The mountain looming over Ulaanbaatar to the south is the first protected mountain in the world, since 1778. Because of its religious significance this beautiful mountain has been untouched for centuries in terms of utilizing its resources and hunting animals. Worshipping ceremony of the mountain was interrupted during 1921 to 1995. However, ther ceremony has been restored in the latter years.
This mountain is on the boundary of a steppe and forest-steppe natural zone. The mountain also marks the Southern border of Siberian forest and Mongolian forests.
The Bogd Khan strictly protected place has an area of 416 square km and the highest point is Tsetsee Gunwhich is 2256 meters above sea level. The Bogd Khan Mountain has over 220 species of plants, some rare animals like red deer, musk deer, Siberian deer, Siberian ibex, wild boar and many species of birds such as common buzzard, woodpecker, stork and others. The mountain is great for hiking and it is popular for its forest with larch trees, grasslands, stunning plants and its animal life.
Climbing to the top of the tors of the granite cliff peak, Tsetsee Gun for splendid views is really challenging. The peak is a three hour hike away and five-six hours for the round trip hike. The mountain was registered in “the World Biosphere Reserve Network” in 1996.
The Bogd Khan Mountain, along with Mongolia’s other sacred mountains Burkhan Khaldun and Otgontenger, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on August 6, 1996 in the Cultural category. World Heritage sites are those that exhibit universal natural or cultural significance, or both. In 1783 the local Mongolian government of the Qing Dynasty declared the Bogd Khan a protected site, for its beauty. This makes it the oldest legally protected natural area in the world. It is about 7440 feet tall.
Mount Bogd Khan Uul was already protected during Zanabazar’s time. Zanabazar was said to have meditated under a tree called Janchivsembe in Nukht Valley of Mount Bogd Khan Uul. Russian envoy V.S.Turskii, the son of a Tobolsk landowner, was sent to the 1st Jebtsundamba Khutugtu Zanabazar (1635–1723) and his brother Tusheet Khan Chakhundorj in 1681. In his report he makes the following notes when covering the period June 2, 1681 to June 16, 1681 (he describes two pavilions that were built somewhere between the current Sky Resort and MCS Coca-Cola Plant in eastern Ulaanbaatar):
In 1778 the Mongolian governor (minister) of Khuree (Urga, present day Ulan-Bator) Sanzaidorj sent a letter to the Qianlong Emperorrequesting approval of annual ceremonies dedicated to Mount Bogd Khan Uul. The Mongolian letter and the reply from Beijing in Mongolian is kept in the Central State Archives of Mongolia.
The text of governor Sanzaidorj’s letter reads:
To this the Board for Administration of Outlying Regions in Beijing replied in Mongolian:
The ceremony of worshipping Mount Bogd Khan Uul used to take place over two days. Religious ceremonies were held on the first day which was followed by a festive naadam on the second day. There are two ovoos (sacred pile of stones or cairns) on Tsetsee Gun (Duke Tsetsee) peak. The east ovoo was called Religion Ovoo, the west was called State Ovoo. Each Ovoo received food offerings, full cow offering and a number of sheep offerings. These offerings were said to be arranged as tall as the ceiling of a 10 walled ger. The various dairy products, airag and yoghurt sent from the surrounding provinces were collected a month in advance in Chuluut gorge. On the day of the ceremony these offerings were all loaded on camels and taken up to Tsetsee Gun peak. Khans and nobles (noyans) would ascend on horseback up State Gathering Gorge early before sunrise. At the same time around 50 lamas including high-ranking tsogchin unzad and gesgui would make their way from Ikh Khuree (Urga proper) while around 40 lamas would make their way from Manjusri Monastery (built in 1733) on the south side of the mountain and join them at the Ovoo. First the Khan’s decree was read. The credentials written on yellow silk and other ceremonial silk was burnt in a censer. Then the worshippers would circle the Ovoos clockwise each according to their rank holding silk scarves and offering select food offerings in respect. The two peaks of Mount Bogd Khan Uul were given the title Duke (гүн) and awarded a salary of 50 lang. This salary was offered to them wrapped in silk on top of the mountain. After the ceremony the food was distributed to the 30 monastic schools and 10 monasteries. The spirits of the mountain were visualized as a strong Khangarid bird and a white-bearded old man riding a deer (Цагаан Өвгөн). These sacred characters could be seen participating in the Tsam dances. Eventually an eight-sided, golden-roofed temple was built for the ceremony. It was permanently staffed by two monks who were met weekly by the mountain police to replenish their candle oil and food supplies.