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Culture, Arts & History

Puccini's "Tosca" Opera in Ulaanbaatar January 30

Sunday, 14 February 2010 16:44


This Saturday, 30 January at 5.00 PM there will be a splendid performance of "Tosca" the wonderfull opera by Giacomo Puccini which had it first premiers this month a 109 years ago, on 14 January 1900.

The State Academic Theatre has a many years of practice with Tosca and assembled a great cast of opera singers for this performance. Tickets are available at the the box office of the State Academic Theatre for Opera and Ballet (the pink Roman style building) at Sukhbaatar Square.

Telephone: 70110389, 11 320268, 96683639. Website of the theatre: www.opera-ballet.mn

In February 1798 French troops had occupied Rome and other parts of the Papal States and proclaimed a new Roman Republic. The opera's Cesare Angelotti (based on the historic Liborio Angelucci[4]) was one of the republican leaders and consul of Rome. The Pope had to flee to Tuscany: Ferdinando IV of Bourbon, King of Naples, tried to rescue him but was himself defeated. In January 1799 the Parthenopean Republic or Neapolitan Republic was proclaimed. In April 1799, while Napoleon was in Egypt, an Austrian-Russian army under General Suvorov crossed into northern Italy and defeated the French. In June Cardinal Ruffo occupied Naples in the name of King Ferdinand, and in September the Bourbon troops entered Rome. The reactionary party was inspired by Maria Carolina of Austria, the wife of Ferdinando IV and sister of Marie Antoinette. After the death of Pope Pius VI in August 1799 she assumed the regency and started a "cleansing" action against republicans, liberals or simply people who had compromised themselves under French rule. There were thousands of victims, including many artists, scientists and intellectuals.

The following spring, Napoleon crossed the Alps with an army and met the Austrians (commanded by general Mélas) at Marengo. The Austrians outnumbered the enemy and, after fierce fighting, took control of the locality in the morning of 14 June 1800. The battle seemed over when Marshal Desaix, at the cost of his life, managed to reverse the situation. By evening the victory had been won by the French army.

Genghis Khan exhibition opens in Houston, USA

Sunday, 14 February 2010 16:44


Genghis Khan ExhibitionAn exhibition entitled, “Barbarian or Genius? Discover the Real Genghis Khan” opened February 27 at the Houston Museum of Natural Science, one of the best attended museums in America.

The exhibition is being billed as “ the largest-ever presentation of 13th century treasures, many of which might have been used during the Khan’s empire.” Some 200 artifacts will be on display, including Mongolian costumes, head dresses and musical instruments from the National Museum of Mongolian History. Further imperial gold, metal ornaments, beads, a tombstone and more from Russia’s State Hermitage Museum will be seen at the Houston museum.

Also, a mummy recently uncovered in a Mongolian cave is part of the display.

Along with displays about the conquered lands during the Khan empire, information about other changes brought by Mongolia will also be displayed. These include the world’s first national parks, postal system, international law and the borders of modern nations.

Running through September 7, tickets for the exhibit cost $22 for adults and $18 for children.

Tsagaan Sar: When is Mongolian Lunar New Year?

Sunday, 14 February 2010 16:44


Tsagaan Sar: Greeting the Ovoo By Luigi Kapaj

Sar shiniin mend hurgeye!
(Happy New Year!)

Tsagaan Sar (White Moon) is the name of the Mongolian lunar New Year. There is some confusion as to when Tsagaan Sar is this and almost every year. First, one must dispel the notion that Mongolians use the same calendar as the Chinese. This is false. They are very similar, especially in concept, but not calculated identically. Mongolians follow a lunar calendar on a 12 animal cycle with the new year starting on a new moon to mark the beginning of spring. It is when the new year begins where the differences are most apparent.

The Mongolian calendar is calculated based on "Togs Buyant" astrology typically under the guidance of the large Buddhist monasteries. A project co-organized between the Mongolian Government and the Gandan Tegchenling Monastery in 2002 defined the lunar calendar from the year 1027 to 2106 toput an end to the periodic confusion over the date of Tsagaan Sar. In 2009, the beginning of the year of the Ox is February 25th.

Tsagaan Sar falls mostly on the same lunar cycle as Losar, the Tibetan new year, asthey are calculated nearly the same. About 50% of the time, Tsagaan Sar andLosar fall on a different month than Chinese New Year. This is the case this year. Attempting to change either Losar or Tsagaan Sar to match Chinese New Year has become a very intense political issue in China. Some Tibetan groups are promoting the idea to not celebrate Losar at all this year in protest over the deaths during the 2008 protests in Tibet.

Tsagaan Sar in Khentii: Mongolian New Year Celebration

Sunday, 14 February 2010 16:44


It is yet another cold day in Ulaanbaatar. I am sitting on a small stool, drinking boiled water in a home in a ger district in the West of the city. We are waiting for the last person to close her suitcase before heading for Ondorkhaan to celebrate Tsagaan sar, the white month or moon, which starts off the Mongolian New Year. We are invited to join Erdenebat, a young monk from Gandan who has just received his Gevj degree to celebrate this festival of kinship with his family in Khentii.

