‘When the Foreign Enemy Becomes a Dear Friend’

Reflections on the Mission of Boro Balγasu in the Works of Kesigbatu (1849–1917)

in Inner Asia
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This paper situates itself within the context of entangled histories and establishes a link between the well-known Ordos poet and historian Kesigbatu and the missionaries of the Congregation of Scheut. There is evidence that Kesigbatu was in contact with the missionaries, not only because of the proximity between the Boro Balγasu mission and his native region, but also as part of his profession as a judge. Moreover, he was helpful in providing members of the congregation with access to rare Mongolian manuscripts. It is little known that several of Kesigbatu’s poems are explicitly devoted to the Scheut mission at Boro Balγasu. These poems fall into two categories, as they include either serious allegations or lavish praise. The paper traces the intersections between Kesigbatu’s biography and the Congregation of Scheut and analyses how the missionaries were perceived by a Mongolian contemporary.

‘When the Foreign Enemy Becomes a Dear Friend’

Reflections on the Mission of Boro Balγasu in the Works of Kesigbatu (1849–1917)

in Inner Asia



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In a personal conversation on 17 August 2016Professor O.R. Otgonbaatar from the Institute of Language and Literature of the Mongolian Academy of Sciences informed me that members of the Scheut Congregation regarded Kesigbatu as a personal friend: on the occasion of Ts. Damdinsüren’s publication of Kesigbatu’s works Mostaert wrote a letter to Professor Damdinsüren affirming that there had been friendly ties between Kesigbatu and the mission.


Mongolian name for Ningtiaoliang (Sonom 2008: 124). Similar line referring to ‘Chinese of Bayising Tal-a’ in poem no. 5.


Mongolian name for Ningtiaoliang (Berke 2012b: 430 n. 10). Van Hecken (1960: 288) explains that Tügükei toγorim was a place in the East of Otoγ banner which was sold to the Catholic mission in July 1901.


  • View in gallery
    The Ordos region in the early twentieth century as seen by the cicm missionaries.

    from missions en chine et au congo (1902). staatsbibliothek zu berlin—preussischer kulturbesitz, signatur cv4980/10. with annotations by the author.

  • View in gallery
    Picture of Kesigbatu from the possession of Antoine Mostaert.

    published with permission of the ferdinand verbiest institute.

  • View in gallery
    The Church of Baγ-a Kögörge (Chinese: Xiaoqiaopan), also called ‘Little Brugge’.

    from missions de scheut. congrégation du coeur immaculé de marie (1924: 32(8).) staatsbibliothek zu berlin – preussischer kulturbesitz, signatur cv4980/10.


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