Erdeni Batur

Erdeni Batur (died 1653) was a Choros-Oirat prince and is generally considered the founder of a new Oirat state in Central Asia known as the Dzungar Khanate.

Erdeni Batur was the son of Khara Khula who was tayishi of the dominant Choros tribe and the leader of the allied Oirat tribes, collectively known as "Dzungars. " After the death of his father in 1634, Erdeni Batur assumed his father's position and carried on his father's objective of unifying the Oirat tribes into a formal confederation with himself as the supreme military and political ruler.

Upon becoming ruler of the Dzungars, Erdeni Batur sought to consolidate his position around the Tarbagatai Mountains, the land his people roamed. In so doing, Erdeni Batur led the Dzungars to several victorious military campaigns over the Kazakhs to his west. To the north in southern Siberia, Erdeni Batur gave Russia access to salt mines, thereby ending a 20-year conflict, in exchange for diplomatic and trade relations. The commercial ties, which remained intact throughout his rule, and the prosperity generated by such ties with Russian outposts further solidified Erdeni Batur's prestige and position among the oirats and the leaders of the adjacent nations.

Within the Khanate, Erdeni Batur set out on an ambition campaign of nation building activities. For instance, he established a capital city called Kubakserai north of Lake Zaisan on the Imil River, near the modern city of Chuguchak and built monasteries throughout Dzungar territory. He also encouraged his people to practice Buddhism, to settle down in the new capital and to engage in both agriculture and small-scale manufacturing, like masonry and metal crafting.

Like his father, Erdeni Batur sought to build the Dzungar nation into a powerful and independent khanate capable of challenging the Qing Empire for control of Central Asia. His attempts to impose unity on the Oirat tribes, however, was only partially successful. The dissension and skirmishes, for example, compelled Güshi Khan and his brother, Kundelung Ubasha, to move a substantial part of the Khoshut-Oirat tribe from the Lake Zaisan area to the area around Koko Nor in the Amdo region of Tibet in 1636, where they soon would establish the Khoshut Khanate and become the protector of Tibet. But the unity Erdeni Batur created among the remaining Oirat tribes, viz. , Choros, Dörbet and Khoit tribes, further strengthened his power and his resolve to establish the Dzungar Khanate as the preeminent power in Central Asia.

The Fifth Dalai Lama took note of the rising power and influence of the Dzungar Khanate and granted Erdeni Batur the title, "Khong Tayiji" (or crown prince) for the military support he provided Güshi Khan in toppling the enemies of the Gelug Order. Moreover, by granting this title, the Fifth Dalai Lama had hoped to have another ally protecting and promoting the cause of the Gelug Order.

His increased stature and the wide recognition the Dzungar Khanate received as a great power among Central Asian nomads led Erdeni Batur to call for a pan-Mongolian alliance in 1640. The entente took place inside Dzungar territory at a place called Ulan Buraa, near the Tarbagatai Mountains on the border between what is now the Xinjiang province of China and Kyrgyzstan. The ruling princes of all Mongolian tribes were present at the entente, except for the Mongolian tribes of southern Mongolia. Those tribes recently lost their independence to the Qing Empire.

One of the purposes for the entente was to form a pan-Mongol coalition against all potential external enemies, such as the Kazakhs and the newly emerging Manchus. The second yet equally important purpose was to devise a method by which disputes could be resolved peacefully. To that end, a legal code was drafted, establishing a system of rules that governed the daily activities of all Mongols from the Volga River in southeastern Russia to present-day eastern Mongolia. These set of laws are called the "Great Code of the Forty and the Four" (Döchin Dörben Hoyar un Ike Tsagaza) known as the Khalkha-Oirat Law.

The attempt to institute a pan-Mongol coalition, however, failed. The Khalkha Mongol princes were upset that Erdeni Batur assumed the leadership role, while they still claimed that, as the direct descendants of Genghis Khan, they were the rightful leaders of the Mongols. Basically, the Khalkha Mongol princes did not want to lose their sovereignty to someone who could not make that claim, even though their power and influence was in decline, while the fortunes of the Dzungar Khanate were rising. Nonetheless, Erdeni Batur did succeed in instituting a standard code of laws and in making Buddhism the official religion throughout the Mongol realm to the delight of the Fifth Dalai Lama.

After the entente, Erdeni Batur continued his nation building activities, preparing the Dzungar Khanate for its inevitable challenge to the Qing for control over Central Asia. Upon his death in 1653, Erdeni Batur was succeeded by his third son, Sengge.

Last update 20-06-2012

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