Buddhism in the Kitan state

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Kitan state in the territory of Mongolia

Buddhism in Mongolia (9th to 11th century)

From: Buddhism in Mongolia (Historical Survey), Ulaanbaatar 1981
By: Section of Studies of Gandantegchenlin Monastery

After the collapse of the Lou-Lan state, when the Turks states (Turks, Uighurs) dominated in Mongolia, there still existed small states and khanates in the north-eastern part of Mongolia.

At the time of the Kitan Dynasty, Buddhism spread rapidly in Mongolia. In 902, before the establishment of its dynasty, the Kitans built their first Buddhist temple. In 916, Abaochi, the first emperor of Kitan, and his people proclaimed their readiness to follow the Buddhist teaching. Some noblemen of the Gelü clan possessed 5048 chapters of religious sutras, and it appears that Buddhism had a considerable influence among the Kitans.

Inscriptions of the Kitan period that have been preserved to our time were written in Chinese and Sanskrit. However, since the Kitan inscriptions could not be read, it is difficult to say whether they are related to Buddhism. As for the Kitan Buddhist monument found in Mongolia, there are a stupa and fragments from the ruins of the town of Kerulen Bara Khoto in the territory of Tsagan-Obo somon of the Eastern aimak of the Mongolia. As scholars point out, the Buddhist art of the Kitans is similar to the later Mongolian art. Scholars are of the opinion that all fragments with Buddha pictures found in the excavations of Kara-Korum, the capital of Ancient Mongolia established in 1220, could be related to the time of the Kitans.

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