In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Buddhism in Mongolia

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Reference Works
  • Ritual Practices
  • Monasteries
  • Art, Architecture, and Decorated Books
  • Tradition Holders

Buddhism Buddhism in Mongolia
Vesna Wallace
  • LAST REVIEWED: 18 August 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 13 September 2010
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195393521-0111


A large-scale conversion of Mongols to Buddhism began in the 16th century and lasted until the early 20th century. Buddhism was the predominant religious tradition of the Mongols, influencing every aspect of Mongolian cultural, political, and religious life. After almost seven decades of communist suppression of religious freedom, which began in 1921, the Buddhist tradition in the early 21st century is becoming once again a dominant religious force in Mongolia, giving rise to a new proliferation of art, literature, and ritual. However, Mongolian Buddhism as an area of study is still in its infancy, and the amount of scholarship is small. In the early 21st century one can find basic introductions that contain short encyclopedia entries related to Mongolian Buddhism, general historical overviews focusing on the political and social history of Buddhism in Mongolia, and a limited number of articles.

General Overviews

This section includes general treatments of the social and political conditions of Buddhism in Mongolia prior to the communist revolution and during the Communist period. Pozdneyev 1971 and Pozdneyev 1978 offer an ethnographic perspective of the conditions of Buddhists’ institutions and practices in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Cheney 1968 gives a brief cultural and social background of Buddhism from the prerevolutionary period. Danzan 2008 and Rupen 1964 are concerned with the 20th-century conditions and predicaments of the Buddhist tradition in Mongolia.

  • Cheney, George A. The Pre-Revolutionary Culture of Outer Mongolia. Occasional Papers 5. Bloomington, IN: Mongolia Society, 1968.

    This monograph provides useful general information on the social, economic, cultural, and political contexts of Buddhism in Mongolia.

  • Danzan, Narantuya. Religion in 20th Century Mongolia: Social Changes and Popular Practices. Saarbrücken, Germany: VDM, 2008.

    Relying on oral sources, which were censored and misinterpreted under the socialist regime, the book investigates the changes of popular religious beliefs and practice in 20th-century Mongolia. This book illustrates how Communist education, ideology, and policies shaped the beliefs, values, and ideas of most Mongols.

  • Pozdneyev, Aleksei M. Mongolia and the Mongols. Vols. 1–2. Translated by John Roger Shaw and Dale Plank. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1971.

    An informative ethnographic source for the study of the social conditions of Buddhism and Buddhist practices within diverse regions of Mongolia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  • Pozdneyev, Aleksei M. Religion and Ritual in Society: Lamaist Buddhism in Late-19th Century Mongolia. Translated by Alo Raun and Linda Raun. Bloomington, IN: Mongolia Society, 1978.

    A useful ethnographic resource for the study of Buddhist institutions and practices in Mongolia during the late 19th century.

  • Rupen, Robert A. Mongols of the Twentieth Century. 2 vols. Uralic and Altaic Series 37. Bloomington: Indiana University, 1964.

    An extensive study of the political climate resulting from the Communist revolution in the early 20th century in Buryatia and Outer Mongolia and its effects on Mongolian Buddhism in these regions.

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