Erdene Zuu Khiid

sights / Religious

Erdene Zuu Khiid information

Prices
grounds/temples free/T3,500
Opening hours
9am-6pm May-Sep, 10am-5pm Oct-Apr
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Founded in 1586 by Altai Khaan, Erdene Zuu (Hundred Treasures) was the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. It had between 60 and 100 temples, about 300 gers inside the walls and, at its peak, up to 1000 monks in residence.

The monastery went through periods of neglect and prosperity until finally the Stalinist purges of 1937 put it completely out of business. All but three of the temples in Erdene Zuu were destroyed and an unknown number of monks were either killed or sent to Siberian gulags.

However, a surprising number of statues, tsam masks and thangkas were saved – possibly with the help of a few sympathetic military officers. The items were buried in nearby mountains, or stored in local homes (at great risk to the residents).

The monastery remained closed until 1965, when it was permitted to reopen as a museum, but not as a place of worship. It was only with the collapse of communism in 1990 that religious freedom was restored and the monastery became active again. Today Erdene Zuu Khiid is considered by many to be the most important monastery in the country, though no doubt it’s a shadow of what it once was.

Entrance to the walled monastery grounds is free. If you want to see inside the temples, however, you’ll have to go to the ticket desk and souvenir shop on your left as you enter the grounds from the south and buy a ticket, which includes a guided tour of the site with an English-speaking guide.

The main temples date from the 16th century. Most of the artefacts you'll see – wall paintings, thangkas , masks etc – are 18th century. Many are in excellent condition. The monastery is an easy 2km walk from the centre of Kharkhorin.