Thursday, October 25, 2012

Mongolia | Arkhangai | Zaya Pandita | Clear Mirror

Just finished the final pre-press work on yet another book: this one the famous Clear Mirror by the Khalkh Zaya Pandita (1642–1715). Once again G. Nyam-Ochir was the instigator of this project. The transliteration of the Clear Mirror, which has never appeared before in Cyrillic Mongolian, was done by his colleague P. Nyam-Ochir (no relation). This is quite a sizable work. This book, which contains only the first five parts of the eleven-part Clear Mirror, runs to over 600 pages. 
G. Nyam-Ochir
Here is the cover:
For those of you who read Mongolian here is the First 100 Pages Of The Clear Mirror.

Nyam-Ochir asked me to write a short Foreword to the Clear Mirror (in English). I had already written about Zayain Khüree, the home monastery of the Zaya Pandita, for Guide To Locales Connected with the Life of Zanabazar, The First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia, so I had some information. Just as I was about to prepare the Foreword, however, I happened to met up with Dr. Krizstina Teleki of the Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, Hungary. She and her colleague Zsuzsa Majer (Ph.D.) are preparing a book about Zayain Khüree and they were able to provide  a lot more information about the monastery and the Zaya Pandita. So they deserve a lot of credit for the Foreword. 

Here is the Foreword:

I first visited Zayain Khüree in 1999 when I was doing research for my book Guidebook to Locales Connected with the Life of Zanabazar, First Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia.” The monastery, located in Arkhangai Aimag, on the northern edge of the town of Tsetserleg, 257 miles west of Ulaanbaatar, at one point had about twenty-five temples. All but five had been destroyed and three of the remaining buildings had been turned into a museum. I knew that Luvsanperenlei (1642-1715), the Zaya Pandita, was a disciple of Zanabazar’s but other than that I knew ver y little about him. (Do not confuse the Khalkh Zaya Pandita, Luvsanperenlei, with another well-known figure, the Oirat Zaya Pandita Namkhaijamtso [1599–1662].) By this time at least one of the monaster y’s temples had been reactivated, and there were some thirty-five monks in attendance. From them I was able to get a rough outline of the histor y of Zayain Khüree and the life of the Khalkh Zaya Pandita, author of the Clear Mirror. Since then researchers have unearthed a mass of valuable historical material relating to these topics. Still, much of the information about Zayain Khüree and the Zaya Pandita is contradictory, confusing, and riddled with lacunae. The following synopsis of the available information is mine alone and should be viewed with caution.

Zayain Khüree lies directly to the south of a huge granite massif known as Erdene (Precious) Bulgan Uul, which rises to a height of 7903 feet, over 2200 feet higher than the valley of the nearby Tamir River. According to local tradition the massif has nine different parts, or peaks, each named after one of the Nine Precious Stones and Metals; gold, silver, bronze, pearl, coral, turquoise, brass, copper, and lapis lazuli. The southernmost part of the massif is known as Altan (gold) Bulgan Uul.

According to local legend, rich local herdsman named Dugar constructed a temple for a lama named Sandui at the base of Altan Bulgan Uul in 1631, four years before the birth of Zanabazar. Sandui had studied in the monasteries of Tibet and was renowned for his intelligence and master y of various magical practices. Some written sources indicate, however, that the temple was founded by Danzan Toin, the second son of a local nobleman, Tümenkhen Sain Noyon, and named Sandui Dugan. The dugan, or temple, may have been named after a lama named Sandui, but the written record is unclear on this point. In either case, this temple was the foundation of what would eventually become Zayain Khüree, the home monaster y of Luvsanperenlei, the Zaya Pandita.

Luvsanperenlei was born in 1642, the Water Male Horse Year of the 11th Rabjung according to the Tibetan Calendar, at a place called Mukhar Khujirt in what is now Arkhangai Aimag. According to local legend, he was the son of an extremely poor herdsman. Some written accounts give the name of his parents as Suntar (or Suntor) and Orkhidai and note that he was the second of five children. Other historical accounts, however, maintain that he was the son of Tsesjav Khöndlön, himself the son of the nobleman Tümenkhen Sain Noyon mentioned above. If this is the case he would have been, according to the written sources, a member of the so-called Altan Urag (Golden Clan) of Chinggis Khan himself. 

