Mongolia #4 Manjusri Monastery Site (25/09/15)

The itinerary stated that we were to fly from UB to Uliastai on 25th September, but this was not to be. Due to the poor weather, some of the group hadn’t yet even arrived in UB. This was the first taste of our ‘flexible itinerary’… our one contingency day was now used and we hadn’t even left UB! So what to do? Drive out into the country and visit a monastery site.

DSC01484 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01484 © DY of jtdytravels

Our destination was only 15km. (9.3ml.) as the crow flies but, as we weren’t crows, we had to go by car and that was 43km. (26.7mi.) from the capital. We were soon out into the wide open, brown spaces of Mongolia, the mountains dusted with snow, the sky blue.

DSC01489 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01489 © DY of jtdytravels

We entered a valley where the Manjusri Monastery once stood.

[GPS coordinates 47º 46’ N, 106º 60’ E]

DSC01492 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01492 © DY of jtdytravels

Out of the relative warmth of the cars, and into the snow dusted field, it was cold! If not taking a photo, hands were firmly placed into pockets of warm jackets. At this point, we were given a summary of the story of the rise and fall of this monastery.

Originally established on the slopes of Bogd Khan Mountain in 1733, the monastery was dedicated to the sainted monk Luvsanjambaldanzan.  (Aren’t you glad you don’t have to write that name very day!) During the following decades the monastery grew in size and importance.  Eventually, at the height of its importance, there were 20 temples and more than 300 monks.  However, those numbers diminished over time. 

Then, in February 1937, life for the monks of Manjusri Monastery changed drastically. There was great unrest in the country and the 53 remaining elderly lamas were arrested and many of them were shot.  All 20 temples were then destroyed.

In 1990, restoration of some of the destroyed monastery buildings began.  Then, in 1992, the executed monks were officially ‘rehabilitated’. I fear that their pardon came too late!

However, thankfully, their valuable Buddhist scriptures, written in golden script on silver leaf, have survived and were moved to the Mongolian National Library.

DSC01493 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01493 © DY of jtdytravels

Walking up to the monastery site, there were things to see… like this felt covered Ger, the traditional type of dwelling of Mongolian nomads. We would see many more of these.

DSC01491 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01491 © DY of jtdytravels

Traditional sculptures – Standing Stones.

DSC01494 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01494 © DY of jtdytravels

‘Twas here that I found my first flower for this trip. (Potentilla sp.)

.

DSC01497 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01497 © DY of jtdytravels

A purple daisy (Aster sp.) against the snow made for a delightful photo op.

DSC01498 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01498 © DY of jtdytravels

It was cold enough for drips to turn to dagger like icicles.

DSC01503 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01503 © DY of jtdytravels

Gateway to the restored main monastery buildings;

gate knobs festooned with prayer flags.

DSC01522 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01522 © DY of jtdytravels

I always enjoy finding different types of door handles.

DSC01505 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01505 © DY of jtdytravels

The main building, the only one to have been rebuilt to date, is now a museum.  It’s been recreated from photographs taken by a photographer some years before its destruction.

DSC01510 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01510 © DY of jtdytravels

Inside, the monastery’s rich decorations have been restored.

DSC01520 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01520 © DY of jtdytravels

Ceiling art in detail.

DSC01508 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01508 © DY of jtdytravels

Detail of hand carved wooden ceiling boss.

DSC01512 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01512 © DY of jtdytravels

A brightly coloured Buddhist altar.

DSC01506 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01506 © DY of jtdytravels

A dragon decorated incense burner.

DSC01515 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01515 © DY of jtdytravels

Outside pillars were also adorned with painted timber carvings.

DSC01514 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01514 © DY of jtdytravels

The view back down the valley.

DSC01546 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01546 © DY of jtdytravels

Out in the monastery grounds, there’s a massive 2 ton bronze cauldron. It was made in 1726 and is engraved with Tibetan script.  So what could it have been used for? Answer, to cook food for pilgrims who flocked to the monastery.  It could be used to boil up to ten sheep and two cows at a time. Pretty hard to imagine, isn’t it?

DSC01517 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01517 © DY of jtdytravels

  All that remains of one the temples.

DSC01530 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01530 © DY of jtdytravels

Climbing higher up the hillside gave us views over yet more temple ruins.

DSC01531 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01531 © DY of jtdytravels

Tim surveys the scene from high on a cliff above the monastery.

DSC01529 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01529 © DY of jtdytravels

Carved on the cliff are several 18th Century Buddhist cave paintings and reliefs.

DSC01543 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01543 © DY of jtdytravels

Tibetan script carved into a lichen encrusted rock.

DSC01536 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC01536 © DY of jtdytravels

The group took various vantage spots on the cliffs to enjoy the view and have lunch.

It had been a very interesting ‘fill-in’ day… but

would the ‘morrow bring the start of the actual trek? We would see.

David

Photography copyright ©  DY  of  jtdytravels

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