Friday, March 25, 2022

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Mongol Cup with fish-shaped handles , late 13th–14th century - Golden Horde (Southern Russia) Gold sheet, handles worked in repoussé and engraved; H. 4 3/4 in. (12 cm), W. (with handles) 7 in. (17.8 cm) - State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Mongol Saddle arches and fittings, first half of 13th century. Gold worked in repoussé, remains of iron rivets; 11 3/4 x 12 in. (29.7 x 30.5 cm); 9 1/2 x 13 3/8 in. (24.2 x 34 cm) The Nasser D. Khalili Collection, London

Friday, April 8, 2011

The History of Mongolia (3 Vols.) Edited by David Sneath and Christopher Kaplonski

"The History of Mongolia" (3 Vols.)
Edited by David Sneath and Christopher Kaplonski

Order these volumes from Brill publishers here:

“The History of Mongolia” edited by David Sneath and Christopher Kaplonski is of great historical and scholarly importance for Mongol history specialists as well as the generalist student of history.

Published in three volumes by Global Oriental in 2010, totaling 1100 pages and weighing in at a hefty six pounds, this remarkable anthology of articles lays the foundation for the understanding of Mongol history with studies of the pre-Chinggisid period, Chinggis Khan and the Mongol Empire, the Yuan and late medieval period, the Qing period and finally twentieth century Mongolia.

David Sneath’s introduction to Inner Asian history sets the stage with an early citation in Chinese chronicles regarding the military threat posed by steppe-born mounted archers being so worrisome that “…in 307 B.C. the Zhau emperor Wuling demanded that his subjects learn the ‘barbarian’ art of horse-archery…”

Sneath's chronology of steppe imperial history beginning with the Xiongnu emperor's adversarial relationship with Han dynasty rulers clearly illuminates the political dynamics between people living behind the Great Wall and nomads inhabiting the steppe regions beyond it. The author's succinct summary of the pre-Mongol period introduces us to the Khazars, Uighurs, Khitan, Liao, and the Rouran (Juan-juan), "...their empire “stretched from Korea in the east to the Tarim Basin in the west.” The tumultuous history of this region produced several dynasties that comprised the Turkish empire whose remarkable inscribed stone monuments can still be seen in Mongolia’s Orkhon valley.

Inner Asia's historical precedents as outlined by Sneath delineate a blueprint for the political, social and military infrastructure that provided fertile ground for the rise and fall of many steppe dynasties in the Mongol homeland.

The first essay in this volume titled, “Ancient Inner Asian Nomads; Their Economic Basis and Its Significance in Chinese History” by Nicola Di Cosmo addresses the established perspective about the economic dichotomy between steppe nomads and sedentary society and challenges long-held beliefs about these relationships.

Di Cosmo disputes the views of some prominent scholars that “the creation of a steppe empire by the Inner Asian nomads is seen as the result of a conscious search for a more efficient means to extract from China the resources they could not produce.” The author offers an opposing theory which holds “that farming was carried out as a supplementary activity in various areas within the economic zones dominated by mounted nomads..” Di Cosmo cites several archeological discoveries that buttress his thesis including the mention of the Xiongnu sending four thousand cavalrymen during Emperor Zhao’s reign (86 – 74 B.C.) to “work the land at Jushi.” Taken as a whole the author provides compelling evidence of ancient steppes nomads involvement with crop cultivation.

Burton Watson’s translation of Sima Qian’s “The Account of the Xiongnu” written in 109 B.C. provides a great deal of detail about Xiongnu customs and relations with the Chinese court. His observation about Xiongnu spiritual practices --“At dawn the Shanyu leaves his camp and makes obeisance to the sun as it rises, and in the evening he makes similar obeisance to the moon”-- illustrates parallels with Chinggisid Mongol traditions. Quian's text is rife with caricatures of threatening unstable Xiongnu nomads; typical of this outlook he says that, “their only concern is self-advantage, and they know nothing of propriety or righteousness.” Included in Qian’s account is the intriguing story of a eunuch named Zhonhuang Yue who became an important adviser to the Xiongnu emperor and staunch defender of Xiongnu practises.

