Located at 280km southwest of Ulaanbaatar, Khugnou Khan Mountain (1967m) was considered by locals since immemorial times a sacred place. The mountain and its surrounding is special because it represents forest, mountain steppe and desert zone in a single area. Rich in wild animals, it keeps also many historical items such as ancient tombs, burial mounds, rock inscriptions, monasteries and ruins of cities. At its base there are the ruins of Erdene Khamba Khiid (Erdene Khamba Monastery), which was one of the most beloved sanctuaries of Zanabazar, the first Mongolian Buddhist saint, and also the first Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, the spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism for the Khalkha Mongols in Outer Mongolia. In its thriving years the monastery was hosting over a thousand lamas at a time.
In 842, Langdarma, the last emperor of the unified Tibetan Empire, started to destroy monasteries and to murder monks throughout the region. A monk called Lhalambaldorj, who was worshiping in mountains, managed to escape and settled in a monastery located in Khugnou Khan Mountain. In 1612, another monk, Erdene-Tsorj, had built an additional main temple which was 10m high and resembling the structure of the 64-room Yamanda monastery, which resulted the creation of meditation monastery with 13 temples, deifying the red deity known as Jamsran Buddha. Zanabazar established the monastery and its construction work continued through the 1660s and early 1680s. He dedicated it to Erdene-Ttsorj, who was his teacher, and when this one became head of the monastery it became known as Erdene Khamba Khiid. It had two sections: a lower one (Zaluu Khiid), and a upper one (Uvgun Khiid).
The monastery was destroyed during Middle Age feuds between Western and Eastern Mongolians (Dzungar and Khalkha Mongols) after the collapse of the Mongolian Khanate. The armies of Dzungarian leader Galdan Boshugtu Khan sacked the monasteries and massacred the partisan-monks of the rival Zanabazar. The monks were castrated while tied in rope, so the mountain was named Khugnou Khan, meaning "a mountain where people tied in rope". In 1700 the monastery was relocated in a different place with 4 sanctuaries and 3 temples with 200 monks, but in 1937 the communist regime destroyed it again and about 20 high ranking monks were executed. Restoration was began in the early 1990s, and few years later the Jamsran Temple, Bazarsad Shrines and the Five Khans Temple, on a high shelf of the mountain, were reopened.
About the stamp
The stamp is part of a definitives series of four, about which I wrote here.
Central Mongolia - View Mongolia
Central Mongolia - Mongolia Tour Agency
Ovgon-Khiyd Monastery - Legend Tour
Uvgun Kiid or Erdenekhamba Monastery - Tourist Information Center of Mongolia
sent from Ulan Bator (Mongolia), on 10.04.2014
photo: G. Gan-Ulzii