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KHara-Hot - The Black & Dead City



The City's history
Khara-hot was the oldest city in Gobi Desert, which situated on the east bank of Ezen (Lord in Mongolian) River (the Chinese call Hei He, or Black River) and in the middle of the Gobi Gurvansaikhan mountain (lowest part of the Altai Mountains) and the Alasha Gobi (now in China).


The lost city was a remote land in several hundred miles far from the Tumen Gazruin Tsagaan Kherem (the White Wall of 10,000 li or just Great Wall in correct English) in the north. The Great Wall chained in the frontiers of Alasha Desert, which were the natural border of Mongols and Chinese.

According to the Chinese resources, the city was the northern center of Chinese civilization to distribute the Chinese culture to Barbarians (our direct ancestors) since II century of B.C. The Tangut's Shi-Shia Empire conquered this land in VIII century and belonged to them for four centuries. But they lost in war with Mongols and it was handed to the Mongol Empire in XII century.


Khara-hot means the Black City in Mongolian language and it existed as a Mongol city for centuries. In 1372 the Ming armies captured Ezen (Etsina) region from the Mongols and destroyed the Khara-hot during the Mongol-Chinese conflict.

In the Mongolian legend of Khara-hot, "the black & dead city", Khara Baatar (black hero with black magic words) Janjin ruled this city with his brave warriors.


The first legend of Khara Baatar and the city's death

Khara Baatar was so great and powerful than the Chinese Emperor.


But the Chinese armies encircled Khara-hot and Khara Baatar with his people was without water, determined to die fighting at the head of his brave warriors.

Khara Baatar prepared for the attack, but his favorite daughter prevailed on him to save his life. After a parley with Chinese Emperor it was decided that the Chinese should be allowed to enter the town unopposed on the following morning by the gate in the west wall.

During the night the whole Chinese army assembled before the western gate impatiently awaiting the pillage of the coming day. But the under cover of darkness of the night Khara Baatar and the remnant of his army left the eastern gate of the town, and the his favorite daughter stayed behind alone to open the western gate at daybreak in fulfillment of the promise given.

The warriors, once so proudly mounted, were obliged to escape on foot, for all their horses had died of thirst. Only at the head of the melancholy remnant of his period army. All the while during the flight the chief spoke "black words", and the country about the fugitives was transformed. All natural life dead.


The trees of the forest threw themselves to the ground, outstretched in the direction in which Khara Baatar was disappearing and storms arose which soon buried the country in sand.


Night View of the Kara-hot Wall


The Khara Baatar and his warriors went never again on victorious campaigns, for they encamped upon the boundary between their ancient land and that of the Chinese to let themselves be buried under the advancing wave of sand.

But during the night, before the Chinese obtained entrance to the town, Khara Baatar's daughter threw its remaining treasures into the dried-up well. In the morning the Chinese found to their consternation that what at sunset had been forests and fertile grazing grounds was now transformed to barren desert.


Raging they stormed into the town to seek vengeance and to plunder, but all they found was one lonely girl who sat weeping in a watch tower.

Khara Baatar's treasure was never found by the Chinese, for the girl was slain without having revealed its hiding place, and soldiers had to flee hurriedly from the dead town and its barren surroundings if they were nor to perish of thirst and hunger.

Since that time many treasure seekers have tried to bring to light the assembled treasure of the town. On certain nights in may be lying in a great pot deep down in the well, but so soon as anyone approaches flames rise up for its protection. Shamans and Tibetan lamas have been bought to frustrate the magic power that protects it. But all has been vain.


The Khara Baatar's spirit still guards the riches of the town.


The second legend of Khara Baatar and the city's death
During the last days of Mongols rule Etsina was commanded by a brave chief-man called Khara Baatar, a name given to him because of his ability to invoke black magic.


On hearing that a large force of rebellious Chinese was advancing against the city, he led his warriors out to engage them in open country. But he was defeated and had to withdraw within the wall of his fortress town.

The siege of city lasted a long time. Unable to take it by force, the Chinese built a dam to cut off its source of water. This was a channel of Black River that washed up against the wall as a sort of moat whose bed could still be made out. The defenders dug a well in the northwest corner of the city, desperately sinking it down over nine hundred feet, but they failed to find any water.

