Sunday, June 29, 2014

Austria | Graz | Arch-Duke Ferdinand | Shambhala

As most of you know, 100 years ago today, June 29 1914, Bosnian-Serb hothead Gabriel Princip assassinated Arch-Duke Ferdinand of Austria in the city of Sarajevo, touching off World War I. In 2002 I wandered over to  Graz, in Austria, the birthplace Arch-Duke Ferdinand, and visited the townhouse where he was born and grew up. It is now a museum. 
Entrance (center) to Arch-Duke Ferdinand’s townhouse, now a museum
I was in town for the Kalachakra Initiation performed by the 14th Dalai Lama. In connection with the Initiation the museum was holding a Buddhist-themed exhibit. 
The Inimitable Madame Blavatsky superimposed on an image of Kalapa, the capital of Shambhala, on display in the museum.
You will recall that according to legend the Buddha taught the Kalachakra Tantra to Suchandra, the first King of Shambhala. If you are wondering, we are now living during the reign of Aniruddha, the 21st Kalkin King of Shambhala. 
 Dharma-Wear on Display at the Graz Museum

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Iraq | Turkey | Syriac Christians

In an earlier post about the Mor Behnam and Mort Sara Church in Mardin I mentioned that St. Mathai (Matthew) Monastery, located on Mount Alfaf, a mountain looming above the Nineveh plain about eighteen miles north of current-day Mosul in Iraq:
The grateful Sennacherib later donated land near the south summit of Mt. Alfaf to Mathai. In 363 Mathai founded a monastery on the site. This monastery, named after Mor Mathai, eventually became famous for its Scriptorium, which contained an extensive collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. From the eleventh through nineteenth centuries the monastery was looted numerous times by Kurds who lived in the area, but it still exists to this day. Each September 14th Christians of various Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) sects would meet at the monastery to commemorate the day of Mor Mathai’s death. Whether this tradition still exists in the unsettled conditions of modern-day Iraq is unclear. Mor Mathai’s original hermitage, where he first met with Behnam, is also said to still exist.
Now the monastery has become a haven for Christians fleeing from the ISIS Takeover Of Mosul. See Christians From Mosul Seek Refuge In Ancient Monastery in Iraq:
Perched on a rocky, sand-colored mountain dotted with green shrubs and ancient caves, the Monastery of St. Matthew was a sanctuary for some of the earliest Christians. With the fall of nearby Mosul to Islamic extremists, its thick 4th-century walls again are a refuge. Christian families, who fled Iraq's second largest city, fill courtyard rooms normally used by monks and pilgrims. Children play on the steps while women help a male cook in the monastery's kitchen; others hang washed clothes in the scorching heat as a church bell peals. Men sit in the shade, drinking tea and smoking cigarettes, worrying about their families. Everyone follows the news, trying to learn what their fate may be. 
 If northern Mesopotamian does become the heart of a new Caliphate, as many are predicting, the fate of the Christians living there looks grim. I earlier posted about The City Of Midyat. I have since learned that a refugee camp for Syriac Christians fleeing the violence in Syria has been set up on the outskirts of the city. See Syria's Assyrian Christians Find Refuge With Turkish Neighbours.

Chingis Khan’s grandson Khülegü Sacked Baghdad and killed the last Abbasid Caliph in 1258. Are we now looking at a new Caliphate based in northern Mesopotamia or perhaps even in Damascus or Baghdad? It would be ironic if George W. Bush, who Iraqi Ruler Saddam Hussein once called the Khülegü Of This Age, has inadvertently brought about the rise of this new Caliphate by Destabilizing Iraq.
Which one is Khülegü?
I might add that Khülegü was rather tolerant of the Christians living in Mesopotamia, perhaps because his mother, the inimitable Sorqaqtani, was a Christian herself. 

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Turkey | Mesopotamia | Mardin | Mor Behnam and Mort Sara Church

My first morning in Mardin I wandered out of my “butik” hotel—almost every hotel in Mardin claims to be a “butik” (boutique) hotel—at six o’clock, just as the sun was coming up. 
Gazi Konagi “Butik Otel”—Boutique Hotel (click on photos for enlargements). 
Three hundred feet above to the right the sun was just illuminating the cliffs and walls of the Mardin Citadel. 
Mardin Citadel looming above the town
Another view of the Citadel
A few hundred feet down the road I noticed a tea house called Camli Kösk Kiraat Hanesi, apparently the only place open on the street open at this hour. Although there was some very up-scale hotels—“butik” of course—nearby, this place was rustic: wobbly old tables and rickety wooden chairs, with faded black and white photos of local notables in what looked like nineteenth century suits on the walls. Around two tables laden with tea glasses codgers and graybeards played cards. Whether they had been there all night or were just early risers was unclear. The card game looked like it might have been going on for years. A short bald-headed man in his sixties came up to my table with arms outspread, smiling broadly, eyes twinkling, as if I were an old acquaintance who has just returned to town.  “Please, please, sit. My name is Sharif. What is your language? German? . . . English, you say? I speak Arabic—I am Arab—Turkish, Kurdish, little French, very little English . . . Please, tea? Turkish coffee?” 

