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Buddhist world.22
Przhevalsky was surprisingly prescient here. As already mentioned, in
1904 the English Younghusband Expedition did invade Tibet and the 13th
Dalai Lama did flee to rg. Of course Przhevalsky s proposal to move
the border south had not been taken serious and at the time rg was
still the capital of Mongolia and not a Russian city.
Przhevalsky s 1883 1885 expedition started at Kyakhta, the entrept on
the Russian-Mongolian border, proceeded south, presumably through
rg, to the Gobi Desert and then westward to the eastern spurs of the
Tian Shan Mountains in Xinjiang. The expedition then veered off to the
sources of Yangtze River and Qinghai Lake in modern-day Qinghai Prov-
ince, China, continued on westwards to Khotan, on the southern edge of
the Takhlimakan Desert, and finally northward to the huge lake of Issyk
Kol in modern-day Kyrgyzstan. Thus the three-year-long expedition tra-
versed a huge swatch of Inner Asia but did not enter Tibet proper.
Dambijantsan reportedly accompanied the expedition as one of its
eighteen armed escorts. At this time he was traveling under the Russian
alias Irinchinov. A photograph of the escorts showing Dambijantsan at
Early Life 49
the far left is, according to one researcher,  the first pictorial record of the
charismatic adventurer that can be traced hitherto. 23 Dambijantsan was
already familiar with Inner Mongolia from his stay at Dolonuur, and as-
suming that he joined the expedition at its beginning in Khyakhta he now
would have had ample opportunities to spy out the land of the Khalkh,
the current-day country of Mongolia. At this time, however, he was just
a hired-hand traveling under an alias and had not yet assumed the role
of Ja Lama, the descendant/incarnation of Amarsanaa come to free the
Mongols from the yoke of the Manchus. Yet we may assume that the am-
bitious adventurer had his eyes wide open, and was even at this point
plotting his dramatic reappearance in Mongolia as the leader of a libera-
tion movement.
There are unsubstaniated rumors that Dambijantsan had earlier ac-
companied the expedition of Russian explorer Grigory Nikolayaevich
Potanin (1836 1920), who traveled through western Mongolia in the
years 1876 77, with stays in the towns of Khovd and Uliastai (Potanin
Glacier, which flows off Khuiten Uul, the highest peak in Mongolia, in
Bayan-lgii Aimag, is named after the Russian explorer). This claim is
part of Dambijantsan lore repeated to this day in Khovd Aimag, although
there does not appear to be any written documentation to support it. In
any case, Khovd City and Uliastai would later play important roles in the
Dambijantsan saga, and it is quite possible that he visited them before he
assumed the role of Ja Lama.
As we have seen, however, there were disparate accounts of how Dam-
bijantsan spent the late 1870s and 1880s. According to the informant
Gombo, alluded to earlier, Dambijantsan spent many of these years in
Russian prisons, serving time for robbery and perhaps even murder. Ac-
cording to his version of events Dambijantsan escaped from prison just
prior to his arrival in Mongolia in 1890 and was thus a wanted man when
he suddenly appeared among the Mongols claiming to be a descendant
and/or reincarnation of Amarsanaa. Did he end up in a Russian prison
after his alleged participation in Przhevalsky s 1883 1885 expedition, or is
Gombo s account simply erroneous? The prison story, although repeated
to this day by people in the western aimags, appears to have no source
other than the dubious claims of the man named Gombo.24 As we shall
see, however, Dambijantsan eventually did end up in prison. The tale of
his imprisonment prior to 1890 might well have been a distortion of later
Ja Lama: The Life and Death of Dambijantsan
While it is easy to imagine a gun-toting Dambijantsan as part of an armed
escort on expeditions to the remote fastnesses of Inner Asia, or even as
a convict in a Russian prison, it is a bit more difficult to picture him as
a lawyer with a briefcase stalking the halls of a courthouse. Yet while in
Mongolia in 1927 painter, mystic, Shambhalist Nicholas Roerich, father
of already mentioned George Roerich, would hear that Dambijantsan,
 no ordinary bandit, was  a graduate of law from Petrograd University. 25
For a moment a vision rises before us of Dambijantsan, a Kalmyk Mongol
from the sun-drenched Caspian Steppes, striding the cobblestone streets
of Peter the Great s gray, gloomy city by the Gulf of Finland. Inessa Lo-
makina, Dambijantsan s indefatigable Russian biographer, took the time
to track down even this flimsy lead and came away with a different pic-
I couldn t believe it at all [that Dambijantsan had studied law in St. Pe-
tersburg], so I decided to consult the historical archives of St. Petersburg,
where the records of the university is stored, in order to check on whether
this information was true or not. Fortunately, there was the card index
of all the students who studied at that university before the revolution. I
searched very carefully for any of the names which the Ja Lama may have
used but didn t find any. Moreover, I looked through all the personal files of
students, entrance application forms, graduation certificates of the gymna-
sium, college graduation diplomas, exam papers, course papers, application
forms for the higher education courses, etc. . .26
She found nothing and by the end must have seriously regretted Ro-
erich s off-hand comment about Dambijantsan s studies in St. Petersburg.
Thus whatever else Dambijantsan was guilty of in his long and eventful
life he cannot be accused of being a lawyer.
Dambijantsan himself claimed that he  served as one of the Ta Lamas or
Heads of Department in the Chang-skya Khutughtu [ Jangjya Khutagt)
yamen at Peking, a learned ecclesiastical institution entrusted with the fix-
ing of the calendar and other astronomical and metaphysical questions. 27
The Jangjya Khutagts were as we have seen incarnate lamas connected
with the monasteries in Dolonnuur where Dambijantsan may have stud-
ied as a boy. The fourth Jangjya Khutagt, who would have been alive at the
time in question, was very seldom in attendance at Dolonnuur and lived
almost full-time in Beijing.
Early Life 51
The Songzhu Monastery in the old Imperial city was his full time
residence in the capital. This ancient Chinese monastery, which special-
ized in printing sutras during the Ming Dynasty, was converted into a
Tibetan monastery in 1712 by the Kangxi emperor. In 1724 it was given
to Rlp Dorj, the second Jangjya Khutagt, and served as the residence
of the subsequent Jangjya Khutagts. It did not appear, however, to have
been a  learned ecclesiastical institution of the kind where Dambijantsan
supposedly served. The Yonghe Gong was the main academic monastery
of Beijing, with various colleges that dealt with astronomy and calendar
making, medicine, and various esoteric studies, and this may be the insti-
tution to which Dambijantsan made mention. Whether he was actually [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]