Friday, December 25, 2009

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Magical Moment | Nermel Arkhi Khöldönö

This morning at 7:34 a.m we reached that Magical Moment when the Fahrenheit and Celsius temperature scales coincide. It was Minus 40 degrees according to both. 
As you know, the Winter Solstice occurred on December 21-22 (December 22, 1:47 a.m. in Ulaan Baatar), marking the beginning of Winter. In Mongolia the Winter Solstice also marked the beginning of the so-called Nine-Nines: Nine periods of nine days each, each period marked by some description of winter weather. The first of the Nine-Day periods is Nermel Arkhi Khöldönö, the time when normally distilled Mongolian arkhi (vodka) freezes. It certainly would have frozen last Night. The next Nine-Day Period starts on December 31. Stayed tuned for updates.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Winter Solstice | 2009-2012

You are no doubt aware that the Winter Solstice is rapidly approaching. Here in Ulaan Baatar the solstice occurs at exactly 1:47 am on the 22nd. I am not yet quite sure what I will do that night, but if you see a light flickering on the top of Öndör Gegeenii Uul do not be alarmed, it is just me huddling around a fire (the temperatures have been going down to minus 35ºF / -37ºC at night). I do not know what you have planned for the Solstice, but as I alway do on these occasions I am asking people to refrain from making any Animal or Human Sacrifices.

As can be seen here the Waxing Crescent Moon sneaks by Jupiter around the Solstice. As an added bonus you should be able to see the usually elusive Mercury if you go out in the early hours of the evening after sunset.
Jupiter and the Waxing Crescent Moon should be putting on quite a show on the night of the Winter Solstice. Graphics courtesy of Sky & Telescope.
In case you were wondering it is exactly 1095 days, 17 hours, 25 minutes and 14 seconds from the 2009 Winter Solstice to the 2012 Winter Solstice (if you are keeping track that is 94,670,714 seconds), when as many people suspect the World is going to end. Indeed, the movie 2012 recently opened here in Ulaan Baatar, in English with Mongolian subtitles. I know of at least one company whose employees went en masse to see the show. Apparently they are working the date into their business plan. One of these people, who is also a professor at the Mongolian National University, opined that the movie was based on “scientific data.” Since I have not seen the movie I will not comment on that.

There are several Shambhalists here in Ulaan Baatar who are predicting that the Final War between the Forces of Shambhala and the Barbarians will also begin in 2012. They swear up and down that this has nothing to do with the whole Mayan Calendar Business. According to these sources, the signal in our three-dimensional world that the War would begin in the near future was the Destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in March of 2001. These same sources note that Chingis Khan, after invading Afghanistan, left a detachment of troops in the Bamiyan area to protect the Bamiyan Buddhas. The descendants of these people, known as Hazaras, still live in the region. Subjected to intense persecution by the Taliban, they were unable to fulfill their duty and the Bamiyan Buddhas were destroyed.
Bamiyan Valley, with the Buddha niche visible in the cliffs to the left
Bamiyan Buddha before destruction by the TalibanBamiyan Buddha niche after destruction of the statue
Keep in mind that even if the Shambhala War does begin in 2012 we will probably not notice any immediate effects in our three-dimensional world. The War will be fought in another dimension, and subsequent events in our mundane world will be a mere shadow play of a much vaster cosmic conflict.

See Stars Over Washington for the inevitable connection between the Winter Solstice and the continuing war in Afghanistan.

By the way, the first person from the Occident ever to see the Bamiyan Buddhas was the eccentric Hungarian Wanderer-Scholar Csoma de Koros, who is also responsible for introducing the Shambhala Mythologem into the Occidental World.

I have made my own preparations for 2012, come what may. I have hidden 15 kilos of Puerh Tea in a cave on Bogd Khan Mountain, the location known only to myself and one other person. The tea was five years old when I hid it and so will be ten years old in 2012. If the world does end I intend to enjoy the spectacle while sipping suitably aged Puerh tea. If the world does not end the tea should serve as a valuable hedge against inflation and the rapidly devaluing dollar.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Mongolia | Ulaan Baatar | Book Launch

Wandered by one of Ulaan Baatar’s Notoriously Louche Coffee Houses for the Big Book Launch of Carl Robinson’s monumental Mongolia: Nomad Empire of the Eternal Blue Sky, which should very quickly become the Alpha and Omega of guidebooks to Mongolia. Normally I would never darken the door of a den of coffee swillers, being strictly a Tea Man myself, but I was anxious to meet Mr. Robinson, with whom I have communicated extensively via the internet but never before had the pleasure of meeting in person.

