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Mongolian History: The rock inscriptions of Tsogt Prince have been registered in UNESCO

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

During the May 2023 meeting held in Paris, the International Consultative Committee of UNESCO's "Memory of the World" program examined the nominated documentary heritage materials from various member countries. As a result, 64 exceptional monuments, including the Stone Inscriptions of Tsogtu Khung-Taiji, Prince of Khalkha, were officially registered in the International Documentary Heritage list of the program. Mongolia proudly contributed to this achievement, and it is an advertisement for Mongolian history.

Who was Tsogt Prince and his role in Mongolian History?

Tsogt Prince Movie 1945
Tsogt Prince Movie 1945

Tümengken Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji (1581–1637) was a prominent noble in Northern Khalkha, Mongolia, during the 16th and 17th centuries. He is known for his expansion into Amdo (present-day Qinghai) to support the Karma Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism. However, his rule was eventually overthrown by Güshi Khan, who favored the rival Gelug sect. Tümengken Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji was also a renowned intellectual and poet, notable for his poem transcribed on a rock surface in 1624, which still exists today.

Tümengken Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji established a stronghold on the Tuul River and demonstrated his patronage of the Karma sect by constructing monasteries and castles. In 1601, he built the White Castle, also known as the White House of Choghtu Khong Tayiji.

He pledged allegiance to Ligdan Khan, the last grand khan of the Mongols, and participated in Ligdan's campaign to Tibet in support of the Karma sect. However, Ligdan Khan passed away in 1634 before their forces could unite. Despite this setback, Tümengken Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji continued the campaign and, in the same year, conquered the Tümed people in the region around Kokonor (Qinghai Lake), relocating his base there. At the request of Shamar Rabjampa, he dispatched an army led by his son Arslan to central Tibet in 1635. Regrettably, Arslan betrayed his ally and attacked the Tsang army. Tümengken Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji himself met with the fifth Dalai Lama, paying respects to Gelukpa monasteries instead of destroying them. Eventually, Arslan was assassinated under Tsoghtu's orders.

The Geluk sect sought assistance from Törü Bayikhu (Güshi Khan), leader of the Khoshuud tribe within the Oirat confederation. In 1636, Törü Bayikhu led the Khoshuud and Dzungars to Tibet, culminating in a decisive war against Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji in the following year. Törü Bayikhu emerged victorious, and Tsoghtu was killed.

Descendants of Sutai Yeldeng, Tsoghtu's grandson, succeeded the jasagh (chief) of a banner in Sain Noyon Khan Aimag.

Historically, Tsoghtu Khong Tayiji has been portrayed as a villain by the Geluk sect. Conversely, the Mongolian film "Tsogt Taij" (1945) portrayed him as a national hero.

The Tsogt Prince Rock Inscription is considered a remarkable 17th-century Mongolian poetic work that incorporates pre-Qing Buddhist poetic styles. It stands as a testament to the unity of the Mongolian people against the Manchurian invasion during the reign of Ligden Hutagt Khan.