Mongolian Grandmother Transcribes Mongolian Epic with Ink Brushes

Mongolian Grandmother Transcribes Mongolian Epic with Ink Brushes
Erdengsubuda, a 78-year old Mongolian woman, transcribes a book with an ink brush at her home in Abag Banner, a county under the administration of Xilin Gol League in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. []
In her late 70s, a Mongolian grandmother called Erdengsubuda has recently completed transcribing The Secret History of the Mongols, a Mongolian epic chronicle of the 13th century, with ink brushes that are often used in Chinese calligraphy, utilizing painting and descendant brush painting styles.
The Secret History of the Mongols is the oldest surviving Mongolian-language literary work originally written in the Uyghur script, also known as classical Mongolian script, for the Mongol royal family some time after the death of Genghis Khan (1162-1227), the founder and Great Khan (emperor) of the Mongol Empire, which became the largest contiguous empire in history after his demise.
Linguistically, The Secret History of the Mongols provides the richest source of pre-classical Mongolian and Middle Mongolian, and is regarded as a piece of classic world literature.
"I have raced against time to transcribe the great work. It's a big deal for me to have made it," said the 78-year-old who lives in Abag Banner, a county under the administration of Xilin Gol League in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.
Since September 2013, Erdengsubuda, who was engaged in education for 35 years before her retirement, began to transcribe The Secret History of the Mongols with ink brushes.
In late February 2014, Erdengsubuda completed her transcription of nearly 700 A4 pages of xuan paper, a high-quality paper made for traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy in Xuancheng, east China's Anhui Province.
Then, Erdengsubuda duplicated them, bound them together into book form and presented her transcribed The Secret History of the Mongols to the Genghis Khan Museum.
Grey-haired Erdengsubuda also plans to work on another copy, hoping to present it to the Abag Banner Museum in the future.
At the mention of her original reason for the transcription, Erdengsubuda said: "I transcribed the book in order to get people to cherish the time-honored Mongolian cultural heritage, love their ethnic culture, and contribute their efforts to protecting and carrying forward Mongolian culture for later generations."
"I just contributed my bit of effort. As long as it does some good to others, I'm ready to take it up again," she added.
Those days, Erdengsubuda got up early every morning and worked on her transcription, stroke by stroke and page by page. In winter, she still woke up on time, turned on the lights and bended over her transcription.
When Erdengsubuda seated herself at the desk for long periods of time, her right hand became limp and numb and her eyes also hurt, compelling her to put down her ink brush.
Later, Erdengsubuda made a rule: writing for one to two hours to complete three to four pages each day. This way, her calligraphy manuscripts accumulated day by day and month by month.
It's a serious thing for her to transcribe the Mongolia epic. "The Secret History of the Mongols is a piece of classic literature in the world with significant academic value. It has been translated into many languages, and experts and scholars of different countries have studied it for 600 years," said Erdengsubuda.
"I must keep a calm heart, hold the ink brush tightly and sit up straight to do the transcription. In addition, the brush, ink and paper should match well to do it well," she added.
As she couldn't find any upside-down xuan paper for Mongolian characters, Erdengsubuda had to use checkered paper for Chinese characters. The ink stone should be kept flat and clean without dry ink marks. "If a single Mongolian character was transcribed wrongly, I had to throw away the whole paper," said Erdengsubuda.
Sadly, Erdengsubuda is not in good health. She underwent several major surgeries in 2013, and had a colostomy bag fitted.
Despite her health problems, Erdengsubuda made it her routine to start her day transcribing the literary work. "I live alone, but I have a lot of things to busy myself with, such as cooking and washing, cleaning the house, reading newspapers and chatting with my friends via WeChat (a mobile text and voice messaging communication service developed by Tencent in China.)"
When she completed her calligraphy manuscripts, Erdengsubuda felt quite satisfied and often looked through them. "There are few other nomadic peoples, like the Mongolian people, who have kept such a systematic, complete and clear classic work to record their history," she said with a sense of excitement and pride.
"I may do some transcribing in the future, but I don't think I can do such a large work due to my ill-health," said Erdengsubuda.
(Source: and edited by Women of China)

Korea unification forum to be held in Mongolia

By Kang Hyun-kyung

Experts, scholars and government officials are to gather in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, in June to exchange their ideas on unification and the so-called neo-Cold War surrounding the Korean Peninsula, according to a Seoul-based nonprofit group.

