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Dayan Derkhiin Monastery & Cave

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north mongolia

A few years ago all that remained of the Dayan Derkh were a few charred poles wound with blue ribbons. It had once been a large, important monastery standing on the banks of the Uur River built to honour a very powerful shaman.

The Uur River winds through a golden larch forest, spilling into the interior of an ancient empire of Mongolia that once stretched from Beijing to the Caspian Sea. One of the most isolated and pristine river valleys in Eurasia, the Uur Valley, attracted the shaman Dayan Derkh to its banks eight hundred years ago. As legend has it, the shaman stole the young wife of Genghis Khan and ran away with her. After an epic chase throughout all of Mongolia, Genghis Khan finally caught up with Dayan Derkh on the Uur River. To escape the great Khan’s wrath and his own demise, Dayan Derkh turned himself to stone. Genghis Khan called upon the Dalai Lama in Tibet to help deal with the ossified shaman. Dalai Lama sent over seven monks to pray under the cave where Dayan Derkh took refuge. While listening to the monk’s prayers, Dayan Derkh converted to Buddhism and the monastery was named in his honour.

Before The Tributary Fund embarked on the monastery reconstruction, locals continued to celebrate Dayan Derkh by making pilgrimages to the cave where Dayan Derkh once hid. Although the human-like stone thought to be Dayan Derkh was destroyed by the Russians, his influence and power live on in the stories of valley elders. 

The new Dayan Derkh Monastery was rebuilt based on historical photos and architectural renderings from the architectural committee of Gandan Monastery in Ulaan Baatar. Construction began in the spring of 2004 with the stupa (a Buddhist shrine), and the Monastery was completed in 2006.