I ordered Turkish coffee with a little sugar. As the man bustled off several of the ancient card players slowly swiveled their heads in my direction and stared at me. Several give me tentative nods and waves. I got the feeling I qualified as an event in this coffee house. Sharif brought my coffee along with half a glass of water. “Do you have Mirra? I asked. Sharif clapped his hands in apparent delight. “You like mirra? he beamed. “Of course, of course, we have mirra, one moment please.” He returned a couple of minutes with a small metal pitcher and a small espresso-sized cup. Mirra is highly concentrated coffee with the consistency of a light syrup. He poured a small splash of the tarry black liquid into the cup and held it out to me. From a Kurdish acquaintance of mine I knew that mirra etiquette required that I take the cup directly from his hand—he would not place it on the table—and toss back the mirra in one go, like a shot of whiskey, then hand the cup back. If you wanted more you went through the motions again. Hardcore mirra addicts sometimes did four or five shots at a time, the equivalent, I was told, of twelve or fifteen cups of regular coffee. I had two shots, then settled back to finish my Turkish coffee. This was very similar to my usual breakfast while traveling of three shots of espresso with a latte grande chaser. (Before anyone leaves a comment reminding me of my past Diatribes Against Coffee Drinkers, allow me to point out that at home in my hovel in Ulaanbaatar I am strictly a Tea Drinker. It is extremely difficult to find good tea while traveling, however [outside of China at least], so while wandering I tend to indulge in coffee). 

Braced up by mirra and Turkish coffee, the coffee world’s equivalent of a boilermaker—a shot of whiskey and a beer—I headed back out onto the street (the Turkish coffee cost 1.5 lira (71 cents), compared with four to six lira in Istanbul, and another lira for the mirra). A few hundred feet past the town square, where a few early morning mini-buses were picking up passengers, a sign on the side a building pointed the way up a side street to the Mor (saint) Behnam and Mort (female saint) Sara Church. The narrow street led up the hill to a stone portal opening into the courtyard of the church. 
Street leading to Mor Behman Church
I went in and down on a low stone wall. The place appeared to be deserted, but the still of the early morning I soon made out the sound of a low monotonous chant, like the droning of bees. Following the sound, I entered a smaller courtyard and what appeared to be the main part of the church. The door to the church was closed and bolted, but putting my ear to it I could clearly hear a chanted liturgy. I wanted to knock but I did not have the nerve to interrupt. Returning to main courtyard I sat again on the low stone wall and performed my own morning orisons, although admittedly not those dedicated to the Galilean or his alleged Father. Soon a young man in jeans and Nikes strode by and into the small outbuilding housing the steeple of the church. Then he rang the church bell for about a minute. Church bells may have first tolled on this site 1445 year ago. 
Outbuilding and steeple of the Church. According to the caretaker, this part of the church may date back to the sixth century.
The story of church begins with Mor Mathai (i.e., Saint Matthew, but obviously not the Matthew of Twelve Disciples fame), who was born in the early fourth-century near Amida (modern-day Diyarbakir) just north of Tur Abdin. The region was then part of the newly established Byzantine (East Roman) Empire. Under the first Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great (r. 306–337) Christianity had been declared the official religion of the Empire. Monasteries dedicated to the now officially sanctioned religion sprung up in the Tur Abdin region and Mathai entered one of the these. Then in 361 the nephew of Constantine, Julian “the Apostate”, became emperor of the Byzantine Empire. (For a marvelously entertaining fictional portrayal of this intriguing character see the novel Julian, by Gore Vidal; of Greco-Roman persuasion himself, Vidal was sympathetic to Julian.) 

