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									Survey of Visitors to Gandantegchenling
Monastery
Alliance of Religions and Conservation / World Bank “Sacred Urban
Landscape Protection Initiative”, 2006

Background and Objectives
This survey of visitors to Gandantegchenling Monastery was conducted
within the context of the World Bank “Sacred Urban Landscape Protection
Initiative – Environmental Education and Conservation Management for
Monasteries in Ulaanbaatar”, in the framework of assistance to
Gandantegchenling Monastery in developing an environmentally-sound
management plan for the Monastery and its surrounding residential area.
The main objectives of this survey were to gather information about the
frequency and patterns of visits to Gandantegchenling Monastery, and to
obtain non-directed opinions and suggestions from visitors concerning the
monastery’s future development.

Methodology
The survey was administered by monks at Gandanteghenling Monastery
using a printed response sheet, which provided four simple questions:
     Question 1: “Approximately how many times a year do you visit
       Gandantegchenling Monastery?”
     Question 2: “For what purpose(s) do you visit the monastery?”
     Question 3: “What do you believe should be done to improve the
       quality of services for visitors to Gandantegchenling Monastery?”
     Question 4: “What do you believe should be done with regard to the
       management of the Gandan Hill area?”
Three of these questions had an open-ended format; the second question
listed six options from which any number could be selected by
respondents.
A total of 107 visitors participated in the survey. As the survey was
administered during a period of relatively normal activity in March 2006,
the surveyed population was somewhat biased in favour of more regular
visitors, i.e., excluding those who visit Gandantegchenling Monastery only
on a seasonal basis – such as for obtaining blessings at the New Year, or
accompanying tourists in the summer. Yet the population of regular
visitors was considered to be the most significant constituent of the
Buddhist stakeholder community, as the most likely to support and
benefit from overall improvements to the monastery and its services.

Survey Responses
Question 1: “Approximately how many times a year do you visit
Gandantegchenling Monastery?”
This question was presented in an open-ended format so as to permit an
accurate representation of the distribution of visit frequencies. To reflect
the relatively broad range provided by some respondents (e.g., 10-20
times per year), all individual responses were converted into minimum
and maximum values, with an identical value used for both cases where a
single figure was given. Responses such as “once per season” or “once
per month” were converted into an appropriate yearly average, with the
response “this is my first visit” recorded as 0-1.
The number of annual visits reported by visitors varied considerably, from
one or fewer visits to more than 100 visits per year, representing a
standard deviation of 12.2. The average number of visits ranged from 9.1
to 11.9 per year, with a median range of 6-10.

  Table I. Number of visits to Gandantegchenling Monastery per
              year reported by survey respondents

                                                          Minimum          Maximum
               Lowest response given                              0                1
               Highest response given                            52              104
               Mean                                             9.1             11.9
               Median                                           6.0             10.0
               Standard deviation                              10.1             14.3

Question 2: “For what purpose(s) do you visit the monastery?”
This question was presented in a multiple-choice format, with respondents
invited to select more than one option. The options given were: (a)
having sutras read, (b) praying, (c) attending ritual ceremonies, (c)
meeting with a spiritual teacher, (d) purchasing religious goods, and (e)
other.

 Chart I. Purposes of Visits to Gandantegchenling Monastery, by
                      Number of Responses

                  120

                  100

                   80

                   60

                   40

                   20

                   0
                        having sutras   praying in   attending   meeting   purchasing
                             read        temples       rituals    lamas     religious
                                                                             goods




A majority of respondents indicated that they visited the monastery for
several different purposes – most commonly having sutras read on their
behalf by lamas (89%), praying in temples (80%), and attending religious
rituals (58%). In effect there is some degree of inevitable overlap in
these activities, especially as visitors who wish to have sutras read on
their behalf must present a receipt directly to the head of prayer
ceremonies in one of the temples, and often take advantage of the
opportunity to circumambulate the interior of the temple upon doing so.
Yet the survey responses did not present a significant correlation (>0.4)
between any of the purposes for visiting the monastery indicated by the
survey respondents, demonstrating a significant variability in visiting
patterns. No correlation was observed between the reported number and
purposes of visits.

