In the absence of Asashoryu, who has been under suspension, the junior and better-behaved Mongolian yokozuna, Hakuho (12-3), won his 5th Grand Sumo Tournament, while the smallest Mongolian, Ama (10-5), won his 2nd Outstanding Performance Award; the giant Estonian, Baruto (11-4), won his 2nd Fighting Spirit Award; and Fukuoka native Kotoshogiku (9-6) won his 2nd Technique Prize. I think they should hold the Natsu Basho (in May) in Ulan Bator instead of Tokyo each year. There are now seven Mongolians in the Makuuchi ranks and five in the Juryo ranks.
Category Archives: Mongolia
As regards their matters of administration, they write with wooden twigs. Their writing looks like frightened snakes and writhing earthworms; it looks like the magical writing in the Books of Heaven; their characters look like the wu, fan, Gong[?] and chi of musical notation. They are closely related to the characters of the Uighurs.
I, Ting, have concerned myself with this. The Tartars originally had no writing. Today, however, they use three different kinds.
For written communication in the Tartar lands proper they always use small pieces of wood, three or four inches in length on which they make incisions in the four corners. If for instance ten horses are to be sent, they make ten notches. As a rule they only cut the required number. Their customs are pure and their thoughts honest. Hence also their language is without ambiguity. According to their laws, liars are punished by death. Thus nobody dares to betray. Even if they had no writing, they would still be capable of founding an independent state. These small pieces of wood are the same as the wooden tablets of antiquity.
For their written correspondence with the Uighurs they utilise the Uighur system of writing. Chinqai is the master of this. The Uighur system of writing has only 21 letters. The others are formed by adding something on one or the other side of the letter.
For written correspondence with the conquered Chinese states, with the Kitan and the Jurchen, they make use exclusively of Chinese writing. Chucai [Ch’u-ts’ai] is the master of this. But apart from this, before the date at the end of the letter, Chinqai in his own hand writes in Uighur letters the words: ‘To be sent to NN’. This is presumably a security measure that is directed only at Chucai. Hence every piece of writing has to be marked with such a confirmation in Uighur; without it it has no official validity. This is obviously a measure to make sure that all correspondence passes through Chinqai’s hands, in order to ensure mutual control.
In the city schools in Yanjing it is mainly the Uighur writing that is taught along with translation into the Tartar language. No sooner have the pupils learnt to translate, than they begin to function as interpreters and then in company with Tartars go on violent rampages, where without inhibitions they begin to act as masters of punishment or favour and extort bribes, goods, services, and foodstuffs.
“Heida Shilüe (Brief Account of the Black Tartars),” in Other Routes: 1500 Years of African and Asian Travel Writing, edited by Tabish Khair, Martin Leer, Justin D. Edwards, and Hanna Ziadesh (Indiana U. Press, 2005), pp. 109-111
Korea-blogger The Marmot, who keeps a weather eye out for Mongolia (where his in-laws reside), has noticed some unusual signs of Pacific outreach by that landlocked nation.
In August, Mongolia hosted a military contingent from Fiji for joint exercises in global peacekeeping. The Fiji military has posted photos from Mongolia on its website. Let’s hope they weren’t teaching the Mongolian military how to stage a coup. I wonder if any Mongolian sumo scouts have their eyes on any likely Fijian recruits. The Pacific is no longer adequately represented in Japanese sumo.
Also in August, Flickr photographer Joe Jones in Hakodate snapped the stern of one of the growing number of ships registered in Mongolia, homeported in thoroughly landlocked Ulaan Baatar. A 2004 article in the New York Times explains the origins of Mongolia’s bluewater fleet.
Mongolian flags are not expected to become a common sight at American docks. But it was an unexpected twist of fate that brought Mongolia, a nation of nomadic herders, to the high seas.
In the 1980’s, a Mongolian university student known only as Ganbaatar won a scholarship to study fish farming in the Soviet Union. But the state functionary filling out his application put down the course code as 1012, instead of 1013. As he later told Robert Stern, producer of a documentary on the Mongolian Navy, that bureaucratic error detoured him from fish farming to deep-sea fishing. Upon graduation, he was sent to work with the seven-man Mongolian Navy, which patrolled the nation’s largest lake, Hovsgol. The lone ship, a tug boat, had been hauled in parts across the steppes, assembled on a beach and launched in 1938. After the collapse of Communism here in 1990, Ganbaatar wrote Mongolia’s new maritime law, which took effect in 1999.
