Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape (Mongolian: Орхоны
хөндийн соёлын дурсгал) sprawls along the banks of
Orkhon River in Central Mongolia, some 320 km west from the
capital Ulaanbaatar. It was inscribed by
UNESCO in the World Heritage
List as representing evolution of nomadic pastoral traditions spanning
more than two millennia. (See List of World Heritage Sites in
Location of the Orkhon Valley.
For many centuries, the
Orkhon Valley was viewed as the seat of the
imperial power of the steppes. The first evidence comes from a stone
stele with runic inscriptions, which was erected in the valley by
Bilge Khan, an 8th-century ruler of the Göktürk Empire. Some 25
miles to the north of the stele, in the shadow of the sacred
forest-mountain Ötüken, was his Ördü, or nomadic capital. During
the Qidan domination of the valley, the stele was reinscribed in three
languages, so as to record the deeds of a Qidan potentate.
Mountains were considered sacred in
Tengriism as an axis mundi, but
Ötüken was especially sacred because the ancestor spirits of the
khagans and beys resided here. Moreover, a force called qut was
believed to emanate from this mountain, granting the khagan the divine
right to rule the Turkic tribes. Whoever controlled this valley was
considered heavenly appointed leader of the Turks and could rally the
tribes. Thus control of the
Orkhon Valley was of the utmost strategic
importance for every Turkic state. Historically every Turkic capital
(Ördü) was located here for this exact reason. There were many
houses by the bank but they are all gone now.
The main monuments of the
Orkhon Valley are as follows:
Orkhon monuments are early 8th-century Turkic memorials to Bilge
Khan and Kul Tigin, the most impressive monuments from the nomadic
Göktürk Empire. They were discovered by Russian archaeologists in
1889 and deciphered by
Vilhelm Thomsen in 1893.
Ruins of Khar Balgas, an 8th-century capital of the Uyghur Empire,
which cover 50 square km and contain evidence of the palace, shops,
temples, monasteries, etc.
Ruins of Genghis Khan's capital Karakorum, which could have included
the famed Xanadu palace.
Erdene Zuu monastery
Erdene Zuu monastery is the first
Buddhist monastery established in
Mongolia. It was partly destroyed by Communist authorities in 1937-40.
Tuvkhun Hermitage is another spectacular monastery, overlooking a hill
at 2,600 meters above sea level. It, too, was almost totally destroyed
by the Communists.
Remains of the 13th and 14th century Mongol palace at Doit Hill,
thought to be Ögedei Khan's residence.
The Ulaan Tsutgalan waterfall, a waterfall, ten meters wide and twenty
meters high, that can sometimes go dry or even freeze during winter.
^ Franke, Herbert. The Cambridge History of China. Cambridge
University Press, 1994. ISBN 0-521-21447-5. Page 347.
World Heritage Sites in Mongolia
Great Burghan Khaldun Mountain and its surrounding sacred landscape
Orkhon Valley Cultural Landscape
Uvs Lake Basin (with Russia)
Western Turkic Khaganate
Tong Yabghu Qaghan
Irbis Bolun Cabgu
Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Second Eastern Turkic Khaganate
Western Turkic Protectorate
Exiled House A
Exiled House B
Bugri qaghan (Ashina Qushraq)
Old Turkic language
Old Turkic alphabet
Turks in the Tang military
Göktürk wars and treaties
Göktürk civil war
Battle of Bukhara
Tang Eastern Turk campaign
Tang Western Turk campaigns
Battle of Bolch