The Korea Global Foundation (KGF) led by Rhee Tshang-chu, professor of St. Petersburg State University, said that the 15th World Korean Forum, an annual forum hosted by the organization, will be held June 23-24 in the Mongolian capital.

The participants will discuss ways to facilitate the stability and unification of the Korean Peninsula at the National University of Mongolia during the three sessions of the two-day forum.

Experts will discuss issues related to unification of the two Koreas, the Cold War-like relationships among the key powers — namely the United States, China and Japan — on the Korean Peninsula, and possible cooperation with countries in the Eurasian region.

Previous forums were held in Vancouver, Manila, Sydney and Brussels.

In a press release circulated last week, Chairman Rhee of the KGF noted that holding the forum in Mongolia is meaingful in that the two ethnic groups share a lot in common and have maintained close relationships over the past 1,000 years.

Unification has become a buzzword after President Park Geun-hye said in a speech early this year that unification of the two Koreas would be a bonanza.

Park said that South and North Korea would benefit if they are reunified. Recently, she proposed that South and North Korea work together to improve human rights condition of the North, to increase people-to-people exchanges, and to develop North Korea’s natural resources.  

North Korea rejected the offer.

Source:Korea Times

HH Dalai Lama's Japan tour ends with audiences with Tibetans, Mongolians and Chinese