Included in Volume 1, Part 1 are several other important articles that provide deeper understanding of the period that preceded the rise of Chinggis Khan and the Mongol empire, including Peter B. Golden’s “The Türk Imperial Tradition in the Pre-Chinggisid Era” which is an essential primer on early Turkic history,and Owen Lattimore’s, “The Geography of Chinggis Khan.”

Part 2 of the first volume provides us with wide-ranging insights about the Mongol empire period beginning with excerpted translations of “The Secret History of the Mongols” by Urgunge Onon and Igor De Rachewiltz, another Igor De Rachewiltz articles “Some Remarks on the Ideological Foundations of Chingis Khan’s Empire” & “Some Reflections on Cinggis Qan’s Jasat”, H.F. Schurmann’s “Mongolian Tributary Practices of the Thirteenth Century.”

Other article in this volume are “From Ulus to Khanate: The Making of the Mongol States c. 1220 – c. 1290”, an excerpt of John of Plano Carpini’s first-hand account, “The Mongol Mission”,Thomas T. Allsen’s “Guard and Government in the Reign of the Grand Qan Möngke, 1251-59”, “The Dissolution of the Mongol Empire” by Peter Jackson, and “From Mongol Empire to Yuan Dynasty: Changing Forms of Imperial Rule in Mongolia and Central Asia” by Johan W. Dardess

“The History of Mongolia” Volume 2 is titled “Yuan and Late Medieval Period” begins with Ronald Latham’s translation of chapter three of “The Travels of Marco Polo” which quite appropriately is the section on Khubilai Khan. Marco Polo's colorful eyewitness account of Khubilai Khan's daily life provides some critical details about how the emperor spent his time.

This excerpt from Marco Polo's observations about Khubilai Khan's hunting practices tells us where he spent more than three months of his daily life: " You may take it for a fact that during three months which the Great Khan spends in the city of Khan-balik, that is December, January, and February, he has ordered that within a distance of sixty days' journey from where he is staying everybody must devote himself to hunting and to hunting and hawking...... When the Khan has spent the three months of December, January and February in the city of which I have spoken, he sets off in March and travels southward to within two days' journey of the Ocean. He is accompanied by fully 10,000 falconers and takes with him fully 5,000 gerfalcons and peregrine falcons and sakers in great abundance, besides a quantity of goshawks for hawking along the riversides."

Following Polo’s account is Morris Rossabi’s first-rate study, “Khubilai Khan: His Life and Times”, David M. Farquhar’s succinct “Structure and Function in the Yuan Imperial Government” explains the nuts and bolts of Yuan dynasty administrative mechanisms of imperial rule. In a similar vein, Elizabeth Endicott West’s “Imperial Governance in Yüan Times” highlights signs of sinicization with the obsolescence of the Mongol customary ‘quriltai.’ However West counter-balances this trend with evidence of Mongol indifference to traditional Chinese court customs, “Ignoring prescribed ritual was one way for the Mongolian rulers to maintain a liberating distance from Chinese court ministers.”

L. Jamsran’s article, “The Crisis of the Forty and the Four” illuminates Oirat tribal politics and relations with the Ming court in the post-Yuan epoch. The Oirot-Ming relationship is elucidated by Jamsran’s quotation of the Ming emperor’s declaration “that the number of Oirot ‘must not exceed three hundred…let only the permitted number (of envoys) pass the border, and keep the rest outside…”

The after effects of the breakup of the Yuan dynasty and its impact on the Khalkha tribal polity is pointedly analyzed in Gongor’s study of “The Twelve Tumen of Alag Khüree Khalkha Mongols.” Other articles in this volume that elucidate post-Yuan Mongol tribal internecine war and politics are “Six Tumen” by Sh. Natsagdorj and A. Ochir, Christopher Atwood’s deftly articulated “Titles, Appanages, Marriages, and Officials: A Comparison of Political Forms in the Zünghar and Thirteenth-Century Mongol Empires.”

Three important articles addressing Mongolian spirituality are included in this volume; Johan Elverskog’s translation of “The Jewel Translucent Sutra, Altan Khan and the Mongols in the Sixteenth Century”, Henry Serruys’ “Early Lamaism in Mongolia”, “A Mongolian Source to the Lamaist Suppression of Shamanism in the 17th Century” by Walter Heissig.

