by Delger (Inner Mongolia University Library)
Mongolian Buddhism was adopted from Tibetan Buddhism and much of its recent characteristics from Tibetan Buddhism of the Gelugpa School. As early as 14th and 15th centuries, the Mongol emperors of the Great Mongol Yuan Empire had already converted to Tibetan Buddhism, but it had not yet become a national religion at that time. In the 16th century, at the period of Altan Khan, the Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism spread throughout Mongolia, and Buddhist monasteries were built across Mongolia, both in Inner Mongolia and Outer Mongolia later. After Buddhism was adopted in Mongolia, over two thousand monasteries were built. Most of them had printing houses and libraries. The Ancient Mongolian Buddhist scriptures have been preserved in these monasteries and libraries or in private libraries. Unfortunately, a lot of ancient Mongolian Buddhist scriptures have been lost in the long run of nomadic life, war and political movements. After the founding of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region in 1947, and the establishment of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the most part of these collections have been collected and preserved in public libraries or in the Ancient Books Office of the Committee of Nationalities Affaires. Unfortunately, most of them were burnt or destroyed during the ten years of disturbance of the Cultural Revolution. Same thing happened in Mongolia during the socialist cultural movements in the early 20th century.
According to Catalogue of Mongolian Ancient Books and Documents of China, there are over 17,000 items of Mongolian rare books preserved in Inner Mongolia and other parts of China, over 60% of them are Buddhist scriptures, dating from 13th century to the late 19th century.
Chronicle description on ancient Mongolian Buddhist scripture translations
1. The Great Mongol Yuan Empire or Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368)
In 1246, the great Tibetan Buddhist Lama Saja Bandida Gunggajalsan (1182-1251) was invited by Prince Gudan Noyan (the second son of Emperor Ogedei ) to Liangzhou (located in the Gansu Province today); he preached Buddhism to Mongolian royal family and aristocrats.
In 1237, the government of the Great Yuan Mongol Empire established Sudur Bichig-un Huriyeleng (Institute of Archives and Documents), in 1264, Yuan Ulus-un Teuhe Johiyahu Huriyeleng (Institute of Yuan Empire History) in Khan Balgasu (Beijing). There were 453 staffs, among them, 108 Mongolian Bichigechi (bookmen), 34 Mongolian Hagulugchi (transcriptor) and 204 translators for histories. Hence the Buddhist scripture translation into the Mongolian language started officially.
* Delger is………………….at the Inner Mongolia University Library
There were three great Buddhist scholars of Yuan Empire in history, namely Choijiodzar, Shirebsengge and Barazanashiri. (1)Choijiodzar, during the period of Oljeitu Khan (1295-1307) and Ayurbalbad Buyantu Khan (1312-1320), he was translating and compiling Buddhist scriptures into Mongolian in Daidu (Beijing), he finished Hutugtu Manshuriri-yin ner-e-yi uneker ugulehui, from Tibetan into Mongolian; Buvadhi Saduva-yin yabudul-dur oruhui neretu sastir, from Sanskrit into Mongolian; he also translated many other scriptures as Banzaragcha; (2)Shirebsengge, during the period of Esentemur Khan (1324-1328), translated Banzaragcha and Altangerel into Mongolian, referred with its Sanskrit, Uygur and Chinese manuscripts; (3)Barazanashiri, during the period of Oljeitu Khan and Togtemur Jayagatu Khan (1328-1332), translated Dolugan Ebugen Neretu Odon-u Sudur from Chinese into Mongolian and printed 2,000 xylographic copies in 1328. He also translated other Buddhist scriptures as Samadi-yin Sudur (from Chinese) and Sedhishi Ugei Samadi-yin Sudur (from Tibetan).These three scholars and translators made the first basic translations of Buddhist scriptures into Mongolian.
2. The Period of Northern Yuan Empire (1368-1634)
Due to the clap downs of the Great Yuan Empire, Mongol Emperors and the royal family moved to their homeland and more disturbances occurred, the Buddhist scripture translation had stopped in the early two hundred years of this era (1348-1548), hence this period called “the Dark Period for Buddhist Scripture” in history.
Altan Khan (1507-1581), a Mongol king from the Golden Family, invited Sonam Gyatso (1543–1588), the head of the rising Yellow Sect of Tibetan Buddhism to a summit. Altan Khan gave the title of Dalai Lama (Ocean Knowledge Teacher) to the Tibetan Buddhism leader, which his successors still hold. In the following century the Yellow Sect spread throughout Mongolia. The Sutra translation recovered again and development of the Buddhism came to its most prosperous stage in Mongolia; Altan Khan and his successors, helped and supported the translation and printing of a great many sutras into Mongolian. Among the scholars, Shiregetu Gushi and Ayushi Gushi were most famous, two of them were organized and did the first whole translation of Ganjuur (tripitica) into Mongolian in 1602-1607 and the second whole translation of Ganjuur, by the order of Ligdan Khan (1592-1634), organized by Gunggaodzar and Samdansengge and translated and hand written in golden ink, 113 volumes, called Golden Ganjuur; in 1638.
3. The period of the Qing Empire (1636-1912)
The Manchu governors, in order to control Mongols by religious methods with political intrigue, they greatly supported Buddhism in Mongol areas, based on Beijing, the Buddhist scripture translation work in Mongolian was much more prosperous in this period. The Buddhist scriptures that had been translated into Mongolian at the periods of the Great Yuan Empire and the Northern Yuan Empire were printed (as much as had been found and collected), and the Ganjuur and Danjuur were published whole in xylograph.
The Mongolian Ganjuur of 1720: By the order of Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722), at the suggestion of Shiri Beile, Jambarashi Beise and Rashi, the manuscripts of Ligden Khan’s Golden Ganjuur with the Tibetan Ganjuur of Beijing Xylograph of 1683, were translated. Proofreading: Chorji Lubsangchuldum, chief Lama, Da Lama Ganjurba Lubsangchuldum, both from Dulugan Nagur Monastery; Shiri Beile from Sunid, and Demchug Gung from Abag-a were in charge of the proofreading work in Huhe Monastery of Dolugan Nagur, started in 1717. Printing: the works of writing for blocks, cutting blocks for printing, proofreading of writing for blocks and printing were made in Song Zhu Si Temple of Beijing, from 1717-1720, number of the people attending rose to over 200, and consisted of Living Buddhas or Hutugtu, Rabjamba, Lobon, Gushi, Gelung, Gesul, governors; Gong, Beile and Beise from different Banners. The translation was finished in 1720 and published with cinnabar ink and xylograph, hence called Shinghun Bar-un Ganjuur in Mongolian.
The Mongolian Ganjuur of 1720 has 108 volumes and one additional catalogue volume in Tibetan, Mongolian, Manchu and Chinese; block size 17×59 cm; it has over 30,000,000 words in total. There are 6 different copies of this Edition in China: Ganjuur in The Library of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, from Hundelen Monastery, the Urad Middle Banner, in 1956; Ganjuur in the Library of Inner Mongolia University Library, from Chagan Agula Monastery, Chahar, in 1959; Ganjuur in the China Nationalities Palace Library, from the Baragun Monastery, Bagarin Right Banner, in 1956; Ganjuur in the China National Library, from Altan Buse Monastery, Urad Middle Banner, in 1961; Ganjuur in the Library of Inner Mongolian Social Science Academy; Ganjuur in Potala Palace, collected since Qing Dynasty. There are only three different copies in the other countries, Ganjuur of 1720 in the National Library of Mongolia; a Ganjuur in Harvard University Library; and an electrostatic copy in India.
The contents of the Mongolian Ganjuur of 1720: It is a whole collection of contents of the Gajuur, it consists of 25 volumes of Dandar-a, 12 volumes of Yum, 4 volumes of Horin Tabun Minggatu, 6 volumes of Arban Naiman Minggatu (including Tumen Shilugtu 1 volume, Naiman Minggatu 1 volume and Eldeb Bilig Bramid 1 volume), 6 volumes of Erdeni Dabhurlig, 6 volumes of Olanghi, 33 volumes of Eldeb, and 16 volumes of Gdulu-a, and is classified into two big categories of Dandr-a (25 volumes) and Sutra (83 volumes counted from the Yum).
There are 756 Buddha color portraits in Gannjuur of 1720, all of them are painted with treasury ink made from gold, silver, coral, pearl, turquoise, Nomin, Labai, Gang, copper, cinnabar and other precious minerals.