Appalled by what he perceived to be the deleterious effects of Christianity on Byzantine society, Julian attempted to undo the work of his uncle by introducing his own idiosyncratic blend of Greco-Roman polytheism and neo-Platonic paganism. In early 362 he issued an edict guaranteeing freedom of religion, which in effect ended Christianity’s status as the official religion of the Empire. Although all religions were now supposed to be equal before the law, Julian obviously favored the followers of the old Greco-Roman gods. Christians were stripped of the rights and privileges they had enjoyed under previous emperors and before long outright persecutions of “Galileans”—Julian’s term for Christians—commenced. (Himself a writer of some note, Julian penned a polemic against Christianity entitled Against the Galileans which is still in print today and gets four star reviews on amazon.com.) Anti-Christian sentiment eventually reached the Tur Abdin region and Mathai and other monks were forced to flee south, beyond the reach of Julian and his paganish minions. (Also see The Last Pagan: Julian the Apostate and the Death of the Ancient World.)

Mathai eventually found refuge at Mount Alfaf, a mountain looming above the Nineveh plain about eighteen miles north of current-day Mosul in Iraq. This region was then part of Persian Sassanian Empire, where Zoroastrianism was the favored religion. Christianity was not officially recognized as a permissible religion in the Sassanian Empire until 409, but even before then Christians were tolerated, especially those who had fled from the Byzantines, the long-standing enemy of the Sassanians. In this environment Mathai found refuge. He built a hermitage on the side of Mt. Alfaf and eventually earned a reputation as a holy man and healer. Soon people were streaming to his hermitage to receive his blessing and be healed of their mental and physical afflictions.

One day Behnam appeared at Mor Mathai’s hermitage. Behnam was the son of the ruler of Abiadene, a kingdom in northern Mesopotamia located between two tributaries of the Tigris River; the Great Zab River, which originates in Anatolia, near Lake Van, and the Lesser Zab, which finds its source in the Zagros Mountains of Iran. The capital of Abiadene was Arbela (Arbil, in current-day Iraq). Once part of ancient Assyria, Abiadene eventually fell under of the sway of the Parthian Empire, later the Roman Empire, and finally, by the beginning of the second century a.d., the Iranian Sassanians. Although the area soon became a stronghold of Syriac Christianity, Behnam’s father, Sennacherib, espoused Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Sassanians. 

One day Behnam decided to go on a hunting trip to Mt. Alfaf region, in the north of Abiadene. He soon spotted a large deer and set out in pursuit of it. The deer led Behnam and his party to a valley just below Mt. Alfaf before it managed to escape. They camped in the valley and that night Behnam had a dream in which an angel appeared and told Behnam that there was a man living on the mountain who could show him the way to eternity. The next day Behnam climbed the mountain and came to Mor Mathai’s hermitage. Here he saw the deer which he had followed the previous day. He now noticed that it had a cross emblazoned on its forehead. Behnam then met Mor Mathai, who introduced him to the Christian Gospels and promised him that whoever believed in Jesus, the son of God, would be rewarded with eternal life. Behnam did not convert to Christianity at this time, but he had been impressed by Mathai’s saintliness and apparent healing powers. Before returning home he asked Mathai to come go to Arbela and treat his sister Sara, who was suffering from leprosy. Mor Mathai eventually traveled to Arbela but he did not enter the city. Instead, Behnam brought his sister out of the city to meet him. Mor Mathai told Sara about the miracles which Jesus had supposedly performed and instructed her in the teachings of Christianity. She decided to convert to Christianity and allowed Mor Mathai to baptize her. When she emerged from the baptism she was, according to legend, cured of her leprosy. Inspired by this apparent miracle, Behnam and forty of his companions also decided to be baptized and became Christians. (An alternative version of this legend suggests that Sara herself traveled to Mor Mathai’s hermitage at Mt. Alfaf and was cured of leprosy there. According to this variant Behnam, his forty companions, and Sara were all baptized together at Mt. Alfaf) 

Mor Mathai warned Behnam and his sister that they might be subjected to persecution by the Zoroastrians of Abiadene, but they averred that they would be happy to die as martyrs. When King Sennacherib heard that his son and daughter had converted he was infuriated, and he ordered them to renounce Christianity. They refused and attempted to flee to Mt. Alfaf and seek refuge with Mor Mathai. Soldiers sent by Sennacherib in pursuit of Behnam and his forty companions and his sister eventually caught up with them near Nimrud, in what is now Iraq, and killed them all. This took place in 350. According to legend, before they died both Behnam and Sara prayed that their father would also convert to Christianity. Soon afterwards Sennacherib fell seriously ill, and in desperation he sent for Mor Mathai. The holy man cured the king, who then decided to convert to Christianity himself. Thus were Behnam’s and Sara’s final prayers answered. 

