Long forgotten religious war between Mongolians in 17th century

I assumed many people knew about history of Tsogt Taiji, Mongolian noble lord who fought with Guush Khan Turbaikh of Khoshuud Mongol tribe in 17th century. Renowned Mongolian historian and novelist Rinchin Byambaa Yonshoobuu wrote novel “Tsogt Taij” and in 1944 a movie was produced based on the novel.

Until recently, I did not know that Tibetan, pro-Gelug or Lamaist religious sources such as “Annals of Khokhuur” by a Tibetan Lama Sum-pa Khanpo and “Rosary of White Lotuses” by Darmatala portrayed Togt Taij as mercenary hired by a Tibetan king to fight against Lamaist religion in Tibet. These sources refer to Tsogt Taij as “Dark Lord”.

I will try to present historical facts about Tsogt Taij based on available information.

Ligden Khaan, last direct descendant of Chinggis Khaan and Khaan of Tsakhar Mongolian tribe attempted to unite eastern Mongols in the face of growing Manchu threat in 1630s. Ligden wanted to unite Mongolian tribes using Red sect of Tibetan Buddhism (Sakhya tradition), which was favored by Khubilai Khan in Yuan dynasty.

Gelug or Yellow hat religion, newly emerged branch of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Zonkhov, Tibetan religious reformer was widespread among ruling Mongolian nobles and tribal chiefs in east and west of Mongolia. At the time, leaders of the Yellow Hat religion was increasingly clashing with old religious orders in Tibet for power and authority and courting with Manchus which founded Ching Dynasty in China after conquering it.

Heavy handed approach by Ligden Khaan to unite the Mongolian tribes alienated many Mongolian tribes which sought protection of the Manchus. Many Mongolian tribes were tired of internecine war. From Mongolian nobles, only Tsogt Taij of Khalkh Mongolia supported Ligden Khaan.


In 1630, Tsogt Taiji moved to Khokh Nuur (Currently named Chinhai Lake by Chinese) Lake with his tribe of about 10 thousand people. Some Mongolian historians explain this move as result of persecution of other Mongolian nobles, followers of Yellow Religion.Tsogt reached Khokh Nuur and united with local Mongolians and waited for Ligden Khaan to arrive. However, Ligden Khaan never met with Tsogt Taij in Khokh Nuur as he died of small-pox in Shar Tal region in present day Gansu province in 1634. Khaan’s family was captured by Mongolians loyal to Manchus ending the last ditch attempt to stop expansion of Yellow Religion in Mongolia and revive Sakhya or Red Hat religious tradition in Mongolia.

The Yellow Hats asked for help from Guush Khaan Turbaikh of the Khoshuud tribe of the Oirad tribal confederation against Tsogt’s forces which were approaching Lhasa.


In 1637, Khalkh Mongolian and Oirad Mongolian joint forces under command of Guush Khaan of Khoshud Mongol tribe crushed Tsogt Taij’s forces in northern bank of Khokh Nuur in a place called Ulaan Khoshuu (Red Cape). Tsogt Taij, Mongolian patriot and poet fell in bloody battle. Many of his tribesmen remained in Khokh Nuur area and formed part of local Mongolians called “ Upper Mongols”.

Tibet did not have much to offer to Mongolia except religion. Therefore, there can not be a question of Tibetans hiring Mongolians. Tibetans were never a match for Mongolian military might and skill.Tibetan religious schools were skillful in using internal conflict of Mongolian tribes and used them as shields. Later on, Ching Dynasty of Manchus encouraged spread of Lamaism in Mongolia in order to pacify Mongolians.The historic battle marked start of domination of Lamaism in Mongolia and shedding of Mongolian blood for a religion of Tibet.

By research unit of MonInfo News Service

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2 comments:

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