Eastern Mongolia embraces one of the world’s last undisturbed grasslands. Dominated by the Dariganga Plains, it is occupied by an endless grassy plain broken only by the forested Khentii Nuruu mountains, some extinct volcanos with basalt columns, mineral springs and caves, and many mysteries stones statues called “man stones.” There are few people living here and few tourist visit but there are hundreds of thousands of Mongolian gazelles that feed on grass here like the great herds of animals in Africa.
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Eastern Mongolian Steppes are home to the largest remaining intact temperate grasslands of the Earth. The ecosystem of Eastern Mongolian Steppes is characterized by treeless flat steppes, gently rolling hills, wetlands, and interlinkages with the Khyangan Mountain Range all the way to the border with the People’s Republic of China. The proposed serial property has five components with a total surface area of some 2 million hectares, outstanding components representing the vast ecosystem. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
“The Eastern Mongolia Steppes are the eastern wing of the Eurasian Great Steppes and is the only natural habitat of the Mongolian white-tailed gazelle herds in the world, and home to other rare and endangered species of plants and animals. The Eastern Mongolia Steppes is the only place on earth where the white-tailed gazelle can be found. The Eastern Mongolia Steppes are relatively unaffected by human activities. Similar large herd migration activity can only be seen in the Serengeti of East Africa, and in Saryaka steppe of Kazakhstan.”
Great Burkhan Khaldun Mountain (250 kilometers northeast of Ulaan Baatar) and its surrounding sacred landscape was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. According to UNESCO: “The site is situated in the north-east of the country in the central part of the Khentii mountain chain where the vast Central Asian steppe meets the coniferous forests of the Siberian taiga. Burkhan Khaldun is associated with the worship of sacred mountains, rivers and ovoo-s (shamanic rock cairns), in which ceremonies have been shaped by a fusion of ancient shamanic and Buddhist practices. The site is also believed to be the place of Genghis Khan’s birth and burial. It testifies to his efforts to establish mountain worship as an important part of the unification of the Mongol people.” Property covers 4,437.39 square kilometers and has a buffer zone of 271,651 square kilometers.
Eastern Mongolian Steppes
The Eastern Mongolian Steppes was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Eastern Mongolian Steppes are home to the largest remaining intact temperate grasslands of the Earth. The ecosystem of Eastern Mongolian Steppes is characterized by treeless flat steppes, gently rolling hills, wetlands, and interlinkages with the Khyangan Mountain Range all the way to the border with the People’s Republic of China. The proposed serial property has five components with a total surface area of some 2 million hectares, outstanding components representing the vast ecosystem. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
“The Eastern Steppes are an exceptional ecoregion within the vast Eurasian Steppes spanning from the European Pannonian Steppe to the Mongolian-Manchurian grasslands due to its intactness, relatively high altitude and northern latitude. The main distinctive characteristic of the proposed property compared to other steppe ecosystems is that it is dominated by grasslands across thousands of square kilometers with several species of bush and shrubbery. The herds of an estimated 1.5 to 2 million of Mongolian white-tailed gazelles (Procapra gutturosa) are an inseparable element of the ecosystem, both inhabiting and shaping it. Furthermore, 25 species of mammals, 174 species of birds, 2 species of amphibians and 5 species of reptiles have been recorded.
“The Eastern Mongolian Steppes are dominated by 5 types of grasses including Stipa krylovii, Stipa grandis, Festuca lenensis. There are a total of 11 3 species of flora in Eastern Mongolian Steppes. There are four species of endemic plants, 9 species of sub-endemic plants, critically endangered 1 species of plants, endangered 8 species, 18 species of medicinal plants and 7 species of other plants.
“The Eastern Mongolian Steppes are the home of the Mongolian white-tailed gazelle (Procapra gutturosa) and secondly, it is the home of habitat for a number of Asian species such as raccoon dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides), transbaikal zokor (Myospalax psilurus), and Asian particolored bat (Vespertilio sinensis), at the western edge of region. The Eastern Mongolian Steppes also represent the eastern limit of the Central Asian mountain ranges and the most eastern range of the habitats for a number of species including goitered gazelle (Gazella subgutturosa), Argali sheep (Ovis ammon), Mongolian marmot (Marmota sibirica), five-toed pygmy jerboa (Cardiocranius paradoxus), Kozlov's pygmy jerboa (Salpingotus kozlovi), long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinus auritus) and great bustard (Otis tarda).
