Sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural heritage sites

Date of Submission: 11/10/2012
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(v)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Mongolian National Commission for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Khentii aimag (province)
Coordinates: X-5359985,33 Y-445145,58
Ref.: 5777
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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party

Description

Located in Khentii aimag’s Batshireet soum of Mongolia, sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural  heritage sites are inseparable part of the Khentii mountain rang in centre of which the Mongolian most sacred mountain Burkhan Khaldun is situated.

Proposed property and the sacred Burkhan Khaldun Mountain are located in same geographical zone and belong to same type of cultural landscape of same historic-cultural group, though they situated separately from each other. The nominated property bears an exceptional evidence of the existence of human beings within grassland steppe region at the juncture of Central and North East Asia, which offers a uniquely extensive view of nomadic culture and its communities from Paleolithic time to the present.

There are many cultural, archaeological and worship vestiges dated from Paleolithic period through the Bronze, Iron Ages and  the successive historical periods including the Binder Ovoo (cairn) of the sacred Binder Mountain,  stone aged archaeological sites of Rashaan Khad,  the huge number of burial and ceremonial sites, deer stones and rock arts, within and around of the nominated landscape. 

Within the nominated area, near the Binder Ovoo is located very famous heritage site of Rashaan Khad (rock) which embraces Paleolithic, Neolithic Age ancient human settlements, and Hunnu, Kitan and Mongolian burial sites, rock arts, carvings of hundreds of tribal stamps and around twenty inscriptions in Orkhon-Enisei, Kitanese, Arabic-Persian, Chinese, Tibetan and Mongolian scripts covering a range of various historical periods starting from the upper Paleolithic to the middle Ages.

The Rashaan Khad  has four culture layer in terms of the geological stratigraphy and the soil  forms. This includes the culture layer of the upper topsoil. Pieces of earthenpot, scrapers with edges of a semi-round shape, cutting tools, flakes and splinters pertinent to the Bronze Age and Hunnu and Kitan era were found in this layer.

The Uglugchiin Kherem or Almsgiver’s Wall is situated 8-10 km from the Binder Ovoo. This stone masonry wall with a length of approximately 3 km is laid out orderly and accurately supporting the mountain. Mongolian historian Kh. Perlee supposed that the site dates back to the Kitan Empire relying on findings and fragments of clay potteries discovered from the site.

Binder’s deer stone site is located about 2 km to the north of the Binder Ovoo. In addition to the main deer stone the site encloses 12 square burials, and two other smaller deer stones. The main deer stone is of 230 cm tall, 42 cm wide and 30 cm thick and covered with seven carved depictions of deer which go all the way around the stone.

These very rich and important cultural and worship sites are the explicit  indication that the this landscape round the Binder  Mountain has long standing sacred associations for the ancestors of nomadic people.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural monuments and sites are an outstanding example of evolving sacred cultural landscape which, through sustainable land-use practices of nomadic pastoralism and shamanistic, religious and spiritual relationship and respect to nature, has created the specific nomadic civilization, that has been evolved from prehistoric origins in harmony with the natural landscape of the vast grassland steppes.

Today, Mongolian herders who are living around the area of sacred Binder Mountain are still experiencing  the nomadic pastoralism and culture, way of life, custom and traditional craftsmanship technique, traditional performing arts and festive events left by ancestors within the territory of the landscape.

By recognizing the outstanding universal value of nomadic civilization, United Nations have adopted the Resolution to celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the Statehood of United Mongolia (2006). Cultural landscape around the sacred Binder Mountain is one of places where was originated and developed a classic form of the nomadic pastoralism and culture. Proposed property is exceptional testimony to unique cultural tradition and practices of the worshiping sacred sites, including mountain, by Mongolian nomadic people within a cultural area of the Central and North-East Asia. The sacred Binder Mountain and historic and cultural sites including the Rashaan Khad, Almsgiver’s Wall and others vestiges illustrate outstanding example of sacred landscape that reflects a persistent and long lasting tradition of culture of worship and practices of sacred sites since a prehistoric times.