Khara Baatar decided to go down fighting. He gave order to kill his two wives and his son and daughter lest they be abused by the enemy. And he hid all his treasures, over a million ounces of silver plus untold quantities of gold and many other valuables, in the well before filling it in.

Then, through of opening cut in the north wall, he galloped out at the head of his men to fight his way through the gauntlet of encircling Chinese. One by one his outnumbered warriors fell before the pursuing Chinese. As he fled, fighting all the way, Khara Baatar cried out words of black magic. Immediately, all life about him withered and died.


Irrigated fields dried up, clops shriveled, trees became skeletons, everything turned black, and sand storms rose to cover the city and the countryside around it.


The discovery of Khara Baatar's treasures
This dead human memory had slept for six centuries in the desert's embrace when Peter Kuzimich Kozolov discovered it in 1909.


After a month's work, during which the rapacious Russian traveler had to maintain constant camel communications with the Ezen River, greedy Kozolov found, deep beneath the sand, a vault filled with treasures of art from long-vanished epoch, banners, marvelous paintings, cult objects and quantities of ancient manuscripts.


The treasures he excavated had been preserved undamaged through the centuries in the dry desert climate, an the colors glowed with their pristine brilliance.


Hermitage Museum, Sankt Petersburg, Russia

It was true and a real example of that Mongols never were owners for own treasures.



Khara-Khorum & Erdene Zuu

The meaning of the word, Khara-Khorum, might be one of the following words:

  • khara-khu'rem (black stone)

  • khara khorin (black wall)

  • khara-kerem (black castle)

  • khara-korum (black shivers of the ruins of Uigur's KaraKorum, VIII CE)

  • khorin ger (twenty gers, according to old Mongolian custom, was a center of the city)

  • kho'l khorin (a place is not allowed to speak) and et cetera

The great ruler, Chingis khaan, ordered to build Khara-Khorum in 1220 as a capital of the Mongolian Empire. The second great khaan, Ogodei, made it the real capital of the Mongolian Empire.


The fourth great khaan, Monke, extended the city and Europian travelers recorded the city in the world history in 1246 as "Khara Khorin".



During the complicts between Arig-Bokhe and Khubilai khaan, Khubilai's general Esunge slitely damaged Khara-Khorum and took over in the winter, 1261.


In 1260, Khubilai khaan moved the Mongolian capital from Khara-Khorum to Kaiping (Xanedu or Shandu in Mongolian), then to Beejing (Daidu) in 1264. Later, Ming army completely ruined Khara-Khorum in 1410.

Erdene Zuu monastery is the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia. It was built at the initiative of the most influential Khalha lord Abtai Khan, in 1586 on the spot where Khara-Khorum, the famous capital of the Mongolia Empire of the XIII century was.


The stone columns, blocks and sculptures excavated from the ruins of the city show that various building materials were used in the construction of this monastery, which began in the XVI century and continued until the XIX century.





Khara Kohrum

from T'sMongoliaPage Website


Time is past...(surrounded by barley fields)



This is the tortoise monument of Khara Kourum.


I heard that this stone had been a foundation stone of the Palace. An small textbook about Khara Kourum was sold at a stand in Erdene zuu monastery. [Ancient Kara-Korum by Dr.L.Tudev]



The view of Erdene zuu monastery from Khara Kourum. If you would like to be able to walk Khara Kourum from Erdene zuu monastery.


The white wall and Stupas are Erdene zuu's.




A considerable portion of the building work of the temples, fortress and stupas was created under the direction of the Mongolian artisan Manzshir and many Mongolian craftsmen participated in erecting this architectural ensemble.


The architectural style of the temples combines the style of ancient Mongolian, Tibetan and Chinese architecture. Most noteworthy is that not a single nail was used in the building.

The territory of the monastery occupies an area of 400 square meters and is surrounded by a stone wall with 108 stupas. These stupas were erected either in honor of a prominent historical event, or as the grave of a state or religious figure. Almost ten thousand lamas lived within the fortress, which contained more than 60 chapels of various sizes.