April 18th 2014
Tokyo, Japan, 18 April 2014 - Before leaving for the airport and his flight back to India this morning, His Holiness the Dalai Lama made time to meet separately with groups of Chinese, Mongolians and Tibetans.
Meeting first with more than 100 people from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and China he said:
“Wherever I go I try to meet with Chinese friends. Tibetans and Chinese have had relations with each other since the time of Songtsen Gampo. Sometimes we’ve fought, but for more than one thousand years we’ve shared an interest in Buddhism. This began when Songtsen Gampo took a Chinese and a Nepalese wife. So I often tell Chinese Buddhists that I respect you as the senior students. Similarly, when I’m talking to Indians I tell them that as far as we are concerned Indians are our gurus and we are the disciples. And I mention that in times of trouble we look to the gurus and senior students for help. I have been to Taiwan several times and many Chinese have come to Dharamsala so our people to people relations have improved.”
He pointed out that when we don’t know what the real situation is it gives rise to suspicion, which is unhelpful and unnecessary. If we are able to meet and learn what’s really going on it makes for happier relations. He said that he had been recommending that Tibetans reach out to China even before the Tiananmen incident took place, but until that point people from mainland China avoided contact with Tibetans. After it happened they came round and connections became stronger. He added that even today it seems a lot Chinese are out of touch with reality; therefore he suggested that people from Taiwan and Hong Kong, who have a better idea about what’s going on, should do what they can to help the people of China become better informed.
“For example, although it might seem inappropriate to say so, those people in Tibet who have the courage to commit self-immolation are clearly capable of harming others, but have determined not to do so. Despite the difficulties they face they still follow the Buddha’s teaching about non-violence. This may not be clearly understood.”
He said that he has heard that recently in Tibet, where Tibetans used to work as tour guides they have been replaced by Chinese who denigrate Tibetan people to Chinese and other tourists. When Tibetans approach such groups to sell things to them they shoo them away. He suggested that problems between Tibet and China could be resolved, but hardliners continue to accuse Tibetans of being splittists.
“Since 1973 we decided not to take that line. Direct contact with China began in 1979 and we had already decided our stand. What we are asking for is the implementation of provisions already recognised in the Chinese constitution. Hardliners use the phrase ‘Greater Tibet’, but there is already recognition of Tibetan regions, prefectures and counties that share a common culture and language. We want these provisions fulfilled on an equal basis.
“Because the Tibetan language is a focus of our identity its use is discouraged. But as you know, the Tibetan language today is the best medium for explaining Buddhist philosophy and science. Sanskrit is no longer a living language and although there is substantial Buddhist literature available in Chinese, Tibetan translations are more accurate. So this issue is not just the concern of the Tibetan people, it’s about the expression of Buddhism in the world, the most comprehensive teaching of which is preserved in Tibetan.
“The existence of different languages is not a threat. Look at India, many people there speak and write in different languages without it being a threat to the country. When they enjoy equal rights under the rule of law people can live together in freedom and equality. Tibetans having their own language is not in itself a threat.”
He went on to mention that Hu Jintao’s idea of promoting a harmonious society was admirable, but it couldn’t be fulfilled by use of force. Friendship and harmony need to be based on trust not fear. Meanwhile the internal security budget in China exceeds the defence budget. His Holiness suspected that of the 200 countries in the world, this is only true of China. He concluded by saying that if harmony and respect prevailed between Tibetans and Chinese they could live together.
He invited questions from his listeners and the first was an invitation to come to Taiwan. His Holiness replied that since his first visit he had thought about coming to Taiwan every other year, but he hasn’t received government approval to do so. He said he’d wondered about making a transit stop in Taiwan on his way back from Okinawa, but that too was not approved. A woman who suggested that relations between Hong Kong and China have worsened lately asked how to stick to the path of non-violence. His Holiness responded that Tibetans have maintained a strictly non-violent approach for more than 50 years but it hasn’t yet solved the problem. He pointed out that in democratic countries there is transparency and that transparency is clearly better than secrecy and suspicion. Since the arrival of Xi Jinping there seems to be some improvement and he seems at least interested in seeking truth from facts.
“Don’t be discouraged,” he said.
Another questioner wanted to know if there was any chance of His Holiness coming to China and he reminded her that in the fourth round of meetings his representatives had had with the Chinese, he had expressed interest in making a pilgrimage to Wu Taishan, but like his plan to come to Taiwan, it wasn’t approved.
Meeting a group of about 50 Mongolians His Holiness praised the friendship and cultural ties Tibetans and Mongolians have long shared. He said:
“In the 20th century you faced great tragedy and Buddhism in Mongolia went into decline. Tibetans are facing similar problems now. But relations between Tibetans and Mongolians go back hundreds of years to when we roamed the land as nomads. Now that you have regained your freedom, you must use the opportunity well. There are too many examples in Africa of what can go wrong when freedom and democracy are misused. With democracy comes responsibility. Today, Mongolians place great faith in the Dharma, but faith based on reason is even firmer and more stable, so study is important. In the past there were many great scholars who came from Mongolia. However, understanding of Buddhism needs to be combined with basic modern education. Tibet was backward in terms of modern education and technological development and we lost our country.”
His Holiness advised Mongolians to emulate the determination exemplified by their people at the time of Genghis Khan. But today they need that kind of courage combined with intelligence. He said that he has also counselled Indians to focus development efforts in villages, not only in cities. Schools, hospitals and other facilities need to be provided to people in the rural areas where they live.
He recalled that there are now 300 Mongolian monks studying in the main Tibetan monasteries in South India who will be able to contribute to the flourishing of the Dharma in the future.
When he met with Tibetans who live in Japan His Holiness said he didn’t have a lot to say because he has been able to meet them quite often.
“My meetings with scientists and the ongoing dialogues I’ve had with them have reinforced my appreciation of the marvellous qualities of Tibetan language to describe how to deal with the mind and emotions. English is not yet adequate, the best language in this area is Tibetan. That’s something we can be proud of. After all, Buddhism is important as one of the great world religions.
“As I mentioned earlier when I met with some Chinese, self-immolations are still going on in Tibet. Those who do this clearly could, but don’t, choose to harm others. Despite everything, they don’t want to breach the basic Buddhist pledge not to hurt others. Even Chinese visitors to Tibet report that Tibetans are a kind and compassionate people. This is one of the reasons why our cause commands respect today. Keep up this moral standard, don’t be deceitful. Things are changing in China. People inside Tibet still have an unflinchingly strong spirit. We all have to keep this up. In the USA our representative office has moved to Washington DC, but I have suggested that a branch office be  maintained in New York to be focussed on keeping Tibetans in touch with each other. We have to stick together. Tashi delek.”
His Holiness then drove directly to Narita airport to board his flight to India. Representative Lhakpa Tshoko, who will shortly be transferred to Australia, Lungtok, who is to be his successor as Representative in Japan and East Asia and Tsering Dorje from the Representative’s office, were all there to see him off at the end of a successful two weeks in Japan.

