Controversy for State Ideology: Buddhism and Confucianism during the First Manchu Emperor
(55th Annual Meeting, 2012)
Buddhist or Confucian, Mongolian or Chinese way of state building – those were the questions which faced the first Manchu emperors at the very beginning of the Hou Jin/Da Qing empire formation. At the end of the 16th – beginning of the 17th cc. the close contacts with the Mongolian chieftains and their tribes greatly influenced on the spread of Buddhism among the Manchus. Several attributes of the previous Yuan dynasty were acquired by Nurhaci and Hongtaiji. The Tibetan lamas were convinced that the Manchu rulers would chose the traditional Buddhist state building with the religious aristocracy at the head. In 1637 Hongtaiji invited the 5th Dalai Lama to his capital Mukden and received the title of “Manjushri Great Emperor”. But that visit of Dalai Lama happened much later, in 1652, and to the other capital – Beijing.
At the same time the Manchu rulers closely associated themselves with the legendary Chinese emperors Yao and Shun and openly claimed their right for the Mandat of Heaven and the rule over the Underheaven. This is clearly seen from the early Manchu documents and the propagandistic pamphlet “Proclamation of Nurhaci to the Ming Wanli emperor” which was compiled around 1623.
Since the Manchus had a lucky chance actually peacefully occupy the Chinese throne in 1644, invite the Confucian statement to their service, the Chinese element of state ideology became predominant. And Buddhism had to occupy a place of one of the state religions of the Qing Empire.