   Table II. Correlation of purposes for visiting the monastery
                 indicated by survey respondents

                               having   praying                         purchasing
                               sutras      in     attending   meeting    religious
                                read    temples     rituals    lamas      goods
  having sutras read             1.00
  praying in temples             0.09      1.00
  attending rituals              0.19      0.38       1.00
  meeting lamas                  0.14      0.01       0.16       1.00
  purchasing religious goods     0.21      0.26       0.30       0.33        1.00

The sixth, open-ended option on the survey form (“other”) was selected
by several respondents, but as no further details were given by any
visitors this option was discarded for the purposes of the present
statistical analysis. Nevertheless, it is worth noting that a significant
number of surveyed visitors referred in their open-ended responses to the
importance of Gandantegchenling Monastery as a tourist centre, or in
some cases to the fact that they routinely bring other visitors or tourists
to see the Monastery.

Question 3: “What do you believe should be done to improve the
quality of services for visitors to Gandantegchenling Monastery?”

Overall 62 respondents (58% of those surveyed) answered this open-
ended question, providing a total of approximately 90 responses. The
suggestions given were classified into the following categories:

  1. The speed of service to those having sutras read on their behalf by
     lamas should be improved. Several respondents indicated that line-
     ups at the cashiers are too long, and that the staff is inadequate to
     handle the number of visitors at peak periods.
  2. The area of the monastery should be increased.
  3. Existing temples should be renovated or expanded, and/or new
     temples should be constructed within the monastery compound.
  4. The monastery should implement longer hours of operation.
     Respondents complained in particular that Gandantegchenling
     Monastery is closed in the evenings; some visitors suggested that
     hours could be extended during peak periods such as Tsagaan Sar
     (the lunar New Year).
   5. The behaviour and professional qualities of lamas should be
      improved, so as to provide a more welcoming environment for
      visitors.
   6. The management and organization of visitor services or facilities
      should be improved.
   7. Public toilet facilities should be installed.
   8. The physical environment of the monastery compound should be
      developed through improved landscaping and installations.
      Respondents recommended the installation of improved lighting,
      and the planting of trees, grass and flowers.
   9. Interpretation of the significance of sutras and rituals should be
      provided to visitors.
   10.       The cleanliness of the monastery compound should be
      improved.
   11.       Entrance fees should not be charged for visitors to the
      monastery. Currently foreign visitors are required to purchase a
      ticket at the main gate and at the entrance to the Megjid Janraiseg
      temple.
   12.       Lower fees should be charged for the performance of religious
      services for visitors (reading of sutras by lamas), or such fees
      should be implemented on a “suggested donation” basis.
   13.       A more flexible form of religious services should be provided
      to visitors.
   14.       The activities of astrologers and grain peddlers should be
      better coordinated, or such individuals should be removed from the
      monastery.
   15.       Information about lamas and the scheduling and content of
      specific rituals should be posted for visitors.

Overall, visitors expressed the greatest concerns about the appearance
and cleanliness of the monastery compound, and about the slow,
inflexible quality of service for visitors having sutras read on their behalf.
Further concerns were raised about the lack of visitor information,
pertaining to the scheduling and content of rituals and other events, the
location of facilities within the monastery compound, and the identities of
lamas.

Table III. Visitor Recommendations Concerning the Improvement
           of Services at Gandantegchenling Monastery

   Recommendation                               N    % of Respondents
   Provide better maintenance and cleaning      17   16
   Increase the speed of service                15   14
   Provide interpretation                       9    8
   Improve lamas’ professionalism               7    6
   Improve landscaping and installations        7    6
   Provide longer hours of operation            5    5
   Improve management and organization         4    4
   Increase the area of the monastery          3    3
   Renovate or construct temples               3    3
   Charge lower fees for religious services    3    3
   Allow greater flexibility of service        3    3
   Relocate peddlers and astrologers           3    3
   Post practical information                  3    3
   Install toilet facilities                   2    2
   Charge no entrance fees                     2    2

Question 4: “What do you believe should be done with regard to
the management of the Gandan Hill area?”