The grateful Sennacherib later donated land near the south summit of Mt. Alfaf to Mathai. In 363 Mathai founded a monastery on the site. This monastery, named after Mor Mathai, eventually became famous for its Scriptorium, which contained an extensive collection of Syriac Christian manuscripts. From the eleventh through nineteenth centuries the monastery was looted numerous times by Kurds who lived in the area, but it still exists to this day. Each September 14th Christians of various Eastern (non-Chalcedonian) sects would meet at the monastery to commemorate the day of Mor Mathai’s death. Whether this tradition still exists in the unsettled conditions of modern-day Iraq is unclear. Mor Mathai’s original hermitage, where he first met with Behnam, is also said to still exist. In the sixth century a Persian merchant built a shrine on the hill near Nimrud where Behnam and his party were martyred. Later a monastery grew up on the site. The monastery reportedly still exists and is now administered by Syriac Catholics.

The church dedicated to Saint Behnam and Saint Sara in Mardin was built in 569 a.d. on what was previously the site of a sun-worshippers’ temple. The church is still used by the Syriac Orthodox community in Mardin and is the headquarters of the metropolitan bishop of Mardin. 
The Church of Saint Behnam and Saint Sara
Plaque in the wall of church displaying Syriac script. Syriac is a dialect of Aramaic, the language that was spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, nominal figurehead of the Galileans.
Plaque in the wall of church displaying Syriac script
Residence on the church grounds constructed with region’s characteristic tawny limestone.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Uzbekistan | Tashkent | Bukhara

I had pretty much wrapped up My Spice Buying Expedition in Istanbul, but while I was in the neighborhood I thought I better wander by Bukhara, in Uzbekistan. There is a red-eye special leaving from Istanbul for Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, at 11:55. pm. I arrived in Tashkent at 7:30 the next morning amidst a major snowstorm. The plane for Bukhara was not scheduled to leave until 3:35 pm, so I spent the rest of the day sitting in the domestic terminal rereading Barthold’s Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion, the absolute bible for the history of Inner Asia up until the time of the Mongol irruption. I had rather unwisely left Mongolia without a copy—I have copies of three different editions in my Scriptorium—but having decided I was coming to Bukhara I had amazon.com fedex a copy to my hotel room in Istanbul. It left Amazon’s warehouse in the U.S. at 4:57 pm on a Tuesday and I signed off for it at my hotel at 12.51 pm on Friday, just in time for my Uzbekistan trip. The domestic terminal in Tashkent is unheated—it was 5 degrees Fº outside and not much warmer inside—and there is no restaurant or even a place to get a cup of tea or coffee. I would have given my left nut for a Starbucks. Anyhow, besides Barthold I had my Kindle with 138 books downloaded on it and another 684 in the Cloud, so I did not lack for reading material. Amazingly the domestic airport did have free internet in the departure area—albeit very slow, but still internet—so I could have downloaded from the Cloud or bought some new titles if I needed a quick book fix. 

By 2:00 pm at least six inches of snow had fallen in Tashkent. Several domestic flights, including one to Termez, were canceled because of the weather, but finally the flight to Bukhara as announced. But then they had to spent an hour and a half de-icing the plane, so we did not get off until five. You would think Uzbekistan Air would use a small plane for the one-hour flight to Bukhara, but no, they use a wide-body Boeing 767 and it was just about full. 

It was 8 degrees above zero Fº in Bukhara when we arrived. Although this is definitely not the tourist season in Bukhara I was not the only tourist on the plane. There  was a group of at least 12 people from China who were met by the agent of a tourist company in Bukhara. They had come prepared: some of them had on expedition-grade down parkas and pants. They looked like they were ready to start out on a trek to the North Pole. 

It was 6:30 by the time I got my bag and exited the terminal. Waiting for me was my old pal from Komil’s Guesthouse
My pal from Komil’s Guesthouse (click on photo for enlargement) 
He does not speak English, but we caught up on the news in Russian while driving to the guesthouse. I am of course the only guest here. These old mansions which have been converted to guesthouses do not have central heating, but there was an electric space heater in my room and it was quite toasty. I had sent an email to Komil’s earlier ordering plov for dinner and it was ready soon after I arrived. I realized that I had not eaten for thirty-six hours—I had fallen asleep on the Istanbul-Tashkent flight before the meal was served—so the plov—classic Bukhara plov by the way—carrots only, no onions—was quite welcome. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Uzbekistan | Iron Gate | Termez

