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The Soyombo – a national symbol

SoyomboThe Soyombo traces its origins back to the country’s First Bogd Gegeen, or theocratic leader, back in 1686. The symbol was part of a new script that renowned Buddist scholar and artist Zanabazar created to write Mongolian in compatibility with Sanskrit and Tibetan, mostly to transcribe holy texts. Based on the Devanagari alphabet of India and Nepal, the Soyombo Script was to replace the Uigar – based Old Mongolian used since the Mongol Empire. But the new script proved too complicated for daily use and was never widely adopted. Old Mongolian endured and was only replaced by today’s simplified Cyrillic in the 1940s.

The Soyombo did survive, however, as a symbol of Mongolia’s national independence and today is found on its flag, emblem, currency and many other places. Its imagery is quite fascinating and encapsulates much about the nation and its beliefs.

The flame at the top of this ideogram has multiple meanings but principally stands for renewal, growth and the family hearth. Its three prongs represent the past, present and future, a Buddhist imagery. Below that is the symbol of sun and moon with its links to Tengrism, Mongolia’s first religion, the worship of the Eternal Blue Sky. The triangles are the ancient symbols representing arrows or spears, their downward projection signifying death to Mongolia’s enemies. The two horizontal rectangles represents honesty, justice and nobility.

There are two fish who never close their eyes and symbolize eternal vigilance, reason and wisdom. The two vertical rectangles on both sides represent fortress walls and express an old Mongolian saying, “Two men in friendship are stronger than walls of stone”, an appeal to national unity.

Already widely in use, the Soyombo was adopted as the official symbol of Soviet – dominated Mongolian People’s Republic in 1924 with the addition of a gold star above the flame. The communist star was removed after 1990 but is still visible here and there around Mongolia.

Source: “Mongolia Nomad Empire of Eternal Blue sky” book by Carl Robinson

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on Jan 22, 2016