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This Monk, He’s Gone to Heaven

Well, not yet, but maybe one day, depending on whether the religious wind changes the way it so often has in Mongolia’s past. In the meantime, he’s praying away in a monastery on the edge of the disappeared capital.

Chinggis Khan’s empire may have stretched across the known world, but nomads aren’t big on cities. But here, in the middle of the Mongolian steppe, the big man’s 3rd son and successor, Ogedei, established his capital during the freewheelin’ 1220s. He built it up with the help of European artisans and architects, and yet records suggest it still really wasn’t much to write home about.

In 1260, Kublai came along and moved his capital to what is now Beijing, as well as decreeing a stately pleasure dome be built in Xanadu, to be ruled over by Olivia Newton John.

During the mid-16th Century, much of Karakorum’s remains were used to build this monastery, Erdene Zuu, which held around 10,000 monks in its heyday. This was the second time Mongolia took Buddhism for a spin around the block. Then of course came the Communists in the 1930s and, well, we know how that goes. It’s a common theme.

Incidentally, I’m sorry for using the spelling Chinggis and not Genghis, but it was his name. I don’t mean to sound like Alex Trebek, but it’s written here everywhere as the former.

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One Comment

  1. Nice Pixies reference! Your pics make Mongolia look not half bad. Is it teeming with tourists in the cold months?

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