01 September 2014

Mongolia, riding the tallest equestrian statue


After 3 days in Ulaanbaatar I thought there was nothing else of interest to see or do. I had visited museums, the beautiful and sprawling Buddhist temple complex, the Nadaam Festival and the Terelj National park, on the outskirts. I had seen gers, I had had a wonderful taste of local food and culture and a last morning to spare when someone mentioned that there is the largest statue of a man on a horse just outside the city.

For anyone with a vague idea of Asian history Mongolia is associated with Genghis Khan. The symbol of national pride and the one and only figured revered in every angle of life. 

The tallest standing statue on a horse

A few centuries ago Mongolia was the seat of power of the largest continuous empire ever to exist and it was all built through the expansion aspirations of a single man, Genghis Khan, the great Mongol Emperor. Before dying in 1227 he had already conquered most of Eurasia and his sons completed the task by annexing a vast part of the Caucasus, Central Asia, China, Korea and even Northern Europe, Russia and parts of the Middle East.

Fighter's stare

Outside of Mongolia he has a reputation for mass slaughters and massacres of the local population but for Mongolians, he is considered the founding father of the nation and a much revered figure. 

Still today, his fighting emblem flanks the famous 3-day Nadaam festival and remains in the stadium guarded by fully uniformed men for the duration of the games. 

200 gers were supposed to surround the statue and be shaped like the horse mark used in the 13th century

Besides his bloody methods of war and genocidal adjectives by many in central Asia Genghis Khan is also credited with providing a safe environment for the Silk Route to flourish. He was religiously tolerant and learned from all religions at the time.

Needless to say Mongols love him and he is truly the father of the nation. 

In 2008, a colossal statue of him on a horseback was erected outside of the capital near the Tuul River. The statue is over 40m tall and portrays him on a horse pointing East towards his birth place. The location is unpractical to visitors as it is literally in the middle of nowhere but it was built on the place where it is said he found a golden whip which is his most common accessory.

Armours and war parafernalia available for sale in the visitor center

In the vast green and yellow plains the status appears as a surreal landmark. It is gigantic. 

For a close-up view you can climb through his neck up to a viewing platform which is laid on the top of the horse's head. 

Entirely built of silver steel it reflects sun light making it shine brightly. His face is stiff and serious and he is holding his famous golden whip. Taking selfies with him is a hobby of most Mongolians. First the kid, then the parents, then the mother, then the whole family. 

The Mongol Empire

It is a sight to behold and as it stands, it is the tallest statue on a horse. There are several other much taller statues but none of them is equestrian. For that, he got the record.

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