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(Excerpt from HISTORY)

THE IMPERIAL ARMY The destruction of the ties and bonds which regulated the relationships between the tribes and the establishment of a state apparatus, unheard of in the steppe, was the only way to govern a population in arms which, at the beginning of the XIII century, included more than 100,000 individuals. Structure It was based on multiples of 10 – arban – in much the same way as the Roman army (Decurion – centurion - chiliarches) or as the Cyrus’ Persian army (ca. 400 B.C.). 10 horsemen = arban 100 horsemen = jagun 1000 horsemen = mingghan (Genghis Khan speaks of 90 amongst his most loyal generals: koke mogol, each one at the head of 1000 men) 10000 = tumen (described by Marco Polo in the latter half of the XIII century) Furthermore, Genghis Khan was protected by a personal imperial guard of about 10000 men. For the soldiers there was no pay and the compulsory drafting affected all males (sometimes even the women) who were higher than a chariot wheel. Rules If a warrior deserted or asked for quarter during battle, he and his arban were immediately killed. If an arban marched against an enemy, the entire jugan was expected to march, under pain of death. The cavalry This was the weapon thanks to which Genghis Khan conquered his empire. Every horseman was expected to take care autonomously of his own sustenance, his armour and his weaponry, which included two horses each. Horses Takhi horses were never groomed and were never fed (the climatic conditions of XIII and XIV century Mongolia featured much more extensive grasslands than today, with immense pastures). They could be ridden all day long without having to stop to drink. They were left out in the open (as they are today) during the winter, in 40 below zero temperature. They were not hoofed, and were so light that they could cross frozen rivers. Fast and stable at a trot, they were the ideal platform for archers.

The stirrup Unknown to the Greco-roman world, and used in China since the V century a.D., the Byzantines became acquainted with the stirrup in the VI century. It is one of the “secret weapons” of Genghis Khan’s hordes. Used in Europe by Charles Martel in the battle of Poitiers (732 a.D.), it proved to be a decisive element, able to turn the tide against the Moors.

(The Bayeux tapestry – XI century - detail)

Armour A horseman’s typical attire included a iron coneshaped helmet, lined with leather and fur, a hauberk made of ox hide reinforced with metal plaques, or of iron mail. Sheepskin cloak, a tunic (del), boots (gutul) and Turkish trousers. Interesting. The nobles and officers wore on their bare skin a silk shirt which was specially treated in order for it not to tear when hit by an arrowhead, so that the arrow could be more easily extracted and lessen the chances of infection. Most used a silk scarf wrapped around the waist, used still today (katag), mainly for magical and superstitious purposes.

Shield It was made from wood or thatched wicker and covered with hide and metal plaques. It was normally round or elliptical. with a diameter between 80 an 90 cm. It symbolized the warrior’s social status and was delivered as a form of rite of initiation and could not be abandoned in battle. The warrior’s honour depended on his shield. The warriors made a display of approving decisions by banging their swords on their shields’ boss, the central metal part.

In the Castel del Monte mansion (Italy), there is a fresco depicting a Mongolian warrior. Frederick II Hohenstaufen wrote the De arte venandi cum avibus after having established contact with the Arab and then Mongolian cultures. Frederick II employed 1000 horsemen armed with arches in the Swabian army, much like the Mongolian army.

(Genghis Khan falcon-hunting China – silk painting)

((Illustration from De arte venandi cum avibus)


