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Buddhist Feminine Divinities beloved and adapted by Mongols and Buriats:
Texts, Iconic Images, Traditions (lugs), Holy Sites

by Surun-Khanda D. Syrtypova
Institute of Ecology & Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences. Moscow, Russia

June 26, 2014

text and images © Surun-Khanda D. Syrtypova

(click on the small image for full screen image with captions.)

The significance of the cult of Tārā is exceptionally high in Tibet and Mongolia, as well as in Buriatia. Numerous research works dedicated to the cult of Tārā are already published. However I think that the regional features of female deities are still poorly understood and there is still much room for interesting studies on the adaption of cults to the different historical, cultural, and geographical specifics of different regions of the Buddhist world. This will allow us to determine which traditions of ancient Indian teachers and masters took root in Mongolia and Buriatia, and how they were developed or transformed according to local conditions. This research draws attention to amazing masterpieces of Buddhist art created by artists of the peripheries of the traditional territory of Vajrayana Buddhism.

In addition, we should note that there is a new trend in Buriatia to discover the manifestations of Buddhist goddesses in natural objects, which are now defined as the points of energy force- sacred sites.


We know dozens of main Feminine Deities in the Pantheon of Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism. These can be divided into three main classes – Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, Dākinīs,[1] and Dharmapālas. There is only one Feminine Great Dharmapāla - Śrī Devī, or Palden Lhamo (Tib.: Dpal ldan lha mo, Skt.: Śri Devī, Mo. Ökin tngri). Of the Eight (Ten in Mongolian tradition) Great Nirvanic Dharmapālas (Tib.: ‘Jig rten las ‘das pa’i srung ma)[2] she is the only independent female deity. Palden Lhamo with her entire feminine escort has embodied a number of female guardians of Buddhism[3]. Dākinīs (Tib.: mkha’ ‘gro) are the epitome of feminine tantric energy, usually they manifest and realize their potential powers in partnership with masculine deities or adepts. 

In my paper I will focus on the cult of goddess-bodhisattvas that are worshiped by Mongols and Buriats (Sitā Tārā, Śyāma Tārā, Sitātapatrā, Sarasvatī, Uṣṇīṣavijayā, Marīcī, Kurukullā, Prajñāpāramitā etc.). Ārya Tārā (Tib. ’Phags pa sgrol ma, Mo. Dara eke) is variously considered as a manifestation of the Buddha, Bodhisattvas, Yidam, Dākinīs and Guardian deities. So the significance of the cult of Tārā is exceptionally high in Tibet and Mongolia, as well as in Buriatia. Numerous research works, such as the English translation of Tāranātha’s “History of the origin of Tārā tantra”, the monographs by Stephen Beyer and Martin Willson, as well as many guide-books for practitioners and others dedicated to the cult of Tārā have already been published.

These works contribute much to the understanding of the cult of Tārā. The identification of regional worship features of various female deities, however, are still poorly understood and rarely studied. There is still much room for research on the adaptation of the cult to the different historical, cultural, and geographical characteristics specific to different regions of the Buddhist world.

In this sense it is interesting to compare:

1) the classical canonic sources with the regionally used ones; and

2) the data found in the traditional written sources of the cult (tantra – Tib.: rgyud; sādhana – Tib. sgrub thabs; hymns – Tib. bstod pa, ritual offerings – Tib. cho ga, gser skyems, etc.) and the visual expression of the tradition in paintings, sculptures, iconic fine art of a particular region.

This will allow us to determine which traditions of ancient Indian teachers and masters took root in Mongolia and Buriatia, and how they were developed or transformed in the local conditions. As result of this research, we find amazing masterpieces of Buddhist art created by artists of the peripheries of the traditional territory of Vajrayāna Buddhism (figs. 5-18, 19-30).

In addition, we should note that there is a new trend in Buriatia to discover manifestations of the Buddhist goddesses in natural objects, which are newly defined as points of energy force or sacred sites (figs. 31-32).

Research Sources

I studied the practice of worshiping of divinities in specific cultural-historical and geographical conditions from different sources:

1) Written documents - doctrinal, canonical texts (sūtra, tantra, sādhana, lo rgyus, bstod pa, cho ga, gser skyems, etc.) that were used by priests and adepts. The large numbers of ritual texts spread among the population shows the extent of adaption of the Buddhist cult in the region of study. The language of religious texts, including sādhanas, remains Tibetan among Mongolian peoples through the last three centuries.

2) Objects such as iconic paintings and sculptures, and other objects of fine art from different collections of Russia and Mongolia. The visual aspects of a cult, pictorial and sculptural images, serve as supports for visualization by an adept in meditation; they are also an important way to popularize the cult among the local population.

3) Oral myths, legends, tales of deities prevailing among the lay people. These show how widely the cult was spread.

4) Holy places or points of energy force - geographical sacred sites where the divine feminine forces are spontaneously manifested – often as self-appeared (Tib. rang byung) images. Yanzhima (Tib. dByangs can ma) goddess in Yarikta country of Barguzinskaia valley, Tārā the Mother Stone or Uṣṇiṣavijayā on the Nojei lake of Aginskii Buriat district in Transbaikalia. This is one of the most distinctive ways in which a cult takes root in a particular environment.

Manuscripts and Xylographs

Our study of the cult of feminine divinities among Buriats is based on Tibetan texts that are stored in the Center of Oriental manuscripts and xylographs of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (in the following abbreviated COMX IMBT SB RAS) in the capital city of Ulan-Ude.[4] These texts were used by Buriat monks before the Buddhist temples and monasteries were shut down and ultimately destroyed in the 1930s. About 20% of the xylographs were printed in regional monasteries (Mo. Datsan, Tib. grva tshang). With the destruction of the temples, the libraries of Buddhist literature were also lost. Only about 2% of these books have survived until today[5].

For the topic of my research I selected relevant manuscripts and xylographs out of six thousand ritual texts of Tibetan literature (of the thor bu category) from the book depository in COMX IMBT SO RAS. I found about 600 items devoted to female deities, that is about 10% of the whole collection of ritual texts. The majority of them are devoted to the cult of White and Green Tārā, Twenty-one Tārās, the Guardian deity Palden Lhamo, and Sitātapatrā. Some of the texts are about Sarasvatī, Marīcī, Kurukullā, Pañcarakṣā, Uṣṇīṣavijayā, Simhamukhā, Vajraḍākinī, Jñānaḍākinī, Prajñāpāramitā, etc. The article format does not allow me to consider all these goddesses, so in the following I will focus only on materials referring to Tārā.

