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.
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.
We entered a valley where the Manjusri Monastery once stood.
[GPS coordinates 47º 46’ N, 106º 60’ E]
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.
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.
Traditional sculptures – Standing Stones.
‘Twas here that I found my first flower for this trip. (Potentilla sp.)
A purple daisy (Aster sp.) against the snow made for a delightful photo op.
It was cold enough for drips to turn to dagger like icicles.
Gateway to the restored main monastery buildings;
gate knobs festooned with prayer flags.
I always enjoy finding different types of door handles.
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.
Inside, the monastery’s rich decorations have been restored.
Ceiling art in detail.
Detail of hand carved wooden ceiling boss.
A brightly coloured Buddhist altar.
A dragon decorated incense burner.
Outside pillars were also adorned with painted timber carvings.
The view back down the valley.
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?
All that remains of one the temples.
Climbing higher up the hillside gave us views over yet more temple ruins.
Tim surveys the scene from high on a cliff above the monastery.
Carved on the cliff are several 18th Century Buddhist cave paintings and reliefs.
Tibetan script carved into a lichen encrusted rock.
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.
Photography copyright © DY of jtdytravels
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