Tourist Map (22KB); Mongolia Destinations (main page)
In 1220 Genghis Khan decided to build the capital city named Karakorum in the center of his Mongolian Empire. Building was completed by his son, Ogedai Khan, after Genghis' death, but Karakorum served as the capital for only 40 years before Kublai Khan moved it to what is now Beijing. Following the move, and the subsequent collapse of the Mongolian empire, Karakorum was abandoned and then later destroyed by hordes of Manchurian soldiers. Whatever was left was used to help build the Erdene Zuu Monastery in the 16th century, which itself was badly destroyed during the Stalinist purges in 1930s. The modern town of Kharkhorin was built on the same spot later. Erdene Zuu Monastery (Hundred Treasures) was the first center of Lamaism in Mongolia. The monastery was started in 1586 but not entirely finished until 300 years later. It has between 60 and 100 temples, about 300 gers set up inside the walls and, at its height, up to 1000 monks in residence. Like Karakorum, the monastery was abandoned and then vandalised by invading Manchurians. All but 3 of the temples in Erdene Zuu were destroyed during Soviet period. The monastery remained closed until 1965 when it was permitted to reopen as a museum, but not as a place of worship. Only with the collapse of communism did the monastery become active again. Today it retains much of its former glory. Enclosed in an immense walled compound, the 3 temples within are dedicated to the 3 stages of Buddha's life: as a child, adolescent and adult. The main, central temple is called the Zuu of Buddha and has statues of Buddha as a child. Outside the monastery walls are 2 'turtle rocks'. Four of these once marked the boundaries of ancient Karakorum capital. The modern Kharkhorin town is located 370km (230mi) south-west of Ulaanbaatar (or Ulan Bator) (present capital of Mongolia). Between July and September there are flights between the cities several times a week. Year-round, buses make the 7-8 hour trip just as often.