During the 17th century the central Asian nomads were ruled by the Dzungar Khanate of the Oirad Mongols. Baatar Huntaij (or Prince Baatar) was a leader who devoted his life to unifying the Oirad. On his death his fifth son Senge, with the help of his mother, seized the Oirad throne and occupied it from 1665 to 1671. This act, a violation of the tradition of seniority, sowed discord which festered until Senge was killed by conspiring relatives in 1671. After his death, his younger brother Galdan returned from Tibet, where he had been a student of the Dalai Lama, and ascended the Oirad throne.
When he was seven, Galdan, one of Baatar’s twelve sons, had been sent with Zaya Pandita Namhajantsan to Tibet to take monastic orders. At this time, his father also sent a contribution of 110,000 taels of silver to the construction of the Potala Palace and a large quantity of gold to gild the finals on its roof.
By bringing Galdan back and installing him on the Dzungar throne after the assassination of Senge, the Oirad princes might have expressed their high expectations of his religious authority and Tibetan support. As most Mongol Khans did, Galdan began his reign by dealing first with domestic concerns.
Influential Oirad princes formed an anti-Galdan coalition centered around the descendants of Guushi Khan of Hoh Nuur. In 1673 the Qing military gained control over Hoh Nuur territory, thereby fueling the enthusiasm of Galdan’s adversaries and doubling their strength. But Galdan was a shrewd politician and a good organizer. He managed to build up his forces and by 1678 established his rule over a territory which stretched from Hoh Nuur to the Ordos. Aware of his potential, Galdan now identified targets beyond the Mongolian borders.
The first blow from the Khan struck Eastern Turkestan, which bordered on the Dzungar Khanate to the south. Eastern Turkestan was to pay an annual tribute of 100,000 tanga, the monetary unit at that time.
By 1686 Galdan had seized Khami, Turfan, Kashgar, Sairam, Bukhara, Samarkand and 1,200 other cities, emerging as an unparalleled ruler of his time in Central Asia. Maintaining diplomatic ties with China and Russia, he promoted a diplomatic exchange and encouraged trade. Commerce between Russia and the Dzungar Khanate greatly increased and sources indicate that for example in 1678 the Oirad merchants sold goods valued at 6,000 gold rubles in Moscow.
Due to their control of the Silk Road, the Oirad enjoyed extremely favorable terms of trade, which they expanded both East and West. They also tried to keep their relations with Qing normal. Galdan was also recognized by the Dalai Lama who knew that the key to the security of both Tibet and Buddhism was the khan of the Oirad. In 1679 the Dalai Lama conferred on Galdan the title boshgot, meaning “divine award”.
Galdan’s Attack on Halh
In 1668, having thus strengthened his positions, Galdan Boshgot moved into Halh with his 30,000 troops, hoping to unify the Mongol state and to ward off the imminent threat to Qing expansion. Tusheet Khan Chihundorj was an ambitious feudal lord and a shortsighted politician. He fell under the influence of Kangxi and violated the 1640 Halh Oirad treaty, further escalating the controversies between the Halh and the Oirad until a war broke out in 1688. Galdan fought brilliantly and actually united the eastern and western parts of Mongolia into a single unit. This was the chance for Mongols to unify into a nation that could withstand the Qing. But they failed to make the best of this last opportunity.
Zaya Pandita Namhaijantsan
In 1648 he devised a special script to express Oirad phonemes. It was called the Clear Script (Tod useg), probably because it had additional symbols that further clarified and refined the Uighur alphabet already used by the Mongols.
- 1683: The death of Tsorosiin Baatar Huntaij.
- 1664: The fight for the Oirad throne worsens.
- 1671: Galdan sits on the throne of Dzungar Khanate.
- 1674: Galdan fought Tsuhur Ubash, Setsen Taij, and Zodov Baatar
- 1676: Galdan invaded the whole of Oirad and established the Dzungar Khanate.
- 1678: Galdan invaded Huh Nuur. Galdan attacked eastern Turkistan. The Oirads began trading with Russia.
- 1679: Galdan received the title of Boshgot from the Dalai Lama.
- 1680: Galdan seized eastern Turkistan, Khami, Turfan, and Kashgar.
- 1681: Galdan’s army surrounded the Central Asian city of Sarum.
- 1683: Kangxi fordable Oirad freight from entering China. Galdan’s army enters the Fergana valley.
- 1685: Galdan Boshgot invaded the Central Asian cities of Samarkand and Bukhara.
- 1687: Chihundorj fought against Galdan Boshgot.