Establishing a Hierarchical Status of Symbolic Images for Democratic Mongolia
(55th Meeting, 2012)
The challenge for democratic Mongolia during the past twenty some years has been to replace the socialist symbols of statehood, such as Sukhbaatar meeting with Lenin or Choibalsan, and interconnection with the Communist international movement (i.e. hammer and sickle) with new national images and symbols reflecting Mongolia’s change of status. The very first image promoting the change of ideology embraced during the revolution against communism was the resurrected national father figure of Chinggis Khaan. This evolving image of Mongolia’s founding father continues to preside over a hierarchy of symbols used today to represent a democratic Mongolia which is reaching out to a globalized, interconnected world, while also competing with a dynamic Chinese multicultural ideology that claims heir to Mongolian culture. What is particularly telling is that these “new” symbols are in fact very old ones which have been taken from Mongolia’s nomadic and Buddhist past—not skyscrapers or other modernist forms. Among the symbols and images discussed will be the soyombo, wind horse, Migjig Jansaisig Süm, Green Tara, horse headed fiddle, and Ninth Jebtsumdamba Khutuktu. This paper will examine how the modern use of these hierarchical symbols have political as well as emotional meanings which are manipulated by Mongolian policymakers and politicians to emphasize the distinctiveness of Mongolian national identity in an increasingly homogenous Asian environment.