The registry opened for business in February, 2003. Perhaps to play down any negative connotations of being landlocked, the glossy color brochure of the Mongolia Ship Registry shows Mongolia surrounded on three sides by a light blue blob that, on closer inspection, turns out to be China. One clue to the international intrigue behind the registry may be in plans to reopen the North Korean Embassy here this fall.
[In 1346] one Russian chronicle speaks of the plague arriving on the western shore of the Caspian Sea and attacking several nearby cities and towns, including Sarai, capital of the Mongol Principality of the Golden Horde and home to the busiest slave market on the steppe. A year later, while Sarai buried its dead, the pestilence lurched the final few hundred miles westward across the Don and Volga to the Crimea, came up behind the Tartar army in the hills above Caffa, and bit it in the back of the neck.
The Genoese, who imagined that God was born in Genoa, greeted the plague’s arrival with prayers of thanksgiving. The Almighty had dispatched a heavenly host of warrior angels to slay the infidel Mongols with golden arrows, they told one another. However, in de’ Mussis’s account of events, it is Khan Janibeg who commands the heavenly host at Caffa. “Stunned and stupefied” by the arrival of the plague, the notary says that the Tartars “ordered corpses to be placed in catapults and lobbed into the city in hopes that the intolerable stench would kill everyone inside…. Soon rotting corpses tainted the air …, poisoned the water supply, and the stench was so overwhelming that hardly one man in several thousand was in a position to flee the remains of the Tartar army.”
On the basis of de’ Mussis’s account, Janibeg has been proclaimed the father of biological warfare by several generations of historians, but the notary may have invented some of the more lurid details of his story to resolve an inconvenient theological dilemma. Self-evidently—to Christians, at least—the plague attacked the Tartars because they were pagans, but why did the disease then turn on the Italian defenders? Historian Ole Benedictow thinks de’ Mussis may have fabricated the catapults and flying Mongols to explain this more theologically sensitive part of the story—God did not abandon the gallant Genoese, they were smitten by a skyful of infected Tartar corpses, which, not co-incidentally, was just the kind of devious trick good Christians would expect of a heathen people. Like most historians, Professor Benedictow believes the plague moved into the port the way the disease usually moves into human populations—through infected rats.* “What the besieged would not notice and could not prevent was that plague-infected rodents found their way through the crevices in the walls or between the gates and the gateways,” says the professor….
* Khan Janibeg does have one stout modern defender, Mark Wheelis, a professor of microbiology at the University of California. The professor notes that in a recent series of 284 plague cases, 20 percent of the infections came from direct contact—that is, the victim touched an object contaminated with the plague bacillus, Y. pestis. “Such transmissions,” he says, “would have been especially likely at Caffa, where cadavers would have been badly mangled by being hurled, and many of the defenders probably had cut or abraded hands from coping with the bombardment.” Professor Wheelis also thinks the rat scenario favored by many historians ignores a crucial feature of medieval siege warfare. To stay out of arrow and artillery range, besiegers often camped a kilometer (six-tenths of a mile) away from an enemy stronghold—normally beyond the range of the sedentary rat, who rarely ventures more than thirty or forty meters from its nest. (Mark Wheelis, “Biological Warfare at the 1346 Siege of Caffa,” Emerging Infectious Diseases 8, No. 9 :971–75.)
