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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.


The rock inscriptions of Tsogt Prince
The rock inscriptions of Tsogt Prince

Currently, UNESCO's International List of Documentary Heritage boasts a total of 430 registered items. Among them, five belong to Mongolia. In 2011, Luvsandanzan's "Golden Button," "Mongolian Shunhan Danjuur," and "Nine Gems Pendant" were added, and this year, the "Khalkhin Tsogt Prince's Rock Inscription" received its well-deserved registration.


For a documentary heritage to be eligible for registration, it must be preserved in its original form, possess global value and significance, and hold a special and impactful place in world history and human civilization. These criteria ensure that the registered heritage maintains its authenticity and importance.


Furthermore, in 1992, UNESCO launched the "Memory of the World" program to safeguard and conserve the world's documentary heritage. The program's objectives include registering international and regional heritage, promoting awareness and protection in member countries and communities, and fostering cooperation and exchange among member nations in preserving this invaluable heritage.


Ligdan Khan

Ligdan Khan (1604-1634)
Ligdan Khan (1604-1634)

During the reign of Ligdan Khan (1604-1634), a significant figure in the history of Mongolia, he sought to revive the Yuan Dynasty and commissioned Gungga-Odser to undertake the translation of a complete, a canonical collection of Buddhist scriptures, in the years 1628-1629. Gungga-Odser and his team primarily utilized the work of the Höhhot translators, often removing the names of the previous translators and asserting their own authorship. The final outcome was a unique manuscript edition featuring gold letters on a blue background, accompanied by five plainer manuscript copies. Unfortunately, only a small number of individual chapters from this edition have survived to this day.


In the years 1717-1720, the Kangxi Emperor (1662-1722) of the Qing Dynasty sponsored the block printing of the complete Mongolian bKa'-'gyur in Beijing, based on Ligdan Khan's manuscript edition. The editorial committee responsible for this endeavor was led by a Tu (Monguor) incarnate lama named Tuguan Khutugtu, Agwang-Choiji-Jamsu (1680-1735) from western Gansu. The committee comprised mostly Inner Mongolian lamas residing in Beijing.


Subsequently, in 1742-1749, during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor (1736-1796), the translation of the bsTan-'gyur, another canonical collection of Buddhist scriptures, was sponsored. The chief of the editorial committee for this translation was the Second Jangjiya Khutugtu, Rolbidorji (1716-1786), who held a rather unfavorable opinion of the existing translations. As a preliminary step to their work, Rolbidorji and his extensive team, which included Inner Mongolian translators such as Duke Gombojab, as well as Tibetan specialists in various fields like sculpture, medicine, and linguistics, created a terminological dictionary called the Merged garkhu-yin oron (Font of Scholars; Tibetan, Dag-yig mkhas-pa'i 'byung-gnas).


Presently, copies of the printed Mongolian bsTan-'gyur are exceedingly rare. Despite these translations, the majority of monasteries continued to conduct their services in Tibetan, and the highly sought-after bKa'-'gyur was more easily obtainable in Tibetan than in Mongolian. Even when the Eighth Jibzundamba Khutugtu sponsored a new printing of the bKa'-'gyur in Khüriye (now Ulaanbaatar) between 1908 and 1910, it was produced in Tibetan rather than Mongolian. However, it should be noted that only a few monks ventured beyond the proficient Tibetan-language handbooks and commentaries, and copies of the complete canon were not the primary basis for practical instruction. Nevertheless, the significance of the bKa'-'gyur is evident even in Mongolian epics, where the hero's bride often brings a copy of the canon as part of her dowry.


What are tours of Mongolian History?

Embark on a fascinating journey through Mongolian history with our carefully crafted tours. Immerse yourself in the rich cultural heritage, awe-inspiring landscapes, and intriguing historical sites that Mongolia has to offer. Choose from our selection of meticulously designed tours, each offering a unique experience:


Discover the heart of Mongolia as you explore its central region. Visit historical sites such as Karakorum, the ancient capital of the Mongol Empire, and Erdene Zuu Monastery, a symbol of Mongolian Buddhism. Experience the nomadic way of life by staying in traditional ger camps and interacting with local herders. Marvel at the breathtaking beauty of Terelj National Park and its stunning rock formations. This tour provides a comprehensive glimpse into the historical and natural wonders of central Mongolia.


Delve deeper into Mongolia's historical past with our immersive 8-day tour. Traverse through time as you visit significant historical sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Orkhon Valley, renowned for its archaeological remains and ancient petroglyphs. Explore the ruins of ancient cities and monasteries, gaining insights into the country's rich history and cultural heritage. Encounter nomadic communities, witness their traditional practices, and partake in their hospitality. This tour offers a captivating exploration of Mongolia's historical treasures.


Experience the very best of Mongolia with our comprehensive 9-day tour. From the iconic Gobi Desert to the pristine beauty of Khuvsgul Lake, this tour showcases the diverse landscapes and cultural highlights of the country. Immerse yourself in the nomadic lifestyle, witness the traditional Naadam Festival, and marvel at the wonders of the Flaming Cliffs and the singing sand dunes. Encounter Mongolian wildlife, including the rare Przewalski's horses, and learn about the country's unique flora and fauna. This tour promises an unforgettable adventure, combining history, nature, and cultural immersion.


For more information and to explore our complete tour database, visit our website at https://www.mongoliantour.guide/mongolia-tours

Join us on these meticulously crafted tours of Mongolian history, where ancient traditions, historical sites, and breathtaking landscapes intertwine to create an extraordinary and enriching experience. Uncover the hidden treasures of Mongolia and create memories that will last a lifetime.


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