Meidaizhao Lamasery is located in Meidaizhao Old Village, which in turn lies at the southern foot of Mount Daqing in the fertile valley that is wedged between the cities of Baotou to the west and Hohhot to the east, the Yellow River to the south and Mount Daqing to the north. Meidaizhao Old Village, which lies within the borders of Tumote Right Banner (a county*), is situated about 50 kilometers east of Baotou, roughly midway between Baotou and Hohhot.
Meidaizhao Lamasery was built in CE 1575 by the Mongol leader Alatanhan, a direct descendant (17 generations removed) of Genghis Khan, during the middle part of the Ming (CE 1369-1644) Dynasty. The lamasery served as the official residence of Alatanhan as well as serving - as it continues to do - as a Tibetan-Buddhist temple for the people (the Mongols as a group embraced the Tibetan variant of Buddhism, which incorporates elements of earlier, pre-Buddhist religious beliefs, just as mainstream Chinese Buddhism came to incorporate elements of both Taoism and Confucianism), and the lamasery also served as a fortress during a very troubled period (the Ming Dynasty became increasingly weakened as corruption spread to all levels of government, and challenges to the sovereign became as correspondingly widespread).
The lamasery, which is conceived in an architectural style imitative of the Han Chinese, but with distinctly Tibetan and Mongolian influences, comprises a total area of some 40,000 square meters and represents a unique architectural style (eg., images of the lamasery - including online images - comprise part of the Fisher Fine Arts Library at the University of Pennsylvania in the U.S.). Meidaizhao Lamasery is surrounded by thick walls, the four corners of which are augmented/reinforced with mounds, each of which extends out diagonally some 10 meters from the connecting walls and on which are built watchtowers.
Upon entering the gateway to the lamasery, the visiter is confronted with the main hall, the Hall of Sakyamuni (Sakyamuni being the founding father of Buddhism). Highly esteemed and very colorful frescoes depicting traditional Tibetan-Buddhist themes adorn the walls of the Hall of Sakyamuni. Next to the main hall is located the three-storey-high edifice in whose chapel, or prayer hall, Alatanhan and his wife regularly worshipped.
As indicated, Meidaizhao Lamasery is situated within the confines of Meidaizhao Old Village, which is a noteworthy tourist site in and of itself, given its Mongol heritage. Visitors who overnight at Meidaizhao Old Village can choose to reside with a Mongol family and thus experience first-hand what authentic Mongolian lifestyle - albeit, as it is lived at present - is like.
* Note: A qi, or banner, is the traditional Mongolian administrative unit, which corresponds, roughly, to a county. The term is used in both Outer Mongolia as well as in Inner Mongolia. In Inner Mongolia, the qi/banner administrative unit exists alongside the xian, the traditional Han Chinese equivalent of a county.