The Cult of Tārā had been practiced among the Buriats in the following main forms:

1) Performance of the "Maṇḍala Śiva" ritual, which means offering the maṇḍala to the Twenty-one Tārās (Tib. rJe btsun sgrol ma'i maṇḍala bzhi ba),

2) Recitation of the "Hymn for the 21 Tārās» (Tib. rJe btsun sgrol ma phyag tshal nyi shu rtsa gcig),

3) Recitation of the "Hymn for Khadiravaṇī Tārā» (Tib. rJe btsun seng ldeng nags sgrol gyi bstod pa),

4) Recitation of the "Hymn for Cintāmaṇi Tārā» (Tib. sGrol dkar yid bzhin 'khor lo'i bstod pa),

5) Recitation of the mantra “Om tā re tu tā re tu re svāha” as much as possible.

The texts for the rituals and daily practices were block-printed in various Buriat monasteries and temples. For example, the text "Mandal shiva" was printed in the Dzhidinskii, Aninskii, Tsugolskii datsans respectively; the "Hymn to the Twenty-one Tārās" - in the Tamchinskii, Chisanskii, Tsolginskii, and Tsongolskii datsans. The "Hymn for Khadiravaṇī Tārā" and the "Hymn for Cintāmaṇi Tārā" were block-printed in the printing houses of the Chisanskii and Tsongolskii datsans[6].

Contributors of the main texts

Detailed analysis of the literature allows us to determine the circle of authors of Tibetan texts, and thus the line of tradition transmitted from teachers of ancient India, medieval Tibet and Mongolia. The dominant cult tradition of the Twenty-one Tārās is of the lineage by Dipaṅkara Śrījñāna Atiśa (Tib. Jo bo a ti sha, Atiśa, 982-1054).

Of course, for Mongols and Buriats a particularly important role belongs to Tāranātha’s (1575-1634) tradition, because the Bogdo Gegen Jebtsundamba Qutuɣtu – Zanabazar - was considered his reincarnation. Tāranātha’s "History of the origin of Tārā Tantra" is extremely popular. What is most important is that Tāranātha revived the old sources and published a huge treatise of 483 folios entitled "Precious source of the sādhanas of the oceans of Yidams" (Tib. Yi dam rgya mtsho'i sgrub thabs rin chen 'byung gnas), which goes back to the ancient Indian Sādhana texts.

The Fourth Panchen Lama Blo-bzang chos-kyi rgyal-mtshan (1570 - 1662) was one of the root teachers of Öndür Gegen, as the first Jebtsun Damba Qutuɣtu Zanabazar is also called. His works were very popular among Mongolian Buddhists and Buriats as well. The Fourth Panchen Lama followed the tradition of Sūryagupta (Tib. Grub chen nyi ma spas ba). One of his texts is the "Sādhana of Tārā called `The Fulfiller of all desires’" (Tib. sGrol ma'i sgrub thabs dgos 'dod kun byung zhes bya ba bzhugs so). Apart from the importance of this tradition in the history of the cult of Tārā, there is very little known about Sūryagupta[7]. Ācārya Sūryagupta lived presumably in the 7th-8th centuries and he founded the most specific tradition of the realization of the twenty-one Tārās, where every single emanation has a distinguishing shape, posture, gesture, attributes, colors; whereas in the Atiśa / Tāranātha tradition the emanations all resemble the Green Tārā in form.

One of the most popular hymns of Tārā in Buriatia is the hymn by the ancient Indian Ācārya Matricheta. This hymn is widely known in Tibet, Mongolia, and in Buriatia. The words of the text were learned by heart not only by monks, but also by many lay worshippers of the goddess. Matricheta (Skt.: Mātṛceṭa, Tib. Matra ce ta - mother’s servant)[8], who lived ca. the second century, is known in Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism under the name of Lovon Pavo (Tib: Slob dpon dpa' bo). He was a disciple of Āryadeva, who in turn was a close disciple of Nāgārjuna. However, it seems that there is more than one person named Matricheta present in the history of Tibetan Buddhism and of the cult of Tārā as well.

Many important Tibetan and Mongolian authors contributed to the development of the cult of Tārā, such as Panchen Lama Blo-bzang chos-kyi rgyal-mtshan, sGo-mang blo-bzang tshul-khrims rgya-mtsho, Khalkha Damtsig Dorje (Tib. Hal ha dam tshig rdo rje), Agvan Yeshe Tubden Rabzhamba (Tib. Ngag dbang ye shes thub bstan rab 'byams pa), lCang lung paṇḍita Blo bzang bstan pa'i rgyal mtshan and others[9].

The fact that an extensive Garchak (Tib. dKar chag, table of contents or list of sources) was published in Gandan Monastery demonstrates the important role of the Tārā Goddess and her various emanations for the Mongols. This Garchak was published in two volumes, which contained a summary of the most popular xylographs of the cult of Tārā in Mongolia. The Garchak consists of 146 titles of texts [10]. What is notable is that the regional monastic printing-houses had catered to the needs of the local population, and printed the most requested and favored texts. The most published authors were Tuugan Darma Vadjra (Tib. Thu’u bkvan Blo bzang chos kyi nyi ma, 1737-1802), the second Janja Rolbi Dorje (lCang skya Qutuɣtu Rol pa’i rdo rje, 1717-1786), Lharamba Dambijaltsan (Tib. lHa ram pa bsTan pa'i rgyal mtshan) and others. Those texts were used in Buriatia as well. The main difficulty here is to identify correctly the authors, because the authors’ names shown in the colophons could be just short names, nicknames and pseudonyms.

