Monasteries and temples in Mongolia

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Geser Sum
Utvtj vob

Horoscope temple and Buddhist High school.

According to the decree of the Emperor of Chin Dynasty several monasteries of Geser were built in the beginning of 18th century in Mongolia (In Khovd, Zavkhan aimags and Ulaanbaatar). These Geser monasteries or temples are dedicated to Guandi, (Guan Yu Chan) is the honorary name of the Chinese army leader Guan-Ui. He was a famous military chief of the period of 3-rd century of China. A memorial chapel dedicated to him is called Guan-Dimio.

Guve Zakhar, a worshipper of the Blue religion (Chinese Taoist Buddhism) built this particular Geser sum, also known as West Geser Sum, in 1919-1920. It is located in the central part of Ulaanbaatar, on the south side of the hill with Dasgan Ovoo. He collected donations from Chinese merchants and business people, who lived in Ikh Khuree (as Ulaanbaatar was known in these days).

Chinese Taoist Buddhism is one of the schools of Buddhism that was introduced to China in the fifth century. The Temple used to organize masked shows on stilts starting on Lunar New Year and lasting for 15 days. The play was organized in every city or village where Guandi was praised.

In the right and left sides of the main entrance there were two similar temples for the Bell and Drum. These instruments were used to announce the services and time. In the Main temple there were a 3-meter high statue of the sitting Guandi alongside his friends Tsaschikher and Nanjinshuumar (each 2-meter high statues of standing man). In 1930 two smaller buildings (annexes) were built at the both sides of the Main temple. At the backside of the Main temple there was built a small annexe for Tara (Dari-Ekhi). These annexes were decorated with scenes of the Tansan-lama folk-tales. At the left and right sides of in front of the Main temple there are two temples of Worshipping and Donations. In these buildings there were names of people, who have given donations for the construction of Geser sum. The front temple was the Temple of Horses. At the both sides of the entrance of the temple there were statues of red and white horses of Guandi. These temples were built in 1926-1929.

Behind the Main Temple there were built two school buildings in 1932, where Guve Zakhar was teaching until in 1933 Geser Sum was confiscated by the government.
In 1944-1959 Song and Dance Ensemble of Border Troops used in Geser-sum. In 1960-1970 this monastery was used as library and sutra (books) store house of Gandan-monastery.

In 1960 Board for Religious Affairs has built own office and small boiler-house in the backside of the Main temple and has repaired the house of Guve- Zakhar. In 1966 Danzan-lama of Gandan monastery has made a statue of Geser who was riding the horse and placed it in the Main-temple. Also there was a statue of Taschikher a military man and Rogmogua, a wife of Geser.

According resolution of Ulaanbaatar city administration Geser-sum was given to the Board for Restoration of Cultural and Historical Monuments in 1975. This Board has made restoration and repair works on Geser sum and administration, design group, photo-laboratory, blacksmith, woodwork and ceramic items workshops were in the temples. In 1991 Geser sum was given to a secondary school of Buddhism.

Another source says it used to be a Chinese Chan Buddhist Gao-Si-La temple. Because of their blue robes they were referred to as the blue religion. The name Gao-Si-La was confused by the Mongolian with Gesar, which would explain the current name.

Nowadays there are also a shop and a guanz on the compound, where the menu includes khuushuur and buuz. There are no resident monks at Geser Sum, the core activity at the monastery is the teaching of young lama´s and receiving consult on astrology or health.  

Bat Erdene is one of the teachers at Geser Sum. On Monday October 15 2001 I witnessed one of his classes. There were two groups of around ten students in two classrooms. He told me about 40% of the students come from Ulaanbaatar and the rest come from the countryside. The ones from the countryside probably life with some of their relatives here in the city, while the other ones live at their homes. 

World Monuments Fund

Geser Sum has been listed as one of the 100 most endagered sites in 2004.

The following text was taking fro their listing at:

Founded in the late nineteenth century during the time of Manchu dominance over Mongolia, the Geser Sum Monastery was built with donations from Chinese merchants. As a result, planning of the complex is stylistically Chinese, but the architecture and sculpture identify the site as a unique fusion of elements of Mongolian Buddhism, indigenous shamanism, Chinese Buddhism, and Taoism. Geser Sum is the only monastery and associated sacred landscape as yet unaffected by urban development in the capital. This fusion of religious and cultural traditions reflects the larger history of Mongolia as a crossroads of differing cultures. As the government took possession of Geser Sum in 1933, and used it for the Border Army Song and Dance Ensemble, it escaped demolition during the suppression of the Buddhist monasteries and later became a functioning temple again after the cessation of communist rule in 1990. However, lack of maintenance, theft, and the threat of nearby development have negatively affected the site. A partnership between the post-communist government and the Buddhist community has led to a new initiative to restore Geser Sum. While the planning phase of the project, including a training program for Mongolians, has been financially supported by the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, the Getty Grant Program, and the World Bank, the project has managed to raise only limited funds to carry out actual restoration.


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