Volume 3 of “The History of Mongolia” titled “The Qing Period, Twentieth-century Mongolia” aptly begins with Peter C. Perdue’s broad-ranging analysis of the outcome of the Qing dynasty emperor Kangxi’s military expeditions into the Mongolian heartland to vanquish the Zunghar king, Galdan. Perdue assesses Russian expansionism and it’s role in the destruction and subjugation of the western Mongols by the Manchu. This stage of history led to nomads of Inner Asia being “reduced to a subordinate status as internal colonies of the Russian and Chinese empires.” The role of language as a tool for resisting cultural domination in Inner Asian nomadic societies provides a thoughtful, tangential measure of the success and failure of ambitions would-be conquerors in this lively multi-tiered analysis by Perdue.

In S. Ichinnorov’s “The Biography of Öndör Gegeen” that author illuminates the life of the First Bogd Javzandamba Khutagt Luvsandambiijantsan who is known to most as the greatest Mongolian artist, Zanabazar. A mythic figure whose artworks are seen as being imbued with the essence of living spirits, Zanbazar’s extraordinary life story as told by S. Ichinnorov, conveys the immense power that his legacy still commands in Mongol cultural history.

“The Khalkha Djirum” is V. Riasonvsky translation of “the Great Statute of the the Three Hoshuns” (1709) is vital for correlating traditions of Mongol customary law and cultural edicts of this period.

The role of the peasant class in the mid-to-late 1800’s Mongolia is examined by D. Tsedev in “The Social and Economic Situation of the Shav.” D. Dashbadrah and J. Gerelbadrah’s “The Economy of the Monasteries” gives a brief summary of the subject.

Other articles that provide useful insights on Mongolian traditional cultural practices in this volume are, Sh. Natsagdorj’s “The Economic Basis of Feudalism in Mongolia” which chronicles Mongolian feudalism from a Marxist perspective, “The Social and Economic Situation of the Shav” by D. Tsedev, “The Spread of Trade to the Countryside” by M. Sanjdor.

John Elverskog’s “Things and the Qing, Mongol Culture in the Visual Narrative” provides a quirky take on the perception of Lamaism’s corrosive effects, Mongolian perception of Qing dynasty oppression and the evolution of Mongolian dress. A.M. Pozdneye’s extensive article on “Urga or Da Khuree” written in 1892 -1893 provides a colorful guide to the boisterous Mongolian capitol.

Manchu-Mongol relations are examined in C.R. Bawden’s inquiry about “The Mongol Rebellion of 1756-1757”, “Document 23: Petitions of Grievances Submitted by the People”, and “Thomas E Ewing’s “Ch’ing Policies in Outer Mongolia, 1900-1911 ”, all of which chronicle events that led to the breakdown of Manchu authority and Mongolia’s declaration of independence in 1911.

Part 5 of Volume 3 begins with an early 20th century first-hand account of lamas of Ikh Khuree titled “Tales of an Old Lama, Jambal” translated by C. R. Bawden which provides an earthy, candid glimpse of the lama’s life. Frans August Larson’s “The Lamas of Mongolia” is a remarkable portrait of the Bogdo Gegen the Living Buddha of Mongolia. In this section Ferdinand Ossendowski’s classic “Beast, Men and Gods” regales us with tales of the notorious Mad Baron Ungern-Strenberg.

A series of articles of political development in Mongolia herald the post-Qing period beginning with Fujiko Isono’s “Soviet Russia and the Mongolian Revolution of 1921”, Horoshi Futaki’s “A Re-examination of the Mongolian People’s Party, Centering on Dogsom’s Memoir”, “The Buriat Intelligentsia” by Robert A. Rupen, “The Autobiography of the Diluv Khutagt”, Baabar’s “The Great Purge”, “Democracy Comes to Mongolia” by Chris Kaplonksi and finally, David Sneath’s “Producer Group and the Collectivization of the Mongolian Pastoral Economy.

