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Mongolia

Tuul'

Epic


Mongolia_A09_Tuul


The tradition of professional reciting of epic tales is continued to this day in Mongolia. Not everyone can learn and recite a grandiose epic tale comprising tens, sometimes hundreds and thousands of verses. This art requires an excellent memory and gifts of acting and speech. During the course of its historical evolution, the Mongolian epic became more polished in form and language.


Reasons for selection

Due to urbanization and modernization, the epic singing art is going to be lost. There are few people who know the performing art.


Area where performed

Mongolian epic tales are performed in three main centers: the Halh and Oirad in the Mongolia, the Buryat and Kalmyk in the Russian Federation, and the Barag-Ordos, Horchin-Zarud and Xinjiang-Gansu in PRC.


Essential elements of the performing art

Music, Puppet Theatre


Detailed explanation

Epics developed in the time of the tribal-clan alliance and during the subsequent period of the creation of state formations among the Mongol tribes. Their basis is mythology.
According to scholars, one of the most ancient epics is that of the four-year-old deer with 24-branch antlers, the story of Huuheldei Mergen Khan, who goes out hunting one day and kills a deer which happens to have antlers with 24 branches. The beauty of the animal he has killed enchants the Khan and, seized by remorse, he carries the head of the deer to the peak of a towering mountain and for three years offers sacrifices. One day, before the very eyes of the Khan, the deer's head soars into the sky, leaving behind a rainbow-like trail. Huuheldei Mergen, charmed by this sight, destroys his weapons, and jumps from a high cliff in an attempt to commit suicide. However, three flying deer-heads appear and carry him up to heaven.
Geser is a monumental heroic poem, created by the Mongolian people. This is confirmed by the Mongolian, Ordos and Buryat versions of this epic.

The perpetual dream of ordinary folk of a bountiful and happy life is mirrored in the image of the land of Tansag Bumbi in the well known epic of Jangar. Although the heroes possess supernatural powers, they are portrayed as real, living men, possessing all possible human qualities, good and bad.

By its compositional structure and plot, the epic tale is a highly complex work. Hence every epic, usually named after the main hero, may exist in different versions. The 25 songs in the Kalmyk, the more than 30 songs in the Halh and the more than 60 songs in the Torgut versions of the Jangar epic are in essence different interpretations of the same songs and tales.

The tradition of professional reciting of epic tales is continued to this day in Mongolia. Among the most popular rhapsodists are B. Urtnasan and of the Urianhai; D. Jamyan of the Dorvod; T. Enkhbalsan of the Zahchin; and D. Olzii, H. Tsherenchimed, Z. Chuluunbaatar, Tc. Tcerendorj of the Halh. Not everyone can learn and recite a grandiose epic tale comprising tens, sometimes hundreds and thousands, of verses, and not just one but several such tales. This art requires an excellent memory and the gifts of acting and speech. Precisely these qualities were possessed by M. Parchin (1855-1926; of the Buryat), who started learning the art of epic reciting from the outstanding rhapsodist Buural Sesrin as early as at the age of thirteen.

During the course of its historical evolution, the Mongolian epic became more polished in form and language, developing into a refined artistic creation employing high literary style.


Publication and textual documentation

Vladimirtsov, B.
1923 Mongolo-Oiratskii geroicheskii epoc The Mongolian-Oirat Heroic Epic .
Moscow.

Damdinsuren. Ts.
1995 Mongolskii epos o Geser-khane Mongolian epic about the Geser-khan .

Tsoloo. J.
1982 Mongol ardiin baatarlag tuul The Mongolian Heroic Epic .
Ulaanbaatar.


Audio documentation

Audio fund of oral heritage under the Institute of Philology and Literature, Academy of Sciences in Ulaanbaatar.


Visual documentation

S. Yundenbat, J. Enebish
1997 Epic singers, 140 min.


Institution/organisation involved in preservation and promotion

Institute of Philology and Literature, Academy of Sciences in Ulaanbaatar.
Mongolian National Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage in Ulaanbaatar.


Data provider

Mr. YUNDENBAT Sonom-Ish
Executive Director
Mongolian National Centre for Intangible Cultural Heritage
Address: Baga toiruu 22, Ulaanbaatar 46, P. O. Box 46/660, Mongolia