Kharakhorum, the World’s Capital

Kharkhorum is a historical and cultural site that has left the Mongolian mark in the world history. Here are five interesting facts about Kharakhorum, the capital of not only Mongolia but also the world in the 13th century.

1. Orkhon Valley – World Heritage Site

The Orkhon Valley cultural site is located in the central part of Mongolia along the banks of the Orkhon river. Orkhon river valley, about 360 kilometers east from Ulaanbaatar, is a unique and valuable site where more than 2,000 years history of East Asian nomadic civilization realized many of its accomplishments. Upon meeting the “World Heritage Criteria II, III and IV”, Orkhon valley was included in the World Heritage List in 2004, during the 28th session of UNESCO. For centuries, this place has been the center of powerful empires of the steppe nomads. Not only the ancient ruins and artifacts found here withstand the test of the eternal time, but also the wonderful stories and events that occurred here and immortalized in the books will never become obsolete. 

2. The historical capital of the Mongol Empire, the global city

The world associates Mongolians as a historically nomadic people. But the city of Kharakhorum  is the best evidence of the early settled Mongol civilization. In 1220, Genghis khan ordered the relocation of Kharakhorum to the banks of Orkhon river. Since then, Ogedei khan has gathered the best builders from all over the world and built Kharkhorum, the most beautiful city of the time. It was the center global politics, trade, economy, religion, culture and free thought and a major hub of international relations. That is why the historical texts revered it as the “capital of the world”. 

3. The first ever theological thought debate held

In May, 1254, by order of Möngke khan, representatives of various religions, including buddhist, christian and islamic clergy, competed for the first time in Kharakhorum as part of the larger intellectual pursuit thriving in the city. The envoy of King Louis IX of France, Guillaume de Rubrouck, who stayed in the capital of the Great Mongol Empire for 7 months, led the christian scholars in this formal debate. 

There were 12 buddhist temples, one islamic mosque, and two christian churches in the Mongol capital proving the true religious freedom. The Erdene Zuu monastery, the first buddhist temple and a symbol of the spread of Tibetan buddhism in Mongolia, was also built here. 

4. Great historical and archeological findings – the Egyptian pharaoh

Two artifacts depicting human faces proving the extend of foreign ties of the Mongol Empire of 13th and 14th centuries, were found in 1975. It is easy to see that the faces of these two men are similar to those depicted in the tombs of ancient Egyptian kings and pharaohs. For example, mask of a man, found in Kharkhorum, has an elongated face, a high but broad nose, larger eyes, thick lips and a calm demeanor. This piece of art is made of volcanic foamy material, and has a very clean finish and wooden outer layer with highly skilled polish.

5. Silver tree of Kharkhorum

By order of Möngke khan, a 4-meter-high silver tree was built in 1254 by 50 craftsmen headed by French artisan Guillaume Boucher. Branches, leaves and fruits of the tree were all made of solid silver, the tree was erected in the courtyard in front of the royal throne inside the Tumen Amgalan palace. From one of its pipes flowed wine, from the other – airag (male milk drink), from the third – honey drink, and from the fourth – rice beer. The silver tree was a masterpiece of art, design and technological innovation. 



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