Mongolia

The WildArt Mongolia Expedition, Part 14: The Incomparable Gachen Lama Khiid

The old temple

The old temple.

I had first come to Gachan Lama Khiid on my two-week camping trip in 2010. I had never heard of it and was completely enchanted. So when the idea was floated about taking a different route back for at least part of the return to Ulaanbaatar, I thought of coming back and sharing this place. No one knows about it, really, not even many Mongols. If you google it, my previous post from 2010 is pretty much what comes up.

I think the old temple, the only structure besides the main gate which was left after the destruction of the monasteries in the late 1930s, is one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever seen. This time we were able to talk to the lamas and a staff person who live and work and worship there and learn more about it. A new temple has been built and we were allowed to enter and take photos in it and also the old temple.

The old temple is badly in need of restoration. One side is so unstable that it is propped up with timbers. There are a large number of exquisite works of art on the walls, most of them in need of attention. One can see areas of wood rot in parts of the structure. The monks came up with a restoration plan and sent it to the appropriate government ministry two years ago, but have not yet gotten a response. I promised them that I would see what I could do. This post is partly to keep that promise, but I will also be following up once I’m back in Mongolia this June (there was no time left last year and the monks are almost impossible to contact due to poor mobile phone reception). I documented as much of the damage as I could and have posted some of those images here as reference and to show some of what needs to be done. Honestly, this place should be on the list of World Heritage Sites.

A final note: The monastery is not set up for visitors. I’m not sure what facilities are available in the soum center nearby. If you go, plan to have everything you need and be respectful. Namaste.

We arrived after dark and it was very cold. And going to get colder as we were up in the Hangai Mountains almost due north of Bayanhongor. People were found and we were not only given permission to camp right on the monastery grounds, but allowed the use of one of the outbuildings for cooking and eating. The next morning we emerged to morning light that cast a magical glow on the temples…

The old temple

The old temple.

The surviving gate

The surviving gate; a new enclosure is being built around the complex.

Stupas

Stupas with the river in the background.

Stupa

Stupa.

The "kitchen"

The “kitchen”. Soyoloo, our cook, and Tseegii, our guide, making breakfast for everyone.

Entrance to the "kitchen"

Entrance to the “kitchen”.

Corner detail

Corner detail showing the delicate fretwork.

Blue elephant

Blue elephant.

Blue guardian

Blue guardian.

Carved and painted lotus

Carved and painted lotus.

Doorframe carving

Doorframe carving.

Corner animal and bell

Corner animal and bell.

Schematic of monastery before most of it was destroyed.

Schematic of monastery before most of it was destroyed.

Sign over door in three languages: Tibetan, Mongol bichig script, Chinese

Sign over door in three languages: Tibetan, Mongol vertical script, Chinese.

Buddhist symbol set of deer and wheel over door

Buddhist symbol set of deer and wheel over door. It is said that the first creatures to come to the Buddha when he sat under the Bodhi Tree to teach were two deer.

Timbers supporting one corner of the old Temple

Timbers supporting one corner of the old Temple.

Wall painting.

Wall painting.

Wall paintings.

Wall paintings.

Old temple interior.

Old temple interior.

Main altar in the old temple.

Main altar in the old temple.

Wall paintings.

Wall paintings.

Lama throne.

Lama throne.

Altar figurines.

Altar figurines.

Thanka.

Thanka.

Wall paintings.

Wall paintings.

Wall painting of the monastery in the winter. This one was everyone's favorite, including me.

Wall painting of the monastery in the winter. This one was everyone’s favorite, including me.

Door panel painting at the interior entrance to the old temple. Also a favorite.

Door panel painting at the interior entrance to the old temple. Also a favorite.

Altar in the new temple.

Lama throne in the new temple.

Ritual objects.

Ritual objects.

Temple bowl

Temple incense offering bowl.

The main altar in the new temple.

The main altar in the new temple.

Another view of the altar.

The right side of the altar.

A very old lock and keys.

A very old lock and keys.

Monk showing us a ceremonial staff.

Monk showing us a ceremonial staff.

Old table with stunning lacquer work.

Old table with stunning raised lacquer work.

Old door latch.

Old door latch.

The old temple.

The old temple. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the sun got to the front. But at the link above there’s a photo of it in full light.

The new temple.

The new temple.

 

 

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