Erdene Zuu is said to have had 108 Tsam dancers and religious rites were arranged annually in different parts of the monastery.




Erdene zuu monastery

(Now silent...)

from T'sMongoliaPage Website


The golden stupa at Erdene zuu.(named Zoborugun)



The gate of Erdene zuu monastery.(near Lavrin zuu)



The stupa of Erdene zuu monastery's wall.(There are 108th.) Erdene zuu monastery is surrounded by this wall and stupas.



This is the Lavrin zuu. (The wall of Erdene zuu monastery.) I felt long time past and many things.( why am I here? what am I?)




The Mongolians, Chinese, Arab and Tibetan scripts of the XIII and XIV centuries have been preserved to the present in some of the temples.


The chapel built in honor of the Tusheet Khan Chahundorj's visit to Dalai Lama in 1675 is also situated here.

Furthermore there is a brick fortress wall with two graves, of Abtai Khan who died in 1587, and his son Tusheet Khan Gombodorj. The tomb of Gombodorj's wife is placed outside of the fortress in the so called 'female sector' of the monastery, on the north eastern side.


Three main temples, "Three Zuu" (below insert) the western temple of which was built by Abtai Khan and his son Gombodorj, stand in most sacred western side.


Three statues of 8 idols are placed in the temple, the one on the left side depicting Sanjaa who, according to the religious mythology, was the first disseminator of religion before Buddha, the on of right being Jamba (the Holy Maitreya), disseminator of Buddhism after Buddha, and the one in the centre is Buddha in his old age.




Gurvan zuu

(Triple temples)

from T'sMongoliaPage Website



I could see the insight of the Gurvan zuu.


When we reached the Gurvan zuu, it was too late to see the insight. But Battutuushinn's father did best negotiate for me.(Thanks a lot...)



This temples's name were written in real Mongolian letters.


Perhaps, we can't see the real color of this temple's walls and windows from this photograph, but they had been very colorful in the past.



These are front entrance of the triple temples. There were differences between these doors. And I heard that there is important means of number '3'. For example Past, modern and feature.




The main Central Zuu was built by the missionary Tsogt at the Zungen Lord's ruling.


An idol can be seen on either side of the entrance of the main shrine of Erdene Zuu, the idol Lham to the left and the idol Gombogur to the right.

Three big idol statues are placed along the northern wall. On the left of the God of medicine Otoch Manal, on the right is Holy Abida, and the centre the Buddha in his youth. Statues of 8 idols are also placed in the temple. These are the Buddha's disciples, the God of the Moon, 8 Sages and others. A special pedestal displays dozens of gilded statues of idols (chased and molded) the works of Under Gegen Zanabazar, a master sculptor and artist.


The walls of the temple are adorned with beautiful works of appliqué depicting the forest, mountains and caves where the gods pursued their hermitic existence. These pictures are called the land of the Thousand Buddha of Golden Time, who have descended from heaven to earth.


The eastern temple of Zuu was built by Erhi Mergen Khan's wife and the Bogdo Lama's mother. There are three big statues displayed in the temple, on the left is the Bogdo lama himself, on the right is the idol Janraiseg, and the center is the image of the Buddha in his teenage years. The model of the eastern Zuu temple made of brown sandalwood is placed on a central pedestal.

The main stupa which is called the Golden Payer Stupa stands in the northern sector. The three-circled palace of Lavran restored in 1969-1973 is located nearby and is the only monument in Mongolia of pure Tibetan style. The central square of the monastery, 45 meters in diameter, is paved with flagstones and is named the Square of Happiness and Prosperity.


Legend says that the ger (yurta) of Abtai Khan stood here, a big ger (yurta) or Benediction erected in 1658, in which the annual assemblies of the Mongolian lords were usually held. A grass-covered hollow has been left at the place near the square where there was once a pond.


The Erdene Zuu monastery preserves the marvelous works of the Mongolian artisans, painters, cutters, sculptors, embroideries and craftsmen of the XVII century.

Erdene Zuu monastery was severely damaged at the end of the XVII century and the beginning of the XVIII centuries at the time of the struggle of the Mongolians against the Manchu invaders.


It was restored several times, in 1760-1796 and in 1808-1814.