Japan, Mongolia Exchange Views on Regional Issues

Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe held an unscheduled meeting with Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj on Wednesday, according to the Global Post. The meeting suggests that Abe may be seeking Mongolian assistance on the issue of the past abductions of Japanese citizens by North Korea — a high priority item on Tokyo’s diplomatic agenda. While North Korea and Japan have no formal diplomatic relations, Japanese diplomats and negotiators have unofficially approached North Korea about the abduction issue several times. All Abe had to say about the meeting was that he and Elbegdorj discussed “various issues.” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga noted that they ”exchanged views on regional situations” during their 75-minute lunch meeting.
Furthermore, the defense ministers of Japan and Mongolia met on Thursday and agreed to oppose any efforts to change the status quo with the use of force. The announcement comes as tensions persist over China’s claim to the Japanese-administered Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands and, more pressingly, as Russia continues to remain embroiled in a crisis with the West over Crimea and Ukraine. Japanese Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera met his Mongolian counterpart Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel in Tokyo, and the two affirmed their common position on the use of force in settling international disputes.
The two defense ministers also discussed North Korea, where Japan has several key issues of interest, including the North’s nuclear program and the issue of Japanese abductees. Mongolia maintains a particularly developed diplomatic relationship with North Korea; its president, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, visited North Korea last year. Mongolia purports to present itself as a model of economic development for North Korea. Both countries have significant mineral and natural resource wealth, and Mongolia leveraged its resources for significant economic growth. ”Japan will be able to establish friendly relations (with North Korea) if we can solve the nuclear, missile and abduction issues in a comprehensive manner,” Onodera told reporters.
Mongolia’s outreach to Japan is part of its activist foreign policy under the leadership of President Taskhiagiin Elbegdorj. Long overlooked as a security player in Northeast Asia, Mongolia is eager to involve itself in regional affairs, even serving as a sort of mediator if need be. Further, Mongolia is seeking admission into the Six Party Talks on North Korea’s nuclear program.
This recent affirmation between Mongolia and Japan, however, is drawing little attention from both local and international media, suggesting that Mongolia’s role as a security player in the region continues to be underdeveloped. The meeting between the two defense ministers comes on the heels of U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s visit to Mongolia earlier this month, where he discussed deeper defense ties between Mongolia and the United States.
Japan and Mongolia have not had close diplomatic ties historically. Following the Second World War, the two countries did not begin interacting diplomatically until 1972, following which they remained distant until Mongolia’s Democratic Revolution in the early 1990s. In recent years, Japan and Mongolia have made some progress, mostly on the economic front. In 2008, the Japan Bank for International Cooperation offered Mongolia $385 million in financing for a new international airport. In 2005, Mongolian President Nambaryn Enkhbayar visited Tokyo after Japan successfully convinced Mongolia to bow out of the race for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, allowing Tokyo to fill the role instead. Since then, relations have steadily been improving.

Source: The Diplomat

Korea, China, Russia, Mongolia cooperate on copyright

Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia held four-way talks on copyright law and intellectual property (IP), strengthening their cooperation on patents, trade secrets and trademarks. The workshop held in Seoul on April 14 and 15 saw policymakers and academics from the four nations discuss progress on copyright protection in each country and ways to improve bilateral and multilateral cooperation. The workshop was jointly organized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the Korea Copyrights Commission. Since 2006 and in cooperation with the WIPO, the ministry has been working every year to improve the copyright protection system in neighboring nations and sought international cooperation through the workshop.
The WIPO Sub-regional Workshop between Korea, China, Russia and Mongolia is held in Seoul. (photo courtesy of the MCST)
Participants in the WIPO Sub-regional Workshop included the National Copyright Administration (NCAC), the Intellectual Property Office of Mongolia (IPOM), the Federal Service for Intellectual Property (Rospatent), and the Russian State Academy on Intellectual Property (RSAIP). Gao Hang, director of the copyright development division, also participated as a representative of the WIPO, a co-organizer of the workshop.
On April 14, Park Young-guk, copyright general director at the ministry, and Gao Hang discussed the joint trust fund project, which will mark its 10-year anniversary in 2015. They also talked about further cooperation on improving the copyright protection environment across the world, diversifying the program and about expanding the number of participating countries in this sub-regional meeting.
At the workshop, policymakers from the four nations gave presentations on copyright laws in their countries and suggested ways to expand international cooperation. Academics discussed recent issues related to copyright law and ways to find a balance between the use and the protection of intellectual property. They also talked about cooperation between governments and academia, and ways to improve the copyright protection environment.
Chinese representatives discussed the implementation of copyright laws and regulations and amendments regarding various issues, including the protection of intellectual property rights for computer software as well as the introduction of a copyright registration system. Russia talked about copyright regulations and amendments related to copyright protection, as well as laws that would prohibit illegal copies of information on the Internet. Russia also explained the establishment of the Eurasian Economic Community between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and progress made on multilateral cooperation, as well as bilateral copyright agreements with its trade partners.
Participants in the workshop discuss copyright regulations in their countries and ways to cooperate. (photo courtesy of the MCST)
Participants in the workshop discuss copyright regulations in their countries and ways to cooperate. (photo courtesy of the MCST)
Mongolia discussed recent copyright issues, such as database rights, the transfer of exclusive rights and derivative works. Korea explained the recent decline in the illegal copy market and the rise in public awareness of intellectual property rights, both as a result of the amendments of related laws. It also noted that millions of copyrighted government works have recently become available for public use.
Finally, the participants agreed to continue holding copyright workshops in the years to come and to keep the format where policymakers and academics share their ideas. They also decided to add specific issues including the infringement of digital copyrighted works and to hold the next workshop in either Russia or Mongolia.
By Limb Jae-un |

