Jetsun Lobzong Tenpai Gyaltsen (1635-1723), commonly known as Zanabazar, was an important Mongolian religious figure and personal guru to the Kangxi Emperor (1654-1722). The son of Khalkha Tushyetü Khan, leader of the Khalkha Mongols, Zanabazar was at an early age recognized by both the Panchen Lama and Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Tibetan lama, Taranatha (1575-1634), and proclaimed the First Jetsundamba, an honorific title. He traveled to Tibet to continue his religious instruction under the powerful Gelugpa lamas before returning to Mongolia in 1651, bringing fifty sculptors and painters with him in an attempt to establish the Gelug order amongst the Mongols. Rather than settle at one established monastery, his portable temples traveled from one örgöö (traveling place) to another, in what became known as Da Khuree (Great Circle).
During his time as religious leader of the Khalkha Mongols, Zanabazar oversaw a proliferation of Buddhist art in the region. He is especially known for his visualization and design of gilt bronze sculpture, subsequently carried out by master Nepalese bronze casters, which are widely recognized as some of the finest Buddhist bronze sculpture created; for an exquisite gilt bronze figure of White Tara, see Christie's New York, Indian and Southeast Asian Art sale of 19 March 2013, lot 331.
In 1691, faced with the threat of the rival Dzungar Mongols, Zanabazar agreed to integrate the Khalkha into the Qing Empire, at a ceremony before the Kangxi Emperor at Dolonnor Monastery. While Zanabazar had previously sent tribute and religious gifts to Kangxi, the formal ceremony solidified the relationship between the two men. In later life, Zanabazar acted as the personal religious teacher to Kangxi at Beijing. With the help of his guru, the Emperor took an increasing interest in Buddhism and established a tradition of Imperial propagation of Buddhist art that continued into the reigns of his son and grandson, the Yongzheng and Qianlong Emperors.