Monday, November 28, 2011

Mongolia | Ulaanbaatar | Bogd Khan Winter Palace | Taranantha

Last weekend I wandered out to Erdene Zuu for the Celebration of Zanabazar’s 376 Birthday and to take photos of the First Sixteen Incarnations of Javsandamba. This weekend I wandered over to the Bogd Khan Winter Palace Museum, not far from my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi to see the statue of Taranatha, the sixteenth incarnation of Javsandamba. As you know, Taranatha, the founder of Takten Damcho Ling Monastery in Tibet, eventually moved to Mongolia and died here in 1634. What is less known is that at least part of his bodily remains (his head according to some versions of the story) are inside the statue in the Lavrin Temple of the Bogd Khan Palace Complex.
 The Lavrin Temple of the Bogd Khan Palace Complex three weeks ago, before the last big snowfall
 Taranatha (1575–1634)
Well-known scholar Nyamochir paying his respects to Taranatha
Ruins of Takten Damcho Ling, monastery in Tibet founded by Taranatha
The Twenty-fifth incarnation of Javsandamba and the Ninth Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, currently living in Ulaanbaatar. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mongolia | Övörkhangai Aimag | Erdene Zuu | Laviran Temple | Statues of Javsandamba

In addition to attending the Puja at the Larivan Temple at Erdene Zuu I also wanted to photograph the statues of the first sixteen incarnations of Javsandamba located on the second floor of the temple. As you probably know, Zanabazar (1635–1723) was the seventeenth incarnation of Javsandamba and the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia. The day I visited the temple was of course Zanabazar’s 376th birthday. 
Laviran Temple
Historical Consultant Saka and Davaa, who drove us to Kharkhorin. 
Saka with eight of the statues
The first incarnation of Javsandamba reportedly lived during the time of the Buddha Sakyamuni. Up to and including Taranatha, who died in 1634, there were sixteen incarnations of Javsandamba. Tarantha announced before he died that he would not be returning to Takten Damcho Ling, the monastery he had founded in Tibet, but would instead be reborn in a different land where he could do more to spread the Dharma. This turned out to be Mongolia. Zanabazar, the First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, was born in 1635. The Ninth Bogd Gegeen, who was born in Tibet, now lives in Ulaanbaatar and was recently recognized as the head of Buddhism in Mongolia. 
1. Taameddov
2. Lodoinamdag
3. Barbizobo

 4. Narbojodva
5. Radenchenbo
6. Ronsomchoison
7. Darmavanchig
8. Odserbal
 9. Brügdeijantsan
10. Sanjaaraichin
11. Sanrabadra
 12. Jamyam Tsorj. One of the more notable incarnations. He was born in Tibet near Samye Monastery. A close disciple of Zonkhov (Tsongkapa), founder of the Gelug Sect, Jamyam Tsorj established Drepung Monastery in Lhasa in 1416 and also built hundreds of temples and hermitages all over Tibet. He is shown here wearing the yellow hat of the Gelug Sect. 
13. Choijininjed
14. Gungaadolchog
15. Gajedsajon
16. Jonan Darnata (Taranatha)
Taranatha was a staggeringly prolific writer whose collected works amounted to sixteen hefty volumes. One of his most influential works was The Tara Tantra, perhaps the best-known text of the Tara Cult. His interest in Tara was passed on to his next incarnation, Zanabazar, whose Statues of Tara are among the greatest works of Buddhist art ever produced. Taranatha also claimed in his autobiography that he visited Shambhala in a dream state. Unlike other visitors, he reported that the fabled kingdom was inhabited mainly by women. 
Monk at Laviran Temple

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mongolia | Zaisan | Soyolma | Narkhajid

I posted earlier on Soyolma’s Renderings of Tara at the Tsagaandarium Art Gallery. She also had on display what is apparently a variation of Narkhajid.
Rendering of Narkhajid by Soyolma (Enlargement)
Narkhajid (Enlargement)
Detail of Narkhajid Painting (Enlargement)
A more traditional rendering of Narkhajid at Amarbayasgalant Monastery
Another traditional rendering of Narkhajid by Soyolma on display in the Studiolium of my hovel. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mongolia | Gov-Altai Aimag | Shar Khuls Oasis | Gobi Bears

See Mongolia: Endangered Bear Struggles Against Climate Change. Although it does not say so in the article, the place described is Shar Khuls Oasis. I have visited Shar Khuls Oasis twice, and once had A Run-in With A Gobi Bear nearby. 

 Shar Khuls Oasis looking north (see Enlargement)
Shar Khuls Oasis looking south (see Enlargement
Footprints of Gobi Bear we met just south of Shar Khuls 
Mojik and Uyanga fully recovered from their bear encounter

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mongolia | Ulaanbaatar | Bad Air | Supercomputer

According to An Article in Time Magazine the World Health Organization claims that Ulaanbaatar is the second most polluted city in the world, behind only Ahwaz, Iran. I simply cannot believe this. I now live in Zalsan Tolgoi on the outskirts of the city where the air is famously fresh and clean but I did spend half a dozen winters living in the heart of the city, and although the air was bad I would not say it was world-class bad. Are you telling me that the air in Ulaanbaatar is worse than the air in, for instance, Hong Kong (or am I confusing heat and humidity with bad air)? Anyhow, chalk another one up for Ulaanbaatar. According to some sources it is also The Ugliest City in the World.