Identification of Mongolian native authors has begun only recently. Nowadays much is done by modern Mongolian researchers, but there is much more still to be done[11]. In 2004 R. Byambaa initiated the multivolume edition of a catalogue of Mongolian contributors to Tibetan Buddhist Literature. As Byambaa notes, he found about 500 Mongol native authors of Tibetan Buddhist texts, among them 97 persons alone who had “Ngag dbang” (Agvan in Mongolian pronunciation) as part of their name. Byambaa includes in this list Buriat and Kalmyk authors as well. The National Library of Mongolia began publishing a catalogue of books by Mongolian authors which are stored there, and in 2013 the first volume of Sog po mkhams pa rnams kyi bod skad du brtsams pa’i gsung ‘bum gkar chag (“List of collected works composed in the Tibetan language by Mongolian scholars”) was issued. This volume contains a catalogue of 8815 works by ten Mongolian authors contained in nearly 200 volumes. At the same time scholars of the Institute of Language & Literature of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences prepared a catalogue of xylographs printed in the Mongolian language[12]. The Gandan Monastery continued its research und published the results in the magazine Lavain Egshig. The scholars added 17 more newly discovered names of Mongolian native authors. So it can now be reasonably argued that the list of known Mongolian Buddhist authors of earlier periods who wrote in the Tibetan language contains 300 names[13].

Mongolian authors who made a particularly significant contribution to the development of the cult of the goddess Tārā should be noted specially.

Khu re Khambo Agvankhaidav Nomun khan (Tib. Ngag dbang mkhas grub, 1779-1838) wrote several lengthy compositions devoted to Tārā: a commentary on a hymn to Khadiravaṇī Tārā (Tib. rJe btsun seng ldeng nags sgrol la bstod pa mkhas pa’i gtsugs rgyan gyi ‘grel pa mkhas pa dga’ byed ches bya ba bzhugs so (gSung `bum, Kha, fol. 1a-29a); Sādhana of Tārā (Tib. rJe btsun sgrol ma’i sgrub thabs ‘dod dgu mchog sbyin bzhugs so (Ca, fol. 1a-5a); Hymn to Tārā (Tib. rJe btsun ‘phags ma sgrol ma la bstod cing gsol ba ‘debs pa’i rab tu byed pa autpal ‘phreng ba zhes bya ba bzhugs so (gSung `bum, Ca, fol. 1a-5b). He also copied Tāranātha’s work "The History of Tārā Tantra". Agvankhaidav was born in Mandal-Tolgoi of Toola river valley to the family of a simple cattleholder. From early childhood he was sent to study in Bkra shis chos ‘phel grwa tshang in Ikh-Khuree. At the age of nineteen, he went to Tibet to continue his education in Gomang datsan of Drepung monastery and graduated with the degree of rab ‘byams pa. When he was 32 years old, he had to return home from Lhasa as directed by the Bogdo gegen IV (1775-1813) and later became a deputy abbot of Ikh Khuree. Agvankhaidav’s collected works (Tib. gsung ‘bum) consist of five volumes that contain 166 compositions.

Chin Suzuktu Nomun Khan (Tib. Blo bzang nor bu shes rab, 1701-1768) made an outstanding contribution to the development of Buddhism in Mongolia and to the cult of many female Buddhist goddesses as well. His gsung ‘bum were printed in Beijing and consist of seven volumes with 355 texts. Texts about female deities have a special place in his legacy - there are about 50 texts, which cover more than 500 folios. The greatest number of texts is related to the Tārā goddess and her various manifestations. In his works, Chin Suzuktu Nomun Khan introduced various known traditions and methods of realization of Tārā (Bari lotsāva, Sūryagupta, Kache Paṇchen, Kadam). He paid attention to all main emanations of the goddess Tārā (Sarasvatī, Kurukullā, Marīcī etc.). Lobsang Norbu Sherab (Tib. Blo bzang nor bu shes rab) was born in 1701. In his childhood, he entered Tashilhunpo monastery in Tibet and became a disciple of the Paṇchen Lama Blo bzang ye shes. In 1732 he was invited to Ordos where he built the temple "Shar Zuu". In 1745, he came back home which was on the territory of modern Bayan-Khongor aimag, Galuut somon in Mongolia. There he built several stūpas and temples and organized a community with hundreds of followers. For his great service and contribution to the popularization of religion, the Jebtsundamba Khutukhtu bestowed on him the title "Erdeni Noyon Tsorji" and promoted him to the category of Khutukhtu[14]. In 1755, he was appointed to Amursana’s country to teach people, for which he received the title of "Chin Suzugtu Nomun Khan" and a special seal written in four languages that documented his elevation to the highest rank[15].

The third Janja Khutukhtu Ngag dbang blo bzang bstan pa’i rgyal mtsan (1770-1845)[16] made an outstanding contribution to the development of the cult of Śrī Devī (Tib. Dpal ldan lha mo) and her different forms.

Agvandorj (Ngag dbang rdo rje (XIX c.), the author of a 14-volume work, wrote an enormous treatise about Sarasvatī goddess in 208 folios.

Visual Sources - iconic images (sculptures, thankas, etc.)

Iconic cult items have been created in different Buddhist regions according to local priorities. We can identify Buriat material only by comparing it with the classical Tibeto-Mongolian patterns. Here, the main support for us are iconographic guides – Mo. Jatsa (Tib.: brgya rtsa) - reference books of descriptions and illustrations, compiled by Buddhist masters of earlier periods[17]; and the most famous masterpieces of fine Vajrayāna art, which we shall now consider.

The first Jebtsundamba Qutuɣtu Zanabazar’s (1635-1723) unrivaled creations of Twenty-one Tārā sculptures were made according to Atiśa’s (Tāranātha’s) tradition (figs. 2-3; note that these two different forms of Tārā can only be distinguished by the facial expression)[18], although the main teacher of Zanabazar was the Paṇchen Lama Blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan who practiced in the tradition of Sūryagupta[19].
In 1810, the Seventh Paṇ chen Lama Blo bzang bstan pa’i nyi ma (1782-1853) initiated publication of a set of images for the advanced text of Tāranātha’s treatise. The work’s supervisors were Chos skye mkhas sgrub and Dge slong tshe ring. Many Mongolian artists such as Zhinba Lobsang (Tib. Zhing ba blo bzang), Lobsang Dashi (Tib. Blo bzang bkra shis), Agvan Sherab (Tib. Ngag dbang shes rab), Lobsang Choidar (Tib. Blo bzang chos dar), and Lobsang Tsepag (Tib. Blo bzang tshe phag) took part in creating hundreds of images of the deities. This iconographic guide, Rin ‘byung snar thang brgya rtsa rdor ‘phreng bcas nas gzungs pa’i bris sku mthong ba don ldan bzhugs so, is known under the short name of "Five hundred Burkhans" - Five hundred Buddhist Deities.

