In 1911, at the time of the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in China, the independence of Outer Mongolia was proclaimed. The monarch of the first independent Mongolian state was the eighth Javzandamba Khutagt, Bogd Khan, who lived from1869 to 1924. The spiritual leader and theocratic ruler of Mongolia lived close to the Tuul River in the Winter Palace, built between 1893 and 1903. The palace complex consists of seven temples, grouped symmetrically around two courtyards, with exterior painted finishes in bright red, green, blue, white, and gold colors. Designed according to Russian and European traditions, the palace was completed in 1905, and a new ceremonial gate was added during the Bogd Khan’s rule to celebrate Mongolian independence. After the death of the Bogd Khan in 1924, the Winter Palace was turned into a museum. The complex thus survived the systematic destruction of temples and monasteries that took place in the late 1930s, under the rule of the Mongolian People’s Revolutionary Party, which was often hostile towards religion. Subsequent inadequate maintenance contributed to the deterioration of timber buildings of the museum complex. Traditional green glazed roof tiles were left in disrepair, allowing rainwater to enter the buildings. At times the traditional roof tiles were replaced with sheet metal, which marred the presentation of the buildings. Timber columns and beams as well as interior finishes had deteriorated and were in need of restoration.
1996, 1998 and 2000 World Monuments Watch
Bogd Khan Palace Museum was included on the World Monuments Watch in 1996, 1998, and 2000. In collaboration with Mongolian authorities and heritage professionals, WMF supported the restoration of two of the four buildings around the principal courtyard of the complex. The Library, on the east side of the courtyard and one of the most highly deteriorated buildings of the complex due to roof collapse and structural settlement, was restored in 2002–2003. The Naidan Temple, once the site of an annual Buddhist ceremony that lasted for three days and three nights on the birthday of the Bogd Khan, was restored in 2004–2005. These projects involved structural stabilization and necessary repairs to wood, masonry, tile roofs, and wood floors. Foreign conservators were invited to study the challenges and options for the conservation of the exterior painted finishes of these buildings. Starting in 2006, China’s State Administration of Cultural Heritage restored the front gate and pavilions in the second of the two courtyards of the complex.
Dating from the Bogd Khan’s tumultuous reign, during which China, Russia, and Japan vied for influence over the new state, this palace is an irreplaceable and nationally significant site in Mongolia. The collections of the palace museum include unique artifacts relating to the country’s political, religious, and artistic history, from silk appliquйs, thangkas, and other religious artwork, to weapons, furniture, books, and printing blocks. The area between the Middle River (Dund gol) and the Tuul River had always been reserved for the Bogd Khan and contained several other palaces, but only the buildings of the Bogd Khan Palace Museum have survived to this day. This project contributed to their preservation and facilitated the exchange of knowledge about heritage protection between foreign experts and local authorities and conservators.