“The following components are proposed as a serial property of the Eastern Mongolian Steppes: 1) Dornod Mongolia Strictly Protected Area (589.96 hectares); 2) Toson Khulstai Natural Reserve (458.51 hectares); 3) Bayantsagaan Steppes Natural Reserve (332,362 hectares); 4) Yakhi Nuur Natural Reserve (251,218 hectares); and 5) -Jaran Togoo Steppes (381,476 hectares). The five components have a total area of 2. 1 million hectares. “
The Daurian forest steppe ecoregion (northeast Mongolia, southern Siberia, Russian and western northeastern China) is large band of grassland, shrub terrain, and mixed forests that follows the course of the Onon River and Ulz River. The region has been described as a “sea of grass that forms the best and most intact example of an undisturbed steppe ecosystem and is also one of the last areas in the Palearctic that still supports stable herds of larger vertebrates” in a semi-mountainous area. The area also has flat wetlands that are important to migratory birds. The ecoregion is in the Palearctic ecozone, with a Cold semi-arid climate. It covers 209,012 square kilometers (80,700 square miles).
The Daurian steppes are a vast region located at the junction of the borders of three states — Russia, Mongolia and China. Dauria stands out among the Central Asian steppes for its unique weather conditions, relief, flora and fauna. Tens of millions of years ago there was a subtropical sea, as evidenced by the frequent finds of fossilized corals and mollusks of the time on this territory. Later the terrain changed, and the warm reservoir changed into a “grassy” sea. [Source: Russian Tourism Official Website]
Today, Dauria is meadow steppes, steppe pine forests, picturesque hills and many small warm salt lakes, the largest of which are the Toreys on the border of Russia and Mongolia, Dalainor in China and Buir Nur on the border of Mongolia and China. Most of the steppes of Dauria, located at an altitude of 600-800 meters above sea level, are mountainous. Located in the center of the Eurasian mainland, they are “sheltered” from the influence of the oceans by the mountains of Hentei, the Yablonovy and Borshchovny ranges and the Greater Khingan. Significant spaces of the steppe Dauria are depressions confined to the lake basins. They are replaced by valleys flat as a table or small hill ridges. Individual peaks can reach 1500 meters above sea level.
Dauria is one of the most arid and cold regions of the Central Asian steppe belt: the annual rainfall here ranges from 150 to 400 mm, and the annual temperature difference can exceed 100°C. The largest waterways of the region are Onon, Argun (Hailar), Kerulen and Uldza. The first three rivers are in the upper reaches of the Amur basin and are its sources together with Ingoda and Shilka. Uldza floods the inland Torey Lakes. The change in wet and droughty climatic periods, causing significant changes in spreading and look of the vegetation and the animal population of the ecoregion, is particularly important for Dauria. The most significant intrasecular cycles have a duration of about 30 years.
History of the development of these lands by man is interesting. Suffice it to say that the name of the great Genghis Khan is connected to the Daurian steppes. He was born and raised here, he gathered his army here, and, according to legend, his grave is here as well. Scientists are still arguing about when people first came to Dauria. The remains of Stone, Iron and Bronze Ages encampments are often discovered in the steppe. Encounters with traces of the so-called “culture of tile graves” are also frequent.
At different times Dauria was inhabited by Daurians, Evenks, Mongols, Buryats, Chinese and Slavs. Each nationality introduced its features into the local culture, absorbing, in turn, the unwritten laws of the steppe hospitality, mutual assistance, moderation and patience. Rich pastures and snowless winters contributed to the development of cattle breeding here, primarily sheep and horse breeding. This direction of the economy is still the main one in the region.
Daurian Steppe: UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dauria was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2017. According to UNESCO: “Shared between Mongolia and the Russian Federation, this site is an outstanding example of the Daurian Steppeeco-region, which extends from eastern Mongolia into Russian Siberia and northeastern China. Cyclical climate changes, with distinct dry and wet periods lead to a wide diversity of species and ecosystems of global significance. The different types of steppe ecosystems represented, such as grassland and forest, as well as lakes and wetlands serve as habitats for rare species of fauna, such as the White-naped crane, Great Bustard, Relict Gull and Swan goose, as well as millions of vulnerable, endangered or threatened migratory birds. It is also a critical site on the transboundary migration path for the Mongolian gazelle. [Source: UNESCO]
“Shared by Mongolia and the Russian Federation, the Landscapes of Dauria is a transboundary serial World Heritage property of four component parts. It is an outstanding example of the Daurian steppe ecosystem, which covers over 1 million square kilometers, extending from Eastern Mongolia to Russian Siberia and into North-Eastern China. The serial property covers a total of 912,624 hectares and comprises several protected areas in the northern part of the Daurian steppe ecoregion which occupy large areas of the transition from taiga to desert, including various steppe ecosystems. The inscribed property includes the nationally designated core and buffer zones of most of the Daursky State Nature Biosphere Reserve and the Valley of Dzeren Federal Nature Refuge (Russian Federation), as well as the core zone and a large part of the buffer zone of the Mongol Daguur Strictly Protected Area and the Ugtam Nature Refuge (Mongolia). Most of this property is surrounded by a World Heritage buffer zone of 307,317 hectares, which overlaps with Ramsar sites and UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in both countries (Mongol Daguur in Mongolia and Torrey Lakes in the Russian Federation).
