The Life and Times of the Fifth Diluv Khutagt
Nathan Bates


The Diluv Khutagt: Memoirs and Autobiography of a Mongol Buddhist Reincarnation in Religion and Revolution’s two parts are important records of the rapid political changes that took place within Mongolia and China from 1901 until 1949. However, unlike other political histories, the Diluv Khutagt tells the story of these changes through the eyes and life of the Diluv Khutagt [mod. Monglian Dilowa Khutuktu] (Ch. Diluwa Hutuketu), a Mongolian Living Buddha and prominent government official in Mongolia from 1901 – 1923 and a Tibetan diplomatic representative in China’s Republican Government during the 1940s. Owen Lattimore and Fujiko Isono’s book, The Diluv Khutagt: Memoirs and Autobiography of a Mongol Buddhist Reincarnation in Religion and Revolution[i], is comprised of two very different narratives. The first is a political memoir written by the Fifth Diluv Khutagt[ii] (Ch. Diluwa Hutuketu) that records the history of Mongolia beginning at the turn of the twentieth century. The Diluv Khutagt contains both images of the original memoir, written in the Diluv’s own Mongolian script, and a complete English translation of this historical account. While the Diluv’s record of Mongolia’s history is very interesting, it sheds little light on the life of its author, instead choosing to focus on the actions of high government and ecclesiastic figures. The second of the two sections is the Diluv’s autobiography, thus filling the void left by the preceding political memoir. This autobiography was originally delivered orally by its subject, with the resulting narrative was transcribed and translated by Owen Lattimore (15).

The Early Years

The life of the Fifth Diluv Khutagt is worth studying for many reasons, not the least of which was his role as an influential Tibeto-Mongolian religious figure. Perhaps even more important than his status as a Living Buddha, or reincarnate lama, was his role in the early years of the Mongolia’s autonomy, despite his spatial distance from both Urga (Ulaanbaator) and Russia. Much like the autobiographies of other Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhist figures, The Diluv Khutagt’s autobiographical section begins with an account of its subjects predecessor—the Fourth Diluv Khutagt. This introductory account describes the student-teacher relationship that existed between himself and the Narvanchin Khutagt, and ultimately ends by informing the reader that both the Fourth Diluv Khutagt and the Narvanchin Khutagt passed in 1884 at the Narvanchin Monastery.

In the winter of this same year a boy named Jamsranjav was born at Oigon Bag in the Banner of the Tüshee Gün in the Zasagt Khan Aimag, some 300 miles from the Narvanchin Monastery, into a poor sheep-herding family. At the time of his birth his father was 67 and his mother was 48. During the months surrounding his birth the sky was filled with strange emanations of light that caused commoners to believe that the Narvanchin Khutagt had returned to the Earth. However, the Bandid Lama, a friend of the Fourth Diluv Khutagt, knew that the light was a sign that the next Diluv Khutagt was about to be born, after seeing these lights he immediately sent word to the Narvanchin Lama; this information arrived only days before Jamsranjav’s birth.

By the time he was two the boy that would become the Fifth Diluv Khutagt began to talk about travelling to places that neither he nor anyone in his family had ever visited; places such as Zavkhan tsagaan Tokhoi located between the Zavkhan River and a caravan road from China to Uliastai (146). Between Jamsranjav’s second and third birthdays Gonchig, the Fourth Diluv Khutagt’s stepfather, arrived at Jamsranjav’s family’s home. It was during this meeting that Gonchig’s suspicion that the young Jamsranjav was his stepson’s reincarnation were confirmed. Two years after this meeting, Gonchig Jamsranjav was taken by lamas to Narvanchin Monastery and was enthroned as the Fifth Diluv Khutagt. From the ages five to eighteen the Diluv devoted his life to his religious studies.

At the age of eleven the Diluv began to unofficially act as the administrator of the Narvanchin Monastery and its surrounding lands. Despite his young age he was found to be a quite capable leader. Upon turning the age of eighteen, he was officially made the administrator of the monastery that he had been unofficially administrating for seven years; he shared these responsibilities with his colleague the Narvachin Khutagt. This was the first political position that the Fifth Diluv came to possess, however it was start of a long and successful political career under three governments.

Political Positions—Serving Under Three Regimes
From the time he formally took control of the Narvanchin Monastery in 1901 the Diluv Khutagt was very involved in politics of his local banner. His role as the head of an influential regional monastery and his status as a Living Buddha permitted him to advise those people that resided on his monastery's lands. These circumstances also allowed him to freely travel between monasteries in cities such as Khovd and Uliastai, thereby spreading his religious and political influence[iii] beyond the borders of his shav and banner. From 1901 until 1919 the Diluv Khutagt held only a single permanent political position at his home Narvanchin Monastery. However, he frequently said prayers and provided scriptures at other nearby monasteries or territory.

In 1919, at the age of 36, the Diluv Khutagt was invited to Uliastai because of some “disturbances” had broken as a result of the fighting between the Red and White Russians (160). These problems were being caused by the most politically powerful figures in the region, two high lamas. One of these lamas supported the White Russian forces, while the other was stalwartly pro-Chinese[iv]. Because of the religious nature of this dispute the Diluv Khutagt was made the second-in-command of the forces in Uriankhai. Despite this title the commander of the troops, Khatan Baatar believed that his presence was too dangerous, and the Diluv Khutagt was sent to a nearby temple. The following autumn the situation had calmed down, and he turned to the Narvanchin Monastery.