SOURCE: The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death, the Most Devastating Plague of All Time, by John Kelly (Harper Perennial, 2006), pp. 8-9
While Azumazeki-Beya had been open for only two years, Takasago-Beya was steeped in sumo history. Of the fifty-odd sumo-beya [sumo stables] currently housing rikishi [professional sumo wrestlers] in various parts of the surrounding neighborhood, Takasago ranked fifth in years of operation, dating back to 1878—by no means the beginning of sumo, but an age when the sport began to take on its present structure. In addition to Azumazeki-Beya, Takasago spawned Takadagawa-Beya, Nakamura-Beya, Wakamatsu-Beya, and Kokonoe-Beya. Takasago Oyakata had risen to yokozuna [grand champion] back in 1959, competing as Asashio [one of my childhood favorites—J.]. The fifth Takasago Oyakata, he had taken over in 1971 when the previous Takasago Oyakata, who had also risen to yokozuna competing as Maedayama, died. The line of oyakata stretched back to Takasago Uragoro, who oversaw two yokozuna and three ozeki [champions] of his own. Over the years, nearly one-tenth of the yokozuna promoted since the inception of the rank in the mid-nineteenth century (six of sixty-two, by this time) stomped their first shiko [raise one leg, stomp it, squat] into the Takasago-Beya keikoba [practice room]. If American Major League Baseball were a hundred years older (and if baseball players shared this unforgiving, monastic lifestyle), Takasago-Beya might be comparable to Yankee Stadium.
Takasago-Beya was perhaps more notable in a Brooklyn Dodger way than in a way befitting Yankee pinstripes. In addition to Taylor [Wylie], John [Feleunga], Konishiki [Saleva’a Atisano’e], and Nankairyu, Chad [Rowan] saw two other foreigners in the room, members of Takasago-Beya. While other sumo-beya had recruited rikishi from Brazil and Argentina, and would later look to Mongolia, the only foreigners yet to have really impacted the national sport were limited to this room. Twenty-four years earlier on a demonstration tour to Hawai‘i, the fourth Takasago Oyakata had taken a chance on Jesse Kuhaulua, the beginning of Hawai‘i’s connection with Japan’s national sport. Kuhaulua had trained and competed for more than twenty years at Takasago-Beya as Takamiyama. He now presided over asa-geiko [morning practice] next to the present Takasago Oyakata, on nearly equal terms, as Azumazeki Oyakata.
In looking for links for this post, I came across an interview with Hawai‘i-raised amateur sumotori Kena Heffernan, Yale ’96, Sumo cum laude.
With the only consistent tournament winner and only reigning yokozuna (grand champion), Asashoryu, on the injured list, the competition is tight among the remaining top wrestlers as they reach the home stretch of the Natsu Basho, which ends on Sunday. (Inconsistent ozeki Tochiazuma, who won the opening tournament in January, also dropped out after a string of losses.)
Two veteran Japanese rikishi, ozeki (champion) Chiyotaikai and sekiwake (junior champion) Miyabiyama, share the lead (at 9-1) with the newly promoted Mongolian ozeki, Hakuho. However, both the Japanese veterans are relying on relatively crude techniques, mostly unrelenting thrusts and slaps, as they try to avoid the clinch. They face each other today, so one of them is going to fall off the lead. Hakuho seems favored to win, and he already has the calm, confident gravitas of a yokozuna (more so than Asashoryu, in my opinion).
Just one loss (at 8-2) behind the leaders are Japanese veteran ozeki Kaio (my favorite among the Japanese contenders), Mongolian “Supermarket of Tricks” Kyokushuzan, and the Estonian phenom Baruto (the “Balt”), Kaido Hoovelson, whose ceremonial apron shows a Viking helmet, and who rose to sumo’s Makuuchi division (the “Majors”) after winning the last Juryo (“Triple A”) division tournament with a perfect 15-0 record.
UPDATE, Day 12: Chiyotaikai lost first to Miyabiyama, and then to Kotomitsuki, dropping off the pace at 9-3; while Miyabiyama defeated the struggling Bulgarian Kotooshu to preserve his one loss at 11-1. So Miyabiyama, a veteran Japanese ozeki, remains neck-and-neck with Hakuho, a rookie Mongolian ozeki, in the home stretch, with the giant newcomer Baruto just one loss behind.
UPDATE, Day 13: All three leaders won. Hakuho (now 12-1) pulled down fellow ozeki Kotooshu (now 6-7), who risks demotion if he doesn’t win the next two bouts. Miyabiyama (now 12-1) shoved out Kyokushuzan (now 9-4). And Baruto (11-2) managed to get both hands on (yokozuna Asashoryu’s stablemate) Asasekiryu’s belt, immobilize him, then lift him up and drop him outside the ring. The rookie has done his homework and is winning respect. You might expect a wrestler of his size to just drive his opponents backward out of the ring, but over 13 days Baruto has won by 10 different techniques, many of them defensive moves where he helps his opponent charge down toward the clay or out of the ring.