The Mongolian Danjuur of 1749: By the order of Emperor Qian Long (1711－1799) in 1741，Living Buddhas or Hutugtus, scholars and translators from Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, leading Lamas from the Tibetan and Mongolian Monasteries in Beijing, Lobon or teachers from Tibetan Mongolian School of Beijing, were gathered in Beijing and formed the Danjuur Translating Team; the team organized and headed by Jangja Hutugtu Rolbidorji and Altan Shiregetu Lobsangdambinim-a. The team consisted of over 200 scholars and translators; Jangja Hutugtu Rolbidorji (1717-1786), compiled a special Tibetan Mongolian Dictionary of Merged Garhu-yin Oron Neretu Togtagagsan Bichig, especially for the great translation, with the help of Altan Shiregetu Lobsangdambinim-a (1689-1762) and other scholars, published in 1742.
Translation work: The translation of the Danjuur was begun in 1742, the Block Print Beijing Edition of Tibetan Danjuur of 1724 was used as the original text, finished in 1749 and published in the same year, with cinnabar ink and xylograph, hence it was called Shinghun Bar-un Danjuur in Mongolian. This edition has 225 volumes, with an additional catalogue volume, block print size 17 x 59cm, 108,016 x 2 pages and over 50,000,000 words in total. There are only three items left in the world: Danjuur in the Library of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, from the Qindamani Monastery, Jalaid Banner, Hulun Boir League in 1958; Danjuur in the Library of Inner Mongolian Social Sciences Academy, from Hayanggiru-a Monastery, Shangdu Aduguchin Banner in 1958; Danjuur in the National Library of Mongolia, from Sechen Wang Nayantu, Sain Khan Noyan Province; and an electrostatic copy in India.
The contents of Mongolian Danjuur of 1749: the concepts are classified into three categories, such as Magtagal-un Chigulgan (Collection of the Praise), Dandar-a-yin Tailburi (Explanations to the Dandar-a) and Sudur-un Tailburi (Explanations to the Sutra). There is one volume of the Magtagal-un Chigulgan which consists of 63 articles, 86 volumes of the Dandar-a-yin Tailburi which consists of 3,017 articles and 136 volumes of the Sudur-un Tailburi which consists of 781 articles. In total, there are 3,861 articles in the Mongolian Danjuur. There are 1,120 Buddha colour portraits in Danjuur of 1749, all of them are painted with treasury ink as same as the Ganjuur’s.
The later Mongolian Buddhist scriptures, independent sutras, the most of them were derived, developed or separately copied from the different editions of these Ganjuur and Danjuur collections.
Classification and Contents of the Mongolian Buddhist Scriptures
According to indexes of the Catalogue of Ancient Mongolian Books and Documents of China (1999), (not including Ancient Mongolian Buddhist scripture collections in Mongolia), there are 14 categories of contents in Mongolian Buddhist scriptures which collected mostly in Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region and some of them are preserved in other provinces of China (the sutra titles and personal names and Buddhist terms, in italics, are given in Mongolian), such as:
1. Ganjuur (Original work collections of Shagjamuni in Tripitika); 2.Danjuur (commentaries on Shagjamuni’s works in Tripitika); 3.Sumbum (Collections of Works); 4. Belge Chinar-un Aimaig (Class of the Exotric Buddhism); 5. Bodi Mor-un Jerge (the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment ); 6. Dandar-un Aimag (Class of Tantra); 7.Sang-un Nom ba Tagalal Tailburi（Terma Explanatory）; 8. Sudur Tarni-yin Eldeb Jang Uile（Principles and Rituals of the Esoteric and Exotoric Buddhism）; 9.Burhan Shanshin-u Uhagulg-a (Buddhist Propagandas); 10.BURHANBurhan Shashin-u Teuhe (History of Buddhism);11.Namtar Chedeg (Biographies); 12.History of Buddhist Monasteries and Famous Places; 13.Principles of Buddhist Monasteries; 14. Others. These contents of Mongolian Buddhist scriptures cover all categories and contents of Buddhism and there are a lot of great works of Mongolian Lamas also collected into those Mongolian Buddhist scriptures.
