Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mongolia, Monarchy and Hope

Recently, NHK reported that Mongolia (independent Outer Mongolia) was seeking closer ties with the State of Japan as an alternative to the ever-encroaching pressure from Russia to their north and China to their south. This is not an altogether new position for Mongolia to be in and it is not the first time that Mongols have looked for support from Japan in the face of domination from their more immediate neighbors. In the past, monarchy played a key role in this drama and it is something worth considering as few people tend to be very familiar with the monarchial history of Mongolia, at least following the fall of the massive Mongol Empire that once dominated most of the known world. Many people seem to be under the mistaken belief that Mongolia was, at some point, conquered by Imperial China. Such is not the case. Mongolia was never a part of Imperial China but China could be said to have been part of Mongolia for a time. As most know, Genghis Khan conquered most of northern China and it was left to his grandson, Kublai Khan, to conquer the rest of China and establish the Great Yuan Empire, the Yuan Dynasty being one of the major imperial dynasties of Chinese history. Eventually, the Mongols were displaced and China came under the rule of the Ming Dynasty as the Great Ming Empire of which Mongolia was never a part.

Ligden Khan
Just because the Mongols were evicted from ruling China does not mean it all came to an end. They retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued there as the “Northern Yuan Dynasty” until the reign of Ligden Khan. After his death many Mongols, and they were fractured at the time, allied with the rising power of the Manchus and the son of Ligden Khan handed over the dynastic seal to Hong Taiji, son of Nurhaci who was the founder of the Manchu Qing Dynasty. The Manchus and the Mongols were then allies and the Mongols certainly saw themselves as partners with the Manchus in taking control of China and establishing the Great Qing Empire. Because of this, the monarchial tradition in Mongolia continued in the person of the Manchu Emperor who also held the title ‘Great Khan of the Mongols’. This continued up until the duplicitous overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911/1912 with the abdication of the famous ‘last emperor’. Already, by that time, Mongolia was feeling pressure from the Russian Empire. In the agreements drawn up among the European powers, Mongolia and Manchuria were both considered to be part of the Russian sphere of influence. However, when the Qing Dynasty lost power, it happened with the Mongols (and the Manchus for that matter) having no say in the decision and they were not prepared to just accept being a part of the Republic of China when they had never been ruled by China.

It was at this time that the last monarch to hold power in Outer Mongolia came to prominence. In the absence of their former monarch, the Qing Emperor, the Mongols turned for leadership to their highest religious official, the Bogd Gegeen or “Holy Shining One” and invested him with secular power as the Bogd Khan of Mongolia. Long-time readers will remember the fate that befell him. He was first removed from power and placed under house arrest by a warlord of the Republic of China only to be liberated and restored in 1921 by the multi-national White Russian-led army of Baron von Ungern-Sternberg. When he was defeated and captured the Bogd Khan spent the rest of his life under house arrest as Outer Mongolia became the first satellite state of the Soviet Union, ruled with the most extreme brutality by a succession of Soviet stooges, the most infamous being the Stalin-worshipping Choibalsan. All the while, the Republic of China still claimed jurisdiction over all of Mongolia just as they did over all lands formerly a part of the Great Qing Empire even though these had never been part of China. So, Outer Mongolia was effectively being ruled by Soviet Russia and Inner Mongolia was being ruled (somewhat intermittently) by the Republic of China which also claimed Outer Mongolia as their own as well but were still fighting among themselves for control of what territory they actually occupied.

Prince De Wang
An obvious place to look to for help in this situation was the Empire of Japan. There had, in fact, been some elements in Japan working for some time on forging a pan-monarchist coalition across northeast Asia of Japanese, Manchus and Mongols. It was to further cement such an alliance that the tough, colorful Japanese-raised Manchu princess, Kawashima Yoshiko, was (briefly) married into one of the leading Mongol noble families. However, whereas Outer Mongolia had to be taken off the priority list after the ineffective border clashes with the Soviet Red Army and the subsequent Soviet-Japanese Non-Aggression Pact, Inner Mongolia remained a region of potential. In this area, the man looked to for leadership was Prince Demchugdongrub or Prince De Wang. He had been loyal to the Qing Emperor during his time in the Forbidden City and after his expulsion and exile to Tientsin. He also visited the Emperor after he was restored to the throne in Manchuria. The Japanese Kwantung Army, operating in Manchuria, supported Prince De Wang in establishing an autonomous government and while he controlled relatively little territory and his state consisted mostly of an army and a monarchy, he was a pan-Mongol visionary and his ultimate goal was no secret to anyone. That was to reunite all the Mongol peoples into a restored Mongol Empire or, perhaps, even another partnership with the restored Manchu Empire.