In the following pages I will for the first time introduce fellow scholars to a variety of art items found in private and public collections in Russia and Mongolia. They are preserved in regional museums, the scientific fund in Ulan-Ude, and also in some private collections in Moscow and Ulaanbaatar. I have also critically reviewed the studies of already well known Buddhist art items. From my studies of texts and images of Tārā that survived and have been stored in different collections I conclude that the tradition of Atiśa was dominant in the Buriat regions. [20]

Fig. 5

Fig. 6
However, in Mongolian fine art we find a lovely example of the Twenty-one Tārās in Sūryagupta’s tradition, for example the icon from the private collection of A. Altangerel. (fig. 5) He owns a thanka of the Twenty-one Tārās painted in the 18th century. Size: 62,5 x 42,0 cm. (24¾ x 16½ inch). It is painted in Menri style that involves spatial perspective, air saturation, and landscape elements. In the tradition of Atiśa the twenty-one Tārā goddesses are depicted almost identically with the central deity Khadiravaṇī Green Tārā but in different colors, whereas in the tradition of Sūryagupta, as seen here, all the Tārās are depicted completely differently. The structure and composition of this scroll does not look similar to the Mongolian thanka known by the same name. In the center of the picture, the Green Tārā is painted sitting in lalitāsana on a big white lotus pedestal. Yellow Mārīcī and blue Ekajaṭī are depicted on the right and the left of the Green Tārā. The other sixteen goddesses are grouped inside of four bright circles and placed in four corners of the icon. Two Tārās are located under upper circles in the middle part of the canvas and two more in the middle bottom of the thanka. In total, there are twenty three goddesses. Atiśa and Tsongkhapa are arranged symmetrically in the upper part of the thanka, and above them, in the middle of clouds, sits Mahāsiddha Sūryagupta. The canvas is sheathed by pale green and pistachio silk stripes and framed by beige colored silk embossed with patterns.

Old Buriat painted scrolls and images of Tārā

Researchers usually deny the existence of a Buriat Buddhist style in fine art. But the painted Buddhist icons by old Buriat masters have such superior quality that this makes them recognizable. No doubt Buriat thankas are very similar to Tibetan and especially to Mongolian works. Nevertheless, anyone who is familiar with Buriat works can distinguish them without doubt among art items from other Vajrayāna regions.

Let’s look at some examples of Buriat thankas of Tārā in different collections in Russia. Many old Buriat thankas are kept in the Museum of History in Buriatia. The best of them were published by Ts. Badmazhapov in his two volumes Buddhist paintings in Buriatia and Paintings of Vajrayāna [Badmazhapov, 1995; Badmazhapov, 2003]. A significant number of items are stored in The State Hermitage, The Russian Ethnographical Museum, The Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography – Kunstkamera, The Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg, and the Museum of Oriental Art in Moscow. Rather interesting and numerous works can also be found in many private collections of Russia and of course in the Buddhist temples themselves.

We may have a look at old Buriat thankas from the paintings collected by Russian officials during the period of their first meetings with Siberian peoples and their religion. For example, there are the collections of Gerhard Friedrich Müller (1705-1783), Baron Paul Schilling von Canstatt (1786-1837) and others. G.F. Müller – a Russian historiographer of German origin, spent the years from 1733 to 1743 in the Siberian regions. During that time he collected a significant number of archive materials and different kind of items, and he wrote the fundamental work “History of Siberia”. Some painted scrolls were made specifically for him by Buriat masters as copies of temple icons to fill his collection[21]. (figs. 7a,b,c,).

The thanka images of Tārā in the possession of Buriat Buddhists can be divided into several types according to the figure of the main god (Tib. gtso bo) and the composition of figure: 1) White Tārā, 2) Green Tārā, 3) Khadiravaṇī Tārā, 4) Lebrema Tārā (Tib. Legs ‘bris ma ‘phags ma sgrol ma ljang, Ārya śyāma tārā), 5) Twenty-one Tārās, 6) Potalaka Tārā, 7) White Tārā in the group of the Trinity of Longevity (Tib. Tshe la rnam gsum), and others.

The first who wrote about Buriat thankas was L.N. Gumilev, the scientist who is famous for his Theory of «Passionarity». The book “StaroBuriatskaya zhivopis” (Old Buriat paintings) was a result of his work with the big amount of Buddhist thankas gathered at that time in Kustkamera in Leningrad. Gumilev was not an expert in Buddhist iconography and his work suffers from many mistakes and incorrect statements, but he had grasped the soul and originality of Buriat paintings. Despite the abundance of mistakes in his book “StaroBuriatskaya Zhivopis”, L. Gumilev published several genuine Buriat old thankas and sculptures. We can find there the old Buriat images of the Tārā goddesses (figs.8, 10). Some old scrolls of Tārā are also among the pictures published by Badmazhapov. (fig. 9).

Buriat thankas of the early XVIII-XIX centuries can be identified by the following distinctive features:

1) The distinctive range of colors. Spectrally similar shades are used, and there is no additional multicolor brightness, which is characteristic of traditional Mongolian thankas. Colors are more muted and deep.

2) The old Buriat masters preferred dark blue backgrounds and a combination of dominant blue and green hues.

3) The older scrolls are very simple. The composition of the paintings is simple and tends to symmetry. There are few details, which concentrates the viewer's focus on the main and largest figure.

4) The absence of landscape and decoration details in the painting fills the space with air and gives the impression of a hovering, non-earthly deity.

5) The old canvases were primed very carefully, which gives the impression that the picture was painted in oil.

6) The faces of deities have Buriat anthropological features and mien.

The Masterpieces of Buriat Buddhist fine art:

Wooden sculptures by Sanji-Tsybik Tsybikov

The examples of Buriat fine art have very specific characteristics, beyond their similiarities with Mongolian fine art. The best works of Buriat artists are surely recognizable not only in the whole Tibeto-Mongolian fine art, but also amongst the Buriat Buddhist art. Unfortunately, the vast majority of religious objects was lost in the period of political repression and militant atheism in Russia. But even the few artifacts that we can find today speak of the existence of outstanding artists in the Buriat Buddhist art, the further development of which was tragically interrupted in the 1930s.

Fig. 18
The Orongoyskaya School founded by Sanji-Tsybik Tsybikov (1877-1934) is widely known. (fig. 18). The wooden sculptures by the Orongoi masters supported the religious needs of the Buriat datsans of the Selenga valley in Buriatia. Tsybikov’s sculptures were carved usually of cedar wood [Bardalleva, 2005: 8-12]. They were large enough in size and were made in general style of carving and painted with a harmonious combination of warm shades and soft colors. The faces with large features are very expressive and dramatically individualized. The master used asymmetry in detailed ornaments and the curls of the hair.