“The main natural value of the property resides in its intact steppe systems (including forest steppe), interspersed with wet meadows and floodplains, at the convergence of three floristic provinces belonging to three floristic regions. This exceptional ecological context results in a diverse combination of ecological complexes which derive from the cyclic climatic and hydrological variations over the year. The property provides key habitats for rare fauna species such as White-naped Crane, Great Bustard and millions of migratory birds of other species, including vulnerable, endangered or threatened species. The property is also an important area of the migration routes of the Mongolian Gazelle (Dzeren) and the major known place where this species breeds in the Russian Federation at the present time. The property also provides sanctuary to endangered Mongolian Marmots (Tarbagan), as well as to the near-threatened Pallas Cat.
“The property provides key habitats for rare fauna species such as the White-naped Crane, the Great Bustard and millions of other vulnerable, endangered or threatened species of migratory birds. The property is also an important area on the migration route of the Mongolian Gazelle (Dzeren) and the only place where this species is known to breed in the Russian Federation. The property also provides sanctuary to both endangered Tabargan and Mongolian Marmots, as well as to the near-threatened Pallas Cat.”
Khan Khentil: Land of Genghis Khan
Khan Khentil Mountain National Park (stretching northeast from Ulaan Baatar to the Russian border) is the native land of Genghis Khan and contains many important historical and cultural sites. Khan Khentii is covered with forests, taiga, and mountain forest steppe. It is the land described in The Secret History of Mongols, a literary monument of the nation, and is a protected area located northeast of the capital city. Khan Khentii Mountain National Park is one of the Mongolian natural and historical treasures, declared by UNESCO as a world heritage site.
Ancestor’s Wall (45 kilometers southwest of Batshireet soum) is approximately 3 feet wide, 8-10 feet high and 4.78 miles in length. It is thought to have been built in the 13th century and remains in remarkable condition to this day. The archeologists believe that Ancestor’s Wall may be a burial place of great Mongolian figures, such as Genghis or Kubilai Khan. A Mongolian-American joint expedition team “Genghis Khan” discovered approximately 60 tombs near the wall in 2003-2005.
Deluun Boldog is where a statue of Genghis Khan was erected in 1962 a for his 800th birthday, t Deluun Boldog. This place is believed to be the great khan’s birthplace, close to what is today Dadal soum, an attractive wooded area in the Northwest Khentii region.
Black Hear Lake is where a ceremony was held in 1189, conferring the title of Genghis Khan to the young Temuujin who thus became the King of the Mongols. Not far from the lake is a trace from the 15 meter wide ger that was Genghis’ dwelling. The land around the lake is a region of taiga forest zone and a vast depression surrounding mountain ranges.
Bereeven Monastery It was considered to be the Mongolian version of the Tibetan Utai and Gumben monasteries. The monastery with a foundation stone laid in 1784, and finished in 1813, used to be one of the bigger religious centers of Khalkh Mongol with about 800 monks. Baldan Bereeven monastery was later destroyed leaving foundational ruins. On the rocky hills surrounding the monastery, you will view religious paintings and art work. We will explore the ruins and meet the monks and carpenters who are now in the process of restoring the monastery.
Domod Steppe is dry steppe, unspoiled by man. In 1992 a Strictly Protected Area of 5,704 square kilometers was declared, primarily to safeguard an example of the last, large undisturbed steppe ecosystem in the World, and protect one of the greatest wildlife sights in Central Asia, the massive herds of Mongolian Gazelle (some 1.5 million gazelles). The reserve is in two parts: Menengiin Tal and Lagiin Khooloi.
Khuduu Aral is a plain site where the Ikh Aurug (palace) of Genghis Khan is located. This site is closely connected with the historical work “The Secret History of the Mongols” because it was finished exactly here. To honor the 750th anniversary of this event, a historic monument was erected at this place in 1990.
Khuduu Aral Archaeological Site
The Archaeological Site at Khuduu Aral and Surrounding Cultural Landscape (150 kilometers southeast of Ulaan Baatar, Delgerkhaan soum, Khentii Province) was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Khuduu Aral of Kherlen river and surrounding cultural landscape covers the most part of Delgerkhaan soum of Khentii province and lays between Kherlen river (from west and south), and Tsenkher river (from east) and covers over 100.000 hectare area. The cultural landscape of Khuduu Aral draws boundary between mountainous zone and dry steppe zone. This area is very famous with its pleasant pasture land, verified therapeutical mineral water of Avarga spring and Toson Lake, and rare animals and endemic plants and beautiful natural landscape. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO ]
The Mt. Kherlenbayan-Ulaan (elongates 30-40 kilometers) is situated at the north of Khuduu Aral and has a considerable number of historical and archaeological sites from the Stone Age to the 18th century CE. The valuable findings discovered from the sites associated with the period of the Mongolian Empire are considered very important for study. The Mountain bears a testimony of the traditional sacrificial and ritual practices, nomadic culture, and pasture use and protection. It is also famous with its, rare in the world, stipa steppe.
