September 14, 2008

9/14/08 The Great Khaan

Today I got a surprise offer to join a few people on an outing into the country side. Even though it was chilly and overcast, I jumped at the chance. I have Lilly to thank for this opportunity. She has been in Ulaanbaatar to work with the Dolma Ling Working Group which helps local women improve their sewing skills and to gain experience in management in order to create independent working groups which can make a modest living. Her friend Ari, who works for the Mongolian Educational TV (EduTV) station, offered to take her and a few of us from the center on an outing.

Beginning to paint the stupa yesterday

So, after working all morning to put finishing touches on the stupa, Ari arrived around noon to pick up Lilly, me and two Buddhist nuns, Ani Tenzin and Ani Digi. As we drove through the city, the gray clouds gave way to a beautiful sunny day but still cold compared to the wonderful temperatures we've had all week. Along with us was Ari's wife and 4-year-old daughter and a driver from the TV station. Ari pointed out some of the landmarks as we drove, like the abandoned Soviet military bases but also an astronomy observatory which he said was a wonderful place to visit.

When he said we were going out to see a Chinggis Khaan (Gengis Khan) statue, I had no idea what he meant until it appeared over the crest of a hill. As we drove closer I realized the thing was huge, I mean HUGE. It's over 130 feet high and sits on a building that will house a museum.

40-meter high Chinggis Khaan


The statue is built on Tsonjin Boldog hill, 53-km (33-miles) from Ulaanbaatar. The hill is located next to Chinggis Hairkhan, one of Mongolia’s sacred mountains. The site of the monument has special significance in the history of Mongolia. In 1177, Temuujin (Chinggis Khaan’s given name), was on his way back home after meeting Tooril, the ruler of the Hereid region. As Temuujin rode home he came across a horse whip lying on a hill. According to Mongolian customs, the horse whip is a symbol of great luck, especially at the beginning of a venture. Having just forged a partnership with Tooril, Temuujin saw the discovery as an auspicious symbol of the future success of his efforts to reunite the Mongol tribes.Temuujin named the hill Tsonjin Boldog, recognizing it as a place where one could literally see their future. This was the beginning of the career of Chinggis Khaan. Chinggis even became known as the “Whip of Heaven” by Rashid Ad Din, the famous Arabic historian.

Being Sunday and a beautiful day, all sorts of people had come out to see the statue. There were a few enterprising families giving horseback rides and there was an eagle hunter with an adolescent eagle on his arm. After that, Ari took us to a site of a BBC movie set where they had built a replica of the Great Wall of China. The set is used from time to time for other things, recently for a Ford commercial. Because Ari was friends with the security guard, we had a chance to step into his ger and meet his two darling little girls. And from there we walked down to the Tuul River.

The wall continues on with the help of computer graphics

A typical Mongolian ger

Inside the ger

The nuns sit on the bed in front of the stove

Fall colors along the Tuul River

Saw these camels on the way back to UB

I think we were all a little tired once we got back to the center. But then Lilly generously offered to take the nuns and I out for dinner. We stopped off at a Korean restaurant for a great meal. Maybe I can help Lilly and her sewing group at Dolma Ling somehow so as to repay her for her kindness and generocity.