As Mengjiang (as it was called -the territory of the Mongols) did not survive the Japanese defeat in 1945 and was conquered by communist forces along with Manchuria, we will never know how it would have developed. Prince De Wang was certainly no puppet, despite what his detractors may say. The first Japanese advances made toward him were rejected and his first official alliance was with the restored Emperor of Manchuria (who may have been his cousin but I am not sure about that) who also bestowed on him a special title. When the Prince did come to an agreement with the Japanese Kwantung Army he remained very alert to any hint of a move that would infringe on his authority. Officially, his regime was autonomous, which it was, but also was seen as something temporary. Even the name, Mengjiang, suggested to all who saw it that the intention was to recover all the lands inhabited by the Mongol people. He always dealt with the Emperor of Manchuria as he would have (and did) in the pre-revolutionary days of the Qing Empire. However, after 1940, Inner Mongolia was listed as an autonomous region of the Reorganized National Government of China led by President Wang Jingwei. However, it was truly autonomous and no activities by the Kuomintang party were permitted there nor were any Han Chinese allowed to settle in Mengjiang.

It seems unlikely then that, even if the war had ended differently, Mengjiang would have remained a part of the Republic of China. The goal of Prince De Wang was always to revive the Mongol nation, reuniting Inner and Outer Mongolia, and most assume that this would have meant that Prince De Wang would have been the monarch of this new restored Mongolia. There was certainly a Royal Family on hand ready to take up the responsibility. However, given his own character and personal history, it is also possible that Mengjiang, somewhat enlarged, would have become a partner with Manchuria again under the reign of Emperor Kang Te (PuYi). It is also encouraging that, unlike the Manchu Emperor, after the war Prince De Wang remained fairly popular amongst the Mongol people despite the best efforts of the communist regimes in both China and Mongolia. He spent about 13 years in a Chinese prison of course as a “traitor” and “collaborator” but his own people still, to a large extent, viewed him as a visionary national leader who wanted to restore Mongol glory and make them a proud and united nation once again. That is something to be thankful for as we move forward.

The unfortunate thing is that Inner Mongolia today is mostly a lost cause. Mongol traditions are slowly going away and the Mongols themselves are being drowned out in a flood of Han Chinese settlers (particularly after the coal boom and other related mineral exploitation in the region). Today Mongols make up only 20% of the population of the “Inner Mongolian Autonomous Region” of the People’s Bandit Republic of China. The Chinese Communist Party is not about to change its ways and no other country or countries will do anything about it because China has the bomb -and if you have the bomb, no one can touch you (which is why so many of the worst regimes want it so badly). Outer, independent, Mongolia, while not encouraging, at least has room for hope. In the absence of a secular monarch, they had the Bogd Khan who ruled until the country became a Soviet client state. In 1926 the communist regime ruled that there would be no further reincarnations but, apparently, the spirit world paid them no heed and after the Soviet collapse it was announced that there had been a reincarnation who was enthroned in 1999 in Mongolia as the spiritual leader of Mongolian Buddhists by the Dalai Lama. That incarnation has since past away and, I presume, the search is continuing for his successor.

The (now) late Bogd Gegeen
If there is to be a royal restoration in Mongolia it seems most likely that the spiritual variety will be the most likely avenue. Of course, the Chinese bandit government has expressed their great displeasure at every kindness or courtesy shown to the Bogd Gegeen or the Dalai Lama in Mongolia and the Mongolian government still tends to be dominated by communists with a cosmetic make-over. However, a restored Bogd Khan would seem to be the least threatening to those in political power and the most likely, at this point, to be able to unite the Mongol people. In the past, some high ranking officials expressed that they were at least open to the idea of having another Bogd Khan as a ceremonial head of state. Unless a more dynamic secular figure comes along who could do better, I would hope that other countries, such as Japan if Mongolia is looking to the Japanese to offset the influence of the Russians and Chinese, would support and encourage the next Bogd Gegeen when his new incarnation is found and made public. I say “hope” because, unfortunately, too many in Japan these days take the monarchy for granted and tend to view things in purely economic or racial terms rather than in terms of politics. The past support for Prince De Wang should serve as an example. Just as in the past, Mongolia is becoming unhappy with their level of dependence on Russia or China and just as in the past, a revival of a traditional Mongol monarchy should be the solution that Japan (and hopefully other countries) unite in support of.

2 comments:

  1. What does it take to be declared the next Avat- umm, Bogd Khan? Since the guy could theoretically be any man on the earth… maybe I should claim it?

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    Replies
    1. Claiming it would probably not be looked on kindly. If you are the incarnation of the Holy Shining One, the proper signs and visions would be given leading the monks to you at which point you would be tested and then presented to the Dalai Lama for his final seal of approval and confirmation.

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