University of Hawai'i Press
  • The Cult of Boudhanath Stupa/Jarung Khashar Suvraga in Mongolia:Texts, Images, and Architectural Replicas

The cult of the Nepalese stupa of Boudhanath (Tib. Jarung khashor/Bya rung kha shor, Mo. Jarung khashar) was very popular in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Mongolia, especially in Buryatia. Testaments to its popularity include the translation into Mongolian of a famous Tibetan guidebook to Boudhanath, a corpus of Mongolian oral narratives, the many thangkas and amulets depicting Boudhanath stupa along with a Tibetan prayer, and the existence of architectural replicas in Mongolia, probably to create surrogate pilgrimages to Boudhanath. How was Nepalese architecture transmitted to Mongolia? This article focuses on these architectural replicas in an attempt to understand whether the differences between the "original" structure and the Mongol replicas are due to local techniques and materials, the impossibility of studying the original, or distortions induced by the mode of transmission. Has the original building been reinterpreted to the point of transforming its meaning, and were the architectural replicas accompanied by the cult practices associated with it?


Buddhist architecture, Buddhist art, stupa, Bodnāth, Boudhanath, Nepal, Mongolia, replication of sacred architecture, pilgrimage

A contemporary Mongol story relates that in ancient India, a blue elephant had exhausted itself in the construction of a giant stupa named "Jarung khashar."1 When the stupa was completed, the great lama who consecrated it thanked everyone but forgot to thank the elephant. The angry elephant then made a vow to destroy Buddhism in its future reincarnations. Its first reincarnation was King Langdarma (Tib. gLang dar ma, r. 838–841), who (is said to have) persecuted Buddhists in Tibet; later reincarnations included, for Buryat Mongols of Russia, "Master" Stalin (Stalin bagsh) (Humphrey 2001, 32–33, from a story collected by U. Hurelbaatar in 1999), and, for Khorchin Mongols of Inner Mongolia, Mao Zedong, Liu Shaoqi, and Ulaankhüü (1907–1988, a famous Inner Mongolian communist politician)—Mao was the head, Liu was the chest, and Ulaankhüü was the buttock of the blue elephant (U. Hurelbaatar, personal communication, 2016). It is said that even Buddha and the deities could not prevent the disastrous results of such a vow.

Jarung khashar (sometimes spelled "Jarang" or "Jirung khashar"; Cyr. Mo. Jarun, Jaran, or Jiran khashor) is the Mongolian name of Boudhanath (or Bodnāth) stupa, one of the most famous monuments of the Kathmandu Valley (figures 1, 2a, and 2b). The Mongolian name comes from the Tibetan Bya rung kha shor (pronounced "Jarung khashor"), which is explained by a story recorded in the main Tibetan guidebook devoted to the Nepalese stupa, the mChod rten chen po bya rung kha shor gyi lo rgyus thos pas grol ba (History of the stupa Jarung khashor, liberation upon hearing), written in the sixteenth century2 (for Mongolian translations of this guidebook, see below). According to this guidebook, a poor widowed poultry keeper named Déchokma (Tib. bDe mchog ma, Mo. Demchogmaa, Skt. Saṃvara), who lived with her four sons, wanted to erect a stupa to enshrine relics of the past Buddha Kaśyapa. She had obtained the king's approval, but jealous nobles and ministers, shocked that a mendicant could build such a huge stupa, wanted the king to forbid its construction.3 The name of the stupa comes from the king's answer: "Jarung khashor/bya rung kha shor," meaning "I have already given her my permission [kha shor] to proceed with the work [bya rung]."4 Through oaths of reincarnation on the part of the poultry keeper's sons, the foundation of the stupa was connected to those mainly responsible for introducing Buddhism into Tibet: King Trison Détsen (Khri srong lde btsan, r. 740 or 755–797), Abbot Śāntarakṣita (725–788), and the eighth-century tantric master Padmasambhava.5 Thanks to the blessings generated [End Page 369]

Figure 1. Boudhanath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal, 1993. Photo by Katia Buffetrille.
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Figure 1.

Boudhanath stupa, Kathmandu, Nepal, 1993. Photo by Katia Buffetrille.

Figure 2A. Plan and drawing depicting Boudhanath stupa and its surroundings from above. Source: .
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Figure 2A.

Plan and drawing depicting Boudhanath stupa and its surroundings from above. Source:

Figure 2B. Plan and drawing depicting Boudhanath stupa and its surroundings from above. Source: Slusser (1982, fig. 25).
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Figure 2B.

Plan and drawing depicting Boudhanath stupa and its surroundings from above. Source: Slusser (1982, fig. 25).

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by the construction of the stupa and to the oaths of reincarnation, the first Buddhist monastery was founded, and Buddhism was firmly established in Tibet. Two animals that had participated in the construction, a donkey and the abovementioned elephant, had bad thoughts and were reincarnated as evil beings, but the reincarnations of other actors of the story countered their bad deeds.

Anthropologist U. Hurelbaatar and other Mongol friends with whom I discussed this story did not relate this "Jarung khashar" stupa with Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu and thought it was a myth. Yet in the late Qing period (1644–1911), Mongols, like Tibetans, not only went on pilgrimage to Boudhanath but also had replicas of the Nepalese stupa erected in the steppe. In my survey of the Buddhist architectural and artistic heritage of the Mongols, I came across six "Jarung khashar" stupas explicitly referring to Boudhanath in (Khalkha) Mongolia, Inner Mongolia, and Buryatia, as well as twenty-four thangkas depicting "Jarung Khashar" stupas (table 1 and Appendix 16). These architectural replicas are called "Jarung khashar"7 or, more recently, Ama aldasan (Cyr. Mo. Am aldsan, taking of an oath, making a promise) (Pürevbat 2005, 107). To my knowledge, no architectural replicas of Boudhanath stupa were built in Tibet before the twenty-first century,8 but three were erected in Bhutan.9 How did the cult of the Nepalese Boudhanath stupa reach the Mongols, and how did they know about it? Why did they especially replicate Boudhanath stupa instead of other famous Indian structures?

In understanding how architectural knowledge of Boudhanath stupa was transmitted to Mongolia, I was most inspired by the works of Alexander Griswold, Anne Chayet, Patricia Berger, and Christopher Wood on the replication of sacred sites.10 In a 1965 article, Griswold compares architectural replicas of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya in Southeast Asia, Nepal, and China and argues that the architecture of the Indian temple was transmitted through small-scale models. In a study of the temples of Chengde (or Jehol) northwest of Beijing, Chayet (1985) argues that Manchu emperors Kangxi (r. 1661–1722) and Qianlong (r. 1736–1796) copied Tibetan structures for political reasons, to make the Manchu emperors' summer palace the new center of Tibetan Buddhism.11 She evidenced that paintings were certainly the main medium of transfer, which partly explains the distortions of perspective, approximations, and trompe-l'oeil effect of the temples of [End Page 371] Chengde.12 In The Empire of Emptiness, Berger studies copies of Buddhist works of art at the court of Qianlong and calls this process of replication a "translation," because artworks, like Buddhist scriptures, are translated into new cultural forms to make them more familiar, to allow their indigenization (2003, 9–13). Wood's Forgery, Replica, Fiction (2008) on replicas of the Holy Sepulcher in Renaissance Germany also offers a theoretical apparatus that is useful for my analysis.13

When comparing replicas with the "original object,"14 and evaluating how closely they adhere to or deviate from it, art historians have often observed that differences are more obvious than similarities.15 What has been transmitted can be called the "concept," the "essence," or the "soul" of the original image or structure. Griswold compares the architectural copy to the act of planting a germ or a seed of the Bodhi tree: the descendant is a Ficus religiosa and preserves the essence of the original tree.16 Hence, in some cases it would be more accurate to refer to the replica as a "quotation" (following Berger),17 a "reference" (following Wood), a "transplantation" (following Griswold), or a "representation" of the original object.

Wood notes that a replica may retain some compulsory characteristics from the original—such as scale and proportions, or ground plane—but not nonessential, contingent features like ornamentation, size, or construction materials and techniques (2008, 43). What then are the essential, identifying features, which we could call the "iconography" of a sacred structure? To understand the differences between the model and the replica, we need to know how the model was transmitted. Are differences due to a poor knowledge of the original, the deformation of reduced three-dimensional models and two-dimensional depictions, the transmission by a literary source (such as an iconographical description), or local techniques and materials? Or, can differences be attributed to personal, deliberate choices of builders and their own vision of what the original looks like? To answer this question, it is necessary to study the transmission of the legend, the history, and the iconography through texts, oral narratives, and portable images, as well as, when available, the biographies of the people responsible for these transmissions.

Even when the model is not recognizable in the replica, these copies nonetheless make explicit references to an original, often through an inscription, a label,18 a lama's vision,19 oral narratives, or a guidebook that denies [End Page 372] the difference between the model and the replica (Charleux 2015a, 89). With this process of legitimization, in the eyes of devotees the copy has the same, or almost the same, "power" or ritual efficacy as the original. In many cases, a pilgrimage to a replicated sacred place is said to be equivalent to journeying to the distant original: the replica therefore functions as an acceptable "substitute."20 Or, a greater number of circumambulations of the replica is prescribed by clerics and pilgrimage guides to obtain the same amount of benefits.21 The reason for the construction of replicas is often to build a surrogate pilgrimage site, because a sacred site is located too far away or has been destroyed.22 With the creation of replicas, a sacred site moves closer to the pilgrims' home: it is not the pilgrim who travels abroad but the pilgrimage center that travels to the pilgrims, transferring (and extending) the numinous power of the original. Surrogate pilgrimages are made throughout the Buddhist world: it is like worshipping the same deity in different temples. In this "process of substitution," the architectural replicas aim to take the place of the original and deny difference, creating an "effect of identity" (Wood 2008, 40). Like the Buddha's relics, which were divided and transferred, such promotion of a local pilgrimage was a strategy to enhance the prestige of a religious site and attract crowds of pilgrims.

To illuminate the Mongol cult of Boudhanath, I will examine its architectural replicas, discuss their differences from the Nepalese stupa, and question whether these differences may be explained by the stupa's depiction in two-dimensional images. But first I will provide some information on the historical context of the cult of Boudhanath in Mongolia, Mongols' pilgrimages to Nepal, and the role of the sixteenth-century guidebook and other literary sources. Finally, I will ask whether there were some uniquely Mongol characteristics in the cult of Boudhanath, and whether the "Jarung khashar" stupas became a new type of Mongol stupa.


Why do replicas appear at a particular place and time? Before introducing the architectural replicas of Boudhanath, I will present some of the historical context surrounding the construction of replicas of Buddhist sacred sites in [End Page 373] Mongolia. In the eighteenth century, a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha attained Enlightenment in India, was built in Hohhot (Cl. Mo. Khökhekhota, Inner Mongolia, China). It was actually a copy of a copy, because it replicated the fifteenth-century Beijing pagoda built on the model of the Mahabodhi (Charleux 2006a). The construction of this building known as the Tabun suburga (Ch. Wuta, "Five Stupas") between 1727 and 1732 must be placed in the particular context of the cosmopolitan Manchu court in the first half of the Qing period: although the structure was built with private funding, its founder Biligündalai (d. 1745), a high-ranking Mongol lama, was close to the Manchu court and to Third Changkya Khutugtu Rölpé Dorjé (lCang skya khutugtu Rol pa'i rdo rje, 1717–1786) (Charleux 2006a).23

The replicas of Boudhanath in Mongolia, as well as the thangkas depicting the Nepalese stupa and the translation of the guidebook, all appeared in a different context in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The late nineteenth century was a time of economic stagnation and Sino-Manchu domination yet one of relative peace, rise in faith, pilgrimages (Charleux 2015b), and rich artistic production. One of the replicas was built in Ikh Khüree (Cl. Mo. Yekhe Khüriye) or Örgöö (transcribed in Russian as Urga), the great monastery and residence of the Jebtsündamba Khutugtu that had settled in the Tuul Valley in 1855, on the site of present-day Ulaanbaatar. The building of a "Jarung khashar" stupa may have been part of a larger program of artistic and architectural projects in and around the monastic city linked to the construction of Ikh Khüree as the main pilgrimage center of Khalkha Mongolia (Charleux 2015b, 44–48; Uranchimeg 2016).

