Category Archives: Mongolia

Bodhisattva statue project symbolizes Mongolia’s Buddhist heritage

The Grand Maitreya Project statue manufacturing process. Photo via The Grand Maitreya Project on Facebook.

The Grand Maitreya Project statue manufacturing process. Photo via The Grand Maitreya Project on Facebook.

Lion’s Roar

A 177-foot-tall statue of the standing Maitreya Bodhisattva will be built in Mongolia under the spiritual direction of the Dalai Lama. The project is set to be completed by 2018 and the builders, the Grand Maitreya Project, are currently holding a funding campaign to help finish its construction.

The project aims to rebuild Mongolia’s ancient culture and history of Tibetan Buddhism, starting with the statue of the bodhisattva of lovingkindness, according to the project’s website. The statue is meant to act as a beacon of peace, following Mongolia’s complicated history of communist occupation and anti-Buddhist campaigns.

The occupation of the country began in the 1920s and was followed by a revolution from soviet communists. During this time, many Mongolian people became separated from their Buddhist heritage, and many of the country’s ancient monasteries and Maitreya statues were destroyed. By 1939 only one monastery was left standing. Following a peaceful protest in 1990, occupying forces retreated and the country re-gained its spiritual freedom.

The Grand Maitreya Project itself is indicative of a cultural divide finally being bridged. A stupa will be connected to the statue, housing interior teaching and meditation levels, holy relics and other artifacts. The Dalai Lama has selected sacred relics of the Buddha from his personal collection to be enshrined inside the Maitreya statue. Continue reading

Book Review of Mongolian Buddhist Art

Mongolian Buddhist Art: Masterpieces from the Museums of Mongolia. Edited by Zara Fleming and J. Lkhagvademchig Shastri.Chicago: Serindia Publications, 2011. Pp. 1032. ISBN 10: 1932476377; ISBN 13: 978-1932476378.
Reviewed by Uranchimeg Tsultemin, University of California, Berkeley

Link to PDF at

Seven gilded Buddhist deity stolen from Erdenezuu Museum

Ulan Bator Post
20 May 2014

Seven gilded Buddhist deity and several other religious artifacts were stolen on Monday night from the Museum of Erdenezuu Monastery in Kharkhorin soum of Uvurkhangai Province.

Police inspectors, inspection agencies, and the Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism are currently working at the museum after receiving a report from the General Police Department.

Erdenezuu Museum has an alarm installed at every glass display and a 24/7 security guards, reported officials.

Three of the deity are masterpieces of finest handicrafts dating back to the 17th century and are considered unparalleled artifacts of Mongolia.

A source from the museum said, “Gilded Manjusri, Duinhor, Jugdernamjil and four gilded Maitreya were stolen. We are not sure how the thieves sneaked through and got out of the museum without being noticed by the guards.”

All law enforcement organizations including border and customs departments were notified of the case, and are working to find the stolen artifacts.


The All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide

downloadThe All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide
by Karl Debreczeny, Elena Pakhoutova, Christian Luczanits, Jan Van Alphen

Hardcover: 160 pages
Publisher: Rubin Museum of Art (January 1, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 908586643X
ISBN-13: 978-9085866435
Product Dimensions: 11.4 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches

This book is the culmination of a long story that began with the acquisition of fifty-four paintings from an elderly priest, who had served in a Belgian mission in Inner Mongolia in the 1920s, by the Ethnographic Museum of Antwerp in 1977.

The All-Knowing Buddha: A Secret Guide focuses on this extremely rare group of richly-detailed album leaves which illustrate the visualization practice of Sarvavid Vairocana, the All-Knowing Buddha. This beautifully illustrated step-by-step visual guide provides a unique glimpse into Tibetan Buddhist meditation and ritual, normally instruction restricted to oral transmission by a teacher to his initiated disciple. These practices are usually not meant to be depicted and this is one of the only albums known to exist in which the meditative visualization process is spelled out visually. While the ritual narrative of these unusual paintings is Tibetan Buddhist in content they are expressed in a vivid Chinese aesthetic, a unique product of cultural translation through its Mongolian patrons. The album exemplifies rich patterns of cross-cultural exchange that characterized the Qing Empire.