I contributed one story—The Abduction of the Eight Bogd Gegeen—and a dozen or so photos to this magnificently produced tome. One of the photos was a full page spread of my pal Zevgee, with whom I have done a dozen or so Horse and Camel Trips, sitting in front of the ovoo on the top of Burkhan Khaldun Mountain.
Zevgee at the summit of Burkhan Khaldun. This is not the photo in the book. If you want to see that photo Buy The Book.
Zevgee’s Better Half Tümen Ölzii (right) and the marrow-meltingly gorgeous to say nothing of ever-charming and extremely intelligent Oyuna (since this photo was taken she has become a lawyer, but that does not necessarily make her a bad person) at the lake near the base of Burkhan Khaldun.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Balsamic Moon

The Balsamic Moon begins today, December 13. As you probably know, the Balsamic Moon is the Moon phase starting three, or sometimes four, days before a New Moon. The New Moon this month occurs on the 16th at 8:02 p.m. local time.
The Balsamic Moon is the perfect time to stir out uncertainty and confusion because it is the time for psychic clearing. Wishes are more readily fulfilled as the way is cleared to feeling core need. A wish made at the Balsamic Moon is more likely to come true because needs are felt more deeply now. The more deeply a need is felt, the more invocative energy goes into the Moon cycle and the more likely this need will be met. Fulfillment comes at Full Moon in response to what is seeded at the New. Seed intentions may be more consciously sown when the Crescent Moon appears to be beginning.
The Balsamic Moon Rises today at 5:18 a.m. local time (check for Moon Rise In Your Area), just at the time I am usually completing my morning orisons, which is especially auspicious.

As I predicted, the Last Moon Cycle Was A Dilly. This Moon Cycle, with the Full Moon falling, by coincidence, on January 1 this year, should be a Doozie, which is an upgrade from a Dilly. Expect a lot of weird stuff to happen on New Year’s Eve and the next day! (I mean, of course, weirder than usual for New Year’s Eve and Day.)

By the way, Orion, the Hunter, is currently presenting a spectacular sight in the evening sky to the southeast. Before slouching off into the drinking dens and Louche Coffee Houses where most of you (you know who you are, so it’s no use trying to deny it!) spend your evenings in dissipation take a moment to glance up and enjoy this awesome display.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Turkey | Silk Road | Chintamani | Carpets

Earlier I speculated on how the Shambhala Mythologem may have Arrived in Istanbul Via the Silk Road. Now the carpet cognoscente at the scintillatingly entertaining and informative Tea and Carpets Blog are pointing out what may be Buddhist influences in Ottoman Court Carpets:
Some of the most striking carpets of the Ottoman era are as white as a painter’s canvas and covered with finely drawn, mysterious icons. The never-changing symbols repeat in array after array, like waves building strength, creating a powerful, mesmerizing effect The mysterious icons are the “chintamani,” three balls hovering over a pair of cloud-like wavy lines. And for much of the 16th and 17th centuries, they held a special fascination for Ottoman court artists.

In carpet literature, the design is often said to derive from a Buddhist emblem. The word chintamani itself comes from Sanskrit and in Buddhist philosophy signifies a treasure ball or wish-granting jewel. A Buddhist background for the design is an appealing argument because it also recalls the distant past of the Turkic tribes who migrated to Anatolia from Central Asia and created the succession of dynasties that culminated in the Ottoman Empire.
A Chintamani Carpet from the Ottoman Era

According to one definition of Chintamani:
Cintamani, also spelled as Chintamani (or the Chintamani Stone), is a wish-fulfilling jewel within both Hindu and Buddhist traditions. In Buddhism it is held by the bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Ksitigarbha. It is also seen carried upon the back of the Lung ta (wind horse). Within Hinduism it is connected with the gods, Vishnu and Ganesha.
The Chintamani Symbol is of course also connected with notorious Shambhalist Nicholas Roerich.
Three circle motif in Roerich’s painting “Oriflamma”
Chintamani motif in Roerich’s painting “Sign of Chintamani”
The connection between the Sufis of Istanbul and Shambhala is still under investigation. In the meantime, since The Ottomans are Back might we soon see a resurgence of Chintamani Carpets?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Mongolia | Khovd Aimag | Dambijantsan | Khoit Tsenkher Cave

While camped on the Dund Tsenger Gol the Ja Lama a.k.a. Dambijantsan may also have spent some time at Khoid Tsenkher Agui (agui = cave), located in the valley of the Khoid Tsengker Gol, about fifteen miles west of the Dund Tsenger Gol camp.
Entrance to Khoit Tsenkher Cave, Center
This is one of the largest caves in Mongolia, with a main chamber at least eighty-five feet high. A rock fall in 1995 blocked off one long extension in the cave, but several smaller galleries leading off from the main chamber still remain.
Entrance to Khoit Tsenkher CaveLooking out the main entrance
It was reportedly inhabited by Stone Age people during the Upper Paleolithic, 10,000 to 40,000 years old. The cave is famous for its rock paintings, which have been dated to 17,000–22,000 years ago. Done with light pink and red-brown ochre pigments, the paintings depict Paleolithic fauna such as mammoths and ostriches which are no longer found in the area, as well as camels, ibex, deer, and other more familiar animals. Unfortunately many of the drawings have now been defaced or covered with dust and are no longer visible.
The main cavern in the cave
Professor Baasankhüü standing on the floor of the main cavern in the cave
I have visited this cave several times. On my last visit in 2007 my jeep driver related that two years before he had served as a driver for a prominent Tibetan lama from Sichuan Province in China. Unfortunately he could not remember the lama’s name. The lama was interested in various historical sites, including Tögrögiin Khüree in the current town of Mankhan. They also visited Khoid Tsenkher Agui. While at the cave the lama mentioned that the famous magician Dambijantsan had once meditated in the cave and had acquired some kind of special powers there. The jeep driver said that he himself had not mentioned Dambijantsan and it did not occur to him at the time to ask the lama how he know about him, nor did he think to ask about the nature of the powers Dambijantsan had supposedly acquired there. Only later did it strike him as odd that a Tibetan lama from China would know about Dambijantsan.
Drawing in the cave
Detail of above drawing in the cave
Drawing in the caveDrawing in the cave
In this connection it is worth mentioning that Professor Baasankhüü, who was with me on my 2007 trip to the cave, had visited the cave in 2006 with controversial Russian researcher of paranormal phenomena Ernest Muldashev. After conducting various investigation in the cave Muldashev announced that it was infested with spirit entities—“light bodies”, or gerlen bie in Mongolian—identical to those he had previously discovered in caves in Tibet. These Lovecraftian Entities, Muldashev claims, existed before the appearance of humans on this earth and will be instrumental in deciding what form Consciousness will take after we humans have at long last worn out our welcome and finally disappear for good from our now-beloved orb. Muldashev’s theories, outlined in Numerous Books (he too has weighed in on the Shambhala Mythologem)—some of them already translated into Mongolian—are Understandably Controversial and have come under attack from various quarters. Indeed, some consider him a Charlatan of the First Water. The professor says he is keeping an open mind in the matter. Whether Dambijantsan somehow communicated with the spirit entities in the cave—assuming they existed—and perhaps acquired some supernatural powers from them must remain a matter of speculation.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Mongolia | Ulaan Baatar | Ski Resort