After the fall of the Qing, Inner Mongols struggled for autonomy while their land became the focus of conflicts between various foreign powers. Between 1927 and 1935, the Ninth Panchen Lama, Lozang Thubten Chökyi Nyima (bLo bzang thub bstan chos kyi nyi ma, 1883–1937) traveled through Inner Mongolia, where he performed Kālacakra initiations (the Wheel of Time, an advanced tantric teaching).24 He ordered the construction of a replica of Boudhanath stupa in order to "bring peace and happiness to the whole banner" (Delege 1998, 633) in this period of troubles and rebellions. During the same period, Buddhism was developing as a world religion from Sri Lanka to China and Buryatia and was the object of reformation attempts [End Page 374] in several countries. India was revalorized as the homeland of "ecumenical Buddhism" and Bodh Gaya was resacralized as the main place of pilgrimage to the "origins of Buddhism," while improved means of transportation made the pilgrimage to India and Nepal much easier (Huber 2008).

If this period seems to have created a climate that was conducive to pilgrimages and the construction of replicated architectures of the Holy Land, this climate does not explain why Boudhanath was specifically chosen instead of, for example, Bodh Gaya. Was the cult of Boudhanath linked to particular relations between Mongolia and Nepal? Since the medieval period, Newars (Nepalese of the Kathmandu Valley) have been renowned throughout the Inner Asian world for their bronze craftsmanship. In the Yuan period (1276–1368), the celebrated Nepalese artist Arniko (Ch. Anige 阿尼哥, ca. 1244–1306) worked at the court of Khubilai Khan (r. 1260–1294), and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Newar craftsmen worked for Mongol princes and Buddhist dignitaries (Charleux 2015a, 99, 140; Béguin 1993). However, the modern Mongol interest in Boudhanath was not related to this earlier interest in Nepalese craftsmanship. Instead, like the Tibetans, who appropriated the site in the fourteenth century,25 modern Mongol Buddhists saw Boudhanath as one of the holiest places of the ancient history of Buddhism in India. Tibetans and Mongols undertook pilgrimages to Boudhanath stupa because they believed that it had the "power of granting all prayers for worldly wealth, children, and everything asked for" (Waddell [1895] 1985, 315; Tenzin 1998, 75, 95). Boudhanath was associated with the granting of all kinds of wishes, and worshipping Boudhanath was also an occasion to give back to one's parents the compassion they had for their children.26 On a print from Buryatia depicting Boudhanath stupa, a Mongolian inscription at the bottom says that this great stupa is like a cintāmaṇi (jewel) that fulfills all wishes (Appendix 1, no. 13).27 The recently built Jarung khashar in Amarbayasgalant khiid (Cyr. Mo. Amurbayaskhulangtu kheid), Selenge Province, Mongolia (figure 23 and described below), is called "Great stupa of the jewel that grants all wishes."28 Similarly, at Chorten Kora in Bhutan, devotees "believe that making prostrations and praying with a pure mind at the festivals will enable them to realize their aspirations in life" (Lam Kezang Chhophel 2002, 4). Boudhanath/Jarung khashar was therefore comparable to the cintāmaṇi that fulfills all wishes. [End Page 375]


Danish explorer Henning Haslund-Christensen (1896–1948), who resided in Mongolia in the 1920s and 1930s, mentioned Boudhanath as a major pilgrimage site for Mongols:

From all the corners of Central Asia [these pilgrims in prostrations] work their ways to the holy places of pilgrimage and the goal may be as remote as Wu-t'ai Shan [Wutaishan] of the many legends, or Dzarung Khashor, the domed pagoda in still more remote Nepal.

Except for Bodh Gaya and other holy places in India linked to Śākyamuni's life, Boudhanath is the farthest pilgrimage destination for Mongols (even more so for Buryat Mongols). Yet despite the dangers of the road, the difficulty of obtaining travel permits, the physical hardship, and the financial cost, an increasing number of Mongol pilgrims (including Buryats and Kalmyks) visited Tibet in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.29 The pilgrimage to Lhasa was well organized: Khalkhas and Buryats usually joined the two large annual caravans that brought monastic trade missions from Ikh Khüree to Lhasa (Charleux 2015b, 30–39). Their main destination was Lhasa, and only a minority continued their journey to southern Tibet and Kathmandu, and then an even smaller number traveled on to India.30 A famous pilgrim to Lhasa to Boudhanath was Buryat diplomat monk Agvan Dorjiev (1853–1938), who traveled in 1901 (Martin and Norbu 1991, 24 [translation of Dorjiev's autobiography, written in 1923]).

Boudhanath appears to have been the main destination of Mongol pilgrims to Nepal; Swayambunath stupa, known in Tibetan as Pakpa shingkün chöten ('Phags pa shing kun mchod rten), and Namo Buddha (Tib. Takmo lüjin/sTag mo lus sbyin]), which were equally important destinations for Tibetans,31 were much less popular among Mongols. I did not find Mongolian translations of guidebooks to Swayambunath, and Mongols apparently did not build architectural replicas of Swayambunath. Although Swayambunath appears on some thangkas, together with Boudhanath and another stupa on three thangkas (Appendix 1, nos. 22–24), I did not find thangkas depicting Swayambunath alone. [End Page 376]

We have no details on whether Mongol pilgrims visited Boudhanath in greater numbers during the Year of the Bird, which is the most auspicious year to visit the site for Tibetans. Some famous Buddhists restored Boudhanath stupa, but none of them was Mongol.32 Yet even if historical sources are silent about Mongols in Boudhanath, we know that it was such a holy place for Mongols that some of them settled there. In the 1950s, a Gélukpa reincarnation from Ordos (Inner Mongolia), Gurudeva Rinpoché (1908–2009), also known as Sogpo Rinpoché (Sog po rin po che)—Sogpo meaning "Mongol" in Tibetan—founded a monastery named Ganden Chöphel Ling (dGa' ldan chos 'phel gling) on the circumambulation path (barkor/bar skor) northeast of Boudhanath. Devotees offered him land to build the monastery, which was staffed by two or three Mongol monks. In the 1960s, when Tibetans took possession of the monastery, Sogpo moved to India (Corneille Jest, personal communication, 2008).33 He came back to live in his monastery in Boudhanath34 from 1986 to 1992, after which he left for Mongolia.35 After his death, a replica of Boudhanath stupa was built in his Mongol monastery (figure 23).

Enthusiastic Mongol pilgrims to Nepal may have decided to make replicas of this particular stupa once back home; yet it seems to me that the flourishing cult of Boudhanath in Mongolia was not proportional to the small number of pilgrims who actually reached that distant place. Pilgrimages to Boudhanath stupa may have developed only after its worship was well established in Mongolia through texts, tales, images, and architectural replicas. In other words, the replicas may have served as surrogate pilgrimage places sites before the original place became easier to reach.


Knowledge of the great Buddhist pilgrimage places was transmitted in Tibet and Mongolia through Tibetan culture in general and, more particularly, through Tibetan historiography, biographies of great masters, and guidebooks, as well as oral accounts of pilgrims. Mongol lamas educated in Tibetan learned the story of the construction and legend of Jarung khashor/Boudhanath through various Tibetan sources such as chöjungs, [End Page 377] termas, and pilgrimage guides (see Blondeau 1982–1983, 1994).36 At least two historiographical works written by Mongols—Sagang sechen's Erdeni-yin tobci (Bejewelled summary, Saγang secen [1662] 1955) and Galdan's Erdeniyin erike (Bejewelled rosary, [1859] 1999)—mention the legend of Jarung khashor, without identifying it with Boudhanath (see Appendix 2).

The main source of the legend of Jarung khashor is the abovementioned Tibetan guidebook, History of the stupa Jarung khashor, liberation upon hearing. In the 1880s, pilgrims could purchase a contemporaneous printed version of the guidebook at Boudhanath (Ehrhard 1990, 1).37 The guidebook was translated into Mongolian and is known under the title "Legend of the [stupa] known as Jarung khashor." At least four manuscripts in the format of ancient Indian pothi (palm-leaf books) are preserved.38 According to its colophon, it was translated into Mongolian by a gelung (Tib. gélong/dge slong, ordained monk) named Shirab or Shisrab, and published in the Year of the Water Dragon (1772, 1832, or 1892).39 A xylograph printed version preserved in Aga (Aginskii) datsan (monastery) in Buryatia also still exists. The latter has been adapted into modern Mongolian and transcribed into Cyrillic and is included in a booklet about Boudhanath stupa and one of its Mongolian replicas (Ninjbadgar 2000).40

The guidebook tells the story of the construction of the stupa (chapter 1) and the foundation of Samyé Monastery by the reincarnations of the poultry keeper's sons as King Trison Détsen, Śāntarakṣita, and Padmasambhava (Ninjbadgar 2000, 19–20). Chapter 3 (on the blessings produced by worshipping the stupa, according to the types of worship and offerings), chapter 4 (on the portents of the ruin of the stupa, which was destroyed during the troubled times of the Kali yuga), and chapter 5 (on the restorers and their attainments) deal with the later history of Tibet. The only mention of the Mongols in this text is in chapter 4, which relates the history of the Mongols' conquest of Tibet (Dowman [1973] 1993, 55).41 The guidebook does not contain any description or architectural detail of Jarung khashor.

This guidebook belongs to the category of tödröl (thos drol, "liberation upon hearing"), which means that the fact of reciting, hearing, memorizing, and understanding it leads to Enlightenment.42 It is a Tibetan means of instructing people along the spiritual path toward the attainment of complete realization (the stupa being itself a symbol of Buddhahood) (Dowman [1973] 1993, 3–5). [End Page 378]

The translation into Mongolian and existence of different manuscripts and printed versions highlight the popularity of Boudhanath among laypeople; the book not only informed future pilgrims about the sacred place but also served as an object of worship per se, a surrogate of the pilgrimage, and a means of "liberation upon hearing." According to Ninjbadgar, other Tibetan and Mongolian prayer books on Boudhanath stupa were printed in Mongolia (2000, 1).


Most of the ancient architectural replicas of Boudhanath in Mongolia were destroyed during the twentieth century; they are known to us thanks to photographs, a few mentions in the literature, and the souvenirs of elderly monks. Unfortunately, although the building of temples and colleges is generally recorded and dated in monastic sources and archives, this is rarely the case for the construction of stupas. In this section, I present information, mostly based on historical and iconographical sources, about five "Jarung khashar" stupas in Mongolia and one in China, from the eighteenth to the first half of the twentieth centuries.

(1) The oldest replica I came across was located in Mongolia but at a great Chinese pilgrimage site that attracted Mongols, Tibetans, and Chinese: the Wutaishan Mountains in Shanxi Province. The stupa is located in Baohuasi 寶華寺, an old Chinese Buddhist monastery that was turned into a Tibetan Gelugpa (dGe lugs pa) monastery in 1719 (Charleux 2015b, online appendix B, Baohuasi). The 9-meter-high Tibetan-style stupa known as "Dīpankara's Mother" or "Stupa That Came Flying" (Ch. Feilaita 飛來塔)43 is believed to enshrine a lock of the hair of Tsongkhapa (Tsong kha pa, 1357–1419). In his guidebook to Mount Wutai, Rölpé Dorjé wrote that lama pilgrims renovated the stupa on the model of Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu (Charleux, 2015b, online appendix B). In 1873, the monastery was restored and the monks rebuilt the white stupa. A stone inscription in Tibetan and Mongolian, written by a disciple of the Sixth Panchen Lama, Lozang Penden Yéshé (bLo bzang dpal ldan ye shes, 1891–1958) who meditated on Mount Wutai, also links the stupa with Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu (see [End Page 379] Charleux 2015b, online appendices A2 and B). The stupa of Baohuasi has been preserved and restored (figure 3).

