Chinggis, Chinghis or some other spelling

Now I am confused. The great Mongolian has a Mongolian name and it makes perfect sense in Mongolian. Originally in English it was Genghis and that sort of worked too – although I guess that was from the Chinese spelling originally.

Now I spelled it in the last blog entry as Chinggis … but today I saw it spelled Chinghis on a calender here in Mongolia, so I got confused.

Googling (sorry Mr Gates) “chinggis” returned 781,000 hits, including the Chinggis Khaan Hotel in Ulaanbaatar, Chinggis Beer and so on.

Googling (still sorry Mr Gates) “chinghis”: returned 895 hits, including information about the Chinghis Khaan Hotel (but not the website itself) and Columbia Encyclopedia® article about Chinghis khan.

Whilst the encyclodedia was in there, 781,000 to 895 is an overwhelming win for Chinggis – and vindication of my thoughts that today, when I saw a Mongolian produced calender here today that had it spelled Chinghis, that the calender was wrong.

Chinggis it is.

Ulaanbaatar To Be Renamed “Chinggis Khaan”

Apparently some academic, or academics, have come up with the idea of renaming Ulaanbaatar “Chinggis Khaan”. The city government is considering this idea at the moment. It must be true, it was on the evening news last night 😀 . The reasons given for the potential name change were:

  1. It will attract more tourists
  2. Chinggis Khaan, as a name, attracts more respect
  3. It fits with the Mongolian character

I won’t even try and look at the point about it fitting with the Mongolian character – I can’t. However I was dismayed when the Buyant Ukhaa Airport outside Ulaanbaatar was renamed the Chinggis Khaan Airport. There is so much “Chinggis Khaan” in Mongolia now, and Ulaanbaatar in particular, that it looks more and more like Mongolia has nothing to offer the foreign tourist other than Chinggis Khaan.

At the moment, that I can see, there is Chinggis Khaan vodka, beer, bank, hotel, restaurant, street, airport, khuushuur (хуушуу), buuz (бууэ) and even toilet paper (yes folks, use the same paper Chinggis did when riding across the steppe).

Rather than attracting foreign tourists to Mongolia, it is likely to turn them away as it appears that Mongolia has only one thing to offer, Chinggis Khaan.

To attract foreign tourists you really need to promote the whole package. Chinggis, certainly. Dinosaur bones, definitely. The unspoiled steppe, a must. The beautiful countryside, clean air outside of Ulaanbaatar, clear river water and so on. The temples that are still standing, the culture, the morin khuur. All these things need to be promoted. Even the Naadam and the particular style of Mongolian wrestling (сумо) has its place.

By all means create a Chinggis tour – visit Dadal in Khentii for his birthplace, then up to between Altan Bulag and Sukhbaatar in Selenge for the spring that he watered at with his army when he was looking for his stolen wife. Further down in Khentii Aimag, visit the river near where his armies camped. Visit the valley he fortified at one time. But everything in Mongolia is not Chinggis Khaan. Don’t forget Sukhbaatar, Zorig, Zanazabar and the other Mongolians who have contributed to the way the country is today.

As for naming Ulaanbaatar after Chinggis, well, I have trouble seeing what the relationship is between Ulaanbaatar and Chinggis (other than, of course, they were/are both Mongolian). Ulaanbaatar was founded around 1639 – a good 400 years after Chinggis rode the steppe. The name Ulaanbaatar came about in 1924 after Sukhbaatar, with the help of the Russian Red Army, had finally finished defeating the Chinese to form the modern, independent, Mongolian state.

Whilst the name “Ulaanbaatar” literally means “Red hero” and is a celebration of the communist victory at the time, I can understand some folks wanting to change the name, especially today in the days of a modern democracy. Ulaanbaatar was previously known as Orgoo (Palace) and Niislel Khuree (National Capital). However, to rename Ulaanbaatar as Chinggis Khaan is perhaps not the best thing for Mongolia, certainly, I do not believe it will do what it is supposed to do, increase foreign tourism.

I am sure, however, that this idea will create plenty of talking around Ulaanbaatar. As for me, I think I’ll head out to the countryside this weekend and enjoy some of the non-Chinggis things Mongolia has on offer.