Well, Hell has frozen over; no, wait, actually it’s a Ski Resort on Bogd Khan Uul, not far from my hovel. There goes the neighborhood.

Mongolia | Khovd Aimag | Dambijantsan’s Winter Camp

I have already written about the arrival of Dambijantsan in Western Mongolia in 1911 and how he established a Winter Camp on the Dund Tsenkher Gol near Mankhan, in Khovd Aimag.

In 1999 and again in 2007 I visited Dambijantsan’s camp on the Dund Tsenkher Gol, both times accompanied by Professor Baasankhüü of the Khovd branch of the National University of Mongolia. In 1972 the Professor had come to the Dund Tsenkher Gol with an eighty-two year old man named Jigmid who had been a follower of Dambijantsan and who had camped with him here. From Jigmid the Professor was able to get a fairly detailed account of events here on the Dund Tsenkher. Jigmid related to the professor that Dambijantsan liked to stay apart from his followers and soldiers. His own ger was on a high bank to the left of the Dund Tsenkher Gol, facing downstream, close to the mouth of a canyon from which the swift-flowing river emerges.
Dund Tsenkher Gol looking towards the Gov-Altai Mountains
Dund Tsenkher Gol looking downstream towards Mankhan
The campgrounds of his followers was about a mile farther on downstream, on the same side of the river. Jigmid said that Dambijantsan always liked to have a mountain or steep hillside behind his ger or tent, which would make it hard for enemies to approach from the rear, and an clear, unobstructed view in front, making it difficult for anyone to approach undetected from that direction. These conditions were met here; the ramparts of the Mongol-Altai rise directly behind his ger site and in front a bare plain stretches for ten miles or more.
Dambijantsan’s ger site on the left bank of the Dund Tsenkher

For further protection, Dambijantsan had a stone wall constructed around his ger, the remnants of which can still be seen today.
Closer look at Dambijantsan’s ger site
Oddly enough, right next to his ger site are several well-preserved Bronze Age tombs. I asked the Professor if it was customary to set up a ger so near to ancient tombs like this, and he said it wasn’t, but that Dambijantsan apparently did not concern himself about such matters.
Bronze Age tombs near Dambijantsan’s ger site
Jigmid had also said that on the steep hillside behind the ger site Dambijantsan had constructed stone watchtowers. Several heaps of rock of the hillsides may be the remains of these watchtowers.

The campgrounds of his followers was on level ground, directly on front of his ger and about a mile away. Dambijantsan was a stickler for neatness and order and the camp was always spotlessly clean. He did not even like loose rocks lying around where people might stumble over them, and when his followers weren’t doing anything else he had them gather up these rocks and put them in piles. These piles of rock can still be seen there today.
Campground of Dambijantsan’s followers
Piles of rocks gathered by Dambijantsan’s followers
A German traveler in the region at the time, Herman Consten, also visited to the site and gave a description in his book Weideplätze der Mongolen: “The Mongolian camp makes a surprisingly good impression . . . the tents and gers are pitched in a double circular line around the centre of the camp. . . The path which leads to the ger of the Ja Lama is astonishingly clean like the camp.” He added that the “the ger of Ja Lama, (the Two Camel Lama) stands out from from the other gers by the white of its costly felt and its large size.”