(2) The first architectural replica in Mongolia probably was the "Jarun khashor-un suburga" (stupa of Jarun khashor) of Khan öndriin khüree (Cl. Mo. Khan öndör-ün khuriye) about 96 kilometers from Tsetserleg, north of the Tamir River in Ikh Tamir District, in Arkhangai Province. Khan öndriin khüree had about thirty temples and a dozen stupas, surrounded by housing for about one thousand monks and novices. It was founded by several generations of the Noyan tsetsen ching wangs (title of the jasags—Chinggisid princes ruling their eponym banners) of the Sayin noyan khan aimag. Tsetsen ching wang Denjin banzur (Den toin) founded the first temples in 1679, then, in 1809, new temples were built by Tsetsen ching wang Lawangdorji (1749–1816, jasag in 1771). The monastery is therefore a "princely monastery," tightly tied to the secular power of the jasags. It received titles from the Qing emperor and the Jebtsündamba Khutugtus. As one of the largest monasteries of Mongolia, it trained monks from all of Khalkha aimags (provinces) in its academic colleges. The monastery was closed in 1932 and razed to the ground in 1937 or 1938 (Ninjbadgar 2000, 55–64; Maidar [1970] 1972, 32–33; Shchepetil'nikov 1960, 162).44

Ninjbadgar documented the history of the construction of nineteen temples (including academic colleges) but did not find any detail on the construction of the "Jarun khashor suvraga" (Cl. Mo. suburga, "stupa") (figures 36).45 In 1857, khoshoi ching wang Daram founded the Suburganu takhil-un khural (Assembly to make sacrifices/offerings to the stupa),46 which may refer to the rituals organized in the "Jarung khashar" stupa (Ninjbadgar 2000, 59–63). Therefore, the date of construction of the stupa may be 1857.

According to a ninety-six-year-old lama named Damtsaabadgar, who was a pupil at Khan öndriin khüree before its destruction, the founders intended to build the Eight Great Stupas of the Buddha (referring to the eight major events of Śākyamuni's life and teachings) and another large stupa. For a long time, they collected many images (jirug) of stupas in order to choose one, and eventually selected Boudhanath stupa in Nepal (Ninjbadgar 2000, 61). [End Page 380]

Figure 3. "Dīpankara's Mother" stupa of Baohuasi, Wutaishan, Shanxi Province, China, 2010. Photo by the author.
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Figure 3.

"Dīpankara's Mother" stupa of Baohuasi, Wutaishan, Shanxi Province, China, 2010. Photo by the author.

Figure 4. "Jarung khashar" stupa, Khan öndriin khüree, Ikh Tamir District, Arkhangai Province (destroyed). Photo taken before 1937. Source: .
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Figure 4.

"Jarung khashar" stupa, Khan öndriin khüree, Ikh Tamir District, Arkhangai Province (destroyed). Photo taken before 1937. Source: Tsultem (1988, fig. 157).

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Figure 5. "Jarung khashar" stupa, Khan öndriin khüree. Photo taken before 1937. Source: .
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Figure 5.

"Jarung khashar" stupa, Khan öndriin khüree. Photo taken before 1937. Source: Shchepetil'nikov (1960, 162, fig. 97).

Figure 6. General view of Khan öndriin khüree. Photo taken before 1937. Source: .
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Figure 6.

General view of Khan öndriin khüree. Photo taken before 1937. Source: Tsultem (1988, fig. 136).

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Figure 7. "Jarung khashar" stupa near Gandantegchilen Monastery of Ikh Khüree (Ulaanbaatar, destroyed). Photo taken in 1934. Sources: and .
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Figure 7.

"Jarung khashar" stupa near Gandantegchilen Monastery of Ikh Khüree (Ulaanbaatar, destroyed). Photo taken in 1934. Sources: Tsultem (1988, fig. 159) and Shchepetil'nikov (1960, 167, fig. 102).

(3) A replica of Boudhanath stupa was erected near the great academic monastery of Gandan (short for Gandantegchinlin) west of Ikh Khüree/Ulaanbaatar (figure 7).47 The "Jarung khashar" stupa, built at some distance northwest of the monastery, was surrounded by a fence and dedicated to the glory of the incarnation of the Buddha. Other stupas built by devotees (including the Eight Great Stupas of the Buddha) were nearby. The place was certainly a main object of devotion for the many pilgrims who circumambulated Gandan,48 though whether it formed a separate temple or was part of Gandan itself is unclear (Teleki 2011, 190). Krisztina Teleki, a specialist on Mongolian monasteries, writes, "According to Gonchig lama, 3–4 lamas held ceremonies regularly in the treasure-vase hall (Mo. bumba, Tib. bumpa) of this stupa, and this was called the Tsagaan suwragiin khural" (Tsagan suburga-yin khural, Monastery/Assembly of the White Stupa) (2011, 190). Gandan Monastery was founded in 1809 but became a main monastic center in 1838 (Teleki 2011, 162), and the "Jarung khashar" stupa appears on Balgan's and Jügder's maps, respectively dated to the 1880s–1890s and 1912 (figure 8). The stupa can therefore roughly be dated to the late nineteenth century. According to another source, construction ended in 1905 and the [End Page 383] Thirteenth Dalai Lama, Tupten Gyatso (Thub bstan rgya mtsho, 1876–1933), consecrated it while sojourning in the capital.49 It was destroyed in the late 1930s, and a television tower was built on its site in 1967.

Figure 8. "Jirangqašar-yin suburγa" near Gandantegchilen Monastery. Detail of Balgan's map of Ikh Khüree, 1880s, Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar. Photo by the author.
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Figure 8.

"Jirangqašar-yin suburγa" near Gandantegchilen Monastery. Detail of Balgan's map of Ikh Khüree, 1880s, Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar. Photo by the author.

(4) Another Jarung khashar may have been built northeast of Dambadarjaa khiid (Cl. Mo. Damba dorji kheid or Shasin-i badaragulugchi süme), northeast of Ikh Khüree (now in a suburb of Ulaanbaatar) (Daajav 2006, 2:121–131; Teleki 2011, 241–252). Dambadarjaa khiid was built in 1761–1765 on Emperor Qianlong's order in memory of the Second Jebtsündamba Khutugtu (1724–1758). It had colleges with a high level of learning and more than one thousand monks in the 1910s. Funerary stupas enshrined the relics of the Second, Third, and Sixth Jebtsündamba Khutugtus. According to historian of architecture D. Maidar, the Jarung khashar of Dambadarjaa [End Page 384] khiid was surrounded by the Eight Great Stupas of the Buddha ([1970] 1972, 32–33). Daajav wrote that it was located northeast of the monastery, outside the compound, but does not specify his source (2006, 2:126, 129; quoted in Teleki 2011, 242). It was probably destroyed at the same time as the rest of the monastery in 1937 and 1938, and it was rebuilt from 2003 to 2004 (figures 9 and 10). Although several old photos of the monastery are known, none of them shows the Jarung khashar,50 and it is not visible on ancient maps such as Jügder's.51 The rebuilt stupa seems to have been modeled on an old photo of Gandan's Jarung khashar, but its spire is square-based whereas Gandan's is round-based (figure 10).

(5) A "Jarung khashar" stupa was built in Üüshin juu or Ganjuur nom-un süme (Kanjur Monastery, Ch. Wushenzhao 烏審召) in the Üüshin Banner of Ordos. Üüshin juu was founded by a Tibetan lama from Amdo named Nangsu in the 1570s and was rebuilt around 1713. In 1734, Üüshin juu became the "banner monastery" of the fifth jasag, beise Rashisereng, who enlarged it. In 1764, Lubsang dorji laramba (d. ca. 1801), a Khalkha lama trained in Lhasa, became the abbot. The main icons of the monastery were two sandalwood statues of Śākyamuni he had brought back from Kumbum (sKu 'bum) in Amdo. Four colleges were founded in the eighteenth century, and Üüshin juu became a large academic monastery of 1,200 monks and four reincarnate lamas, with twenty-five temples and more than ten treasuries. It was famous for its three large stupas and 108 (or 206) smaller ones, many of which were funerary stupas enclosed by a wall (Narasun and Temürbaγatur 2000, 233–239, 269–300; Delege 1998, 372–373, 629–333; Charleux 2006b, CD-ROM [track no. 60]). The monastery was partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution and was rebuilt from 1999 to 2000.

The three large stupas included the Gegeen suburga built in 1773 and the "octagonal stupa" built on the model of Boudhanath stupa, of which we have a photo taken before 1959 (figure 11). The twelfth (and last) jasag of Üüshin Banner, Tegüs amugulang, had it erected at the request of the Ninth Panchen Lama, to bring peace and happiness to the whole banner. Lamas from Üüshin juu undertook a three-year journey to Nepal to study the architecture of Boudhanath and came back with drawings and sketches (Delege 1998, 633).52 The stupa was built between 1934 and 1942, northwest of Üüshin juu (figure 12). The perimeter of its round base measured 25 zhang [End Page 385]

Figure 9. "Jarung khashar" stupa, rebuilt from 2003 to 2004, northeast of Dambadarjaa khiid (suburb of Ulaanbaatar), 2013. Photo by the author.
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Figure 9.

"Jarung khashar" stupa, rebuilt from 2003 to 2004, northeast of Dambadarjaa khiid (suburb of Ulaanbaatar), 2013. Photo by the author.

Figure 10. "Jarung khashar" stupa, northeast of Dambadarjaa khiid, rebuilt in 2003. Photo by Sue Byrne, 2013.
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Figure 10.

"Jarung khashar" stupa, northeast of Dambadarjaa khiid, rebuilt in 2003. Photo by Sue Byrne, 2013.

[End Page 386]

Figure 11. "Octagonal lama stupa," Üüshin juu (Ganjuur nom-un süme), Üüshin Banner, Ordos League, Inner Mongolia. Photo taken before 1959. Source: .
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Figure 11.

"Octagonal lama stupa," Üüshin juu (Ganjuur nom-un süme), Üüshin Banner, Ordos League, Inner Mongolia. Photo taken before 1959. Source: Zhang (1959, 51).

Figure 12. "Dīpankara's Mother" stupa of Baohuasi, Wutaishan, Shanxi Province, China, 2010. Photo by the author.
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Figure 12.

"Dīpankara's Mother" stupa of Baohuasi, Wutaishan, Shanxi Province, China, 2010. Photo by the author.

[End Page 387]

Figure 13. Restored stupa of Üüshin juu. Photo by Agata Bareja-Starzyńska, August 2013.
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Figure 13.

Restored stupa of Üüshin juu. Photo by Agata Bareja-Starzyńska, August 2013.

Figure 14. Interior of the restored stupa of Üüshin juu, similar to the inner chamber of the Tabun suburga/Mahabodhi of Hohhot. Photo by Agata Bareja-Starzyńska, August 2013.
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Figure 14.

Interior of the restored stupa of Üüshin juu, similar to the inner chamber of the Tabun suburga/Mahabodhi of Hohhot. Photo by Agata Bareja-Starzyńska, August 2013.

(80 meters), it stood 7 zhang high (22.4 meters), and its construction cost more than 300,000 silver yuan. It was partially destroyed during the Cultural Revolution. Between 1999 and 2001, it was restored or rebuilt according to its former outer appearance. The restored stupa has a large vaulted room inside (figures 13 and 14).53

(6) A large "Jarung khashar" stupa was built between 1915 and 1919 near Khejenge datsan (Cl. Mo. Khotun Khijingge-yin Dashi lhundubling; Russ. Kizhinga), now in Kizhinginsky District, Buryatia. Khejenge datsan was founded in 1766; the stupa was completely destroyed in 1937 along with the monastery, and it is not even possible to determine its exact location. It was the most worshipped stupa of Buryatia (Bĕlka 2001, 167–172). The decision was made to rebuild it in its original shape near the alleged original site, with a height of 33 meters, a surface area of 44 x 44 meters, and a 16-meterhigh inner chamber with an area of 22 x 22 meters. In 1990, Drukpa Rinpoché [End Page 388] ('Brug pa rin po che) from Nepal visited and consecrated the future site, and construction started in 1991, but the work was interrupted due to financial difficulties. The stupa was eventually built between 1999 and 2001 on a more modest scale, at a height of only 12 meters, with a surface area of 12 x 12 meters and an inner chamber with an area of 10 x 10 meters (figure 15). On the south side of the main entrance are a small temple to bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (on the right) and a temple to the Twenty-One Tārās (on the left).54

Figure 15. Rebuilt "Jarung khashar" stupa of Khejenge Monastery, Kizhinga, Buryatia. Photo by Ekaterina Sundueva.
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Figure 15.

