‘Soyombo’ exhibition brings 17th to 19th century art for view

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The National Museum of Mongolia, in cooperation with collector B.Amarsanaa, is presenting a special exhibition entitled “Soyombo National Symbol of Mongolia” to promote, recognize and pass on Mongolia’s historical and cultural heritage to future generations.

B.Amarsanaa’s collection accounts for 60 percent of the exhibition while the rest is made up of artifacts from the medieval collection of the museum. 

One of the most interesting items in B.Amarsanaa’s collection is the idol of Undur Gegeen Zanabazar dated between the late 17th and early 18th centuries. In this painting, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar is depicted wearing a unique style of deel (traditional Mongolian clothing) that has never been seen in his portraits or artifacts found so far. Citing a researcher of the Russian Academy of Sciences, this sculpture may have been created by Zanabazar himself, collector B.Amarsanaa said at the opening ceremony of the exhibition. His collection includes the “Seal of 1,000 Gods”, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar’s Soyombo script, a wooden book called “Shambhala Blessing” dedicated to first Prime Minister of Mongolia T.Namnansuren, and the Azar Tsam’s mask.

The National Museum of Mongolia has put on view a total of 100 exhibits at the “Soyombo National Symbol of Mongolia” exhibition, including the “Sun and Moon” symbol from the Middle Ages, “Norov Erdene” symbol, Zanabazar’s ceremonial jacket, Mongolian flag, and a morin khuur (known as the horsehead fiddle) with golden Soyombo.

The museum has also unveiled rare and valuable exhibits such as the painting of Abtai Sain Khan, a “sacred idol” of the 18th to 19th century Erdenezuu Monastery. Abtai Sain Khan was Khalkh prince who was named by the third Dalai Lama as the first khan of the Tusheet Khanate. This painting depicts Abtai Sain Khan, Undur Gegeen Zanabazar and the second Jebtsundamba Khutughtu (Luvsandambiydonmi). Therefore, it is considered to be a sacred idol of Erdenezuu Monastery. The original painting was destroyed during the confiscation in 1929. In other words, this painting, which is currently in storage, is a copy.

The Soyombo symbol is a special character in the Soyombo alphabet invented by Zanabazar in 1686. In the alphabet, two variations of the Soyombo symbol are used to mark the start and end of a text. It is thought possible that the symbol itself may predate the script. The symbol has appeared on the national flag of Mongolia since its independence in 1911 until 1940, servings as the national emblem. It was included in the national flag design again in 1992.

The exhibition will be on display through December 30.

Misheel Lkhasuren

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