Buddhism in the Lou-Lan state

The Lou-Lan state

Buddhism in Mongolia (4th to 6th century)

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

The Lou-Lan state the Mongol origin existed on the present-day territory of the Mongolia. Its original name was “Mongol” or “Tatar”, and it adopted Buddhism as a state religion. A monk named Dharmapriya (Za Ai), who lived in the Western part of the present Kansu in 420-450 and who possessed a profound knowledge of religious sutras, shastras and astrology was promoted to the post of the state teacher (in Sanskrit Purohita). Ordinary people too, for example, the bestowed people of Dharmapriya, began to believe in Buddhism, and the ancient Indian principles of unity of the state and religion, dating back to the time of Asoka of India and Kaniska of Kusan, began to be recognized among the nomads.

Chounu, the Khan of Lou-Lan, in 511 sent to the emperor of the Toba Dynasty a pearl statue of Buddha by a shraman named Hung Hsuan. It appears that the statue had come from Central Asia, namely from Khotan. In 475, a monk Shih-Fa-hsian (died in 494), came to Khotan through Lou-Lan, and from where he brought a Buddha’s tooth (in Sanskrit deladi) and other relics. A fragment of “Saddharmapundarika sutra” (White Lotus of the Good Lord), was dated by the 5th year of “Young Kang” (468) of the Lou-Lan state. At that time Turfan was ruled by the Lou-Lan state, and the sutra was dated this way.

Buddhism spread to Lou-Lan from the Tarim River basin, Khotan (Yutien), Karashahr (Yanchi), and the Sulei states. The spread of Buddhism was promoted by contacts between people from Lou-Lan and India, which also promoted the spread of secular culture from India to Mongolia. In 552, Narenda-Yasa, a monk from Northern India, together with his 6 friends travelled to the territory of Lou-Lan, Ratanamanti (Lenamanti) a shraman from India, lived in the Yunning temple of Loyang town, the capital of Toba. He was well familiar with the five Indian sciences (Panca vidya sthana) and art (Silpasthana vidiya). A Lou-Lan pilgrim, who got acquainted with that Indian shraman when he lived in Central Asia, in Loyang, met him every day and talked with him all day long, laughing and clapping his hands. A Chinese official, who did not know what language they were talking in, asked the shraman why he was talking to this northern barbarian with such respect, the shraman answered: “You would not be able to defeat this Lou-Lan, although you’ve read thousands of books”. The arrogant Chinese official betted to give the Lou-Lan his horse if the Lou-Lan could give the exact number of ripe fruits on a plum-tree. The Lou-Lan took out a tool with five colours of thread and measured the tree from all sides, calculating the exact number of ripe fruits. The Chinese lost the bet and he had to part with his horse.

No monuments of Lou-Lan Buddhism have been found yet on the territory of the Mongolia. However, scholars believe that brahma monuments (stone inscriptions) found on the territory of Mongolia may belong to the time of the Lou-Lan state.

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