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Mongolian art is the fruit of a rich cultural heritage: Hunnu, Juan-juan, Kyrgyz of Yenisei, Jurchin, Turk and Ouigour, but it has also been enriched by a synthesis of Indian influence. and Tibet, from which he was able to create his own style.

Mongolian art was not constituted by a passive absorption and various cultural contributions, but by an active adaptation of these elements in a style which is characteristic to him. Moreover, this art exercised a profound influence on other cultures, such as the Persian artistic creation of the 13th century, resulting in the creation of a perso-Mongolian style and a prolific development of Persian miniature through the integration of elements that were previously unknown. The Perso-Mongolian artistic style in turn exerted a great influence on the development of the modern Mongolian artistic style, of which Sharav's paintings are a prime example.

mongolian art

Traditionally, as a support for paintings (thangka), leather, silk, cotton and linen fabrics were used. Mongolian artists appreciated fine cotton canvas. The colors were prepared by the artist himself using pigments of mineral origin or from precious stones, turquoises, corals, pearls, mother-of-pearl or metals, gold, silver, copper, iron. Apart from the pigments, a mixture of leather, horns and animal bones boiled in a sugar syrup was also used. This paste was embellished with original elements such as a little earth or water collected by pilgrims on holy places of Buddhism, blood coming from the nose of the artist himself, mixed with powder of gold, silver, precious stones, sap or resin of medicinal plants. Mongol paintings executed in the traditional style called Mongol Zurag were initially small in size to meet the mobility requirements of nomadic monasteries. Then we begin to use larger canvases and to develop the art of appliqué which will supplant painting. Appliqué embroideries have existed in Mongolia since ancient times, as shown by the carpet exhumed from the Hiong-Nu tombs. But from the 18th century, the Mongolian monks will make the technique of appliqué a real national specialty, particularly in Urga which begins to export its appliqués throughout the Tibetan world. These works can reach 16 m in height. They are composed of mosaics of juxtaposed fabrics and manufactured using a technique that is costly in terms of materials and time. This process was used mainly to make very large thangkas that were publicly unveiled during ceremonies such as the Tsam.

Gandan Monastery

It is characterized by a wide use of extremely ancient ornamental decorative motifs, presenting strong symbolic contents. These patterns are reproduced on much of the utilitarian objects such as saddles, stirrups, belts, boots and traditional hats, yurt furniture, carpets and doors, knife cases and snuff boxes. . The making of the Mongolian yurt involved the existence of a whole series of craftsmen: blacksmiths, carpenters, carpenters, dressmakers-embroiderers, goldsmiths, etc. Each region of Mongolia had developed a craft specialization related to local preferences: - the Darigang inhabitants of the current aimag of Sükhbaatar were specialized in the work of gold and silver relating to domestic utensils and horse harness. To the west, the Oïrat and the Torguut were masters of fur work. -the inhabitants of the aimags of the northwest were specialized in the work of metal and wood in relation to the structures of the yurt. -As for Urga, as we have seen, she was the center of the appliqué technique. The tradition of the animal style, in particular of the "art of the steppes", was transmitted and perpetuated for a very long time and it is possible to still identify the trace of it in the art of the current breeders of Khovd, Gobi- Altai and Khôvsgôl, especially in the decorations of saddles representing animal fights, which can still be observed today in the central Gobi. Now, traditional craftsmanship is again encouraged and artists, abandoning Stalin, Lenin, Tchoibalsan, their pomp and their works, turn again, in particular, to a figure of history proscribed for seventy years: Genghis Khan .


Mongolian ornamental design is a veritable alphabet expressing a conception of the world and a nomadic philosophy. It consists of a few basic patterns from which many variations are made. Many are auspicious ornaments, sorts of talismans possessing beneficial virtues, intended to attract or preserve happiness and luck; for a nomadic breeder, this means longevity, good health, numerous offspring and prosperous breeding. An auspicious ornamental design on a saddle or stirrup brings luck to the rider and increases the qualities of speed and endurance of his horse. The use of this ornamentation did not disappear during the socialist period. It continued, perhaps even intensified. While any outward sign of wealth was prohibited, Mongolian saddles have never ceased to feature superbly crafted sterling silver cabochons. There are three main categories of ornamental motifs: they are geometric, zoomorphic or vegetal. Each component of the pattern is painted with one or more colors. The harmony between the composition of the patterns, on the one hand, and the background and the main colors, on the other hand, produces an effect that is both aesthetic and semantic. The particular use of certain stones and precious metals carries meaning in itself: turquoise is the symbol of fidelity, gold and amber, of love, silver and pearls, of purity and nobility of soul.


The moriin khuur or "horse-hurdy-gurdy", of ancient and purely Mongolian origin, is a two-stringed horsehair hurdy-gurdy. Most often tuned to the fifth, it is equipped with a trapezoidal wooden case and is played with an archer made up of a wick also made of horsehair. His pegbox usually ends with a sculpted horse's head, symbol of the courier who takes the musician-poet on his mystical excursions. In the past, almost every family had such an instrument. It accompanied the magtaal or songs of praise dedicated to the winning horse and the archery songs during the naadam. Played only by men, it was an instrument intended above all to accompany and support the voice.

The moriin khuur was born on the banks of the Onon, where the most famous hurdy-gurdy players in the country are said to come from. He is crowned with a magnificent legend of which there are many versions: “A poor breeder had for all good a thin red horse which was for him an invaluable friend. One day, he discovered him lying, lifeless, near his yurt. Inconsolable, he began to make a hurdy-gurdy with his friend's bones, tendons and hair, fixed the horse's head to the handle, then, distraught with pain, leaned his own head against it in order to unite himself spiritually with his deceased. friend. The bow then came to life and, gently brushing the strings, made the horse's head shiver, which began to emit nervous whinnies... Thus was born a melody which spread over the steppe through the autumn grass, caressing gently the young man and his horse...".
The Jew's harp (in Mongolian, aman khuur, literally "old mouth"), made of stone or leather, bamboo or iron, is an instrument commonly used in popular Mongolian music. Among the Türk peoples, the jew's harp, made by the blacksmith, was the prerogative of the shaman who played it when he predicted the future or chased away harmful spirits. Before being handed over to him, it had to have been consecrated to be made infallible and heard by the gods. Recently, an entire orchestra of Jew's harps brought together 412 performers.

Other instruments used in popular music include:

The limbo, a wind instrument made of bamboo or metal, whose shape and sound recall the flute, but which is distinguished by a more powerful sound.

The khuchir is a long-handled hurdy-gurdy with four silk strings; its oval body is covered with snakeskin.
The shanz (or shudarga) is a three-stringed lute, the yootchin, a table zither with fourteen struck strings, which is played with two bows, and the yatga, a table zither with fourteen plucked strings (10 to 14 strings of silk).
The musical themes of popular songs are very rich and many of them reflect the symbiosis of man with nature and the animal kingdom, modulating on sounds imitating the song of birds or other sounds of nature.
Itinerant musicians, storytellers and improvisers had been banned in Ulaanbaatar since 1930, but the musical traditions have remained very much alive.

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