Chingis Khan and his men spent the summer of 1220 in the Nasaf Pasture Lands fattening their horses and confabulating with Sufis. When the grass began to yellow in the early autumn they proceeded 135 miles southeast to the city of Termez, on the way passing through the famous Iron Gate, a narrow defile through the mountains that separate the drainages of the Kaskha Darya and the Amu Darya (the modern-day road from Qarshi to Termez follows the same route). This was the ancient passageway between Sogdiana and Bactria. Alexander the Great probably came this way along with a host of other conquerors, ambassadors, and trade caravans. The name may not be just metaphorical; at one time, it appears, the defile was guarded by an actual iron gate. 
 Country north of the Iron Gate (click on photos for enlargements)
 Cathedral-like rock formations in cliffs along the road
According to officials at a nearby police checkpoint, the original Iron Gate was in this defile. The new road through the area take a slightly different route. 
The new road at the southern end of the Iron Gate defile
The old city of Termez is located on the banks of the Amu Darya about four miles northwest of the outskirts of the modern city of Termez. According to local lore the city got its name from the ancient Sogdian word for “crossing” or “transition place”. There was an important ford of Amu Darya here or nearby (the notorious “Friendship Bridge” linking Afghanistan and Uzbekistan is here now,) and the city did serve as a gateway between Mawarannahr and Khorasan to the south.

Termez celebrated the 2,500th anniversary of its founding in April of 2002. This date was chosen arbitrary. In fact, the city may be much older. There was already a city here when the Persian Acheamenid Dynasty occupied the area in the sixth century b.c. In 329 b.c. Alexander the Great conquered the city and under Greek occupation it became known as Demetris, named after one of Alexander the Great’s generals. In the first to third centuries a.d. the city was included in the the Kushan Empire,  and it became an important northern outpost of Buddhism (the numerous ruins of monasteries, temples, stupas, and caves can still be seen in the area today). Later it became part of the Persian Sassanid Empire. in 705 a.d. the city was captured by invading Arabs. It population was Islamized, and under the Abbasid Caliphate the city became a focal point of Islam in the region The mausoleum of Hakim al-Termedi (c. 830 a.d.–c. 912 a.d), an influential early Sufi and theosophist, is located next to the ruins of old Termez and is to this day an extremely popular pilgrimage site for Muslims from throughout Inner Asia and beyond. The city was subsequently ruled by Samanids, Ghaznavids, Saljuqs, and Qarakhanids before becoming part other Khwarezmshah’s empire in 1206. 
 Mausoleum of Hakim al-Termedi
 Tomb of Hakim al-Termedi 
 Near the mausoleum of Hakim al-Termedi are numerous underground chambers. I assumed that this were built by Sufis for use as meditation retreats. I learned later that they were originally built by Buddhists who lived in the area. They may have lived in them and/or used the as retreats. Of course they may also have been used by Sufis after the area was Islamized. These underground chambers may also have been used in the summertime to escape the notorious heat in the area. Termez is the hottest city in Uzbekistan, and that is saying a lot. 
 Steps to underground retreat
 Steps from underground retreat
As soon as  Chingis Khan arrived in the area he sent, as usual, envoys into the city to demand its immediate surrender. “But the inhabitants, encouraged by the strength of the fortress, half of whose walls were raised up in the middle of the Oxus [the Amu Darya River; he meant one side of the city bordered on the river], and rendered proud by the multitude of their troops, gear and equipment, would not accept submission but sallied forth to do battle,” according to Juvaini. 
 Artist’s rendering of the walled city of Termez
The walls of the old city can clearly be seen in this photo. The southern end of the city has been eroded away by the Amu Darya. The mausoleum of Hakim al-Termedi can be seen near the upper left-hand corner of the city walls. 
The old city walls. I was told that it was possible to walk around the ruins. When I arrived in Termez, however, I discovered that there was some kind of security alert in effect and the ruins were closed. The walls were patrolled by soldiers with AK47s and they would not even allow anyone to take photos. I snapped this one off when no one was looking. As can be seen from the satellite photo above, the ruins are right on the Amu Darya River, which separates Uzbekistan from Afghanistan. Other areas along the river are always off-limits.
The Mongols set up mangonels and began a continuous day-and-night bombardment of the city. After softening up the walls for ten days, on the eleventh day they stormed the city and quickly seized it.  As in Bukhara and Samarkand all the inhabitants were driven out of the city so that it could be looted at will by Chingis’s troops. The inhabitants were then “divided proportionately among the soldiers in accordance with their custom; then they were all slain, none being spared.” One woman who did escape the initial slaughter approached some Mongol soldiers and said, according to the Persian pen-pusher Juvaini:
“Spare my life and I will give you a great pearl that I have.“ But when they sought the pearl she said, “I have swallowed it.” Whereupon they ripped open her belly and found several pearls. On this account Chingiz Khan commanded that they should rip open the bellies of all the slain.
From Termez the Mongol army rode upstream on the Amu Darya into the region of Badakhstan in what is now northeastern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Little is known about this winter of 1220–21 campaign by Chingis Khan. The cities of Kangurt and Shuman (current locations unclear) were apparently sacked. Then, according to Juvaini’s brief account, Chingis Khan “sent armies into the whole of Badakhstan and all that country, and conquered and subjugated the peoples, some by kindness, but most by severity; so that in all that region there was left no trace of their opponents.” Chingis Khan and his army spent the winter thus occupied, and March or April of 1221 returned to Termez.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Turkey | Istanbul | Topkapi