Dambijantsan may have intended to establish a permanent base here, or even found a town. In the spring of 1912 he had his followers plant crops in newly-established fields watered by irrigation ditches from the nearby Tsenkher Gol. The traces of these fields and irrigation ditches can still be seen there today. As it turned out, his early attempts to establish some kind of community here was only a dry run for his later settlements and strongholds.
Irrigation ditch allegedly built by Dambijantsan’s followers
Ovoo marking the location of Dambijantsan’s Winter Camp
An ever larger contingent of disciples and followers who had fallen under Dambijantsan’s charismatic spell soon gravitated at this camp. Not all were there voluntarily. In his ger Dambijantsan kept a thirteen year old boy as a servant. Treated as a virtual slave and repeatedly beaten for minor offenses, the boy wanted desperately to escape, but he lived in mortal fear of Dambijantsan. Soon he devised a plan to kill his master. Every morning Dambijantsan would go out and inspect his soldiers and then come back and sit on a stool behind the stove and drink tea. The boy decided that when Dambijantsan sat down he would hand him a cup of tea with one hand and with the other grab the axe that was kept in the woodbox beside the stove and break open his skull with it. Dambijantsan came in and sat down, then grabbed the axe himself and hit the boy along the side of the head with the flat side, knocking him down. “Did you really think you could kill me with an axe?” he asked the boy. The boy was sure he was about to die, but instead Dambijantsan handed him a Buddhist scripture wrapped in a yellow cloth and said, “Our paths in life are quite different. You must go your way and I will go mine. Take this book and go to Khovd and became a monk. But never let me see you again or I will kill you.” The boy did as he was told and joined a monastery. He eventually became famous for blessing new Russian jeeps. Before he died in the late 1980s he told people in Khovd that Dambijantsan had known his intentions because he had been able to read his mind. This one just one of the many stories of Dambijantsan’s mind-reading skills which continue to be told down to the present day.

Around this time Dambijantsan became famous for a whole host of magical abilities. According to the Diluv Khutagt:
Ja Lama claimed to be able to cure sickness with gun magic. This is a very old form of magic. The sickness is reported to the magician. The magician thinks about the disease. Then he fires a gun in the direction of the sick man. The sick man may be hundreds of miles away, but he hears the report, and at that moment he is cured.
Diluv Khutagt again:
Ja Lama also did other kinds of gun magic. Each of Ja Lama’s bullets had a Tibetan letter on it—I don’t know which letter. It was reported that a camp was raided by a wolf. Half of the sheep stampeded into the night. The shepherds ran and told Ja Lama. “I’ll fix that,” he said, and he lifted his gun and fired from the door of his tent. “Go and look in that direction tomorrow morning,” he said. The next morning they went and looked and saw the sheep all grazing peacefully, and the wolf lying dead beside them. They cut open the wolf ’s body and found one of Ja Lama’s bullets in it. After that everyone feared and respected Ja Lama.
To this day variations of this story are told by old people in Khovd Aimag who claim they themselves heard about it from eyewitnesses who had actually met Dambijantan. Usually, however, they have Dambijantan shooting his gun several times through the toono, or round hole, in the roof of a ger and not out the door, and no mention is made of a Tibetan letter on the bullets. Old people near Bayan Tooroi, in Gov-Altai Aimag, told me the same story, claiming that Dambijantsan had performed this same trick while passing through the area in 1918.

Professor Baasankhüü

Monday, November 30, 2009

Mideast | Yezidis | Shambhala

Temple of the Yezidis in northern Iraq
Now it appears the Yezidis, practitioners of arguably the oldest religion in the world, are claiming that the Kings of Shambhala are actually a manifestation of their Peacock Angel:

In Tibet the Peacock Angel appears to be manifest as Amitibha, the peacock-riding dhyani buddha who sits upon his Peacock Throne in the heaven of Sukhavati and occasionally takes a physical incarnation as the King of the World in legendary Shambhala, the land of immortals that flies the Peacock Flag. Shambhala, meaning the “Place of happiness,” is a place designed as eight territories or “petals” and recognized to be the heart chakra of planet Earth. In the center of the planetary heart chakra is the palace of the King of Shambhala, who thus functions as not only planetary monarch but soul of the world (just as the human soul resides within the human heart chakra). According to one legend, the Peacock Angel not only spread his colors around the globe but additionally merged his spirit with that of the Earth and became the world soul. Thus, his physical body is the Earth and his will is reflected in the actions of all creatures that live upon the face of the Earth.

Peacock Angel of the Yezidis
See The Truth about the Yezidis and also News about the Yezidis. As you no doubt already know Yezidis have Come Under Attack by Fundamentalist Jihadis in Iraq.

Also see
Secrets of the Knights Templar and the Peacock Angel and Gurdjieff and Yezidism. You don’t need me to connect the dots here.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Mongolia | Links | Himalayan Art Resources

The Good Folks at Himalayan Art Resources have put up a page with Links to Many of My Blog Posts and Web Pages. Also see the Blog of Himalayan Art Cognoscente Jeff Watt.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mongolia | Bogd Khan and Mongolian Independence

Whatever his Personal Peccadilloes, for almost a decade the Bogd Gegeen had persistently pursued the cause of Mongolian independence. As early as 1894 the Bogd Gegeen had sent a secret letter to St. Petersburg via one of his chief disciples, a man named Badamdorj, asking whether the Russian government would provide arms and other material aid in the event Mongolia staged an uprising against Manchu rule and established an independence state. He also queried whether Russia would send troops to assist in such an endeavor in the event they were needed. The Bogd Gegeen had his sights set high at the time, envisioned a new Pan-Mongolian state encompassing much of the old original Mongolian homeland. If the uprising succeeded, he wondered in his letter, “May we be allowed to rule the whole of the ancient Mongol territory, making the White Wall [Great Wall] stand as the frontier of Mongol territory?“ The Russians took the letter under advisement, agreeing to the Bogd’s proposals in theory but suggesting that the time was not yet right for an armed uprising. Better to wait until an obvious pretext or opportunity arose before taking any overt action, officials in St. Petersburg cautioned.

