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Эрдэнийн Галдан
Erdeniin Galdan
Preceded by Sengge
Succeeded by Tsewang Rabtan
Personal details
Born 1644
Died 1697 (aged 52–53)
Acha Amttai, Kobdo region

Choros Erdeniin Galdan (1644–1697, Mongolian: Галдан Бошигт хаан/Galdan boshigt haan) was a Dzungar-Oirat Khan of the Dzungar Khanate. He was the fourth son of Erdeni Baatur Hongtaiji, founder of the Zunghar Khanate, thus Galdan is a descendant of Esen taishi. Galdan's mother Amin-Dara was a daughter of Güshi Khan, the first Khoshut-Oirat King of Tibet and 4th Wênsa Zhügu.

Early years and consolidation of power

In his early years Galdan studied in Lhasa under the spiritual guidance of the 4th Panchen Lama and the Great 5th Dalai Lama

As a youth, Galdan was sent to Lhasa to be educated as a lama under the 5th Dalai Lama. He supported his brother Sengge's right as Khan of the Zungars against the pretentions of their half-brothers Tseten and Tsodba Batur who challenged Tseten's authority since 1657. With the support of Ochirtu Khan of the Khoshuud, this strife ended with Sengge's victory in 1661. Sengge was murdered in 1671 by Tseten, when Galdan heard the news, he renounced his status as a lama and quickly returned to the Irtysh Valley to avenge his brother's death.[1] Galdan was granted the title of Hongtaiji in 1671 by the Dalai Lama. Although, already married Anu-Dara, granddaughter of Ochirtu, he came into conflict with his grandfather-in-law. Fearing of Galdan's popularity, Ochirtu supported his uncle and rival Choqur Ubashi who refused to recognize Galdan's title. The victory over Ochirtu in 1677 resulted in the establishment of hegemony over the Oirats. In the next year the Dalai Lama gave the highest title of Boshoghtu (or Boshughtu) Khan to him,[2] Galdan thus united the entire Oirats in Zungaria and Western Mongolia.

Turkestan and the Kazakhs

Naqshbandi Sufi Imams had replaced the Chagatayid Khans in the early 17th century. They defeated the White Mountain. The exiled ruler Afaq of the White Mountain asked the Dalai Lama for military assistance in 1677. By the request of the latter, Galdan overthrew the Naqshbandu Black Mountain and installed Afaq as his client ruler there.[3] Galdan decreed that the Turkestanis would be judged by their own law except in cases affecting the Zunghar Empire. The Zunghars kept control over the Tarim Basin until 1757.

In 1680 the Black Kyrgyz raided Moghulistan and occupied Yarkend. The inhabitants of Yarkend appealed to Galdan Khan for help. The Zunghars conquered Kashgar and Yarkend; and Galdan had its ruler chosen by its inhabitants.[4] Then he invaded the north of Tengeri Mountain in modern Kazakhstan the next year; he defeated Tauke Khan's Kazakhs but failed to take Sayram. He conquered Turfan and Hami the next year.[5] In 1683 Galdan's armies under Tsewen Rabtan reached Tashkent and the Syr Darya and crushed two armies of the Kazakhs. After that Galdan subjugated the Black Khirgizs and ravaged the Fergana valley. From 1685 Galdan's forces aggressively pushed the Kazakhs. While his general Rabtan took Taraz, and his main force forced the Kazakhs to migrate westwards.[6] In 1687, he besieged the city of Hazrat-e Turkestan, an important religious pilgrimage center for the Muslim Kazakhs, but could not take it.

Rivalry with Khalkha

At first the Khalkhas and Oirats were allies, bound by the provisions of the Mongol-Oirat code.[7] In order to cement this union, Galdan attempted to ally with Zasaghtu Khan Shira who lost part of his subjects to Tushiyetu Khan Chakhundorji, and moved his ordo near the Altai Range. Tushiyetu Khan attacked the right wing of the Khalkhas and killed Shira in 1687. Galdan dispatched troops under his younger brother Dorji-jav against the Tushiyetu Khan the next year, but they were eventually defeated and Dorji-jav was killed in the ensuing battle. Chakhundorji murdered Degdeehei Mergen Ahai of the Zasaghtu Khan who was on the way to Galdan. The Qing court intervened and called off the Mongolian aristocrats to assemble a conference.

To avenge the death of his brother and expand his influence over other Mongol areas, Galdan prepared for a war with Khalkha. Galdan established a friendly relationship with the Russians who were at war with Tushiyetu Khan over territories near Lake Baikal in northern Khalkha. Bonded by a common interest in defeating Khalkha, both Galdan and the Russians simultaneously attacked Khalkha and conquered most of the territories of Khalkha. Armed with superior firearms bought from Russians, Galdan attacked the land of the late Zasaghtu Khan, and advanced to the dominion of Chakhundorji. The Russian Cossacks meanwhile attacked and defeated Khalkha's contingent of 10,000 near Lake Baikal. After two bloody battles with the Zunghars near Erdene Zuu Monastery and Tomor, Chakhundorji and his son Galdandorji fled to the Ongi River.