Proposed property is located on the border line of rare feather grass steppe zone and forest steppe zone. Nomadic way of pasture use, way of life, culture and traditions are inherited in this land for centuries thanks to wide grassland and pleasant weather conditions. Hundreds of archaeological sites dating back from the Stone Age to the 17-18th century CE are kept in this region. And there are many invaluable archaeological sites associated with the history of the Great Mongolian Empire. Historical events that had happened in this specific area during that time are recorded in the written sources and proven by archaeological findings....From the region, researchers have registered hundreds of monuments and archeological sites starting from prehistoric settlements: from the Bronze and Iron Age, Xiongnu, Turk, Kidan and Great Mongolian Empire.
There is a saying among the people “Khuduu Aral has hundreds of winter camps and springs for herders”. Which means that the area is very convenient place to live and raise livestock. It is an outstanding representative of traditional nomadic culture which has been continually developed and transmitted to successive generations. Khuduu Aral and its surrounding landscape is a classic example of how nomads accomplished the traditional ways of land use practice of nomadic pastoralism for thousands of years. In this area there are many rare and endemic species of plants and animals, and beautiful landscape including forests, high mountains, steppes, rivers and lakes which are fully kept their natural integrity.
The site is important because there are hundreds of archaeological sites from different historical periods within the cultural landscape of Khuduu Aral and the evidences of human habitation about 40.000 years ago. Specially, the Ruins of Avarga archaeological site represents exceptional testimony to historical places where Chinggis Khaan has established the foundation of the Great Mongolian Empire. And from there his successors operated important historical events, closely associated with the history of Eurasia during 12th-13th century CE.
Coordinates:N47 10 50.6 E109 03 34.8
Khuduu Aral: Cradle of the Mongol Empire.
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Archaeological Site at Khuduu Aral and Surrounding Cultural Landscape is the cradle land of the Mongolian Empire. The Avargiin Balgas (Ruins of Avarga) – ancient ruins, formely called Ikh Aurug Ordo (Great Aurug Palace) was a main palace, built during the Chinggis Khaan time, is located at the Khuduu Aral. It was not only the palace of Chinggis Khaan, but also the place where some of his successors were enthroned, and was political and economic centre of the Great Mongolian Empire during its first stage. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO ]
Historical activities and archaeological sites within this proposed heritage site is directly linked with two outstanding documentary heritages of the humanity, the “Secret History of the Mongols” (1240) and “Compendium of Chronicles” (Rashid-al-Din, 1312). At Khuduu Aral Mongolian kings – Chinggis, Ugudei, Munkh, Esuntumur and so on – took their thrones and state affairs were negotiated and settled by the Supreme Counsel (Ikh Khuraldai). Also an outstanding historical and literary work the “Secret History of Mongols” was finished writing and the Eight Ceremonial White Gers (traditional Mongolian dwelling) stayed and worshipped until the 15th century.
All of these statements have been verified by written historical sources and archaeological materials and findings. The Ikh Aurug Ordo was initially a seasonal encampment but over time it grew and became a city. The palace was a dignified one from other palaces of Chingis khaan and was controlled by Queen Burte of Chinggis Khaan. The word Aurug latter became Avarga.
The Ruins of Avarga covers approximately 60 hectare area that measures 1200 meters from west to east and 500 meters from north to south. There are the remains of semi-circular earthen wall in the northern part. Two sides of the main street that went through the eastern and western parts are occupied with several building ruins of which some are hardly recognized with small earth mounds on the surface while over 10 (buildings with and without walls) are clearly recognizable. Big palace, forges, reservoirs, agricultural areas and other small manufacture places have been brought to light through archaeological excavations. Geophysical and radiolocation analyses showed that there are many sacrificial pits around palaces. Moreover, thorough investigations are being conducted on recently found semi-concealed burials at the Kherlenbayan-Ulaan mountain (part of the proposed property) are dated back to the period of Mongolian Empire.
Archaeological sites and artifacts that associated with the beginning of the Great Mongolian Empire and especially with Chinggis Khaan’s time period are found rarely. There are many cities and places related to Chinggis Khaan but most of them lack in real archaeological evidence and documentary sources, while some of them associated with his successor kings. The Ruins of the Avarga at Khuduu Aral of Kherlen river and burials, vaults and other archaeological sites contain the most actual and outstanding information about the history of Eurasia and the World.
The written sources and archaeological studies and laboratory analysis results indicate that Chinggis Khaan’s Great Aurug Palace (Ikh Aurug Ordo) was at Khuduu Aral and after his death his son Tolui declared the Great Aurug Palace as a sacred worshiping place and political center for the Mongolian Empire. The worship rituals have been performed by Chinggis Khaan’s successors until the 15th century.
