Friday, September 13, 2013

KharaKhorum, the ancient Mongolian capital

Our next stop was the Kharakhorum Valley, which was the location of the Mongolian capital for about 40 years, when Ogedei, son of Genghis, was Great Khan – this was about 1240 AD.
The Temples at Erdene Zuu

Due to its favorable weather, the proximity of the Orhan River which runs all year, and abundant grazing lands, it has been a significant site of many cultures beginning about 200 BC.  We stayed in a ger camp there for two nights, as there were several places to visit: Erdene Zuu, a Buddhist temple complex from the 1600’s and an old Turkic site, Shankh Hiid Monastery, from before that time. 
The Monastery at Erdene Zuu
Erdene Zuu was particularly magical. 

Part of the wall surrounding the
Temple Complex
The Gates of Erdene Zuu
Situated near the  old capital of KharaKhorum, I could imagine this complex in the 12th Century, surrounded by a wall containing 108 stupas, rising up suddenly after seeing just endless steppe.  It contained a monastery and several temples from various periods and of different styles; one large temple is still very active and we were fortunate to witness another puja, where several young monks were particularly enthusiastic and vocal, and chanting from memory!

Back at the ger camp, we were treated to another performance on the horse head fiddle, the most highly-revered traditional Mongolian instrument, as a small local group stopped by with native instruments and costumes, and shared some traditional Mongolian music. This visit followed on a meeting in UB with the lead player of the Mongolia Folk Orchestra where we got a very close visit with a horse fiddle.  A fretless two stringed cello like instrument that is bowed like a cello but fretted with knuckles beneath the string.  Quite a challenging instrument to play given the sounds it produces -- conjuring the music of the horses running across the sea of grass.

The Horse Fiddle Master
We also spent a couple of relaxed afternoons on the ger camp restaurant porch writing our even longer journals, with the camp dog at our feet, who took a shine
the Generalissimo
to us because we paid attention to her.  She, like many of her compatriots, was the camp general, who kept other dogs and wild animals out of the camp – it was hard to say goodbye to her!
The Ger along the River Orhon at dawn

1 comment:

Christy Davis said...

It is so cool to be imagining you guys in this otherworldly place! Thanks for the colorful stories, your descriptions of people and places are wonderful. Stay safe and we are relishing this chance to armchair travel with you, xoxo c@r