Mongolia’s ancient capital, Kharakhorum, Chinggis Khaan’s fabled city, was founded in 1220 in the Orkhon valley, at the crossroads of the Silk Road. It was from there that the Mongol Empire governed, until Khubilai Khaan moved it to Beijing. The symbolic ruins of Kharakhorum (kharkhorin), monumental walls (400 m of length) with 108 stupas, surround the first Buddhist monastery in Mongolia Erdene Zuu Monastery, built in 1586. In 1792, it housed 62 temples and 10,000 lamas; since 1990, it has become an active monastery again.
Turtles carved from the stone marked the boundaries of the complex. Nearby, Turkish monuments and rock inscriptions erected in 8-9th centuries in memory of outstanding fighters for independence.
In 1220 Genghis Khan decided to build the capital city of his vast Mongolian empire at Karakorum. Building was completed by his son, Ogedai Khan, after Genghis' death, but Karakorum served as the capital for only 40 years before Kublai Khan moved it to what is now Beijing. Following the move, and the subsequent collapse of the Mongolian empire, Karakorum was abandoned and then later destroyed by hordes of Manchurian soldiers. Whatever was left was used to help build the Erdene Zuu monastery in the 16th century, which itself was badly destroyed during the Stalinist purges. The modern and dreary town of Kharkhorin was built on the same spot.