Researcher and historian of the Mongolian Academy of Science A.Punsag has been studying Chinggis Khaan for over 40 years.
The following is an interview with him about the original portrait of Chinggis Khaan.
We heard you have a huge collection related to Chinggis Khaan.
My study’s main orientation is the period from Great Mongol State to Mongol Empire, especially the history related to Chinggis Khaan and Khubilai Khaan. That’s why I do research on “The Secret History of the Mongols” and Mongolians’ traditions and customs.
I collect everything that is connected to Chinggis Khaan’s history. I have two rooms filled with collections related to Chinggis Khaan, for example, books, carpets, vodkas, cups, calendars, postage stamps and pictures with Chinggis Khaan’s name and portrait.
Can you tell us about the original copy of Chinggis Khaan’s portrait? Who painted the portrait? When was it created?
Chinggis Khaan passed away when his army attacked and destroyed the Tangut Empire (Western Xia Dynasty) in 1227. As is tradition, Mongolians brought the great khaan’s body to his home land and buried him.
According to historical sources, Chinggis Khaan’s portrait was created with gold and taken to four palaces. Afterwards, a portrait of Chinggis Khaan was painted for worship during the Yuan Dynasty in 1276.
Do you know about the artist who painted it? Is there any historical document?
According to historical sources, Mongolian painter Khori Khasun created the original portrait in 1287, almost half a century after [Chinggis Khaan’s] death. Khubilai Khaan, the grandson of Chinggis Khaan,ordered artist Khori Khasun to paint the portrait, and asked some of Chinggis Khaan’s few remaining trusted men to overlook the painting and make sure it reflects his true image.
In the portrait, his image was drawn as a man of tall stature, the hair on his face scanty and white, with black eyes, brown face, and possessed with great energy.
Inner Mongolian scientist Saishaal wrote a book titled “About Chinggis Khaan” in 1987. People can read the detailed information about Chinggis Khaan’s portrait from there.
According to that book, the original copy of Chinggis Khaan’s Portrait is currently being kept in the National Museum of China.
Are there any other portraits of Chinggis Khaan?
Scientists proved that there are only two original portraits of Chinggis Khaan. During the conquests of Qing and Ming dynasties, over 500 portraits of khaans remained unburned after a fire. Another Chinggis Khaan portrait was found among them. That portrait is being kept in Taiwan.
In 1926 and 1927, Chinggis Khaan’s portrait was replicated. The National Museum of Mongolia, the National Library of Mongolia and the State Palace are keeping replicas of Chinggis Khaan’s portrait. Individuals have also replicas.
I heard Taiwan and China argue over Chinggis Khaan’s portraits. Taiwan said, “We have the first original portrait of Chinggis Khaan inherited from Qing Dynasty”, and China said, “We have the first original portrait of Chinggis Khaan. We took it from Mongolian aristocrat long time ago.”
Those two portraits are very similar to each other. On the other hand, there is a chance that both of them are original. I think one was painted for worship purpose and another was created for Chinggis Khaan’s descendants.
Scientists proved both portraits are related to the 13th century.