Whatever his origins, it was soon apparent that he was an extremely gifted child. According to legend, local lamas recognised him at the age of three as a khuvilgaan, or reincarnation, although it would be many years before he would be recognized as the Zaya Pandita. According to written sources, at the age of three he also received his preliminar y ordinations from a lama known as Lodoijamts Khutagt who had studied in Tibet. By the age of five Luvsanperenlei was learning to read and write Tibetan and Mongolian and was also tr ying his hand at poetr y, painting, and sculpture.

Local informants claim that Luvsanperenlei initially went to Tibet with Zanabazar on the latter’s first trip there in 1649. If so, he would have been only seven or eight at the time. This trip seems unlikely, and may have been later accreted to his legend by followers who wanted to burnish his reputation. Historical sources indicate that he first met Zanabazar in 1653 at Erdene Zuu Monastery, where the Bogd Gegeen was hosting a convocation of Mongolian nobility. At this time Zanabazar accepted the eleven-year old boy as his student.

In 1660, when he was eighteen years old, Luvsanperenlei finally did go to Tibet, where he would stay for the next nineteen years. He received his getsel (novice) ordination from the 5th Dalai Lama in Lhasa and later traveled to Tashilhunpo Monaster y in Shigatse where he met with the 4th Panchen Lama. In 1778 the Dalai Lama recognized him as an incarnation of the Zaya Pandita and instructed him to return to Mongolia and spread Buddhism in the North. He returned home in 1779.

According to tradition, the first Zaya Pandita (Sanskrit jaya = “victory”; pandita = “great scholar”) was a disciple of the Sakyamuni Buddha (c. 560-480 b.c.). Four more incarnations appeared in India and then three in Tibet. Some historical sources state that the first Zaya Pandita to appear in Mongolia was Sain Noyon Khöndlön Tsökhür (1558-1640). He was the son of Onokh Üizen Noyon, who claimed to be a 29th generation descendant of Chinggis Khan. Onokh Üizen Noyon was an important personage who oversaw religious affairs in the seven Khalkh banners. He made a pilgrimage to Tibet and met with both the Third Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama. His son would have been well-placed to assume the role of Zaya Pandita in Mongolia. However, Sain Noyon Khöndlön Tsökhür is not accepted as the First Zaya Pandita by ever yone. Perhaps the fact that he was not a monk disqualified him in the eyes of some. Other accounts of the lineage leave him out altogether and name Luvsanperenlei as the ninth Zaya Pandita in the lineage and the first Zaya Pandita in Mongolia.

Upon his return to Mongolia Luvsanperenlei, now the Zaya Pandita, was enthroned as the head of Zayain Khüree, which by that time had five temples and 200 monks in attendance. He oversaw the construction of more temples and introduced many of the practices he had learned at Tashilhunpo Monaster y in Tibet. Then in 1688 the Oirat chieftain Galdan Bolshigt invaded Khalkh Mongolia. The First Bogd Gegeen Zanabazar, other important lamas, and much of the Khalkh nobility along with many of their followers were forced to flee to Inner Mongolia. The record is unclear, but apparently the Zaya Pandita left his monaster y and accompanied this mass migration. We do know that the Zaya Pandita was with Zanabazar at Doloonnuur in Inner Mongolia in 1691, when the Bogd Gegeen met with the Qing emperor Kangxi, and that he took part in the discussions which led to the Khalkh Mongols accepting the suzerainty of the Qing Dynasty. Zanabazar eventually moved to Beijing, where he waited on the Qing Emperor Kangxi. The Zaya Pandita’s movements at this time are uncertain, but apparently he stayed at monasteries in Doloonnuur for the next several years.

