Indiana University Bloomington
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Mongolian Literature and Folklore



This course carries COLL S & H distribution credit

The written and oral art of word, interaction of orality and writing. History of Mongol literary studies. Collections of monuments; internal and external sources. Broad and narrow concepts of literature. Periods and areas. Connections with other arts (music, drama, visual arts) and with the sacred.. Authorship and anonymity. Original and translated works. Indo-Tibetan, Chinese, Turkic and Western influences. Forms and functions. Prose and verse. Narrative and lyric genres. The Mongol verse.

I. Literature and folklore: broad and narrow concepts, definitions.
The verbal art and its relations to music, mime, dance, visual arts, and to the sacred.
Written and oral tradition, their interaction (orality and scriptuality). The “language of the Scriptures” and the “oral literary language.” Free and bound forms. Symbolic and realistic styles.
Autochthonous and borrowed forms and contents. Anonymity and authorship. Literary translations. Written and oral transmission.

II. Areas with growing independence since the 17th century.
Periods: pre-13th-century, Middle Mongol, Classical, Modern.
Verses with and without alliteration.
Strophic structures. Isochronic and isosyllabic forms. Parallelism.
Collections of Mongol literary monuments; descriptive catalogs; literary histories.

III. Early inscriptions. Chinggis Khan’s aphorisms. Emperor Güyük’s letter to Pope Innocent IV.

IV. The Secret History, its date, authorship, transmission. Its internal genres.

V. Sonom Gara’s Mongol version of the Sa-skya Legs-bshad.
Chos-kyi ‘Od-zer, Shes-rab Seng-ge, Prajñâśrî, Alintemür.
Yuan inscriptions. Prince Arug’s memorial in Yunnan. The Xiaojing in Mongol.
The Ilkhans’ letters to Philip the Fair and Pope Nicholas IV.
Golden Horde poetry: fragments of an allegoric conversation song.
Mongol petitions to the Ming court.

VI. The renaissance of Buddhism among the Mongols and their renewed literary activity.
Chinggis Khan’s cult. The Great Prayer. The Orphan Boy and the Nine Paladins.
Prince Tsogtu’s rock inscriptions (1621/1624).
Emperor Ligdan’s Mongol Kanjur.
Shiregetü Guishi and other monastic men of letters.

VII. Oirat story on Prince Ubashi’s defeat.
The Oirat Zaya Pandita’s new written language. His biography by Ratnabhadra.
The White History (1578). Altan Khan’s biography in verses.
Blo-bzang bstan-‘dzin’s Golden Chronicle. The Yellow History.
Sagang Sechen’s Jewel Chronicle (1662).
Bilig-ün Dalai’s biography of Neyichi Toyin.

VIII. The Mongol Buddhist canon printed by Manchu imperial order.
The Geser Saga on Mongol soil.
The tales of the Bewitched Corpse. Pañcatantra and Vikramâditya-tales.
The Mergen Gegen Bstan-pa’i Rgyal-mtshan. The Chahar Gebshi Blo-bzang Tshul-khrims.
Popular Buddhist stories. Chinese popular prose translated.
Newer chronicles: The Flow of the Ganges, by Gomboab (1725), The Golden Wheel with One Thousand Spikes, by Dharma (1739), The Lamp of Wisdom by Blo-bzang Lhun-grub (1757), the Mergen Gegen’s Golden Summary (1765), Rashipungsug’s Crystal Rosary (1774/5), etc.; History of the Four Oirats; Gaban Sharab’s Oirat history.

IX. Rabjai (1804-1856), his poetry: songs, moralistic/didactic verses, a musical drama.
Sandag the Fabler, his soliloquies.

X. Gularansa, Gungnechuke, Injannashi (1837-1892). Injannasi’s Blue Book and his Essay on it.
The Khalkha poet Lubsangdondob (1854-1909).
The Ordos songster and writer Keshigbatu (1846-1916).
The Golden Teaching by Ishidandzinwangjil (1854-1907).
Buriat chronicles of the 19th century.

XI. Keepers of the oral tradition.
The narrative genres of the oral literature.
Tales. Myths. Legends. Anecdotes, stories.

XII. The heroic epics: Alamzhi Mergen, Abai Geser, Jangar, Khan Kharankhui, etc.

XIII. The lyric genres: love songs, humorous songs, elegiac songs, odes, ballads, etc.
Ritual poetry: benedictions, invocations, prayers, wedding rhymes, curses.
Riddles. Triads and tetrads, Proverbs. Children rhymes. Tongue twisters.

XIV. The beginnings of modern literatures.

Regions Covered

Historical Central Eurasia


Department of Central Eurasian Studies