Mongolian art and culture. Mongolian films.
INFORMATION FOR TRAVELERS
MONGOLIA ARTS AND CULTURE
From ancient times and to-date, Mongolians and their ancestors have used about
ten kinds of scripts. Mankind does not know so many countries with such a rich
history in terms of script.
In particular, these are the "square script or Phagspa script" created at a
decree by Khubilai Khaan on the basis of Tibetan script in 1269, the "clear
script or Oirat script" created by Oirat Zaya Bandida Namkhaijamts in 1648
adding commas and elements to phonetic signs of the Mongolian language, with
equal characters and different pronunciations, and the soyombo script created in
1686 by Saint Zanabazar, the first leader of Mongolian Buddhism.
It is said that the soyombo script was created as the symbol of national
independence during a delicate period of history when the independence of
Mongolia was threaten by Manchurian aggressors. The golden soyombo on the
current Mongolian flag is the first character named "Egchim" of the soyombo
The reason for the use of these several kinds of scripts by Mongolians is
related to politics and, on the other hand, to their intent to bring the
Mongolian written language closer to the oral dialect of that time. Among these
scripts, only the Mongolian one has been widely used for a long period of time
among Mongolian nations. This script is known as: the Mongolian, the old
Mongolian, the Uigarjin and the Khudma scripts. With regard to the old Mongolian
script, Mongolians who used to use various scripts named the previous one as the
"old "in order to differ from the "new" one. * In due course, a new script has
become an old one. Since the 1940s, when Mongolians commenced to use Cyrillic,
the Mongolian script has widely been named as the old.
There are various legends about naming the Mongolian script as the Uigarjin. The
legend says that, while seizing Naiman aimag, Mongols found a seal with Uigar
script from Minister Tatatunga. Since then, Mongolians started to use the
Uigarjin script. There is another legend revealing that Mongolian script has
been created embodying the shape of the "khedreg" - a toothed implement of wood
used in dressing skins. However, controversy is ongoing as to how Mongols and
Uigars adopted the aramei script of phonic origin from the Sogd people. (An
historical province settled in the Zerawshan and Kashkada basin in the Middle of
Asia, one of the centers of ancient civilization. This area was settled by a
state with the name Sogd in 1000 B.C.).
Linguists agree that the Mongolian script has been adopted by Mongols prior the
13th Century. Thanks to the addition of a character, "Ali-Gali", to the
Mongolian script by Ayush Guush in 1587, it became possible to write foreign
words, including Chinese and Tibetan, using the Mongolian script.
Hence, the script is written downward, which is called vertical script. It is
worth mentioning that it is written very fast. Its advantage is the vertical
form enabling the meaning of a word to be shown written in calligraphic manner.
Only Mongolian script preserves the wonder of writing the word "horse"
simultaneously embodying the shape thereof, and this is also true of word
The Mongolian script is easily learnt both to write and read. It has been used
stably over more than 1,000 years.
Since letters "o" and "u" are written the same, "kho" and "khu", like this "khe"
and "ge" are also the same, and it is true of "d" and "t", as well as "j" and
"z". This is due to the wonderful harmonization of phonetic features of the
Mongolian language with principles of morphology. For instance, the word "ondor"
(tall) written in the Mongolian script can be read by Buriats as "under" in
their accent. There are many other words in the Mongolian script that are
written the same, but are read differently, depending on the dialects of
In that way, the Mongolian script unites Mongolian nations in terms of script
and, on the other hand, furthers the development of the dialects of a large
number of the Mongolian nationalities.
The Arabian script was adopted in the 8th Century by Sogd people who used a
script branched through the aramei script of phonic origin and, in the 11th
Century, by Uigars. Mongolians have so far been using the script adopted from
the Sogd people without losing it, but rather developing it in accordance with
its native language.
There is much ground for saying that the Mongolian people have made a
contribution to the history of the world's scripts. Were Mongolians to cease
using this script, there will be no guarantee that a large part of culture
created by humankind has been preserved.
Despite the Mongolian script not being used in official affairs, a wide range of
activities related to the Mongolian script are still arranged in Mongolia,
including a contest and exhibition of calligraphy.
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