Friday, March 27, 2009

Choijin Lama Khiid (Monastery) Museum

The Choijin Lama Khiid is located just south of Sukhbaatar Square and was built in the early 1900s by the last Khan of Mongolia, the Bogd Khan, for his brother the Choijin Lama. The Monastery consists of several separate temples, and before 1921, most were public except for one which was reserved for the Choijin Lama's private use. From what I understand the Monastery survived the 1921 Socialist revolution as a museum of Mongolia's 'obsolete' religious culture. However, rapid revival of religion in Mongolia (and Russia) illustrates both the lasting power of religion and its ability to give people a sense of identity to navigate the political economic uncertainty brought about by 'shock therapy' global capitalism. I will post photos of active monasteries in the future, but the Choijin Lama's remains a museum.

The first several photos show the immediate surroundings of the museum including recent construction, the white modern 'Wedding Palace', and me with a decorative stone wall and mountains. The Mongolian woman in one of the photos is Amy, daughter of one of the professors in my program and my tour guide for the afternoon.

The Mongolian variety of Tibetan Buddhism includes local gods of the mountains. My favourite is the old grey man mask. The monastery also features a building with many statues by Zanabazar and his students. Zanabazar was more or less the Leonardo DaVinci of Mongolia in the 17th century. I have heard that the Choijin Lama was interested in alchemy, but I did not see any sort of laboratory...perhaps further exploration is required.


  1. I wonder what the mask was used for? It's creepy, but in a I-can't-stop-looking sort of way.

  2. They are for religious dance ceremonies. I know someone who would look really good in one...