Rebuilt "Jarung khashar" stupa of Khejenge Monastery, Kizhinga, Buryatia. Photo by Ekaterina Sundueva.


All of the abovementioned Mongol replicas of Boudhanath were built in or near large academic monasteries and were considered as separate units, often located northeast of a monastic complex. But what are the architectural characteristics that make them "replicas" of Boudhanath stupa? We are [End Page 389]

TABLE 1. The "Jarung khashar" stupas listed in chronological order
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 The "Jarung khashar" stupas listed in chronological order

[End Page 390]

speaking here about the aspects of Boudhanath in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which are known to us mostly thanks to photographs.55

An initial observation is that some of the Mongol replicas had an inner shrine, whereas the Nepalese Boudhanath stupa is a solid structure with no room inside. The "Jarung khashar" stupas of Gandan and Khan öndriin khüree were called khural. Khural, meaning "assembly, ritual, religious service," also designates a monastery or a temple, especially in Ikh Khüree; here it seems to designate a stupa with an inner chamber to hold assemblies. These two stupas may thus have served as a temple for specific rituals. The Jarung khashar of Üüshin juu had a gate (perhaps to an inner shrine) protected by a Chinese-style portico topped by a reduced stupa (figure 11), and the restored/reconstructed stupa has a large vaulted room inside (figure 14). The rebuilt stupas of Dambadarjaa khiid (figure 9) and Khejenge datsan also have an inner shrine (figure 15), but nowadays there is a trend in Tibet and Southeast Asia to build hollow stupas with a shrine inside to exhibit statues and relics.56

Zsuzsa Majer, a specialist on Mongolian monasteries, hypothesizes that there must have been more Jarun khashor stupas in Mongolia, though evidence in the form of pictures or remnants is not lacking, because

Tsagaan suwragiin khural was a name for several other countryside monasteries (presumably all with a big white stupa), for example one in Dundgow' we surveyed, but no one can confirm now if they had Jarun khashor type of stupas, or other type of stupas painted in white (all we know of the above Dundgow' stupa is that it was an arched type—could even be Jarun khashor).

(Zsuzsa Majer, email message to author, April 22, 2015)

Let us now compare the architecture of Boudhanath with that of the Mongol and Chinese replicas from bottom to top:

  • • Boudhanath stupa, about 40 meters in height and diameter,57 is one of the largest stupas in the world (about twice the size of the Great stupa of Sanchi in India). An old photograph of Khan öndriin khüree shows the Jarung khashar overlooking the surrounding temples (figure 4). According to local elders, its "foot" (floor surface) was the size of a six-walled (Cyr. Mo. khana) yurt; it was 15 to 20 meters high; its pedestal or lion's throne (sentii) probably measured 400 square meters (Ninjbadgar 2000, 62). The Jarung khashar of Üüshin juu may have [End Page 391] been 22.4 meters high; that of Gandan was probably shorter, yet it was much larger than the surrounding stupas.

  • • Boudhanath stupa has its main entrance on the northern side, whereas the "Jarung khashar" stupas of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia were oriented toward the south, as is typical of Mongol temples.

  • • The three successive twelve-cornered terraced platforms or plinths of diminishing size on which Boudhanath stupa rests,58 which are used as circumambulatory passages, and the flights of stairs giving access to each successive tier were not copied in the Mongol replicas. All the Mongol stupas have a square base, except that of Üüshin juu, which superposes three octagonal bases of recessing size.

  • • Four smaller stupas stand at the four corners of the "Jarung khashar" stupas of Khan öndriin khüree,59 (modern) Dambadarjaa khiid, and Baohuasi, and eight stupas form a square around the "Jarung khashar" of Gandan.60 At Boudhanath, four small stupas stand at the four intermediate directions of the lower platform, and two additional small stupas stand at the northern side's main entrance, but these four stupas are so small and different from the central stupa that they are almost unnoticeable.

  • • In front of the "Jarung khashar" of Khan öndriin khüree, two small niches with tiled eaves probably protected an icon. Two pavilions with round, arched openings and tiled roofs stand in front of the Gandan stupa. As we will see below, these probably replicated two shrines that existed at Boudhanath in the nineteenth century (Czaja 2015, 92).61

  • • The shape of the aṇḍa (vase shape, Tib. bum pa, Mo. khomkha or bumba, "main body of the stupa") of all the "Jarung khashar" stupas of Mongolia differs from the hemispherical shape of the aṇḍa of Boudhanath stupa, but it is also systematically different from the aṇḍa of "bottle-shaped" Tibetan-style stupas. The shape of the aṇḍa of the "Jarung khashar" of Gandan is cylindrical; the aṇḍa of the stupa of Khan öndriin khüree has a slender, elongated shape that resembles that of the bell-shaped nirvana stupa (one of the Eight Great Stupas of the Buddha) (Maidar [1970] 1972, 32). The aṇḍa of the stupa of Üüshin juu is a reduced hemispherical dome that looks like a cupola on the third octagonal level. The octagonal shape may be a reference to the base of the stupa of reconciliation (another of the Eight Great Stupas of the [End Page 392] Buddha). The stairs leading to the harmikā (square part at the spire's base, Cl. Mo. suulga) of Boudhanath stupa were not replicated in the Mongol stupas.

  • • The "Jarung khashar" stupa of Khan öndriin khüree has a very large niche (Cl. Mo. ger-ün üüde, "door") projecting from the main face with a pointed-arch opening that resembles the iwan's arched gateway62 of Islamic architecture; inside the niche one can distinguish a wooden door that may have opened to an inner shrine. The interruption in the rows of small niches on the tiered round and square platforms below the niche may indicate the presence of a staircase giving access to the inner shrine. On the Gandan stupa, a central projecting niche has the same shape as the tiled pavilions at the foot of the stupa, with a rounded-arch opening and tiled eaves;63 it may also have been the entrance to an inner shrine. The reconstructed stupa of Dambadarjaa khiid has an inner shrine that opens with a double-panel door (figure 9). It has a rounded-arch decoration with the symbol of the Kālacakra, and sculpted vajras64 around its aṇḍa. The presence of this large niche, which is missing in the aṇḍa of Boudhanath stupa, may be explained, as we will see, by two-dimensional images of Boudhanath.

  • • Two rows of small niches (for icons, perhaps) pierce the aṇḍa below the large niche of the Jarung khashar of Khan öndriin khüree, and two other rows pierce the square platforms (figures 4 and 5). The reduced aṇḍa of the stupa of Üüshin juu is pierced by twenty-four niches. This row of niches is a distinctive feature of Boudhanath stupa: just above the base of the dome, encircling its entire periphery is a series of 108 recessed niches, each enshrining a sculpture of a Buddhist deity.65

  • • Pairs of eyes are painted and/or carved on the four faces of the harmikā66 of the Mongol stupas and of Baohuasi. This is the main characteristic that links the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas to Boudhanath stupa.67 In the Tibetan world, many stupas that have no connection with Boudhanath stupa have painted eyes,68 but in Mongolia, the only stupas with eyes were "Jarung khashar" stupas. As in Boudhanath, the Jarung khashar of Gandan also had the nose symbol resembling a question mark. Whose eyes are they? The eyes and curved nose-mark on the harmikā of Boudhanath stupa are said to be the eyes of the ādibuddha (primordial buddha of Vajrayāna Buddhism) [End Page 393] symbolizing Enlightenment; it is believed that they are self-emanating (Snodgrass 1985, 361). People at Dambadarjaa khiid say the stupa has the eyes of Avalokiteśvara. The eyes on the Jarung khashar of Khejenge are said to symbolize the all-seeing eyes of Buddha, who is ready to help at any time ("Stupa Djarun-Khashor"). It is said that by praying and looking at the eyes of the recently built Jarung khashar of Amarbayasgalant khiid, one gets rid of his or her sins.69

  • • Except for the Gandan stupa, which had a round-based spire, the stupas have the square-based spire (Skt. chattra, Cl. Mo. choingkhor) that is characteristic of Boudhanath stupa.

  • • Whereas "traditional" Tibetan stupas are topped by the moon, the sun, and a flame, all the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas, similar to Boudhanath, are crowned with a ganjir (treasure vase),70 which looks like a miniature stupa.

The eighteenth-century stupa of Baohuasi differs from the rest of our corpus, yet although it may not be immediately detectable to an untrained eye, its architecture shares the basic characteristics that allow us to identify a replica of Boudhanath stupa: the four smaller stupas in the corners, the row of Buddha images at the base of its aṇḍa, the eyes on the harmikā, the square-based spire, and the ganjir on its summit.

To summarize, the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas were separate objects of worship within Mongol monasteries, and some of them may have had an inner chamber. Their common characteristics were their large size, the eyes decorating the harmikā, an aṇḍa with a slender or cylindrical shape (but always different from the bottle shape) with small niches for images at its base and a large central niche that could serve as the entrance to an inner shrine, and a ganjir pinnacle. Four or eight smaller stupas surrounded them. The Jarung khashar closest to Boudhanath is that of Khan öndriin khüree. Many of the characteristics of Boudhanath were not "translated" to Mongolia, such as the platforms with recessing shapes and the surrounding walls with prayer wheels.71 Even if the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas do not exactly "respect the program" of Boudhanath, they are clearly differentiated, by their architectural characteristics and size, from the other types of Mongol stupas. This is what Wood, writing about medieval European architectural replicas, calls the "principle of negative differentiation": "It did not [End Page 394] matter how … closely it [the program] was respected, so long as the resulting building was sufficiently differentiated from another building that belonged to a different token family, or to no token family" (2008, 45).72 Wood stresses that though the resemblance to the original is not always perceivable to modern eyes and minds, which have at their disposal photographs of the building of reference, in an earlier time minimum criteria of resemblance sufficed to transmit the essence of the prime building. These selected criteria "reveal to modern observers which aspects of building a historical culture considered most important" (2008, 44).


How did Mongols know about the architecture of Boudhanath? Because the guidebook to Boudhanath does not contain any physical descriptions of the stupa, it was of no use in making replicas. Knowledge of the stupa's architecture may have been transmitted instead by paintings, xylograph prints, and scale models. As mentioned earlier, the Jarung khashar of Khan öndriin khüree was modeled on an "image," and lamas from Üüshin juu traveled to South Asia to study and make sketches of the "original."73 Similarly, during the eighteenth century, the founder of Chorten Kora in Bhutan set out on a journey to Boudhanath and returned home with a model of the stupa that had been quickly made out of radish. "By the time they arrived home the radish model had shrunk distorting the shape. As a result, the stupa or chorten, particularly the one at Teashi [sic] Yangtse, underwent some changes in design especially in the level of galleries" (Lam Kezang Chhophel 2002, 2–3). The story of the deterioration of the media—here, a radish—may, of course, have been invented to justify the replica's differences from its model.

Scale models of Boudhanath stupa were kept in monasteries of Eastern Tibet and Mongolia (Czaja 2015, 91 and figs. 7 and 8) (figure 16),74 but paintings and xylograph prints were much more common (see Appendix 1). Do the inaccuracies of these paintings and prints explain, as in the case of the Chengde temples, some of the characteristics of the architectural replicas? Conversely, some of the two-dimensional images may have been made after a Mongol architectural replica. Because none of these paintings and prints are dated,75 we have no answer to this question, but this may have been the case with thangka no. 13 (Appendix 1). This print that shows Jarung khashar with [End Page 395] many small stupas on its terraces may have served as a model for the recent reconstruction of the Jarung khashar of Khejenge, of which apparently no ancient image is known (figure 15).

