Past Event

The White Crane of Alagśa: Legends of the Sixth Dalai Lama in Mongolia

March 4, 2024
1:00 PM - 2:30 PM
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School of International and Public Affairs, 420 West 118th Street, Room 918, New York, NY 10027

Speaker: Sangseraima Ujeed, Assistant Professor of Tibetan Buddhism, Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Moderator: Gray Tuttle, Leila Hadley Luce Professor of Modern Tibetan Studies, Department of East Asian Languages & Cultures, Columbia University

The Sixth Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso (1683-1706/46) was recognized in secrecy, lived in controversy, and passed out of history in mystery. The popular tradition holds that he died whilst travelling to Beijing. Yet in some parts of Mongolia, it is believed that the exiled Sixth Dalai Lama escaped his captors and lived out his life in the dessert Gobi region of Alagśa, Inner Mongolia. To this day in Alagśa, the figure of the Sixth Dalai Lama still serves as a central pillar of the Alagśan identity, religion, and cultural pride among the local Mongolian population. Based on new materials in the form of oral histories, local legends, folk songs, poems, and textual sources which I collected about the Sixth Dalai Lama and the reincarnation of the Desi Sanggye Gyatso in Alagśa during a research trip in 2019, this paper will explore the formation of religio-cultural identity and the invention of tradition in the Alagśa during the early eighteenth century. This is not a paper that tries to solve the mystery of Tsangyang Gyatso’s death, but rather, one that explores the role Tsangyang Gyatso played for the Alagśa Mongols in creating narratives of identity and their realm Alagśa as an authentic Buddhist central place. This is a story of how Tsangyang Gyatso, his identities, and his interpersonal relationships were reborn in Alagśa and the role he played in consolidating Alagśa’s place within the wider geopolitical spheres of the cosmopolitan Buddhist world that spanned the Himalayas, Inner Asia, and the Qing.

Speaker's Bio: Dr. Ujeed received her MSt and DPhil degrees from the Department of Tibetan and Himalayan Studies, Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford. Her main research focus is the transnational, transregional, and cross-cultural aspects of Tibetan Buddhism, lineage, translation, monastic and reincarnation networks, and identity in Tibet and Mongolia during the Early Modern period, with a particular emphasis on the literary contributions made by ethnically Mongolian monk scholars. Her current book project investigates the early origins of the Dalai Lama institution and the beginning of Gelug translocalism by recovering its transcultural origins during the end of the sixteenth century.

This event is hosted by the Weatherhead East Asian Institute and co-sponsored by the Modern Tibetan Studies Program.


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Contact Information

Julie Kwan