The pretext appeared to present itself in late 1908. On Nov. 8 the ineffectual thirty-seven year-old Qing emperor Guangxu died. He had suffered from a nervous condition so severe that loud noises made him ejaculate, and since 1898 he had been under house arrest by order of the Empress Dowager Cixi, his mother by adoption, who ruled in his stead. On the very next day the Dragon Lady Cixi, who had overseen the Qing Dynasty either as regent or power-behind-the-throne for forty-seven years, also transmigrated. The most lurid rumors surrounded the deaths. According to one Cixi had Guangxu strangled by her chief eunuch because she had a presentiment of her own death and did not want him to outlive her. Thus over the years she been accused of killing her first husband, her own son, her co-regent the Empress Cian, assorted by-standers, and now Guangxu, her adopted son. According to yet another rumor Cixi herself had been gruesomely dispatched by a bullet in the vagina by warlord Yuan Shikai. Most of these rumors have been dismissed by modern historians, but the very fact that that were so widely believed at the time demonstrates the Grand Guignol atmosphere which surrounded the the final days of the Qing Dynasty. The twelfth emperor of the Qing, little two-year old Pu Yi, was duly installed on the Dragon Throne on December 2, 1908, but by then hardly anyone believed the dynasty could survive.

In 1909 the Bogd Gegeen, sensing which way the wind was blowing in Qing China, issued the following decree to the Mongolian princes:
Now is the time to make firm our Mongol faith and church, to protect our territory and homeland; and to decide a policy for dwelling in long-lasting peace and happiness. Merely to sit still and let slip this opportunity would mean, far from dwelling in peace and happiness, that we should look upon all kinds of suffering and become unable to rule over our own land and territory . . . Let all of you lamas, princes, and officials consider well your own devices and promptly let me hear what each of you has thought and considered. It will not do for you to sit indifferent, obstructing the important affairs of all the pitiful Mongols who honor and respect your every word and humbly look up to you.
As he probably expected, his noble advisors threw the matter back into his lap. “What do we know? Whatever the Bogd thinks right and clearly instructs from on high and vouchsafes to us, that we shall duly carry out as a command to the best of our endeavor,” was their reply. The Bogd Gegeen promised them that at the following year’s Danshug (ceremonial festival) in Örgöö he would announce his plan of action for Mongolian independence. In the summer of 1910 all the great princes of the four aimags again assembled in Örgöö and asked for the Bogd’s decision. “The secrets of Heaven may not be revealed in advance,” he informed them, “but if all of you could confirm without fail that you would duly obey and fulfill whatever I say, I can make a policy.” This they did, presenting the Bogd with a document with all of their seals on it promising to take whatever course of action he suggested.

In July of 1911 the Mongolian aristocracy again assembled in Örgöö to make their annual offerings to the Bogd Gegeen. These out-of-town visitors usually camped just south of the Bogd’s palaces on the Tuul RIver, near the base of a hill which for this reason became known as Zaisan Tolgoi (Nobleman’s Hill). The issue of Mongolian independence was now at the fore. In a meeting with the Bogd Gegeen they asked, “Supposing the Ch’ing [Manchus] come with a punitive expedition,there are in Mongolia no arms and we have no military training or equipment.What shall we do?” The Bogd replied “If you have the will to set up a state and give our Mongolia peace and security, I will be responsible for making the Manchu troops go back.”
Zaisan Tolgoi, where the Mongol noblemen made offerings
Thus assured, they decided to at last declare the independence of Mongolia and make the Bogd Gegeen both the temporal and spiritual ruler of the new sovereign state. The Bogd also agreed to dispatch a three-man delegation to St. Peterburg to inform the Russians of their decision and to seek aid in the form of cash and weapons. When the Qing amban in Örgöö, a man named Sandoo, learned that the delegation had already left the city he sent twenty soldiers north to the border with Russia to intercept and arrest the delegates before the left Mongolia. They arrived too late, however, and the delegation managed to slip across the border. According to one report, Sandoo, “was almost out of his mind with anger” when he was eventually informed that the delegation had managed to reach St. Petersburg. The delegation arrived back in Örgöö with the news that the Russians were again advising caution, but had tentatively agreed to provide 15,000 rifles and 7.5 million rounds of ammunition in the event armed conflict broke out with the Manchus. Sandoo then sent a missive to the Bogd Gegeen threatening the death penalty for anyone seeking aid against the Qing from foreign powers. The Bogd Gegeen, no doubt aware that Sandoo did not have the wherewithal to carry out these threats, simply ignored the Qing amban.