After the defeat of the Oirat Mongols in 1696 the Khalkh Mongols who had fled to Inner Mongolia returned to their native land. According to one account the Zaya Pandita was back at Zayain Khüree by 1696. Soon after his arrival he started construction of the Güden Süm, which would become his personal residence. (Local monks insist that the Güden Süm was built in the early 1680s. If this is the case, the temple may be just been enlarged or remodeled in 1696). In 1699 the Zaya Pandita traveled to Khökhkhot (Hohhot) in Inner Mongolia and founded a temple known as Buyaniig Iltgegch. He soon returned and resumed his role as leader of Zayain Khüree, a position he held until his death in 1715. His mummified remains, sitting in the Lotus position, were entombed in a stupa which can still be seen in the Güden Süm.

Zaya Pandita was a prolific writer. At the age of seventeen he composed a book called Bogdiin Zalbiral (Prayer of the Bogd) and he wrote another book while in Tibet. He went on to write numerous other works, including incense- offering texts and prayers to the local deities of several prominent mountains, including Otgontenger in present day Zavkhan Aimag. Perhaps his most famous work was the Clear Mirror. He reportedly began the Clear Mirror in 1682 while living at Zayain Khüree. He continued to work on it during his exile in Doloonnuur and didn’t finish it until 1702, after he had returned to Zayain Khüree. He originally wrote it in Tibetan, but during his lifetime his student Vro Rabjamba Gungaajamts, translated it into Mongolian and transcribed it using Mongolian vertical script. (See Sample Pages of the Original Manuscript) The current version of the Clear Mirror presented here in Cyrillic is a transliteration of the Mongolian vertical script version. The transliterator, P. Nyam-Ochir, has also examined the Tibetan language version. He notes that the Zaya Pandita worked with Vro Rabjamba Gungaajamts on the translation and that the Mongolian text contains addenda and elaborations to the Tibetan version which he believes were added by the Zaya Pandita himself. The Mongolian version is in eleven parts. The first five parts appear here. Hopefully the latter six parts will appear in due course. 

I first heard about Zaya Pandita’s Clear Mirror when I visited Zayain Khüree in 1999. One monk there said it was the Zaya Pandita’s greatest written work and one of the great works of Mongolian Buddhism. I asked if it had been translated into English. The monk laughed and said that not even a Cyrillic Mongolian version existed, making it difficult if not impossible for most Mongolians to read Zaya Pandita’s magnum opus. When G. Nyam-Ochir, a colleague of P. Nyam-Ochir’s, approached me about publishing the first five parts of the Clear Mirror in modern Mongolian I was only too happy to rectify this situation. I must thank G. Nyam-Ochir and P. Nyam-Ochir for giving me this opportunity to honor the memory of the First (or second) Khalkh Zaya Pandita by publishing his Clear Mirror
The front of the Monastery with Altan Bulgan Uul behind 
The front of the Monastery with Altan Bulgan Uul behind 
Güden Süm 
Another view of Güden Süm 
Another view of Güden Süm
Another view of Güden Süm with Altan Bulgan Uul behind
Winter Semchin Temple, directly in front of the Güden Süm
A portrait of the first Zaya Pandita painted in 1995 but said to be based on an original done in 1680
Clothes of the first Zaya Pandita
The stupa containing the sharil, or mummified body, of the first Zaya Pandita
Musical instruments from the time of the first Zaya Pandita
Togs Bayasgalant Buyaniig Delgeruulekh Khid, one of the temples now active
Unrestored ruins of temple
New stupa just to the west of the main part of the monastery
Galdan Zuu Temple of the hill behind the monastery
Wall painting in the Galdan Zuu Temple
Dalai Lama Spring
Just under half a mile to the northeast of the main museum and temple complex, along the bank of a small stream, is the so-called Dalai Lama Spring. Local monks insist rather adamantly that the Fourth Dalai Lama visited this small spring and lived for awhile in a ger set up next to it. The Fourth Dalai Lama, great-grandson of Altan Khan, was the only Mongolian Dalai Lama, but he was born and spent his early childhood in what is probably now Qinghai Province of China. After he was recognized as the Dalai Lama he went to Lhasa to study and apparently he spent the rest of his life in Tibet. He died in 1617, at the age of twenty-eight. There is no record of him coming to Mongolia, and since no temples existed at Tsetserleg before 1631 there would have been little reason for him to come to this area. The informants may have somehow confused the Fourth Dalai Lama with the Thirteenth Dalai Lama, who did in fact spend some time in the Zayain Khüree area while in exile from Tibet following the 1904 Younghusband Invasion. In any case, this spring does seem to be connected with the Dalai Lamas, since the 14th and current Dalai Lama, when he visited Mongolia in 1995, came to Tsetserleg and made a point of visiting this spring, or so claim the local monks.
The sixth Zaya Pandita and wife
Arkhangai Aimag, and particularly its monasteries, were reportedly a hotbed of anti-revolutionary fervor, and Zayain Khüree soon attracted the attention of the communist government. The Sixth Zaya Pandita was murdered by the communists in 1932 and eventually most of monastery, with the exception of the Guden Temple, the Semchin Temples, and some other small temples were leveled. The Guden Temple at one point served as a fire station but it was later converted into a small museum.

