The End of Independence

Mongolia Table of Contents

Meanwhile, the Manchus had sent a large army into northern Mongolia to confront Galdan in an effort to preempt any attempts at establishing a new Mongol empire. The employment of artillery had a decisive effect, and the Dzungar were routed. In May 1691, Qing emperor Kangxi called a kuriltai of principal Khalkha chiefs at Dolonnur. Those present acknowledged Manchu overlordship in return for protection against the Dzungar. It had become apparent by this time that, although there were strong ties between the Qing court and local Mongol rulers, the relations among individual Mongol leaders were weak. The head of each banner was a vassal of the Qing emperor and was beholden to the Chinese treasury for a pension. Mongols not only pledged personal loyalty to the emperor, but they also became inseparable from their banner and could not serve in any capacity in another banner. Membership was hereditary; class structure was rigid; and the whole feudal-like system helped the Manchus isolate and control the Mongols. The banners, in effect, became petty fiefdoms.

By this time, the Jebtsundamba Khutuktu had fled to escape Galdan's renewed advances. After five years of continued raiding by the Dzungar into central Mongolia, Kangxi led 80,000 troops into Mongolia and in 1696 crushed Galdan near Jao Modo (south of present-day Ulaanbaatar). Galdan retreated, and he died the next year. This ended the influence of the Dzunger in most of Mongolia, although they retained control of the western regions and of parts of Xinjiang and Tibet.

Despite the defeat at Jao Modo, twenty years later the Dzungar again were embroiled in war with the Qing. In 1718 Galdan's nephew and heir, Tsewang Rabdan, invaded Tibet to settle a prolonged dispute over the successor to the Dalai Lama. His troops seized Lhasa, imprisoned the Dalai Lama, and ambushed a Manchu relief force. Kangxi retaliated in 1720; two Chinese armies defeated the Dzungar and drove them from Tibet. This was the first war in which Mongol forces made extensive use of musketry; they were not very effective, however, against the larger, better-armed and better-equipped Qing forces. After the death of the Dalai Lama, a new Dalai Lama was installed by Kangxi, and a Manchu garrison was left in Lhasa. Meanwhile, another Chinese army invaded Dzungar territory to capture Ürümqi and Turpan. Additional Chinese punitive expeditions eventually defeated the Dzungar in 1732 and virtually ended Mongolian independence for nearly two centuries.

The Russian and the Chinese empires continued their expansions into Inner Asia during the eighteenth century. They found it expedient to delimit the borders between the respective areas of ancient Mongolia that they had conquered in the seventeenth century. This was done by the Treaty of Kyakhta in 1727, which established the border between the portions of Mongolia controlled by China and those controlled by Russia.

In the period 1755 to 1757, serious revolts against Chinese rule broke out among the Dzungar in Xinjiang. These were suppressed promptly, and Chinese control over western Mongolia and Oirad territory was strengthened. In 1771 the Chinese government persuaded part of the Kalmyk tribe to return from Russia to repopulate the devastated region.

During the 1750s, as a result of Manchu administrative policies, the first distinction was made between northern and southern Mongolia. The southern provinces--Suiyuan, Chahar (or Qahar), and Jehol (or Rehol), known as Inner Mongolia--were virtually absorbed into China. The remainder of the region--the northern provinces, which became known as Outer Mongolia--was considered an "outside subordinate" by the Manchus, and it was largely ignored. After another 100 years, however, China again became alarmed by Russia's expansionist policy and colonial development in the regions north and west of Outer Mongolia. Increased Chinese activity in Outer Mongolia resulted in some economic and social improvements, but it also revealed to the Mongolians the possibilities of playing off the two great empires against each other. Chinese merchants and moneylenders had become ubiquitous, and the extent of Mongol debt had become enormous, by the early nineteenth century. The debt situation, combined with growing resentment over Chinese encroachment, gave impetus to Mongol nationalism by the beginning of the twentieth century.

During the period of Chinese dominance, Mongolia not only experienced a century of peace, but it became an increasingly theocratic society. Buddhism relatively early had absorbed shamanism, and the result was a unique local religion. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, turmoil in China, caused by internal rebellion and by pressures from the West, resulted in a breakdown of the increasingly expensive administrative apparatus in Outer Mongolia. Mounting debts and higher taxes, which led to a growing impoverishment of Outer Mongolia, gradually rekindled traditional Mongol dissatisfaction with the Manchu overlord. Rioting, Mongol troop mutinies, and other anti-Chinese incidents occurred with increasing regularity in the late nineteenth and the early twentieth centuries. Outside help was sought from Russia in 1900, when a mission--which failed--was sent to St. Petersburg. Thereafter, reform-minded Chinese leaders abolished many old social and political proscriptions, and, despite Mongol resentment of the idea and of continued Chinese repression, preparations were being made for constitutional government when revolution broke out in China.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress