History of Karakorum city continues with Erdene Zuu Monastery

The Mongol Messenger
2020-09-18 15:48:54

Ulaanbaatar /MONTSAME/.

It was nomadic Mongolians who established the first ever state in Central Asia during Khunnu Dynasty. The first state in Central Asia was established by nomadic Mongols during the Khunnu Dynasty. Furthermore, the long names of the ancient Mongol kingdoms, the Turks, the Uyghurs, the Khitans, and the Niruns, occupied large areas of Asia until the establishment of the Mongol Empire. The civilization they created has created great heritage in the history of the world. According to sources, these cities, such as Lun in Khunnu and Mumu in Nirun, were located in the Kharkhorin soum of the present-day Uvurkhangai aimag of Mongolia, in the Orkhon Valley basin and region.



This time, our agency's team traveled to Kharkhorin soum of Uvurkhangai aimag to study the historical monuments of the Orkhon Valley, which is the “cradle” of ancient kings' culture and history, including the civilization and historical heritage of Karakorum. But there is one important question. Why did Genghis Khan establish the capital of his empire in the Orkhon Valley? Dadal soum of Khentii aimag is located in the eastern part of present-day Mongolia. There is Mount Deluun, which is mentioned in the Secret History, and there is also Mount Burkhan Khaldun. However, an inscription on a statue erected in Karakorum in 1347 clearly states, "In the 15th year of Genghis Khan's reign, the white dragon was buried in Karakorum." This is an official proof that in the year of 1220, the Mongols chose to establish the first capital of the Mongol Empire in the Orkhon Valley.


Archaeological excavations have shown that the ruins of Ordubalyk, the capital of the Uyghur people, and the ruins of Karakorum, the capital of the Mongol Empire, were located in the Orkhon Valley. In this sense, the Orkhon Valley is a historically significant area that has a significant impact on physical and cultural geography and archaeological research. That is why it meets the criteria of World Heritage I, III and IV. In 2004, UNESCO listed the Orkhon Valley as 1081st on the World Heritage List.


As mentioned above, in the Orkhon Valley, there is an ancient nomadic city and a sacrificial virgin. According to the teachings of the ancient Turkic kings, the Orkhon valley was considered to be the sacred land of Otuken. There are dozens of records of researchers who say that the Otunken Forest in the Khangai Mountains was considered to be the center of the world during the existence of the ancient Huns, Blue Turks and Uighurs. The ruler of this land was to rule over the peoples of the north, south, west, and east, and to rule over all the peoples with “felt hooves”. That is why Genghis Khan's decree to establish Karakorum in this area is in keeping with the traditions of the ancient nomads and the idea of ​​world domination.



This has been mentioned by archaeologists and historians. Also, some news and information and a few photos were viewed online. He didn't want to waste time clinging to any other information. This is because it is more enjoyable and effective to hear about the destination after the destination.


When we arrived at our destination, we were greeted by T.Bayaraa, an engineer at the Kharakhorum Museum, and J.Tsambagarav, a researcher, museum interpreter, and researcher. In the north of Kharkhorin soum, dark blue rain clouds are expected to form. T.Bayaraa, the museum manager, said that it has been raining in the coming days and the territory of Kharkhorin soum is turning green and the summer is improving.



The Kharakhorum Museum was established in 2010 with a grant from the Government of Japan. Today, the museum has a total of 3,128 artifacts, of which more than 80 percent are archeological finds. 63 of them are included in the list of unique historical and cultural monuments of Mongolia. The Kharakhorum Museum has permanent and temporary exhibition halls and an outdoor exhibition area.


L. Shinebat is the director of the Kharakhorum Museum, which has been operating continuously for ten years. There are 6 people in the exhibition and organization department and 5 people in the treasury registration and information department. The Kharakhorum Museum is a large-scale cultural heritage site specializing in archeological finds that promotes important finds from the Orkhon Valley's historical sites to domestic and foreign tourists, and disseminates the history and nomadic culture.





There are tons of documents and facts found in the historical sources belonging to the Mongols. It is believed that the Erdene Zuu Monastery was built inside ruins of Kharkhorin called Takhai, not on a new land. To give an instance, the Mongolian sutra “Erdeniin Erikh” written in 1841 tells, “…. In a place of ruins called Takhai near the Shankhat Mountain called Sharga Azaraga where Ogodei was proclaimed as Khaan and later Togoontumur reclaimed the throne in the Year of Fire Dog (1229) and the Year of Rooster (1586), the Erdene Zuu Monastery was created…”



In 1586, Abtai Sain Khaan, the great-grandson of Bat Munkh Dayan Khaan set the foundation of building the Erdene Zuu Monastery by erecting stupa for the Third Dalai Lama in an old house in the Takhai ruins. An earliest part of the Monastery was built in summer of 1586, or according to lunar calendar, the 15th day of the middle month of summer in the Fire Dog year in the old Takhai site.


Scholars assume that the history of Karakorum, the capital city of the Mongol Empire correspond to the Erdene Zuu Monastery to flourish once again as archaeological studies found that stones from the nearby ruins of Karakorum were used in the construction of Erdene Zuu Monastery. Currently, there are stone monuments obtained from the ruins of Karakorum on display within the walls of the monastery. It can be observed that the aristocrats and noblemen of royal blood of the Mongols recognized that the land where the ancient Mongol capital – Karakorum was burgeoning as a sacred territory.



Today, it is surrounded by a 420-meter fortress wall on each side with 108 stupas. The organizational structure of the Erdene Zuu Monastery reflects traditional Mongolian style of town planning. By 1792, the first Buddhist Monastery of Mongolia housed 62 temples and more than 500 buildings, accommodating over 10 thousand monks. Nowadays, it is left with 18 temples, which have been placed under state protection since 1944.


The Erdene Zuu Monastery Museum comprised of Western, Eastern, Main Temples, Zuu Temple, and Great Stupas, with the Laviran Temple used for hosting Buddhist religious sessions and observances.





Russian archaeologist S.V.Kiselev, who carried out the first large-scale excavation on the land of Karakorum in 1949, made a study on parts of remains of major buildings in the middle of the walled Complex or Hall located in the southwest of the Erdene Zuu Monastery to conclude that the hall was the “Tumen Amgalant Palace” of Ogodei Khaan.


However, a large number of religious items, sculptures and ornaments unveiled by the archaeological excavation prove that it was ruins of the Great Tsogt Buddhist Temple of Karakorum or the Great Hall. The massive temple, whose groundwork was laid during the Ogodei Khaan era to complete during the period ruled by Munkh Khaan, had long been respected and worshipped by the Mongolian khans. In this regard, the temple was renovated in 1311 using the funds from the khaans’ treasury and another high-cost refurbishment was fulfilled on the temple throughout the period of four years between 1342 and 1346. Picturing from the columns preserved from the building tower that are at least 9 meters each and the roof which had a multi-layer canopy, the temple was definitely of a high-rise structure.



More than two third of some 17,000 findings unearthed by the full archaeological excavations of the temple halls ruins are linked to the Buddhism. Four Buddhist cases discovered in 2014 by the excavation team from four corners of the temple establish the evidence that the Temple is the Great Tsogt Buddhist Temple is the Buddhist temple named “Tsogts Ikh Sumiin Ger”, which was described in the monument that was written in Mongolian and Chinese Karakorum erected in 1347.


In 2015, a wall and stages for the platform of the temple was rebuilt on the basis of research with Mongolian-German joint funding in 2015 with the aim of preservation of archaeological discoveries of Great Hall and public display of the findings. Mongolians companies “Ordego” and “History and Culture” were in charge of the construction of the open exhibition under the guidance of professional archeologists and architects.





Outside of the Great Temple of Karakorum Temple, there are two stone turtles considered as valuable cultural heritage and shining monument of the Great Hall had been installed on the back of the turtles. A total of four stone turtles with dimensions of 2.6-meter-long, 1-meter-tall and 1.2-meter-wide, weighing 10 tons and made of grey granite stone were found near the ruins of Karakorum. Slightly different designs of the stone turtles demonstrate that the date of creation of them vary. Ancient nomadic rulers used to have a shining monument with a stone turtle base built after having large structures, such as palaces, temples and monasteries as turtles standing on the shining monuments symbolized longtime happiness in oriental nations since time immemorial. Our guide J.Tsambagarav, a researcher of Kharakhorum Museum explained that the stone turtles installed in four sides of Karakorum was seen as a foundation to the longtime existence of the nation.




There is a stupa built for good deeds in the next life of Khandjamts, a daughter of Dalai Taish of Uuld and queen of Tusheet Khaan Gombodorj-the royal blood to Chinggis Khaan. Queen Khandjamts was the mother of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar.