Fig. 19
The sculptures' pedestals have the characteristic shape of a single lotus, with an odd number of wide, large petals. The figures have broad shoulders, a powerful torso, low necks, plastic soft hands with delicate fingers and very full palms. The Sarvavid Vairocana Maṇḍala was constructed according to the canonical texts of the Narthang Kanjur. The feminine divinities of the maṇḍala by Tsybikov do not show sexual features, such as large breasts; they are depicted similarly to the main male Tathāgata Buddhas. The female deities have the same bodhisattva decorations as their male companions (earrings, bracelets, necklaces, belts, silk scarfs, the specific crowns with 5 separated petals[22]. (figs. 20-23).

Sanji-Tsybik Tsybikov (1877-1934) was born in 1877 in Oshor Bulak ulus, near the village of Verhnyaya Ivolga in Buriatia. He studied at the Yangazhinskii datsan (founded in 1831), graduated from the Faculty of Philosophy (Tib. mtshan nyid grva tshang), was promoted to the dge shes degree and then to the rank of ‘ga bcu. His root teacher was Khambo Lama Dashi Dorji Etigelov (1852-1927), who is famous now for his ‘imperishable’ body. S.-Ts. Tsybikov is famous as a painter, architect and sculptor. He was the founder of the first professional Buriat school of art - Orongoyskie Darkhany. The Orongoyskaya school developed a recognizable style of its own, a special technology which combined: wood carving, stamping and hammering on metal, paper maché, work with clay and paintings. His favorite art material was wood, especially cedar[23].

The Buriat Tārā – silver Djokonda in St. Petersburg’s Museum

Several Buriat silver sculptures are now stored in the museums of St. Petersburg and represent yet another Buriat school of art. There we can see other techniques. These items, created in other Buriat regions, represent a completely different style of art, which can be defined as the style of the Khori Darkhans. For example, the silver sculpture of White Tārā from the collection of the Russian Ethnographic Museum (fig. 29) or Amitāyus (fig. 30) and Buddha Śākyamuni from the collection of the Hermitage[24] are made in the technique of hammering with stamping and casting some of the details and attributes. The aesthetics of the Khorinskii school is somewhat different from the Selenginskaya (Orongoiskaya) school. The metal and wood sculpture of the Khori’s masters show a special, very spacious, bulging and flat lotus pedestal with an odd number of petals. The faces are more subtle and delicate, the figures are very close to the aesthetics and proportions of the art of the great Zanabazar Öndür gegen (1635-1723). They have a strongly marked urṇa also.

Fig. 29
The silver White Tārā of The Russian Ethnographic Museum is a true masterpiece, a unique treasure of Buriat Buddhist art (fig. 29). This sculpture was made on a special order for the imperial court of the Russian tsar. The sculpture was presented to the Crown Prince Nikolai II by Buriats in Atsagatskii datsan on his trip to the East in 1891. The silver White Tārā is of the highest level of artistic achievement; a Buriat Mona Lisa indeed. The sculpture has a wonderful peculiarity - she changes her expression of face and body posture when you change the viewpoint.

Unfortunately, the name of the master artist is not known. The reason for this does not only lie in the traditional anonymous character of Buddhist artists, but in the sad fact that the descendants of outstanding Buddhist leaders were forced to hide their kinship ties under fear of death during the persecution of religion and the ensuing political prohibitions. We only know that the artist was active in the early XX century because his other work – the Silver Buddha Amitāyus - was presented to Tsar Nicolai II on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the royal house of the Romanovs in 1913 (fig. 30). The statue of Amitāyus is kept at the State Hermitage museum of St. Petersburg among other precious items of Buddhist fine art. Yu. Elihina described the gifts that were presented to the royal house of the Romanovs and are now kept in the Hermitage. As already mentioned, some of them were presented to the Crown Prince Nicholai II in 1891 in Siberia, and the others on the occasion of the 300th royal house anniversary[25] presented by the famous Buriat Khambo lama Dashi Dorji Etigilov in 1913.

Fig. 30
I suppose, two silver statuettes - The White Tārā (fig. 29) and Buddha Amitāyus (fig. 30) were made by the same anonymous Khori Buriat master. Both the White Tārā – Silver Djokonda from the Russian Ethnographic Museum and Amitāyus from the Hermitage were made of the same material – silver, and in the same technique - hammering with the cast parts (crown, earrings, silk ribbon) in an identical system of proportion. They are almost similar in size, the Tārā naturally a bit smaller. The body of the sculpture was made of a single plate of silver. The sculptures of the Khori masters have a special, very spacious, bulging and flat lotus pedestal with an odd number of petals. Such peculiarity is common for Khori Buriat art items. Both sculptures are created in a consistent aesthetic style of the Bodhisattva image. They have a similar, very large, tall and broad cast crown, which is perfectly set adjoining the head of the sculpture without the slightest gap. The faces are subtle and delicate; the figures are very close to the aesthetics and proportions of the great Zanabazar. The anthropological features are common to the shapes of the Mongolian school – a strong torso, broad shoulders, a not too high neck. The wooden sculptures by the Khori Buriat masters have just the same qualities (figs. 26-28). It is puzzling why the Khori Buriat art school is not recognized by researchers.

In 1902 Andrei Rudnev[26] was sent by Sergei Oldenburg[27] to Transbaikalia (Russia) and Urga (Mongolia) specifically to study the technology of the regional Buddhist art and to buy, if possible, statues and painted scrolls. Rudnev gives us extremely important information about the foundry of Buddhist cult objects in the Hortuy area on the Khilok riverside near Tsolginskii datsan of Buriatia. This small foundry supplied other Buriat temples and monasteries with cast sculptures, ritual bowls (tsugutsa) and bells with vajras. Rudnev was an eyewitness of the making of the huge Buddha Maitreya statue for Gegetuiskii datsan. He refers to names of the best masters, winners of the art exhibition 1899 in Chita city: Ayushi Ludupov, Tsambol Khaidupov, Balshin Sedenov. He also maintained that the Buriat works were better than the Chinese, which were cruder, more massive and stout than the Transbaikalian ones. Tibetan items were extremely rare in Buriat temples [Rudnev, 1905]. Most probably, one of the three masters just mentioned was the creator of the silver goddess White Tārā.

