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Winter Palace

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Description of the site and history

After the Yellow Palace, the winter residence of the jewtsьndamba khutagts, was burned down in 1892, a new palace called the GreenPalace was built between 1893 and 1903 on the right bank of TuulRiver (Oyuunbileg, pp. 248-550.). The two-storey white building of the Winter palace (one of the buildings of the Green complex) was built in 1905, with its design based on a picture sent by the Russian tsar to the Bogd khaan. This is where the 8th jewtsьndamba khutagt with his wife, the Ekh dagina, lived until his death in 1924. The Green survived the destructions almost intact, and was turned into a museum from 1926, two years after the death of the Bogd khaan, where some of the most precious Mongolian Buddhist artifacts are still held. Jьgder's painting shows the building complex in details together with its inner courtyards. The fenced-off area had two main parts: the Green complex with seven temples and the white-coloured Winter palace. The yampai (Chinese yang pai), the protection wall decorated by dragons, is situated in the south, as is customary, outside the southern gate. Two flag poles (tugnii mod or chiigaa/ chii-gan) stand on either side in front of the complex: on religious occasions the blue flag of politics was hung on the right and the yellow flag of religion was hung on the left (Oyuunbileg, p. 249.). A wooden hedge called shцrgцn khais surrounded the area in front of the complex. The Andinmen khaalga (Amgalan enkhiin khaalga), ‘The gate of peace’ was constructed between 1912 and 1919, without nails, to celebrate the historical event of the Bogd khaan taking religious and politic power in 1911. The name of the palace is painted on the gate in Sanskrit, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese and Manchu script. The threefold gate (Yamba yosloliin khaalga) was the place where the Bogd khaan entered to the palace through the central gate. The religious (abbot, and other high-ranking lamas) and political leaders and foreign guests entered through the left gate while the Bogd khaan’s guards and musicians entered through the right gate. Inside the fence, the temple of the Maharajas (Makhranz, Tib. rgyal chen, Skr. Maharaja, ’great king’, guards of the four directions), called Makhranziin sьm was built in 1903 to house the huge statues of the direction guards. This temple leads to a court with two small pavilions in the south corners, one for the bell and the other for the drum (Jin khonkh, Jin khengeregnii sььdrewch or rawsa, serььn asar). The Erdem itgemjit sьm Temple of Knowledge and Trust) or Naidan sьm (Temple of the Arhats) is situated on the north side of the courtyard between the pavilions. According to Altannawch, the current director of the Bogd Khaan Museum, every year in the last summer month, on the birthday of the Bogd khaan, a group of 8-16 lamas came here from Dechingalaw datsan to perform the Naidan chogo ceremony (in honour of the 16 main disciples of Buddha) for three days and nights. This temple building now houses statues of Biz’yaa (Tib. rnam rgyal-ma, Skr. Vijaya), Ayuush or Tsewegmed / Tsegmid (Tib. tshe-dpagmed, Skr. Amitayus) and Tsagaan Dar’ ekh (Tib. sgrol dkar, Skr. Sitatara, the White Tara) that were saved from the purges. The Bogd khaan’s servants lived in the two Jodkhan (Tib. mchod-khang, ‘shrine room, chapel’) temples that are on either side of this temple. Today, the building in the left exhibits unique silk appliquйs of various deities, such as Gongor (Tib. mgon dkar, Skr. Sitamahakala, the White Mahakala), Tsamba (Tib. tshangs-pa, Skr. Brahma), Sosorbaram (Tib. so-sor ‘brang-ma, Skr. Mahapratisara) and Dorjpagam (Tib. rdo-rje phagmo, Skr. Vajravarahi). The building in the right houses a vast collection of thangkas painted with paints made from natural earth and minerals. The most famous are of Janraiseg (Tib. spyan-ras-gzigs, Skr. Avalokiteshvara), Ayuush or Tsewegmed / Tsegmid and Jigjid (Tib. 58 ‘jigs-byed, Skr. Bhairava, epithet of Yamantaka) and the one depicting the 12 deeds of Buddha. In the centre of the second courtyard there is the Green (Nogoon Lawiran) itself. This was the Bogd khaan’s principal temple and, during the summer, lamas meditated here every day often being joined by the Bogd khaan himself (this may refer to the Khailen/ Yar khailen (Tib. (dbyar) khas-len) or Yarnai (Tib. dbyar gnas, ‘summer retreat’) summer retreat lasting for 45 days, but it is not proved). Ochirdar’ (Tib. rdo-rje ‘chang, Skr. Vajradhara) was the main deity of the whole complex and his statue stood inside the Green as the main deity of the complex. At present, this building contains some of the Bogd khaan’s furniture, the famous twenty-one Taras made by Цndцr gegeen and other statues, all of which survived the purges. There are two buildings (also called Jodkhan temples) on either side of the Green Palace building. The one on the left served first as an inn for princes, barons and other important statesmen later becoming the treasury of the Bogd khaan. Today, this building is used to exhibit a vast collection of unique statues and thangkas from the 19th and 20th centuries, such as the image of the 4th Panchen Lama, Maidar (Tib. byams-pa, Skr. Maitreya) with his two disciples, namely Atisha (Adisha, Tib. mar-me mdzad, 982-1054, great Indian master, initiator of Kadampa (Tib. bka’-gdams-pa) Sect of Tibetan Buddhism) and Tsongkhapa (Zonkhow, Tib. tsong-kha-pa); Choijoo (Tib. chos-rgyal, Skr. Dharmaraja, epithet of Yama), Lkham (shortly for Baldan lkham, Tib. dpal-ldan lha-mo, Skr. Shridevi), and Ganesh (Tib. bgegs-kyi rgyal-po, the king of the obstacling spirits, Ganesha). The building on the right served as an inn for visiting reincarnations, religious leaders, abbots and other ranked religious people. As well as this, it was the library, containing the collected works of the jewtsьndamba khutagts. Today, books, printing blocks, the statues of Buddha and his 16 disciples, and Ayuush or Tsewegmed / Tsegmid, as well as thangkas and costumes are exhibited here. In 1913 a small building was built for storing the vast range of costumes and robes of the Bogd khaan. The whole area around the GreenPalace, that is, the area between Middle River (Dund gol) and TuulRiver was a particular zone, reserved for the Bogd khaan and his kin (Pьrew, Mongol tцriin golomt, pp. 25-29.) and for the flocks of sheep, cows, horses and camels for their personal use. There were several other imposing palaces in this zone. In the area above the winter palace there was the residence of the privileged descendants of Sььn dalai eej, the breast-feeding nanny of Цndцr gegeen Zanabazar. The Bogd khaan’s guards were settled on the left of the Green palace, between it and Gьngaadejidlin sьm (See entry Rinchen 922). There were a few other residences, all of high-ranking people, such as that of Prime Minister Sain noyon khan named Namnansьren (Sain noyon khan being his title). The Government administration building (Yerцnkhii yaam, Bьgd yerцnkhiilekh zakhirakh yaam) was also situated in this zone.