In Mongolia the proposed heritage site can be compared with Kharkhorum city ruin that is a part of Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape, which inscribed in the World Heritage List in 2004, and in abroad it can be compared with the capital city ruin Xanadu of Yuan dynasty, which was inscribed in the WHL as Site of Xanadu in 2012, and locates in Shiliin Gol province of Inner Mongolia, People’s Republic of China.
Laboratory dating analyses on artifacts and cultural layers uncovered by excavations on the ruins of the Great Aurug Palace demonstrate that the foundation of this city was built before 1190s, whereas the city of Kharkhorum was built after hundred years. The site of Xanadu (1263) represents the interchange between nomadic Mongolian and agricultural people of the Han in terms of capital design, historical layout and building materials, but the settled culture was prevailing.
Dadal: Birthplace of Genghis Khan?
Dadal (550 kilometers northeast of Ulaan Baatar, 30 kilometers from the Russian border) is the purported birthplace of Genghis Khan. Also known as Bayan Ovoo, it is a small village in Khentii province surrounded by beautiful forests, mountains and lakes. It can be reached on a MIAT flight (US$260 roundtrip) or by 15-hour jeep ride (US$25 each way for one day, or US$40 for a two-day trip with overnight camping). Lodging is available in homestays or log cabins. Bear watching trips can be arranged.
More than 43 sites associated with Genghis Khan have been identified in the region, including the place where he was crowned and the place he formed his army. These spots are all nice enough — they have beautiful locations like almost everywhere in northern Mongolia) but there isn’t much there except for maybe a markers that identifies their historic significance, most likely written in Mongolian or Russian.
Huddu Aral is sometimes described as the home of the “Palace of Genghis Khan.” Encircled by the Herlen and Tsenheriin rivers and the Herlen Bayan Ulaan Mountains, it is a grass plain about 30 kilometers long and 20 kilometers wide, at an elevation of 1,300 meters. The site of the Ikh Auring (Palace) of Genghis Khan was on this plain according to the Secret Life of the Mongols. The remains of fortifications can be found here. Nearby are Berg Mine, a Buddhist Temple with a statue of the god Maidar; Avarga Toson Mineral Spring.
According to Columbia University's Asia for Educators: “Genghis (Chinggis) Khan was born probably in 1167, though Mongol tradition has it that he was born in 1162. Because much of his early life is not described, except in myth, reliable knowledge of Genghis's early life is very limited. What we do know is that his father was assassinated when Genghis was nine years old, and that this event left his family extremely vulnerable. Genghis's mother appears in the traditional Mongol sources as a savior and great heroine. [Source: Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu/mongols]
The exact location of Genghis Khan's birthplace and his burial place are unknown but we do know that he was raised in the upper regions of the Onon (Orkhon) River, a forested region rich in game. Many Mongolians believe that he was born in a valley called the Gurvan Nuur where there is a spring where he washed and a pine-cloaked mountain where he prayed.
Genghis Khan's Tomb?
In 2001, an American-Mongolian expedition — financed by Chicago multimillionaire Maury Kravitz and led by University of Chicago professor John Woods — announced that it had found a walled compound on a hillside, near the village of Batshireet in Khentii Province, 200 miles northwest of Ulaan Baatar, that may be Genghis Khan's tomb.
The conclusion was based primarily and the location, size and style of the tomb. Located near Genghis Khan's home town, the tomb and 19 others lie inside a 10-foot-high wall, with a circumference of two miles. Thus far archeologists have not received permission from the Mongolian government to excavate because disturbing the remains of the dead is regarded as taboo. Woods has also claimed that he found the unexcavated tomb of soldiers who were killed after Genghis Khan's burial at a site 50 kilometers from Genghis Khan's burial site.
In 2004, a Japanese and Mongolia team lead by Shimpei Kato, a former professor at Kokugakuin University, and Noriuki Shiraish, a professor at Niigata University, claimed they found Genghis Khan's mausoleum at the Avraga site near the village of Delgerhaan in eastern Mongolia, about 250 kilometers from Ulaan Baatar.
The mausoleum was thought to be part of Genghis Khan's Ordos Palace in Ordos, Inner Mongolia in China. The ruins measure 1,200-x-500 meters, with a mausoleum placed on a central foundation platform measuring 25x-25 meters and believed to be part of the palaces initial foundations. Kato believes that finding the mausoleum is the first step in finding of Genghis Khan's burial place. Ancient documents say that the mausoleum was close to the burial site. ,
The ruins are believed to be Genghis Khan's mausoleum based on: 1) the dating of material found at the site; 2) the way the buildings is constructed is consistent with a mausoleums for a great ruler; and 3) the presence of large amounts of burned bones and ashes from horses and cattle. Chinese documents record ceremonies following the death of Yuan (Mongol) dynasty emperors in which animals are sacrificed and buried everyday for three years.