Feminine divinities on rocks and stones of Buriatia

In recent years a new trend has appeared in Buriatia – the manifestation of self-born divine (Tib.: rang byung, Mo. aranjin) images in natural objects. Nowadays the goddess Sarasvatī Yanzhima image has become widely known. Many tourists and pilgrims visit her in Barguzinskaya Valley in the Yarikta area (figs. 31, 32, 33).

In the Aga Buriat district the so called “Mother Stone” has also recently been discovered. The local people consider it as a manifestation of the goddess Uṣṇīṣavijayā, or Norzhima and call it “Mother Tārā”.

It should be noted that Yanzhima was found in a place known for its ancient sanctuaries. Earlier in the 19th century there was a Buddhist monastery, Barguzinskii datsan, there. The datsan was built on the site of an archaic sanctuary - the Baraghan cult complex, which from very ancient times was worshiped by pilgrims to pray for offspring. Yanzhima (Tib. dByangs can ma) is the Buddhist goddess of art and wisdom, Sarasvatī. But now she is revered as a goddess of fertility and the patroness of motherhood. In 2005 the current head of the Russian Buddhist Traditional Sangha, Khambo lama Ayusheev visited the site and he discovered a dancing goddess image on a huge boulder (figs. 31, 32).


Although Buriat Buddhists used the classic texts of various traditions of the cult of Tārā (by Atiśa, Bari lotsāba, Sūryagupta, Kache paṇchen, Kadam lugs etc.), the written tradition of Atiśa prevailed. The visual representation of the Tārā Tantra can be found in painting and sculpture. The majority of fine art items also mainly belong to the tradition of Atiśa where the Twenty-one Tārā goddesses are depicted almost identically with the central deity Khadiravaṇī Green Tārā but in different colors. In the tradition of Sūryagupta, however, all Tārās are depicted completely differently. In paintings of the old Buriat masters of the 18th century there were obvious adherents of the Menri style originally developed by the Tibetan artist Menla Dondub (Tib. sMan bla don grub, 1450-1480). They preferred a dark blue background, and a combination of dominant blue and green hues. Landscape is present, but all the attention is focused on the central character, who was depicted simply, and very large in comparison to the background or any subsidiary figures.

A careful study of the best examples of the Buriat Buddhist art, the Orongoiskaya school of wooden sculpture and the Khori Darkhan school, suggests the development of an original Buriat Buddhist art style in Siberia in the XIX to early XX centuries. Unfortunately, the further political developments in Russia did not allow the development of this art process in full. Most of the Buriat Buddhist art items are lost or there is little known about them in the scholarly world. It is quite possible that further exploration of the regional peculiarities might lead to new discoveries of masterpieces by Buriat and Mongol artists.


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1. The Mongolian transcription in this article follows the system introduced by I. de Rachewiltz, The Mongolian Tanjur Version of the Bodhicaryāvatāra, with the exception of the letter “j”, which is written without Haček. The exception to this rule concerns well known names and terms, such as Khutukhtu. They are written in the forms familiar to the English reader. The Tibetan is transliterated according to the extended Wylie system. The Sanskrit transliteration follows the internationally accepted rules.

2. Tibetan tradition has the Drag gshed brgyad – the eight enlightened dharmapāla (Tib. 'Jig rten las' das pa'i srung ma) – Mo. Gonbo / Mahakala (Tib.: mGon po / Nag po chen po; Skt.: Mahākāla); Mo. Palden Lhamo (Tib.: dPal ldan lha mo; Skt.: Srī Devī); Mo. Namsrai (Tib. rNam thos sras; Skt.:Vaiśrāvana); Mo. Yama (Tib.: gShin rje chos rgyal; Skt.: Yama); Mo. Jamsran (Tib.: lCam sring / Beg tse). These five srung ma, two yidams – Yamāntaka (Tib.: 'Jigs byed), Hāyagrīva (Tib.: rTa mgrin) and the world guardian Tsanba (Tib.: Tshangs pa dkar po) together build the group of the "Eight Wrathful Ones" (Tib.: Drag gshed brgyad), acting as guardians of the teachings. The Mongolian tradition added the White Mahākāla and Vajrapani and composed the group of Drag gshed bcu (Mo. arban qangɣal) consisting of Mo. Yeke qara; Čaүaүan itegel; Erlig nom-un qaүan; Ökin tngri; Bisman tngri; Egeči degüü; Esru-a tngri; Erlig toniluүan üiledügči; Morin egesigtü; Včirbani.

3. The cult of Śrī Devī was the subject of my research published in Russian, see S.Kh. Syrtypova, The Cult of the Guardian Goddess Palden Lhamo in Tibetan Buddhism: Myth, rituals and written sources, Moskva, 2003.

4. The general description of the Tibetan collection in Buriatia was for the first time presented in S.D. Syrtypova, Kh. I. Garmaeva, D.B. Dashiev D.B., Tibetskii fond TsVRK IMBT SO RAN: struktura i soderzhanie. Ulan Ude, 2006 (1).

5. The history of book printing in the Buriat Buddhist monasteries is described in S.D. Syrtypova, Kh. Zh. Garmaeva, A.A. Bazarov, Buddiiskie knigopechatanie Buriatii XIX-nachala ХХ v. Ulaanbaatar, 2006 (2).

6. Сatalogue of printing blocks of Buddhist monasteries in Transbaikalia // Four Mongolian historical Records of Prof. Dr. Rinchen. S.P.S. Vol. 11. New Delhi, 1963. p. 71-121.

7. Tāranātha writes that Sūryagupta was born in Kashmir, he was a contemporary of Chandragupta and became known as a master of the Tārā Tantra who practiced "for seven periods". Having a keen intellect, very soon he became competent in various disciplines. Then he went to Madhyadeśa and was initiated as a neophyte monk. By relying on Nāgārjuna’s system he became fully versed in the Mahāyāna sūtras. From Nāgamitra he received initiation into the practice of Tārā. Generally, Sūryagupta became famous as a master of all 108 Tārā Tantras. He practiced the sādhana-based Tāreviśvakarmabhava-Tantra. He wrote about thirty texts about Tārā, such as the Maṇḍala Vidhi and others. However, Tāranātha suggested that the author of the famous "Hymn to Tārā protecting from the eight types of disasters" was the "other Sūryagupta", who has no other writings; see sGrol ma’i rgyud kyi ‘byung gnas lo rgyus, fol. 46.

