Choijin Lama Temple Museum
The Choijin Lama Temple Museum is an architectural masterpiece of the 19th to 20th centuries. The monastery was erected by Mongolian architects. The temple was built between 1904 and 1908 by order of the 8th Bogd Khaan Javzandamba (the theocratic ruler of Mongolia) and dedicated to his brother Lama Luvsankhaidav. The Museum has a fine collection of woodcarvings, appliques, embroideries and sculptures, dated as early as the 17th century.
The museum contains precious examples of Buddhist art including the paintings by Ts. Zanabazar, a renowned religious reformer and great artisan of 17th century as well as colorful masks for Tsam Dance ceremony embroidered with corals, a bronze statue of deities in different poses, appliques and many other artifacts.
This monastery is also known as the Museum of Religion. It was the home of Luvsankhaidav Choijin Lama (‘Choijin’ is an honorary title given to the state oracle), the brother of the Bogd Khaan. The construction of the monastery commenced in 1904 and was completed four years later. It was closed in 1938 and probably would have been demolished but it was saved as a museum in 1942 to demonstrate the ‘feudal’ ways of the past. Although religious freedom in Mongolia recommenced in 1990, this monastery is no longer an active place of worship and will probably remain a museum.
There are five temples within the grounds. As you enter, the first temple you see is the Maharaja Sum/Temple. The main temple features statues of Sakyamuni (the historical Buddha), Choijin Lama and Baltung Choimba (the teacher of the Bogd Khaan), whose mummified remains are inside the statue. There are also some fine scroll paintings and some of the best Tsam religious dance masks in the country. The gongkhang (protector chapel) behind the main hall contains the oracle’s throne and a magnificent statue ofyab-yiim (mystic sexual union).
The other temples are: Zuu Sum, dedicated to Sakyamuni; Yadam Sum, which contains wooden and bronze statues of various deities some created by the famous Mongolian sculptor Zanabazar; and Amgalan Sum, containing a self-portrait of the great Zanabazar himself and a small stupa apparently brought to Ulaanbaatar by Zanabazar from Tibet.