The worshipping tradition and practices of sacred Binder Mountain and its surrounding sacred sites and associated monuments and cultural places represent a unique fusion between Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism that illustrate the important interchange and development of world spiritual and religious cultures in remote part of Central Asian Steppe belt where nomadic pastoralism, life style and culture still exist.

Proposed property has most of the main features identifying sacred mountain and own unique traditional worshipping customs, rituals, ceremonies and symbols that were originated in ancient time and developed through shamanism and later often modified and enriched by Buddhist teachings, ideas, symbols and tradition.

Criterion (ii): The worshipping tradition and practices of sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural monuments and sites illustrate a unique fusion between Shamanism and Buddhism, and the interchange of different cultures through a stone inscriptions in different  languages  that exhibit the important interchanges and development of some world spiritual and religious cultures in remote part of Central Asian  steppe belt where nomadic pastoralism, life style and culture still exist.

Criterion (iii): Proposed property is exceptional testimony to unique cultural tradition and practices of the worshipping and offering for sacred mountain by Mongolian nomadic people within a cultural area of Eurasia.

Criterion (v): Proposed sacred landscape is an outstanding example of traditional land-use and specific culture of  nomadic pastoralism which evolved from prehistoric origins in harmony with the natural landscape of the grassland steppes and resulted in developing unique social and cultural environments of nomadic civilization.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Authenticity: By virtue of longstanding worshipping practices, their isolated settings within the nomadic pastoral environment, their partial inclusion in a national strictly protected area, the sacred Binder Mountain and its associated cultural heritage sites suffered little human adverse impact over the years until now.

In this respect and with the exception of problems arising from the natural disasters and environmental factors, natural and both tangible and intangible cultural values within the proposed property are in a good state of preservation relative to all other major sacred sites in Mongolia.

Proposed landscape preserves the real pactoral management regime of the grassland steppe and nomadic way of life with herdsmen moving their flocks in season transhumance. Today, herder people around and within the proposed sacred sites are still experiencing by the nomadic pastoralism and culture, way of life, religion, worshiping sacred site practices, custom and traditional craftsmanship technique, traditional performing arts and festive events left by Mongolian nomadic ancestors.

Integrity: The nominated property includes within its boundary all the elements necessary to express its outstanding universal value. Its completeness is represented by the fact that the main worshipping Ovoo (cairn) of sacred Binder Mountain exists today in an original form and also other monuments and sites are located at initial sites in good state of conservation and preservation within the nominated area.

Comparison with other similar properties

On global level, the nominated properties can be firstly compared with sacred mountains that were already inscribed in the WHL, which are considered and known as most sacred.

A number of sacred mountains of the world have been inscribed on the World Heritage List under natural or cultural criteria, and sometimes as mixed property examples of which are: Mount Athos of Greece (C-I. II, IV,VI), (N-VII), Tongariro of New Zealand (C-I, VI) (N-VII, VIII), Machu Picchu of Peru (C-I. III,) (N-VII, IX), Mount Kenya of Kenya (N-VII, IX), Kilimanjaro of Tanzania (N-VII), Mount Taishan (C-I-VI) (N-IX), Mount Emei (C-IV, VI) (N-VII), Mount Huang Shan (C-II), (N-IX,X), Mount Wuyi (C-III,VI),(N-IX,X) of China, Sacred Kii Mountain Range of Japan (C-II, III, IV, VI), Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain of Kyrgyzstan (C-III, VI) and some others. Addition to these sacred mountains, there are some very famous and well known in the world sacred mountains as mount Khailas (Tibet), Fuji (Japan), Mount Everest (Sagarmatha) (Nepal), Otgon Tenger (Mongolia) and others. Many of these mountains clearly embrace certain characteristics of the sacredness.

Comparing sacred Binder Mountain and associated sacred landscape with above mentioned other sacred or worshipped mountains, there are several  similar characteristics and cases. All of them reflect persistent and unique traditions of worshiping sacred mountain over the past several hundred years, in different natural environment and cultural contexts. All these sacred mountains represent a symbol of national identity and the spiritual homeland of those nations and countries and civilizations within which these sacred mountains are located.