Having completely run out of saffron and sumac and running dangerously low on cumin and peppercorns, I had no choice but to fly to Istanbul and replenish my supplies at the Egyptian Spice Market. Luckily there was a flight from Ulaanbaatar to Istanbul the next morning. The 3865-mile flight takes about ten and a half hours, including a one-hour layover in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. I took the metro from the airport to Topkapi, hard by the Theodosian Land Walls on the edge of the city, and walked to my regular hotel just across the street from the Kara Ahmet Pasha Mosque.  It was –32º F the morning I left Ulaanbaatar. By early evening in Istanbul the temperatures were still in the downright balmy low 60sº F, 90 degrees warmer than Ulaanbaatar. Even though I was wearing a very light down jacket I was drenched in sweat by the time I arrived at the hotel. 
Vegetables are still being harvested and seedlings being planted the first week of January in the truck gardens along the outside the Theodosian Land Walls. The gardens are located in the old moat which ran along the edge of the wall (click on photos for enlargements).
More vegetables along the Theodosian Land Wall 
Irises are even in bloom during the first week of January in Istanbul
Breathtakingly gorgeous irises
Shoppers enjoying the balmy weather

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mongolia | Chingis Khan Rides West | March from Mongolia to the Realm of the Khwarezmshah

I posted earlier about the Death Of The Naiman Adventurer Khüchüleg. With Khüchüleg no longer in the picture, Chingis Khan was free to invade Khwarezmia and avenge the Deaths of His Envoys to Otrar. According to the Secret History of the Mongols, he announced:

I shall set out against the Sartaul people [Khwarezmians],
To take revenge
To requite the wrong
for the slaying of my hundred envoys with Ukhuna at their head . . .”

His anger over the murder of his envoys to the Khwarezmshah may have cooled, but his resolution to exact retribution had stiffened. His intelligence networks would have informed him that while the Khwarezmshah was inflicted by infighting among his family and court and by rising discontent among the populace of his empire, he was still capable of putting half as million or so soldiers into the field. It would not do to ride off half-cocked against such an enemy. Chingis organized the invasion of Khwarezmia in the same step-by-step methodical way he had attacked and finally defeated the Chin in northern China.

As the final preparation were being made to depart from Mongolia one of his wives, Yesüi Khatan, decided it was time to speak up. Yesüi Khatan seemed to hold a special place in the heart of Chingis Khan. She was a member of the Tatar tribe whom the Mongols had earlier defeated. He had first married her younger sister, but the latter soon intimated that her older sister Yesüi might be a better wife for Chingis. In the confusion following the defeat of the Tatars the older sister Yesüi had somehow disappeared. Chingis sent men to track her down and they eventually found her in the company of a man to whom she had been betrothed . . . Continued.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Mongolia | Ulaanbaatar | Soyolma and Davaanyam

Shook the dust off my mukluks and wandered into town for a showing of new works by Mongolian artist Soyolma and her husband Davaanyam. I already have a number of Soyolma’s paintings on display in the Galleria of my Hovel in Zaisan Tolgoi. 
Soyolma and one of her new works (click on photos for enlargements)
Detail of new work by Soyolma
Work by Soyolma
Detail of work by Soyolma
Work by Soyolma
Work by Soyolma
Green Tara by Soyolma
Soyolma and Green Tara
Work by Soyolma
Detail of work by Soyolma
Work by Soyolma
Large Triptych by Soyolma. This work was earlier displayed in New York City.
Detail of Large Triptych
Text explaining the Triptych