Tibetan Buddhism among Monguor Mongols of Qinghai 1994

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The Monguors 蒙古尔 or Tu people 土族 (known as Hor pa in Tibetan) are located in what is now the Tuzu Autonomo­us District 土族自治县 of Qinghai 青海, north of Xining 西宁, between Xi­ning and the Nanshan 南山 Moun­tains. Their main city is Huzhu 互助. The Monguors, who are also known as the White Mongols (Mong: Tsagaan Mongol) are, according to some scholars, the descendants of the Tuyuhun 吐谷浑 (Tib. Thu-lu-hun, or ‘A-zha) people of the Kokonor region. The Tuyuhun Kingdom lasted from the beginning of the fourth century until the armies of central Tibet conquered it in the mid-seventh century.

Others assert that they are the descendants of the troops of Kolgen, Chinggis Khan’s sixth son. After the fall of the Mongol Yuan Dyna­sty in China, they were the first Mongol group to sub­mit to the Chinese Ming forces and col­laborate with them. They were trad­itionally border guards for the Chinese, and later worked for the Man­chus to try to bring the Mongols and Tibet­ans under Manchu/Ch­inese control. They follow the Gelug tradi­tion.

[See: Tibetan History before the Fifth Dalai Lama, Part 4]

The Monguor region was the home of many of the main lamas in Beijing 北京 during the Manchu Qing perio­d such as the First and Second Changkya Khutukh­tus (lCa­ng-kya khutughtu), Tuken Lozang Chokyi Nyima (Thu'u-bkvan Blo-bzang chos-kyi nyi-ma) and Chuzang Khutukhtu (Chu-bzang Khut­ughtu). It had many monaste­ries, the main ones of which were Gonlung (dGon-lung), Serkhog (gSer-khog) and Chuzang (Chu-bzang), all of which followed the Jetsunpa textbooks of Sera.

I visited the following mon­asteries in the district:

(1) Gonlung (Youning Si 佑宁寺), the home monastery of the Tuken Khutukhtus (Tu'u-bkvan Khutughtus) and Sumpa Khenpo (Sum-pa mKhan-po). The ten-year-old present Tuken Rinpo­che still resides here. Previously the monas­tery had 500 monks and five datsang divi­sions: Tsen-nyi (mTshan-nyid) for debate, Gyu Mepa (rGyud sMad-pa) and Gyu Topa (rGyud sTod-pa) for tantra, Menba (sMan-pa) for medicine and Dukhor (Dus-'khor) for Kalachak­ra and astrolo­gy. At present it has 200 monks, with a general Gyupa (rGyud-pa) divi­sion for tantra and the main tsogchen (Tshogs-chen) temple/assembly hall used for the tsen-nyi debate divi­sion. Its protector temple is dedi­cated to Gyalpo Ku Nga (rGyal-po sku-lnga) or Nechung.

(2) Chuzang (Quezang Si 却藏寺), with 20 monks, performs tantric rituals and has no de­bate. It has only the old Chuzang Labrang (Chu-bzang bLa-brang) standing and one new tem­ple.

(3) Martsang (dMar-gtsang, Baima Si 白马寺), the cave monas­tery where the three Central Tibetan monks lived who gave ordination to Gonpa Rabsel (dGon-pa rab-gsal), and where Gonpa Rabsel died. At present it has only two old monks, doing tantric rituals.