The Physical Carrier Description of Mongolian Buddhist Scriptures
1. Date: The Great Mongol Yuan Empire 1271-1368; the Northern Mongol Yuan Empire (Ming Dynasty to Early Qing Dynasty) 1368-1634 ; the Great Qing Empire (Qing Dynasty) 1636-1912.
2. Languages: Most of the ancient Mongolian Buddhist scriptures were written in Uygurjin or classic Mongolian combined with Mongolian Ali Gali Phonetic Sytem , a few in Todo Mongolian, few in Mongolian Square Script, Soyonbo Script, and Vagindar-a Script; Some scriptures were written in Mongolian-Tibetan, or Sanskrit-Mongolian, Mongolian-Tibetan-Chinese, and Mongolian-Tibetan-Chinese-Manchu.
3. Ink: treasury ink made from gold, silver, coral, pearl, turquoise, Nomin, Labai, Gang, copper , cinnabar; common ink of black ink, red ink, blue ink and etc.
4. Editions: manuscripts (written with bamboo pen, wooden pen, bone pen and brush), xylograph or block print, lithography of rare books, unique copies and sample copies or common copies.
5. Most Popular Xylographs: Chagan Agula Sum-e Block Print, Beijing Block Print, Halh-a Block Print, Buriyad Block Print.
6. Sutra Paper: gold plate, silver plate, handmade white paper, thick yellowish paper, white pink paper, yellow paper, blue paper with black background, black paper (papers are popular among them).
7. Sutra Size: block size or edition frame size of 32.x88cm;31.7x41cm;27.×27.3cm;26x28cm;25x25cm;24.5x71cm;23.5×26.9cm;22x50cm;21x21cm;20.6×29.2cm;19×26.4cm;18.8×60.3cm;17x59cm;16.8×59.4cm;15×65.5cm;14.7×51.2cm;13.5x46cm;12.7×45.8cm;11.3×46.5cm;10×55.4cm; 9.5×35.5cm; 8.7×28.7cm; 7.4×31.2cm; 6x21cm; 5.2×27.2cm; 4.3×28.6cm.
8. Sutra decorations:
1) Cover: about 1-0.5cm thick wooden board front and back covers, some of them are decorated with precious stones or gold and silver plates, some of them with curved, or painted with Buddha portraits and golden ink titles.
2) Spines or backs: some of them are painted with Buddhist designs of cinnabar ink or some precious mineral ink, around their four sides.
3) Inside: cinnabar or black ink Buddha portraits on two sides of the first page and the last page, some were printed, and some were hand painted; some sutra were written with red ink and black ink in intervals; some sutras were printed with chromo xylograph.
4) Sutra binding: most of them have ancient Sanskrit style boundings, folios of unbounded sheets (loose-leaves), shorter in height, longer in length, some are in folded pages; the sheets are clipped with the plywood covers from the two sides, and then tied up with two leather ties by the two sides; some leather ties are designed with special buttons; and then put into a square cloth-bindind and packed; the package cloth usually has two colours, dark red and yellow, the yellow ones are most popular; there are some miniature editions of pamphlets and pocket books, too.
Eight Big Collections of Mongolian Buddhist Scriptures in Inner Mongolia and China
Between 1993 and 2003, the eight member libraries, (which have eight big collections of ancient Mongolian Buddhist scriptures in China), of editorial board of the Catalogue of Ancient Mongolian Books and Documents of China, Catalogue of Mongolian Ganjuur and Danjuur, had investigated over 100 public libraries, academic libraries, ancient books offices and private libraries of Inner Mongolia, cities and visited the other provinces and minority autonomous regions of China. They figured out the general preservation amount of ancient Mongolian Buddhist Scriptures and rare books.
According to the investigations, they discovered 17, 218 ancient Mongolian books. There are four libraries’ ancient Mongolian book collections of over 1,000 items; four libraries’ collections over 100-1,000 items; and over 100 libraries, offices and private libraries’ collections of under 100 items. This statistic might have some leaks, but it can show the general preservation amount of ancient Mongolian books in China. 60% or more of these are Buddhist scriptures.