Acting in defiance of contrary orders from the Kangxi Emperor and the 5th Dalai Lama, he entered Khalkha territory in 1688.[8] The Zunghars occupied the Khalkha homeland, and forced Jibzundamba Zanabazar to flee. The Qing court strengthened its northern border garrisons, and advised the Khalkhas to resist Galdan. After being reinforced by fresh troops, the Tushiyetu Khan Chakhundorji counterattacked the Zunghars, and fought with them near Olgoi Lake on August 3, 1688. The Oirats won after a 3-day battle. Galdan's conquest of Khalkha Mongolia made Zanabazar and Chakhundorji submit to the Qing Dynasty in September.

War with China

The Kangxi Emperor in ceremonial armor, armed with bow and arrows. The Qing emperor would be the most formidable enemy Galdan faced, and it would be Qing opposition that checked his ambition of uniting the Mongols under his standard

By his victory in 1688, Galdan had driven the Khalkhas into the arms of the Qing and made himself a military threat to the Manchus. Unfortunately for Galdan, the Kangxi Emperor was unusually vigorous and warlike. While he was fighting in Eastern Mongolia, his nephew Tsewang Rabtan seized the Dzungarian throne in 1689. After a series of successful battles in the Khangai mountains, at Lake Olgoi and Ulahui river, he approached near the Great Wall. The Khalkha leaders retreated to Inner Mongolia with their troops and the Khalkha territory fell under Galdan's rule. The Qing deceived him to arrive near Beijing saying that they needed a treaty, but ambushed him at Ulan Butung (or Ulan Budan),[9] where Galdan's troops were seriously defeated by the Khalkha troops supported by the Qing army and Galdan retreated back to Khalkha.

Last years

In 1696 Galdan was on the upper Kherlen River east of Ulaanbaatar about 700 km northwest of Beijing. Kangxi's plan was to personally lead an army northwest to Galdan while sending a second army north from the Ordos Desert to block his escape. Kangxi reached the Kherlen, found Galdan gone but was forced to turn back due to lack of supplies. On the same day that Kangxi turned back (June 12) Galdan blundered into the western army and was disastrously defeated at Terelj's Zuunmod near the upper Tuul River east of Ulaanbaatar. Galdan's wife, Anu, was killed and the Manchus captured 20,000 cattle and 40,000 sheep. Galdan fled with his remaining 40 or 50 men. He gathered a few thousand followers who later deserted due to hunger. In 1697 he was in the Altai Mountains near Khovd with 300 men when he died suddenly under mysterious circumstances (April 4, 1697). He was succeeded by Tsewang Rabtan who had revolted against him.

Popular culture


  • The Deer and the Cauldron (鹿鼎記): a wuxia novel by Louis Cha. In the story, Galdan became sworn brothers with the novel's main protagonist Wei Xiaobao and the Tibetan Lama Sangjie.

See also

  • List of Mongolian states


  1. Smith 1997, p. 116
  2. Martha Avery -The Tea Road: China and Russia meet across the Steppe, p.104
  3. Gertraude Roth Li - Manchu: a textbook for reading documents, p.318
  4. Valikhanov, Ch. Ch. - The Russians in Central Asia, p.169
  5. Baabar, Christopher Kaplonski, D. Suhjargalmaa - Twentieth century Mongolia, p.80
  6. Michael Khodarkovsky - Where Two Worlds Met: The Russian State and the Kalmyk Nomads, 1600-1771, p.211
  7. David Sneath-The headless state, p.183
  8. Smith 1997, p. 118. The 5th Dalai Lama was actually dead at the time, but the regent issued orders in his name, which were from the Dalai Lama, so far as Galdan knew.
  9. The battle was fought 350 kilometers directly north of Peking near the western headwaters of the Liao River at the southern end of the Greater Khingan Mountains.


  • Smith, Warren W., Jr. Tibetan Nation: A History Of Tibetan Nationalism And Sino-tibetan Relations (1997) Westview press. ISBN 978-0-8133-3280-2

Further reading

  • Zlatkin, Ilia Iakovlevich (1964). История Джунгарского ханства, 1635-1758. (History of the Jungarian Khanate, 1635–1758 ).
Galdan Boshugtu Khan
House of Choros (Чорос) the 14th century-1755
Died: 1697
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Khan of the Zunghar Empire
1670 - 1697
Succeeded by
Tsewang Rabtan

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