Tibet and Mongolia`s historical, political, and religious ties, and the Treaty of 1913
Dr. Arya Tsewang Gyalpo*
Tibeto-Mongol Friendship Alliance Treaty was signed on February 13, 1913, at Ulan Bator.
Photo: Lungta Spring 2013, Amnye Machen, Dharamsala
Tibet and Mongolia existed as independent nations with unique civilizations, languages, and cultures of their own. They were once strong military powers who later adopted the path of peace and non-violence. What was Tibet in the 7th to 9th century, was Mongolia in the 12th to 14th century. Although Mongol Khans ruled the eastern empire, including China, under the Yuan Dynasty directly, it left Tibet to the Tibetans. The two shared a unique system of governance, politico-religious theocracy, based on the Buddhist principle of reincarnation of the Dalai Lama and the Khuthugtu Jetsundampa. The system is still alive and respected, albeit in a different form.
Tibet was once a military power in central Asia in the 7th to 9th centuries. Emperor Srongtsan Gampo (569-650 AD), who united the disarrayed Tibetan princely states, marched the Tibetan army far east into the Chinese territory and claimed the hand of Princess Wencheng Kungchu, and the Tang emperor Taitsung had to acquiesce. To the South, the Tibetan army got into the Indian border to subdue King Arjuna in Bihar for suppressing the Buddhist religion and for harassing the Chinese goodwill mission. The Tibetan Emperor helped restore King Narendradeva's reign in Nepal. To the North, the Tibetan army went as far as the Tarim basin and captured the four garrisons of Anhsi, present-day East Turkistan. During the time of Emperor Trisrong Deutsan and Emperor Triralpachen in the 8th and 9th centuries, Tibetan military power was at its peak. In 763, Tibetan troops raided the Chinese capital Changan, present-day Xian, and installed a new emperor, Ta-she. In 778, Tibetans helped Siamese King Imoshun in fighting the Chinese aggression in the region. In 790 Trisrong Deutsan's army recaptured the four garrisons of Anhsi or Anxi and the area around a lake in the north of Oxus River, present-day Amu Darya in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which came to be known as Al-Tubbat, a little Tibetan lake. During Triralpachen's time in 821, a peace treaty initiated by the Buddhist monks in Tibet and China was made and the contents of the treaty were inscribed on three pillars erected one at the Chinese capital Xian, one at Tibet-China border Gongumeru, and one in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet.
Tibet around that time was without a unified central leadership. There were regional power struggles among the small hegemonies and warring chieftains. But this period gave Tibet and the Tibetans a good time to interact with India and Nepal and Buddhism began to bloom in Tibet. With the complete burning and destruction of Nalanda and Vikramshila universities in 1193 AD, Buddhism gradually died in the land of its birth. Fortunately, the teachings found a safe haven in Tibet, where the major Indian texts were translated into the Tibetan language. Buddhism flourished in Tibet and played an important role in maintaining peace among the warring nations of Mongolia, Manchu, Nepal, and China.
Mongols under the leadership of Genghis Khan rose in power in the 12th century and by the next century, most of Asia and Eastern Europe came under Mongolian domination. Mongols established five Khanates to rule the country and the conquered territories: Mongol Qipchag Khanate in Russia and Europe; Ilkhanate in Persia, present-day Iran, Iraq, Turkey, etc.; Chagatai Khanate in the area around present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kirghizstan; Ogedei Khanate in the area around the Mongol homeland; and the Yuan Empire in present-day China, Burma, and Korea in the east.
In 1644, the Chinese Ming Dynasty collapsed and the Manchu Qing Dynasty took over China just as the Mongol's Yuan Dynasty took over China 365 years ago in 1279. In 1634 with the death of Lekdan Khan, the last Khan of the Great Northern Yuan dynasty, and his son Eiji Khan's submission of the Imperial Seal to the Manchu Emperor, Mongolia came under the influence of the Qing Empire.