The following is the statistics from these eight libraries (not including ineditcal copies):
1. Inner Mongolia University Library: wrote 2,857 entries and descriptions, of which 1,542 entries from Inner Mongolia University Library and a few from college collections, over 500 of them are Buddhist scriptures, representing about 50% of the total collection; 1,314 entries from the work division areas of the Huhhot City, the Ulaganchab League, the Juu Uda League (Chifeng Municipality) of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Qinghai Province, Shaanxi Province, Taiwan, and private libraries of these areas.
2. Inner Mongolian Teacher’s University Library: wrote 2,138 entries and descriptions, of which 1,360 entries from Inner Mongolian Teacher’s University Library and a few from college collections, over 1,360 of them are Buddhist scriptures, representing about 80% of the total collection; 513 entries from the work division areas of the Hulun Boir League (Hulun Boir Municipality ), the Hinggan League, the Chichhar City, the Shilingol League of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Tibetan Autonomous Region and private libraries of these areas.
3. The Library of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region: wrote 2,214 entries and descriptions, of which 2,100 entries from the Library of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, over 600 of them are Buddhist scriptures, representing about 40% of the total collection; 114 entries from the work division areas of the Bayannagur League, the Bugutu City of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Gansu Province and private libraries of these areas.
4. The Library of the Social Sciences Academy of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region: wrote 6,772 entries and descriptions, of which 6,280 entries from the Library of the Social Sciences Academy of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, over 1,500 of them are Buddhist scriptures, representing about 30% of the total collection; 492 entries from the work division areas of the Alagsha League of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Ningxia Province and private libraries of these areas.
5. Inner Mongolian Nationalities University Library: wrote 733 entries and descriptions, of which 215 entries from Inner Mongolian Nationalities University Library and a few from college collections, over 184 of them are Buddhist scriptures, representing about 80% of the total collection; 549 entries from the work division areas of the Jirim League (Tongliao Municipality) of Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region, Liaoning Province, Jilin Province and private libraries of these areas.
6. China National Library: wrote 1,731 entries and descriptions, of which 845 entries from China National Library, representing about 30% of the total collection are Buddhist scriptures; 886 entries from the work division areas of Beijing City, Tianjin City, Yinchuan City, Nanjing City, Chongqing City, Shanghai City, Anhui Province, Zhejiang Province, Jiangxi Province, Fujian Province, Guangdong Province, Hubei Province, Hunan Province, Shandong Province, Shanxi Province, Henan Province, Sichuan Province, Yunnan Province, Ningxia Province and Guangxi Zhuag Autonomous Region and private libraries of these areas.
7. Central Nationalities University Library: wrote 550 entries and descriptions, of which 108 entries from Inner Mongolian Nationalities University Library and a few from college collections, about 50% of the total collection are Buddhist scriptures; 291 entries from the work division areas of Beijing City, Xinjiang Autonomous Region and private libraries of these areas.
8. Inner Mongolian Nationalities University Library: wrote 217 entries and descriptions, of which 144 entries from Inner Mongolian Nationalities University Library and college collections, and about 50% of the total collection are Buddhist scriptures; 73 entries from the work division areas of Beijing City, Tibetan Autonomous Region and private libraries of these areas.
1. Catalogue of Mongolian Ancient Books and Documents of China, 3 volumes, by Urinhirag-a and Delger and the Editorial Board, Beijing Library Press, December 1999
2. Catalogue of Mongolian Ganjuur and Danjuur, 2 volumes, by Urinhirag-a and Delger and the Editorial Board, the Yuanfang Publishing House of Inner Mongolia, September 2003
3. Minority Documents Utilization and Digital Management, by Delger, Chinese Edition, Inner Mongolia Educational Press, March 2007
4. A Brief Introduction to the Catalogue of Mongolian Ancient Books of China and Statistics on the Mongolian Ancient Books, by Delger, 1998 (additional version), Journal of China Library Science
5. The Golden Tripitaka (Ganjuur) Was Commissioned by Ligden Khan and Ligden’s Contributions to Mongolian Culture, by Delger, Journal of Inner Mongolia University (Mongolian Edition), No. 4 /2010
6. A Brief Introduction to Mongolian Buddhist Scriptures and Collections in China, by Delger, talks given in British Universities or Academy, in 2011-2012
* Published: Focus on International Libraryand Information Work,Volume 44, Number 2, 2013 Editorial 43, London, UK