Gandantegchinlen Monastery

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Ulan Bator is the capital and by far the largest city of Mongolia. An independent municipality, the city is not part of any province, and its population as of 2008 is over one million.

Located in north central Mongolia, the city lies at an elevation of about 1,310 metres (4,300 ft) in a valley on the Tuul River. It is the cultural, industrial, and financial heart of the country. It is the centre of Mongolia's road network, and is connected by rail to both the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia and the Chinese railway system.

The city was founded in 1639 as a movable (nomadic) Buddhist monastic centre. In 1778 it settled permanently at its present location, the junction of the Tuul and Selbe rivers. Before that it changed location twenty-eight times, with each location being chosen ceremonially. In the twentieth century, Ulan Bator grew into a major manufacturing centre.

Ulan Bator has not seen any war-related destruction except the February 1921 Battle of Urga in which Baron Ungern von Sternberg defeated the 10,000 strong Chinese garrison (who had themselves occupied Urga without a battle). During the Battle of Urga it was mainly the outskirts of the city that suffered damage on the large part due to fires. It was instead Prime Minister Choibalsan's harsh policies in 1937 that led to the destruction of entire sections of the city. The Zuun khuree central palace-temple complex, the nobles' residences, many ger districts as well as the main markets were completely destroyed to make way for more modern buildings. Therefore few buildings survive from before 1937.

Pre-1937 buildings that survive include: Dambadarjaalin monastery in Sukhbaatar District (1765), Dashchoilin monastery's large yurt chapels (built in 1778), Gandan monastery's golden-roofed Gandantegchinlen temple also called the Tsogchin dugan (1838), Vajradhara temple (1841), Zuu temple (1869), Didan Laviran temple (19th century), the restored Russian Consulate building (1863), Erdem Itgemjit temple (1893) at the Bogd Khan's Winter Palace, rest of the buildings at the same Palace (1893–1906), the Museum of Ulaanbaatar's History which was formerly the private residence of the rich Buryat merchant Tsogt Badamjav (1904), Zanabazar's Art Museum building which was formerly called the Ondor Khorshoo (1905), the two-storey brick headquarters of the mining company "Mongolore" (1905), the tall Megjid Janraisig temple (1913–1914), the residence of Chin Wang Khanddorj, a prominent noble and politician in the early years of Mongolia's independence (1913), the first telephone building where Russian Orthodox choir singers stayed (1914), Marshal Zhukov Museum etc. The building of the Teacher's College was originally the government headquarters and dates from 1930. Prime Minister Genden's residence was built in 1930.

Among the notable older monasteries is the Choijin Lama Monastery, a Buddhist monastery that was completed in 1908. It escaped the destruction of Mongolian monasteries when it was turned into a museum in 1942. Another is the Gandan Monastery, which dates to the 19th century. Its most famous attraction is a 26.5-meter-high golden statue of Migjid Janraisig. These monasteries are among the very few in Mongolia to escape the wholesale destruction of Mongolian monasteries under Khorloogiin Choibalsan.

Ulan Bator has several museums dedicated to Mongolian history and culture. The Natural History Museum features many dinosaur fossils and meteorites found in Mongolia. The National Museum of Mongolian History includes exhibits from prehistoric times through the Mongol Empire to the present day. The Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts contains a large collection of Mongolian art, including works of the 17th century sculptor/artist Zanabazar, as well as Mongolia's most famous painting, One Day In Mongolia by B. Sharav.

Pre-1778 artifacts that never left the city since its founding include the Vajradhara statue made by Zanabazar himself in 1683 (the city's main deity kept at the Vajradhara temple), a highly ornate throne presented to Zanabazar by the Kangxi Emperor (before 1723), a sandalwood hat presented to Zanabazar by the Dalai Lama (c. 1663), Zanabazar's large fur coat which was also presented by the Kangxi Emperor and a great number of original statues made by Zanabazar himself (e.g. the Green Tara).

Puzzle Toys Museum displays a comprehensive collection of complex wooden toys to be assembled by players using sophisticated methods.
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