Seven Herders Held After Inner Mongolia Clashes

Public security personnel and riot police rounded up herders from Chagaan-oboo Gachaa in Heshigten Banner as they staged a sit-in protest in front of Inner Mongolia Yindu Mining Co. on April 17, 2014.
Photo courtesy of SMHRIC
Chinese authorities in the northern region of Inner Mongolia are holding seven ethnic Mongolian herders after clashes with a mining company they said polluted their grazing lands, local residents said on Thursday.

The detentions came after around 150 herders from Chagaan-oboo Gachaa in Heshigten Banner (in Chinese, Keshiketeng Qi) to the north of Chifeng city staged a sit-in protest in front of the Inner Mongolia Yindu Mining Co. on Wednesday.

Herders told RFA that the company had been dumping toxic waste onto their grazing lands in since January, causing the death of livestock.

"They were afraid of trouble, so they just called in the riot police from Heshigten and detained eight people," a local herder who declined to be identified said.

He said the dispute had been running since the beginning of the year.

"In January, it seems there was a leak from their waste pipes, and they left it too late to fix it, which meant that pollution got into the river," he said.

"All the livestock nearby ended up dying."

He said an elderly herder was released by police late on Wednesday, but the rest remained behind bars.

"There are still seven of our herders being held by the Heshigten Banner police department," he said.

Land occupied

According to the New York-based Southern Mongolian Human Rights Information Center (SMHRIC), Yindu Mining runs one of the few large silver, zinc, and lead mines in northern China.

"The mining company ... occupied a large piece of grazing land of the local Mongolian herders' community," the group said in an e-mailed statement on Thursday.

An official who answered the phone at the Heshigten Banner police department said it was "inconvenient" to speak by phone.

"You should come here yourself," the official said.

Leak under control

And an employee who answered the phone at the Bayanchagaan Som, a subdistrict of Heshigten Banner which administers Chagaan-Oboo Gachaa, said the pollution leak had already been brought under control.

"The locals got a bit of compensation, which has already been paid out," the official said. "There shouldn't be a problem."

"They are kicking up a fuss over nothing, saying they have to give them money."

"Animals die in every village ... because it's spring and they're not doing well and their immunity is down," the official added. "It's hardly fair to go blaming the mining company because a cow or a sheep dies."

But the Chagaan-Oboo herder said their animals rarely died in springtime, and that a single ox would cost an average herding family one fifth of their total annual income.

Earlier clashes

Earlier this month, authorities near Tongliao city in the east of the region detained more than 40 herders from Maliin-ger Gachaa, Morin-Sum Som after they clashed with local police on April 12 in a bid to prevent a coal transportation company from taking over their grazing lands, SMHRIC said.

"Local Mongolian villagers were beaten up and threatened with imprisonment by the local police reinforced by more than 400 fully armed riot police dispatched from the municipal authorities," the group said in a statement.

It quoted social media posts as saying that police had seized villagers' cell phones and wallets, threatened them with guns, and beat up women.

A Morin-sum Som government official later confirmed the clashes had taken place, it said.

"Are you talking about the incident that took place on Saturday?" the official said in an interview with SMHRIC. "Yes, there were some Mongolian villagers taken away."

But he transferred the call to his supervisor when asked whether the 40 some Mongolians who were arrested are still being held in detention, SMHRIC said.

Clashes between Chinese companies and ethnic Mongolian herders protesting the exploitation of their grasslands are increasingly common in the region, which borders the independent country of Mongolia.

Rights activists say grasslands on which the herding communities depend for a living are constantly being taken over, forcing them to take action to stand up for their rights.

Ethnic Mongolians, who make up almost 20 percent of Inner Mongolia's population of 23 million, complain of environmental destruction and unfair development policies in the region.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.

