The Chojin Lama Museum — Zanabazar Art Exhibit

Don Croner, Explorer at Large
Author of Travels In Northern Mongolia


Originally constructed as a temple for the younger brother of the last Bogd Haan, and built between 1904 and 1908, today this museum chronicles the powerful Mongol Empire. With exhibitions representing the vast arena of Mongolian history, the galleries include traditional costumes of Buddhist culture and the stunning artworks of the great Zanabazar.

Gallery — The Chojin Lama Museum

+ Sitasamvara

+ Ratnasambhava

+ Ratnasambhava

+ Amitayus

+ Vajrasattva

+ Maitreya

+ Akshobhya

+ Akshobhya

Recommended Reading — In Association with

For more Art and Exploration in Mongolia, please visit "Don Croner's World Wide Wanders"

The Life of Zanabazar

Chapter 1:
Altan Khan and the Dalai Lama

The great empire founded by Chingis Khan was basically a family enterprise, and like many family enterprises it did not survive the third generation. After Chingis's death in 1227 the empire remained united under Ögedai, Chingis's second son and successor, who ruled from 1228 to 1241, then under his son Güyük (r.1246-48), and finally under Möngke, son of Ögedai's youngest brother Tolui. Upon Möngke's death in 1259 a war of succession broke out in Mongolia between Möngke's two younger brothers-Chingis's grandsons-Khubilai and Ariq Böke...[more]

Chapter 2:
Avtai Khan Introduces Buddhism into Mongolia

At some point in the late 1570s word filtered back to Mongolia that Altan Khan had met with Sonam Gyatso near Khökh Nuur and that the Tümed Mongols had converted to Buddhism...[more]

Chapter 3:
The Early Life of Zanabazar

The little boy was given the name Zanabazar, a combination of the word zana, which is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "knowledge" or "wisdom", and the word bazar, meaning "thunderbolt". Thus in English his name might be rendered "thunderbolt of wisdom"...[more]

Chapter 4:
Zanabazar's First Trip to Tibet

Zanabazar left Mongolia late in 1649, the exact day and month unknown. Nor do we know the exact route he took. There were several caravan tracks to Tibet, but if he took the traditional Shar Zam (Yellow Road) to Tibet he would have veered slightly west from Shankh through what is now Bayankhongor Aimag...[more]

Chapter 5:
Zanabazar Founds Gelugpa Monasteries in Mongolia

Zanabazar returned to Mongolia as a newly converted member of Gelugpa sect and armed with a brief to convert his fellow Mongolian to the same Yellow Hat beliefs. He forthwith announced that he would now longer live in any monastery connected with the Sakya sect which had hitherto been dominant in Mongolia. Thus his first course of action was to establish a new Gelugpa monastery near the confluence of the Tuul and Selbi rivers, in the large basin surrounded by the four mountains now called Chingeltei Uul, Bayanzurkh Uul, Songino Uul , and Bogd Khan Uul...[more]

Chapter 6:
Zanabazar's Second Trip to Tibet

Most traditional accounts do not mention Zanabazar’s trip to Inner Mongolia to met the Dalai Lama in early 1655. Skipping over this episode, they relate instead that in the summer of 1655 Zanabazar decided to make another trip to Tibet: “. . . I should like to accomplish my pious desire of again making obeisance to the Dalai Lama,” Zanabazar announced. “and especially to the Holy Panchen Vajradhara Lama [Panchen Lama] and hear the initiations and empowerments and so on which I meditated on before.” In preparation for the journey he decided to go into meditation for several months at his newly established retreat of Tövkhon at Shibeetu Uul. In the autumn of 1655 he left for Tibet...[more]

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