Lake Khuvsgul is called Mongolia’s “Blue Pearl”. Located in the most northern part of Mongolia, it is elevated some two kilometers above sea level and is frozen from January until May. Untouched by industrial development and modern urban life, the Lake’s water is unbelievably clear, and every variety of fish can be seen some ten meters below. Khuvsgul is the second largest fresh water lake in Central Asia, containing two per cent of the world’s fresh water supplies with the some 96 rivers flowing into the lake. During the frozen period, the lake is covered by and ice that is over one meters thick. The local residents hold annual ice festival, which includes ice skating, cross-country skiing and horse-sledding.
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Khuvsgul Aimag has several ethnic minorities such as the Buriat, Darkhad and Dukha; the latter are known as the Tsaatan reindeer herders. Their days are centered entirely on the reindeer and on shaman rituals, a unique culture that has for centuries involved a sustainable use of products from the reindeer and the taiga (forest). Sadly, this lifestyle is now being threatened by the encroachment of the modern world.
Amarbayasgalant Monastery, the Monastery of Tranquil Felicity, is one of the three most important centers of Buddhism and learning in Mongolia. Built between 1727 and 1736, it flourished for some 200 years until the 1937-38 religious purges, when only the central section of the temple complex escaped complete destruction. Its entire contents of thank as (paintings), manuscripts and statues were looted or hidden away by the faithful. It was originally built to house the remains of Zanabazar, the seventeenth to eighteenth century religious and temporal ruler, and was one of the first non-nomadic monasteries, financed by the Manchu treasury as a physical symbol of Manchu rule over Mongolia. In the early 1900s there were over 8,000 monks. Divided into six communities, they lived in gers in rows separated by narrow streets, each community having its own main hall. It was consecrated again in September 1992 with ceremonies led by Gurdavaa Rembuuchii, a lama living in Nepal, who has been central tore storing the monastery.
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