But wait! Mongolia just got its First Cray Supercomputer!
Yak  checking out Cray Supercomputer

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mesopotamia | Fertile Crescent | Rap Song

Who knew they Rapped in the Fertile Crescent?
Nobody ruled better, I’m Nebuchadnezzar,
Me and my Chaldeans are sharper than cheddar.
We’re so holy like Swiss cheese,
One day my wife said, “Neb, I miss trees.
This city life is too hard for me,
All is see is brown, baby, I need garden-green.”
So I built the Hanging Gardens of Babylon for my girl,
It’s one of the seven wonders of the world . . .
 Nebuchadnezzar (c 634–562 BC) knew how to get down. 
Nebuchadnezzar (or Nebbie, as he was known to his friends) built the famous Gate of Ishtar, which can now be seen in Berlin, Germany.
Gate of Ishtar, now in Berlin
Thanks to the Silk Road Gourmet for bringing the Rappin’ Chaldeans to my attention.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Mongolia | Chingis Rides West | Bukhara | Fall of the Citadel

A few days after his Appearance In The Friday Mosque, Chingis visited another mosque outside the city walls. From the pulpit of this mosque he ordered that all the city’s wealthiest people be brought before him. Two hundred and eighty people were produced, 190 from the city itself and ninety merchants from other cities who happened to be in Bukhara at the time. He then harangued these assembled worthies: 
O People know that you have committed great sins, and the great ones among you have committed these sins. If you ask me what proof I have for these words, I say it is because I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you. 
This is probably the source of the “I am the Scourge of God” declaration attributed to Chingis Khan which pops up in so many later accounts of the Mongol invasion of Mawarannahr. But did Chingis actually make this speech? Other contemporary sources, al-Athir for example, make no mention of it, although such a dramatic reproof of the citizens of Bukhara could hardly have escaped their notice. This leads later commentators to conclude that Juvaini inserted this speech simply to spice up his narrative. Barthold, after examining all the available sources, concludes that Juvaini’s account of the speech “is quite beyond belief.” 

Juvaini and al-Athir do agree, however, that Chingis ordered the assembled notables to cough up much of their wealth. “There is no need to declare your property that is on the face of the earth; tell me of that which is in the belly of the earth,” he told them, apparently meaning he wanted them to reveal whatever possessions they hidden—perhaps buried—from him. To the most important of the merchants he assigned a Mongol or Turk overseer whose job it was to pry their wealth out of them. Juvaini claims, however, that as long as the merchants willingly handed over their possessions these heavies did not “did not torment them by excessive punishment or demanding what was beyond their power to pay.” 

Then each morning more merchants were herded into an audience hall where Chingis harangued them, demanding that they turn over their riches to him. Of special interest to Chingis were the merchants who had dealt in the silver and goods plundered from the Mongol trade caravan at Otrār. As we have been the Khwarezmshah had deposed of his share of the loot to Bukharan merchants, and they were now brought to account and made to produce their ill-gotten gains. The arm of Chingis Khan was long indeed. 

Not everyone in Bukhara acquiesced to the Mongols’ roughshod treatment of their city. The afore-mentioned Jalal-al-Din Ali b. al-Hasan Zaidi, one of the leading imams of the city, and his son objected to the treatment meted out to prisoners and the rape of women by Mongol soldiers. A brawl ensued and both the imam and his son were killed. Others who protested, included the judge Sadr al-Din Khan and Majd al-Din Masud, brother of the Khwarezmshah’s vizier Nizam al-Mulk, were also slain. But these were exceptions. Most inhabitants of the occupied city had no choice but to submit to the Mongols. Except, of course, for Khökh Khan and his 400 men who remained holed up in the Citadel. 

Twelve days after the Mongols had arrived in the city Chingis decided to deal with the diehards in the Citadel. Juvaini would have us believe that in order to flush these remaining men Chingis ordered the surrounding quarters be put to the torch. Within days much of the city, with the exception of places and mosques constructed of baked bricks, had burned to the ground. It is not clear why the entire assembled Mongol army could not deal with 400 men, making such a drastic expedient necessary. Later commentators would suggest that the fire which consumed the city started accidentally while the city was being plundered and quickly spread through the districts made up mostly of wooden buildings. In any case, the fire did not phase the defenders of the Citadel. The Mongols set up mangonels and began heaving huge stones into the Citadel; the defenders responding by flinging out pots of burning naphtha. The Citadel was soon “like a red-hot furnace fed from without by hard sticks thrust into the recesses, while from the belly of the furnace sparks shoot into the air,” claimed Juvaini. Using the local citizenry as human shields the Mongols stormed the walls. The fight went on for days. The Khökh Khan “who in bravery would have born the palm from lions, engaged in many battles: in each attack he overthrew several persons and alone expelled a great army.” All to no avail. Finally the last defenders of the Citadel were “drowned in the sea of annihilation.” 

For reasons which commentators, including Juvaini, do not make entirely clear, Chingis now decided upon a wholesale purge of the already defeated and burned city. Of the Qangli Turks within the city “no male was spared who stood higher than the butt of a whip” and their womenfolk (“slender as the cypress”) and children were sent into slavery. The remaining men and women (of the latter, both “ugly and beautiful,” Juvaini dutifully notes) were driven out onto the surrounding plains and what remained of the city and its walls were leveled. The healthy males, both adults and youths, were dragooned as levies for the upcoming siege of Samarkand. The remaining citizenry retired to surrounding villages, as nothing remained of their city. 

One man who escaped from the carnage in Bukhara eventually ended up in Khorasan. Here he was questioned about the Mongols and the fate of Bukhara. His words, as recorded by Juvaini, have often been repeated: “They came, they sapped, they burnt, they slew, they plundered and they departed.” Juvaini, who knew his way around words, agreed that “in the Persian language there could be nothing more concise than this speech.”