Thursday, December 29, 2011

Happy Birthday Mongolia, 100 Years Old Today

The Khans from Mongolia ruled a great part of the earth from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century.  But the same peoples had come out of the mountain home at least 400 years before the Empire was established in its farthest boundaries.  They settled much of the area where their rule became law in the fourteenth century.  Mongolia then had its turn as the ruled rather than the ruler until a hundred years ago when it gained its independence from China on December 29, 1911.

The Mongol tribes came out of the Altai mountains, which form a partition for China, Russia and Kazakhstan.  The descendants of these horseback riders from the mountains   are still spread far and wide throughout the Middle East and Central and South Asia.  From Central Europe and Turkey in the West to China in the East, from Russia and Kazakhstan in the North to the Northern part of India in the South.  The descendants of these people are still the major population in many of these countries.  They still add to the artisanal output of those nations from wonderful foods such as lamb and healthy dairy products to highly prized collectible carpets and jewelry.  Here is a photograph showing just one example

  The textile is home spun, hand dyed and hand loomed silk.  Then it is laboriously decorated almost over its complete surface with colorful silk threads in the old tribal patterns.  The asyk pendant is the symbol of the family, the two large heart shapes representing the father and mother and the small shape between them represent the child.  It is essentially a life symbol.  The ram's horn shapes on top of the asyk represent the tribal ancestors.  

The Turkic language separates into many different dialects; and they are written in different alphabets, in Chinese characters, in the Russian Cyrillic letters. It was at one time written in the Sanskrit-derived alphabet in India, which included parts of Pakistan and most of Afghanistan. By this time in Iran, they were writing Persian in the Arabic script;  in fact, in many parts of the Empire, the languages were written in Arabic script.  Finally the Turks of Turkey adopted the Latin alphabet in the 1920s, and Turkish became the first Ural-Altaic language to be written in the Latin letters that I am using to type this blog.  

Again I say Happy Birthday, Mongolia!  

You can see more Turkoman antique silver jewelry at


  1. Fascinating, Anna! Thank you for explaining the symbolism asyk pendant. And, wow! is the textile ever beautiful, even more so when you understand the detailed, time consuming work that went into it! Love your posts!

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  3. Thank you, Catherine and John for your very kind comments. Since the Mongols no doubt celebrated this week with buzkashi games, I am preparing a blog on that sport and how it fits their world view.