Baldan Baraivan (320 kilometers east of Ulaan Baatar) is the home of the third largest Buddhist monastery before destroyed by the Soviets. It was built in the 17th century and was home to thousands of monks when it was at its peak. There is an intense effort to rebuild the monastery. Westerners pay US$1,000 a week to participate in a project launched in the late 1990s by San-Francisco-based Cultural Restoration Tourism Project.
Baldan Bereeven Monastery and its Sacred Surroundings were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014.According to a report submitted to UNESCO: The Baldan Bereeven Monastery and its associated landscape is situated in the long and deep valley of the Baruun Jargalant River and within several picturesque sacred mountains such as Munkh Ulziit, Arvan Gurvan Sansar, Bayan Baraat, Bayan Khangai which are mountain branches of The Khentii mountain range. Within this proposed area are located very beautiful Lake of Khangal in front of sacred mountain Bayan Baraat and Jargalant Ovoo (cairn) worshipped by indigenous nomadic people since ancient time. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
Proposed sacred landscape is an outstanding example of traditional land use and culture of nomadic pastoralism, which is deeply associated with the shamanistic world view and practices and Buddhist principles of the benevolence and respect towards nature and sacred sites. The landscape surrounding the Baldan Bereeven Monastery preserves one of the last surviving evidence of real pastoral management regime of the grasslands and the nomadic way of life with herdsmen moving their flocks in season transhumance which have now become more vulnerable under the adverse impact of development of modern society and irreversible environment changes.
The Baldan Bereeven Monastery and its sacred surroundings is an important site because: 1) they “represent a unique fusion between Shamanism and Buddhism that illustrate the important interchange and development of world spiritual and religious cultures in remote part of Central Asian Steppe belt where nomadic pastoralism, life style and culture still exist. 2) The Baldan Bereeven and its sacred surroundings together with sacred Burkhan Khaldun and Binder Mountains are exceptional testimony to unique religious tradition and culture of Mongolian form of Buddhism, and specific valuable tradition and practices of the worshiping sacred sites by Mongolian nomadic people within a cultural area of Eurasia. The Baldan Bereeven Monastery is the only monastery which has been served for worshipping ceremonies of main sacred mountains in this region. 3) Proposed Buddhist monastery and its associated nomadic landscape are an outstanding example of traditional land use and specific culture of nomadic pastoralism, which evolved from prehistoric origins in harmony with the natural landscape of the grassland steppes and resulted in developing unique social and cultural environments of the nomadic civilization.
Baldan Baraivan Monastery
According to the report submitted to UNESCO: The Baldan Bereeven Monastery itself is located in the cul-de-sac of the valley of the Jargalant River backed by steep cliff of sacred Munkh Ulziit Mountain and the valley is well watered by the Jargalant River and has long been renowned for its rich vegetation and pasture for domestic animals and now by famous herdsmen people. Such kind of natural environment has attracted nomadic people since prehistoric times until the present and is the reason for the association of this valley with cultural, religious and worshipping sites. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
The Monastery served as the main religious centre in Eastern Mongolia registered with about 5000-7000 lamas during its higher developed period. The main Tsogchin Temple was built during 1813. The Baldan Bereeven Monastery was built taking into consideration its distant observation, the direction of wind and the sunshine. The setting of the monastery is unique in that it takes into account the ancient geomancies of shamanistic Central Asian tradition as well those of Vajrayana Buddhism of Tibet to create a Mongolian Buddhist cultural landscape for nomadic people. The phenomenon of Baldan Bereeven Monastery was conceived with the intention of creating in Mongolia the similar Buddhist monastic places as in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Lord Buddha to which access for pilgrims was difficult and far away from Mongolia.
According to the traditional Mongolian planning for buildings and temples, a monastery must to be situated at the most picturesque place, but not defiling its pristine view and environment. In addition to symbolic spiritual and religious values the monastery is skilfully integrated into the surrounding natural landscape of mountains, rocks, forests and lake. It also houses much important artistic material in the form of rock art, paintings and statue.
The Baldan Bereeven Monastery includes now three restored temples and nearly 50 remains of temples, stupas and other religious structures. There are also many cliff carvings, stone carvings with different images of Buddhist gods, inscriptions of religious mantras and Mongolian symbol ‘’Soyombo’’, stone sculptures of gods, and other religious and art works along the over 1000 meters of pilgrimage route. They provide invaluable physical and historical materials for the research of spread of Tibetan Buddhism into Mongolia. They not only form a major religious and sacred landscape but also provide the vivid evidence of traditional affection of Mongolian people for the sacred mountain.
The Baldan Bereeven Monastery is the only monastery which has been served for worshipping ceremonies of main sacred mountains in this region. This proposed property has own unique traditional worshiping customs, rituals, ceremonies and symbols that were originated in ancient time and developed through shamanism and later often modified and enriched by Buddhist teachings, ideas, symbols and tradition.