Figure 16. "Am-aldasan [Ama aldasan] stupa made by silver casting and hammering," MIBA collection, Ulaanbaatar. Source: .
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Figure 16.

"Am-aldasan [Ama aldasan] stupa made by silver casting and hammering," MIBA collection, Ulaanbaatar. Source: Pürevbat (2005, 376, fig. 245).

Below are a few examples of Mongol paintings and prints divided into four categories: (1) paintings depicting Boudhanath with some of its characteristic features (figure 17); (2) xylograph prints from Buryatia depicting Boudhanath (figure 18); (3) prints depicting a bottle-shaped Tibetan stupa with Avalokiteśvara, with a text that refers to Jarung khashar (figure 19); and (4) prints depicting Boudhanath along with other stupas (figures 20 and 21).76 Several prints come from the same matrix (Appendix 1).

These thangkas have a few common characteristics. First of all, several of the prints include in their lower registers a Tibetan text briefly describing the legend of the foundation of Boudhanath and its religious significance and have mantras written in Tibetan, Mongolian, and/or Lantsa77 on the terraces and/or below the stupa (Appendix 1, nos. 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 24). Typically, in East Asia, the making of xylograph printed images with a prayer at the bottom, distributed or sold to devotees, reflects the great worship of a holy site. These cheap, mass-produced prints were distributed or sold on pilgrimage sites; devotees used to worship them on their home altar, [End Page 396] or fold them (figure 21) and use them as amulets in portable reliquaries that were carried to bring good luck and fulfill wishes. These prints were kept in laypeople's homes for private worship and were usually circulated more than thangkas.78

Figure 17. Thangka, 72 x 109 cms, Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, no. 8125-2968. Source: Fleming and Shastri (2011, 1, cat. 435).
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Figure 17.

Thangka, 72 x 109 cms, Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, no. 8125-2968. Source: Fleming and Shastri (2011, 1, cat. 435).

The prayer below the large prints nos. 9 and 10 in Appendix 1 (figure 18) summarizes the story of Boudhanath stupa (see Appendix 3), lists the [End Page 397]

Figure 18. Large colored print depicting "Jarung khashar" stupa, Buryatia. Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.
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Figure 18.

Large colored print depicting "Jarung khashar" stupa, Buryatia. Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.

[End Page 398]

immediate and long-term benefits generated in making this print, and advises those who want to learn more details about the history of this stupa to consult the karchak (dkar chag, i.e., the guidebook), which "liberates upon hearing" it. Interestingly, the stupa is located in "the region of Makuti" (perhaps Magadha in India) "in Nepal," thus conflating the two different locations of pre- and post-fourteenth-century Tibetan sources. The last sentence says that it has been printed at "Ago'i chos sde chen mo bde chen lhun grubs gling" (i.e., Aga datsan in Buryatia)—the same monastery where the guidebook was printed. The prayer of print no. 24 (Appendix 1) aimed at increasing benefits and merit is a request (or petition) addressed to Boudhanath, and specifies that it was also printed at Aga datsan.79 Most of these prints appear to have been made in Mongol monasteries, at least ten of them in Buryatia. There also exist Nepalese and Tibetan thangkas depicting Boudhanath stupa,80 and some of the Mongol prints and paintings may have taken a Nepalese, Tibetan, or Mongol thangka as a model: we can imagine a multiplicity of intermediate media copying each other.

Most of the thangkas depict Boudhanath stupa surrounded by four smaller stupas on its first and third platforms, eyes and sometimes a nose on the harmikā, decorations on the aṇḍa, and a miniature stupa on top. They usually have three terraces of diminishing sizes plus two levels with curved angles, the upper one being decorated with niches containing buddhas (Appendix 1, nos. 1–3, 5, 7, 8, 14–17); or a Sumeru base supporting three terraces of diminishing sizes (nos. 4, 9–12). Thangka no. 6 of Appendix 1 has five levels or terraces with curved angles standing on a Sumeru base. Offerings to the five senses, as well as a deer and an elephant (perhaps referring to the elephant of the story), are often depicted in the lower register.

In most images, two symmetrical shrines stand on the first terrace. The shape of the roof in thangkas nos. 4 and 9 to 12 (Appendix 1) is different—conical on the left, curved on the right—which seems to correspond to the two pavilions in front of Boudhanath stupa that existed more than a hundred and fifty years ago (Czaja 2015, fig. 1). But in thangkas nos. 1 and 2, 5–8, and 14–17 (Appendix 1), these are two symmetrical Chinese-style tiled pavilions, like at the "Jarung khashar" stupas of Khan öndriin khüree and Gandan. Inside these shrines are depicted, or designated by their names and mantras, four-armed Avalokiteśvara (on one side) and Vajrapāṇi or Padmasambhava (on the other side); we do not know the identity of the deities in [End Page 399] the pavilions of the architectural replicas. In several thangkas, a central flight of steps or a ramp giving access to the great niche is decorated with bricks or geometrical motifs. Some stupas are raised on a Sumeru pedestal decorated at its center with a tapestry with golden motifs or a Chinese-style dragon that evokes a carpet or a marble ramp of Beijing's Forbidden City (Appendix 1, nos. 4, 6, 9–12).

The aṇḍa of the stupas in thangkas nos 4, 9–13, and 21–24 of Appendix 1 reproduces Boudhanath's hemispherical shape.81 Others have a round or bell-like shape. On the embroidered thangka in the Rubin Museum of Art (Appendix 1, no. 3), the aṇḍa has a more elongated shape recalling that of the Gandan stupa. In some prints, the aṇḍa looks like that of bottle-shaped Tibetan stupas (figure 19 and Appendix 1, nos. 14–17): only the Tibetan inscription that gives a brief history of Boudhanath allows us to identify them with the Nepalese stupa.

Another particularity of the two-dimensional images is that most of them depict Eleven-Faced (ekadaśamukha) Mahākarunika Avalokiteśvara in the large niche of their aṇḍa (in only in one case, no. 8 of Appendix 1, Avalokiteśvara is replaced by Uṣṇīṣavijayā, who is traditionally depicted inside a stupa). The deity was probably thought to reside inside the aṇḍa, but in two-dimensional media he or she is represented in front of the aṇḍa, and his or her halo or mandorla looks like a large niche (figure 17). It is possible that the halo of the architectural replicas modeled on paintings and prints was understood as being a niche carved in the aṇḍa or even an inner shrine containing an image of Avalokiteśvara (there is no such large niche in the aṇḍa of Boudhanath). We can make the hypothesis that the large niche or inner shrine of the Mongol architectural replicas enshrined an image of this bodhisattva.82

Why is Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara depicted in these thangkas? At the beginning of the "Legend of the [stupa] known as Jarung khashor" guidebook, Avalokiteśvara sheds two tears when he realizes that it is not possible to save all living beings, and the two teardrops are transmuted into two daughters of King Indra. One of the daughters is reincarnated as the poultry woman at the origin of the construction of the stupa. The text of thangkas nos. 10 and 11 (Appendix 1, figure 9, and Appendix 3) simplifies the story, since it presents the poultry keeper Jadzima as the reincarnation of Avalokiteśvara. However, in Nepal and Tibet, Boudhanath stupa is not [End Page 400]

Figure 19. Print on cotton depicting "Jarung khashar" stupa. Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.
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Figure 19.

Print on cotton depicting "Jarung khashar" stupa. Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.

associated with Avalokiteśvara; the presence of Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara seems to be a Mongol specificity. The bodhisattva of compassion was worshipped especially in several monasteries that had a "Jarung khashar" stupa: Dambadarjaa khiid was famous for a sandalwood statue of Avalokiteśvara Lokeśvara (Cl. Mo. Logshir); and in Gandan the Migjid janraiseg Temple, [End Page 401] built in 1911–1913, housed a 25-meter statue of Eye-Healing Avalokiteśvara (Migjid janraiseg).

It is likely that the images coming from Khalkha Mongolia (Appendix 1, nos. 14–20 and figure 19) as well as thangka no. 2 (Appendix 1) showing Boudhanath as a bottle-shaped stupa with four smaller stupas at the corners, three platforms and a staircase, two identical pavilions with a Chinese tiled roof, and a large image of Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara in the central niche served as models for the architectural replica of Gandan Monastery (figure 7).

Images 21 to 24 show Boudhanath stupa with one or two other stupas: Swayambunath and the stupa of Dhānyakaṭaka83 in India, or Namo Buddha), the Stupa of the Offering of the Body to the Tigress, on the site in Nepal where in a previous life, Śākyamuni is said to have have offered his body to the tigress according to a well-known Jataka (figures 20 and 21). On prints nos. 22 and 23 (Appendix 1 and figure 20), the central stupa is identified as Swayambhūnāth and Boudhanath is depicted on the right side; it has no eyes and its harmikā is decorated with the same crown as that of Swayambunath. Because of the presence of the five animals raised by the Mongols (the "five muzzles"), these images may have functioned as protective amulets.

To summarize, the transmission of the architectural knowledge of Boudhanath stupa through block prints and paintings explains the presence of not only the well-known characteristics of the original, such as the eyes on the harmikā, but also some interpretations and additions, such as the slender or cylindrical shape of the aṇḍa, the four smaller stupas, the large central niche, and the transformation of the platforms of the Mongol Jarung khashar. They allow us to make hypotheses about the iconography in the central niche or inner shrine (perhaps Avalokiteśvara) and in the two lateral pavilions of the architectural replicas.

Interestingly, two different modern drawings of Boudhanath published in the monumental study of stupas by the great Mongolian monk-artist Pürevbat85 repeat some of the characteristics seen in thangkas: one has a large central niche piercing the aṇḍa; the second has the crown of Swayambhunath. Both of them have five platforms instead of three, and four smaller stupas stand on the two lower platforms (figure 22). [End Page 402]

Figure 20. Print depicting Swayambunath (center), the stupa of Dhānyakaṭaka, and Boudhanath, above the five Mongol "muzzles." Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.
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Figure 20.

Print depicting Swayambunath (center), the stupa of Dhānyakaṭaka, and Boudhanath, above the five Mongol "muzzles." Private collection of Michel Tournet, France. Photo by the author.

Figure 21. Print depicting Boudhanath (center), Pakpa shingkün chorten ('Phags pa shing kun mchod rten—i.e., Swayambunath) (left) and Takmo lüjin (right). Printed at Aga datsan. Source: Private collection, Russia.
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Figure 21.

Print depicting Boudhanath (center), Pakpa shingkün chorten ('Phags pa shing kun mchod rten—i.e., Swayambunath) (left) and Takmo lüjin (right). Printed at Aga datsan. Source: Private collection, Russia.84

[End Page 403]

Figure 22. Two drawings of "Am-aldsan [Ama aldasan] stupa at Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal." Source: Pürevbat (2005, 169 and 526, fig. 352).
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Figure 22.

Two drawings of "Am-aldsan [Ama aldasan] stupa at Boudhanath, Kathmandu, Nepal." Source: Pürevbat (2005, 169 and 526, fig. 352).


More than ten years after Buddhism was revived in the postcommunist societies of Mongolia, China, and Buryatia, the stupas of Dambadarjaa khiid, Üüshin juu, and Khejenge Monastery were rebuilt or restored. In addition, two new "Jarung khashar" stupas were constructed: a huge stupa named [End Page 404] Ama aldasan in Mongolia, popularly known as the "stupa with eyes," was erected thanks to donations from many devotees and consecrated in July 2010; it is located on a hill above Amarbayasgalant khiid, not far from the Russian border (figure 23). Nearby on the hill, the mantras of the three main bodhisattvas—Avalokiteśvara, Mañjuśrī, and Vajrapāṇi—are spelled out in white stones. This new construction was built in honor of Gurudeva (Sogpo) Rinpoché: after he left his monastery near Boudhanath in 1992, he became the abbot of Amarbayasgalant khiid, which he restored aided by fundraising. The Jarung khashar was built just after Sogpo Rinpoché—a major figure of the revival of Buddhism in Mongolia—passed away. Nowadays a few wealthy pilgrims from Ulaanbaatar make special pilgrimages to Boudhanath and visit the monastery of Gurudeva Rinpoché.86

In 2012, Pürevbat built a similar stupa, called the Kālacakra stupa, on a hill in the Gobi Desert of Dornogovi Province, Mongolia. It is 46 meters high and 90 meters in diameter (the width of the lower platform)—even larger than Boudhanath stupa, but its name does not make any reference to Jarung khashar (Sue Byrne, personal communication, 2017).87 It is not clear why it is called Kālacakra, as that symbol is also seen on the modern stupas of Dambadarjaa khiid and Wutaishan's Baohuasi, and it often decorates Mongol temples and stupas.

