Erdene Zuu Monastery
Erdene Zuu Monastery is located in the area of the ancient Mongol capital region called Karakorum. It is about 350 kilometers west of Ulaan Bataar. The Erdene Zuu Monastery was built in 1585 by Abtai Sain Khan. The monastery was damaged by war in the 1680s. But in the 1700s, it was rebuilt. There were once 62 temples inside by the late 1800s before the Qing Empire fell. But there was a large Communist persecution of religion in Mongolia, and in 1939 the monastery complex was destroyed. Hundreds of monasteries in Mongolia were destroyed and over ten thousand monks were killed. What remains is a wall enclosing a large space on an empty steppe area and three small temples. The temples and remaining stupas are actually quite large and ornate, so originally, the complex must have been quite a sight with bigger richly crafted buildings. The area became a museum in 1947. It is said that some monks and others risked their lives to hide some Buddhist religious artwork and scriptures. What is striking about the area of the old complex is how empty the landscape is. Today, Erdene Zuu is an active Buddhist monastery as well as a museum that is open to tourists.