Three essays by Rubin Museum curators explore different aspects of Vairocana and contextualize the album, illustrated with approximately twenty-five images, followed by the leaves themselves which are featured in fifty-four full-page plates with accompanying commentary on their ritual and artistic content.

Labour of love: restoring the sacred, 15th-century art of Mustang’s monasteries
03 NOVEMBER 2013

At an altitude above 3,800 metres in the Himalayas, just inside Nepal’s border with Tibet, more than 30 locally trained inhabitants are busy restoring Buddhist murals inside monasteries which date back to the 15th century.

The restoration project is being carried out in the walled city of  Lo Manthang, which used to serve as the capital of the once -forbidden kingdom of Mustang.

Workers from Mustang’s Lobas tribe paint the walls of the temples where villagers perform daily prayers in front of statues of the Buddha and other Tibetan deities. Continue reading

Endangered Archives Programme: Rare photographic negatives from Mongolia

01 Nov 2013

The Endangered Archives Programme at the British Library is pleased to
announce the addition of a new catalogue to our web pages. The
catalogue gives details of material copied by the project EAP264:
Preservation through digitisation of rare photographic negatives from

This project digitised glass plate negatives, the majority of which
contain images taken between 1921 and 1945 and have never been printed.
The collection covers a wide range of topics.

More information about the project can be found here:

The catalogue is available on the Endangered Archives Programme web site

For more information about the Endangered Archives Programme please
visit and our blog

Indiegogo Funding Request: Mongolia’s Buddhist Monasteries Project


Uncovering the past, building the future

Help us publish a treasure trove of data on historic Buddhist temple sites and share the stories of Mongolia’s elders, preserving a rich cultural past and encouraging young Mongolian citizens to embrace their heritage. Continue reading

Artists to undertake Himalayan journey in footsteps of Padmasambhava

6 August, 2013

TigersNest The Tiger’s Nest hermitage in Bhutan, one of the many Himalayan power spots associated with Padmasambhava.

On September 7, a team of American artists will begin a seven-week journey of creative discovery across Himalayan Asia, tracing the life and enduring resonance of Padmasambhava, the “Lotus-born” master who is said to have tamed the wild Asian frontiers, blazing the trail for the region’s enduring Buddhist way of life more than 1,200 years ago.

Entitled “Triptych Journey,” the project’s newly revamped website will allow you to follow in real time the poetry, visual artistry, film clips, and dance inspired by the power spots associated with Padmasambhava in Mongolia, Bhutan, Nepal, and India. Continue reading

Exhibition showcases the tremendous aesthetic and material diversity of prayer beads from across Asia

Art Daily
3 August, 2013

Prayer Coral Prayer Beads, Tibet; 19th century coral, turquoise, jade, dzi, clay and silk; Rubin Museum of Art; Gift of Anne Breckenridge Dorsey; C2012.8.

NEW YORK, NY.- Created from precious and semi-precious stones, ivory, wood, seeds, and bone, the prayer beads explored in the Rubin Museum’s exhibition, Count Your Blessings: The Art of Prayer Beads in Asia, exemplify the aesthetic and material diversity and devotional importance of these objects from across Buddhist Asia. Opened on August 2, 2013, the exhibition examines the origins, uses, and significance of prayer beads in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet, Bhutan, Mongolia, China, Korea, Japan, and Burma. The nearly 80 featured sets of prayer beads come predominantly from the private collection of Anne Dorsey, who gathered them over 20 years while traveling throughout Asia looking for rare and complex examples—approximately 40 of the works on display have been given to the Museum’s permanent collection.