The architecture of the rebuilt stupas of Dambadarjaa khiid and Üüshin juu make an attempt at faithfulness not only to old photographs but also to peoples' memories—a new element in the chain of replications. The new stupas of Amarbayasgalant khiid and Dornogovi Province are much closer to the Boudhanath stupa, in their monumentality and general shape. This is also the case of another replica of the Nepalese stupa built in the 1990s in Lungngön (Lung sngon) Monastery, Golok (mGo log) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Amdo (northeastern Tibet, now in Qinghai Province, China), which is slightly larger than the original. Nearby are replicas of Samyé Monastery, of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya and other Buddhist sites in India and Tibet. As shown by Buffetrille (2015), the construction of such replicas is a new phenomenon in Tibet.88 The founder of Lungngön Monastery, Kusum Lingpa (sKu gsum gling pa, 1934–2009), is affiliated with the rimé (ris med) nonsectarian movement.89 This replica of Boudhanath has an inner shrine that contains a library and statues (Buffetrille 2015, 144). Other replicas of Boudhanath stupa are being built in Tibetan regions, notably near [End Page 405] Derge (sDe dge) in Kham, present-day Sichuan Province, China (Kunsang Namgyal Lama, personal communication, 2018).

Figure 23. "Jarung khashar" stupa, Amarbayasgalant khiid, Selenge Province, Mongolia. Photo by Marissa Smith.
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Figure 23.

"Jarung khashar" stupa, Amarbayasgalant khiid, Selenge Province, Mongolia. Photo by Marissa Smith.


Replicas of Boudhanath stupa apparently functioned as surrogate pilgrimage sites linking Mongolia to South Asia. This direct connection between Mongolia and South Asia is also found in the recognition of high Mongol lamas as being reincarnations of Tibetan saints and, ultimately, Indian kings in Mongolian Buddhist chronicles.

We have little information on the motivations of the builders, but we can guess that religious motivations (to acquire merit and generate incommensurable blessings) were mixed with political ones. Boudhanath may have become more popular and "efficacious" than Bodh Gaya in the Mongols' [End Page 406] imagination because it was said to fulfill all kinds of wishes, and because of the popularity of its guidebook and legend.

The replicas of Boudhanath appear in two main periods of history: the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries—a time that coincides with the translation into Mongolian of the Tibetan guidebook, the making of numerous thangkas, and actual pilgrimages to Boudhanath—and the twenty-first century, when Buddhism was revived in Mongolia, Buryatia, and China after years of persecution, in a context of both globalization and the rise of nationalism. Several "Jarung khashar" stupas were built or rebuilt, and the guidebook was retranslated and reprinted. In Amarbayasgalant khiid and Khejenge, the construction of a Jarung khashar is linked to religious and diplomatic contacts with Nepal. Because of their respective locations near the northern border with Russia and the southern border with China, the stupa of Amarbayasgalant khiid and the Kālacakra stupa of Dornogovi symbolically protect the frontiers of the Republic of Mongolia.90 The use of photography as a new medium has led to a certain faithfulness in outward appearance either to the former "Jarung khashar" stupas or to Boudhanath stupa, though today most modern replicas have an inner shrine.

Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas were often associated with other stupas, notably with those corresponding to the eight major events of Buddha's life—Khan öndriin khüree had a dozen stupas; Gandan Monastery, twenty-eight; and Üüshin juu, three large and 108 smaller ones. The stupas erected outside Gandan were located in a place that was accessible to laypeople (who were not allowed to enter the monastery itself): the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas appear to have been major places of devotion for laypeople. Devotees circumambulated the "Jarung khashar" stupas, but they could not practice the ascending circumambulations of the three platforms toward the dome symbolizing the three levels of initiation into the mandala stupa and progression toward liberation, as in Boudhanath.

Several "Jarung khashar" stupas had an inner shrine, perhaps with an icon of Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara (we have no information on the rituals performed in the inner shrine or whether it was accessible to laypeople). Stupas are not supposed to have an accessible inner chamber: being originally funerary barrows, their main function in the Buddhist world is to enshrine [End Page 407] precious relics and symbolize Enlightenment; after construction, the monument is sealed off. But some of the Mongol "Jarung khashar" stupas were both a form and an interior space: thus, the stupa was transformed into a different type of ritual site. This was also the case of the wuta of Beijing and Hohhot: the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya was understood as being a stupa,91 yet one can enter their inner shrine as one would enter a temple to worship images. Like the replica of the Mahabodhi Temple in Hohhot, the "Jarung khashar" stupas were thus considered as being something between the stupa and the temple.

Mongol replicas of Boudhanath stupa have become a new type of stupa clearly differentiated from other stupas. Some of their characteristics can be explained by distortions of two-dimensional media that certainly played a role in the process of transmitting the image, together with its cult, to Mongolia. But other differences from Boudhanath stupa may simply not have mattered at all to the builders and worshippers, provided that these replicas reproduced what were considered the essential features: the lowest common denominators, such as the size and the eyes.

The octagonal stupa of Üüshin juu, though locally known as Jarung khashar, is erroneously presented as a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya both by Delege, an Inner Mongol specialist of Mongol Buddhism, and on the information boards within the monastery.92 Mongols remember the legend of "Jarung khashar"—the story of the construction and its karmic consequences—but link it to Boudhanath stupa in Nepal, and think it is a mythical place. The "translation" was so successful that in some cases it led to a complete indigenization, to the point that the original was forgotten: Jarung khashar has become a type of Mongol stupa that fulfills all kinds of wishes and is associated with Avalokiteśvara; the foundation legend has even been recycled to integrate events of the communist history.

Nowadays Mongols from the Republic of Mongolia are often discouraged from undertaking pilgrimages abroad; their lamas generally advise them to go to Khamryn khiid, the "Gate of Shambhala" in Dornogovi Province, or to Amarbayasgalant khiid, and tell them that these two pilgrimages are equivalent to a pilgrimage abroad.93 Like the Mahabodhi, and images and relics said to have come from ancient India, Boudhanath stupa has been relocated in Mongolia, and these replicas have functioned as key objects in rooting Buddhist faith in Mongolia. Eventually, over the course of [End Page 408] time, some replicas in their turn came to be viewed as independent artifacts and the prime object was forgotten (see Charleux 2015a about the Jowo [Jo bo] images). Local replicas allowed pilgrims to appropriate the power of the original and, at the same time, could be used to legitimize political power; they are part of the fashioning of a distinct Mongol Buddhist identity.

Isabelle Charleux
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (GSRL- EPHE-PSL)
Isabelle Charleux

ISABELLE CHARLEUX is Director of Research at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), Group Societies, Religions, Laicities (GSRL, CNRS–École Pratique des Hautes Études-PSL, Paris. The author thanks Katia Buffetrille, Sue Byrne, Kunsang Namgyal Lama, Françoise Pommaret, Uranchimeg Tsultemin, Vladimir Uspensky, two anonymous Cross-Currents reviewers for their suggestions and additional references, Olaf Czaja for sharing his notes and photographs of prints of Boudhanath, and Françoise Wang-Toutain for translating the text of Appendix 3. The author is particularly grateful to Patricia Berger who provided many insightful comments about and corrections to an earlier version of this article.

Appendix 1

Appendix 1 is available online (as "Table 2") at


The story of vows of reincarnations that originated in the stupa's construction is found in three passages of Sagang sechen's Erdeni-yin tobci (1662), which are repeated in Galdan's Erdeni-yin erike (1859). I did not find it in other Mongolian chronicles, such as Lubsangdanjin's Altan tobci (seventeenth century), Rasipungsug's Bolor erike (ca. 1774–1775), Arya Pandita mKhan po's Altan erike (1817), or Gongcugjab's Subud erike (1835).

In Erdeni-yin tobci and Erdeni-yin erike, the story is evoked in the chapter on the early history of Buddhism in Tibet (Krueger 1967, 21–22; Galdan [1859] 1999, 89–91). The first mention of the angry elephant is when King Songtsen Gampo (Srong btsan sgam po, d. 649), who is credited with the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet, sends an emanation of himself (qubilγan toyin) in South India to rediscover an eleven-headed image located beneath a marvelous but fallen sandalwood tree. "Thereupon, from beneath the stupa consecrated by Kāshyapa buddha, named the Wheel of Flowers [seceg kürdün], he [the emanation] reverently brought forth [lit., "invited"] many relics of the three Buddhas" (Krueger 1967, 22; Galdan [1859] 1999, 89–90). However, to dig the earth, the emanation had to disturb a mighty elephant named Arza vartan (Airāvata or Arajavartan) that was lying there: the elephant then "uttered an evil prayer, 'Your Transformation-King forgot me of old when he requested sanctity. Now my cool place has been disturbed. Let me, in a future rebirth, be reborn and become a mighty king who will destroy your religion,'" (Krueger 1967, 22; see also Galdan [1859] 1999, 90).

When the object of veneration (sitügen)—the image and, I assume, the relics—are brought back to the Tibetan king, Songtsen Gampo explains the elephant's curse and recalls his previous incarnation when he was the son of "Degedü Amugulang" (Sublime Peace, referring to Déchokma, the poultry keeper) in ancient India and erected a stupa called "Bsharung kashuur" (Sagang Sechen) or "Byarung qshovar" (Galdan):

"[W]hen I was requesting sanctity [qutuγ guyu-] before it, there was there an ox [a donkey in the original story], which had hauled earth to it. Forgetting him, and not conferring a blessing [on him], that ox was extremely angry, and uttered an evil prayer. I likewise laid down a counter-prayer. Now this elephant in his present rebirth, through having lain over this powerful faith-beholding object, has had his angry thoughts pacified. In the future, it will be easy to cause him to be tamed. I'm going to be that selfsame adversary who shall cause him to be tamed," did he declaim.

The story of the vows of reincarnation is again evoked when King Trison Détsen plans to build a temple called Nom-un kürdün süme, "Monastery of the Dharma Wheel" (Samyé Monastery). To convince Padmasambhava to come to Tibet and tame the local demons, Śāntarakṣita—here called bodhisattva Gambu (Tib. khenpo/mkhan po, "abbot"), or ubadani (Skt. upādhyāya, "teacher" or "instructor") bodhisattva—says to the king that "there is an ancient invocation [irügel] able to make him come," and tells him the story of Degedü Amugulang's three sons from three different fathers, their building of the stupa called "Bsharung kasuur/Bvarung kashuvar," and their vows of reincarnation owing to their meritorious deeds, respectively as "a mighty Cakravarti King, Lord of the Alms of Religion," "a great ubadani who will maintain religion," and "a great dhāraṇī-expert, who will purge the obstacles of religion." "In accord with the pronouncement [jarliγ] of that former bodhisattva, Padmasambhava would have no other choice but go to Tibet and tame the local demons, and this is what happened" (Krueger 1967, 32; see also Galdan [1859] 1999, 103–104).

The third occurrence involves King Langdarma's persecution of Buddhism and promotion of the "black faith." This is explained by the fact that he was "a rebirth of that former elephant, and by reason of having made that evil oath and by evil inclination." But when the king was sixty-three, "when it reached the time for placing (in effect) that former counter-oath," he was assassinated by a lama named Lharung cogtu Vajra (Tib. Lhalung Palgyi Dorjé/Lha lung dpal gyi rdo rje) to prevent the Dharma from being entirely effaced from Tibet: he was "the sure qubilgan [khubilgan, "reincarnation"] of elevated King Srong-bzan skampo" (Krueger 1967, 37; see also Galdan [1859] 1999, 109–110).

