Exhibition explores legacy of Mongol Empire

An awe-inspiring exhibition exploring the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan and rich Mongolian culture and customs is now open to the public.

An awe-inspiring exhibition exploring the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan and rich Mongolian culture and customs is now open to the public.

Around 150 precious antiques and artifacts, on loan from the Inner Mongolia Museum, are currently on display at the Wulin Pavilion of Zhejiang Museum through April 8. 

The Mongols originated along the Ergun River and Great Khingan, in what is today’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. They established the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), and eventually the Mongol Empire stretched from Europe all the way to the Sea of Japan.

Today, they still preserve their distinctive folklore, costumes, food culture, religion and lifestyle. The exhibited porcelains, gold and silver handicrafts, stone artifacts, jade articles and silk embodied the practice of the ancient Mongols’ politics, military, burial etiquettes, celebration rituals and music.

The Mongol Empire was arguably most famous for its horse archers and the displayed armor worn by warriors during combat. The armor was made of iron sheets with copper strings.

However, the materials varied according to the status of the warriors. Gold, silver and gems were used to produce armors for royal family members. The royal armor was also ornamented with motifs and patterns to distinguish it from the ordinary uniform.

The horsehead fiddle is a symbol of the Mongols.

The Yuan Dynasty was considered to be an open society, as the imperial court launched a series of laws to protect women and allow them to participate in politics.

The exhibited copper seal on display belonged to the third daughter of Genghis Khan. She was married to the leader of Wanggu Tribe. After her husband’s death, she ruled over the tribe, which covered the most parts of present-day Shanxi and Hebei provinces.

The copper seal symbolized the high expectation Genghis Khan had on his daughter. It also epitomized women’s ascending social status in what was a largely feudal society. During the Yuan Dynasty, female-protection laws were decreed instead of the previous discriminatory statutes.

Another exhibit is a shaman’s attire. Shamanism pervaded the grassland of the Yuan Dynasty, which can be proven by the unearthed antiques.

An armor made of iron sheets with copper strings

The transformation into an animal is another important aspect of the journey into the spirit world undertaken during shamanic rituals. Therefore, the coat is often decorated with feathers, since birds are seen as messengers of the spirits.

The drum or tambourine was an essential means of communicating with spirits and enabling the shaman to reach altered states of consciousness on his journey. Thus, different sizes of drums were hung on the costumes.

In addition to religious rituals, the Mongolian music culture is also showcased in the exhibition. The exhibited horsehead fiddle, a traditional Mongolian bowed stringed instrument, came from famous Mongolian player Serashi (1887-1968).

This musical instrument is a symbol of the Mongols. Many festivals are held for celebrating the importance of this instrument on the Mongolian culture.

Date: Through April 8, closed on Mondays

Address: E Zone, No. 29, West Lake Cultural Square

Admission: Free

A shaman’s attire on display at the exhibition

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