The Manzushir temple is situated at the southern part of the Great Bogd Khan Uul, the most sacred mountain of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. There are remained several Buddhist rock carvings at Manzushir temple in Mongolia, but they have not yet been studied by any scholars of Mongolian history or Buddhist art history in the world. In this paper, I conduct the first survey of the iconography and dating of the three most important Buddhist Rock carvings in Manzushir temple.
Manzushir temple was first established as a Tibetan Buddhist monastery under the Geluk order during the early eighteenth century for the purpose of worshipping the Bodhisattva Manjusri, with the support of the second Jebtsundamba Khutuktu, one of the famous living Buddha in Mongolian Buddhism. This buddhist temple had a high status in Mongolian Buddhism until the early twentieth century but was burned to the ground by the modern Mongolian Communists in the 1930s. However, several inscriptions of a bronze cauldron and an iron Buddhist bell in the temple show us the early history of this Buddhist temple. According to the inscriptions, the bronze cauldron was made in 1727 and the iron Buddhist bell was made in 1768.
The three main Buddhist rock carvings of Manzushir temple are carved on each of three big natural rocks with wooden canopies. The first rock carving represents six Tibetan Buddhist images that are all related with Tsongkhapa, the most famous Buddhist teacher in the Geluk order. The main image in the center is of a sitting Tsongkhapa image with a sword and a sacred book, representing the incarnation of Bodhisattva Manjusri. The other five images represent two of his disciples, two Taras, and a Yama Dharmaraja. The second rock carving is a representation of the four-armed Bodhisattva Avaloketesvara, sitting on a lotus pedestal. The last and the biggest rock carving on the top of the mountain slop is the image of Chagaan Övgön (čaγan ebügen), who is a mountain god of Mongolian Buddhist and folk tradition. This image might have been created in the early eighteenth century by the governor of that time to protect the sacred mountain. These three Buddhist rock carvings might have been carved during the eighteenth century for the Buddhist monastery and the sacred mountain Bogd Khan Uul with the support of the most powerful Mongolian governors and monks of that time.
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