Cartographic Anxieties in Mongolia: The Bogd Khan's Picture-Map

Uranchimeg Tsultemin, University of California, Berkeley
Detail of "One Day in Mongolia" by B. Sharav, 1912–1915. Zanabazar Museum of Fine Arts, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.
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Abstract

 This article extends cartography into ethnographic and representational practices for territorial inclusion (Hostetler 2005) and nation building (Krishna 1994). Outer Mongolia, a vassal state of the Qing Empire until 1911, produced ethnographic paintings intended as new cartographic visuals around the time of its independence. Mongolia’s last ruler, the Bogd Khan (1870–1924) commissioned the artist Balduugin Sharav to produce a large painting of the Mongol countryside titled Daily Events, a work that constitutes an unusual cartographic “picture-map” (Paul Harvey 1980) intended for a special public display. The work (now known as One Day in Mongolia) depicts the Mongolian people as a distinct ethnic group in quotidian scenes of Central Mongolian (Khalkha) nomadic life. This article demonstrates how the covert connections between the scenes together construct a Buddhist didactic narrative of the Wheel of Life, and argues that this picture-map was the result of the Tibetan-born ruler’s anxieties over ethnic identity, national unity, and the survival of his people, who strove for independence from the Qing, as well as their safe positioning vis-à-vis new political neighbors.

Keywords: Bogd Gegeen, Bogd Khan, Jetsundampa Khutukhtu, Sharav, Mongolian painting, Mongolian Buddhist art, Khalkha