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Choijin Lama Temple Museum

The Choijin Lama Temple Museum is an architectural masterpiece of the 19th and 20th century. The monastery was erected by Mongolian architects.

The Choijin Lama Temple Museum is an architectural masterpiece of the 19th and 20th century. The monastery was erected by Mongolian architects.

The museum is only one block south of the Square. Although not as good as the Winter Palace, there is still plenty to snap. A useful English language booklet is available at the monastery entrance. A concrete ger inside the grounds has a good selection of reasonably priced souvenirs, and probably the best range of books about Buddhism and Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar.

In July 1921 in the center of Ulaanbaatar, the 'hero of the revolution', Damdin Sukhbaatar, declared Mongolia's final independence from the Chinese. The Square now bears his name and features a statue of him astride his horse. The words he apparently proclaimed at the time are engraved on the bottom of the statue: 'If we, the whole people, unite in our common effort and common will, there will be nothing in the world that we cannot achieve, that we will not have learnt or failed to do.'

The temple was built between 1904 and 1908 by the 8th Bogd Khaan Javzandamba, and dedicated to his brother Lama Luvsanhaidav. The Museum has a fine collection of woodcarving, applique, embroidery and sculptures, dated as early as the XVII century.

The museum contains precious examples of Buddhist art including the paintings by Ts. Zanabazar, a renowned religious reformer and great artisan of 17th century as well as colorful masks for Tsam Dance ceremony embroidered with corals, bronze statue of gods in erotic poses, silk tankas and many other artifacts.

This monastery is also known as the Museum of Religion. It was the home of Luvsan Haidav Choijin Lama ('Choijin' is an honorary title given to some monks), the state oracle and brother of the Bogd Khaan. The construction of the monastery commenced in 1904 and was completed four years later. It was closed in 1938 and probably would have been demolished but it was saved as a museum in 1942 to demonstrate the 'feudal' ways of the past. Although religious freedom in Mongolia recommenced in 1990, this monastery is no longer an active place of worship and will probably remain a museum.

There are five temples within the grounds. As you enter, the first temple you see is the Maharaja Sum. The main temple features statues of Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), Choijin Lama and Baltung Choimba (the teacher of the Bogd Khaan), whose mummified remains are inside the statue. There are also some fine scroll paintings and some of the best tsam masks in the country. The gongkhang (protector chapel) behind the main hall contains the oracle's throne and a magnificent statue ofyab-yiim (mystic sexual union).

The other temples are: Zuu Siim, dedicated to Sakyamuni; Yadam Sum, which contains wooden and bronze statues of various gods, some created by the famous Mongolian sculptor Zanabazar; and Amgalan Sum, containing a self-portrait of the great Zanabazar himself and a small stupa apparently brought to Ulaanbaatar by Zanabazar from Tibet.

• The temple of maharaja: On entering the temple, visitors are attracted by the four big majestic sculptures of great guardian kings; two on the right and two on the left. These sculptures are made of papier-mache by Mongolian masters.

• The main temple: Opposite the entrance of the Main Temple is an 18th century gilded statues of Buddha with his two disciples standing by his side. To the right of the Buddha is a statue of Choijin Lama Lubsankhaidav, on the left is an embalmed mummy of his teacher Baldanchoimbal. The temple contains many religious instruments including a rich collection of masks.

• The Zankhan temple: In this temple, Lubsankhaidav Choijin went into ecstasies. The showcases display bronze statues of Yamantaka and other tutelary.

• The Zuu temple: The temple is dedicated to the Buddha Shakyamuni. There are papier-mache sculptures of Buddha in the past, present and future times with his two disciples. The 16 apostles are shown on the walls on the either side of the temple, and the four Makhranz protectors are depicted sitting in caves on either side of the door as hermits in meditation.

• The temple of Yadam: The temple is standing apart from others enclosed by brick walls. Luvsankhaidav, who was the main protector of the Buddhist religion in Mongolia, used to prey in this temple, and it was closed to the public. In the centre of the temple is a gilded bronze sculpture of one of the 84 Indian wizards Mahasida.

• The temple of amgalan or peace: This temple is dedicated to the first Mongolian reincarnation of the Bogd Javzandamba, Under Gegeen Zanabazar (1635-1723). His portrait is shown on the wall onthe northern side of the temple. His works such as Ratnasambhava, Mintug, Maidari Mania, the Green Tara, the White Tara are displayed on the opposite side.