At last Erdenebat gets up and signals everybody is ready. A little later we head off in a van filled with family members, presents and warm clothes.

There are hardly any cars on the road, and with reason. Today is a bad day for travelling. It is not only a Tuesday but also Bituun, the final day of the year, and we should have already been at the place of celebration, preparing the festivities. But all this doesn’t keep us from starting the journey full of good hopes.
We drive through a landscape that pretty much resembles what we are about to celebrate: a white moon. The bleached scenery is speckled with scarce and hardly visible gers only to be cut through by one black vain: the recently completed part of the millennium road.


Having overcome some car trouble we arrive at Erdenebat’s family when its already dark, but still well in time to celebrate Bituuleg. The sheep is already cut and laid on a platter, crowned by a couple of buuz and a knife. The ceremonial breads brought from Ulaanbaatar are now piled up in five layers to make the Ul Boov. We eat our first buuz and drink the first sips of vodka, enough to secure a prosperous coming year, but little enough to be able to continue celebrating for the coming days. 
While excitedly exchanging news twelve o’clock passes unnoticed. Here a year is not counted in hours or minutes. And after a small prayer, we call it a day. With many layers of clothing and as many blankets we survive the night and get up on this new years first bright morning. When we arrive at Erdenebat’s home, ,it is time for one of the highlights of Tsagaan Sar: The Zolgokh, ritual of greeting the elderly and respected and wish them all the best for the coming year. Anthropologists see Tsagaan Sar as a festival not only to celebrate but also to define kinship. When asked who his family was, a Buryat simply answered all the people he visited on Tsagaan Sar. Apart from kinship, the Zolgokh also defines hierarchy. On the television the Speaker of Parliament is greeted by the Prime Minister, and Erdenebat is greeted by his older brothers and sisters because he is a monk, and thus highly respected. Also I put on my hat, get out my khadag and come to him, supporting his arms, bringing my face close to his and say the special New Year greeting “Amar sain uu?”.

Then we indulge in the perfect combination of vodka that helps us digest the many buuz which in turn help us to keep at least slightly sober. On top of that the snuff keeps us awake and again only slightly alert. Tsagaan Sar in the country seems to be a much more relaxed affair than in the capital. Less people to visit and less available transport, makes for a laid-back holiday. The family takes their time to tell stories of the past. They remember how they until fifteen years ago celebrated Tsagaan Sar secretly. For those with regulated jobs, meetings would be called on the first day of the New Year to check on everybody presence. Absentees were severely punished.

In the evening we join Erdenebat to visit one of the old monks of the area. Venerable Gendenjamts is 88 years old and while a monk before socialist time, he has had many professions in the course of the years. Proudly his daughter shows his small biography in a local history book. With a smile on his face Venerable Gendenjamts tells how he used to be a wrestling champion. When we leave he gives us the regular gifts – a pack of cookies and a piece of aarool, but this time wrapped in a yellow khadag. To reflect his religion, the yellow faith, he says.
The rest of the evening is filled with more family visits, including solo concerts by small children, endless horse race videos and all the copious consumption.
The next morning we, again, challenge tradition by travelling within the first three days of the New Year, as we head home to Ulaanbaatar. But not before we pay respect at the small shrine in Erdenbat’s home to secure a save journey. And down just one more bowl of vodka for the road.

Mongolian teacher of Buddhism receives Prince Claus Award

Sunday, 14 February 2010 16:44


purevbat with monks skulls.jpg
The Netherlands-based Prince Claus Award has been presented to a Mongolian teacher of Buddhism.
G.Purevbat, born in Tov Aimag, has been presented the award for his work as an artist and teacher of the Vajrayana Buddhist tradition.

Purevbat has worked to revitalize Buddhism in Mongolia, which was suppressed under the communist regime. Purevbat founded a school to train artists and teachers in disciplines such as painting, sculpting, appliqué, architecture and dance. He established the Zanabazar Mongolian Institute of Buddhist Art, which sponsors exhibitions, documents historical sites and undertakes restoration projects and the re-introduction of festivals.

He also was recognized for creating a masters course for graduates and his ongoing writing of a 23-volume series on Buddhist art theories and techniques.
The Prince Claus Awards noted, in announcing the award, “Purevbat’s fine artworks, inspirational activities and dissemination of knowledge have created a renaissance in Mongolian cultural identity and timely self-affirmation.  Artist and scholar, Venerable Purevbat is honored for the rigorous authenticity of his methods and techniques, for re-establishing an important ‘un-modern’ aesthetic practice, for his dedication and generosity in fostering future generations, and for nurturing local identity through artistic tradition and culture.”

The annual Prince Claus Awards are presented to offer individuals and organizations “new opportunities and recognition,” according to the Prince Claus Fund.
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