Later that year the Chinese Resident at Uliastai resquested that the Bogd Khaan order the Diluv to establish himself at Uliastai, because he hoped to present the Diluv Khutagt as the “resident protector of the Chinese.” Upon the Diluv Khutagt arrival at Uliastai, the Bogd Khaan stated that it was unnecessary for him to establish himself there permanently; therefore after a brief period serving as the “resident protector of the Chinese” under the Chinese Resident at Uliastai, the Diluv returned to his home monastery (160).

In the last month of that year the Bogd sent 500 travelers to visit the Narvanchin Monastery, among these number were 8 officials that were tasked with inviting the Diluv Khutagt to join a Mongol delegation bound for Beijing. In 1920 he went to join this delegation in Khüree. Upon his arrival the Diluv Khutagt and several other members of the delegation were invited to an audience with the Bogd Khaan. According to the Diluv the “The Bogd was very hard to do business with because he was such a fearful drinker…Yet he was a very able politician and kept control of things within the limits of his rapidly vanishing power. By 1920 he had become practically blind” (161). Perhaps as a testament to his vanishing power base the delegation’s trip to Beijing was delayed because the Chinese had denied the delegation permission to travel into China proper—despite it being sent by the chief administrator of Mongolia. In response the Bogd invited the Diluv to join a second delegation that was to be his personal envoy to Beijing. Unlike the first delegation, this one was given permission to travel to China and left in the summer of 1920. This delegation was also ultimately delayed, due to the Chinese civil war. Upon arriving in Beijing the Bogd’s mission received a transmission that ordered them to request that the Chinese troops in Khüree be removed. This transmission was duly presented to the Bureau of Mongolian and Tibetan Affairs. After spending a month in Beijing the mission returned to Khüree. A week after returning to Khüree the Diluv returned to his own monastery. Later that same day a conflict erupted between by the Chinese and Baron Ungern.

In 1921, the Diluv was established as a permanent official in Uliastai. Later he was made the Said of Uliastai. However his position was never secure as he was assigned to Uliastai by the Old Government of the Bogd Khaan only three days before the arrival of the Reds and the new government was established. By the end of 1921 the Northwest regions of Mongolia had come under control of the New Government and the Diluv resigned, his stated reason for resigning was that he did not understand the new way of doing things. However, he truly did not want to be a member of the new Communist government. His resignation was denied and the Diluv stayed on as the Said of Uliastai until spring of the following year. After resigning his government commission the Diluv returned to the Narvanchin Monastery. However due to a purge, his successor was liquidated and the Diluv Khutagt had to return to Uliastai and resume his duties as Said until the following year, 1923. This was the final governmental commission that the Diluv Khutagt received prior to his trial in 1930.

Trial and Exile

Through his various religious and political acts the Diluv Khutagt had grown quite influential within his banner and the surrounding territories and was much loved by the people. His popularity eventually came to threaten the newly established Communist government, and in 1930 he was asked to travel to Ulaanbaatar. For two months he stayed in the city with no knowledge as to the purpose of this request; however, during the second half of the third month he was questioned about his relationship with the dissenter Taij Eregdendagva. He was questioned eight times over nine weeks and eventually was arrested and taken to trial along with two other Living Buddhas and 35 other accused.

The Diluv Khutagt was accused of supporting Eregdendagva’s coup, and thus committing treason. The trial lasted two months and the Diluv was found to be guilty. However, because his level of involvement with the coup, he was not jailed and was released on probation. The specifics of his probation stated that if he was arrested within this period he would be summarily executed without trial.

Given the anti-religious tone of the New Government, coupled with the knowledge that Choibalsan viewed him as a threat, the Diluv was all but certain that he would arrested again. Fearing for his life, he and a few disciples fled Mongolia and arrived in China 1931. After arriving in China, he traveled to Tibet and served as its unofficial representative in the Chinese government until 1949 when he travelled to America.

Both the Diluv Khutagt’s autobiography and his Political Memoirs are important records because they describe the life an important Mongolian political figure during Mongolia’s most politically unsteady period. The Diluv served as a minor political figure prior to Mongolia’s declaration of independence in 1911, and as a major political official during the reign of the Bodg Khaan and the New Government under the Red Russians. In addition to these roles in Mongolia, the Diluv Khutagt also served under China’s republican government on behalf the Tibetans. As a result these records describe the life of four government, not just a single man.

[i] Lattimore, Owen and Fujiko Isono. The Diluv Khutagt: Memiors and Autobiography of a Mongol Buddhist Reincarnation in Religion and Revolution. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1982.
[ii] In modern Mongolian transcription the Diluv Khutagt’s name is spelled Dilowa Khutuktu.
[iii] Much like the Dalai Lama, the Fifth Diluv Khutagt believed that religion and politics were inseparable entities (10).
[iv] At this time Outer Mongolia had been reincorporated into the Republic of China as a suzerainty through the 1915 Tripartite Agreement between China, Mongolia, and Russia. Most Mongols resented the Russians for supporting Chinese suzerainty over Mongolia. Others, such as one of the lamas in this dispute, believed that not only believed that Mongolia could not rely on Russia, but also that the Mongols should embrace this turn of events and welcome the Chinese as their true protectors.