Sacred Binder Mountain
Binder Mountain (270 kilometers northeast of Ulaan Baatar, Khentii province) is a “most scared mountain” located in the Khentii Mountain range. Sacred Binder Mountain and its Associated Cultural Heritage Sites was nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2014. According to a report submitted to UNESCO: Proposed property and the sacred Burkhan Khaldun Mountain are located in same geographical zone and belong to same type of cultural landscape of same historic-cultural group, though they situated separately from each other. The nominated property bears an exceptional evidence of the existence of human beings within grassland steppe region at the juncture of Central and North East Asia, which offers a uniquely extensive view of nomadic culture and its communities from Palaeolithic time to the present. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
Sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural monuments and sites are an outstanding example of evolving sacred cultural landscape. Through sustainable land-use practices of nomadic pastoralism and shamanistic, religious and spiritual relationship and respect to nature, has created the specific nomadic civilization that has been evolved from prehistoric origins in harmony with the natural landscape of the vast grassland steppes. Today, Mongolian herders who are living around the area of sacred Binder Mountain are still experiencing the nomadic pastoralism and culture, way of life, custom and traditional craftsmanship technique, traditional performing arts and festive events left by ancestors within the territory of the landscape.
The sacred landscape is important because it: 1) illustrates a unique fusion between Shamanism and Buddhism. Through stone inscriptions in different languages, it demonstrates the important interchanges and development of some world spiritual and religious cultures in remote part of Central Asian steppe belt. 2) It is exceptional testimony to unique cultural tradition and practices of the worshipping and offering for sacred mountain by Mongolian nomadic people within a cultural area of Eurasia. 3) It is an outstanding example of traditional land-use and specific culture of nomadic pastoralism which evolved from prehistoric origins in harmony with the natural landscape of the grassland steppes and resulted in developing unique social and cultural environments of nomadic civilization.
Coordinates: N48 23 26 E110 15 32.50
Sites in the Binder Mountain Area
There are many cultural, archaeological and worship vestiges dated from Palaeolithic period through the Bronze, Iron Ages and the successive historical periods including the Binder Ovoo (cairn) of the sacred Binder Mountain, stone aged archaeological sites of Rashaan Khad, the huge number of burial and ceremonial sites, deer stones and rock arts, within and around of the nominated landscape.
Within the nominated area, near the Binder Ovoo is located very famous heritage site of Rashaan Khad (rock) which embraces Palaeolithic, Neolithic Age ancient human settlements, and Hunnu, Kitan and Mongolian burial sites, rock arts, carvings of hundreds of tribal stamps and around twenty inscriptions in Orkhon-Enisei, Kitanese, Arabic-Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian scripts covering a range of various historical periods starting from the upper Palaeolithic to the middle Ages.
The Uglugchiin Kherem or Almsgiver’s Wall is situated 8-10 kilometers from the Binder Ovoo. This stone masonry wall with a length of approximately 3 kilometers is laid out orderly and accurately supporting the mountain. Mongolian historian Kh. Perlee supposed that the site dates back to the Kitan Empire relying on findings and fragments of clay potteries discovered from the site.
Binder’s deer stone site is located about 2 kilometers to the north of the Binder Ovoo. In addition to the main deer stone the site encloses 12 square burials, and two other smaller deer stones. The main deer stone is of 230 cm tall, 42 cm wide and 30 cm thick and covered with seven carved depictions of deer which go all the way around the stone. These very rich and important cultural and worship sites are the explicit indication that the this landscape round the Binder Mountain has long standing sacred associations for the ancestors of nomadic people.
The sacred Binder Mountain and historic and cultural sites including the Rashaan Khad, Almsgiver’s Wall and others vestiges illustrate outstanding example of sacred landscape that reflects a persistent and long lasting tradition of culture of worship and practices of sacred sites since a prehistoric times.
Choibalsan (625 kilometers east of Ulan Bator in the far eastern part of Mongolia) is the main town in eastern Mongolia and fourth-largest city in Mongolia (after Ulaanbaatar, Darkhan, and Erdenet) but only has a population of around 45,000 people. The name of the city was Bayan Tümen until 1941, when it was renamed after the communist leader Khorloogiin Choibalsan. The capital of Dornod Province, is situated at the Kherlen River, at an elevation of 747 meters..
Choybalsan( is one of Mongolia's major industrial cities and was once an important religious center. The city also benefited from its location on Mongolia's main trading route with Manchuria, Siberia, and China A coal mine near Choybalsan produces nearly 600,000 tons of coal a year. Most of this is consumed by the city's large electric power plant. Choybalsan is accessible by a major east-west highway which links the city with Ulaan Baatar and the western city of Hovd. An eastern branch of the Ulan Bator Railway links Choybalsan with Borzya, Russia. The Choibalsan Airport has one paved runway, and is served by regular flights to Ulaanbaatar, and Hailar and Manzhouli in Inner Mongolia, China.
