Born in 1507, Altan Khan, was a Mongolian emperor during the 16th century. Altan was of the Tumed tribe and eventually chieftain thereof. His family ties are sketchy but do include being grandson and successor of Dayan Khan (1470-1543). He was also followed by Galdan Khan (1632-1697). He founded Hoh-hot as his economic and political center. His military career was extensive including defeating the Oirad and reuniting most of Mongolia by 1552. In 1571 he even ended war by signing a treaty with the Ming emperer thus creating peace after more than three centuries. His most notable military history was on the south of the Gobi, where he carried out a military operation in a Tibetan region. This action reestablished ties between Mongolia and Tibet. This relationship had many far-reaching ripples including the Mongolian building of Erdene Zuu, the first Mongolian Buddhist monastery in 1568. Altan Khan died in 1583.

Most importantly in the history of Altan Khan is his declaration of the Dalai Lama. In 1569, and again in 1577, Altan Khan, then Khan of all Mongols, sent an emissary to Tibet in respect for the Great Master of the Gelug sect: Sonam Gyatso. Sonam Gyatso saw Altan as the incarnation of Kublai Khan (1216-1296) and Altan in turn saw Sonam as the incarnation of Phagpa Kunga Gyaltsen. This meeting and relationship caused many great works physically, socially, and spiritually. In 1578, following a spiritual and political alliance with Sonam Gyatso, Altan bestowed the title “Wachir-dara Dalai Lama” upon Sonam Gyatso, the wise Tibetan that converted Altan, and in turn the majority of Mongolia, to Buddhism. In like, Sonam Gyatso bestowed the title of “Tsadrawar Sechen Khan” upon Altan Khan. Altan initiated the institution of Dalai Lamas in Tibet appointing the third Dalai Lama, Sonam Gyatso, as well as retroactively the first and second. Sonam Gyatso visited Altan Khan in Mongolia, taught him, and earned the title “Talai” which is Mongolian for “the embodiment of ocean of wisdom.” Altan Khan therefore reintroduced the Tibetan form of Buddhism among his people.

Resources include:, Common Voice (Volume 1),, World Tibet News Network,, and other various Mongolian biographical sources.

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