Japan, Mongolia oppose attempt to change status quo by force

Japanese and Mongolian defense ministers agreed Thursday to oppose any attempt to change the status quo by force, in light of China's claim to the Japan-administered islands and Russia's annexation of Crimea, southern Ukraine, Japan's Defense Ministry said.
Meeting in Tokyo, Itsunori Onodera said Japan is calling for diplomatic solutions to those issues, while his Mongolian counterpart Bat-Erdene Dashdemberel said changing the status quo by force is unacceptable in any situation.
China has repeatedly sent ships into Japanese territorial waters around the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea to assert its claim to the islands it calls the Diaoyu.
As for North Korea, Onodera expressed hope that Mongolia will play a role in Japan's bid to resolve bilateral issues with the reclusive country as Ulan Bator has diplomatic ties with Pyongyang, the ministry said.
"Japan will be able to establish friendly relations (with North Korea) if we can solve the nuclear, missile and abduction issues in a comprehensive manner," Onodera was quoted as saying. Japan has no diplomatic relations with North Korea.
Bat-Erdene replied that Mongolia will continue to send senior officials to North Korea.

Mongolia keen on garment sector cooperation with Vietnam

April 17, 2014 (Vietnam)

Mongolia is keen on cooperation in the garment and textile sector with Vietnam, especially with the Ho Chi Minh City, Regzenda Sandag, Vice Director of Department of Light Industry Policy Implementation and Coordination, under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Light Industry, Government of Mongolia, has said.
Speaking at a seminar on trade exchange between Vietnamese and Mongolian businesses in HCM City, the Mongolian official said Mongolia is keen on exchange of specialists in the garment and textile sector, to find ways to boost development and export in the field.
The official said that Mongolian Government is undertaking several programmes for economic development and integration of the Mongolian economy with the global economy.
Several products from Mongolia enjoy preferential tariffs in the European market and the Mongolia-Japan free trade agreement (FTA) is currently in the final stages of negotiation. Hence, investors in Mongolia, particularly in the industrial parks, would benefit from incentives like financial assistance and tax exemption, the official said.
Nguyen Binh An, deputy head at southern office of the Vietnam National Textile and Garment Group (Vinatex), said Vietnam’s garment and textile industry is growing at an average annual rate of 15-20 percent and manufactures about 3 billion products per year, employing around 2.5 million people.
Vietnam is currently in the process of setting up the entire textile and garment value chain, including spinning, weaving and dyeing, for which partnerships with several countries, including Mongolia, becomes important.
Tran Xuan Dien, deputy director of HCM City’s Department of Industry and Trade, said there are good prospects for cooperation in the garment and textile industry between HCM City and Mongolia, as the city has advantages like availability of human resources and production capacity, while Mongolia has advantages in raw materials and incentives to attract investors. However, language barriers and geographical distance pose a challenge for the two sides.
In 2013, trade between HCM City and Mongolia was around US$ 3 million.

Mongolian Peacekeepers rescues oil workers in Southern Sudan

Rebel fighters in South Sudan claimed Tuesday that they captured the capital of an oil-rich state, and they issued an ultimatum to oil companies to shut down production and evacuate workers. U.N. peacekeepers rescued 10 oil workers from the violence, but not before five were wounded.
U.N. peacekeepers from Mongolia rescued 10 staff members from the Russian oil company Safinat just north of the city of Bentiu, said Joe Contreras, a U.N. spokesman. He said two of the five wounded were in critical condition.
A rebel commander, speaking by phone from Unity state, said rebel forces recaptured Bentiu from government troops.
"Our forces have completed mopping and cleaning up operations in and around Bentiu Tuesday morning while other combat units are in hot pursuit of government generals running toward," the northern border, said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, a spokesman for rebel troops. "The recapturing of Bentiu marks the first phase of liberation of oil fields from anti-democratic and genocidal forces of" President Salva Kiir, he said.
South Sudan saw massive violence sweep the country in December, when fighting broke out between troops loyal to the former vice president and those loyal to Kiir. Thousands of people are believed to have been killed, and more than 1 million have fled their homes.
Koang urged oil companies operating in government controlled areas to immediately begin closing down oil production and evacuate staff within a week. He said a failure to comply would risk the forced shutdown of oil facilities and threaten the safety of staff there.
Despite Koang's claims, the spokesman for South Sudan's military, Col. Philip Aguer, said that the fighting is still ongoing and the picture from Bentiu is not yet clear.
As the fighting continued, Toby Lanzer, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, expressed outrage and frustration with the political and military leaders of South Sudan. He said the renewed outbreak of warfare will further hamper efforts to avoid oncoming hunger.
"What we've been pleading was give the people of your country some breathing space, give the people of South Sudan the space to tend to their cattle, allow them the safety to get to their fields and plant and cultivate," he said.
More than 9,000 civilians are now seeking refuge in the U.N's Bentiu base, he said. Peacekeepers have been deployed to protect civilians hiding in a hospital to prevent a repeat of past hospital massacres, he said.
"There are hundreds of women and children, trying to stay safe in a hospital," Lanzer said, adding later: "I really feel a sense of outrage."
International aid officials have increasingly invoked the word "famine" to describe what South Sudan could face in coming months. The country is extremely poor and most residents survive only on the crops they plant and harvest. Because of the fighting, many residents are not able to plant crops ahead of the coming rainy season.
Last weekend top U.S. and European Union aid officials called for increased global support to combat the oncoming crisis. They noted that 800,000 South Sudanese are internally displaced and 280,000 have fled to neighboring countries. International aid actors say South Sudan faces a funding gap of nearly $800 million.
"This declaration is a wake-up call to prevent a deeper catastrophe from unfolding in South Sudan," said Rajiv Shah, the head of the U.S. government aid arm USAID. "Today, indicators tell us that South Sudan is on the brink of famine, and it's clear that the world must now do more to address this crisis."
Associated Press reporters Elias Meseret in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and Jason Straziuso in Nairobi, Kenya contributed to this report.

