This post would have gone up a day ago, except just as my index finger was poised to press “save,” Explorer announced it had suffered a regrettable malfunction and needed to go for a nap. Brother Konchog, it must be said, uttered such words as made the cats press their ears flat on their skulls. But it was my own fault, challenging the gods as I did by not composing my latest epistle offline.
Anyway, lesson learned, so here we go again. While I get some Gobi pix together, I want to tell you about an important event I just attended. Many local luminaries, and a pack of the Mongolian media, gathered at the Red Ger Gallery of the Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts yesterday to celebrate a momentous occasion. This was the announcement that the collaborators on the Documentation of Mongolian Monasteries project had completed the organization of primary research and were launching a website to make this information available to the public.
This project was the brainchild of my good friend Sue Byrne. She began coming to Mongolia remarkably early, in 1993, helping to start the wonderful work here of the London-based Tibet Foundation. Like all of us who have toured Mongolia, she was appalled at the sheer scale and thoroughness of the destruction of Mongolia’s Buddhist infrastructure as carried out by Stalinist zealots in the 1930’s. Unlike us, she determined to focus her indomitable energy (I joke that she has a minor siddhi in networking) on doing something about it on a grand scale. She set out to organize nothing less than the mapping and documentation of all the monasteries and other religious institutions that existed across Mongolia prior to 1937.
Sue managed to lure into the vortex of her activity Gandantegchenlin Monastery, the Arts Council of Mongolia, the Office of the President of Mongolia, Khan Bank, the US Embassy, and countless other supporters and donors. Together, they launched research teams into all 21 Mongolian provinces. The teams obtained precise GPS coordinates for all the Buddhist sites they could locate. Then, they gathered as much data as they could about those institutions, including seeking out the oldest members of the communities to record their direct memories.
I don’t know how I could adequately express my wonder and gratitude for such an extremely important accomplishment. But you needn’t take my word for it. See for yourself. There is an English section (click the button at the top of the home page) but have a look around the Mongolianb bits anyway. There are many images and you’ll get the idea. As the site develops, all will be translated into English, and more information added.
I was filled with admiration when Sue got up to address a crowd that included most of the main players effecting Mongolia’s Buddhist revival. Here she is, accompanied by Lhagvademchig (a primary consultant on the project, and our main translator for rendering Tibetan practices into Mongolian) and Ariunaa, Director of the Arts Council of Mongolia:
And here she is again, in an august assembly that includes (from L to R), Mark Minton, the US Ambassador to Mongolia; HE Choijamts Lama, Abbot of Gandan Monastery; Nambaryn Enkhbayar, President of Mongolia; N. Jatsannorov (I think), chair of the ACM Executive Committee; and Guido Verboom, president of the Open Steppe Web Development Company: