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Culture


Another unique traditional singing style is known as Urtiin duu, or long song. It's one of the oldest genres of Mongolian musical art, dating to the 13th century. Urtiin duu involves extraordinarily complicated, drawn-out vocal sounds. It is evocative of vast, wide spaces and it demands great skill and talent from the singers in their breathing abilities and guttural singing techniques.
Long songs relate traditional stories about the beauty of the native land and daily life, to which Mongolians offer blessings. These feelings are formed into majestic, profound songs, such as "The Pleasure Sharing Sun of Universe", "The Old Man and the Bird", "The One and Only Real Love", "Sunjidmaa, the Beloved".
When Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhists sought to consecrate a new spiritual master for Mongolia, a remarkable gift of divination occurred, when all omens pointed to the three-year-old son of Gombodorji Zanabazar, who later became the first Bogd Gegeen of Mongolia.

In 1640, Zanabazar a direct descendent of the Great Chinggis Khaan, was recognized by the Panchen Lama and the Dalai Lama, as a Living Buddha and was thus, enthroned as the head of the Gelug tradition in Mongolia. Zanabazar rapidly acclimated to his recognition and his youth was accompanied by wondrous occurrences.

Given his remarkable ability to combine art with invention, to some he is the Michelangelo of Asia, offering a regional renaissance in theology, language, astronomy, art, medicine, and other spiritual matters. As a religious leader he wrote sanctified music, mastered the sacred arts of bronze casting and painting, fashioned a new design for monastic robes, and created both the Soyombo Script, which according to scholar Ragchaagiin Byambaa, is modeled on Indian Lantsa, known as the Ranjana Script, and the Quadratic Script based on the Tibetan and 'Phags-pa Scripts.

Further, Byambaa suggests that both scripts of Zanabazar were crafted to write in a tri-combined Dharma language of Tibetan, Mongolian and Sanskrit. He phonetically designed his two alphabets to reflect the merged sounds of all three languages more accurately. Used primarily for sacred and ornamental Buddhist inscriptions, it is still occasionally used among learned Buddhist scholars in Mongolia, today.

Mongol hoomii involves producing two simultaneous tones with the human voice. It is a difficult skill requiring special ways of breathing. One tone comes out as a whistle-like sound, the result of locked breath in the chest being forced out through the throat in a specific way, while a lower tone sounds as a base. Hoomii is considered musical art - not exactly singing, but using one's throat as an instrument.
The ancient religious mask dance, or Tsam, is a significant religious ritual which reflects Buddhist teachings through images. It is a theatrical art performed by skilled dancers wearing magnificently ornamented costumes, which represent characters of different holy figures and devils, animals, and people.
Through story, music, and dance, the wide range of personalities of the characters are depicted. To symbolize positive and negative attributes, characters from popular stories, and animals such as the Khangarid (lord of flies), lion (the king of wild animal), stag (the beauty among animals), crow (the soothsayer) and various domestic animals are imitated. Furthermore, the colors and decoration of the costumes are clues as to the nature of the personalities of the characters.
Tsam mask dancing is included in the art form called "Doigar," which embodies independent imagination, one of the ten kinds of wisdom according to ancient Indian philosophy. The Tsam dance ceremony was first introduced to Mongolia in the 8th century, when the famous Indian Saint Lovon Badamjunai was invited to Mongolia to sanctify the construction of the first Tibetan Buddhist temple, Samya. From that time, the Tsam dance was performed following the traditional teaching of Nyambdeyan, and during the 16th century, it became popular in Dash-Ihum temple Uigien Namjra and other places. Eventually, more than 500 monasteries of the 700 Mongolian monasteries had their own local variations of the ceremony.
 
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