The Mongolian sources do not identify the stupa of Jarung khashar with Boudhanath (as stated above, in Tibetan sources "Jarung khashor" was said to be located in Magadha before the legend was transferred to Boudhanath in the fourteenth century). Besides, the references to the story focus not on the stupa itself but on the oaths of reincarnations to explain the rise and fall of Buddhism in early Tibetan history. The modern Mongolian name of the stupa, Ama aldasan ("making of an oath, a promise"), can be understood as both the king's answer (Cl. Mo. üiledjü bolona gejü ama aldasan ni, lit., "I made the promise [that she could] proceed with the work") and as a reference to the oaths of reincarnation of the protagonists of the story.


Namo guru. Here is the story of the great stupa known as Jarung Kashor [Tib. Bya rung kha shor] that was told by Orgyen Rinpoché [that is, Padmasambhava] at the request of King Trison Détsen:

In very ancient times, at the feet of the Tathāgata Amitābha, the great bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara had made the wish to liberate all beings from samsara. Later on, at the time of Buddha Dipankara, in the region of Makuti in Nepal, he was reborn as the woman Bya rdzi ma [poultry keeper]. With her four sons and a servant, she built this stupa. As for the benefits [of its worship]: by making the depiction of this site, as well as offerings and circumambulations, in the short term one will obtain wealth, have neither hunger nor thirst nor diseases, obtain longevity, be endowed with respect for ethics, and have a sound knowledge of the Tripiṭaka; and in the longer term, one will be reborn in Sukhāvatī. If one wants to have more details about the history of this stupa and the benefits [of its worship], he or she should have a look at the karchak that liberates just by listening to its reading. This was printed at [honorary sign] Ago'i chos sde chen mo bde chen lhun grubs gling.


1. Mongolian words are transcribed from Classical Mongolian, except for place names in the Republic of Mongolia and Russia, which are transcribed from Cyrillic Mongolian and Russian. Here, "Mongolian" is restricted to the language and to qualify the citizens of Mongolia proper after it gained its autonomy in 1911; otherwise, "Mongol" is used. Tibetan words are phonetically transcribed according to the THL Simplified Phonetic Transcription of Standard Tibetan System and transliterated according to Wylie's system.

2. The guidebook is, according to its postscripts, a terma (gter ma, "hidden treasure," a text of teachings said to have been hidden by various great masters to be rediscovered at auspicious times) of the Nyingmapa (rNying ma pa) tradition composed by Padmasambhava in the eighth century and hidden by Yéshé Tsogyel (Ye shes mtsho rgyal). It was first discovered by eleventh-century nun and tertön (gter ston, "treasure discoverer") Lhatsün Ngönmo (lHa btsun sngon mo) in Samyé (bSam yas) Monastery. The tertön Nganchang Sakya Zangpo (sNgags 'chang Śākya bzang po) rediscovered it around 1512 and presumably had it printed (Blondeau 1982–1983; Ehrhard 1990, 1–2; 2007, 25–27). It has been published in English by Keith Dowman ([1973] 1993, 21–65; according to the last postscript, it was translated by Kunzang Tenzin, based on a 1971 translation by Nima Norbu).

3. For variants of the story in Tibetan literature, see Tenzin Samphel (1998, 72–77).

4. Or, "Permission once given cannot be taken back"; lit., "I blurted out that it should be done" (Cyr. Mo. üildej bolno gej am aldsan n', Cl. Mo. üiledjü bolona gejü ama aldasan ni, lit., "I made the promise [that she could] proceed with the work").

5. The fourth son became a messenger named Belselnang (sBal gsal snang).

6. Appendix 1 is available online (as "Table 2") at

7. In Mongolian, Boudhanath stupa in Kathmandu and the Mongol replicas are all called by the same term, Jarung khashar; here I will use "Jarung khashar" only for the Mongol stupas.

8. The process of replicating sacred architecture seems to have been rare in Tibet, but there are many instances of transfer or relocation of sacred Indian or Tibetan places, such as mountains and charnel grounds, particularly through toponymy (Huber 2008, esp. 118–119; Buffetrille 2015, 134–135). Similarly, several Mongol monasteries were said to be modeled on the Tibetan monasteries of Drépung ('Bras spungs), Séra (Se ra) or Tashi Lhunpo (bKra shis lhun po); however, it was generally not the architecture but the liturgy, music, debate manual, or system of colleges that were copied (Charleux 2006b, 145–148).

9. Chorten Kora (mChod rten skor ra), built in the eighteenth century in East Bhutan (Tashi Yangtse) to commemorate a Buddhist master and subdue a local demon (Lam Kezang Chhophel 2002); Chendebji Chorten (sPyan ldan sbyi mchod rten), constructed in the eighteenth century after a model brought from Nepal, about 40 kilometers west of Trongsa; and a smaller one in Kuri Zampa, ca. 1800 (Bhutan Cultural Atlas website: I thank Françoise Pommaret for this information (email message to author, March 6, 2015).

10. See also Chou (2015) on Emperor Qianlong's replica of three Manchu temples modeled after famed temples at Mount Wutai (the abode of Mañjuśrī in China). Thanks to a suggestion from a reviewer of this article, I discovered Shen's work (2019) on the duplication and reduplication of Buddhist images, scriptures, and relics in medieval China.

11. Regarding replicas of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya, McKeown (2010) argues that the construction of Mahabodhi stupas shows how rulers reenacted the cakravartin (Buddhist universal, enlightened ruler) kingship ideal through patronage of replication projects. The Yongle emperor's (r. 1402–1424/5) replica of the Mahabodhi Temple in Beijing, the Wuta 五塔 (Five Stupas), built between 1466 and 1473, would be a strategic reenactment of the Yuan dynasty's appropriation of Buddhism and its tantric "technologies."

12. The distortions due to two different types of perspective used by painters were applied by the builders of the Chengde temples (Chayet 1985, 86–95). See also Griswold (1965) about scale models.

13. I thank Chou Wen-shing for having brought this book to my attention.

14. By "original object," I mean the object that served as a model for a replica at a certain period in time. Of course, there is no one immutable, unalterable original Boudhanath; the stupa was rebuilt, enlarged, and restored many times (the most recent restoration followed the 2015 earthquake); new structures were added while older ones disappeared.

15. Wood (2008, chap. 2, esp. 45–48) sees architectural replicas as connected to a common source by referential links.

16. Griswold uses the term "transplantation": "The sapling, though far smaller, and possessed of far fewer branches and leaves, is no less a Ficus religiosa; and while it can never resemble its ancestor exactly in configuration, it will be able to exercise the same power over men's minds" (1965, 181–182).

17. Berger uses the term "quotation" to describe "dropping untranslated elements into a new framework" (2003, 8).

18. On the practice of "labeling" artifacts through the extensive use of written texts (inscriptions, epigraphic tablets, etc.) to posit links back to a prestigious origin and to support their "authenticity," see Wood (2008, 53–26).

19. For an example of a Tibetan "rediscovery" of a Buddhist holy place in India by visionary revelation, see Huber (2008, chap. 5).

20. On Tibetan local pilgrimages considered equivalent to international holy places such as Lhasa, Mount Kailash, and Bodh Gaya, see Large-Blondeau (1960, 226), Epstein and Peng (1994, 24), and Nakza (2019). Griswold also observes this equivalence with regard to pilgrimages to replicas of Bodh Gaya in South and Southeast Asia (1965, 182). For a discussion of Christian replicas of the Holy House of Nazareth, Lourdes, and other shrines, see Coleman and Elsner (1995, 104–106).

21. However, some replicas never functioned as substitutes, or were only second-best options, and pilgrims are not content with surrogate pilgrimages if they have the opportunity to visit the original place. See Charleux (2015b) on Mongol surrogate Wutaishan and Buffetrille (2015, 144–145) on Tibetan surrogate pilgrimage places.

22. See Jonathan Smith's work on Jerusalem, in which he studies the ways that sacred sites are relocated when the original site is no longer accessible (1998).

23. Rölpé Dorjé composed a text to be engraved on the walls of the Tabun suburga.

24. The Ninth Panchen Lama's popularity was enhanced by the belief that a future reincarnation of the Panchen Lama would reign as the king of Shambhala and lead the Buddhist army in the final war between Buddhists and heretics. Anyone who took the Kālacakra initiation from the current Panchen Lama was ensured a later rebirth in the kingdom of Shambhala and a participation in the final victory and would be liberated.

25. The oldest chöjung (Tib. chos 'byung, lit., "origin of Buddhism," historical chronicle), dated to the twelfth century, that tells the story of the stupa named "Jarung khashor" locates it in what most authors identify as Magadha in India; in the fourteenth century, Tibetans transferred the story of "Jarung khashor" to Boudhanath (Blondeau 1982–1983). About the dates and circumstances of the foundation of Boudhanath stupa, see Ehrhard (1990), Blondeau (1994), and Tenzin Samphel (1998, 65–77).

26. According to Tenzin Samphel, this stupa is comparable to a cintāmaṇi (jewel) "because, whatever the vow one pronounces, it will realize itself. Even the Buddhas cannot describe the benefits and blessings resulting from offerings, prostrations, or circumambulations made with a pure spirit in front or around the stupa of Bodnath. The one who sees this stupa will not be reincarnated in inferior realms. The one who hears about it will plant inside him/herself the seed of Enlightenment. The one who thinks about it will be freed from demonic forces and mental diseases and will see his or her capacities of meditation improve. To sum up, this stupa will grant the realization of all wishes. This is why it is called Smon lam thams cad sgrub pa'i mchod rten, 'the stupa that grants all wishes'" (1998, 75, 95).

27. The Mongolian text of this thangka reads: "Ene yeke suburγa anu sedkilcilen cindamani lüge adali" (see Czaja 2015, 96n59).

28. Cyr. Mo. "Khamag khüsliig biyelüülegch erdeniin ikh suvraga" ("Shaltagan tögöldör bolgutai" []).

29. Mongols' pilgrimages to Boudhanath prior to the nineteenth century are not documented.

30. In the twentieth century, transportation facilities and guidebooks facilitated the pilgrimage from Lhasa to Nepal and India (pilgrims traveled to India by train and took a boat to China to return home) (Charleux 2015b, 33–37).

31. For Tibetans, visiting the three main stupas of Kathmandu Valley—Boudhanath, Swayambunath, and Namo Buddha—was considered equivalent in terms of accumulating merit to visiting all the other sacred pilgrimage sites (Tenzin Samphel 1998, 6). There exist several Tibetan guidebooks on Swayambunath stupa that contain descriptions of other Nepalese holy places, including Boudhanath (Ehrhard 2013, 71–91).

32. On Tibetans who restored the stupa, see Ehrhard (1990; 2013), Gutschow (1997, 96–99), and Buffetrille (2015, 137–138). On Tibetan pilgrimages to Nepal, see Huber (2008, 173–175).

33. Tibetologist David Snellgrove met Sogpo Rinpoché in Boudhanath in the early 1950s and took a photograph of him (Snellgrove 1957, 100, pl. 14). Social anthropologist Corneille Jest met Sogpo Rinpoché when he headed the monastery in the 1960s.

34. With the influx of large populations of refugees from Tibet since 1959 and the construction of over fifty Tibetan monasteries surrounding the stupa, Boudhanath has become a small Tibetan enclave in Nepal.

35. He helped the Fourteenth Dalai Lama in exile to re-found the main Tibetan monastic institutions in India. In 1986, Sogpo Rinpoché was forced to leave India for Nepal because he was involved in a conflict with the Dalai Lama over the practice of the deity Dorjé Shukden (rDo rje shugs ldan), which the latter banned. Under increasing pressure from Tibetans in Nepal, he left Nepal in 1992 and settled in Mongolia.

36. See, for example, the eighteenth-century pilgrimage guide to Nepalese sacred places by Fourth Khamtrul Chöki Nyima (Kham sprul chos kyi nyi ma, 1730–1779) (Blondeau 1982–1983).