At the request of her sons, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar, Tusheet Khaan Chakhundorj, and Sedshir, a house stupa in 4 metre height with tied roof and idol ornaments had been built on square foundation in 3m x 3m size in 1673-1674. Considered as an important tangible heritage created by Zanabazar, he also painted a portrait of his mother and created a statue /full body sculpture/ of the Green Tara and put it inside the stupa. Queen Khandjamts was immortalized in the hearts and words of the people as the Ekh Dagina (Queen Mother).





Afterwards, we visited the Khaan’s Monument or Monument for Mongol States located 4.5 km southwest from the Kharkhorin soum center. Designed by Mongolian sculpture and painter B.Denzen, the complex was built between 2003 and 2004. The complex is comprised of three parts, expressively displaying the territorial range and borders as well as historical and cultural heritage legacy of ancient nomadic states, Khunnu or the Xiongnu, Turkic Khaganate and the Mongol Empire at the height of their prosperity.


The central part has a tall Ovoo or sacred stone heap assembled by using flat, thin rocks. This ovoo serves as a symbol of various generations of the nomadic people for their sense of history of living in harmony with the natural environment.



The round-shaped steep rock arranged surrounding the ovoo is placed with the Nine White Banner, the statehood symbol of the Great Mongol Empire on it.



The first rock demonstrates the territory of the Huns, ancestors of the Mongols who made their settlement close to Orkhon Valley and Karakorum, covering the Lake Baikal to the north, Great Wall of China to the south, Il Tarvagtai Mountain ranges to the west and the Korean Peninsula to the east.


One of the important elements of the cultural heritage left by the Huns is how they depicted the livestock animals and wildlife. On the both side of the picture, there is a replica of their depiction of deer, yak and other animals on the artifacts, wood and textiles carved with characters and paintings found from the Noyon-Uul burial site in Tuv aimag of Mongolia, the tombs of the aristocracy of the Huns. No more magnificent wool rug than the one found from the site has ever been discovered again.


The second part shows the territorial boundaries of the Turkic Khaganate, which extended to the Sayan Mountain in the northers side, the Great Wall of China to the southern side, the Lake Balkhash in the western side and the Korean Peninsula to the eastern side. Encircling the territorial map, Kurgan stelae relating to the Turkic period are situated, holding various wares in their right hands and gripping handles of the swords tied in the belts with their left hands. Moreover, horsemen with their armors and weapons are portrayed for splendid display.



In the central area of the third display wall, a scene is viewed displaying the territorial ranges and boundaries of the Great Mongol Empire in comparison with the map of present Mongolia. the land area of the Great Mongol Empire occupied already one third of the world’s total drylands. In spite of the lower number of Mongol soldiers, disciplined, organized and masterful strategies were used for the battlefield. Displaying the skills of the Mongol soldiers, cavalries wearing Mongolian Deel costumes or hunting are depicted on the wall. Hunting also often acted as a part of the military training for the Mongol soldiers during peaceful times. The complex was established in honor of the first formations of the states on the territory of Mongolia by the Orkhon Valley and the first capital - the place of political center for the Great Mongol Empire.




Efforts put for the development and preservation of cultural heritage pose a great influence on the social growth. In compliance with this, Mongolians have been learning about their own history and taking them under special protection, enabling local and foreign tourists to become acquainted with cultural heritage of Karakorum and Erdene Zuu Monastery in the Orkhon Valley.



One clear example is that on the occasion of the 800th anniversary of the establishment of Karakorum, which falls this year, the Kharakhorum Museum and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences of the National University of Mongolia staged “Karakorum 800” special exhibition together with the Usa City Museum of History in the Oita Prefecture of Japan.


The exhibition, which displayed numerous artifacts or archaeological findings associated with the XVIII-XIY centuries or Karakorum, such as Gerege or paiza, the diplomatic passport held by Mongolia envoys, coins of Mongol Khans with Arab letters, golden ember ornament for Mongolian Queen bogtag headgear, crystal decoration for belts, official seal discovered from the remains of a ship from Khubilai Khaan’s fleet, helmet of Mongolian soldiers and a fireball, has greatly grabbed the attention of international visitors and tourists.  


Many tangible items of cultural heritage with previous values belonging to ancient capital Karakorum have survived in the Orkhon Valley until today. 800-year wind was incapable of destroying the cultural heritage and legacy of the Mongol Khaans. Heritage artifacts mentioned in this story are continuity of the city of Karakorum and indispensable part of the history of the nomadic Mongolians as well as wealth to our mind, witness to the history, immunity of the nation and pride for the next generations.



Photography by N.Batbayar

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