Monasteries and their Economies

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

Nearly until the end of the 17th cent., the Red Sect of Buddhism and the traditional Mongolian Shamanism continued to exist side by side. But in the beginning of the 18th cent., the Yellow Sect of Buddhism became the main religion and began to spread intensively. Dozens of monasteries were set up and the number of Lamas grew sharply.

Ordinary people were attracted to Buddhism, for it was different from Shamanism with its severe and inhuman rituals. One of the reasons for the victory of Buddhism over Shamanism lies in its character. On the other hand, Shamanism was repressed by the Manchu rulers and Mongolian noblemen, and they both actively propagated Buddhism.

By the decree of the Mancha Emperor at the end of the 17th century, they set-up the “Buyun-ig Badargulagchi Sum” the Temple for the development of meritorious deeds) in Dolo-Nurr for Mongolian believers, in 1727-1736 Amarbayasgalant monastery devoted to “Jebzun Jebtsundamba Khutuktu” and in 1760’s “Dambadarjaa” (a temple for flourishing religion). The Manchus rendered their support to Mongolia to set up new temples and monasteries in their khosuuns. As a result of this in the end of the 18th century monasteries were built in every khosuun and there were nearly 120 monasteries altogether, Among them, were such big monasteries as Ikh Khüree, Zaya Pandit, Erdene Pandit Khutuktu with dozens of temples, pagodas (stupas) and with thousands of Lamas.

With the development of monasteries, their property and economic potential were strengthened considerably. While in the middle of the 17th cent., the number of monasteries was not more than one hundred, in the beginning of the 20th cent., it reached approximately 700. Only, the Ikh Khüree, had 244 monastery treasuries. The Tsetsen Beis Khosun Monastery in 1828, had 21,754 heads of cattle but in 1918 this number increased to 126,000. A monastery treasury of Bator Wang Khosun of Zasagtu Khan was established in 1784, with 400 heads of cattle and in 1924 this number was 23,503.

The Jasu (monastery treasury) is a monastery economy designated to meet the demands of the monastery and the cost of religious services. The Jasu included considerable amount of movable and immovable property, which mainly consisted of cattle. As early as the beginning of the 18th cent., the monastery treasury, apart from keeping cattle, began to engage in land cultivation. In the beginning of the 20th cent., over 60 monastery treasuries were engaged in agriculture, cultivating thousands of acres of land. From the 18th cent., the monastery treasury of Ikh Khüree and other towns engaged in business activities and began to lend money. These activities were intensified from the 19th cent. Certain big monastery treasuries began to issue paper notes, called “Piu”, instead of paper money. Many monastery treasuries were engaged in caravan transport and horse post service. Such activities of the monastery treasuries increased their property. At first, the property of the monastery treasury mainly consisted of offerings and contributions, but gradually it began to depend on its business activities.

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