The three volumes of “The History of Mongolia” contain an anthology of judiciously selected articles that reflect recent revaluations of long-held scholarly interpretations of Mongol historiography. The works contained in these volumes are well-balanced in that they include key period accounts translated from Mongolian, Russian and Chinese of critically important primary source material as well as contemporary historical writings that address wide-ranging and highly relevant topics. The articles in this compendium contain a copious amounts of historical details to help the reader better fathom the depth of Mongolia’s eventful continuum.

Sneath and Kaplonski have provided us with a very valuable resource that includes material from many disparate sources which collectively allows the reader to enjoy the dynamic intricacies that embody the study of Mongol history.

The editor’s well versed knowledge of steppe nomadic culture, tribal relations, traditions and politics has helped to produce a well informed, highly detailed systematic overview of Mongolia from its birth as a nation to modern statehood.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Some Royal Mongol Ladies: Alaqa-beki, *Ergene1-Qatun and Others by Paul D. Buell

Some Royal Mongol Ladies: Alaqa-beki, *Ergene1-Qatun and Others
By Dr.Paul D. Buell

Article from World History Connected

One of the most difficult tasks facing the historian of the Mongol Empire is ferreting out the history behind the history. This is because our largely non-Mongolian sources are little interested in it or intentionally suppress facts to suit non-Mongolian agendas or the prejudices of their majority non-Mongolian readers. This includes the histories of most of the women actors of the time. They are usually mentioned only in passing in our predominately Chinese and Persian sources. Imperial regents such as Döregene-qatun, who effectively ruled the Mongol empire after the death of her husband Ögödei (r. 1229-1241) until 1246, when she secured the election of her son, Güyük (r. 1246-48), as they are seen in them are shown as somewhat depraved, tyrannical and incompetent.

In the Chinese view, in particular, Döregene was a mere weak woman perhaps driven by her sexual desires. But if Juvaynī (1226-1283) and most Chinese commentators saw her in these terms, and as somewhat illegitimate, most of her Mongol contemporaries took another view and no doubt found her regency perfectly normal, although their image of it was later colored by the politics of the 1250s. Then a new branch of the ruling house came to power, after still another female regency, led by Oqol-qaimish (killed circa 1251), the wife of Güyük.2 Imperial women, in fact, if we may base our judgment upon the only Mongolian source to survive, the Secret History, enjoyed a great more respect than the non-Mongolian sources would have us believe.

Chinggis Khan's mother, Hö'elün, for example, clearly held her family together after the poisoning of Chinggis Khan's father at the hands of enemies, and was a dominant force in his life. Likewise, Chinggis Khan's main wife, Börte, is made to give him wise and important advice (about breaking with Jamuqa, his blood brother) on a critical occasion and perhaps, we must assume, on others. Later, under Qubilai, his main wife, Chabui3 (died 1281), was not only was his important advisor and confidant, but, judging from what is written about her in Tibetan sources (e.g., in Dpa'-bo gtsung-lag aphring-ba's' history), was probably instrumental in the conversion of his husband to Lamaism, or at least predisposing him to a strong and favorable relationship with the Tibetan lama Aphags-pa (1235-80) as the official head of religion for the court. This is evidenced by an active correspondence between her, Aphags-pa and other important Tibetans reproduced in Tibetan sources but still unstudied.4

But not all the important women in the Mongolian period were imperial. Many were simply wives of princes and other powerful men, not always Mongolian. The Chinese elite of north China serving the Mongols, for example, were at least half Mongolian after their first generation since their mothers, more often than not, were Mongolian princesses, if we may judge from Chinese genealogical sources.5 A careful marriage policy being, to be sure, was one of the many ways that the Mongols drew locals over to their side, by making them part of the family, as it were. Unfortunately, we know little more than the names of most of the women involved with a few exceptions. One of these exceptions was Alaqa-beki (late 12th to mid-14th century) who played a pivotal role in early Mongol China.


Alaqa, also known as Alaqa bayan, "Alaqa the rich," was a younger daughter of Chinggis Khan and some time before 1206 was given in marriage to an important Mongol ally, Alaqus-digit-quri of the "White" Tatar or Önggüt, a Turkic people situated just to the north and east of the eastern bend of the Yellow River and thus strategically placed for attacking either the Xixia state of west China or the Jin Dynasty (1125-1234) of the north. He is mentioned a number of times in the Secret History and was obviously an important sedentary supporter of Chinggis Khan and his Mongols.

