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Exorcising the Body Politic: The Lion’s Roar, Köten Ejen’s Two Bodies and the Question of Conversion at the Tibet-Mongol Interface

Issue: Vol 38 No. 1 (2021)

Journal: Buddhist Studies Review

Subject Areas: Religious Studies Buddhist Studies

DOI: 10.1558/bsrv.43215


This study examines thirteenth to twentieth century Tibetan and Mongolian monastic memorializations of the bodily violence enacted upon Köten Ejen at the center of the “Buddhist conversion of the Mongols.” Köten Ejen (Tib. Lha sras go tan rgyal po, 1206–1251) was Chinggis Khan’s grandson and a military leader involved in Mongol campaigns against the Song Dynasty and against Buddhist monasteries in eastern Tibet. In 1240, Köten famously summoned the Central Tibetan Buddhist polymath Sakya Paṇḍita, by then already an old man, to his court at Liangzhou. Examining Tibetan and Mongolian accounts about their meeting from the last seven centuries, this study shows that it was neither compelling philosophy nor some turn of faith that converted the Mongols. It was, rather, Sakya Paṇḍita’s violent therapeutic intervention into the space of Köten’s ill body that wrenched the Mongol body politic into the Dharmic fold.

Author: Matthew King

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