UPDATE, Day 14: Well, Miyabiyama quickly ended the Estonian rookie’s dreams of winning the tournament during his makuuchi debut, handing him his 3rd loss. Baruto made the mistake of trying to force Miyabiyama’s head down. All that accomplished was to lower the center of gravity and concentrate the weight of the heaviest rikishi still wrestling. Hakuho and Miyabiyama remain at 13-1 and could face a final playoff if both win or both lose on Day 15, when Hakuho gets his shot at Baruto (11-3) and Miyabiyama faces Asasekiryu (10-4). Even if he doesn’t win the tournament, Miyabiyama is sure to win promotion from sekiwake to ozeki, while the Bulgarian Kotooshu (7-7) risks demotion from ozeki back to sekiwake unless he can defeat fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai (10-4) tomorrow.
UPDATE, Day 15: New ozeki Hakuho wins his first tournament after defeating Miyabiyama in a playoff. Both rikishi finished at 14-1 after Hakuho quickly left Baruto (11-4) prone on the clay and Miyabiyama shoved out Asasekiryu (11-4). Miyabiyama is likely to be the newest ozeki at the Nagoya basho in July. Kotooshu (8-7) barely managed to retain his rank by defeating fellow ozeki Chiyotaikai (10-5). However, the two Mongolian komusubi are likely to lose their ranks: small but scrappy Ama (4-11) and middle-of-the-pack Kyokutenho (5-10). Asasekiryu and Baruto may well replace them.
Twenty years ago, the most prominent foreign rikishi (sumo wrestlers) tended to be from Hawaii, which has a large Japanese-American population and close cultural ties with Japan. More recently, however, most foreign rikishi have hailed from Mongolia (Asashoryu), as well as Bulgaria (Kotooshu), Russia (Rohou) and other former Soviet bloc countries. Frequently appearing in TV interviews, the wrestlers do, of course, make the occasional error — but when they speak, they sound like sumo rikishi, and they express themselves in a manner remarkably similar to their Japanese counterparts [yeah, mumbling and inarticulate in both cases–J.].
This language proficiency, particularly among foreign grapplers from countries with only tenuous historical and cultural ties to Japan, has become a topic of academic study. Dr. Satoshi Miyazaki, a professor at the Graduate School of Japanese Applied Linguistics, Waseda University, began his field work in 1997….
“To learn the language, they don’t need a teacher or a dictionary,” Miyazaki says. “They just learn through osmosis. Foreign rikishi are not here to learn Japanese, but to learn sumo. But by learning sumo they have to learn Japanese. That’s their motivation. Many students who learn in classroom studies don’t know what to do with the language they learn. So it’s a matter of identity.”
And Japundit‘s baseball contributor (and NY Yankees fan) Mike Plugh has two informative posts about ironman Hideki Matsui’s wrist injury: a backgrounder, Godzilla vs. Misfortune, and an update on fan reactions in Japan and the U.S., Feeding the monster.
Mongolia’s 3-day Naadam period of traditional summer games ended today, but fans of Mongolian wrestling can console themselves for another ten days by watching Mongolian yokozuna Dolgorsuren Dagvadorj (aka Asashoryu) thrash Japanese, Russian, Bulgarian, Georgian, and fellow Mongolian opponents in the Nagoya Grand Sumo Tournament that started Sunday.
via Ulaan Ken Baatar and The Marmot’s Hole
Intrepid book reviewer Danny Yee is now in Mongolia. Pathologically polymathic though he be, I didn’t realize he was into archery, wrestling, and horse-racing! Be sure to look for his travelogue. It’s sure to be a treat.
Ultimately, at the heart of [Khanbalik], Khubilai created a Mongol haven where few foreigners, including Chinese, could enter. Behind high walls and guarded by Mongol warriors, the royal family and court continued to live as Mongols. The large open areas for animals in the middle of the city had no precedent in Chinese culture. This Forbidden City constituted a miniature steppe created in the middle of the Mongol capital. During the Mongol era, the whole complex of the Forbidden City was filled with gers [yurts] where members of the court often preferred to live, eat, and sleep. Pregnant wives of the khan made sure that their children were born in a ger, and the children received their school lessons in the ger as they grew up. While Khubilai and his successors maintained public lives as Chinese emperors, behind the high walls of their Forbidden City, they continued to live as steppe Mongols.