This fact threatened the rulers of Jin Empire (northern China and Manchuria) in particular and in 1207, after a great rebellion of formerly tribal allies of the Jin that essentially turned over what is now Inner Mongolia to the armies of Chinggis Khan, they had him murdered in favor of his young nephew, Bosipo . The Jin considered to be a more controllable ruler. This did not prove to be the case. The times were changing and Bosipo, like his uncle, soon went over to Chinggis Khan. Although Chinggis Khan had no troops available at the time to protect him and his people, he did something better. Alaqa-beki, who had apparently returned to Mongolia after the death of her princely husband, now became the wife of young Bosipo and soon emerged as the effective ruler of the Önggüt after the premature death of her husband. By 1221, when the envoy Zhao Hong , the author of the Mengda beilu , "Record of the Mongols and Tatars," was in the area, Alaqa was not only the de facto ruler of her people, but was considered one of the tribal leaders to be reckoned with in the occupied Chinese north, one of only two females in that position. She even had an army of female warriors that followed her orders and actually went to war, much to the chagrin of Zhao Hong. Such things were alien to China. In addition to her army, Alaqa also participated in the Mongol administration of north China with her own special representative stationed in Zhongdu , the regional administrative capital. She continued to play her key role at least into the 1230s, preserving and expanding the domains of her adopted people who continued to be closely associated and intermarried with the Mongols to the end.6


Playing a similar role to Alaqa, but in the west and within one of the successor ulus emerging out of the united empire of the Mongols, was Ergene-qatun, an Oirat princess married and descendent of Chinggis Khan married into the Chaghadai lineage.7 The Chaghadai ulus, the poorest of all the successor states of the old Mongol Empire after its collapse in 1260, grew out of those domains granted to Chaghadai (1183-1242), the second oldest son of Chinggis Khan after the latter's conquest of western Turkistan, along with most of the imperial Mongol province of Turkistan. It was governed for most of its existence by Mas'ūd Beg (died 1280s) headquartered in Beshbaliq. Also controlling part of the area was another Mongol province, of Khurāsān, long ruled by Arqan-aqa, headquartered in Tūs. Parts of this province too later became part of the Chaghadai ulus, although not a major part.8 It did continue to be fought over, so contemporaries probably thought that the issue was still not settled.

Between the two Mongol components of the area, province and patrimony, the contrast could not have been starker. The one was based upon rich oases cities such as Samarqand, the other comprised of relatively poor steppe lands, much of it desert steppe, where very poor nomads avidly eyed potentially better pickings in the cities, but for the imperial and later ulus officials protecting them. Some of the revenues were shared, but much of this went only to the elite and did little to alleviate the plight of their nomadic followers. And the wealth of the cities was not only eyed by Mongols tribesmen under Chaghadai, but also by the princes and others of the increasingly independent Golden Horde and after the 1250s by the Mongol princes of Iran too, who largely took over the other province, that of Khurāsān.

This was the situation as the Mongol empire began to decline and the threats to the emerging Chaghadai ulus grew. After the death of Chaghadai, his holdings were first ruled by his grandson Qara-Hülegü (r. 1242-1246), until the latter was deposed by qan Güyük (r. 1246-1248), and then by Yesü Möngke, the eldest son of Chaghadai himself, who was killed by Bat-qan of the Golden Horde during the purges that accompanied the rise of the house of Tolui under Möngke (r. 1251-1259). At this point, Qara-Hülegü was reinstated but soon died, leaving Chaghadai domains with no adult ruler. Their very existence now seemed endangered and there might have been no Chaghadai ulus at all after the collapse of unified empire but for the careful actions of Ergene, Qara-Hülegü's widow.

Ergene, about whom relatively little is known, was appointed regent by Möngke in 1251. She was to serve as a figurehead until her young son, Mubārak Shāh (r. 1266) was old enough to take over, and carefully cooperate with imperial governor Mas'ūd Beg. This she did and it was in this capacity, and as the representative of the Chaghadai domains, that she met the armies of prince Hülegü (reigned in Iran 1259-1265) and feasted their leadership as Hülegü marched slowly to subdue Iran at the orders of his imperial brother, Möngke. This was probably in early 1254.9 In any case, she proved a most capable ruler and not only became the woman on the scene in 1259, when the unified Mongol empire collapsed, but was, in practice, the first ruler of an independent Chaghadai ulus.