Leaked letter shows Mongolian premier ready to accept OT phase II financing

Source: Mongolia Mining Journal
The Mongolian government has blinked and taken a step to resolve the impasse over the second phase of the Oyu Tolgoi project. Expressing the hope that this will “open a new chapter in our relationship,” Prime Minister Altankhuyag wrote a letter to Rio Tinto Chief Executive Officer Sam Walsh on 27 March, saying talks on financing the mine’s further development can be resumed without waiting for the completion of the feasibility study.
The Letter appears as follows:
Dear Mr. Walsh,
I, as Prime Minister of Mongolia, would like to note that the Government of Mongolia is making solid endeavors to move our joint Oyu Tolgoi project to next stage with the introduction of new team and new approaches for the last one and half years. Even though we are making progresses through our mutual efforts, there are further accomplishments still needed for a successful Oyu Tolgoi.
Thus I am addressing you directly as we are reaching a significant stage to strengthen the relationship between your company and Mongolia. While the start of production of Oyu Tolgoi in 2013 was a great achievement and an important milestone, it is of the utmost importance for my Government and for Mongolian people that Oyu Tolgoi proceed as soon as possible with the underground mine development. We are thus most supportive of the Project Financing needed for next stage of this most important project.
Through the both parties’ constructive discussions, there are only a very limited number of issues that remain outstanding between the Rio Tinto (RT) and Erdenes Oyu Tolgoi (EOT). We are confident that these issues can be readily solved in accordance with normal international business practices as was stated in the EOT letter to RT of 19 February, 2014.
We stressed the importance of RT maintaining positive stance in addressing public, but instead of that we have received a press release proposal from Mr. Jean Sebastian Jacques, which was insisting for request to extend lenders’ commitment to 31st December 2014. It is unfortunate that we are acknowledged the doubtful approach for finalizing the project financing in such extended period of time.
Even though the updated feasibility study will be delivered in Q2 2014, we are willing to complete the discussions immediately in Ulaanbaatar or London, with the full mandate to finalize the project financing before the lenders’ commitment deadline of March 31, 2014.
The Government of Mongolia remains fully committed to the continued and successful operation of the open pit mine, the financing and development of the underground mine. 
The Oyu Tolgoi project is of utmost importance to Mongolia and so is our partnership with Rio Tinto. I believe that now is the time to open a new chapter in our relationship and work in harmony to develop the Oyu Tolgoi project for the benefit of all stakeholders and for the Mongolian people.
Yours sincerely,