Winter palace

The two-storey white building of the old Winter palace currently contains many of the Bogd khaan’s personal artifacts such as his costumes and robes, hats and jewels, his throne as well as his and his wife’s beds. Also on display are a collection of gifts received from foreign dignitaries, and a collection of stuffed animals, etc. Jьgder’s original painting of Ikh Khьree and a painting showing the Khaistai ordon (See entry Rinchen 921) are also exhibited. There is a reception room on the first floor with a staircase leading to the second floor. The great treasury (Ikh san) financed the running of the complex. There were no financial units (jas) attached to this complex. After losing his power when the Communist Government took over in 1921, the Bogd khaan became a leader without any real power until 59 his death in 1924. After this the palace was protected by the State. On the 1st of April 1926 the authorities decided to turn the palace into a museum. Geleta (Forbбth, p. 219.) was requested to complete the transformation work by the Mongol Academy of Science. Geleta claims (Forbбth, pp. 218-219.) that the bogd gegeen invited Europeans to take part in the building of the winter palace. There were 8 rooms on each of the two floors in the winter palace. There was also a garage next to the palace to house the Bogd’s collection of cars. The gegeen’s life was made more comfortable by a telephone, an electric bell, and an electricity generator. He also had a collections of more than a thousands clocks (p. 219), and a collection of Chinese vessels. There was also an aviary situated in front of the gates of the Green Palace (photo, p. 216.). After the death of the Bogd, many of his belongings were sold at auction. Dariimaa adds (p. 109.) that the Bogd’s robes, many belongings and artifacts from the palaces were divided between the datsans, temples and aimags of the city as his ‘last donation’. After this many of these objects were placed in front of the temples for more months until they were bought. It took until 1931 before the preparatory work began to organize the remaining artifacts into an exhibition in, what would become, the Bogd Khaan museum. In 1954 it became under the control of the State Central Museum and five years later all the buildings were renovated and repainted. The museum, which was now independent of the State Central Museum, opened its gates in 1961. Restoration has continued from this time until today: in the 1970s the walls and ceiling of the Winter Palace were repaired; the Andinmen gate and the flag poles in 1988; the main gate was renovated in 1996; and the Naidan sьm Temple of Arhats) was restored in 2005.

Current situation

Although the Green and Winter palaces and most of the complex remained practically intact, some wooden buildings such as the Dar’ ekh temple (Tara Temple), some small chapels and administrative buildings did not survive. The complex still operates as a museum.

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