On view through March 24, 2014, the exhibition delves into the histories and varied uses of prayer beads, emphasizing how their arrangement, complexity, materiality, and visual attributes reference their symbolic meaning, practical use, or status. The show addresses the importance of the structure and number of beads in a set to their function in religious practice. Count Your Blessings also includes a few select examples of prayer beads from the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu traditions to help orient audiences and provide parallels with more familiar objects of similar purpose, such as rosaries. Tibetan scroll paintings or thangkas depicting prayer beads as the prominent attributes of the subjects lend an additional visual experience to the exhibition of predominantly three-dimensional objects.

“Count Your Blessings provides us with an opportunity to explore shared cultural approaches to the use of prayer beads in personal devotional practices, chanting, recitation of mantras, and as signs of status, and to highlight their enduring significance from centuries ago to the present day,” said Rubin Museum Curator Elena Pakhoutova. “Prayer beads find expression outside of their immediate cultural context and play a role in our contemporary existence. We are excited to help our diverse audiences find connections between the prayer beads’ traditional meanings and their own lives, and to share the exquisite beauty in their creation.”

The installation will feature interactive components, including a touch screen that will show photographs of contemporary practitioners throughout Tibetan areas of the Himalayas using prayer beads. Various examples of prayer beads made of different materials will allow visitors to experience them in the traditional way, as they would be by Buddhist practitioners. Visitors will also be able to view and read descriptions of select and most representative prayer beads on their hand-held devices and listen to a podcast as well as an audio tour.

Highlights from the exhibition, include:
• A set of turquoise prayer beads from 19th-century Tibet made of turquoise, bone, and silver. Turquoise, considered a jewel and highly regarded by Tibetans, is one of the best materials for prayer beads. Together with beads made of carved bone, which serve as separators, the set is suitable for wrathful deity practices. Its materials denote the high status of its owner. It once belonged to a princess of Derge, in eastern Tibet. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.
• Rudraksha prayer beads from 19th-century Tibet made of rudraksha, silver, ivory, amber, agate, carnelian, turquoise, and two copper ear picks. Dried berry of the rudraksha tree is named after the wrathful god Rudra, a manifestation of Shiva. In Buddhism, they are employed in the mantra recitations of wrathful deity practices. Rudraksha, the “eye of Rudra/Shiva”, is said to be especially associated with the Ancient (Nyingma) Tibetan Buddhist tradition. The lore of the legendary Indian master Padmasambhava’s visit to Tibet tells a story of his “rosary,” made of rare six-lobed rudrakshabeads that broke. When they were picked up, a few of the beads remained on the ground, and these took root, becoming the source of six-lobed beads treasured by Tibetans. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.
• Wooden prayer beads with six large separator beads from 19th–20th-century Japan. This unusual set consists of 540 beads and belongs to the Japanese Shingon Buddhist School. Six large separator beads have hollowed out interiors and glass “windows” with bronze frames, which contain small wooden sculptures of deities identified by inscriptions.
• A pressed incense hand “rosary” from 20th-century China made of pressed incense, rose quartz, and kingfisher feather. This hand rosary set exemplifies the combination of the aesthetic, medicinal, and symbolic attributes ascribed to the beads. The pressed incense wrapped in kingfisher feathers would emit a faint fragrance while handled, as it would be heated by the warmth of the fingers. The kingfisher bird is a traditional Chinese symbol of well-being and longevity. The set is among those given to the Museum by Anne Dorsey.


Mongolia: Preservation Challenges Confront Trove of Buddhist Texts

February 13, 2013
Pearly Jacob Mongolia

mongolia text

A staff worker shows off some of the manuscripts crowding the storage rooms at the National Library of Mongolia. With limited storage space, library staff make best use of available room, minding the fragile state of the documents as best they can. (Photo: Pearly Jacob)

The National Library in Ulaanbataar has become an invaluable repository for Buddhist manuscripts in a region where many originals were destroyed under communist rule. Among the highlights is a collection of Sanskrit verses by Nagarjuna, a 2nd-century Indian Buddhist philosopher. But the museum has also had trouble maintaining and cataloguing the collection.

Scholars believe it to be the world’s largest treasury of ancient Buddhist texts. The sheer immensity of the collection held in the National Library of Mongolia has prevented a proper tally to date. Continue reading