1 March 2015

Focus on Mongolia - February News

Every month I post a round-up of the news from Mongolia. I  do a weekly read of the Mongolian media sources so that I know what's going on in the land of the 'eternal blue sky' and for those looking to travel to Mongolia, it helps with improving the experience of the new travel destination. So. Here is a round up  of some of the events highlighted by the media in Mongolia this February.

(I couldn't decide what to leave out so you may want to skim read!)

Discovery of the 200 year-old mummified body of a monk

At the beginning of February, Mongolian and international news sources were running the story that a 200-year old body of a monk discovered in Ulaanbaatar, covered in cattle skin,  sitting in the cross-legged lotus position.

Image credit www.telegraph.co.uk

There was speculation that the monk was not dead and was instead in 'very deep meditation' in a special spiritual state known as tukdam  that crosses over between life and death. But, this has proved to be unfounded. 

'The Mongolia Morning Newspaper has reported that lead researchers are certain the body is that of a bearded religious man called Tsorzh Sanzhzhav, who lived 200 years ago. According to experts, he was a disciple of one of the greatest Buddhist teachers that ever lived and had been buried alongside his elder master until being stolen two weeks ago. It is now believed he was a student of His Holiness Incarnate Ovgon Geser Lama, who is revered in the region and whose grave is visited annually by pilgrims wishing to pray.'

The mummy has reportedly been sent to the National Centre of Forensic Expertise in Ulaanbaatar for further study. The remains will be cleaned and taken back to the mountain where he was originally buried. 

BBC Singer Of The World

Every second year, BBC Cardiff hosts a Singer of the World competition. Mongolian  soloist E.Amartuvshin has been selected as one of the contests 20 finalists. 

Image credit www.snipview.com

According to an article in the UB Post, more than 300 singers from 55 countries applied to travel to Wales to represent their county. The final round of the competition will take place from June 14th to the 21st. 
E.Amartuvshin was born in Sukhbaatar Province and studied at the State University of Arts and Culture. He is the principal soloist of Mongolia'sState Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet. He was named a State Honoured Artist at the age of 24. 

Noyon Mountain

A bid by a Canadian mining company Centerra Gold  to strip-mine part of Mongolia’s protected Noyon mountain forest  is causing anger in Mongolia. The mine  is being developed by Gatsuurt LLC, a Mongolian subsidiary of Centerra Gold (the largest Western mining company in Central Asia, with operations in the Kyrgyz Republic, Turkey, Mongolia, Portugal and Western Canada). 

Located  between Mongolia's Tuv and Selenge Provinces, Noyon Mountain is a funeral site of the Xiognu elite with up to 230 burials. It is also on the tentative list for UNESCO World Heritage Site status. (The Xiongnu (Hunnu in Mongolia) created the first empire to be established by the nomadic people living in the grasslands of Central Asia. The empire stretched from Lake Baikal in Russia down to the Yellow River in China.).

The issues surrounding Noyon Mountain in almost (but not quite) a nutshell

The Mongolian government previously identified 15 large mineral deposits that have strategic importance for the country where the development of the mining industry should be focused. Originally, Noyon Mountain was not included and was not among the additionally listed 39 potential strategic deposits. 

However, Centerra has been trying to sign an investment agreement on the deposit, but its location brings it under Mongolia's 'law with the long name'  and thus disallows mining operations there. The only way out is to be named a strategic deposit, and this was why the company made a request to consider the deposit a strategic one.

(The 'law with the long name' in full is the 'Law on Prohibiting Mineral Exploration and Extraction Near Water Sources, Protected Areas and Forests.' The first version of the law was adopted in 2009, aiming to keep mineral extraction operations in Mongolia within a environmental framework that would ultimately protect Mongolia's rivers and forests.)

In February, a demonstration took place in SUkhbaatar Square in Ulaanbaatar, which involved over 100 shamans. They expressed their opposition to mining exploration and exploitation at the site of Noyon Mountains and prayed for the protection of the mountain. 

Image credit www.ubpost.mongolnews.mn
Members of the United Movement of Mongolian Rivers and Lakes (UMMRL) also initiated a hunger strike in front of the Mongolian parliament which lasted for 12-days until they were removed by Mongolia's police force.

According to an online article in uranimum-network.org, the head of the Noyon Uul Protected Movement, O.Tserennadmid stated 'State officials see the mountain as a vast amount of money and approved the Gatsuurt field as a strategic deposit. The approval process took place at night without us. We just can't sit and accept it, we will go until the end. I am ready to give my life for my country.'

For more on this subject (including information on the impact of mining on Mongolia and its landscape), look at the Rivers Without Boundaries website

Tsagaan Sar - White Month

Turuu and Ganba, Tsagaan Sar, 2013

In a previous blog post last week, I highlighted Tsagaan Sar - White Month - Mongolia's Lunar New Year. In the zodiac calendar, this year is the year of the 'blue sheep.' Uriankhai L Terbish is a State Honoured Scientist of Mongolia and an academic of the Mongolian Academy of Science

According to his new astrology book (Tugs Buvant - widely bought throughout Mongolia), the start of the year will be windy (confirmed by Turuu!) but the midyear will be rich in crops and grass. The end of the year will bring plenty of precipitation and throughout the year there will not be any drought or severe weather conditions. 

On the morning of the first day of the Lunar New Year, the President of Mongolia Ts.Elbegdorj paid tribute to the Statue of Chinggis Khaan and the state symbol of Mongolia, the Nine White Banners. Following the tribute, President Elbegdorj participated in the state zolgokh (greeting ceremony) at the State Ceremonial Ger Palace. The President also welcomed the nine oldest citizens of Mongolia to the celebration and showed respect by offering a khadag at the State Ceremonial Hall.
Photo credit www.ubpost.mongolnews.mn
Our returning guest Ross has just returned from our Tsagaan Sar Insight trip ' I haven't the words to describe this trip.  Turuu  at his best, Enkhee  just wonderful. I have learnt so much and now have a much greater understanding of Mongolia.  Thank you. Once again the leaving is hard.'

If you're interested in learning more about Tsagaan Sar, there is an article in the UB Post about Tsagaan Sar around the world. Another interesting article is based on facts about the festival

And finally.....

Spring Horse Racing

On February 28th, the first of Mongolia's central provinces (covering Darkhan-Uul, Tuv, Selenge, Gobisumber, Dundgobi and Omnogobi) spring horse races took place - the 'Dunjingarav.' Even though the maximum temperature was (according to the Wunderground weather website for Ulaanbaatar) was -7 (the minimum was a definitely chilly -21!)! 

The race is arranged by the Federation of Mongolian Horse Racing and Sports and Trainers and took place in Tuv Aimag. 

Photo credit, www.photosmongolia.com
And a quick update on the racing:

  • 74 horses competed in the crossbreed category ('airgiin tav'). The winning horse was a stallion trained by N.Dush-Ulzii, resident of Zavkhan Aimag in western Mongolia.
  • 148 horses competed in the 'Azarga'  (stallion) race.  The winning stallion was trained by a resident of Gobi-Altai Aimag in western Mongolia.
  • 191 horses competed in the 'Ikh Nas' (mature horses over five years) race with the winning horse trained by a resident of Tuv Aimag - the province surrounding UB.
  • 160 horses competed in the  Soyolon (5 year-old) race with the winning horse trained by a resident on Omnogobi Aimag in the southern Gobi. 

The End!

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As always, thanks for reading!

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