8. Matricheta - according to legend, he was born a Brahmin and became Buddhist only after his defeat in a dispute. Formerly he was a famous magician, an ideological enemy of Nāgārjuna unbeaten in philosophical debates. Tradition says that assistance was rendered to him in the competition by the "three treasures", his scholarly sister Tsomo pandita, a talking parrot and a magic stone. Matricheta fought with all worthy contenders in the Buddhist monasteries in Northern India, and no one could stand against him. Filled with pride, he went to the famous Nālandā monastery, the main stronghold of Buddhism in India of that time. Āryadeva, staying in meditation, was warned by the custodian of Nālandā, Mahākāla about the intention of Matricheta to win over the University’s scholars and convert them to Hinduism. The competition’s conditions meant the loser should be converted to the faith of the winner. Āryadeva had learned about the three assistants, the pledge of invincibility of Matricheta, and decided to prepare thoroughly for the competition, because the fate of Nālandā depended on the dispute. He caught a cat, hired an acrobat who was willing to go out completely naked, and dispersed on the roof of the hall where the debate was to be held all sorts of filth and profane objects, and secretly covered Matricheta’s magic stone with a thin layer of solidifying oil. Usually, if Matricheta felt difficulty during the dispute, he appealed for help to his scholarly sister, the wise parrot and the magic stone, on the surface of which images appeared. When he turned to his sister, Āryadeva released a naked man, so the confused sister ran away covering her face with her hands. When Matricheta turned to the parrot, Āryadeva let out the cat and the parrot fluttered in fear from his shoulder and flew from its host. When he wanted to use the stone, the image could not be seen because of the frozen fat. When he prayed to Viṣṇnu, the god Viṣṇu could not come to his aid, since the roof was desecrated by sewage. Matricheta was ashamed, but not wanting to accept his defeat he soared into the sky. However Āryadeva warned him about a cyclone raging, and if he would fly too high, he might die. To check his words Matricheta lifted his scythe up, which was immediately cut off by lightning. Matricheta refused to accept the Buddhist faith, and the king had to put him into prison, where the entire collection of Buddhist texts was placed in his cell. Involuntarily Matricheta read many works and acquired a profound knowledge of the Buddha's teachings. One day, while sitting on his bed, he took some random tome, pulled out a page, and with great surprise found out the Buddha’s predictions about him and his destiny: "A highly learned monk will appear at that time. He will be known as "Servant of his mother". He will compose hymns in my honor, and thanks to the high virtues teach according to the Truth. His mind will be absolutely clear, he will devote himself to the Buddha's teachings, to the most difficult secret mantras like the mantra of Mañjughoṣa. Endowed with virtuous qualities and morality and being very learned he will explain the Doctrine". Matricheta acquired deep faith in the Buddha and asked for release, as he had become a true Buddhist.

9. Bod kyi bstan bcos khag cig gi mtshan byang dri med shel dkar phreng ba. Mtsho sngon: Mi rigs dpe skyan khang, 1987.

10. Rje btsun sgrol ma’i chos skor po ti gnyis kyi dkar chag bzhugs so. Śatapitaka Series, Vol. 30, p. 727-728, New Delhi, 1967.

11. Gombojab, S. Mongγolcud-un tőbed kele ber jokyaγsan jokiyal-un juil. Studia mongolica. V. 2. fasc. 1. Ulaanbaatar, 1960; Altangerel, Ch. Mongol zokhiolchidyn tövdöör bichsen buteel. 2 vols. Ulaanbaatar, 1967-68; Lubsang, Urantuya. Tőbed nom-iyar geyigsen mongγol erdemted. Mongγol soyol-un cubural bicig, 1998; Oljei, Mongγolcud-un töbed-iyer tuγurbiγsan uran jokiyal-un sudulul, Kökeqota, 1996.

12. Nyammyagmar, B. Khel zokhiolyn khureelengiin mongol bichmel dermal nomyn burtgel, Ulaanbaatar, 2012.

13. Lavain Egshig. Buddyn sudlalyn setguul. Mongolyn burkhan shashintny tov Gandantegchinlin khiid. Erdem soelyn khureelen, Ulaanbaatar, 2013/1(51).

14. Literally, Mo. qutuɣtu translates Tib. `phags pa, but usually qutuɣtu denotes Tib. sprul sku

15. Sog po mkhas pa rnams kyi bod skad du brtsams pa’i gsung ‘bum dkar chag, 2013: 309-365.

16. The Sog po mkhas pa rnams kyi bod skad du brtsams pa’i gsung ‘bum dkar chag mistakenly claims him to be the second Janja Khutukhtu.

17. Such reference works include: 1) pa tshab sgrub thabs brgya rtsa; 2) ba ri sgrub thabs brgya rtsa; 3) sgrub thabs kun btus pa (by Grags pa rgyal mtshan, 1147-1216; 4) lha so so sna tshogs kyi sgrub thabs; 5) yi dam rgya mtsho’i sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byung gnas; 6) rin lhan - yi dam rgya mtsho’i sgrub thabs rin chen ‘byung gnas kyi lhan thabs rin ‘byung don gsal; 7) rin ‘byung - «500 Burkhans» rin ‘byung snar thang brgya rtsa rdor ‘phreng bcas nas gzungs pa’i bris sku mthong ba don ldan bzhugs so; 8) sgrub thabs kun btus - ‘byung dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po kun dgа’ bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan - 1820-1892); 9) «300 Burkhans” by lCang skya Rol pa’i rdo rje, A ja gegen blo bzang bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan (born 1708); 10 «Bhadrakalpikā sūtra»; 11) «Aṣṭasāhasrikā». lHa sa, 1955; 12) Nyingmapa pantheon etc. Many of these texts have been published by Raghu Vira in his Śata Pitaka series: А new Tibeto-Mongol Pantheon. SPS. Vol. 20 (Part 8-21); sGrub thabs kun btus ‘byung dbyangs mkhyen brtse’i dbang po kun dga’ bstan pa’i rgyal mtshan // Indo-Asian Literatures. Vol. 30. Мaterials for a History of Tibetan Literature. Part 3. SPS. - New Delhi, 1963, and later by Lokesh Chandra, Buddhist Iconography. Compact edition. Indo-Asian Literature. Vol. 342. New Delhi, 1994. See also E. Pander, Das Pantheon des Tshangtsha Hutuktu. Ein Beitrag zur Iconographie des Lamaismus von Prof. Eugen Pander. Herausgegeben und mit Inhaltverzeichnissen versehen von Albert Grünwedel, Berlin, 1890; W. Clark, Two lamaistic Pantheons. Edited from materials collected by the late Baron A. von Staël-Holstein. New-York, 1965; M. Tashikawa, M. Mori, S. Yamaguchi, Five hundred Buddhist Deities. Delhi, 2000; M. Brauen, M. Willson (eds.), Deities of Tibetan Buddhism. The Zürich Paintings of the Icons Worthwhile to See (Bris sku mthoṅ ba don ldan), Boston, 2000.