The seventh Zaya Pandita currently lives in Ulaanbaatar.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Abdullah Khan Tim | Carpets

I left the northern entrance to Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon and proceeded along Shah Restan Street 430 feet to the entrance of the Abdullah Khan Tim on the right. While a trading bazaar with several entrances, like Trade Dome #1 and Trade Dome #2, are called tok, a trade arcade with only one entrance is known as a tim. At one time there were at least six tim on this street, plus numerous other bazaars and caravanserais. The Abdullah Khan Tim, the only one now remaining, was built in 1577 by the Shaybinid Abdullah Khan. Once it was one of Bukhara’s most upscale trading venues, specializing in high-quality silk and wool goods. At least fifty small trading booths, many manned by Afghani traders, lined the interior. The center of the tim now serves as a spacious carpet store.
Shah Restan Street, with the entrance to the Abdullah Khan Tim right of center and the Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon (Trade Dome #2) just visible at the end of the street.
Entrance to Abdullah Khan Tim
Interior of Abdullah Khan Tim
Once Bukhara was known the length and breath of the Silk Road for its carpets, and the very term Bukharan Carpet eventually became synonymous with a high-quality—or at least pretending to be high quality—carpet made anywhere in Inner Asia. Now most carpets sold in Bukhara are machine-made in China. Yet the better stores like the Abdullah Khan Tim still stock a few carpets identifiable as Bukharans, although few—if any—are actually made in Bukhara (See Bukhara Carpets). These are instantly recognizable by anyone with even a modicum of knowledge about carpets.  The dealers are cagey about where they are made, but if I had to guess, I would say in Sarakhs, Turkmenistan. 
Bukharan Carpets in the Abdullah Khan Tim
Bukharan Carpets
Bukharan Carpets
 Detail of Bukharan Carpet
 Bukharan Carpets
  Detail of Bukharan Carpet

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Trade Dome #2

Backtracking a bit along the Shah Rud Canal from the Khodja Mosque and Gaukushan Madrassa Complex and then turning left and proceeding 510 feet along a row of old caravanserais I soon come to Trade Dome Number Two, or the Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon. This is the old Cap-Maker’s Bazaar where karakul and fur hats and embroidered skull caps were previously sold. The bazaar also served as a bookstore, with more or than twenty stalls selling rare and unusual books and manuscripts. This trade dome differs from the other two in having five portals instead of four leading to the large enclosed center.
Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon
Interior of Tok-i-Tilpak Furushon
In one corner of the interior is a niche holding the tomb of local holy man Ahmad I Paran. The tomb is currently overseen by an old graybeard who collects donations from local people passing through the bazaar. It is not clear if he has any official capacity or has just taken over the area on his own. With his enormous nose and traditional gown, cap, and boots, he appears to have stepped out of an nineteenth century Orientalist water color. He often shouts abuse at any strangers lingering too long by the tomb or attempting to take photos and if you attempt to take his photo he might just attack you with a broom. Now the dome hosts one large carpet store, a shop with fairly well done drawings and water colors, and the usual assortment of silk and woolen goods.
 Tomb of Ahmad I Paran
Tomb of Ahmad I Paran. Photo taken while the overseer was on a break.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Nogai Caravanserai | Gaukushan Madrassa | Khodja Mosque