When the Franciscan friar Odoric of Pordenone visited the Mongol territories in the 1320s, he described the Forbidden City in Khanbalik: “Within the precincts of the said palace imperial, there is a most beautiful mount, set and replenished with trees, for which cause it is called the Green Mount, having a most royal and sumptuous palace standing thereupon, in which, for the most part, the great Can is resident.” In a passage that sounds very close to earlier descriptions of Karakorum, he wrote, “Upon the one side of the said mount there is a great lake, whereupon a most stately bridge is built, in which lake is great abundance of geese, ducks, and all kinds of water-fowl; and in the wood growing upon the mount there is a great store of all birds, and wild beasts.” …
Inside the confines of their Forbidden City, Khubilai and his family continued to act as Mongols in dress, speech, food, sports, and entertainment. This meant that they consumed large amounts of alcohol, loudly slurped their soup, and they cut meat with knives at the table, thereby disgusting the Chinese who confined such acts to the kitchen during preparation. With the emphasis on alcohol and rituals of drinking and drunkenness, the scenes at court must have been somewhat chaotic as the free-roaming, individualistic Mongols tried to imitate the complex and highly orchestrated rituals and ceremonies of the Chinese court. In contrast to the Chinese imperial tradition of courtiers lining up according to rank, the Mongols tended to swarm chaotically, and, perhaps most disturbing to the Chinese, the Mongol women mingled freely among the men on even the most important occasions. The ceremonies in the Mongol court became so disorganized that sometimes the khan’s bodyguards had to beat back the crowds of officials and guests with batons.
To appear as a powerful Chinese leader, Khubilai needed an impressive court located in a real city, not a peripatetic tent court nor the ad hoc structures erected at Shangdu (Xanadu), in modern Inner Mongolia. The place held special importance for him because he had first been proclaimed Great Khan at the khuriltai there, but it had no obvious advantages. Not only was that capital located in a nomadic zone, which the Chinese found quite alien and barbaric, but it had also been the traditional staging area used by his grandfather in the raiding and looting of Chinese cities. Khubilai sought to disassociate himself from the less desirable aspects of that history.
While keeping Shangdu as a summer home and a hunting preserve, he commissioned the building of another city, a real Chinese-style imperial capital, farther south at a place better situated to exploit the agricultural wealth of the lands along the Yellow River. He chose the site of the former Jurched capital of Zhongdu, which had been conquered by Genghis Khan in 1215, the year of Khubilai’s birth. In 1272, Khubilai ordered the building of his new capital, and he connected it by canal to the Yellow River. The Mongols called the place Khanbalik, the City of the Khan. His Chinese subjects called it Dadu, the Great Capital, and it grew into the modern capital of Beijing [‘North Capital’]. Khubilai brought in Muslim architects and Central Asian craftsmen to design his city in a new style that offered more of a compromise between the tastes of the nomadic steppe dwellers and the sedentary civilization.
In contrast to the maze of winding alleys in most Chinese cities of the era, Khubilai’s capital had broad, straight streets run on a north-south axis with east-west streets perpendicular to them; the guards at one gate could see straight through the city to the guards at the opposite gate. From the imperial palace, they built boulevards, more to accommodate the horses and military maneuvers of the Mongols than the wheelbarrows or handcarts of the Chinese laborers. The boulevards stretched wide enough for nine horsemen to gallop abreast through the city in case the native people rose up against their foreign rulers.
Furthering the Mongol interest in profits from international trade, Khubilai Khan designated sections of the city for Middle Eastern and Mongol populations as well as for people from all over what is today China. The city was host to merchants from as far away as Italy, India, and North Africa. Where so many men lingered, as Marco Polo pointed out in great detail, large numbers of prostitutes gathered in their own districts to serve them. Scholars and doctors came from the Middle East to practice their trades. Roman Catholic, Nestorian, and Buddhist priests joined their Taoist and Confucian counterparts already practicing in China. Muslim clerics, Indian mystics, and, in some parts of Mongol China, Jewish rabbis added to the mixture of people and ideas that thronged the empire. Far larger than Karakorum, but with many of the same internationalist principles, the city was a true world capital and fit to be capital of the world.
