The khans of Mongolia were a warring lot, but a pious lot as well. Their nomadic wanderings brought them into contact with Tibetan Buddhism centuries ago, and the khans adopted it as their state religion in the 1500s.
We were on our way to the Wu Dang Lamasery, a white, high-walled structure that stair-stepped in picturesque confusion from a valley floor to the top of a modest hill northeast of Baotou.
Wine-robed monks punched our tickets to the various halls ('palaces') of the holy buildings and gently reminded us not to snap pictures of the colorful paintings on the wooden interiors. The Buddha's life played out on the walls in gold, yellow, red and blue, along with designs of demons, spirits and other mythological figures.
English plaques that actually made sense (rare enough in our wanderings) and high-speed tours clipping through it at scramble-your-brains speed turned the buildings into more of a museum than a holy site, but we did get to watch a tourist paying for sutras to be chanted for her, and caught glimpses of the monks in prayer or meditation.
It seemed that this place offered a kind of Tibetan Buddhism sanctioned by Beijing and an alternative figurehead of such to the Dalai Lama (who despite his eminence in the West is regarded here as a public enemy).
Originally, we had planned to go to Tibet at some point during our stay in China. Visa procedures, money, and crackdowns on riots stopped us though, so it was interesting to take a look at this temple, even if it seemed a little watered-down.
The bus driver was nice enough to drop us off at our hotel on the way back and we grabbed our luggage and headed off for Hohhot that evening.
**Click here to see pictures of Wudang Lamasery**