Erdene Zuu Monastery
Get to know everything about visiting in Erdenezuu monastery – 108 treasure monastery in Central Mongolia – history, temples, structure and tours.
Erdene Zuu Monastery is located in the Kharkhorin soum of Umnugovi province, 360km westward of Ulaanbaatar city. The Orkhon Valley is where the Monastery located and was the center of political and religious activities of Mongolia. Historically, Buddhism spread throughout Mongolian territory three times. According to historical recordings, Mongolian noblemen were trying to cease the political chaos in the country by religious way. Erdene Zuu Monastery was the result of third wave when Abtai Sain Khan, who was the 27th generation of Genghis Khan’s Golden Lineage, met Third Dalai Lama Gyalwa Sonam Gyatso in 1580.
Buddhist Temples in Erdenezuu Monastery
The Erdene Zuu Monastery was built in 1586 and the Gurvan Zuu temples were the first ones. When they constructed the Monastery, they used ruin materials from the old Karakorum city. The Gurvan Zuu temples are called the Main Zuu, the western Zuu and the Eastern Zuu, where sacred statues of Buddha Shakyamuni depicting him in his three different ages are housed in. Henceforth, number of temples and stupas around the area increased greatly. In early 20th century, Erdene Zuu Monastery had 64 temples and over a thousand of young and old monks were living in their own houses or gers around the Monastery and practicing Buddhism. Moreover temples and other constructions are enclosed by wall with chain of 108 stupas.
There were also streets of local people, worshipers and pilgrims next to the Monastery. The Erdenezuu Monastery was famous with its Tsam dance festival, which is the sacred dance performed by monks wearing animated masks and costumes for the purpose of defeating dark spirits that are causing sufferings on earth.
During the 17th and 18th century, the monastery was attacked several times in the result of quarrel between Mongolian noble men. But the Monks always restored their temples and continued their duties until they step into 20th century. Policies against monks started after the death of 8th Bogd Jebtsundamba Khutugt in 1924. Monks had to pay extremely high taxes and young monks were persuaded to disrobe and join the Party.
Starting from 1936, the Soviet Ideology cynically attacked all the monasteries and monks throughout the country. The Head Monk Of Erdenezuu Monastery, Gonchigjantsan, an incarnation of three generations, was sentenced to death. He got shot in the head when he was 80 years old. Over 200 high ranked monks were captured and killed and about 100 monks were sentenced for 10 years and imprisoned. The Monastery itself destroyed severely, only 18 temples and other constructions are left and restored later.
Erdenezuu Monastery Museum and Active Temple
The ruins of the Erdene Zuu Monastery started to be protected by the state in 1943 and reconstruction works started. Until 1990 the Monastery was used an a museum and then, with the state permission to practice Buddhism, monks started their activity in the Labrang temple, which is the Tibetan styled temple built in 1786 and located in the eastern area inside of the wall. Other temples and constructions are open to visitors as a museum.