Asian Geographic - - Front Page -

But even the losers don’t take things too hard, since the game is less of a com­pe­ti­tion and more of an ex­cuse for a rowdy gath­er­ing.

De­spite the Mon­gols’ rep­u­ta­tion as a war­like peo­ple – and their pop­u­lar games be­ing de­rived from pre­cisely such pur­suits – their so­phis­ti­cated side shines through in Mon­go­lian cal­lig­ra­phy, a hand­writ­ing tech­nique that de­lin­eates the clas­si­cal Mon­go­lian script, Hudum Mon­gol Bichig, in ver­ti­cal lines on pa­per made of mul­berry bark. The char­ac­ters are formed us­ing a brush and con­sist of 90 let­ters con­nected ver­ti­cally by con­tin­u­ous strokes to cre­ate words. This cal­lig­ra­phy of­ten adorns sta­tionery on spe­cial oc­ca­sions, such as of­fi­cial in­vi­ta­tions and love let­ters, as well as old Mon­go­lian em­blems, coins and stamps.

Cre­ated in the 7th cen­tury, Hudum Mon­gol Bichig is the world’s only ver­ti­cal script writ­ten from left to right. Used widely un­til the force­ful in­tro­duc­tion of Cyril­lic by the Soviet Union on Outer Mon­go­lia, it is dy­ing out to­day – and along with it the cal­lig­ra­phy with which it is in­scribed. To save the art, three middle-aged schol­ars are vol­un­tar­ily train­ing young cal­lig­ra­phers, but mas­tery takes years of dis­ci­plined prac­tice, a re­al­ity that tests the pa­tience of young­sters.

Though the Gobi is harsh, progress is still harsher, and Mon­go­lia is see­ing many cus­toms, like camel coax­ing and cal­lig­ra­phy, en­ter UNESCO’S List of In­tan­gi­ble Cul­tural Her­itage in Need of Ur­gent Safe­guard­ing as they fade from use. But the no­madic life­style is find­ing ways to sur­vive, and for now, those who come across a car­a­van of no­mads in the desert can still ex­pect to be of­fered a warm wel­come, shel­ter in a yurt, and a cup of salty tea made with camel’s milk. ag

Though the Gobi is harsh, progress is still harsher, and Mon­go­lia is see­ing many cus­toms in need of ur­gent safe­guard­ing as they fade from use WHEN WHERE HOW

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