Although the Yuan Dynasty disintegrated gradually, remnants of the Great Northern Yuan Dynasty and the divided Mongol Khans played important roles in Tibet's internal political and religious struggles. When Tibet was engrossed in internal power struggles for temporal and religious leadership, the Mongol tribes under their chieftains sided with the Tibetan factions of their choice. Prominent Mongol tribes involved in the Tibetan infighting around the times were: the Qoshot of Oirat Mongols, Dzungar, Chahar, Chogthu, Urluk of Torgut Mongols, and so on. Khuthugtu Khan, also known as Lekdan in Tibetan, the last Khan of the Great Northern Yuan dynasty, was a follower of the Karmapa school of Tibetan Buddhism. He along with the Choghtu Mongol tribes tried to suppress the Geluk school of Tibetan Buddhism. But Toru Bayikhan aka Gushri Khan, the leader of the Qoshot Mongolian tribe of the Oirat confederation, intervened and his victory led to the installation of the Fifth Dalai Lama, Thupten Gyatso, as the temporal and spiritual leader of the whole of Tibet in 1642. This was how the Dalai Lamas began to rule Tibet until the Chinese invasion in 1950.
The great game of Anglo-Russian supremacy in Asia led British India to send a military expedition to Tibet in 1904 and the 13th Dalai Lama fled to Mongolia, where he was warmly received and the relations between the two countries strengthened. The Dalai Lama stayed in Mongolia for about a year and became aware of the Mongolian people's aspiration for a greater and closer union with Tibet and to do away with the Qing dynasty's influence. Both Mongolia and Tibet saw the prospect of a grand alliance of Tibet and united Mongols under the Russian protectorate.
In this quagmire, Tibet and Mongolia, who were once military powers and later turned into peaceful religious nations, found themselves confronted with the new nation-state concept and the tightening noose of the great game gnawing at their independence. The 13th Dalai Lama's escape from British invasion and stay in Mongolia and his meeting with the 8th Khuthugtu Jetsundampa and the Mongolian princes in 1904 sparked a close feeling of shared history, religion, and culture. They saw the need to exert their independence and protect their religion and culture. In this direction, they saw hope in Tsar's Russia, strong and powerful, under whose reign Buryats, Kalmyks, and Tuva enjoyed a high degree of autonomy in practicing their Buddhist religion.
Toward the beginning of the 20th century, the great game of British and Russia became more manifest, plunging Tibet and Mongolia into the whirlpool of geopolitics away from their spiritual world of peace and complacency. The geopolitics of the time tried to divide Tibet and Mongolia into outer and inner regions. While this was effected in Mongolia, Tibet withstood the division initially. (However, in 1965 the CCP created Tibet Autonomous Regions with central and western Tibet, and included Amdo and Kham provinces of Tibet into the Chinese provinces of Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Yunan.)
Similarly, when the Qing regime adopted an aggressive policy to control the western frontiers, including Outer Mongolia, through stringent administration and cultural assimilation, the Mongols revolted. The Qing's colonial ethnic and cultural assimilation policy was greatly resisted by the Mongolians. The 1911 revolution in China and the fall of the Qing dynasty gave Mongols a good opportunity to revolt and reject the Qing`s authority. Mongolia declared its independence and installed the 8th Jetsun Dhampa Khuthugtu as the temporal and spiritual head of Mongolia on November 30, 1911.
The Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of January 11, 1913, signed at Urga, present-day Ulan Bator, came as a response to the indifferent, condescending, and aggressive attitudes adopted by Russia, British, and China toward Tibet and Mongolia. The two countries realized that they were used as pawns in the selfish game of the three powerful neighbors. They found it odd that despite their independence since ancient times, why do they need the endorsement of foreign countries. So, they recognized each other`s independence from any foreign influence and promised to help each other against foreign invasion, and bound themselves to work for the promotion of their faith and values. The preamble of the agreement reads:
The important point to note here is: Mongols have played a far wider help in the form of priest-patron relations than the Manchus. Starting from the sacred intimate relationship between Mongols and Tibetans from Sakya Pandita and Godan Khan (1247) to Phagpa and Kublai Khan (1254), the third Dalai Lama and Altan Khan (1578), the fifth Dalai Lama and Gushri Khan (1642) and so on, Mongolia and Tibet enjoyed far deeper relations and Mongol Khans provided greater service to Tibet in the form of priest-patron relations. The 4th Dalai Lama, Yonten Gyatso, was a Mongolian and the Mongol's spiritual heads both the 8th and 9th Jetsun Dhampa Khuthugtu were Tibetans. If any military influence and conquest in the past justify a claim on the sovereignty of another country, then Mongolia has a much better reason to assert a claim over Tibet.