For Hulegu [Khan, grandson of Genghis], the ultimate prize was to conquer the Arab cultural and financial capital of Baghdad, but to get there, he had to reassert Mongol authority over several rebellious areas en route. The most difficult of these was to conquer the strongholds of the Nizari Ismailis, a heretical Muslim sect of Shiites more commonly known in the West as the Assassins. They were holed up in perhaps as many as a hundred unconquered mountain fortresses stretching from Afghanistan to Syria, the most important of which was Alamut, the Eagle’s Nest, in northern Persia. Members followed without question the orders of their hereditary leader, who was known by many titles, such as Imam, the Grand Master, or Old Man of the Mountain. Because they believed that God chose the Imam, he was therefore infallible; he needed no education since everything he did, no matter how odd it might appear to mortals, was considered divinely inspired. His followers accepted seemingly irrational acts, frequent changes of the law, and even the reversal of the most sacred precepts as evidence of God’s plan for humanity.
Despite the lack of a conventional army, the Ismaili sect exercised tremendous political power through a highly sophisticated system of terror and assassination, and the secrecy and success of the group bred many myths, making it, still today, difficult to factor out the truth. The cult apparently had one simple and effective political strategy: kill anyone, particularly leaders or powerful people, who opposed them in any way. The cult recruited young men who were willing to die in their attacks with the assurance that they would achieve instant entry into paradise as martyrs of Islam. The Chinese, Persian, and Arabic sources all relate the same account of how young men were lured by ample quantities of hashish and other earthly delights that awaited them in the special gardens of the cult’s castles and fortresses. This was the foretaste of the paradise that awaited them if they died in the Grand Master’s service. He then trained them and controlled them with a steady supply of hashish to keep them obedient and make them fearless. Supposedly, because of the importance of narcotics for the Ismailis, the people around them called them hashshashin, meaning “the hashish users.” Over time, this name became modified into the word assassin. Whether the killers had actually used hashish to inspire them or not, the name spread into many languages as the word for the murderer of high officials.
Earlier, in the time of Genghis Khan’s first invasion of the region, the Grand Master willingly swore obedience to the Mongols. In the following decades, the Assassins flourished in the power vacuum created by Genghis Khan’s defeat of the Turkic sultan of Khwarizm and then the withdrawal of most of the Mongol forces. By the time Mongke Khan ascended the throne, the Assassins feared that the return of a large Mongol army might interfere with their newfound powers. In what may have been only a pretext for Hulegu’s attacks, some chroniclers wrote that the Grand Master sent a delegation to Karakorum ostensibly to offer submission to Mongke Khan, but actually trained to kill him. The Mongols had turned them away and prevented the assassination, but because of it Mongke Khan decided to crush the sect permanently and tear down their fortresses.
Before Hulegu’s army reached the Assassin strongholds, the drunken and debauched Grand Master was murdered by disgruntled members of his own entourage and replaced by his equally incapable son. Hulegu assessed the difficulty of capturing the heavily fortified castles one by one, and he devised a simple and more direct plan. Because of the sacred role of the Grand Master, Hulegu concentrated on capturing him with a combination of massive military might and the offer of clemency if he should surrender. The Mongols bombarded the Ismaili stronghold, and the Mongol warriors proved capable of scaling the steepest escarpments to surprise the defenders of the fortress. The combination of force, firepower, and the offer of mercy worked, and on November 19, 1256, on the first anniversary of his coming to power, the Imam surrendered to the Mongols.
Once Hulegu had control of the Imam, he paraded him from Ismaili castle to Ismaili castle to order his followers to surrender. To encourage the cooperation of the Imam and keep him happy until the end of the campaign, Hulegu indulged his [the Imam’s] obsessive interest in watching camels fight and mate, and he supplied him with girls. In the spring of 1257, once the Assassins’ castles had been taken, the Imam recognized his loss of usefulness to the Mongols, and he requested permission to travel to Karakorum to meet with the Great Khan Mongke himself, perhaps to work out some plan for his own survival. Hulegu sent him on the long journey to Mongolia, but once the Imam arrived there, Mongke refused to see him. Instead, the Mongol escort took the Imam and his party out to the mountains near Karakorum and stomped them to death.