Then came the October 10 Wushang Uprising in the Chinese city of Wuhan, after which dissident army officers proposed a new provisional government to be headed by Sun-Yat-sen. The Qing Dynasty, although not yet ruled dead, was in its death throes. Mongolia independence had already been declared and now the time had come to assert it. On the evening of November 18, 1911, the Bogd Gegeen sent a four man delegation to the office of Sandoo with a decree which read, “Sandoo amban and his officials and troops are ordered to leave the confines of Mongolia within three days. In the case of failure, troops will be utilized to drive them out . . .”A Russian living in Örgöö at the time reported that “when they read to the amban the decree of the gegeen, the amban was startled and fell back onto a chair and could not say anything for a long time.” It was no doubt hard for him to believe that 220 years of Qing rule in Mongolia was over.

Sandoo (1876–192?), the last Qing Amban in Öröö, was in fact part Mongolian, although he had been born, brought up, and educated in China. He had arrived in Örgöö to serve as amban on February or March of 1910. He was not an uncultured individual. He eventually wrote at least seven volumes of poetry and took a deep interest in the archeology and history of Mongolia. While in Mongolia he visited the stele of the Khökh Turk ruler Kultegin (685–731) in what is now Arkhangai Aimag. He apparently erected some kind of temple to commemorate the stele and etched a short inscription on its back side. He also visited the stele of Kultegin’s advisor Tonyukuk near the current day town of Nailakh, east of Ulaan Baatar, and made copies of the inscriptions, which he sent back to Beijing for the benefit of interested scholars.

His literary and scholarly interests could not, however, protect him from the rising anti-Manchu sentiments in Örgöô. Not long after his arrival in the city he attempted to intercede when a mob of Mongolian lamas attacked and looted the premises of the Chinese trading company Da I-Yu. The lamas pelted him with stones and he barely escaped with his life.

After receiving the Bogd Gegeen’s November 18 decree Sandoo dithered for twelve days, unwilling to abandon his post but bereft of support from Beijing. On November 30 a still more sternly worded ultimatum was handed to him. Scared out of his wits, Sandoo and attendant officials sought protection in the Russian Consulate. Most of the soldiers in the one hundred-man Qing garrison remaining in the city deserted. On December 4 Sandoo and his entourage, protected by an escort of Russian Cossacks, traveled north to Khyakhta and crossed the border into Russia. In Verkhneudinsk (now Ulaan-Ude) they caught a train back to Beijing.

Local bards were never slow in commenting on current affairs in Mongolia, and one immediately composed a song about the Amban’s expulsion which was then bawled out with glee in the city’s marketplaces and streets:
The stinky lanterns that twinkled every evening
Are burnt out
Where is gone the notorious amban
Who commanded the masses?
The lanterns refer to the street lights that Sandoo had introduced into Örgöö. Apparently they burned a smelly oil. Like the Örgöö amban himself they soon disappeared.

Nepal | Animal Sacrifices | Virtual Hugs

Glad to see that Tenpa at Tibetan Digital Altar and V. D. Konchug Norbu at Bitterroot Badger’s Bozeman Buddhist Blog have given each other a virtual hug by both calling attention to the Appalling Animal Sacrifices taking place in Nepal today and tomorrow. It will be remembered that when Sonam Gyatso, the Third Lama, Converted the Mongolian Altan Khan to Buddhism one of the first things he did was ban any more animal or human sacrifices by the Mongols:
Sonam Gyatso then delivered a discourse to the assembled throng. He implored them to give up the practice of human and animal sacrifices which so often accompanied the death of a important Mongol (Chingis Khan's own son Ögedai reportedly had forty "moon-faced virgins" and numerous horses and other livestock sacrificed in honor of his father's memory) and told them to destroy their ongghot, the shamanic idols which many Mongolians kept in their homes and worshipped. Instead of blood sacrifices he suggested that the Mongols offer part of the deceased possessions to temples and monasteries and offer prayers to the deceased. He also implored the Mongols not to conduct bloody raids on their neighbors, including the Chinese, the Tibetans, and other Mongol tribes, and instead try to live in peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. He also suggested they make prayers and conduct other religious practices on the days of the new, half, and full moons. Finally he taught them a meditation on Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, and the accompanying six-syllable mantra Om Mani Padme Hum.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Mongolia | Örgöo | Eighth Bogd Gegeen

The last Bogd Gegeen to reign in Mongolia was the twenty-third incarnation of Javzandamba, the first of whom had been a disciple of the Buddha himself, and eighth in the line of the Bogd Gegeens of Mongolia established by Zanabazar. After the Mongolian uprising against the Qing in the mid-1750s, in which the Second Bogd Gegeen, the son of Zanabazar’s nephew, had played a role, the Qianlong Emperor had declared that henceforth all incarnations of Javsandamba must be found not in Mongolia but in Tibet, lest a Mongolian Bogd Gegeen become a rallying point for future Mongolian rebels. Thus the next six Bogd Gegeens, including the Eight, were Tibetan. The Eight was born in Lhasa in late 1869 or early 1870, the son of a wealthy official in the court of the 13th Dalai Lama. A caravan sent from Örgöö to Tibet to fetch him arrived back in the city with the little boy in tow on the morning of September 30, 1874.