Choibalsan is inhabited primarily by Halh Mongols, with smaller numbers of Buryats, Barga Mongols, and Üzemchin. There is also a minority of immigrants from China who now constitutes the only China Town in Mongolia outside Ulaanbaatar. Choybalsan is eastern Mongolia's leading industrial center, producing about 50 percent of the region's gross industrial output. The city has a diverse industrial base that includes a flour mill, a meat-packing plant, and a wool-scouring mill. Other factories in the city produce foodstuffs, building materials, and carpets.
Khanbayanzurkh Mountain: Sacred Mountain
Khanbayanzurkh Mountain (southeastern Mongolia, 600 kilometers southeast of Ulaan Baatar) is one the Sacred Mountains of Mongolia, which were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. It is located in Sainshand soum, Dornogovi province; Coordinates:N44° 41' 38" E111° 02' 43".
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “The tradition of worshipping sacred mountains and waters is one of the outstanding cultural heritage elements created, developed and practiced by Mongolians since ancient times. The tradition initially developed and thrived during shamanic period and was later enriched with Buddhist ideologies and rituals. This significantly contributed to the preservation of our natural environment and wildlife as sacred and pristine. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
“The tradition of worshipping mountains has very specific customs and rituals. There are many wonderful intangible cultural heritage elements associated with the worship of sacred mountains that have been preserved and continue to thrive, such as chanting sutras and sharing folk knowledge, legends, benedictions, odes, epics, folk songs, folk art and performing art.
Nomadic Mongols worship and revere the highest, lofty and beautiful of their local mountains. According to reliable sources, the khaans of the Xiongnu Empire, who established the first Statehood in the territory of Mongolia, and later Chinggis Khaan all revered the mountains, conducting and practicing them as rituals of state worship. In the legal sources such as “Khalkh Juram” (or Khalkha Rules) of 1709, especially beautiful and scenic Mongolian mountains and lakes were designated and protected by the State law, and in 1778, the Bogd Khan, Khan Khentii (Burkhan Khaldun) and Otgontenger Mountains were declared as State protected and worshipped sacred mountains.
Khanbayanzurkh Mountain is located in Zuunbayan bag of Sainshand soum, Dornogovi Province. The Mountain is an ancient extinct volcano elevated 1032 meters above sea level. The Mountain has been worshipped by locals since time immemorial. The Mountain is renowned among people with several different names such as Black Mountain, Mountain of Wishes or Chandmani Mountain, and is special for its pilgrims who come to say their prayers and make wishes. The 5th Noyon Khutagt Danzanravjaa, a prominent Buddhist figure, worshipped the Mountain, as did those before him. There are three wooden temples of Ariyabal, Nugneen and Danzanravjaa’s burial temple at the Mountain. Local people have properly restored the temples. There are several handwritten sutras for the worship ritual, which are currently kept at the hand of a monk in charge of worship rituals. This sacred mountain has now become a most favorite worship destination for pilgrims and tourists in Mongolia.
Altan Ovoo Mountain: Sacred Mountain
Altan Ovoo Mountain (southeastern Mongolia, 700 kilometers southeast of Ulaan Baatar) is one the Sacred Mountains of Mongolia, which were nominated to be a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2015. It is located in Dariganga soum, Sukhbaatar province; Coordinates: N45° 21' 49" E114° 30' 50"
According to a report submitted to UNESCO: “Altan Ovoo Mountain is located in the steppe zone at 1354 meters ASL in Dariganga soum, Sukhbaatar Province. It is one of over 200 ancient extinct volcanoes located in this rolling steppe area. To the south of this mountain there are sand dunes. Dagshin Spring, Duut Lake and Ganga Lake are all located at its southern slope. At its southeast slope there are four human stone statues of “Khan (King), Khatan (Queen), Prince and Princess”. Scholars who conducted researches on the depictions of the king and queen, have associated their clothes, decorations and accessories with the XVIII century. Locals of Dariganga give offerings to the Khan and Khatan statues and read special sutras to worship the Altan Ovoo Mountain. [Source: Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO]
“As the researchers have identified, there are more than 1000 sacred sites in Mongolia at present. In early times, all sacred mountains were worshipped with shamanic rituals and later these wonderful tradition and rituals were enriched with Buddhist teachings and rites. Since 1995, some sacred mountains of Mongolia were declared as State Sacred Mountains, and State Ceremonies were conducted to worship those sacred Mountains at the national level once every four years with the participation of President of Mongolia. The President considers his participation to be an important measure in protecting the tradition.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Mongolia tourism and government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Japan News, Yomiuri Shimbun, Compton's Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
Updated in August 2020