Just south of the Tok-i-Saffaron, along the Shah Rud Canal, is the Nogai Caravanserai, built in the 1720s during the reign of the Shaybinids. This modest-sized caravanserai has a pleasant stone paved, tree-strewn courtyard surrounded by forty-five-odd room which once served as temporary quarters for traveling merchants  and caravan men. The rooms now serves as shops selling miniatures, puppets, and the usual array of silk and wool goods, including suzanis and wall-hangings. 
Shah Rud Canal in the foreqround; Nogai Caravanserai on the other side.
Front of Nogai Caravanserai
Nogai Caravanserai Courtyard (Enlargement for ames)
A few hundred yards down the Shah Rud Canal is the Khodja Mosque and Gaukushan Madrassa Complex. “Gaukushan” reportedly means “one who kills bulls”; in the early sixteenth century there was a slaughter-house on the site. In the years 1562–1566 a madrassa was built here; it soon became known as the Gaukushan Madrassa. In 1598 Juibar Sheikh Khodja Kalon built a Juma, or Friday mosque on the other side of the Shah Rud Canal from the madrassa.
Shah Rud Canal center; Khodja Mosque right, Gaukushan Madrassa left
Pond in front of the Complex (Enlargement for a mes)

Monday, September 3, 2012

Uzbekistan | Bukhara | Trade Dome #1

After returning from My Sojourn to Nurata I continued my peregrinations of Bukhara. I pretty much had the city to myself. From March 1 to March 12 I was the only guest in the Guesthouse Where I Was Staying, and as far I could tell I was the only Occidental tourist in the whole town. There were of course other tourists and pilgrims in Bukhara, but the vast majority of these seemed to be from other areas of Uzbekistan and from neighboring Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, with a smattering from other countries of the Asian-Islamic geosphere. The men from these all of these places were obvious from the fact that almost 100% of them wore black leather coats and jackets.

I had chosen to come to Bukhara in the off-season (as far as Occidental tourists were concerned) both to avoid the sweltering heat I had experienced during a Previous Trip to Bukhara in June and to take advantage of the cheaper off-season rates at the hotels. Having spent the winter in Ulaanbaatar, where the temperatures had gone done to 40 below zero Fº and where it still well below 0 Fº when I left I was not expecting the late winter/early spring weather in Bukhara to be a problem. Indeed, I had checked the temperatures in Bukhara every day for a week before I left and it was getting up into the 60s F. most afternoons. I had a down jacket in my portmanteau, but at the last moment, seeing these balmy temperatures, I had taken it out. 

Now the weather was not cooperating. It was below freezing every night and there was no central heating in the guesthouse where I was staying. I had to put on every piece of clothing I had brought along just to sit in the dining room for breakfast, and in the afternoons the temperatures outside remained in the low 30s F. Plus it was very windy and the air was surprisingly damp, all of which made it seem much colder than it was. I quickly discovered that the light jacket I had brought along was barely adequate. Still, I ventured out every morning and spent most of the day exploring the city on foot. 

From my guesthouse I would walk about 800 feet to the first of Bukhara’s three trade domes. Originally there were five of these trade domes at the intersections of the main commercial streets, all built in the 1580s during a resurgence of commerce on the old Silk Road. Today only three remain. The one nearest to my guesthouse is known locally as Trade Dome Number One, or the Tok-i-Sarrafon (a tok is a vaulted and domed bazaar). This was originally the Money-Changer’s Bazaar. Here congregated Armenians, Afghans, Punjabis and others who exchanged the wild array of notes and coins that flooded into Bukhara from the far reaches of the Silk Road for the bronze, silver, and gold coins that served as legal tender in the city’s markets. The Armenians, who were Christians, and the Punjabis, who were probably Hindus (although there could have been some Jains among them) also engaged in lending out money at interest, something with the Moslem money-changers were prohibited from doing by the strictures of their religion.
Trade Dome Number One, or the Tok-i-Sarrafon (Enlargement for a mes) 
Another entrance to Tok-i-Sarrafon
View of the Dome in Tok-i-Sarrafon.
The money-changers are long-gone (except for the black market money changers who now loiter around just outside the entrances to the dome). During the day the shops inside now sell the usual assortment of silk scarves, woolen tote bags, pillow cases, small carpets, and various souvenirs; one shop displays the work of a fairly good miniaturist. There is usually stuff laid out on the floor for sale also. This photo was taken in the morning before the shops were open. The dome itself stays open all night; there are no doors on the entrances.
View of two of the four entrances to Tok-i-Sarrafon (Enlargement for a mes)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Blue Moon

Last night, August 31, the Full Moon occurred at exactly 10:58 pm. It was also a Blue Moon. As noted below, I went into Occultation on August 2, the date of the previous Full Moon. I always go into Complete Occultation for the entire lunar cycle leading up to a Blue Moon. I am not at liberty to tell you how or where I spent my Occultation. The reasons for occultation are occult, so I cannot explain them here, but a little research on the internet will reveal the details to those you who are interested. Anyhow, today, September 1, the morning after the Blue Moon, I am coming out of Occultation. I am also back on the internet (it is amazing what has happened in the world since I last checked the news: Snooki Had a Baby and Anal Tattooing Is the Next Big Thing).

I must note, however, that this was a Blue Moon only by what might be called the Folkloric Definitionor, as Sky and Telescope Magazine calls it, the Trendy Definition. This is when two full moons occur in one month. There was a full moon on August 2, the date I went into Occultation, and on August 31, hence the second full moon is a Blue Moon. The phenomenon of two full moons in one month occurs once every 2.7 years on average. The next is on July 31, 2015. The relative rarity of the phenomenon is the source of the expression “once in a Blue Moon.” 

Some claim, however, that the more accurate definition is the so-called Farmer’s Almanac Rule, so named because it was made popular in the Farmer’s Almanac. This takes into account the solstices and equinoxes and the seasons of the year. Since there are four seasons and (usually) twelve Full Moons a year each season should have three full moons. Occasionally, however, one year will have thirteen full moons, leaving one season with four full moons. When this happens the third full moon of the season is a Blue Moon. Just to be on the safe side, I also observe Occultation in the lunar cycle leading up to a Blue Moon according to this definition. 

While on the subject of the Farmer’s Almanac, I can add parenthetically that my grandfather kept a copy on the stand by his easy chair at all times; this and the Bible were the only publications allowed in the house, although my grandmother would occasional sneak in a Saturday Evening Post (the old Post, before they started doing profiles of Kim Novak, Thelonious Monk, and other outré personages) or a Reader’s Digest. Also, do not confuse the Farmer’s Almanac with the Old Farmer’s Almanac.  This is like confusing a John Deere with a Farmall. But I do like the Old Farmer’s Almanac Moon Page. And their Full Moon Finder App for the iPhone is almost enough to make me want to buy on iPhone.

Although long a subject of occult speculation—according to legend the loathsome necrophiliac Abdul Alhazred was Consumed by a Fleshing-Eating Demon in the copperware market of Damascus on the morning after a Blue Moon in 738 AD.—“Blue Moon” entered the popular lexicon perhaps by means of the song “Blue Moon”, written in 1934 by Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart and covered by a host of performers, including Billie Holiday, Mel Torme, Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, and Cliff Richard:

Blue Moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Blue Moon
You know just what I was there for
You heard me saying a prayer for
Someone I really could care for . . .

Blue moon
Now I'm no longer alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own

Next up: The Autumn Equinox on September 22—I don’t have to tell you what that means!—then the  Harvest Moon on September 30, and then the best moon of the year—The Hunter’s Moon on October 30! Fasten your seat belts, people! It is going to be a Wild Ride to the Winter Solstice on December 21, when all Hell is expected to break loose . . . 

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Don Croner is in Occultation.