolia. The Manchu Kangxi Emperor 康熙帝 built this monastery at the site where the First Khalkha Jetsundamba submitted his country, Outer Mongolia, to him. The Manchus set up the Jangkya Hutukhtus here in an attempt to supplant the Jetsundampas in Urga as the major focus for Mongolian Buddhists. During the Manchu rule, each banner of Inner and Outer Mongolia was required to send monks and financial support to Dolonor. It had a very important printing press and was famous for its artwork, which was sent not only to Inner and Outer Mongolia, but also Buryatia.
At present the two divisions of Dolonor are in total ruins and there are no monks. They were initially destroyed by the Russians when they liberated the area from the Japanese at the end of World War Two, and were then slowly abandoned in the late 1950s, especially during the Anti-Writers Campaign in 1958.
(2) The ruins of Shangdu 上都 (known in the West as Xanadu), the capital of Khublai Khan, in the steppes near Sanfenqu, about 30 km west of Duolun. Except for the remains of a few walls, there is almost nothing left here.
(3) In Kalgan (Chin.: Zhangjiakou 张家口), the city where the Mongols traditionally entered the Great Wall, no Tibeto-Mongolian monasteries or temples are left.
Further north in the Northeast, the main regions where there are Buddhist monasteries are:
(1) Around Chifeng 赤峰 (Mong.: Ulanhad), where there are six old monasteries. 180 km north of Chifeng is Bairin Youqi 巴林右旗, with supposedly 30-40 monks. Fanzong Si 梵宗寺, 90 km north of Chifeng, on the way to Bairin Youqi, was the largest monastery in the area, but now has no monks. Faluan Si, 100 km to the southeast of Chifeng, near Ningcheng 宁城 across the provincial border in Liaoning 辽宁, has supposedly seven or eight monks. There is also Bizu Miao in Xianmen prefecture to the northeast of Chifeng. Chifeng itself is 60% Han Chinese. Only the Mongols in the countryside and some of the city Mongols over thirty have faith in Buddhism.
(2) Around Horqin Youyi Qianqi 科尔沁右翼前旗 (Mong.: Ulanhot), near Baicheng 白城, are the Gegen-che Sume (Chin.: Gegen Miao 葛根庙), with supposedly 30 monks, as well as the Xianmeng Miao 县孟庙 and the Wuye Miao 五爷庙. Lobsang Gyaltsen Rinpoche lives in the area. There is also Wang-yin Sume (Chin.: Wangye Miao 王爷庙), where the Japanese occupiers built in 1944 a memorial temple to Chinggis Khan in an attempt to gain the allegiance of the Inner Mongols of Manchuria. The Japanese hoped to shift the focus of their devotion to Chinggis Khan from the Ordos region of northwestern Inner Mongolia to this region under their control.