1) Alex McKay, Tibet and the British Raj, LTWA, India, 2009
2) Amnye Machen, The Centennial of the Tibeto-Mongo Treaty 1913-2013, Lungta Spring 2013, Dharamasala
3) Ann Heirman & Stephan Peter Bumbacher (Editors), The Spread of Buddhism, Boston, 2007
4) Arya Tsewang Gyalpo, The Ancient Tibetan Civilization, LTWA, Dharamsala, 2022
5) Arya Tsewang Gyalpo, Harnessing the Dragon's Fume, DIIR, India, 2021
6) Charles Bell, Portrait of a Dalai Lama, Wisdom Publications, Lodon, 1987
7) DIIR Publications, The Mongos and Tibet, Dharamsala, 2009
8) DIIR Publications, Tibet Proving Truth From Facts, Dharamsala, 2006
9) DIIR Publications, Political Treaties of Tibet (821 to 1951), Dharamsala, India
10) DIIR Publications, Tibet and Manchu, Dharamsala, 2001
11) Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia's Tibet File, LTWA, India, 1996
12) Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, Kodansha, USA, 1992
13) Shakabpa W.D., Tibet A Political History, Potala, New York, 1984
14) Sreemati Chakrabarti, China, National Book Trust, India, 2007
15) Warren W. Smith, Jr. Tibetan Nation, Harper Collins, India, 1996
1) E.T. Williams, The Relations Between China, Russia and Mongolia. The American Journal of International Law
2) Eric Her, The Great Game: Mongolia Between Russia and China, The Mongolian Journal of International Affairs, 1997
3) Chung Tsering, Bod Sog chings yig gi zhal shus, 22/08/2018
4) Dr. Tsedendamba Batbayar, Mongolia and Tibet in the British-Russian Great Game, Mongolian Academy of Sciences
5) Dr. Michael C. van Walt van Parag, A Legal Examination of the 1913 Mongolia-Tibet Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, Lungta 17, Dharamsala.
6) Jampa Samten, The Legality of the Tibet-Mongolia Treaty of 1913, Tibet Journal, LTWA, India
7) Tashi Tsering, The Tibeto-Mongol Treaty of January 1913, Amnye Machen, Lungta Spring 2013, Dharamsala
6) Anglo Russian Convention of 1907: https://history.blog.gov.uk/2017/08/31/anglo-russian-entente-1907/
9) Editors: Ann Heirman and Stephan Peter Bumbacher, The Spread of Buddhism, Brill, 2007 https://ia802902.us.archive.org/19/items/thespreadofbuddhismaheirmanandspbumbacheredsbrillarticles_444_t/The-Spread-of-Buddhism%20A-Heirman-and-S-P-Bumbacher-eds%20Brill%20%28Articles%29.pdf
 Shakabpa Tsepon WD, Tibet A Political History, p-26
 ibid p-28
 ibid, p-30
 ibid, p39
 ibid, p-44
 DIIR, The Mongols and Tibet, p-9, p-20
 1) Ann Heirman & Stephan Peter Bumbacher (editors), The Spread of Buddhism, p-395. 2) Encylopedia.com
 ibid, p-387 (Klaus Sagaster, The History of Buddhism Among the Mongol)
 Shakabpa, Tibet A Political History, p-103-105
 1)Peter Hopkirk, The Great Game, p-503. 2)Alex Mckay, Tibet and the British Raj, p-63
 Eric Her, p-64, p-65
 DIIR, Tibet, Proving Truth from Facts, p-5
Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia's Tibet File, p-6, p-43
 1) Jampa Samten & Nikolay Tsyrempilov, From Tibet Confidentially p-57. 2) Alex McKay, Tibet and the British Raj, p-84
 1) ibid, p-9. 2), Nikolai S. Kuleshov, Russia`s Tibet File, p-7
 DIIR, Tibet, Proving Truth from Facts, p-5