Ergene's problem was not only that she was suddenly bereft of her imperial sponsor, but that she was expected to take sides in the civil war that developed between two Toluid brothers, Qubilai (r. 1260-1294) in China10 and Ariq-bökö (died 1266), to whom she may have been related through her sister, in Mongolia. To make it worse, her neighbors took definite sides even if she had preferred not to do so. The Mongols in Iran supported Qubilai, while the powerful Golden Horde of Russia backed Ariq-bökö. The latter were the more dangerous rival and their support made it possible for Ariq-bökö to take over control in western Turkistan, at least of the Mongol province there. He also appointed a prince for the area, technically to succeed Ergene. This was Alghu (r. 1260-1265/66), another grandson of Chaghadai. Although Alghu was supposedly Ariq-bökö's man, he soon began to act independently, including seizing territories from the Golden Horde and the old imperial province of Turkistan, leading to open hostilities between him and Ariq-bökö and Ariq-bökö's now allies, Ergene and Mas'ūd Beg, both anxious to build up their own positions and, in the case of Ergene, protect the ulus and the interests of her son.

Alghu came out on top and Ergene and Mas'ūd now, in turn, became his allies, the former his wife, the latter the governor for the old territories of the Mongol province but in the name of Alghu. This arrangement saved the ulus and Ergene's son Mubārak Shāh even reigned briefly as the qan of the ulus after Alghu's death. He did so in the name of Qubilai, before a coup brought Baraq (r. 1266–1271), a great-grandson of Chaghadai and opponent of Qubilai to power. This effectively ended Ergene's influence, after nearly 15 years as the dominant figure in western Turkisan but the kind of governmental compromise worked out under her aegis between Mongol princes and the old imperial province of Turkistan persisted and became characteristic of the area. It was reflected, among other things, in the so-called Talas Covenant of 1269, an agreement between interested princes which carefully distinguished between the revenue-producing cities, to be left alone entirely by the nomads and administered with joint interests in mind, and the nomadic world.

We do not know when Ergene died or so many of the other details that we might like to know about this most capable woman save one fact. She like her son, Mubārak Shāh, was a Muslim and must have been among the earliest converts to that religion in Chaghadai domains, later the last of the Mongol successor states to choose a religion for the domain as a whole.

Alaqa-beki and Ergene-qatun were but two of the remarkable women of the Mongol age who, as much as the men, furthered conquest and helped hold a growing empire together. Both married into situations that they never anticipated, and both rose to the occasion and made their own mark on their times as is confirmed by the following source material from the Mengda beilu that have classroom applications ( gender mixing, status of women, and the place of women in cultural production and in political administration).

On Women

Their custom is that when they send forth an army, they march taking along with them many wives and children. It does not matter whether it is a noble or a common person [in this regard]. They say for themselves that they use them to take charge of such things as baggage, clothing, and monetary business. Their women take charge exclusively of setting up the felt tents. They collect together riding horses, light and heavy carts, litters and other things. They ride really well. What they wear is similar to Chinese clothing. All the various honored wives then have a gugu ["barbarian headdress," i.e., boqta] hat. It is plaited together using iron and silk thread. Its form is like a bamboo manikin. It is three chi [Chinese foot] or so in length. They use red and green floss silk and embroidery or [they use] pearl and gold to decorate it. On the top there is a staff and they use red or green wool to decorate it. There is also a dress with large sleeves like Chinese [gowns]. It is wide and long like crane feathers and drags on the ground. When they move, two female slaves carry the sleeves. Men and women sit mixed together. There is no prohibition. They offer toasts and encourage one another to drink in alternation with one another. Chinese envoys to the north, when they come before the Guowang [Viceroy, i.e., Muquali], after an audience he orders them to share liquor with those wives shamelessly and in an uncivilized manner. Princesses [main wives] and the various concubines [of Muquali] are considered ladies of high rank, eight of them. All sit together [with everyone else]. In all the feasting and drinking there is none who does not share mats [with the men]. Those who are called the various concubines are all brilliantly white in color. Four of them are then of the sort of precious concubines of the Jin slaves. Four of them are Tatars. Among them, four ladies are very beautiful and are extremely favored. They all wear barbarian garments and barbarian hats exclusively.11

