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Mongolian History, Painting, and Sculpture The

The extraordinary country of Mongolia is an interesting example of the powerful effects of economics, politics, and culture on the arts of a people. A generally inhospitable land, rather backward extremes of economics and political power, and the persistent structure of the religious institutions have dramatically shaped the art and sculpture of Mongolia.

Until the twentieth century, most of the people who inhabited the vast Mongol empire were nomads. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (the era of Chinggis Khan and his grandson, Khubilai Khan) the land stretched from Korea to Hungary and included nearly all of Asia except India and parts of Southeast Asia (Worden xxvii, 3). The arts, in the early years, primarily would be categorized as folk art and only after the people's revolution extended into the arena of fine arts. The Mongolian painters and sculptors managed, finally, in the early twentieth century to free themselves from the grim canonical directives and modes of Buddhism (Akademiia 489). Principal figures in art and sculpture were Sharov, Zhungder, Zhalsrai, Tsagaan-Zhamba, Manibadar, and sculptor Chaimbol who trained many Mongolian sculptors in his studio (Akademiaa 492).

The harsh conditions of Mongolia greatly affected the arts. Imagine a country which did not have a single printed publication before the early 1920's. Not until 1924 did a newspaper make an appearance (Petrov 125). Artists and artisans were classified socially below the lamas, the intellectuals, the bureaucrats, the medical practitioners, scientists, and technicians (Lattimore 102-103). Early Mongols had only religious sculpture and painting, no decorative sculpture for homes or public places, and no representational or abstract painting (Lattimore 216). Until the early twentieth century, Mongolia was exceptionally economically undeveloped as a society. Nomadic illiterate herders made up most of the population. Their marginal econo...

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