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Gantulga, D., & Batyreva, S. G. (2020). Basic Principles of Meaning Expression in the Applied Arts of Ancient Mongolia. Heritage of Centuries, (4), 53-63.

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Basic Principles of Meaning Expression in the Applied Arts of Ancient Mongolia

  • © Gantulga Damdin Ph.D. in Cultural Studies, Head, Department of Design, Khovd State University, Khovd, Mongolia

  • © Batyreva Svetlana G. Dr. Sci. (Fine and Applied Art and Architecture), Leading Researcher, Kalmyk Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Elista, Russian Federation


The authors consider the problem of the influence of the concepts of Mongolian ancient culture creators’ consciousness on the images inherent in the works of applied arts they created. The doctrine arga bilig, which proceeds from the understanding that harmony in the world is determined by the struggle and unity of two opposing principles, is accepted as the core idea of such meaning expression. The materials for the study were the works of Mongolia’s ancient art and the results of research by Mongolian and Russian archaeologists, art historians and cultural scientists. The methodology of the work was formed by the approaches adopted in the semiotics of space and the concept of “symbolic forms” developed by Ernst Cassirer and reflecting the properties of mythological consciousness. The essence of the concepts arga and bilig as the fundamental foundations of the worldview of ancient Mongolia’s nomads is revealed. The traditional principles and symbols of Mongolian arts and crafts are studied. The authors examine the symbolism of the deer stone culture, noting that it originated in Mongolia, and then spread to the territory of Eastern Europe. In the aspect of analyzing the symbolic meaning, the works of Hun casting (animal style), khans’ seals, quilted felt are studied. The main images inherent in the ancient and medieval art of Mongolia are shown, the principles of creating a symbolic image are determined. The principles that determine the meaning expression of the motives of the arga type (its images correspond to the Upper World in the structure of the Mongols’ mythological consciousness) are revealed. The principle of depicting symbolic motifs of the bilig type (according to the views of representatives of the nomadic culture, it belongs to the Lower World) is revealed. The mutual connections of the Upper and Lower Worlds, embodied in symbols, determine the semantic fullness and significance of the image. The authors point out that the main works, made according to the principle of depicting the mutual connection of arga and bilig, are bronze casting objects with animal style motives, as well as ornamental compositions. The authors conclude that, due to the combination of the principles of arga and bilig, Mongolian art at all times represents an organic unity of interconnected parts, woven from elements that, in their meaning, belong to one of the two opposite poles of the universe. This unity is the pivotal idea of the nomadic culture and determines its harmonious existence in the integral system of the macrocosm.

Keywords: meaning expression, arga bilig,, Mongolia, applied arts, deer stones, animal style, Hun casting, ornament