For example Mount Tai Shan is a symbol of Chinese nation and ancient civilization and spiritual homeland of China. Mount Athos is a self-governing monastic Republic within Greece. It is a symbol and spiritual homeland of Orthodox Chiristaining and its civilization. Mount Fuji is most symbolic mountain for Japanese nation and culture and spiritual homeland of Japan. Sacred Binder Mountain together with Mount Burkhan Khaldun is a cradle place of the origins of Mongolian nation and its symbol and spiritual homeland of Mongolia, and also a one of cradle place and epitome of Mongolian nomadic civilization.

All of them have of exceptional religious cultural significance in connection with a worship practices and ritual ceremonies. The Tai Shan is associated with Confucianism founded by Confucius in this area while the Fuji with Shintoism, the principal religion for Japanese people, the Athos with Christian world, but sacred Binder Mountain  deeply associated with native for the nomadic people shamanistic beliefs and later Mongolian Buddhism.

It is important to consider how the sacred Binder Mountain and its surrounding landscape compares with other sacred mountains within same geographical zone and cultural group, namely within the grassland steppe zone of Eurasia where ancient nomadic pastoralism and nomadic life style and culture still exist and continuing. In this historical and cultural area within Eurasia we can find only one sacred mountain on the WHL that should be compared to proposed property. This is the sacred Sulaiman-Too Mountain in Kyrgyzstan. In this area, within the Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, where grassland steppes cover considerable area, and pastoral nomadic life style is persisted, there are many sacred mountains. But we do not find such sacred mountains which should be compared with the sacred Binder Mountain and Burkhan Khaldun Mountain in terms of outstanding universal value and global significances.

The Sulaiman-Too Sacred Mountain is inscribed on the WHL as a representative of most complete picture of a sacred mountain of Central Asia. In term of worshipping tradition and practices the Sulaiman-Too and the sacred Binder Mountain both have strong traditions of worship span several millennia, contain many anceint cult places interconnected by many historic and cultural monuments and sites. But as Sulaiman-Too and its sacred landscape, and other cultural sites reflect the fusion of ancient religious belief and Islamism, while the sacred Binder Mountain and its sacred landscape represent the fusion of shamanism, rooted in the ancient tradition of nature worshiping practices of nomadic people, and Buddhism which has introduced from Tibet.

Comparing the sacred Binder Mountain and surrounding landscape also with other most sacred mountains of the world, we note the some very distinctive features and differences of sacred the Binder Mountain from the compared world sacred mountains.

In nominated  property what is distinctive is the natural combination of grassland nomadic culture with the longstanding shamanistic and religious tradition and customs of the benevolence and respect towards nature and sacred sites that are interconnected via tangible and intangible treads of spiritual and ancestral trails, cultural meanings and religious beliefs with a profound sense of piety and sanctity

Comparatively to the sacred Binder Mountain, compared other  sacred mountains  have been evolved within an agrarian landscape  with traditions of ancient urban, settled and populated societies, strong religious evidence and links with international trade routes. In these cultural environments all sacred mountains have been exclusively inhabited by people, the majority of them with agrarian and urban cultures.

Most nomads worship the mountain sacred Binder Mountain by coming by horses near, providing their offerings and saying prayers, while some people worship at a distance where it is viewable, from their localities or households with libation by pouring or sprinkling the milk, tea or any of dairy products as an offering. Lady of any household conducts milk libation for the Binder and Burkhan Khaldun mountains every morning. There is no such ritual or ceremony of worshipping sacred mountains as milk and tea libation in other countries of the world with sacred mountains, at least no such information.

Unique and distinct rituals and customs, which are not practiced during worship ceremonies in any other sacred mountains of the world, are practiced for the worshipping of the Binder Mountain.  For instance, to worship the Binder Mountain milk libation conducted; consecration of a horse for the ovoo (cairn) executed; the prayers and sutras specifically created for the sacred Binder Mountain recited; when the worshippers descended from the worshipping site, small national festival of the race of swift horses, wrestling and traditional archery take place at far distance from main Binder Ovoo.