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Mongolian Erdene Zuu Monastery

The Temples and Priests of the Other Religions

The influence of other religions was more significant in Uighur and Tureg, for they had closer ties to Central Asia, India, and other nations during the sixth to ninth centuries. Since that period, the influence and pressure of various religions began to imagine the Mongolian nomadic lifestyle and were gradually accepted by the Mongolian Haan and kings.

     Likewise, some major Asian and European religions were also closely tied to international policies of foreign countries; who were concerned to convert the Mongolians during the thirteenth century, thereby gaining a powerful ally and protecting their own nations from attack. Nevertheless, for a variety of reasons, several Christians from Western Europe visited Mongolia. They included Antivar’s Plano Di Carpini, Guillom de Roubruc |an intimate of the French king| and the Venetian merchant Marco Polo |1257-1324|. Lamaists carried out similar activities with far greater intensity. 

     Thanks to the generosity, respect, and support of the Mongolian Haans, twelve Nestorian Christian temples, two Islamic mosques, and a Christian church were established. Plano Di Carpini emphasized that Great Haan Guyug supported the Christians and gave them assistance in Mongolia. He even built a Christian church on the front of his palace and apparently intended to convert. Furthermore, some travelers allegedly saw Monh Haan with his eldest queen worshipping in a Nestorian Temple. Likewise, the Great Haans of the Mongolian Empire pursued an express policy of religious toleration, giving respect to Nestorian and Catholic Christianity, Islam and other religions in their own territory under the state religion of Shamanism. However, they do not seem to have been in a hurry to adopt any of these foreign religions. Thus, they tolerated other religions while Shamanism continued to provide the backbone for the Mongolian state, not least because it was best suited to the nomadic lifestyle of the Mongols and their martial attitudes.

     Therefore, the suggestion by scholars that Chinggis Haan was a renovator of the Mongolian Shaman religion seems reasonable. Moreover, it may mean that he did not found a new common religion, which should be worshipped by the nations as a whole, but withdrew the “joint rule” of state and religion in favor of social and economic leadership of the country. To further this aim, Chinggis Haan appointed the Tiv-Tengger zayran to the top post of the State Great Shaman, and underneath him the Usun Ovgon, Shaman of the nine-legged state Banner, head of the religion in peacetime and holder of the title “Behi”.

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