Exploring art in ulan bator (2)

13:46, June 26, 2011      

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Top: A relief on the National Museum of Mongolian History, a place to sample the whole story of Mongolia's evolution. Bottom: Applique images of the Buddha are a staple of the Zanabazar Museum.(Sources: China Daily)

Sharav's One Day in Mongolia, an almost cinematic documentation of Mongolian social life in the 19th-century, is astounding in terms of the sheer range of landscapes it manages to collapse into one frame. From forests to walled cities to agricultural patches to the dunes in the Gobi; from wedding processions to childbirth to shamanistic dances - this painting presents nomadic Mongolia in a nutshell.

Among other top draws is a collection of bronze sculptures of various incarnations of the Buddha crafted by the legendary Zanabazar (1635-1723) himself. The first spiritual head of Tibetan Buddhism in Mongolia, and also one of its finest artists, is credited with initiating a renaissance by integrating creative excellence, scholarly pursuits and spirituality.

In his hands, the various figures of the Buddha, wearing elaborate ornaments and a diaphanous cloth around the loins as he sits in meditation, assume an almost effeminate charm - serene, composed and compassionate.

A stone's throw away, to the northwest corner of Sukhbaatar Square, is the National Museum of Mongolian History.

One would probably need at least two days to sample the whole story of Mongolia's evolution, from the Stone Age to its liberation from Soviet Russia in 1990, given the painstakingly detailed nature of the show.

For example, the entire second floor is dedicated to gorgeous traditional Mongolian costumes, in dramatically different styles for its more than 20 ethnic groups, replete with heavy layering, appliqu and turquoise and coral embroidered sleeves and yokes.

The Mongolian craftsmen's penchant for intricate detailing in objects of everyday use is evident in the saddles, boots with upturned toes and horse-headed violins. The funkiest among these is the traditional wrestling gear - a blue embroidered brief paired with a three-quarter sleeved cropped bolero jacket in magenta.

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