Genghis Khan statue, via Flickr user Francois Phillip
Genghis Khan statue, via Flickr user Francois Phillip
Everyone knows something about Genghis Khan. His story and empire is part of the basic history of the world we learn growing up. He came into power by uniting disparate tribal groups of Northeastern Asia. His Mongol invasions over the early 13th century AD resulted in the massacre of thousands of people and unification of a large portion of Eurasia. After his death, his many descendants continued his legacy and spread out across the Middle East and Eastern Europe. He was buried in an unknown location in Mongolia with no markings to commemorate him; this was his choice, and was a custom among his people. His story and life are known from writing and art, but what about the thousands of people he led? How did these people live and die? Most importantly, how did life change for the Mongolians as they evolved from small tribal communities to one of the greatest empires in history?
A new article by Fenner, Tumen and Khatanbaatar (2014) examines changes in diet of the Mongolian people during this period of change in the 13th century. Primarily, they focus on whether diet changed more at the elite level, as these individuals would have greater access to foreign items. As the Mongol Empire began, there is little written information available from themselves- however there are accounts of them from foreigners. By the early 13th century, there is written information from the elite of the Mongolian Empire, though it is limited. As pastoralists, it is expected that diet of both elite and commoners will be focused on meat and other animal by-products. Their own history describes the range of meats they ate, and accounts from others also notes a preference for meat and dairy over vegetables or grains. Some grains are described in texts, but it is unknown whether this represents rice or millet- and it was introduced into the diet later as the Mongols conquered agricultural territories.
In order to investigate diet, Fenner, Tumen and Khatanbaatar (2014) use stable isotope analysis. Nitrogen isotope ratios (N15) are correlated with trophic levels, therefore plants have lower ratios than the herbivorous animals that eat them, which in turn are eaten by carnivorous animals who have an even higher ratio. The ratios can vary by the environment as increased aridity and salinity can cause the base level of plants to be higher, and therefore all other trophic levels are higher. Different plants can also vary, for example legumes are lower than cereals which are lower than fruits. Carbon isotope ratios vary by the type of plants consumed. The more marine life and C4 plants consumed, the higher the carbon ratio, whereas a lower ratio means more animal and C3 consumption. C4 plants are able to deal with harsher environments and include plants like maize and millet. Most other types of plants are C3.
Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope composition of several different organisms ( adapted from Schulting, 1998, via Emma Veerstegh).
Carbon and nitrogen stable isotope composition of several different organisms ( adapted from Schulting, 1998, via Emma Veerstegh).
Three cemeteries from the Empire period were investigated for this analysis: Tavan Tolgoi (interpreted as associated with the ruling elite), Tsagaan chuluut (interpreted as incorporating lesser elites and perhaps commoners) and Ulaanzuukh (mainly commoners). Tavan Tolgoi was excavated in 2004 and 2005. Of the eight burials excavated, most had exotic luxury grave goods and animal remains with them. Six of the burials date to the late 13th century. Of special significance in this cemetery was the presence of two gold rings with falcons; these indicate close ties of these individuals to the lineage of Genghis Khan. Tsagaan chuluut was excavated from 2008-2010. Of the 163 graves with markers, only 14 were excavated. Each burial had a variety of grave goods, however they are primarily common items. Burials date to the mid-13th century. Ulaanzuukh was excavated in 2008-2010, and another 14 graves were excavated. Very few grave goods were excavated, indicating that they were common burials. We selected bones in visibly good condition from each site.
Samples were obtained from seven individuals from Tavan Tolgoi, eleven individuals from Tsagaan chuluut, and thirteen individuals from Ulaanzuukh.  In addition to this, four horses and two goat/sheep were sampled from the Tavan Tolgoi burials. The burials from Tavan Tolgoi have significantly higher N15 values than either Tsagaan chuluut and Ulaanzuukh. Based on this, it would be assumed that the former is consuming more meat than the two latter sites, meaning that elites had more access to this type of food. However, they also compared the stable isotope ratios to other sites and analyses done in the broader region. From this, it appears that the isotopic differences may not be indicative of diet, but rather different environments which cause the nitrogen and carbon ratios to vary. They conclude that there were not substantial dietary differences despite the difference in grave goods. Fenner, Tumen and Khatanbaatar (2014) note that sample size for this was small, and future studies should investigate the environmental links further.
I think this conclusion is interesting given that the data initially pointed to elites eating more meat, and they questioned it. Often when we see stable isotope analyses there is a leap from ratio to diet- however there are many unknowns and variables we need to account for. Stay tuned for another stable isotope study this week!
**Photo was changed due to incorrect labeling, thanks to reader Lim TT for pointing this out!**
Works Cited
ResearchBlogging.orgFenner, J., Tumen, D., & Khatanbaatar, D. (2014). Food fit for a Khan: stable isotope analysis of the elite Mongol Empire cemetery at Tavan Tolgoi, Mongolia Journal of Archaeological Science, 46, 231-244 DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2014.03.017


Katy is an anthropology PhD student who specializes in mortuary archaeology and bioarchaeology at Michigan State University


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