Two Swiss in Mongolia – discovering Zanabazar and more artefacts

Zanabazar – who is he?

Ursula intended to visit the Zanabazar museum for fine arts. Zanabazar – who is he? I started to read about him and discovered an impressive leader.

Zanabazar was the first Bogd Gegen or spiritual head of buddhism of Mongolia. He lived from 1675-1723. His name means thunderbolt. He was a pioneer of medicine, literature, art, astronomy, language, music, architecture. He is the Leonardo da Vinci of Mongolia, Jacqui confirms proudly.  Zanabazar composed music, and mastering bronze casting, he created sculptures. He founded a school to hand over his art to talented monks. In addition he invented a script; the first letter is part of the Mongolian flag and this letter is full of symbolism. For instance the yingyang stands for equilibrium inside the country or the bars on the sides mean good relations with the neighbors, this is what we heard from one guide.

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As the political leader, Zanabazar cooperated with the Chinese. The Oirats from West Mongolia had overrun the central Khalk Mongolians. Zanabazar managed to defeat the Oriats with the support of the Chinese, but for the price of becoming part of China. Some say that Zanabazar has sold Mongolia to China. Others value that he might not have had a choice and that under the Chinese rule, Mongolia lived a period pf peace.

Visiting the Zanabazar museum

Some of Zanabar’s sculptures are on display in the Zanabazar museum.  We pay the entrance fee, stay some time in the great museum shop (buying fairy tales) and then head right to his room. We admire the “real” Buddha (Shakiamuni), his five Buddhas, the wives, the Boddhisatvas and the guards, all with their special attributes.

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There are more Buddhist treasures in the Zanabazar museum

We continue with the Tankras (some painted on silk, some wonderfully patchworked, enhanced by stitching), mandalas (one is also patchwork and one is a three dimensional mandala) and the tsam masks.

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And there is ancient and more recent folk art on the first floor, even Infographs

On the first floor, we find the remians from 3000 AD ( rock paintings), from 2000 AD (deer stones) and from the Turks (stone sculptures – busts). There is also folk art such as the horse head guitar (a traditional music instrument).

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Infographs must have been invented by the Mongolians. Infographs display various scenes to explain a story. One infograph on display here shows the preparation and celebration of the feast of airak (airak is an acoholic drink made out of milk from a female horse) and a second shows a day in Mongolia ( life in all its aspects from moving a ger to giving birth to a child).

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This was a wonderful afternoon in the museum, and I enjoyed that I could share this experience with Ursula and that we like the same level of detail. I  just need to read more to understand the symbolism of the Buddhist art.

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