Another Water Spot of Chinggis’

Baggy adds some stones and a prayer to the ovoo at the Chinggis Monument in Dadal

I did not mention it earlier but when we were doing our four Aimag, 2,500 kilometre, 4 1/2 day off road jaunt around the Khan Bank branches earlier this year, one of the places we stopped at was in Khentii Aimag and it was the soum of Dadal. Dadal is famous for being the area that Chinggis Khaan was supposed to have been born in. It is a really beautiful area full of trees, mountains, valleys and fresh mountain streams.Near the soum of Dadal is a spring that issues forth from the side of a hill. The water from this spring is clear and cold and really quite refreshing. The spring is famous in the area for being the spring that Chinggis drank at. Local legend has it that the water now has a curative effect, being particularly good for your stomach. I must admit to having felt worse for wear before drinking the water and feeling a lot better later that day.

Baggy gets me some water from the stream that appears from the mountain at this point

I must also report that Baggy, my ever faithful translator and aide confidante, found the opposite to be the case, and his condition deteriorated during the day. Mind you, Baggy always maintains that whatever bad happens to me happens to him two days later.

Chinggis Khaan’s Water Spot and Camp

The monument to Chinggis - the blue scarves are a Buddhist sign of good fortune and general blessing

In Selenge Aimag, between Sukhbaatar and the soum Altanbulag is a monument to Chinggis Khaan. It is near a spring that issues from the ground. It was in this area that Chinggis along with 60,000 troops camped whilst he searched for his favourite wiife. She had apparently been kidnapped by a rival.

Whisting over the spring to generate ripples

The monument, along with most of the others through the country to Chinggis, is revered by the Mongolians. The spring nearby issues forth from the ground with clear, cool water. It is said that whistling over the spring causes the water to ripple on the surface. You can see Tseye trying this. As to whether the water rippled from the whistling or not, well, Tseye whistled, I watched but if you want to know, then travel to Selenge, visit the spring and whistle over the water and watch what happens.

The Hunter

It was while we were visiting Dadal in Khentii Aimag (the Dadal area is thought by the Mongolians to be the birthplace of Chinggis Khaan) that Thomo was feeling a little blue. We had been travelling for a few days, covering a fair bit of territory (by this time we had travelled south almost to the Chinese border and then north almost to the Russian Border). I had been away from showers, comfortable beds and what have you and I was missing contact with family and some friends (the ever faithful translator and Aide Confidante, Baggy, was at least with me and that eased some of the blues).

“Let’s go to the hunting museum!” was the call after we had visited Chinggis’ birthplace. Off we went then. I must admit, I had no idea what to expect. However, I met a truly wonderful man by the name of Zunduidorj. He was (or rather still is) a hunter. He is 86 years old and is a truly inspiring person to talk to. He has hunted bear, wolf, deer and such and he has examples in his museum (see behind the picture). However, he is not at all wanton in that hunting, killing enough to feed his family and provide food for the local Soum, or what was required from the government licenses.

He does, however, have a wonderful love and respect for the environment, the trees, the animals, the weather and the spirits. Talking with him was for me a most uplifting experience. He finished our visit with him by presenting me with a container he had made himself. It was full of dried milk (if you give a container to someone in Mongolia as a gift, it should not be empty when given). He also called a wolf for me (after making me promise I would not try to do this, record the sound or to copy it).

I promised him that if I returned to Khentii after being back in Australia I would bring him something for his museum, something related to Australian animals, perhaps some shark teeth or crocodile teeth.

I should finish with a note about promises in Mongolia. A promise should be kept. If, for example, you say “I promise to buy you dinner tomorrow” and you you do not buy dinner, then this is bad. You will lose respect from a Mongolian. Better to say “I will TRY and buy you dinner tomorrow” and make sure the word “try” is emphasised.

To the hunter, however, all I can say is that he is a truly remarkable man and if you travel to Mongolia and Khentii in particular, visit the museum. Leave him 5,000 tugrigs as well as a “gift” to help him get his book written and published.