Posted by Selena Travel / 09 26, 2023
Even though wood carving is usually neglected by most of the dabblers due to its inability to last long and the way they’re much more fragile than its metal cousins, Mongolian carving art is something that simply can’t be overlooked. Quite similar to other countries, artisans have been carving decorations into their daily utensils such as their cupboard, cart, musical instruments and most commonly the place they live- “ger”. Since the shelter they spend most of their time is made out of wood, it’s no wonder why the people have started wondering how to make their home fancier and more comfortable.
Since then, the simple wooden carvings have developed into much more complex, thus aesthetically pleasing art which cannot be separated from Mongolians’ daily life. That is mainly because the carving art has taken homage in almost every aspect of their life.
By every aspect, I meant literally they’re everywhere. Mongolians have been highly self- sufficient people, who used to make almost every utensil we use by hand- and mainly by using wood since it was the most common raw material in the wild nature and the easiest one to shape and use. The most common and simplest example of that is the “ger” or a Mongolian yurt. The main armature of a ger is wood- a perfect place to carve on. That’s why the newly wed were given a carved ger as a gift, and the value of a ger would be determined by the carvings on it.
Not only the ger itself, but almost every utensil Mongolians use has carvings on it. Odds are that if something is made by wood, there would be carving on it. The cups, which we would carry with ourselves so that one wouldn’t use other people’s cup but only theirs (one of the reasons why Mongolians were pretty immune to any plagues), or an “avdar”- a kind of a closet where the families keep their finest stuff- it wouldn’t be a lie if I say that every furniture in Mongolian ger has carving on it.
Carving also plays a huge role in our toys and games. Most of our board games, such as khorol and puzzles or spring games would take an artist’s creativity and craft to create.
Since the carving was used by the common men, it was the common men who do the carvings. Except a handful of exceptionally talented artists, almost every region or a “soum” would have its own handyman. Since almost all of the Mongolians used to live by herding, the infamous artists wouldn’t have any different in their table. Most of them are self-taught; by spending their time herding as a practice to examine their carving subjects- on most case the livestock. The carving are is carried out in an heir manner, where a known artist in the region would take one or two talented youngsters in their wing and teach them their technique. That’s why the style of carving is different in different areas of Mongolia. Depending on the texture and nature of the local wood, the artists would use different techniques, thus adapting different styles.
Mongolian carvings are infamous for its representation of their livestock, namely sheep, goat, horse, camel and cows. Since most of them have spent their lifetime looking after them, they know exactly how they move and how they act; giving them an ability to create a carving of a painstakingly similar version of the animals. Most of all, Mongolians love their horse the most, and they’re most common to be seen in the household.
Mongolian horse in the carving art
The most known and loved example of a horse in the carving art is the Morin khuur- a signature musical instrument of Mongolia. The simple Morin huur would have a sculpture of a horse head in the head, which would become three or even five, depending on the value of the instrument.
Mongolian carving art has mainly realistic approach to any subject, with some exceptions from the adaptation of the folk tales and myths. Most of the sculptures would have symbolist value, lion representing a guardian to their treasure. That’s why the carving of a horse can seem pretty simple from the outside, but it would most likely contain all the features of a racer.
Where to spot the arts?
As I’ve mentioned above, since wooden carving is much more fragile than a metal ones, one might assume that there are fewer heritage. However, since its widespread and common art, there is plenty of preservation of breathtaking art. As also mentioned before, almost every ger has carving on it so you can just jump into one while your ride to the countryside and ask to see any carving. Chances are that you might see a long- preserved piece of art since Mongolians are keen to pass their property to their kids.
To see a master’s arts you should visit Fine arts museum of Zanabazar, and see various other types of Mongolian arts as a bonus. There are arts from infamous artists such as Sengee.N, Davaasuren.L and so on. Also be sure to check out State Department store where a huge piece of carving is stored. Or you can go visit Mongolian Intellectual museum and try to figure out the spring games or buy one for a fairly cheap price. Whatever you do, seeing Mongolian carving art is a must during your visit here.