(Excerpt from RELIGION) Buddhism: from Tibet to Mongolia While other areas of central Asia were being influenced by Buddhism before the rise of the Christian era, Mongolia (and Tibet) had being virtually bypassed by and remained so for a long time. This occurred for two main reasons: first of all because both were quite removed from the main caravan routes along which merchants and pilgrims travelled between China and India; and then because the Mongolians and Tibetan were a nomadic and warrior people,

who did not care much for either Buddha’s teachings or for the high cultural standards that the doctrine bore. During the XIII century, following the fall of the Tanguto empire by hand of Genghis Khan, central Tibet accepted the supremacy of the Mongolians, established a friendly relationship and accepted to pay a tribute, thus a voiding a violent invasion. Buddhism entered and spread and, in the wake of the political and cultural relations between Mongolia and Tibet, a special relationship known as Patron – Minister of the Cult came into play. This relationship saw the leader of Tibet, embodied by the prevailing Great Lama, as the religious advisor and minister of the cult for the Mongolian Khan which, in exchange, acted as protector and patron for the Lama and his Doctrine. Following Genghis Khan’s death, his nephew, Godan, being interested in Buddhist philosophy, requested the presence of a Great Lama at his court: Sakya Pandita, the abbey of the Sakya monastery was sent to him. Godan was introduced to the Buddhist doctrine and, in exchange, Sakya was assigned temporal authority on central Tibet. Upon Godan’s death, it was Kublai Khan who ascended to the throne, and he invited Sakya Pandita’s nephew, the nineteen year old Phagspa, to court. The Mongolian prince received the Buddhist initiation and Phagspa was named Imperial Tutor. After Kublai Khan’s death, the Mongolian supremacy started waning in China, and also in Tibet its followers (cont….) (Phagspa)

*** Ghanta and Vajra These are two important ritual objects, highly symbolical in Vajrayana Buddhism. Ghanta (Drilbu in Tibetan) means bell and is, not surprisingly, a bell, symbol of wisdom. It represents the feminine power, receptiveness, the voice of Buddha. Vajra (Dorje in Tibetan) means diamond and is the sceptre made from the indestructible diamond of compassion. This represents the masculine power, sudden inspiration, the diamond able to cut through illusion and ignorance. Together, wisdom and compassion, Ghanta and Vajra, symbolize the perfect union, necessary to reach illumination.

They are employed by the monks in various rituals, usually Ghanta being held in the left hand, while Vajra is held in the right. Crossed above one’s head the symbolize the achievement and union of wisdom and compassion. They are sometimes associated on a single object: a bell whose handle is shaped like the Vajra.

Note: the Vajra looks somewhat like Zeus’ double bolt of lightning depicted in the Classical period. This analogy in shape is almost certainly directly derived from some form of relationship. Greek art reached India during the reigns of the successors to Alexander the Great and also influenced Indian art. The Greeks also minted coins depicting Classical myths and legends which must have suggested, under the appearance of Zeus, the Vajrapani model, the divinity holding the bolt of lightning. There is no doubt that this divinity, which appears for the first time in the indo-greek art from Gandara, has a strong affinity with the Thunder bolt brandishing Zeus.



SOYOMBO It is the symbol of freedom itself and independence, and it represents the essence of Mongolia and its people. It appears on the national flag, on the car’s licence plates, on bank notes and on stamps. Its origins date back to the XIV century and is an integrated part of the current Mongolian flag. Zanabazaar used it in 1686 to establish the alphabet.

In 1921 Sukhbataar adopted it as a symbol against Chinese dominance. The Soyombo symbol can be interpreted in several ways; we chose the one closest to the tradition: at the top the fire symbolizes re-birth. The three flames hint at unity and prosperity for the Mongolian race in the past, the present and the future. Beneath a circle representing a sun enclosed in a moon sickle, are two fundamental elements from the shamanic and Buddhist tradition: the sun represent the Mother, while the moon is the Father. The two triangles whose cusps are turned downwards represent the arrows intended to strike anyone who dares to attack the symbols located between them. The two rectangles remind everyone of moral and ethical rectitude, to both the upper and lower classes. In the centre we have the symbols for the yin and yang, which represent care and vigilance for the values, or the continuous and circular flow of time. Lastly, the two rectangles located at the sides are the two walls which remind the people that. if it follows the above-mentioned teachings, it will never need walls to defend it from enemies.

Excerpt from Carnet  

An excerpt from the "Carnet de Voyage", a useful booklet that will help our customerso to better understand Mongolia.

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