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.

It's finally warm enough to take outdoor photos

I took these photos in central Ulaanbaatar in and around Sukhbaatar Square and the Parliament. Similar to most Mongolian landscapes, these photos show Soviet reminders, global capitalism, and class struggle. Or in other words, the unevenness of post-Soviet development.

The Parliament building was built within the last few years (not without controversy) to replace the old Socialist government building, which was black. In an earlier post there is a photo of me with the statue of Chinggis Khan surrounded by his successors. Also shown below are public art in front of the National Museum, new office towers, and a building shrouded in green netting located across the street from the Parliament building. The gutted building had something to do with duty/taxes and during last summer's riots, after all the alcohol was looted, the building was destroyed. It is now relatively unguarded and frequented by adventure-seeking teenagers.

Women's Day/Soldier's Day Karaoke and Bolor's Birthday

On March 8 and March 18 Mongolia celebrates Women's Day and Soldier's Day (respectively). My department celebrate both holidays as well as the birthday of our chair, Bolor. I guess Women's Day is a UN-sponsored holiday, but I also heard that both holidays were also Soviet inspired. The day following karaoke night Bolor generously invited me to her home and there is a photo of her playing the guitar (sorry, my posting is a bit out of order). Karaoke in Mongolia is a lot like karaoke in, well...not quite like 'Pitchers' for the A-town folk. There were lots of Russian and Mongolian songs and some English (Beatles were popular). I gave a not-so-stirring rendition of Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust'. For those of you who are language learners, I highly recommend karaoke. It is a great way to learn vocabulary and practice pronunciation while drinking vodka and eating kimchi.

Tsagaan Zagas

These photos show the buying of fish in my office. I bought about a kilo of fish and made lots of soup. I'm sorry, but I forgot to take photos of the soup. The fish comes from Khuvsgul Lake, a glacial lake located in northern Mongolia.