Taking a tour of different countries while comfortably sitting back in an armchair certainly takes the stress off of traveling. In this way you can be most anywhere in the blink of an eye and if and when you choose to travel you have an idea of what you can expect and see. We have been looking at the former Soviet republics. I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some places in Mongolia since the country is bordered by Russia and China. Mongolia is a landlocked unitary sovereign state in East Asia.
The capital and largest city is Ulaanbaatar lying in the Tuui River Valley which borders the Bogd Khan Uul National Park. The city was also once under Soviet control in the 20th century and has Soviet-era buildings. Today it has become quite a modern city.
Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts offers visitors an impressive collection of paintings, carvings and sculptures. Many of them the artwork of sculptor and artist Zanabazar. There are also rare religious exhibits like scroll thangka (paintings) and Buddhist statues. You’ll find exhibit captions in English.
Gandan Khiid is an amazing Buddhist monastery and one of Mongolia’s most important and also biggest tourist attractions. Its full name is Gandantegchinlen in translation “the great place of complete joy”.
Building of the monastery began in 1838. It survived through all religious purges and finally in 1990 full religious ceremonies were once again held here. Today over 600 monks belong to this monastery.
Going through the main entrance from the south, a path leads right into a courtyard with two temples. The most significant ceremonies are held in the Ochidara Temple. Following the kora (pilgrim) path clockwise around the temple you’ll see a large statue behind glass of Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelugpa sect.
The other temple the two-story Didan-Lavran Temple was home to the 13th Dalai Lama during his stay there in 1904.
At the end of the main path you enter into the lovely white Migjid Janraisig Sum, the monastery’s main attraction. Along the walls of the temple are hundreds of images of Ayush, the Buddha of Longevity. Here you’ll also find the magnificent Migjid Janraisig statue.
This is no longer the original statue. The new one was dedicated in 1996 and built with donations from Japan and Nepal. The statue stands 26m high and is made of copper with a gilt gold covering. The statue is hollow and contains 27 tons of medicinal herbs, 334 Sutras, two million bundles of mantras and an entire ger with furniture.
To the east of the temple are four colleges of Buddhist philosophy among them a yellow building dedicated to Kalachakra, a wrathful Buddhist deity.
To the west is the Ondor Gegeen Zanabazar Buddhist University, established in 1970.
Captivating ceremonies usually start around 9 AM and most chapels are closed in the afternoon.
Sukhbaatar Square was named for the “hero of the revolution”, Damdin Sukhbaater who declared Mongolia’s final independence from China.
In the center is a large bronze statue of the revolutionary astride his horse.
The National Museum of Mongolia offers visitors some interesting exhibits on Stone Age sites on the 1st floor as well as petroglyphs, stone sculptures of reindeer and other animals and burial sites from the Hun and Uighur eras. There are also some impressive gold treasures.
The Choijin Lama Temple Museum is located right in downtown and was the home of Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama (“Choijin” being an honorary title given to some monks), the state oracle and brother of the Bogd Khan. Construction on the monastery began in 1904 and was completed four years later. To save the monastery in 1942 it was made into a museum.
You’ll find five temples on the grounds:
Maharaja Sum is the main temple and home to statues of Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), Choijin Lama and Baltung Choimba (the teacher of the Bogd Khan, whose mummified remains are inside the statue. There are also some impressive thangka painting and some of the best tsam masks in the country. Behind the main hall is the gongkhang (protector chapel) which contains the oracle’s throne and a magnificent Statue of Yab-Yum (mystic sexual union).
The other temples are Zuu Sum, dedicated to Sakyamuni.
Yadam Sum, containing wooden and bronze statues of various gods, some the artwork of famous Mongolian sculptor Zanabazar.
Amagalan Sum contains a self-portrait of Zanabazar and a small stupa brought by him from Tibet.
Winter Palace of the Bogd Khan was built between 1893 and 1903, where Mongolia’s eighth Living Buddha and last king, Jebtzun Damba Hutagt VIII (often referred to as Bogd Khan), lived for 20 years. This palace was turned into a museum.
There are six temples on the grounds and each of them contains Buddhist artwork including sculpture and thangka. To the right is the Winter Palace itself, containing a collection of gifts received from foreign dignitaries. Among the exhibits you’ll find Mongolia’s Declaration of Independence from China, 1911.
The Bogd Khan was interested in wildlife and you’ll see an amazing display of stuffed animals.
Another surprise in our travels is that in this city you can visit Beatles Square. Looks like the Fab Four are certainly popular all over the world. It was so named due to a new monument close to its northern end. Here you can see bronze images of Paul, John, George and Ringo on one side
and a sculpture of a young man sitting in a stairwell strumming a guitar on the other side. This sculpture represents the era in the 1970s when teenagers gathered in apartment stairwells and sang Beatles songs, which they learned from contraband records that ere smuggled from Eastern Europe. The plaza is surrounded by cafes, restaurants and cashmere shops and is a popular meeting place particularly in the summer when you can relax by the fountains.
The Zaisan Memorial is a tall, thin landmark on top of a hill south of the city. It was built by the Russians to commemorate “unknown soldiers and heroes” from various wars. Here you can get the best views of Ulaanbaater and the surrounding hills. At the bottom of the hill is an enormous tank which was part of the Mongolia People’s Tank Brigade that saw action against the Nazi’s during WW II. Eventually this site will also include restaurants, theaters and there will be cultural activities.
Mongolian National Modern Art Gallery at times called the Fine Art Gallery has large and impressive displays of modern and uniquely Mongolian paintings and sculptures. They depict nomadic life, people and landscapes ranging from Impressionistic to Nationalistic.
The most famous work here is from 1958 “The Fight Of The Stallions” by Ochir Tsevegjav.
The entrance is in the courtyard of the Cultural Palace. The main gallery is on the 3rd floor and temporary exhibits are on the 2nd floor.
Buddha Park is a peaceful park with an 18m-tall standing statue of Sakyamuni. It was erected in 2007 and five tons of juniper were placed inside. Below the statue is a small room with thangkas, sutras and images of Buddha and his disciples. The Zaisan Memorial is right next door.
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