71 respondents (66% of those surveyed) provided answers to this open-
ended question, resulting in a total of 107 suggestions. The various
recommendations were categorized as follows:
   1. The residential area surrounding Gandantegchenling Monastery
      should be cleaned. A large number of respondents indicated that
      the area is littered with unsightly garbage, that the area is dirty and
      undeveloped, that local residents discard their waste openly, or that
      it is shameful that an area regularly visited by foreign tourists
      should be in such a condition.
   2. More religious facilities or residences for lamas should be
      constructed in this area.
   3. A religious museum or exhibition / visitor centre should be
      established.
   4. The landscaping and physical appearance of this area should be
      improved. Responses in this category included suggestions that
      trees and grass be planted surrounding the monastery, that the
      area be converted into a park, and that proper roadways be
      installed.
   5. Information panels should be installed outside the monastery to
      assist visitors.
   6. The families in the ger-district should be relocated, or the Gandan
      Hill area should be returned to its former state.
   7. The Gandan Hill area should be placed under state protection, or
      should be developed according to a plan coordinated by the national
      government.
   8. The area should be modernized. Responses included suggestions
      that modern buildings replace the existing gers and houses, and
      that central heating be installed so as to reduce the amount of
      smoke generated by individual coal-burning heating units.
   9. The activities of astrologers and merchants outside the gates of the
      Monastery should be regulated.
The most commonly expressed concerns related to the appearance of the
area surrounding Gandantegchenling Monastery, with 45% of respondents
suggesting that the area needs to be cleaned and/or that greater
attention needs to be paid to its landscaping. Approximately one third of
repondents indicated that the families surrounding the monastery should
be relocated, and/or that the Gandan Hill area should be converted into a
religious complex or park.

 Table IV. Visitor Recommendations Concerning the Management
                      of the Gandan Hill Area

      Recommendation                         N            % of
                                                       Respondents
      Clean garbage                          31   28
      Improve landscaping                    26   24
      Move families                          20   18
      Construct religious facilities         14   13
      Modernize the area                     7    6
      Construct a museum                     3    3
      Install information panels             2    2
      Implement state protection             2    2
      Regulate astrologers and merchants     2    2

Other respondents suggested that more should be done to reduce crime
in the area, that the monastery compound should be expanded, that
funds should be raised from the public to assist the capital development
of this area, and that the “national character” of the area surrounding
Gandantegchenling Monastery should be preserved.

Conclusions and Follow-Up
This survey of visitors to Gandantegchenling Monastery demonstrates that
there is a significant variability in the frequency and patterns of public
visits to the Monastery, and that a wide variety of problems are perceived
by visitors as needing to be addressed. Owing to the open-ended nature
of this survey and to the relatively small nature of the survey population,
it is impossible to state with great precision the degree to which visitors
might support any specific development recommendation; but we stress
that the overall objective of this study has been to generate a list of
problems and issues that should be taken into consideration in planning
the development of Gandantegchenling Monastery, rather than to rank
such issues or their solutions based on their degree of public support or
their objective merit.
Overall, it is possible to group the suggestions provided by visitors for the
development of the Monastery and its surrounding region into the
following broad categories:
     Appearance of the site (landscaping, cleanliness, organization)
     Services offered to the Buddhist community (speed, cost, flexibility,
       hours of operation, facilities)
     Information needs (site interpretation, spiritual guidance,
       information about the monastery and events)
      Monks (professionalism, relations with visitors).

Site Appearance
From any objective point of view, Gandantegchenling Monastery and its
surrounding residential district are uncleanly and, to a certain extent,
poorly organized. The lack of greenery, proper roadways, lighting and
overall urban planning in this area is regrettable in the eyes of visitors, in
addition to presenting a somewhat poor image to foreign tourists.
Respondents to this survey suggested that Gandantegchenling Monastery
could be developed according to the example of historical and cultural
monuments abroad, such as Gumben Monastery in China or the Kremlin
in Russia, as an attractive complex laid out in a manner to accommodate
visitors in the most comfortable manner possible.
Landscaping and site development issues have already been addressed by
the medium-term Development Plan for Gandantegchenling Monastery,
but the sources of funding for this plan have yet to be resolved. In this
regard, the Monastery might be advised to explore the possibility of
undertaking specific fundraising campaigns to fund capital improvements
– similar to the campaign implemented to fund the restoration of the
Janraiseg temple in the early 1990s – rather than rely on general
revenues from tourist groups and from religious services provided to local
visitors.    Indeed, such a reorientation of the Monastery’s revenue-
generation strategy would have the effect of encouraging larger donations
from the corporate community and more affluent visitors, while keeping
the cost of regular religious services at a level affordable to all members
of the Buddhist community. The posting in a highly-visible location of the
names and logos of major private and corporate donors could provide a
reasonable incentive for contributions to capital improvement campaigns,
particularly if the results of such donations are to be seen nearby in a
tangible form.

