Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Mongolia | Zanabazar | Yestiin Hot Springs

Yestiin Hot Springs

N48º36.149 – E107º50.465. Töv Aimag. Located on a small tributary of the Bugaryaagiin Gol, which flows north into Buryatia, the springs are accessible by horse only from Möngönmort forty miles to the southeast or from the Terelj resort area forty-two miles to the south-southwest.

While overseeing the construction of nearby Sardgiin Khiid from 1654 to 1680 Zanabazar would have ample opportunities to visit Yestiin Rashaan (rashaan = mineral springs) twelve miles to the northwest. According to tradition Zanabazar identified here up to twenty individual mineral springs here and gave very specific instructions on how they were to be used. Water from the smaller springs, many of them just seepages, were said to affect different parts of the body; there are springs for the left and right eye, the left and right nostril, the left and right kidney, teeth, heart, lungs, stomach, skin, ulcers, bones, and on. There are also larger springs around which bathing pits were dug and log bath houses established. Bathing in the water of these springs was said to beneficial for the whole body. The best time to use the springs is in spring or autumn, and for a full treatment they should be used daily for regimes of twenty-one, twenty-seven, or thirty-one days. Odd-numbered days are better. Also, there is one day in each month which is thought to be the most beneficial to use the springs; for example the eighth day of the eighth month, according to the Tibeto-Mongolian lunar calendar.

According to one tradition Zanabazar stopped here for the last time in 1688 or 1689 when he was fleeing from Galdan Bolshigt and dictated to a local nobleman by the name of Tserendorj all the properties of the springs. Tserendorj then passed the information along to local people. An alternative version suggests that Tserendorj lived in the mid-nineteenth century and that in 1853 he gathered together oral traditions about Zanabazar’s instructions concerning the springs and recorded them for the benefit of subsequent users.

Currently there are two bath houses and a small chapel at the hot springs.
Temple and Bathhouse
Local Herdsman Zevgee in front of the temple
Unfortunately, as of 2005, the roof of the larger bathhouse, with three different bathing pits, has caved in, probably from snow overload, making it unusable.
Snow-damaged bathhouse
The temple contains a sign giving the best day of the month to use the springs and other information allegedly gathered by Tserendorj. The smaller springs have wooden signs indicating in Tibetan for which part of the body the water is to be used.
Signs in Mongolian and Tibetan indicating that the spring is to be used to treat the nose.
Up until 2005 herdsmen from the Tuul and Kherlen valleys traveled here by horse to take cures and retreats. My horseman when I visited here told me his cousin came here for seven days (not the full recommended regime) after a bad fall from a horse and after bathing daily in the bath houses came away cured. Locals also maintain that bathing in the larger of the baths atones for big sins, while bathing in the smaller one washes away lesser transgressions.
Local Guide Zevgee
Zevgee, long a legend in Khentii and Bayankhongor aimags, has now achieved international notoriety after the unflattering account of him given in Stanley Stewart's best-selling book In the Empire of Genghis Khan. He has, however, shrugged off the whole affair, dismissing Stewart as a bounder and a cad.
Read for yourself what Stewart has to say:
Then read what I have to say about Zevgee:

Historical Consultant Monkhnyagt
Medicine Buddha in the Temple