A Museum and A Monastery

Last Wednesday (9/21/11) we visited the Museum of Natural History and the Gandantegchinleng Khiid Buddhist Monastery. We had originally indented to spend the day at home, but our friend Janice B. invited us to come along with her!

The Museum of Natural History here in UB is interesting. The dinosaur display is amazing and had some dinosaurs I have never seen before, including a set of arms that there is no body for. They were MASSIVE! We also enjoyed the geological portions of the museum, a lot of which was about the mining industry here in Mongolia. ;o) But… (yes, I’m starting a sentence with a “but”) there is nothing natural about taxidermy. And, taxidermy done badly is even worse! Instead of one bear or one deer, there were 6-7 bears and 15+ deer. The huge numbers of each species for every single display was overwhelming. There were even dead fish in bottles of some type of “preservation” liquid. It was really gross. I have no pictures of the museum because photography was not allowed, besides, I don’t really think I would want to scare you!

We ate lunch at the Grand Khan Irish Pub (we needed comfort food after our traumatic morning) and were joined by Janice’s husband, Steve. He is a funny guy and the girls really liked his sense of humor.  He ordered “Bangers and Mash” for lunch and they’ve gotten endless entertainment out of that!  (Sausage with Mashed potatoes for those unfamiliar with the term, like my girls!)

After lunch we took short walk to the Monnis Tower and hitched a ride with “transportation” to the Monastery. We were so glad we got a ride because we would have never found it in the back alley ways of UB.

When we first arrived there was a group of people standing around, leaning on and kissing a wooden pole.  Around the pole were tied khadags, or strips of white or blue silk.  The white ones represent the pure heart of the giver and the blue (the usual color in Mongolia) represents the sky.

As we approached the main building, we were greeted by a beautiful sound. It turned out to be a blind man singing for donations. I took two video tapes of him. Please ignore the videography, just listen…

This is called a stupa.  A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of Buddha, used by Buddhists as a place of worship. (Wikipedia) The tin canisters around it are prayer wheels.  There were prayer wheels of all shapes and sizes inside and outside the Monastery.  Everyone goes from canister to canister in a clockwise maner, turning the prayers wheels in the same direction.  It is considered bad luck if you turn it the wrong way.

This is the main building in the Monastery.  Inside is a statue of Magjid Janraisig (the lord who looks in every direction).

Before we went into the Monastery we asked if we could take photos of this group of people.  They said “yes” and we started clicking away.  It turned out that they were part of a wedding party that was headed in to pray to the Magjid Janraisig.  After they were finished posing, they all of the sudden surrounded us, all wanting to shake our hands, “Sanbano” and the old women gave us all the “double kiss” (just like in Europe.)  It was very sweet and we felt like we had been welcomed into the wedding party!

This is an incense pot just outside the front doors.  It was taller than Xuxu, but she didn’t want to pose with it.


This couple was also part of the wedding party!  Don’t they look lovely in their traditional clothing?

Right in front of the statue was an alter where offerings were made.  On the alter was saw large and small candles in copper candle holders, photos and money left by worshipers, and more khadags.

This is the best photo I got of the bride.  She and her groom (the man facing her) were moving quickly around the tight quarters of the Monastery.  The statue in the back ground with the scaffolding around it a Buddhist bodhisattva also known as Avalokitesvara.

The statue is 26.5 meters high, and weights 90 tons.  It contains 8.6kg of gold, 25kg of silver, 20 tons of copper, 27tons of steel, 15 tons of chalk, 30 tons of cement and has 2100 precious stones.  This is the tallest indoor statue in the world.

This fun looking guy is a dharma protector.  That is all I’ve found out about him so far.

These miniature statues are in book cases that are two stories high and cover both sides and back of the monastery.  Most are enclosed in locked glass, but some were open and we would see photos of the Dalai Lama placed in their laps, or offerings of money.

Here is another view of the statue and the dharma protector. The entire room was full of haze from the incense.

After we saw the inside of the monastery, we headed back out to the patio where the girls could feed the pigeons.  At the end of the drive were all the cars that belonged to the wedding party.  They were all decorated in the finest balloons, ribbons and silk flowers.  ;o)

I guess this car is for the bride and groom?

More members of the wedding party posing for the official photographer, but they also stayed put and let me snap a few!

This guy was getting a kick out of feeding the birds!

And, Pie found that if she held really still the birds would eat right out of her hand.

Star and Mouse had a harder time of it, maybe because there were two of them.

The monastery has 150 resident monks, a university and a school.  This looked to be a group of boys taking a break from studying.