Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Genghis and Buddha --06/15/15

It is hard to believe that five days have passed since I wrote my last blog. This past week has been a rush of language sessions, and technical training. On Saturday, I indicated to my host siblings that I was interested in hiking. My host sister decided that I should see the swinging bridge and park, so we walked over the hill in the heat of the day to swinging bridge. The Journey was maybe three kilometers one way.  I was informed that the bridge was the only suspension bridge in Mongolia. It consists of a walking path over the road that connects two memorials.

On the eastern side of the road is a small park with a statue dedicated to the hero of Mongolia Genghis Khan. It is easy to see the brutality of Genghis Khan, but he was actually a revolutionary figure for his time frame. He single-handedly united the tribes of Mongolia to create a massive empire that survived off of conquest of others. Into this empire, he exercised freedom of religion (while also proclaiming himself the divine manifestation of Telori/God). He also brought the written language to Mongolia and economic commerce. To the outside world, he was a terrible force of death and power, but to the Mongolians he was the ladder that brought bands of nomads into an age of empires. He did slaughter lots of people, but everybody slaughtered lots of people in those days. Before Robin Hood, Genghis Khan was killing the rich and redistributing the wealth to his subjects (anyone loyal and conquered). So before you make a judgement call on Genghis, remember that there are two sides to every story. He falls much closer to Alexander the Great or Napoleon, then to Hitler.  He was a brilliant strategist, and far ahead of his time in the art of war.

On the other side of road is a religious statue of Buddha. Here is man that makes Genghis seem small and insignificant with a completely different philosophy on life. The suspension walkway connects these two memorials. My host sister and I approach the memorial, which for reasons I can’t comprehend is covered in pigeons, and bow in reverence to the front alter.  It is then explained to me that we are to walk around the statue three times in a clockwise manner. Unfortunately my language skills prevent me from understanding the significance of this, but I hope to understand more. At the conclusion of our circuit, my host sister bows to Buddha again and whispers a small prayer. While I cannot get behind every policy that Khan practiced, I do feel that Buddha really strived to make the world a better place. The religion/lifestyle that has followed has been one of the most peaceful in our history. Buddhism predates Christianity by over a thousand years, yet may have less violence attributed to its name.

After paying homage to Buddha, we proceeded to walk back. The heat over the weekend has been very intense. When I first moved into my Ger, the weather was almost chilly at night, but over the past week it has warmed up peaking on Saturday and Sunday. The sun which rises around 6AM and sets around 10:30PM bears down with furious intensity on the dusty region of Darkhan. I spent a large portion of the weekend studying and sweating.  It is still cooler than Alabama, but we probably haven’t seen the hottest days of summer yet.

In future blogs I will write in greater detail about Genghis Khan (actually pronounced Chinggis Haan) and Buddha, two key influential figures in the history of Mongolia. 


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