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Gandantegchinlen Monastery

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Bogd Khan Palace
Bogd Khan Palace

Ulaanbaatar

The Gandan Monastery, also known as the Gandantegchinlen Khiid Monastery, is a Tibetan-style monastery in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, that has been renovated and reinvigorated since 1990. “Great Place of Complete Joy” is how the Tibetan name translates. There are currently about 150 monks living there. It houses a 26.5-meter-high statue of Migjid Janraisig, also known as Avalokitesvara, a Buddhist bodhisattva. In 1994, it was placed under governmental protection.

The monastery was founded in 1835 by Mongolia’s greatest reincarnated lama, the Fifth Jebtsundamba. It became Mongolia’s most important Buddhist study center.

Mongolia’s Communist regime, led by Khorloogiin Choibalsan and influenced by Joseph Stalin, razed all but a few monasteries and executed more than 10.000 lamas throughout the 1930s.

After surviving the vast destruction, the Gandantegchinlen Khiid monastery was closed in 1938, but reopened in 1944 as the last operational Buddhist monastery in Mongolia, with a skeleton staff, as a token homage to traditional Mongolian culture and religion. The collapse of communism in Mongolia in 1990 resulted in the lifting of restrictions on religion.

The original copper monument was erected in response to public outcry in Mongolia, with the goal of restoring the vision of Bogd Javzandamba (or the eighth Jebtsundamba, also known as Bogd Khan), who had claimed the title of Emperor of Mongolia. Chin Wan Khanddorj, Bogd Javzandamba’s principal minister, was in charge of the statue’s construction. In 1938, Russian troops demolished the original statue.

The statue of Migjid Janraisig was rebuilt in 1996 when the Soviet era ended, thanks to donations from Mongolians. It is embellished with 2,286 precious stones and gold leaf.