On Feast Gatherings, Dancing and Singing (Excerpt)

When the Guowang marches out his army, he also marches along with female music. As a rule, there are 17 or 18 beautiful girls who are extremely clever. They mostly use 14-string and other [instruments] and play pieces such as the "Great Official Music." They clap their hands as a measure that is extremely slow. There dancing is very peculiar. It is the custom of the Tatars.12

On Crown Princes and Various Kings (Excerpt)

The Second Princess is called Alaqa bayan. She is commonly called Lake Beki. She once married to Bosibu [or Bosipo], a lost servant of the Jin Dynasty. He died and left her a widow. She presently administers the dynasty business of the White Tatars. Every day she takes charge and plans. She has several thousand women serving her. Whenever they go campaigning, they behead and kill. Everything comes from her.13

Paul D. Buell is at Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin Horst-Görtz-Institut für Theorie, Geschichte, Ethik Chinesischer Lebenswissenschaften


1 Her name is very uncertain. It is variously written as Orghina or Orqïna in the Western sources, although in Middle Mongolian, the spoken Mongolian of her time, it should have an initial "h," e.g., Horghina or Horqïna, but this name is otherwise unknown and is somewhat unlikely in any case. Here, I prefer to read it as having front, not back vowels, e.g., Ergene. Such a reading is, in fact, suggested by one alternative spelling found in the history of Rashīd al-Dīn (1247-1318). See the discussion of the spellings of her name in John Andrew Boyle, translator, The History of the World Conqueror, two volumes, (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1958), 274.

2 Propelling the change of ruling lines was another powerful female, the mother of the new qan, Möngke (r. 1251-59), Sorqoqtani-beki. She, at least, is viewed somewhat more favorably in our sources but this may reflect no more than the ascendency of the House of Tolui in one form or the other at the time that most of them were written.

3 This is the form of her name in Tibetan sources.

4 On the women in Qubilai's family, including Cabui, see Morris Rossabi, "Khubilai Khan and the Women in his Family," in Wolfgang Bauer, ed., Studia Sino-Mongolica: Festschrift für Herbert Franke, Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag, 1979, 153-180. See also Morris Rossabi, Khubilai Khan, His Life and Times (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1988).

5 There is no full study of the genealogies of the great warlord families of north China in early Mongol times in a Western language, although there are some excellent biographies in Chinese. See as an introduction to the topic, with full citation of the literature, the relevant biographies in Igor de Rachewiltz, Chan Hok-lam, Hsiao Ch'i-ch'ing and Peter W. Geier, editors. In the Service of the Khan, Eminent Personalities of the Early Mongol-Yuan Period (1200–1300) (Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz, 1993). At the imperial level see now George Qingzhi Zhao, Marriage a Political Strategy and Cultural Expression, Mongolian Royal Marriages from World Empire to Yuan Dynasty ( New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc., 2008).

6 For a background to these events see Paul D. Buell, "The Role of the Sino-Mongolian Frontier Zone in the Rise of Cinggis-qan," in Henry G. Schwarz, editor, Studies on Mongolia, Proceedings of the First North American Conference on Mongolian Studies (Bellingham, Washington, 1979), 63-76.

7 She was the daughter of the Oirat Tōrelci and a granddaughter of Cinggis-qan, Ceceken, and the sister of Buqa-temür of the Oirat and of the wife of imperial pretender Ariq-bökö. A third sister was apparently the Köpek who was the mother of Jumgar Ogul, Hüle'ü's second son. See John Andrew Boyle, translator, The History of the World Conqueror (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1958), 274, 611. For a short biography see Paul D. Buell, Historical Dictionary of the Mongolian World Empire, Historical Dictionaries of Ancient Civilizations and Historical Eras, No. 8 ( Lanham, Md., and Oxford: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003),151-52. See also, for the period in general, Michal Biran, Qaidu and the Rise of the Independent Mongol State in Central Asia (Richmond, Surrey: Curzon, 1997).