37. Copies of the printed text were still available at the shrine when Snellgrove visited it in the early 1950s (1957, 99 note a).

38. One copy is in Ulan-Ude (Tsyrempilov and Vanchikova 2004, 289, cat. 829: Biarung kašur kemen aldarsiγsan egüni tuγuji orosiba, twenty-six folios); three are in Saint Petersburg (Uspensky 1999, 280, cat. 247: Bharug ga-šor kemekü orosibai, twenty-three folios; cat. 248: Bharug ga-šor kemekü orosibai or Bharug ga-šor kemekü yeke suburγan-u tuγuji sonosuγad tonilγagci kemekü, twenty-four folios; and cat. 249: Tib. Bya rung kha shor, twenty folios). I did not have access to these pothi and do not know if their texts are identical. The manuscript was also translated into Russian (Tsendina 1995).

39. Vladimir Uspensky (1999, 280, cat. 247) believes the Year of the Water Dragon could be 1772.

40. The adaptation was revised by D. Tserensodnom. I am deeply grateful to Zsuzsa Majer for having sent me a copy of this book, which Ninjbadgar gives the following title in Cyrillic Mongolian (Cyr. Mo. Ikh suvraga Jarun khashoryn tuuj sonsokhui getelgegch khemeekh sudar orshiv, Cl. Mo. Yeke suburγa Jarung qašor tuγuji sonosqui getülgegci kemekü sudur orosiba, The sutra that saves by hearing the story of the Great Jarung khashar Stupa). According to the colophon, it was translated into Mongolian by famous gabju Bachoijijaltsan and engraved by rabjamba Lubsanlundub and gebshi Lig and Dan (gabju [Tib. kachu/dka' bcu], rabjamba [Tib. rapjampa/rabs 'byams pa], and gebshi [géshé/dge bshes] are different Buddhist academic degrees) (Ninjbadgar 2000, 47). A different version (probably directly translated from Tibetan) was published by Pürevbat (2005, 526–540).

41. The modern Mongolian version published by Ninjbadgar reports that the Mongols conquered not Tibet (as the Tibetan version claims) but the "Country of the Sun" (i.e., Japan) ("Moduin [khyazgaar] Mongol ber Narii [Yapony] oron evdekh tsag," Ninjbadgar 2000, 37)! Pürevbat's version has "Anr(iig)." The transcriptions "Narii" and "Anr(iig)" are probably a misunderstanding of the original Tibetan text.

42. On liberation upon hearing, and more generally on the senses as a mean of salvation, see Gayley (2007).

43. It is located 3.5 kilometers north of Taihuai 臺懷 Village. According to legend, the stupa's base came from Tibet, its body flew from Kumbum Monastery, and its summit fled from Tibet or Nepal to Wutaishan. On the legend of the flying stupa, see Charleux (2015b, online appendix B, 102–103).

44. Eight stupas were rebuilt north of the monastery in 2002.

45. Ninjbadgar (2000, 55–64) used sources from the Central Library and the Central Archives of Mongolia, as well as oral accounts of elderly people.

46. Also called Demidnineen suvragany takhilyn khural. See "Khan öndöriin khüree," the Mongolian Monasteries website (

47. Four photos of the stupa are in the Albert Kahn collection in Boulogne-Billancourt, France (nos. 3983, 3984, 5475, 68516). Another photo shows Jarung khashar in a separate enclosure (

48. Pozdneev mentions twenty-eight stupas built by pious worshippers to the west and north of Gandan but does not mention the "Jarung khashar" stupa ([1896] 1971, 77).

50. Sue Byrne, who collected old photographs of Mongolian monasteries for the project "Documentation of Mongolian Monasteries," could not find old photos of the stupa but did find one of Gandan's Jarung khashar mislabeled as "Dambadarjaa" (Sue Byrne, pers. comm., May 2015).

51. Russian orientalist A. M. Pozdneev gave a detailed description of Dambadarjaa khiid, which he visited in 1892, but did not mention the Jarung khashar ([1896] 1971, 387–392). Yet, he did not mention that of Gandan either.

52. Delege (1998, 633) wrongly writes that it was called Puti jiaye data 菩提伽耶大塔 ("Great stupa of Bodh Gaya") and was a replica of the Mahabodhi Temple.

53. See "Xiushan hou de Wushenzhao fota" 修缮后的乌审召佛塔 [The stupas of Üüshin juu after restoration] ( I thank Agata Bareja-Starzyńska for sending me her photos of the restored stupa.

54. See Stupa Djarun-Khashor (, Sait Administratsii Kijinginskogo raiona (, Djarun Hashor (ДжарунХашор), Subarga Djarun-Khashor (, and Svyashchennyye mesta Kizhinginskogo rayona (

55. No in-depth architectural description of Boudhanath stupa has been published yet. The stupa probably attained its present shape during the 1821 restoration. For a short description of its architecture and iconography, see Gutschow (1997, 96–99), Slusser (1982, 149–175), and Tenzin Samphel (1998, 91–95). Old photos of the stupa are accessible on the website of the "Shree Boudhanath Area Development Committee" (

56. A Mongolian example is the recently built stupa of Khamryn khiid (Cl. Mo. Khamar-un kheid) in Dornogovi Province. The recently built replica of Boudhanath in Amdo/Qinghai Province, China also has an inner shrine (Buffetrille 2015, 143–144).

57. The total area is 82.36 x 82.03 meters, the diameter is 36.57 meters, and the height is 43 meters.

58. These plinths of intersected squares and rectangles correspond to the viṃśatikona, the platform of twenty angles, one type prescribed by the twelfthcentury Kriyāsaṃgraha. Mary Shepherd Slusser (1982, 171, 175) believes that a primitive core from the Licchavi period (sixth century) is probably concealed under the immense dome. In the transitional or early Malla period, the Tibetans transformed the stupa into the mandala form it now has, perhaps in imitation of the stupa of Gyantsé (rGyal rtse) Monastery in Tibet.

59. In figure 5, the stupas have lost their spires.

60. See the photos in the Albert Kahn collection. In the Chinese classification of stupas, a big central stupa surrounded by four smaller stupas recalls the Mahabodhi of Bodh Gaya; this type of stupa is called wuta ("five stupas").

61. Nowadays at Boudhanath, at the northern (main) entrance there is a temple dedicated to Hārītī with a pitched metallic roof between its two southern gates and a small Tibetan-like building inside the precinct, left of the main gate. Inside the precinct are other smaller stupas and shrines, including a Hindu shrine (see Tenzin Samphel 1998, 91–95, on the iconography of Boudhanath, and notably about the goddess Pukasi, one of the eight mothers associated with the eight sacred cemeteries). These shrines are not reproduced in the Mongol replicas.

62. The iwan is an element of Persian architecture that consists of a vaulted space that is open on one rectangular facade featuring a large equilateral pointed arch.

63. See photo no. 3984 in the Albert Kahn collection.

64. A vajra, or "thunderbolt-diamond," is a ritual object symbolizing both the properties of a diamond (indestructibility) and a thunderbolt (irresistible force).

65. The niches enshrine stone images of the Nyingmapa pantheon: buddhas, bodhisattvas, siddhas (accomplished masters), lamas, yidams/yi dams (tutelary deities of Vajrayāna Buddhism personifying philosophical systems), ḍākinīs (female figures who personify wisdom), and dharmapālas (wrathful guardians of the doctrine who vowed to defend the Dharma and suppress the enemies of Buddhism).

66. The harmikā represents Buddha's head. With slender eyes painted on the harmikā, the "Jarung khashar" stupas of Gandan and Dambadarjaa look like human beings. The shape of the stupa represents the Buddha, crowned and seated in meditation on a lion's throne: his crown is the top of the spire, his head is the harmikā, his body is the aṇḍa, his legs are the steps of the lower terrace, and the base is his throne.

67. The eyes are also found on the Bhutanese replicas.

68. For example, the stupas of Gyantsé in Tibet, the northern stupa of Mukden/Shenyang in China, and Swayambunath and Kathesimbu stupas in Kathmandu.

69. See "Selenge aimagiin 7 gaikhamshig" ( and "Shaltagan tögöldör bolgutai" ( An "ordinary" bottle-shaped stupa called Stupa of Enlightenment and Suppression of Negative Energy, built in Iki-Burul, Republic of Kalmykia, in 2004, has eyes painted on each side of its harmikā "in accordance with the Nepalese Nyingma tradition." According to the monastery's abbot Padma Sherab, they represent the eyes of Avalokiteśvara (Gazizova 2009, 48).

70. Cl. Mo. ganjir or sang tegülder, Skt. kalāsa, Tib. dzöden/mdzod ldan or dzödang/mdzod bdang).

71. This wall is probably a later addition built around 1860 (Czaja 2015, 88n7, quoting Gutschow 1997, 68).

72. For Wood (2008, 45–48), "this principle of negative differentiation from the surrounding context explains the strong local flavor of so many of the medieval European replicas of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem." One or two salient features, such as the central ground plan and specific proportions, were enough to connect the Holy Sepulchre to its architectural replicas.

73. The replicas of Bodh Gaya in Chiang Mai (Thailand) and Pegu (Myanmar) were also based on plans and drawings made by architects and craftsmen sent in mission to India (Griswold 1965, 185, 187).

74. For an example in Tibet, see the Qing dynasty "Sandalwood Promise Pagoda," 28.5 x 20.4 cms (Yan 2000, 4:162–163, fig. 68).

75. According to Deborah Ashencaen and Gennady Leonov (1996, pl. 9), thangka no. 4 of Appendix 1 is eighteenth-century, but the nineteenth century seems more plausible.

76. For a detailed study of some thangkas and prints depicting Boudhanath stupa, see Czaja (2015).

77. Lañtsa or Rañjanā, a Brahmi script developed in Nepal, is commonly used in Mongolia for formulas of consecration and other mantras.

78. For an example of a printed image with a prayer to a famous icon in the Mongol world, the sandalwood Buddha of Beijing, see Charleux (2015a, 137 and fig. 28).

79. Other inscriptions are translated in Czaja (2015, 92–94).

80. In Western collections, several Nepalese paintings depict Boudhanath stupa (see, for example, Czaja 2015, fig. 9).

81. Appendix 1, thangka no. 24 shows the stairs leading to the harmikā.

82. Because Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara became especially associated with Boudhanath stupa in Mongolia, Olaf Czaja believes that three other prints of the Leder collection dedicated to Eleven-Faced Avalokiteśvara are a "symbolic depiction" of Boudhanath: Leipzig inv. no. 3453, Stuttgart inv. no. 23895, 24387 (

83. The Dhānyakaṭaka stupa is also depicted on Mongol thangkas: see a thangka in the former Kālacakra College of Ikh Khüree, now preserved at Gandan Monastery (Croner 2006, 67). It is the place where Śākyamuni (who actually was at Vulture's Peak and used his gift of ubiquity) taught the Kālacakra sūtra to Sucandra coming from the kingdom of Shambhala.

84. I thank Vladimir Uspensky for having sent me a photograph of this print.

85. He founded the Zanabazar Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art of Gandan Monastery.

86. According to Katia Buffetrille (pers. comm., 2011), quoting information from the Mongolian consulate in Nepal.

87. Also see "Khram-stupa Kalachakry v Gobi" (

88. A replica of the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya was also recently built on Wutaishan.

89. This was a nonsectarian, universalistic movement that developed in eighteenth-and nineteenth-century eastern Tibet and held that all Buddhist traditions were valuable and worthy of study and preservation.

90. It is possible that Pürevbat built the Kālacakra stupa on the Mongolian southern border to mirror that of Amarbayasgalant.

91. The Tabun suburga of Hohhot is not a temple but a mandala stupa of the Five Tathāgatas with a central tower surrounded by four smaller towers (Charleux 2006a).

92. The error may have occurred because the stupa's interior recalled the large vaulted room inside the Tabun suburga "Mahabodhi" of Hohhot.

93. According to interviews carried out between 2009 and 2013 about Mongols' pilgrimages.


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