Services to the Buddhist Community
Religious services officially offered at Gandantegchenling Monastery
currently take the following forms:
    The reading of sutras on behalf of visitors.           This activity is
      coordinated through an impersonal system whereby each visitor
      records his or her name and the title of the sutra requested on a
      standard form, pays a set fee at a cashier’s desk, then supplies the
      receipt to the head lama at a prayer meeting. Visitors are often
      unable to obtain information about the significance of the various
      sutras that are offered.
    Prayer meetings. These include regular prayer meetings offered on
      a daily basis, and special rituals performed on specific dates
      throughout the year. Visitors are generally welcome to attend these
      meetings and obtain blessings.        Unfortunately, the dates and
      signficance of these rituals are inadequately publicized.
      Maintenance of temples housing sacred images. Large numbers of
       visitors circumambulate the various temples at the monastery and
       make offerings in front of the sacred images they contain.
       Interpretation of the significance of these temples and their images
       is lacking.
    Spiritual guidance. Many visitors consult with a lama of their
       acquaintance in order to obtain personalized spiritual guidance or
       services; but as such activities are not offered in a systematic,
       coordinated manner, a sizeable proportion of the Buddhist
       community is unable to benefit from access to Buddhist teachings.
    Sale of Buddhist products. Currently Gandantegchenling Monastery
       operates a single religious goods shop, situated next to the main
       entrance gate; most visitors obtain such goods from private vendors
       located along the streets to the South and East of the monastery
       compound.
Several of the visitors surveyed indicated that the spiritual activities of
the Monastery are inadequate, commenting that religious services for
visitors are inflexible, that each visitor should have access to a teacher-
lama, and that the significance of sutras and rituals is not evident.
Generally speaking, the spiritual needs of the lay Buddhist community are
inadequately met in terms of the insufficient interpretation of Buddhist
practices and teachings and of their significance, and the lack of spiritual
guidance. These needs could, however, be satisfied by a variety of
means: the installation of public information panels; the systematic
publication and distribution by the Monastery of official leaflets, booklets
or newsletters, interpreting various aspects of Buddhist practice and
announcing upcoming events organized by the Monastery; the operation
of a visitor information centre, potentially in combination with an
expanded gift shop and religious goods supply centre; and the
implementation of a system of public consultations with specialized lamas,
coordinated directly by the Monastery.
Issues related to both the speed of service and the cleanliness of the
monastery could probably be most successfully be addressed by the
employment of a larger clerical and maintenance staff. The effective use
of increased human resources should reduce visitor pressure during peak
periods such as Tsagaan Sar, and allow the monastery to maintain longer
hours of operation.

Information Needs
The lack of visitor interpretation remains a significant problem, but could
easily be resolved through the installation of low-cost interpretive panels,
directional signage and bulletin boards at key locations throughout the
monastery. Such information panels could include:
Signs identifying and interpreting the main structures within the
monastery, in Mongolian and English languages. The installation of a
large map at the entrance to the monastery would be valuable.
Directional signs pointing to toilets and other visitor facilities. Currently
public toilet facilities exist in the south-east corner of the monastery
compound, for example, yet the survey responses suggest that not all
visitors are aware of their location.
   (a)        Bulletin boards providing up-to-date information about the
       scheduling of upcoming prayer rituals, lectures and other events.
   (b)        A directory of consulting lamas and their specializations.
   (c) Information panels explaining to visitors the significance of religious
       rituals, images and texts, and how to engage with these.

Monks
Several visitors indicated in their survey responses that the
professionalism of monks at Gandantegchenling Monastery could be
improved; in this regard, Gandantegchenling Monastery could implement
a stricter code of behaviour for its affiliated lamas. The location of the
Monastery in the centre of Ulaanbaatar, the lack of residential facilities for
monks, and the large number of visitors have a negative impact on the
ability of monks to follow a “pure” monastic lifestyle of quiet study and
meditation. The administration of Gandantegchenling Monastery is in the
process of exploring the possibility of relocating its colleges (datsan) to a
more isolated site near Elsen Tasarkhai in Uvurkhangai aimag, or of
constructing on-site residences for lamas.

								
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