Tibetan Buddhism among Dzungar Mongols of Xinjiang 1994

The Dzungar Mongols, from whom the Kalmyks broke away when they migrated to the Volga at the beginning of the seven­teenth century, originally had seven stone monasteries in East Turkistan. Three were in the north near the Russian border, with one at Hoboksar 和布克塞尔 and two to the east of it at Al­tai 阿勒泰; while four were in the west in the Ili River Valley 伊犁河谷 near the Kazakh border, with two at Gulja 固勒扎 (present day Yining 伊宁) and two to the north of them at Bortala 博尔塔拉.

The largest of these seven Dzungar stone monasteries were the two at Gulja: Altun-de-yurt (Golden Roof) Sum and Mongen-de-yurt (Silver Roof) Sum, with 6,000 and 7,000 monks respectively. Nearby Haedik Mona­stery had 4,000 monks. As was the cus­tom in Amdo and among the various Mon­gols, each of these monasteries was divided into Da­tsangs ac­cord­ing to the main topic studied. The Dzungars also had many tent monas­te­ries not only in East Turk­istan, but also in east­ern Ka­zak­hstan and Kyr­gyz­stan, and west­ern Mon­golia.

The Dzungar stone monasteries were all destroy­ed by the Manchus in the mid-eight­eenth cen­tury. Most Dzungar monks were not only married, but were soldiers who fought in the Dzungar-Manchu wars. The stone monasteries also acted as armed fortresses, and Dzungar monk-soldiers who did not surrender during the wars were all kill­ed. As a consolation to the wife of the Dzungar Khan, the Manchus built a replica of the Golden Roof Monastery of Gulja at their summer capi­tal, Chengde 成德 (formerly known as Rehe 热河, or Jehol), in southern Manchuria. It had mostly Kalmyk monks from the returnee com­munity in East Turkistan, as well as some of the surrendered Dzungar monks and a few Mon­golians.

The surviving Dzungars continued some of the tent monas­teries that had not been destroyed by the Manchus, and bui­lt seven new stone ones. Only one of them, Altai’s Shar Sum or Ser Gonpa (Ser dgon-pa), was at the site of one of their previous seven stone monasteries. Some scholars say that, at first, the Kalmyks who returned to East Turkistan had tent monasteri­es attached to the Dzungar stone ones. But eventually, the Kalmyks built their own stone monasteries. The extent of interaction between the monasteries of these two communities is unclear, as is the question of wheth­er any Kal­myks or Dzungars studied at each other's monas­teries. It is also unclear whether the stone monaster­ies in Kazakhstan were Kalmyk or Dzungar, and whether they were from the old or new period.

The seven Dzungar stone monasteries from the new period in East Turkistan were all destroy­ed during the Cultural Revo­lution. The vast ruins of one of them, Ikh Khure (Great Circle), are found at Hoboksar. They have now res­tarted one of them, Mongol Khuriye, south of Gul­ja, currently operating with nine monks.