8 See the summary of the history of this ulus in Buell, 2003, 79-88. For the imperial history (i.e., pre-1260) of the same area see also the relevant sections of Buell, 2003, 17-52.

9 Boyle, translator, 1958, II, 612.

10 On Mongol China see Buell, 2003, 53-70.

11 Wang Guowei, ed., Menggu shiliao si zhong (Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju, 1962), 454.

12 Ibid, 455.

13 Ibid, 437-8.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Miniature Paintings of Mongolian Buddhism: Tsaklis, Thangkas and Burhany Zurags by Stevan Davies

The Miniature Paintings of Mongolian Buddhism:
Tsaklis, Thangkas and Burhany Zurags

by Stevan Davies
Professor of Religious Studies, Misericordia University - April 08, 2010

Please read Professor Davies' article on Mongolian Buddhist Miniatures here:

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Golden Summary of Činggis Qayan (Činggis Qayan-u Altan Tobci) by Leland Liu Rogers

The Golden Summary of Činggis Qayan (Činggis Qayan-u Altan Tobci)

by Leland Liu Rogers

Published by Harrassowitz Verlag .Wiesbaden, 2009

This remarkable book, The Golden Summary of Činggis Qayan - Činggis Qayan-u Altan Tobci, by Leland Liu Rogers, is based on a manuscript discovered inside a cave near Hohhot, Inner Mongolia by Professor Dorongya of the Institute of Social Sciences. This Mongolian language manuscript dates from the early post-Empire period. The author has projected dates for this work having been written as being between 1550 to 1575 -- during the reign of Altan Khan.

This chronology lacks material from the Secret History of the Mongols and does not include the standard Buddhist introduction found in similar works. It is primarily concerned with the Činggis Qayan (Chinggis Khan) čadig incarnation story. As Rogers’ footnotes explain, “čadig comes from the Sanskrit word jataka, which has the literal meaning of “birth” but has a literary meaning of “the adventures of original (former) births.”

The Činggis Qayan-u Altan Tobci’s manuscript is reproduced in transliterated Mongolian, which is followed by an English language version of the imperial chronology.

The first part of this extraordinary history begins with the legendary story of Chinggis Khan’s father, Yusegei, meeting his wife-to-be during a hunting excursion. The Golden Summary contains many other compelling chapters and critically important cultural aspects in the life of the emperor and his relations, including illuminating stories about Qasar, Chinggis Khan’s younger brother “whose descendants retained a substantial amount of noble status”, according to Rogers.

Leland Liu Rogers has produced a vitally important book ( replete with extensive and invaluable footnotes), which is a precious resource for the Mongolian history specialist, as well as the general reader interested in the unique perspective of the Mongols about Chinggis Khan and the Mongol’s cultural ethos on the eve of Manchu suzerainty

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stolen Mongolian Crown Found After 20 years

Stolen Mongolian crown found at police station after 20 years

Published: 3 Jul 09 12:27 CET

A decorative Mongolian silver crown stolen in 1984 from a Stockholm museum has been found on the premises of the Swedish Police Service, where it has spent more than twenty years in accidental storage.

"We would like to thank the national police service for housing the silver Mongolian crown for such a long time," said museum chief Anders Björklund in a statement.

The crown, part of a woman's costume from Mongolia, was one of the Museum of Ethnography's most prized possessions when it first went on display in 1980.

But in 1984 the bejewelled piece of headgear mysteriously disappeared from the museum during a power cut.

A report was filed with Interpol to hinder the resale of the crown beyond Sweden's borders, but for 25 years staff at the museum were left scratching their heads.

Recently however the riddle was solved when the police service's main Stockholm offices underwent renovations and a long forgotten bag was found in storage.

Confiscated from a burglar more than twenty years ago, the bag was found to contain an unusual silver crown, along with silver cutlery and a selection of trophies.

When police called the Museum of Ethnography to see if it could shed some light on the find, the museum's Asia expert Håkan Wahlqvist was dispatched to the station and immediately recognized the stolen treasure.

Paul O'Mahony ( 656 6513)