Mongolian Buddhism:
Sacred Geography in Munkh Khukh Tengriin Oron

with Betsy Gaines Quammen (PhD) and Rebecca Watters

This is a survey course for people interested in geographically situated Mongolian Buddhism and its unique syncretism with local and cosmopolitan entities --from sacred mountains to Karakorum to the Gobi Desert. We will look at the history of Buddhism in Mongolia, focusing primarily on the 1930s religious purges and Buddhism's return after the fall of the Socialist regime in 1990. The course will also feature monastic leaders involved in the re-emergence of Buddhism who will discuss how it survived under socialism, how it was reestablished, and what it looks like today.

Mongolian Buddhism: Sacred Geography in Munkh Khukh Tengriin Oron

Recordings of lectures for all sessions available to enrollees on the online learning platform

Course Overview

This course will focus on the intersection between Mongolian Buddhism, Shamanism, nature ethics and environmental conservation. We’ll cover the history and philosophy of Mongolian Buddhism, tracing its flow from the Silk Route to twentieth century religious purges in the Communist era, and now to its modern-day renaissance. The class will explore Buddhist influences upon current directions in ecological thought and practice in Mongolia (with ramifications elsewhere), especially in confronting wildlife poaching, climate change and sustainability. The goal of the course is to familiarize participants with Mongolian Buddhism’s unique narrative, as well as its role in current ecological crises.

Session I (June 7) Overview of Mongolian Buddhism

Session II (June 9) ErdeneZuu with Baasansuren Lama

Session III (June 14) Darkhan

Session IV (June 16) Da Lama of Gandan Monastery

Session V (June 21) Khamaryn Khiid with Konchog Norbu

Session VI (June 23)

(All dates are in Ulaanbaatar time or GMT+8)


Dr. Betsy Gaines Quammen

Betsy Gaines Quammen (PhD)

Montana State University

Dr. Betsy Gaines Quammen is an environmental historian. She received a PhD from Montana State University, where she focused on how religious beliefs influence perspectives on landscape. She has studied Asian religions and is herself a Buddhist. Wildlife protection is her passion, having over the years helped establish conservation projects in Mongolia, Bhutan and throughout the American West. She has a BA in English from Colorado College and a Masters in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana.

Photo of Rebecca Watters

Rebecca Watters

Executive Director, The Wolverine Foundation

She is a wildlife biologist and writer who has worked in Mongolia since 2000, when she served in Kharkhorin as a Peace Corps environmental volunteer. She has worked with Tibetan refugee nuns in India, environmental activists in Cambodia, and ranchers in the Western US, but Mongolia is her second home. She currently works on climate change research and monitoring with three protected areas in Huvsgul Province, with a focus on wolverines, butterflies, and pikas. She has a MSc from the Yale School of the Environment, and a BA in anthropology from St. Lawrence University.


"Attending the renewable energy field school was the best decision I made in 2019! I was already attending a fulltime graduate program in Canada, but the field school added rich value to my learning. As the world is becoming more globalized, looking at how Mongolia is responding to the challenges of supplying cleaner energy was a valuable experience. Our instructors came with a vast amount of knowledge and a passion to teach.’’

Liz B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
Batkhuu SQ600

"As a sociology major student, this program was very helpful to explore urban issues and migration processes in contemporary Mongolia. Through this program, I sharpened my academic capabilities while refining soft skills essential for my future studies.’’

Batkhuu B.

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019

"The ACMS field school is a unique experience that has changed my life and teaching. In most programs, international participants are isolated from the country in which we are studying except for controlled visits to local people and sites. Not so with ACMS! Half of the participants in each field school are from Mongolia, ensuring that local and international participants have a chance to understand each other’s perspectives.’’

Janis M

Participant of Mongolia Field School 2019
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