18. See MBKhPM,

19. About Sūryagupta Tāranātha says, that he received Tārā’s teaching from Nāgamitra, who belonged to the lineage of Āryadeva.

20. (see [last assessed 01.03.2014] - items 74239, 74240, 74241 White Tārā; 74242, 74243 Green Tārā from the Historical Museum of Buriatia; ( items 50112 – Green Tārā; 50140 – White Tārā; 50126 – Twenty-one Tārās from museums of Mongolia); White Tārā from Bursomon dugan of Transbaikalia (fig. 5).

21. I express appreciation to the leadership and staff of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (MAE) RAS – Kunstcamera, St. Petersburg, especially Dr. D. Ivanov for permission to work with the museum’s objects and the help they provided me in my investigation. About the Buddhist collection in MAE RAS – Kunstkamera see D.V. Ivanov, Buddiiskie kul’tovye predmety u mongoloiazychnykh narodov v XVIII – pervoi polovine XIX veka v sobranii MAE RAN. Dissertatsiia na soiskanie uchenoi stepeni k.i.n. St. Petersburg, 2009 (1), and his "Kurioznye veshchi“ iz Kunstkamery – Vostochnaia kollektsiia, №3. Moskva, 2011.

22. The arrangement of the Vairocana maṇḍala: Vairocana is in the center surrounded by four Tathāgata Buddhas, beneath them are the Prajñās, their female companions. The male figures are 85 cm of height, the female ones - 75 cm. All in all there are nine deities. The next round of sculptures contains sixteen Vajrabodhisattvas. They are smaller in size (45 cm), and form a circle inscribed in a square. In the four corners of the square are the eight figures of the Vajra Tārās , with two of them in each corner. Four guardian Mahārājas are on the four sides, in the gates of the square. All figures are seated on lotus pedestals, the male deities have a threefold uṣṇīṣa with a gold pick, the female deities have braids. Each figure is decorated with the classic bodhisattva crowns, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, belts, silk scarves. Each of the figures has the appropriate color, posture and attributes. On the bottom (back) side of the lotus the names of the deities are inscribed in Tibetan language.

23. His main creation was the sculptural ensemble complex of Yangazhinskii datsans including 9 temples - Chos grva, dGe ba zhing, Dar-a ek-e, ‘Dus ‘khor, sMan ba, Maidari, rGyud, Gun rig, Tshogs zhing. The most famous sculptures of Sanji-Tsybik Tsybikov are: 1) Cedar Maidari (height of 80 cubits - 16 m), built around 1921-22 and placed in a special Maidar-in sume, the head of the statue was appointed at the level of the 3rd floor. 2) Devajin sume for Hambyn khure - Tamchinskii datsans. 3) The maṇḍala of Sarvavid Vairocana – Gunrig of Tantra Yoga class, which included 37 deities. 4) The trinity of Bogd Tsongkhapa with his two pupils. The Trinity belonged to Khambo Lama Etigelov. 5) The Trinity of Longevity Buddhas - Ayushi, White Tārā, Zugder Namzhilma. 6) Portrait of Shireet-Lama Lubsan Nindig Banzaraktsaev, the abbot of Yangajin monastery (worked 1880-1902). 7) A portrait of Lenin for the History Museum in Ulan Ude, see S.B. Bardaleeva, Sanzhi-Tsybik Tsybikov (1877-1934) i ego shkola buddiiskoi skul’ptury v Iangazhinskom datsane. Ulan Ude, 2005, 12-14.

24. I express appreciation to the St. Petersburg’s leadership and staff of the Russian Ethnographical Museum and the State Museum Hermitage, especially my dear colleagues Dr. M. Fiodorova and Dr. Iu. Elikhina for permission to work with the museum’s objects and help in my investigation.

25. According to Elikhina: "Amitayus (KO-384, Buriatia, early XX cen. 41 cm)… seated on a lotus throne, the lotus is single layer, similar lotuses are found in the Mongolian sculpture of Zanabazar and his artistic school. The lotus has a back clearance and odd number of petals, like the Dolonnor style. One earring is lost, the high crown is worn on the head with a high hairdo, the ribbon at the right side is broken off at the elbow. Buddha Sakyamuni (KO-385, Buriatia, early XX cen. 38 cm)…is depicted sitting on a lotus in padmasana, the right hand is in a gesture of touching the ground (bhumisparśa mudrā), on his left hand is a patra (lost). …the right shoulder covered with a cloak. ...Comparing the style of both sculptures it can be assumed that they are made by one master. The figures of deities are massive, have broad shoulders and short necks” [Elikhina, 2006: 14-20]. It’s a pity that an illustration of the statue of Buddha Śākyamuni is not given by Elikhina in her article. She gave just the picture of Amitāyus (fig. 9).

26. Andrei Rudnev (1878—1958) – Russian orientalist and talented scholar, one of the founders of Mongolian linguistic studies. His destiny as a scholar was tragic. In 1918 he had to emigrate to Finland where he earned his livelihood as a music teacher. Many of his works are unpublished and for a long time were prohibited to read and, as a result, forgotten.

27. Sergei Oldenburg (1863-1934). The famous orientalist specialized in Buddhist studies. He was born in Transbaikalia and educated in Europe. The founder of the famous “Bibliotheca Buddhica”, he headed archaeological expeditions to Eastern Turkestan in 1909-1910 and 1914-1915. He was director of the Asiatic Museum in St. Petersburg and organized the first Buddhist exhibition in 1919.

text and images © Surun-Khanda D. Syrtypova

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