Mongolia’s Ancient Capital

Mongolia’s Ancient Capital – Established by Chinggis Khaan

Mongolia’s ancient capital Kharkhorin marked its 800 year anniversary in 2020, and an international scientific conference was held held at the National Library of Mongolia on December 17, 2020 under the auspices of Speaker of the State Great Hural (Parliament) ZANDANSHATAR Gombojav. It was named “The 800 years of Kharkhorum – History and Heritage”. In his opening speech, Speaker G.Zandanshatar “Kharkhorum is not only the ancient capital of Mongolia, but also a valuable historical and cultural heritage of the Mongolian people. According to historical sources, Ezen Bogd Chinggis Khaan (Great Khan and Emperor of the Mongol Empire, Genghis Khan) declared Kharkhorum as the capital of the Mongol Empire in 1220, the year of the iron dragon, and Ogedei Khan built Tumen Amgalant Palace in the spring of 1235, the year of the blue sheep. Kharkhorum, now Kharkhorin, was culminated in its prosperity as an important hub in political, cultural, religious, trade and communication, connecting Asia and Europe..” (https://mongolia.gogo.mn/r/koydw)

Mongolia’s Ancient Capital – Center of Nomadic Cultures

Kharkhorin (or Karakorum as often called in Western literature) remained the capital of Mongolian empire until under Kublai Khaan, Chinggis Khaan’s grandson, the capital was moved to Xanadu at the  on the south-eastern edge of the Mongolian plateau. Previously, the area had been the center of a succession of nomadic cultures including the Turk, Uyghurs, Khitans, and Nirun. (https://montsame.mn/en/read/236919). Kharkhorin was razed to the ground by troops of the Ming Dynasty after the fall of the Yuan dynasty in AD 1368. Mongolia’s oldest monastery, Erdene Zuu, was built upon and from the ruins of the ancient city in 1585, the year the Mongolia embraced Tibetan Buddhism as the official state religion. The main temples of Erdene Zuu survived the communist era, when many other monasteries were destroyed, and after 1990 Erdene Zuu was re-established as the most important monastery in Mongolia. The temples  and wall with stupas is a famous site, and among the most visited ones in Mongolia by foreign and domestic travelers.

Cradle of Nomadic Civilization

Kharkhorin is located in the Orkhon Valley, in today’s Uvurkkhangai Aimag (province) and the area is designated both a National Park as well as The Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape – Unesco World Heritage Site  . The archaeological remains collectively reflect the symbiotic relationship between nomadic, pastoral societies and their administrative and religious centers, and the importance of the Orkhon valley in the history of central Asia. The site demonstrates clearly how a strong and persistent nomadic culture led to the development of extensive trade networks and the creation of large administrative, commercial, military and religious centres.

Mongolia’s Ancient Capital Virtual Tour

While today’s visitors only can see remains of Kharkhorin and previous settlements and structures at various sites in this landscape in the heartland of Mongolia, it is more the impression of Erdenezuu Monastery that remains with the visitor.

To provide a better understanding of Mongolia’s Ancient Capital 800 years ago, a group of historians, artists and IT experts generated a virtual reality view of old Kharkhorin. They made the site available to share. It is embedded below. The original site is here. Enjoy the visit to Mongolia’s Ancient Capital !