In 1911, when he became the Bogd Khan, the ruler of newly independent Mongolia, he was forty-one years old. Even before his ascension to the throne of Mongolia his immense popularity had made him the de-facto leader of Mongolia. The Diluv Khutagt, who knew him personally, observed:
The reason why this Eighth Bogd had become notably more powerful and strong than previous Incarnations was, in addition to the fact that the Mongols universally, generation by generation, had believed in, honored, had faith in and reverenced each Incarnation of the Bogd as a true divinity, this Eighth Gegeen ever since childhood had been especially sharp and intelligent. Whenever in Khalkh, or in one of its districts there was any such fear or suffering as fire or flood, sickness or disaster, he knew it in advance and let it be known to give warning. In religious matters or ordinary affairs his directives were unfailingly clear and in accordance with the evidence, and when this had repeatedly become known he became famous for it and everyone had deep faith in him.
The Eighth Bogd Gegeen
Even as a young man he was regarded with awe by the Mongolian populace. The Diluv Khutagt: “At the age of eighteen, as the result of a serious illness, he lay dead . . . for three days and nights, and at the moment he stirred again there was no mark of the sickness and he was cured, and for such marvels as this the Mongols had complete faith and trust in him.” The Russian ethnologist A. M. Pozdneev, in Örgöö four years later, in 1892, observed: “Crowds of worshippers stretch toward the Khutukhu from all sides, and not only Khalkhas, but also southern Mongols as well . . . He was perhaps the only Mongolian personality known to all the generally illiterate and often apathetic Mongols throughout the land . . .”

There is no doubt he was a shrewd political operator. About the time of Pozdneev’s visit a certain Jün Van (nobleman) named Dorjpalam, from Setsen Khan Aimag to the east of Örgöö, filed several complaints again the Bogd Gegeen which were forwarded to the Manchu emperor in Beijing. The Bogd immediately answered in a missive to the Manchu representative in Örgöö:
Though I have done nothing that is damaging to the faith or the church, or that is wrong or harmful to all living beings, it has come to the point where on the word of one single man I am wrongly accused, and this because of my stupid incompetence has led to discrediting the reputation of previous generations of my incarnation. Therefore my petition is that first I should be removed as Javzandamba Khutagt, and then, if I am indicted and investigated, the faith of the Buddha in the land of Mongolia will not be belittled. It is not difficult to obtain the precise truth of this matter. All Khalkh Mongolia knows everything about all my affairs, and so if you ask the Heads of the Chuulgan [Leagues] and all the princes, they will freely explain. If the complete truth is not found in this matter, my regret will be infinite.
The Manchu emperor, faced with this ultimatum, issued a memorandum stating, “Assuage your regret and dwell in peace of mind. I have profound faith in the Khutagt.” To smooth his ruffled feathers the emperor also gifted the Bogd Gegeen “a nine-dragon canopy”—apparently a great honor—and had Dorjpalam stripped of his title. Dorjpalam eventually apologized to the Bogd, acknowledging his guilt in the matter, whereupon the Bogd successfully petitioned the emperor to have his title returned to him. According to the Diluv Khutagt:
After this the princes were overawed and afraid, and submitted in due form to any proclamation [from the Bogd]. Though here and there among the great princes and learned lamas there were one or two of doubtful faith, they were repressed by the prestige of the Bogd and since moreover all the Mongols detested such men, the result was that they could not come out into the open.
Thus the Bogd Gegeen gained the almost unqualified support of the common people, the nobles, and the lower and middle ranking monks. Only among the higher ranking monks did some objections remain, for example on the part of the Khamba Lama of Ikh Khüree, who in the heat of an argument the Bogd Gegeen had punched in the chest and whose assistant he had grabbed by the scruff of his neck and tossed out of the meeting room. Yet such men learned to keep quiet, since opponents of the Bogd Gegeen had an uncanny propensity for falling ill and dying for one reason or another.
The Eighth Bogd Gegeen's Winter Palace
There was a decidedly negative side of the Bogd Gegeen which would eventually become more and more manifest. As early as 1890, the Russian Consul in Örgöö was filing confidential dispatches to his superiors back in St. Petersburg about the Bogd Gegeen’s attempts “to free himself from the conventional restrictions prescribed for lamas and lead an independent life.” He also noted that the Bogd appeared in public while drunk and openly flirted with women, but added that most people had a very forgiving attitude toward such discretions. Pozdneev had intimations of trouble as far back as 1892. The Bogd’s face, noted the Russian traveler, was “unpleasant by virtue of some sort of childish willfulness and capricious stubbornness which is always present in it, and also from the lips, which are extraordinarily sensuous in their development.”

