Thursday, 12 August 2010

big man Chinggis rises above the Steppe

As we drove across the Steppe today we rounded a valley corner and saw a shimmer of silver on the horizon. Driving closer the silver grew and grew and grew and grew. 30 minutes later we were standing at the foot of Chinggis Khaan. Rising out of the arid land, miles and miles from anywhere, a 131 foot tall statue of the warrior Chinggis wrapped in 250 tons of glittering steel stands proudly looking out across his empire. Walking towards the gargantuan emperor I realised that the dots at the horses feet weren't crows but people. It is the biggest, and most oddly located, statue I have ever seen. It's a little like a modern day Abu Simbel. Some hate it, I thought it was incredible.

Inside the monument a museum displays ancient metalwork from the 5th century BC. The craftsmanship is outstanding. At that time Mongolia seems to have been centuries ahead of other countries in terms of culture and skill. Mongolian armour and weapons appear to have been copied by the neighbouring Chinese as they established their empire. Chinggis was the pinnacle of Mongolian power after centuries developing an awesome arsenal. Visitors can clamber inside the horses belly and walk out of Chinggis' abdomen to a splendid view across the Steppe.

I didn't have a video but found this wee clip that puts things in perspective.

The statue is the latest Mongolian venture to rediscover Chinggis. This follows almost a century of Russian occupation during which all Mongolia specific cultural, religious and intellectual matters were spurned if not burned. Flying to Ulaanbaatar you land at the Chinggis Khaan International Airport; an enormous statue of Chinggis Khaan dominates the main Sukhbaatar Square; students study at the Chinggis Khaan University and his name is used to brand a myriad of products from vodka to hotels. Mongolian people are refinding their heritage and are exceedingly proud of their most famous father.

I wonder what Chinggis would have made of it all as he stood looking out of the window contemplating his next campaign...

Mongolian of the day:-big :: tom