Jasagh Da Lama-Jasagh Lama

The term jasagh or yasa originally designated the law code (sometimes referred to as “army order” or “army law”) developed among the Mongols under Chinggis Khan. In addition to laying out laws in general, the code was concerned with the distribution of power among tribal leaders, princes, etc and is described as having secured “secular” control as opposed to religious law (Togan, 149). In the Qing the term jasagh by itself came to refer to certain of the princes within a Mongol banner. These princes were recognized as the descendents of Chinggis Khan.

The terms jasagh dalama (grand prince of the church) and jasagh lama (prince of the church) evolved from the Mongol terms mentioned above. They were created by the Qing court and conferred on the head monks of imperial monasteries, augmenting traditional Tibetan monastic titles such as khanpo (which lack the secular tone of “prince”). Beginning in the Kangxi period, the Jasagh titles combined religious and secular power, drawing on models of combined religious-secular roles from the Ming and the Yuan. Introduced into the Tibetan/Mongolian Buddhist monastic context (in which a Tibetan lama would typically be placed in charge of a community of Mongolian monks) the titles also served to draw together Tibetan and Mongol concepts of authority. (So the titles were simultaneously secular and religious, and resonated strongly with Tibetans and Mongolians.)

Under the Qing, seven large monasteries run by jasagh lamas were designated banner units. They were distinct from secular banners. As the head of such a banner monastery, the jasagh lama or jasagh dalama had administrative and judicial control. In cases where a reincarnated lama presided over more than 800 people, a Jasagh lama was appointed to take charge of the secular aspects of the banner. (Rawski, 254). The jasagh lamas were especially significant in their roles at Wutaishan and at the imperial monastery Yonghegong in Beijing. Starting in the mid-seventeenth century, with the Fifth Dalai Lama’s visit to Beijing, these titles were conferred on Tibetans or Mongolians by Tibetan officials in Lhasa. The designated monks were often sent from Lhasa and served as important liaisons between the Dalai Lama’s government and the court. In addition to overseeing imperial monasteries, jasagh lamas also taught Tibetan language and Buddhism to the imperial families.

  • Rawski, Evelyn. The Last Emperors: A Social History of Qing Imperial Institutions
  • Togan, Isenbike. Flexibility and Limitation in Steppe Formations: the Kerait Khanate and Chinggis Khan.
  • Tuttle, Gray. Tibetan Buddhists in the Making of Modern China
  • Tuttle, Gray. “Tibetan Buddhist Intermediaries between the Qing Court and the Tibetan Government.” Presented at AAS Annual Meeting, China and Inner Asia Session 37.