Reviews

Statehood authority and power is generally represented through material (portrait, statue, emblem, seal and banner) or immaterial symbols (position in space, granting of a title, epic tale, chronicle, recital of genealogy, praise and curse).  Its representation may be mobile (throne) or immobile (palace).  It can be exterior to (costume, crown) or constituent of a ruler (unction).  The two authors name the most important state symbols and attributes, and make a research on them and on their historical evolution according to Mongolian sources ( “The Secret History of the Mongols,” “The White History,” “The Golden History,” cf. Njambuu X., Olnoo orgogdson Bogd xaant Mongol ulsyn torijn joslol [State Ceremonies during the Reign of Bogd Xaan (King of Autonomous Mongolia)], Ulaanbaatar, 1993).  They mention as well some of the particular state symbols present in Central Asia, including many Buddhist attributes.  The present paper deals with the main symbols of Mongolian statehood, the so called “state treasures-relics” which, according to the authors, ascend to the times of Genghis Khan.  Later on, during the reign of Qubilai (1260-94), the nine superior state symbols (yisun yeke belge) as attributes of the khan’s authority and power were mentioned for the first time in written form in the Mongolian “White history”.  They are: 1. the large black banner, symbolising the fare inspired to the enemies; 2. the resounding red shell, symbol of general respectfulness; 3. the powerful golden quiver, symbol of self-defence; 4. the strong flame yellow sulfur, symbol of being enthroned/being given the power by many people; 5. the large threatening diamond sword, symbol of the state’s authority; 6. the solid golden saddle, symbolising military campaigns; 7. the large sacred belt, symbol of the stability/durability of life; 8. the throne with the high canopy, symbol of the wide and immobile steppe; 9. the reliable troops and friends, symbols of unity.

These symbols and attributes are the object of the authors’ research. Their analysis and the comparative study of historical literature based on the “Secret History of the Mongols” underline two separate layers, viz. the symbols of Mongolian origin and the Central Asian symbols, both reflecting the archaic and medieval representations of power and its attributes.  Established in the thirteenth century, the nine khan’s or state symbols existed up to the seventeenth, and continued with the same symbolic force to be adopted by the Manchu emperors.  All represent a synthesis of the autochthonous Mongolian and ancient Indian symbols of authority reflecting the spiritual values within a nomad state.  The oldest items of information on the symbols of the imperial authority are mentioned as well in Indian Buddhist canonical manuscripts containing the description of chakravartins—governors of the Universe.  Out of these symbols, according to the authors the horse, the saddle, the belt, the quiver, the sword, the banner, the imperial throne, the seal, the parasol, the horn, the circle, the mark of cindamani (wish-granting jewel) represent the most ancient traditions of the nomads in Central Asia.  The present paper deals only with basic symbols of Mongolian statehood, reflecting archaic and medieval ideas of high authority, power and their attributes, and based on the “The Secret History of the Mongols” and the study of the historical literature, “the “White History” among other sources.  Mongolian attributes of authority, power and statehood were considered state symbols up to the beginning of the twentieth century.  Besides, separate elements built up with Buddhist general state symbols have been borrowed by the Manchus.

Rodica Pop, Sergiu Al-George Institute of Oriental Studies, Bucharest
CER: I-3.1.A-155