zondag 3 juni 2012

Mongolia, Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape

The 121,967-ha Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape encompasses an extensive area of pastureland on both banks of the Orkhon River and includes numerous archaeological remains dating back to the 6th century. The site also includes Kharkhorum, the 13th- and 14th-century capital of Chingis (Genghis) Khan’s vast Empire. Collectively the remains in the site reflect the symbiotic links between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centres, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia. The grassland is still grazed by Mongolian nomadic pastoralists.

Orkhon Valley clearly demonstrates how a strong and persistent nomadic culture led to the development of extensive trade networks and the creation of large administrative, commercial, military and religious centres. The empires undoubtedly influenced societies across Asia and into Europe and in turn absorbed influence from both east and west in a true interchange of human values. This culture is still a revered and indeed central part of Mongolian society and is highly respected as a 'noble' way to live in harmony with the landscape. The valley itself is an exceptional illustration of several significant stages in human history, reflecting its role as the centre of the Mongolian Empire, a special Mongolian variation of Turkish power, the Tuvkhun hermitage monastery as the setting for the development of a Mongolian form of Buddhism, and Khar Balgas as the capital of the Uighur Empire.
This cultural landscape is in central Mongolia, some 360 km south-west of Ulan Bator, the capital, along the Orkhon River, which flows north, draining into Lake Baikal across the border in Russia. Over 90% of Mongolia's huge land area is high-level pasture or desert wasteland, at an average altitude of around 1,500 m. Water is at a premium and the river valleys have therefore assumed great importance, becoming the focus for settlements of various kinds. In Mongolia, nomadic pastoralism, the grazing of horses, sheep, goats, cows and camels, is perceived as much more than the objective technical demands of pastoral life: it is revered and glorified as the heart of Mongolian culture. In turn Mongolian nomadic culture is part of a much wider distinctive nomadic pastoral culture, embracing many other people besides the Mongols and extending across central Asia. Over at least the past two millennia these nomadic cultures, through economic, political and cultural links, have made an immense impact on the sedentary cultures with which they interacted across Asia and into Europe. Nomadic pastoralists spent their lives moving their herds from one pasture to another, sometimes covering vast distances each year. They operated and moved across their territory within strictly regulated and controlled ways, linked to the specific designation and use of grazing grounds and to territorial rights and social units. Underpinning this movement were fixed points, which could be cities, providing centres of government, crafts, trade and commerce, or religious sites, such as temples and funerary areas. The density of such fixed points varied enormously across the vast Eurasian steppes.
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape is one of the key areas in Mongolia where the links between nomadic pastoralism and the associated settlements can be see most clearly, where there is a high density of remains, and where above all these remains are of national and international importance. Orkhon Valley was at the centre of traffic across the Asian steppes and became the capital of first the Uighur Empire and then the Mongol Empire, which described itself as 'the greatest empire the world has ever known'.
The broad, shallow river valley provides water and shelter, key requisites for its role as a staging post on the ancient trade routes across the steppes, such as those now known as the Silk Road, and for its development as the centre of two of the vast Central Asian empires.
The main monuments are open to the public. They include the Turkish Memorials of Khosho Tsaidam; the ruins of Khar Balgas City and Kharkhorum City; Erdene Zuu Monastery; Tuvkhun Hermitage Monastery; Shankh Western Monastery; the Palace at Doit Hill; the ancient towns of Talyn Dorvoljin, Har Bondgor and Bayangol Am; many deer stones and ancient graves; the sacred mountains of Hangai Ovoo and Undor Sant; and the long tradition of nomadic pastoralism.

Historical Description

Modern Mongolia comprises only about half of the vast Inner Asian region known throughout history as Mongolia. It is also only a fraction of the great Chinggis Khan's Mongul Empire, which in the 13th and 14th centuries stretched from Korea to Hungary, covering nearly all of Asia except the Indian sub-continent and parts of southeast Asia. It was the largest contiguous land empire the world has known. Many people from societies conquered by the Mongols have written about them - much unfavourable. On the other hand Mongol sources emphasise the almost god-like military genius of Chinggis Khan whose success rested not just on military skill but also on increasingly sophisticated administrative systems. The empire's success - over nearly two centuries - also depended on the absorption and employment of Chinese, Iranian, Russians and others. Mongolia and its people have thus had a significant and lasting impact on the historical development of major nations such as China and Russia, and periodically influenced the entire Eurasian continent.
Until the mid 20th century most of the people who inhabited Mongolia were nomads. The Mongols were one of several distinct nomadic peoples living in Mongolia who over the past two millennia have engaged in constantly shifting alliances, with centralised states such as the Huns, Syanbi, Jujuan, Turkic and Uighur Empires emerging from time to time between the 3rd century BC and the 9th century AD. Over the centuries, some nomadic peoples moved west to establish the Hun Empire in Europe while others moved into Iran, India and China.
For two centuries, the establishment of Chinggis Khan's Empire, with its centralised control, interrupted this pattern and put in place sophisticated military and political systems, which exceeded in skill and efficiency most others of the time. Under Chinggis and his successors, the Moguls conquered most of Eurasia.
In the early 16th century with the waning of the empire, Mongolia once again became a land of warring factions. From the late 17th to the early 20th centuries, Mongolia was a major focus of Russian and Manchu-Chinese rivalry, leading eventually to the fragmentation of Mongolia, with Inner Mongolia (the south part of Mongolia) being absorbed by the Chinese and with increasing Russian interest in Outer Mongolia. Russia's predominance in Outer Mongolia was unquestioned by 1921 and in 1924 the Mongolian People's Republic was established - under the control of Moscow. Mongolia became an independent State in 1946.
Today more Mongolians - around 3.5 million - live in Inner Mongolia, China, than in the Mongolian People's Republic, which has a population of 2.7 million.

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