Other aspects of the Bogd Gegeen’s life did not appear to be in accord with his role as the Buddhist leader of Mongolia. He kept a wife, the famous beauty Dondovdulam, apparently in violation of his vows of celibacy as a Gelug monk, and when she died he took on yet another wife. He was also rumored to be involved in various homosexual liaisons, an inclination which had led to the downfall of his predecessor, the Seventh Bogd Gegeen. Pozdneev pointed out his predilection for young lamas “distinguished only their inclination and ability to carouse.” One of his male consorts had died in mysterious circumstances, according to Bazaar gossip poisoned on orders from the Bogd Gegeen himself. And there seems little doubt that he was a hard-core alcoholic. Even the Diluv Khutagt, who held the Bogd in great respect, felt compelled to comment on this:
The Bogd was very hard to do business with because he was such a fearful drinker. He would sometimes sit cross-legged for a week drinking steadily night and day. The officials attending him would be changed frequently, but he would go on drinking, never lying down to sleep and never moving except to go out to the toilet. At times he would seem to be completely unconscious, with his head lying on his chest; he would seem not to understand anything that was said to him; then he would raise his head and demand another drink, and the new drink would seem to sober him up so that he could conduct business. Even after a bout like this he would not sleep except in naps of two or three hours at a time. Yet he was a very able politician and kept control of things within the limits of his rapidly vanishing power. By 1920 he had become practically blind.
As Pozdneev noted however, “. . . the Gegen’s carousing did not in any way lessen his charm as far as the people were concerned; [they] looked upon his every eccentricity as something mysterious and tried to explain his every exploit in his favor on the basis of their sacred books . . .” (to be continued . . .)
Entrance to the Winter Palace Complex

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Mongolia | Zaisan Tolgoi | Moon Cycles

The Waxing Sickle Moon has been presenting an absolutely gorgeous spectacle as it slides by Jupiter each evening before sinking behind Öndör Gegeenii Uul just south of my hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi. The Full Cold Moon, or Unduvap Poya Moon, as it is known to Buddhists, is coming up on December 2, and I predict it will be a dilly. We are in the midst of an extremely auspicious lunar cycle. At such times Portals to Shambhala have been known to appear in the strangest places . . .
Graphic courtesy of Sky & Telescope

Mongolia | Life and Death of Ja Lama | Chapter 2

Read an updated version of Chapter 2 of Ja Lama: The Life and Death of Dambijantsan.

Ja Lama (1860–1922)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turkey | Istanbul | Jahongir Ashurov | More Miniatures

Couldn’t resist adding a couple more miniatures from the Jahongir Ashurov Show now taking place in Istanbul. The first is apparently one of the favorites of Peony, who has a wonderful post up about, among other things, Orhan Pamuk’s novel My Name Is Red, which of course deals with the whole subject of miniatures.
Miniature by Jahongir Ashurov:
Detail of Musician
The second one I cannot resist because it portrays camels, for which I have a Soft Spot in my heart.
I ask you, who cannot help but Love Camels?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Turkey | Istanbul | Beyoglu

Not having found any trace of a Portal to Shambhala in the Sultanahmed Area, the old historical core of Istanbul, I decided to check out of my hotel and move over to the Beyoglu District on the other side of the Golden Horn. As I mentioned earlier, the old tekke of the Mevlevi Whirling Dervishes is in this area. Gunj, my host in Istanbul, was kind enough to take time off from her incessant labors on the behalf of Central Asian Artists and accompany me. Any journey with Gunj when she has free time entails a lot of stops along the way to smell the roses, or in this case, taste a fish sandwich at the famous water-side outdoor restaurants near the Galata Bridge where the fish are actually cooked on boats tied up alongside the dock.
View from near Galata Bridge
Fish restaurants near the Galata Bridge. Fish are cooked on the boats and served shore side.
Gunj at the Galata Bridge
The Golden Horn with the Süleymaniye Mosque at the upper left
The fish sandwich was just an appetizer. Having crossed the Galata Bridge to Beyoglu we stopped at another one of Gunj’s favorite restaurants, the historic Tarihi Karaköy Balik Loksantasi, for the next course—Fish Soup.
Then we climbed up the steep cobblestone streets of Beyoglu to the Galata Tower . . .
. . . where we had tea and dessert at this charming outdoor cafe.
Finally we arrived the Hotel Londres, Gunj’s favorite hostelry in all of Istanbul. This place is dripping with history. It was founded in 1892, one of the first European-style hotels to service travelers arriving on the Orient Express, the first non-stop version of which reached Istanbul from Paris in June of 1889. Although the hotel has been remodeled several times it still retains a lot of its nineteenth-century features. The doors to the rooms and the locks may well be the originals. Over the years many famous people have frequented the hotel, including Ernest Hemingday and more recently Gunj, who celebrated one of her birthdays here. I half-expect to see Peter Lorre simpering in a dark corner of the lobby.

Peter Lorre. If he didn’t stay at the Hotel Londres he should have.
Just down the street from the Hotel Londres is the equally famous Pera Palace Hotel, also founded in 1892. According to legend, Agatha Christie wrote Murder on the Orient Express in Room 411 of the hotel. The room is still available, if you desperately need an Agatha Christie fix.

Lobby of the Hotel Londres
Gunj lighting up the Hotel Londres Lobby with her luminious presence.
Gunj deciding the fate of some hitherto unknown Central Asian artist.
Hemingway no doubt bellied up to this very bar. The bartender may still be contemplating his order.
Staircase in the Hotel leading to the Rooftop Cafe

Gunj relaxing from her otherwise relentless labors at her favorite table in the Rooftop Cafe of the Hotel Londres.
Sunset over the Golden Horn from the rooftop cafe of the Hotel Londres. Along with the Pyramids of Egypt and Zaisan Tolgoi in Ulaan Baatar surely one of the world’s most stunning vistas.