In 1995, the People’s Republic of China resurrected the technology of the “Golden Urn,” a Qing-era tool which involves the identification of the reincarnations of prominent Tibetan Buddhist monks by drawing lots from a golden vessel. Why would the Chinese Communist Party revive this former ritual? What powers lie in the symbolism of the “Golden Urn”? Why was this tradition invented? Using both archival sources in the Manchu language and chronicles of Tibetan elites, Max Oidtmann
answers these burning questions and reveals in Forging the Golden Urn: The Qing Empire and the Politics of Reincarnation in Tibet
(Columbia University Press, 2018) the origins of the Golden Urn tradition, as well as its implication in modern and contemporary geopolitics of Asia. In the book, Oidtmann highlights the original polyglot conversations that existed in the Qing era and suggests to see the Qing as colonial: that there was a deliberative process that lay behind the invention of the Golden Urn in 1792 by the Qing empire to possess a monopoly over diverse forms of divination and prognostication practiced at the crossroads between China, Tibet, and Mongolia.
Daigengna Duoer is a PhD student at the Religious Studies Department, University of California, Santa Barbara. She mainly researches on Buddhism in twentieth-century Inner Mongolia and Manchuria. Her research interests also include the role Buddhism plays in modernity, colonialism, and transnational/transregional networks.